Sep 25, 2021

The Ghosts We Keep is a heartbreaking story that contains realistic scenes of death, love, and healing. Liam’s brother, Ethan, was killed in a hit and run. While the family grieves over the death of Ethan, Liam struggles with maintaining relationships with friends and dealing with grief. He seeks comfort in Ethan’s best friend, Marcus, and learns secrets about Ethan that weren’t known when he was alive. Though this book is contains tons of tragedy, it will leave you feeling empowered at the end.

This book is full of raw emotions; like sadness, loneliness, and grief. This story portrays

Sep 22, 2021

Emily, a strong and determined girl, used to be gifted with luck, until her mother died from cancer. Now, three years later, her bad luck doesn’t seem to stop. Until she and her new friend Blake, find a bucket list that had belonged to Emily’s mom. They both decide to go on an emotional adventure filled with love, fear and acceptance hoping to complete the bucket list. Do Emily and Blake complete their mission? Read more to find out!

This book is a good fit for those who are looking for a summer read. The Lucky List is a unique story about finding out who you are, and living life to the

Sep 1, 2021

When you start tuning in to winter, you realise that we live through a thousand winters in our lives--some big, some small.

Sometimes you find yourself reading a book so full of interesting, exciting ideas that the author has found a way to express so clearly and exquisitely that they are both familiar and revelatory, that the book continuously sparks moments of resonant discovery so that you find yourself stopping to have your own related ideas, pondering your own life in light of the new perspectives just gained from the reading, marking passages to revisit, taking notes to develop later

Sep 1, 2021

Karou finally knows who she is. She knows about her past life as Madrigal of the Kirin, executed for loving the enemy. But she also knows about Akiva’s betrayal and the suffering he has wrought upon her people and her world. Now, as the war between the Chimaera and the Seraphim explodes, Karou joins Thiago, the White Wolf, in crafting an army meant to inspire fear and bring destruction. Yet two questions remain unanswered: how far is Karou willing to go to protect her people — and is she even still one of them?

I absolutely loved this book! Laini Taylor’s writing was beautiful as always

Jul 2, 2021

Love and Gelato is about a young girl named Lina, who just lost her mom. Before her mom passed, she urged Lina to live with an old friend of hers in Florence, Italy. Lina was obviously hesitant about it, but she decided to go anyway. She discovers more about her mom's past than she ever thought possible. Her mom was gone, but it felt like she was right there with her. Plus, Lina meets the cute and sweet Lorenzo and they become fast friends, maybe even more.

 This book is like a slice of summer, even on the coldest of days. I give it 5 stars. The main characters are relatable, comedic

May 26, 2021

Logan, Shay, and Autumn are struggling. Each struck by the loss of someone they love, they’re unsure how to move forward. Music, the passion that once linked them, now brings back memories they’d rather forget. And they’ve turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms that leave them more and more alone. But while these characters seem buried by grief, they aren’t lost forever. As the story progresses, each comes to terms with the tragedy they’ve faced, building the courage to ask for help and slowly returning to music as an outlet for the hurt they feel.

This book’s shifting perspective offers

May 16, 2021

The book ​How to Make Friends with the Dark, by Kathleen Glasgow, is a realistic fiction novel. The main character, Tiger, has an unbreakable bond with her mother. Their mother-daughter relationship is deep and understanding, with a few quirks. Everything changes for Tiger when her mom unexpectedly dies. After Tiger loses the person she loves the most, her life goes into shambles. As the book narrates on, changing from first person point of view to second, we see how Tiger’s emotions play out. The best part of the book was the changing points of views, where the reader can understand the pain

The Boy in the Black Suit book cover

The Boy in the Black Suit

By Jason Reynolds
Rated by Kristen Re.
Apr 8, 2021

Matt Miller, a senior in high school, is dealing with the recent death of his mom to cancer.  Mr. Ray, Matt’s neighbor, offers him a job at the funeral home.  He is hesitant to take it but can’t pass up the good paycheck. So, Matt becomes the boy in the black suit because he starts wearing it every day.  In a way it brings Matt comfort to watch the funerals.  “I liked watching other people deal with the loss of someone, not because I enjoyed seeing them in pain, but because, somehow, it made me feel better knowing that my pain isn’t only mine.”

