ARCs: If I Speak True and Pity Isn’t an Option

These two very different books by Jessica L. Brooks struck me in very different ways. #spon | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received an audio copy of these books from the author in exchange for an honest review.

If I Speak True

Dahlia Kennedy’s sixteenth birthday marks a decade of mysterious dahlias arriving and strange, lonely dreams of being in a forest. The only difference this birthday, however, is that for the first time, someone is there with her. And he’s practically from a whole other era.

The more often Dahlia visits Rowan in his land of Ambrosia, the stronger their connection grows. But… is Ambrosia real? Is he real? What is going on between the two of them, exactly, and why does he insist that she keep it to herself?

As secrets usually go, however, it’s only a matter of time before everything comes out. And when Dahlia finds out the truth of who Rowan is, who she is, and how he really feels — it’s beyond anything she could have ever imagined. (Summary via Amazon.com)

I had a few problems with this book. First of all, I hated the narrator’s voice, which made it difficult for me to judge the book fairly on its content. I found the plot interesting–Dahlia finds herself crossing over into another world and becoming involved in its affairs–but the romance was just not my thing. My aversion to fantasy is well documented, but it wasn’t too bothersome to me in this book. Still, it just wasn’t my kind of story.

If you like YA fantasy romance, you’ll most likely enjoy this one. Just maybe don’t listen to the audio version.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Pity Isn’t an Option

Seventeen year-old Jonas Norton is trying to come to terms with what his blood disorder has robbed from him, including his two most favorite things: basketball, and competing in Hatchet Racket, Wanless’ annual hatchet-throwing contest. The facts that his father works constantly to pay for his blood tests and Jonas can actually see the disappointment in his eyes for being such a failure only make matters worse. And even worse than all of that? Jonas’ own twin brother, Micah, is perfectly healthy and becoming quite the basketball player himself. Also, Hattie, the girl Jonas has loved for forever? She has no idea how he feels. Sixteen year-old Hattie Akerman lives down the hill from Jonas. Though her father, Heath, tries to hide his lack of mental clarity behind the bottle and she’s pretty much given up on having any kind of relationship with him, she would still rather her younger sister, Lucy, not have to deal with the consequences of his behavior. Hattie helps her mother by baking food to sell at Market and looking out for Lucy. No matter what the rest of the town says about her crazy father, Jonas sticks up for them. He is, by far, her very best friend. As if things aren’t complicated enough already, Heath and Micah are unexpectedly drafted into President Kendrick’s army (an army from which no one ever returns) just days before Thanksgiving. When Heath disappears instead of arriving at the Meeting Place to check in, Hattie and Jonas decide they’ve had enough, and take matters into their own hands. And though nothing could have prepared them for what happens next, Hattie and Jonas learn that hope can be seen in every situation. You just have to know where to look. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book, on the other hand, I really enjoyed! Dystopian YA is much more my cup of tea, and I found the alternating sections between Jonas and Hattie to be wonderful. They were both well-rounded characters, and I felt sympathy toward both of them. Jonas is struggling to keep healthy while his parents work overtime to try to pay for his blood disease care. Hattie’s father is starting to lose his mind, and her mother is left to care for her two children on her own. Both characters work well together, and their families, though not perfect, are also interesting to read about.

My one regret from this book is that there wasn’t more description of the dystopian world in which they live. I think this is the first of a series, however, so there may be more in the books to come! I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. (And I wouldn’t mind if this audio book narrator continued narrating the series.)

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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My Introduction to Sarah Dessen

My first foray into the world of Sarah Dessen's books was only partly successful. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Sarah Dessen’s brand new book, Saint Anything. I put the book on my TBR list but decided I wanted some insight into Dessen’s writing style before I checked it out. And… that may have been a mistake. I ordered the book duo How to Deal from Paperback Swap, because who doesn’t love a two-for-one deal? I didn’t find out until later that these two books, combined to form the plot for the Mandy Moore movie of the same name, were the first two Dessen published. And unfortunately, it shows.

The two books contained in this package are Someone Like You and That Summer. Neither of them really struck me, and I think part of the reason is that they’re dated. For example (slight spoilers ahead!), in Someone Like You, the main character’s best friend gets pregnant. With her boyfriend out of the picture, she must decide if she wants to keep the baby, all while continuing to navigate the dangers of high school. Meanwhile, the main character has to make the decision of whether or not to sleep with her own boyfriend, a bad boy character who is starting to get pushy. It’s a decent enough book, but I’ve seen this plot so many times before. Maybe when the book first came out, it was less of a cliche, but reading it in 2015 was a bit disappointing.

