family dynamics

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Rated by Katerina J.
Jun 2, 2011

Along for the Ride is an enjoyable read by a renowned YA author Sarah Dessen. Dessen has gained wide spread popularity by writing genuine stories about coming of age, friendship and love. Her characters are typically well developed and true to life. People can relate to her characters and their predicaments and that is what makes Dessen’s books so popular and loved. You will not find any paranormal creatures in her books.

Auden Penelope West is the central protagonist of Along for the Ride. She is an accomplished, highly intelligent girl who quite does not fit among her peers. Her adolescence

Aug 2, 2016

This is the story of a complicated woman entangled in the lives of a powerful family. Sarah survived World War II in Europe and she’s working her way home to Australia as a nurse onboard an ocean liner. One of her patients is Mrs. Bligh, the commanding matriarch of a wealthy Australian family.  Sarah charms her patient’s son and grandchildren, but when she stumbles on a buried family secret Mrs. Bligh is determined to get rid of her.  Instead of quietly getting out of the way, Sarah just gets on with her life, accepting a position as a nurse in a small town near the Bligh family estate. Mrs

Feb 29, 2012

Ruth, Bethanne, and Annie, of the “Blossom Street” knitting group set off on a cross country road trip to Florida where Ruth will be attending her 50th high school class reunion and hopefully reconnecting with her high school beau Royce.  Bethanne, Ruth’s former daughter-in-law, has agreed to join her as she needs to get away so that she can consider the fact that her ex-husband (Ruth’s son and Annie’s father) would like to reconcile.  Annie decides to tag along as she is depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend who she thought was going to be proposing. 

As they travel from Seattle to

May 6, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a memoir by Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School. The memoir concentrates on her family life, especially on raising her two daughters. As a second generation Chinese, Chua is determined to raise her daughters the Chinese way. Some of her parenting methods might be perceived as too strict by some readers. Chua is definitely a firm parent and she often tells her girls that her goal as a parent is to prepare them for the future – not to make them like her. Even though, her daughters are not allowed to choose their own extracurricular activities or have a play

Jul 23, 2013

“Suspense” and “thriller” are among the tags for this book. I wasn’t sure at first if those descriptions fit. The book is about a woman, Christine, who wakes up every morning with no memory.  She has no idea who she is, where she is, or even how old she is. I figured this would be more of a drama than a thriller. But the suspense builds as Christine, and the reader, begin to question what she is told. What is real, what is imagined, and what is an outright lie?

This isn’t the kind of thriller where terrorists have planted a bomb and intelligence agents are racing to find it. This is a

May 2, 2013

Whenever I’m asked for a “gentle read” my go-to author is Maeve Binchy. Her novels are standalone, not a series; so the order in which they are read doesn’t matter. There is no sex, language or violence in Binchy’s books. They are about the dramas of daily life: relationships with parents, children or spouses; your place in a community; identity and what you want to do with your life.

The characters in Binchy’s stories are very likeable. They are real people with flaws, who make mistakes and are easy to root for. The problems and issues they grapple with are believable, with a twist. Binchy

Jan 20, 2011

City of Bones tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Clary, trying to make sense of her world when it is turned upside down. First she becomes involved with three "people" that no one else sees and what she sees is impossible. Then, her mother disappears setting off a chain of events that leads Clary into the world of demons and demon hunters, the shadowhunters. Everything Clary thought she knew about herself, her parents and her past seems to be a lie. She struggles to find her place among these newly discovered supernatural beings (is she one of them?) as she searches for her mother and

Dad is Fat

By Jim Gaffigan
Rated by Marty J.
Jun 17, 2015

Dad is Fat is a collection of essays on parenting written by stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan. Gaffigan writes about the trials and tribulations of raising five children in New York City in a 2-bedroom fifth floor walk-up apartment. His observations are spot on – and hilarious. 