When he least expects it, Matt meets Lovey. 

Airplane over open water

After Elias

By Eddy Boudel Tan
Rated by Heather C
Jan 7, 2021

Truly one of the best books I've read this year. Very few books can balance heart wrenching grief as well as a mystery; a suspenseful thriller if you will.

Coen Caraway and Elias Santos are engaged to be married in a beautiful resort in Mexico. Just days before the wedding, with guests already en route, the plane Elias is co-piloting crashes into the ocean.  The last words heard on the 'black box' leave more questions than answers and Coen must now plan a memorial instead of a wedding.  

He tells friends and family that if they don’t believe in Elias’s innocence to not bother coming to

Dec 2, 2019

After Beverly's dog runs away she knows that she needs to leave, to get away from her drunk mother, her kind friends, and her dead dog. She doesn't know where she's going, but when she gets to a crooked little house by a crooked little sea, Beverly knows it is where she is going to stay, even if she won't admit it to herself. Beverly wants to keep to herself, but who knows if she will be able to keep away from the people who want to befriend her. The kindness inside of the book that is shown by all of the characters is super compelling. Although there is enough conflict to make the plot, the

Women's Voices Writing Contest Winner

By Virginia Brackett
Rated by Helen H.
Jan 11, 2019

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Virginia Brackett has won the open category of our writing contest on the theme of WOMEN'S VOICES with "Mrs. Cross".

Virginia Brackett, Professor Emeritus of English, retired in 2016 from Park University where she directed the Honors Academy and received varied teaching and service awards, including Faculty Member of the Year, 2013 for Exceptional Services to Student Veterans. She served as a discussion facilitator for the 2017 NEH-funded initiative for veterans and their families, Planting the Oar. Brackett serves on the Kansas City

Lincoln in the Bardo

By George Saunders
Rated by Chris K.
Oct 24, 2018

Strange, fascinating, moving, disturbing, challenging, poignant, and human. Oh, so very human.

Lincoln in the Bardo is a book that delves deep into the human condition and the particular human penchant for storytelling. It presents a myriad cast of characters, each obsessed with telling his or her own story to others. And to living it out, over and over. They are stuck in their stories. Limited by them. Blinded by them. Stories of regret, sorrow, and unfinished lives. Unhappy stories.

For the characters are ghosts. Or spirits or phantoms or souls or what you will. Trapped in a limbo of

Only Child

By Rhiannon Navin
Rated by Colleen O.
Jun 3, 2018

Only Child is told by six-year-old Zach Taylor, whose world is turned upside down when a gunman enters his school and kills nineteen children, including his older brother. The author has an uncanny ability to enter the mind of a small child and describe events as only a small child is able. The voice of innocence and wonder, sadness and confusion jumps out of every page as Zach tries to comprehend the tragedy that has befallen his family and the actions and despair of the adults around him, including his parents. Through his words, the reader learns about the family dynamic, issues they have

Dec 6, 2017

​They Left Us Everything is an emotional journey through Plum Johnson's grief and search for self after losing her parents and childhood home. After almost twenty years spent caring for her aging parents, Alex and Virginia, Plum is both liberated and burdened by their deaths, which happen just a mere three years apart. Though Plum loses them, and the loss is enormous, she finds them again through their belongings as she clears out their house, her childhood home, and prepares to sell it.

In packing her parent's belongings, she discovers who they really were, and also what it means to be

The Reminders

By Val Emmich
Rated by Catherine G.
Nov 7, 2017

The Reminders is a story about loss, friendship, and recovery. It’s told in the alternating perspectives of Gavin, a man in his late thirties whose partner has recently died; and Joan, a 10 year old girl whose parents are old college friends of Gavin's.

Shortly after Gavin's partner dies he becomes overwhelmed by the reminders of their life together and throws their belongings into the yard and sets them on fire. A neighbor takes a video of it and it makes the news. Joan's parents happen to see this and insist that Gavin come and stay with them for a while.