The second book, That Summer, I actually enjoyed a bit more. Fifteen-year-old Haven is having a tough summer, with her cheating father marrying his mistress, her mom contemplating big changes in her own life, and her difficult older sister planning a wedding of her own. With all of these pressures, Haven can’t help but think back to a better summer, when her family was intact and her sister was dating a boy who helped bring them all closer together. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that even these happy memories weren’t all they seemed. Although not much happens in this book, I still found it less predictable than Someone Like You.

On the whole, I’m not overly amazed by Sarah Dessen’s books so far. I’m hoping that I just picked the most boring ones to start with and that Saint Anything will be as wonderful as I keep hearing it is. Is there hope for me and Sarah Dessen? Do the books get better, or should I give up now?

Rating: Good but Forgettable

ARC: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything lived up to the hype--this book is incredible. #spon | A book review from NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. (Summary via Amazon.com)

Before I picked up Everything, Everything, I had already heard mountains of good things about it. I couldn’t believe it was still available on NetGalley, so I immediately requested it and devoured it in one day. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t say a word to my husband when he got home, because I was 85% of the way through the book! He had to wait patiently until I had finished the book, and I immediately began describing the whole plot to him. And then I told my sister and my sister-in-law and my bookish friends on Facebook that they absolutely had to read the book.

If you haven’t gathered already, I adored this book. It lived up to the hype 100%. I won’t describe too much of the story to you (unlike what I did to my poor husband), because part of the fun is discovering Maddy’s world for yourself. But here’s the gist of it: Maddy has a very rare immune disease that basically makes her allergic to everything. She lives in a bubble world, where her house is completely airtight, the only people allowed in and out are Maddy’s mom and her full time nurse, and Maddy is protected in a sterile room full of books and bland foods. But when Olly moves in next door, he starts communicating with Maddy, and, of course, they fall in love. With Maddy unable to leave her house, she must decide what it means to truly live.

The romance in this book was very sweet. I’m not usually into books centered on romance, but this one was pretty adorable and believable, and there was enough plot happening to keep it from getting sappy. The style of the book was also kind of unexpected–scattered throughout the book are Maddy’s drawings and worksheets, which are funny and/or cute additions to the plot. And the drama! Again, I usually don’t go in for drama like this book has, and I know a lot of people will dislike the ending of this book for that very reason, but somehow it worked for me.

For those who are squeamish about such things, there is a very short, vaguely described sex scene in this book. But please don’t let that deter you from reading it! It’s very easy to skim over if it makes you uncomfortable.

This book is recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green, and having read both of these YA authors, I’d have to agree. Nicola Yoon provides a fresh, unexpected ride of a novel, and I can’t recommend it to you enough.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Mini Reviews: Summer Reading

My summer reading has been very hit and miss this year. | Book reviews from NewberyandBeyond.com
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Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books that have been… mediocre. Either they’ve had forgettable plots or boring characters or just weren’t my cup of tea. So in case you’re interested in what I’ve been reading lately, here’s a stockpile of summer reading that just didn’t stack up.

Girl on the Train

The writing was good, I enjoyed the perspectives of the characters, and the story itself was interesting. But I found the plot a little predictable, to be honest… I don’t regret reading it, but I doubt I’ll ever read it again.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Yes, Chef

As a former Food Network addict and a long-time viewer of Chopped, I’m a big fan of Marcus Samuelsson. He has a super interesting story–born in Ethiopia, he was adopted as a small child into a Swedish family. As a young chef, he traveled and worked his way through Europe before ending up in the U.S., where he now owns a restaurant in Harlem. I enjoyed Samuelsson’s voice in this memoir. It is quiet and honest, recounting past mistakes, failures, and triumphs with humility. Still, I felt there was something missing–probably humor, if you look at my past celebrity memoir list.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

A Little Something Different

I found this book to be cute but entirely forgettable. The romance was predictable, the characters were often stereotypical, and we didn’t get to know the main characters very well at all. The multiple viewpoints thing was a cute device, but it wasn’t enough to save this mediocre book.

Rating: Meh

Does My Head Look Big in This?