I read the book AND listened to the audiobook which is read by the author – a real treat. By the end of the book, the reader/listener has developed a real sense of how difficult it would be to do what Gaffigan and his wife do and, at the same time, how much he adores his wife and revels in the chaos and joy of being

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

Rated by Katerina J.
Feb 3, 2012

“Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others. At least that’s what I told myself whenever I stood in a crowd of normal-looking people and felt like I was the only one.” Lucy has been living with a shameful secret. Her mother, who on the outside is a respected, caring and gifted oncology nurse, is on the inside a stubborn, irritated person who is incapable of caring for her children and house. And worse, her mother suffers from compulsive hoarding and she has turned their house into a maze full of massive piles of filth, clutter and junk. So far Lucy has been quite

Jun 7, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Two sisters, a baby and a five year old, are left by their mother at their Grandmother’s house. The house they lived in had a very special garden in back and grandma taught the eldest how to cook with the herbs and flowers that grew there. When combined correctly in recipes the flowers and herbs made people who consumed them think

Oct 5, 2010

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison AllenIn Allen's debut novel we meet the Waverly sisters Claire and Sydney in their hometown of Bascom, NC. The Waverly family has lived in Bascom for generations and their unusual garden is the stuff of legends in the area. The Waverlys and their garden have somewhat of a curious reputation due to their garden and its plants that have special powers.

Claire Waverly has turned her unique and magical garden into a successful catering business. Sydney who left Bascom as soon as she graduated from high school has just returned to Waverly with her 5 year old daughter and a secret.

Claire and Sydney

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Rated by Sandra S.
Jul 22, 2010

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Author of prize-winning Gilead continues with some of the characters from that story. The setting is once again, Gilead, IA, and focuses on the sister, Glory, her brother, Jack and their aging father, who was a minister at their family “home”. Glory has come back to care for her father, after a failed relationship. She has nowhere else to go and he needs care. Brother Jack shows up after a 20 year absence. His father has prayed for his return all this time, but there has been no word from him until now. Jack has struggle with being different than the rest of the

I Will Send Rain

By Rae Meadows
Rated by Kari E.
Feb 25, 2017

I Will Send Rain is both bleak and hopeful. You will feel a lot of things while reading this perfectly crafted, emotional story of an Oklahoma farm family living through the Dust Bowl.

Samuel and Annie Bell move from Kansas to Oklahoma, set up a home, and have two children Birdie and Fred. The Bell family clings to their land and hope rain will save their crops. The pacing brings the reader into the Dust Bowl slowly and the way Meadow’s develops each character pulls you into a world where each day is a struggle to survive. Samuel, Annie, and Birdie plod along, secretly hoping to escape

Le Grand Voyage DVD

Rated by Magda B.
Oct 19, 2011

This movie tells a story of a contemporary French-Moroccan family.  In order for the aging illiterate father to fulfill his religious obligation of a pilgrimage to Mecca (while the oldest son is not available), the youngest son is summoned to accompany his father. They drive in a borrowed old car 3000 miles across beautiful landscapes from the south of France to Saudi Arabia.

The son resents this duty and must put his university entrance exams on hold.  During the journey, they argue over their complicated relationship, cultural differences and generational gap.  To positively pass the time

Jul 6, 2012

Forget what you think you know about mermaids. Ariel and Disney have no place in this horrific tale of tragedy and death, love and desire, by Anne Greenwood-Brown. Lies Beneath begins with Calder White stating that he hates the cold almost as much as the draw he feels to join his family on the yearly migration. Ever since Calder was taken in by the woman he refers to as his mother and her three daughters, Calder has felt trapped. And while this may seem like a normal everyday problem, it is not. Calder and his sisters are mermaids, and not the sing-song type. They kill for survival as they

Mar 10, 2011

Life As We Knew It is the first book in Last Survivor trilogy. In my opinion, it is also the best book in the series and it can definitely be read as a standalone book. Susan Beth Pfeffer did an excellent job creating a powerful and realistic story about surviving a natural disaster.  

