Fiction

Deer Falls by Samantha Lady

The Author is from the Willamette Valley (Linn/Benton/Lincoln Counties) and uses a lot of local natural attractions in her settings. However, the most impactful part of this series-in-a-novel book was the topics that hit so close to home. She focuses on the challenges of being an older teen/young adult raised in poverty & abuse. Parents with alcohol & drug issues, physical abuse & rage, homelessness, rape, and so much more... Her writing style is a bit more realistic than those of similar context that Ive come across. Very uplifting read for those fighting to break the cycles or in the position to look back on their journey. Back to Book Reviews

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This non-fiction book walked through each of the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency with a focus on the experience of being Black in America. I read many passages out loud to my family and we had productive discussions about race and privilege in America. I appreciated the historical perspectives this book brought and learned about the role incarceration has played in our country along with housing practices and Jim Crow laws. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain understanding of the historical events that led to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Back to Book Reviews

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ryan Hart is a girl who knows how to make sunshine even when things do not go smoothly in her life – her dad has lost his job, her family has to move to a smaller home, and her older brother bosses her around. She loves concocting new recipes with her mom and spending time with her friends, all the while trying to navigate the ups and downs of fourth grade. Ryan’s parents remind her that her name means “king” and she is determined to live up to her name and be a leader. Written by the Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson, Ways to Make Sunshine is the first book in a new series set in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in Portland, Renée Watson loved reading the Ramona Quimby books as a young girl and was inspired to create her own version of Ramona. In Ryan Hart, we have a positive new voice in children’s literature with more adventures to come. Back to Book Reviews

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This novel was, at times, heartbreaking to read. It examines the roles of race and privilege in America. Told in alternating voices between a labor and delivery nurse who is Black and a white supremacist couple who lose their newborn baby in the hospital, it made me think about how I am perceived and what privileges and biases I hold. The novel had strong character development and a plot-driven focus. I’ve found myself thinking about the characters, the plot, and the themes of this novel long after I finished reading it. Back to Book Reviews

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Not just a murder mystery, this book tells the story of how a tragic murder affects the victim's family and the accused for years after the event. A family's tropical holiday is torn apart when their college age daughter is murdered. The murder goes unsolved, but everyone has their suspicions as to where to put the blame. The story is told by the younger daughter, seven years old at the time of the murder, who tries to find closure for those early events that shattered her life and figure out what actually happened. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear how much race, class, and all sorts of other prejudices shape everyone's understanding of the events. Back to Book Reviews

A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell and Stoker star in the delightful mystery series set in Victorian England, where the eccentric pair of late-Victorian detectives delve into a case involving potential scandal for the royal family. At the same time, London is being terrorized by a notorious and elusive serial killer -- Jack the Ripper. As secrets start swirling, Victoria and Stoker need to find the truth before it is too late for all of them.  I love books with strong character development and Deanna Raybourn’s characters are inventive yet true to their era.  Richly detailed and sassy! Back to Book Reviews

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

It was a joy to read this with my almost 12-year old daughter, the same age as the oldest sister telling the story. I think it's shares valuable 1960s history of the Black Panthers that includes how they helped communities and educated children. It provided rich discussions and understanding to what is happening today with Black Lives Matter. My daughter loved the characters and book - adults will like it, too. Back to Book Reviews

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur Pepper has had the same routine every day since his wife Miriam died.  Up at 7:30, he waters his fern named Frederica and spends time in his garden. On the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death, things change.  In Miriam’s things he discovers a charm bracelet with very unique, specific charms.  He embarks on an adventure to discover the meaning behind the charms that takes him from London to Paris to India. In meeting people that knew a different Miriam, he gets to know a side of her that he was unaware of, and makes new and lasting friends along the way.  I enjoy Phaedra Patrick’s books, this one is filled with wonderful characters and is a feel good story.  I finished it with a smile on my face. Back to Book Reviews

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Another gritty book in the Jackson Brodie series. Tracy Waterhouse, a retired police officer in Leeds, England, impulsively begins caring for a neglected child and unknowingly gets involved in PI Brodie’s search for the birth parents of an adoptee. Both of them also get mixed up in a decades-old murder case. The multi-layered plot weaves back and forth in time, gradually bringing several stories together. It’s ingeniously plotted, with a wry sense of humor and wonderfully drawn characters. Great for fans of literary crime fiction. Back to Book Reviews

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Lillian is stuck in a dead end job and living in her mother’s attic when her former high school friend asks her to take a job caring for her two step children. The children are troubled. They have recently lost their mother, and their rich and powerful politician father is distant. And, when they get emotionally upset they spontaneously combust.  It’s a quirky, hilarious novel that skewers the rich and powerful, but is also a touching story of what it means to be a family. Back to Book Reviews