This book was one of my favorites of the bunch. The main character is a Muslim girl living in Australia, and she decides to wear the hijab full time, even at school. Her parents caution her and warn her of the difficulties she might face, but she takes the leap anyway. It was an interesting look at a group of people I know little about (Australian Muslims), but it never goes too deep into the religious implications. The book is mostly a YA story of friends, school, fitting in, and growing up.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Dragon of Handale

I picked up this medieval mystery on a whim, not realizing that it’s the latest installment in a series. The protagonist is a former nun who is attempting to decide whether or not to return to the convent. She lands in a harsh convent in the middle of nowhere, and she quickly begins to realize that things are not all they seem. The mystery itself is enjoyable, and I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another in the series if it landed in my lap, but it was pretty forgettable.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Freakin’ Fabulous

Oh, Clinton Kelly. As I’ve mentioned before, I love What Not to Wear, so I knew I needed to pick up Clinton’s first book. It’s all about style in every part of your life, from clothing to behavior to throwing a successful party. Some of the tips were quite helpful (I showed my husband how to make the first successful poached egg we’ve ever made by using this book’s tips!), but some of them were totally inapplicable. I’m interested to read the follow up, Freakin’ Fabulous on a Budget, and see how that one stacks up.

Rating: Meh

Food: A Love Story

Okay, this one was actually pretty funny. I’m not a fan of comedians in general, but I do kind of like Jim Gaffigan. Reading this book is like watching an extended version of one of his comedy specials, so if you’re familiar with his work, you’ll probably recognize a fair amount of material. Still, it’s worth reading for the added jokes and exploration of all things food.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Girl Talk

I had thought this book would be in the same vein as Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse or Never Have I Ever–that is, a funny, sometimes poignant look at Millennial life as we make our way through our twenties. Although it had some of that feeling (and the fact that it was made up of illustrations was pretty great), I found it pretty boring and totally forgettable. Save yourself some time and pick up one of the books I mentioned instead of this one.

Rating: Meh

Have you had better luck than I have recently with your reading? Leave me a comment and let me know what I should read next!

ARC: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

This romance is cute, but full of cliches. Sweet but forgettable. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
Photo by Krissy Proctor (from our wedding!)

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future? (Summary via Amazon.com)

First of all, can we talk about how beautiful this cover is? (You’ll have to search for it on Amazon; I’m changing up all my old pictures. But do it!) The design is just perfect. So lovely. The book, on the other hand, had a few flaws.

As described in the summary, Lou and Al’s relationship starts off with a huge misunderstanding. Al, a reporter, visits Lou’s restaurant the day she dumps her cheating fiance. Of course, the food and service are terrible, and Al writes a sarcastic, scorching review that immediately makes an impact on the restaurant’s business. However, when Al and Lou meet face to face in a pub, neither one knows that their paths have crossed before. Lou offers to show the British transplant the good side of Wisconsin cuisine and culture, and they start to fall in love (of course)–but Al finds out who Lou is and has to make a decision: keep his silence about his work life, or tell the truth and risk losing the woman he loves?

You can see immediately the large number of cliches that are present in this story. While this doesn’t have to ruin a book, it does make it an uphill battle to hold a reader’s interest. One thing above all else, though, nearly ruined my reading experience: the comparison of this book with the classic 90s romcom, You’ve Got Mail.

Growing up, and even now if I’m honest, You’ve Got Mail was one of my favorite romantic movies ever. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play to perfection the couple that seems doomed from the start due to irreconcilable differences. But here’s the difference between that story and The Coincidence of Coconut Cake: In You’ve Got Mail, all the time that Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox spend together is filled with barbed insults and guarded conversations–because they know each other. They both know what the other person has done to destroy their livelihood, so they go into their blossoming relationship with eyes wide open. Sure, Joe finds out before Kathleen that they’ve been communicating online unknowingly, but the pair doesn’t go on dates in happy oblivion, unaware that the other is causing all their problems. When Kathleen says at the end of the movie, “I wanted it to be you,” it’s touching because we know she has seen the worst of this man, and yet she still found the best in him and fell in love with him.

In The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, the story is flipped, and I found it to be a much less satisfying way of telling the tale. There’s much more an air of deception, as Lou and Al start their relationship in the dark about the other’s role in destroying (or boosting) their livelihood, and when Al does find out, he chooses to hide the fact through a series of really quite terrible decisions. Maybe if I hadn’t gone into the book expecting something similar to my favorite cheesy movie, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.