Joan can recall every detail

The Babadook (DVD)

By Jennifer Kent
Rated by Sheida B.
Oct 27, 2017

I admit that I watched this movie because of Essie Davis: our very own Miss Fisher. And I found her performance quite memorable in The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

In The Babadook, she is unrecognizable as Amelia, a frazzled, soft-spoken and accommodating single mom. Amelia works part-time at an old folks’ home while raising her six-year-old son, Sam (played by Noah Wiseman). She was widowed on the same night Sam was born. And Sam has major behavioral issues.   

The first half of the movie is from Amelia’s point of view. She is unhappy and exhausted, mentally and physically. One night, Sam

May 5, 2017

In July of 2007, Catherine Tidd lost her husband, Brad, in an accident and suddenly found herself a 31-year-old widow with three small children. In Confessions of a Mediocre Widow, Tidd chronicles her experience with sudden widowhood and the journey of self-discovery her husband's loss prompted. 

The first half of the book focuses on the loss and immediate aftermath of Brad's death. Tidd discusses her last moments with Brad, the shock of his death, how her mind (like so many other widows) could only process the loss in pieces, the crowds of people in the days after, and her new relationship

Jan 21, 2017

Mia, "Rabbit", Hayes is a fighter and the very heart of her adoring family. But so is the cancer slowly taking over her body. Rabbit, however, refuses to acknowledge that her diagnosis has just rapidly plummeted or share the news with her 12 year old daughter, Juliet. Neither of them is ready to say goodbye. Rabbit's family is amazing, particularly her strong tough Irish "Mammy" Molly, who fights like a tiger for her daughter's life. Rabbit's father, Jack, and her siblings, Grace and Davey, are believably drawn characters. At times, the imminent loss of Rabbit threatens to push the family

Thin Ice

By Irene Hannon
Rated by Lisa J.
Feb 17, 2016

Christy Reed has had a difficult year. First she lost both of her parents in a car wreck, then just a few months later her sister Ginny dies in a house fire. Just as Christy is starting to pull herself out of her grieving and begins to accept that she is alone in the world, an envelope arrives in the mail. The envelope is addressed in Ginny’s handwriting and is postmarked just a few days ago. What is going on, and where is Ginny?

Brand new FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor receives Christy’s call about the letter and reopens the case. There are many questions that need answers. Is Ginny

Oct 24, 2015

"Once we're born, the only other certainty of life is that one day we and all of our loved ones die." - Beth L. Hewett

I haven't yet needed to write a eulogy, so I can't say what drew me to Hewett's Good Words. Something did, and I was instantly presented with a generous spirit. In The Guide to Using Good Words, Hewett suggests that, if the death of your loved one has been sudden, skip to chapter 3, where you'll find help in drafting a eulogy. She even invites readers to photocopy what they need. In the Introduction, she goes on to explain, "I have come to understand the eulogy's importance

How To Talk To a Widower

By Jonathan Tropper
Rated by Helen H.
Jan 17, 2014

Poor Doug Parker. At 29, he’s living a life he never anticipated. And it's great. Surprisingly great. Great, until his wife Haley goes off and dies, leaving him alone to deal with his 16-year-old stepson, Haley's beefed-up ex-husband, and a crushing sadness that prevents him from really living.

Tropper has a gift for realistically portraying emotion. In the titles I’ve sampled, Tropper’s main characters are stuck in a suspended state, whether it be grief, or shock, surprise, bewilderment, or all of the above. And there is always a caste of wonderful characters, mostly dysfunctional family

What Changes Everything

By Masha Hamilton
Rated by Helen H.
Oct 1, 2013

In contrast to books like Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds and Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, where soldiers’ experiences are brought to life, What Changes Everything illuminates how war tears at those left at home. A refugee aid worker in Afghanistan is kidnapped, and his wife must decide on a course of action from across the world where no one agrees on how to proceed. How does a mother find solace when her young soldier son comes home a double amputee? A kind young man is killed at war and his mother and brother come unmoored after discrepancies behind his purple heart come to light. Almost like

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Rated by Elizabeth L.
May 10, 2013