This fast paced, thoughtful story is told in a diary format by the main character, sixteen-year-old Miranda. After an asteroid hits the Moon and pushes it closer to the Earth, the Earth’s climate alters. Inevitably, worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes and erupting volcanoes change “life as we knew it”.  Due to

Matched by Ally Condie

Rated by Katerina J.
Mar 2, 2011

Matched is the first book in a young adult dystopian trilogy. The main character is seventeen-year-old Cassia who lives in a Society where all choices are made for you. You do not have to worry what you will eat, what your profession will be or even when you die.  Everything is scientifically selected for you.

Cassia’s story opens at her Matching ceremony where she is to her surprise and delight matched to her best friend Xander. According to the Society, Xander is her ideal mate. He is destined to become her husband and father of her children. At the ceremony, all the Matchees are given a

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Rated by Katerina J.
Mar 3, 2011

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is the 2010 National Book Award winner in the Young People’s Literature Category. It is one of the best books I have read for a long time. It tells the story of Kaitlin, an intelligent fifth grade girl with Asperger’s syndrome. Kaitlin and her father’s lives are turned upside down when Kaitlin’s brother Devon is shot in a school shooting. Kaitlin and Devon were very close and it was Devon who helped Kaitlin to “fit in”. Now Kaitlin is left with her widowed, grief-stricken father and she does not have any friends. Fortunately, Kaitlin has Mrs. Brook, an excellent

My Name Is Lucy Barton

By Elizabeth Strout
Rated by Cheryl M.
Feb 25, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is a novel to be read slowly and savored for its richness of story. At less than 200 pages, it is a novel with a simple plot: a woman, Lucy, is in the hospital for a prolonged stay, and her mother is visiting her. Lucy has been estranged from her mother since her marriage. She is grateful for her mother's presence, while at the same time she wants more than her mother is capable of giving her. In other words, the novel is rich in family dynamics and the complexities of the human heart.

What we as readers learn over the course

Our Souls at Night

By Kent Haruf
Rated by Stefanie E.
Mar 5, 2016

In the opening sequence, Addie Moore, a 70 year old widow, invites her neighbor Louis, also a widower, to spend the night with her. She makes it clear from the beginning that it’s not about sex. “I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably.” They proceed to do just that and stay up late talking in the dark. Their confessions are memorable and important and when Addie's grandson comes to stay with her for the summer some unforeseen complications arise.  

The author, Kent Haruf, knew that he was dying as he wrote Our Souls at Night and knowing that fact

Picnic in Provence

By Elizabeth Bard
Rated by Stefanie E.
Sep 23, 2015

A few years ago I read Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris. It spoke to me at the time. She was recently married—I was recently married. She fell in love with someone outside of her culture—I fell in love with a Midwesterner (I'm a New Mexican). She loved to cook in her small kitchen—ditto! You get the point. She was my new literary best friend. I enjoyed her nuances into French life, her ability to look outside herself and see the larger picture and, most importantly, laugh about it all. Now Bard has written her second memoir in which she tells of her journey into first-time parenthood the French

Rescue by Anita Shreve

Rated by Susan B.
Feb 8, 2011


I love reading Anita Shreve—she can tell a story with grace, intelligence, and a mastery of the language, with intricate but clear plotlines, without resorting to hyperbole or far-fetched situations.  Shreve  is a delight to read and provides absorbing storylines, that seem to vary rather widely—South Africa,  Massachusetts in the early twentieth century, and now a setting in the present in Vermont, with characters from our own time.  But plot lines are only one attraction—it is Shreve’s nuanced handling of the emotions  and fragility at the root of our human structure is the reason I read

May 25, 2011

Shanghai Girls tells the story of two sisters, Pearl and May. They were known as "beautiful girls", meaning that they posed for artists who used the paintings for "beautiful girl" posters, calendars and various advertisements. The girls lived what was, to them, an enchanted life. Until one day their world was turned upside down by their father informing them that he had arranged marriages for them both. They were to marry brothers who were Chinese but lived in America, specifically, Los Angelos. This was definitely not the future the two forward looking sisters had envisioned for themselves