The story itself is fun and mostly lighthearted, although the more emotional moments tend to fall a little flat. If you like romances that are a little cheesy, light on sexual moments, and full of cliches, you’ll definitely like this one. And I must admit that the food theme is something that almost always draws me in (I have a weak spot for cozy mysteries themed around food, especially). I’m not sorry I read this book, but I doubt I’ll be rereading it anytime soon.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

ARC: My Best Everything

Romance and moonshine become entwined during Lulu's last summer after high school in a small Virginia town. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, they turn to Mason, a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything?
My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason–but it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye? (Summary via Amazon.com)
I loved the premise of this book.  Lulu is desperate to get out of her small-town life, but she doesn’t have the funds to go to her dream college.  So she decides on moonshining as her best bet for quick money–even though it puts herself and her two best friends in the hands of bad boy Mason.
There’s a lot of details in the descriptions of the friends’ adventures as shiners, which I loved.  It’s an unusual theme for a YA book, but it tied together well with the more familiar theme of wanting to escape and move on to a bigger life.  Fortunately for Lulu, her parents were both absent during most of the book, but I wished they had been a little more present in the book.  They were interesting, if not likable, characters, and I wish we had gotten to see more of their influence on Lulu’s life as she pursued her dangerous new job.
I enjoyed the way the book is written in second person–you don’t see a whole lot of that in fiction.  It’s written, like the summary says, as a letter from Lulu to Mason, recapping everything they went through that summer.  My one problem with the book is that, even though the plot itself is interesting and unusual, the characters are not very memorable.  They’re typical small-town teenagers, working and partying and getting in trouble, but I didn’t connect to them as much as I would have liked.
Rating: Good but Forgettable
P.S.  If you’re interested in more unusual summer adventures, try Scumble or Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold.

Review Copy: When She Smiled

This coming-of-age romance set in India has an interesting setting, but blah characters. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Mrityunjoy Roy is a fifteen year old Bengali who has spent the last ten years of his life growing up in Shimla, India. While his family is completely academically oriented, he wants something more. Finally he meets Akanksha in school, who turns his world upside down with her gorgeous looks and mind boggling smile. As fate would have it, she joins his tuition, and thus begins the torrid year of puppy love, romance, heartbreak, tragedy, and self discovery. Set among the scenic Shivalik hills of Shimla when mobile phones and internet were non-existent, this is a story of how an average young teenager comes to terms with his destiny. (Summary via Amazon.com)

The Amazon summary, despite being a little dramatic in talking about destiny, gives you a good idea of what to expect from this book.  The setting is amazing–it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book set in India, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book with that setting.  The author does a good job of drawing attention to the details of everyday life in what is (for me, anyway) an unusual setting.

That said, I had difficulties connecting with Roy, the main character.  He narrates the book, but oftentimes his voice seemed a little off.  I had a hard time believing that a teenager would say some of the things he said; his thoughts seemed stilted at times.  At other times, Roy was so immature, especially in his interactions with the girl he likes, that I just had to roll my eyes at him.  But that’s in keeping with most fifteen-year-olds I know (including my past self!).

I also had a few problems with the timeline.  The book covers an entire school year, in which Roy goes back to his old school, rekindles friendships, meets Akanksha of the beautiful smile, goes on a disastrous school trip, and has a couple of pretty tragic things happen to him… but that’s kind of the problem.  Things happen to Roy; he studies and goes to class and walks the roads and argues with his family, but he doesn’t do much.  His idea of attracting a girl includes answering all of his teacher’s questions correctly.  The year-long timeline seems vast and empty when you look at what, exactly, Roy does.  (Maybe that’s what they mean by destiny?  Maybe it’s something that does happen to you, rather than you doing it.)

Despite the gorgeous and interesting setting, I had some real problems with the bland, inactive characters and the uneven voice of the narrator and main character.  Very mixed feelings about this one.

Rating: Meh

P.S.  If you’re looking for YA coming-of-age fiction with a hint of romance, check out: A Northern Light or The Goose Girl.

Review Copy: Finding Mr. Right

This book is titled Finding Mr. Right, but it focuses more on what qualities you (and he) should be looking for in a match. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free galley of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Finding Mr. Right promises to bypass the dumb rules, sugarcoated fluff, and shaming tactics that most dating books provide, and provide simple, honest advice to improve your dating life.  And it certainly delivers.  This book is straightforward and practical, and the author’s voice is caring, but never patronizing.  (And it includes funny but thought-provoking statements, like, “Don’t be a food toddler,” which amused me probably more than it should have.)

The book emphasizes that Mr. Right is not real–no one will fit all your requirements.  Instead, you should focus on lasting qualities like communication and kindness.  With that focus in mind, the chapters cover self-love, desperation, intelligence, peace, authenticity, a healthy body, and giving back.  Each is an aspect a single woman should look at in her own life and attempt to improve.