Deraniyagala, a Sri Lankan by birth and a Londoner for college and beyond, was vacationing with her parents, her husband, and her two small children in Sri Lanka for Christmas in 2004, as was their family tradition. They were staying in a hotel not too far from the water. The day after Christmas, she looked out the window and noticed that the water seemed a little closer than usual. She called for her husband to come look – and then. AND THEN. Deraniyagala’s husband, parents and two boys were killed in the Tsunami that devastated the country but somehow she survived. This is the opening

Mar 29, 2013

Psychologist Chris Kelvin, played by George Clooney, arrives on a spaceship near the planet Solaris to investigate why the crew is suffering. Kelvin has a vivid dream of his deceased wife his first night on the ship and then discovers her lying next to him after wakening. Later that morning, Kelvin realizes that others also have “visitors” and that Solaris is affecting the crew almost like an afterlife in which the living can be reunited with the dead. Director Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris is a moving investigation into how we might handle longing and loss when offered the opportunity to

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

Rated by Jen L.M.
Mar 10, 2013

Summerland takes place on Nantucket beginning on graduation day.  Four high school juniors—twins, Penny and Hobby; Jake, Penny’s boyfriend, and longtime friend Demeter—have been celebrating the graduation of their classmates.  And yes, included in the celebration was underage drinking.  As they leave the party, Penny is driving Jake’s jeep as she is the only one that has not been drinking, but never-the-less the four are involved in a single-car wreck leaving Penny dead and her brother seriously injured.  The ultimate question is who said what to set Penny off and cause the wreck, and then to

Blue Nights

By Joan Didion
Rated by Michelle H.
Nov 5, 2012

In her previous memoir, A Year of Magical Thinking, author Joan Didion writes about the death of her husband. More recently in Blue Nights she writes about the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. The recent memoir differs from the previous in that the tone is lower, the story more tragic. When Didion mentions (only once) that her daughter was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and that she drank too much, I appreciated the information but was glad the author left alone what she could not speak of and handed indirectly those things she had the courage to suggest. Quintana Roo might

Feb 17, 2012

It’s Passover and Laurel, a junior in high school, her little brother and parents celebrate at their neighbor’s home.  Following the meal everyone decides to go to the ice cream shop for dessert.  Laurel and David, the neighbor’s son, both decide to forego the ice cream—Laurel to do homework and David to do whatever it is David does these days.  When they were little Laurel and David were good friends; however, upon growing up and entering high school they had grown apart.  The decision to skip dessert, after a painful family dinner, changed both of their lives forever.

Without Laurel and

Mar 3, 2011

What a sweet, heavy, sorrowful story. Elizabeth McCraken's baby dies in the ninth month of pregnancy and this is her story rolled out backwards for her readers, from the opening pages when she shares that her precious son dies and a second child is born alive and healthy. Knowing from the start that Elizabeth and her husband will have this second child does nothing to ease the reader through the horror and savage grief of that dreadful day when their child is stillborn. Elizabeth's words "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," says it all.

Whiter Than Snow

Rated by Judy R.
Sep 1, 2010

whiter-than-snow.jpgWhiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas isn’t one of her best, but I still enjoyed it. I’m game for most books that take place in the early 1900’s, in the mountains of Colorado. Dallas knows that time and place well (Prayers For Sale). Whiter Than Snow is a story of love, tragedy, forgiveness, despair, and resilience.

At 4:10 P.M. on April 20, 1920 something triggers an avalanche above the small mining town of Swandyke, Colorado, at the very moment children are walking home from school. Nine of those kids are swept up in the thundering snow. Four children survive. As Dallas introduces us to the

Jun 2, 2010

What do you say about a book that has been lauded by professional reviewers as a “taut, clear-eyed memoir” with a “sheer and highly efficient writing style” and is “elegant [in its] rendition of the stages [of grief]”?

All I can say is bleech. I didn’t come close to shedding a tear while reading this book and I weep during Hallmark commercials. I don’t understand how a book about the sudden loss of a loving husband after returning from the ICU where a daughter hangs by a thread can leave me void of emotion. But Didion has done it here. It’s inexplicable.