Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: What You Wish For

What You Wish For

What You Wish For by Katherine Center
My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you to and St. Martin’s Press for this ARC of Katherine Center’s What You Wish For. Sometimes it is difficult to properly rate these uncorrected proof copies because even disregarding the obvious typos, you never know exactly how much more of the writing will be cleaned up. Parts of the story needed tightening up and there were times when it was somewhat repetitive. So, I give it 4 stars for writing, and 4.5 stars for story, and 5 stars characters, and setting.

And based entirely on the story and characters, I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. The cast of lovable characters is wonderfully drawn, especially the main character, Sam, a small-town school librarian who after a life of pain and upheaval seems to have found a home at a progressive coastal school. When a blast from her past finds his way to Galveston and her school, Sam is afraid it will all fall apart and she’ll lose the only home she’s ever known. But it is so much worse than she imagined.

Though Sam can be, at times, a little slow on the uptake about others and herself, she has a delightful sense of humor, real strength, and a few thoroughly human flaws. I identified with her in a way that I’ve done with few other characters. I really don’t know if I’ve ever met a character who spoke (or even thought) so exactly what I feel inside.

As for the story, it is a sweet but not unrealistic love story – romantic love as well as love for friends who are more like family, and learning to love yourself. The setting of Galveston, TX is lovingly described so that I felt like I was there with the characters. What You Wish For has beautiful, uplifting messages about creating your own joy and learning from your past but not letting it define you.

For me, reading What You Wish For was a lot about the characters and the messages their story conveyed.  There have been a few books that have struck a chord with me like this book.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms, Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen, The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller, and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman are among my recent reads that have touched me as deeply as What You Wish For, particularly through the characters.  They’ve also all earned a 5-star rating from me proving, I think, how important well-written, relatable characters are for good fiction.

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For the Love of Books, Reviews

Review: Harry’s Trees

Harry's TreesHarry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thrilled to have received a copy of Jon Cohen’s novel, Harry’s Trees from This book will be hard to beat as my best read of 2018. It has so many wonderful qualities that it is difficult to figure out where to start gushing about it (which is why it has taken me over a week after finishing to write my review).
Harry’s Trees is the extraordinary story of how Harry and Amanda and Oriana learn to live again after two separate tragedies. As the novel explores how each person copes differently as they attempt to come to terms (or not) with their losses, it also shows that if we look hard enough we can find fairy tale elements in everyday life. At its heart, Harry’s Trees is a love letter to some of my favorite things – books, libraries, reading, and nature (For those who know me and know that I’m a major indoor cat, that last part may come as a surprise). Cohen’s writing lovingly, and with a devilish sense of humor, depicts the feelings evoked by reading and just being in among the trees while telling a darn good story that has everything you could want in a good read.
The book is packed with a lovable cast of three-dimensional, relatable, fun characters. I especially loved Oriana for her spunk, conviction, and fearlessness, and Olive for her strength, devotion, and her quirkiness. And now I long to live in a gorgeous treehouse in the middle of the woods with a stack of fairy tales and Sibley’s guides to keep me company.

If you enjoy Harry’s Trees (and I really think you will!) you’ll probably enjoy one of last year’s best reads, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman with which it shares some thematic similarities.  Both also have a great sense of humor.

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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane

5 Stars

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms was recommended to me by my friendly local librarian who, so far, has yet to steer me wrong.  Here she’s picked another winner.

GLGSLThis story of two women who may have a name in common and nothing else is humorous and heartwarming. Though they start out like oil and water, Janey and Nean both have a great capacity for love and a fragile heart. With more than a little help from Janey’s hysterically funny Great-Aunt Midge, they eventually come to see that they can help to heal each other’s wounds. Mixed in with all of this healing and hilarity – I dare you not to laugh out loud when J.J. meets Aunt Midge – is an unforgettable cast of characters, a bit of romance, some tears, and some breathtaking scenery (I want to win a house on the coast of Maine!).

If you enjoy The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, I recommend The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Children's Literature

Passing on Precious Memories

I recently received an invitation to a baby shower with the most wonderful suggestion. Instead of a card, it said, write a personal message in a children’s book.  I was thrilled when I read that.  I firmly believe that you cannot start building a child’s library too early.  But it also opened a bit of a can of worms where I’m concerned.  By the afternoon that I received the invitation, my shopping cart already had six beloved books in it and I kept thinking of more.  With much difficulty, I narrowed my selection to two books and saved the others for later – my future cousin should expect to get at least one book from me for every Christmas and birthday.  I tried to stick to the classics when coming up with ideas.  Here is part of my original selection:

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein         


A personal favorite



The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright


A staple for any child’s library.


Curious George by H.A. Rey  


Who doesn’t LOVE Curious George?


Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown  


A classic.  I didn’t choose this one because I figured the baby would receive like 10 copies.



The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle     


Another classic for every child’s library.


Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne


That chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.



The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter     


Any of Potter’s books would do.



One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss


Because Dr. Seuss is essential and the baby’s mother studied marine biology.



Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss 

Morris the Moose by Bernard Wiseman      


Another childhood favorite.  Morris is still funny 30 years later.



The Berenstain Bears by Stan Berenstain


I love the Berenstain Bears but this will probably be better saved for later.



The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Clovis Crawfish and His Friends by Mary Alice Fontenot      


A beloved local author that infuses Cajun French phrases and songs in her works.



ANY of the Little Golden Books

Literally ANY

Poems and Prayers for the Very Young by Martha Alexander


Out of print but a beautiful addition to any child’s library.


Hope is a Handful of Dreams by June Dutton (Illustrated by Susan Perl)

Another favorite from my childhood that is out of print but is timeless for its simple message and Perl’s unique and funny illustrations

Where’s Spot by Eric Hill      


Interactive and adorable but I was afraid that doors and blankets would be ripped out before too long.


If any of you have favorites that you would have added to this list, pass them on.  I would relish more ideas for all of those birthdays and Christmases to come.  

Chick-Lit, Reviews

Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings

The Garden of Small Beginnings
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received Abbi Waxman’s debut novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings, through I never would have guessed that a novel about a young widow raising two young daughters could be funny. No. Make that hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud from page one. Sarcasm is my favorite form of wit so I thoroughly enjoyed the repartee between Lili and her sister. Even the most poignant and emotional scenes were infused with this razor sharp wit. Some of my favorite moments, though, were the times when the children in the novel said and did things that children would totally say and do.
The novel has its flaws though. All of the characters – with the possible exception of Lili and her mother – are too perfect. I don’t mean that they don’t have their flaws and complexities, but that they are all so kind and generous and everyone gets along wonderfully and immediately. In my experience life is not like that (but my experience is rather limited so maybe I’m wrong). Also, while there is plenty of conflict (mostly from within Lili herself), everything seems to come so easily (see how quickly and well all the characters get along). And the end left me with too many questions about the characters’ futures. I guess I’ll just have to believe in their happily ever after.
Whatever shortcomings the novel has, it more than makes up for with its wicked sense of humor and exceedingly likable characters ( I am absolutely, completely in love with Edward!). The Garden of Small Beginnings is an honest portrayal of grief, motherhood, sisterhood, and the complexities of human nature. But mostly it is just plain hilarious.

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