This book uses research from actual psychologists, including Brene’ Brown, which really impressed me.  It’s not just a slapped-together guidebook on the dating world.  There is some real psychology going on here.  Each chapter ends with activities for self-care and self-knowledge, including journaling, which I also loved.

If you’re thrown off by my rating for a book I claim to have really enjoyed, please be assured–the only problem I had with this book isn’t really a problem.  I just can’t relate to it very deeply, because I’m not dating.  I can’t claim to be an expert at dating (you can ask me for the story of how I met my husband if you’re interested), but if I was still dating, this would be the book I would want by my side.  It doesn’t tell you “what he wants” or “how to keep him interested.”  Instead, this handbook gives you the opportunity to know and care for yourself better, and find a guy you love along the way.  Sweet, practical, and straightforward–if you’re dating, give this book a try.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Never Have I Ever

This lighthearted. funny memoir digs into the love life of the author who has gone 25 years (so far) without a date. | A review by Newbery and Beyond

Happy Valentine’s Day, guys!  No matter what your view on the holiday, and whether you are single or in a relationship, you must read Never Have I Ever as part of your celebration (or non-celebration).  I received this book for Christmas, and I read through it in two days (even though I told myself I’d save it, oops) before handing it off to my sister.  It was a laugh-out-loud hilarious look at author Katie Heaney’s “Life (so far) without a date.”

This book digs deep into the author’s love life, which has involved only a few kisses and no boyfriends.  We get to see Katie’s crushes, heartbreaks, and daydreams up close.  While Katie doesn’t have much of a dating history, she’s involved in her friends’ love lives, and we get an unflinching look at the ups and downs of that, too (the guy who made a PowerPoint to convince Katie’s roommate that they should stay together? So funny).

The best thing about this book is Katie’s lighthearted dating advice, based on her own and her friends’ experiences.  The chapter on the kind of messages you receive while online dating made me laugh out loud until my husband made me tell him what was so funny.  It’s my favorite kind of memoir–funny, lighthearted, and written in such a way that I felt like I knew Katie.  So good.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Review Copy: The Mine

Note: I received a digital copy of The Mine from the author for review consideration.

Book Review: The Mine by Newbery and Beyond #spon | Pretty Darn Good
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Time travel historical fiction!  I love it.  Of course, there’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, and next week I’ll be posting another time travel historical fiction review.  There’s just something about the juxtaposition of old and new, history and future, that captivates me.  So, on to the story!

Here is the summary, sent to me by the author:

In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of swing dancing and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

Joel is a likable guy, despite his cockiness, and he does what he can to help his newfound friends.  He struggles with making decisions to either protect his new friends or to allow history to run its course.  These choices are made more difficult by the fact that Joel is interfering in his own grandmother’s life, when he knows very well that her first fiance was killed while serving in WWII.  When Joel falls in love with a beautiful college girl named Grace, he starts to feel like he might be able to create a new life in his new time period.  He becomes a fantastic furniture salesman, and he uses his knowledge of sports history to make a lot of money betting on the outcome of games.  But when he finds out that he might be able to return to the future, Joel has to make some hard decisions.  And I must say, I was so happy with the ending of this book!  (But some will probably think it wraps things up too neatly.)

As with the other time travel historical fiction books I’ve been reading lately, The Mine doesn’t focus so much on the mechanics of time travel (it has something to do with the planets aligning), but focuses more on the history of the time period in which the time traveler arrives.  As this takes place in the summer of 1942, right before the events of Pearl Harbor occur, things are uneasy at best, but as our protagonists are college students, they still make time to see movies, go to baseball games, take weekend trips to the mountains, and fall in love.  Joel’s new friends (or really, his grandmother’s friends) are caring and open, reflective of a simpler time, but we and Joel know that that simplicity will soon be gone, that the guy who took Joel in and helped him get a job will soon be drafted; that the Japanese girl will soon be a victim to anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States; that Joel’s grandmother will soon go through the loss of her fiance.  Joel has to struggle with the morals of letting his friends suffer and even die versus intervening in the course of history and possibly causing huge changes in his own future.  I really enjoyed that.  There was just enough romance, just enough history, and just enough struggle to keep things interesting but enjoyable.  Definitely recommended!

(And be sure to check back next week if you’re interested in another time travel historical fiction book that deals with some of these same decisions, but for kids!)

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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