Feb 22, 2011

A baby chewing on a human rib bone leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a housing construction site. Which leads Erlendur Sveinsson, Detective Inspector with the Reyjavik Iceland Police to wonder why there are red currant bushes planted in a row close by. Further inquiries and questionings uncover an old crime, complicated by the installation of the US Army during WWII, and a long-dead romance. The murky atmosphere of Indriđason’s narrative is enlivened by his nuanced descriptions of the characters encountered during the investigation, and his uncomfortable if not tragic relationship


By Dee Henderson
Rated by Lisa J.
Aug 10, 2015

Matthew Dane was a police officer until his daughter was kidnapped and missing for years.  He then left the force and started a private detective service so he could continue the search for his daughter.  Once his daughter was found, he was able to help her adjust to life outside of captivity and then help other families in the same situation.  

Shannon Bliss went missing at the age of 16.  Now, almost 12 years later, Matthew finds a woman waiting for him outside his hotel room claiming to be Shannon Bliss.  She is seeking his assistance in reuniting with her family and bringing down the

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

By Carol Rifka Brunt
Rated by Helen H.
Aug 26, 2015

On the surface, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, is about June Elbus, a young girl whose favorite uncle dies of AIDS in 1987. It’s the early days, when misinformation, fear, and hate rule the day. With a 2012 publication date (and a 2015 reading) I read of June’s experience with a perspective that time, distance and education afford. For me, the book isn’t so much about AIDS and how that terrifying diagnosis affects the Elbus family but about what happens when you allow fear, and disappointment, and blame to dictate your behavior and parenting decisions.
No doubt, June is a special person. Her

That Night

By Chevy Stevens
Rated by Lisa J.
Sep 29, 2014

High school seniors Tony and Ryan had a plan for after graduation.  They were going to get jobs and an apartment and live together—Toni to get away from her mom who favored her younger sister, and Ryan to leave behind his alcoholic and abusive father.  It all seemed so simple.  But that's not what happened.  Senior year the "mean girls" clique started harassing Toni, just to be mean.  Then, unbelievably, Toni's little sister, Nicole, starts hanging out with the clique and harassing Toni too.  Nicole has also changed a lot since starting high school; she's gotten secretive, and sullen, although

The Book of Unknown Americans

By Cristina Henriquez
Rated by Colleen O.
Oct 22, 2014

Arturo and Alma Rivera lived a happy life in Mexico until their beautiful teenage daughter, Maribel, sustains a serious injury in an accident. Unsure if she'll ever be the same again, they migrate to Delaware, where Maribel will be able to attend a special school and hopefully begin her road to recovery. But America is not what the family thought it would be—Arturo’s job is brutal, Maribel doesn't seem to be making much progress in school, and Alma struggles with her new life and learning a new language.

The one bright spot is that the Riveras meet the Toro family, who came to the U.S

Jan 17, 2011

When your first novel sells about fifteen million copies across the world, has been the number one bestseller in about 20 countries, has been translated into 36 languages, and gets made into a movie, starring, produced and directed by Robert Redford, is there a point to trying again? Seriously, if you were Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer would you really think you could do it again?

Luckily for readers everywhere, Evans did try again. In each subsequent novel Evans succeeds in creating characters and stories that, while very different from Grace, her family, Pilgrim, and Tom

Apr 7, 2011

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton begins in 1913 London where 4 year old Nell is hiding on a ship deck waiting for the "Authoress" to return and start their journey to Australia.  However, the "Authoress" fails to return and Nell travels to Australia alone with only a small suitcase containing clothes and a book of fairy tales.  Nell is  adopted by the dockmaster and his wife when the ship arrives in Australia and is raised as one of their own. 

Nell doesn't learn of her unconventional adoption into the family until she is an adult and it changes the way she sees herself, her family and her