Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Be Light Like a Bird

Summary: After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she's ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must tackle issues with the environment, peer pressure, and bullying. More than that, she must cope with the difficulty of forgiving those who don't deserve it as she discovers what it means to be a family and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart. -- Capstone

While I always seem to enjoy a good middle grade novel, I find that I don't read them near as much as I'd like. So when Monika Schroder asked me if I would like to review her latest novel BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD, I jumped at the chance. This novel seemed to epitomize everything I love about middle grade books. It's a sweet coming-of-age story about a young girl who is trying to cope with the loss of her father.

BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD tells the story of Wren, a twelve year old girl whose father has recently died in an airplane accident. Naturally her life is turned upside down, but things get even worse when her mother decides to pack them up and move... and move again... and move again. Wren's relationship with her mother begins to feel the stress of their lives, and Wren finds comfort in a rather odd (and sad) way. She buries the dead animals that she finds on the road.

When Wren and her mother finally settle in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Wren finds herself in a new school with no real friends. She finds a sanctuary in a Pete's Pond, a place where she can watch and draw birds -- a hobby she used to do with her father. Unfortunately, Pete's Pond is scheduled to become a landfill. When Wren is assigned a school project, she teams up with Theo, another boy who doesn't have many friends. Together, they fight to save Pete's Pond and its wildlife from destruction. In the process, Wren learns some important lessons about life and family... and she begins the path towards healing!

I really enjoyed BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD! The story is incredibly sweet and entertaining, yet it also managed to delve into some important issues for middle grade readers. Wren was a wonderful character who touched my heart, and I loved seeing how much she matured by the end of the story. I also really appreciated that this novel explored the difficult issues of grief and bullying while also leaving readers with a sense of hope. There are just so many things to like about this story.

I truly loved how this book explored the theme of grief. I would hope that some young readers would find comfort (or at least relate) a bit to Wren. The grief she was experiencing at the beginning of the novel almost broke my heart. She was burying dead animals for some sort of closure, for goodness sake! But I also liked how the author showed how grief manifested in Wren's mom. I think it was a great message to show that everyone deals with loss differently. And that we don't always understand the reasons why a person acts the way they do.

Another wonderful thing about this novel was how it explored the ideas of family and friendship. Wren was definitely feeling alone after the loss of her father and her mother's strange behavior, and her attempts to fit in with the popular girls at school didn't help matter. However, she found a friend in Theo, a boy who lived with his father because his mom died when he was younger. These two learned to trust and find comfort in each other, and I loved how their friendship was depicted.

Finally, I appreciated that the author chose to tell a side story that dealt with the environment and conservation. Not only were these important topics for a middle grade book, but I loved how Wren and Theo decided actually do something about the destruction of Pete's Pond. They worked together to bring this issue to the attention of their townspeople and politicians... and actually ended up making a difference!

As much as I enjoyed BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD, I have to say that it was a little predictable; however, that didn't bother me at all. It's important to keep in mind that the novel was written for middle grade readers -- not discerning adults. It's supposed to have a happy ending with most things being resolved; and I have to say that if things didn't work out for Wren, I would have been disappointed.

I highly recommended BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD for book clubs and the classroom. There is a discussion guide available with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include grief, loss, new starts, friendship, family, environmental concerns, action, closure, and forgiveness.

Overall, BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD is a wonderful middle grade novel. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this novel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: The Next

Summary: Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time. Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right—makes Ned pay—so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after. -- St. Martins Press

Ok -- here's a new premise for you. A woman dies from cancer and she's determined to get revenge on her ex boyfriend. Yes -- you heard that right. That's the basic gist of the new novel THE NEXT by Stephanie Gangi. A ghost wreaks "ghostlike" havoc on her ex's life while also playing mother to her two adult daughters.

THE NEXT tells the story of Joanna DeAngelis, a woman who is dying from cancer much too early. Rather than spend what little time she has left with her two daughters, she is obsessed with rage against her younger ex-boyfriend Ned. She is fixated on her phone and follows Ned's life as he dates a glamorous and successful woman. She's furious enough at him for leaving her, but when she discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant with Ned's baby, she can't even think straight. She begins fantasizing about revenge, and that's exactly what she decides to do when she passes to the "other side."

After her death, Joanna does some major damage to Ned in an effort to make him pay for his indiscretions. However, she does so at the expense of her daughters. They are dealing with feelings of guilt and grief, and Joanna doesn't even realize how much pain they are in because she's too concerned with revenge. Joanna eventually does find satisfaction in making Ned realize his mistakes, and she is able to move on in her death. Fortunately, her daughters learn how to live in a world without their beloved mother being physical present.

I enjoyed THE NEXT but I'm not sure I loved it. It was definitely a unique premise, and I found many of the scenes with Joanna's ghost and Ned to be pretty darn funny; however, I was a little uncomfortable with the intensity of Joanna's scorn. I spent much of the novel wanting her to realize the pain that her daughters were in and turn her efforts to helping them instead of hurting Ned.

I do think THE NEXT was extremely well written. I loved Ms. Gangi's character development, and I found her insights to be spot on and very witty. I also appreciated how much humor she was able to incorporate into the novel. I laughed and laughed at a few of Ned's scenes; however, I also was touched by the grief that her girls were experiencing. It was definitely a unique mix of feelings, and all were handled equally well.

What I enjoyed most about THE NEXT was how it featured the theme of loves. Love is definitely a recurring them, and love is experience is so many different forms. There is obsessive love, unrequited love, self love, parent/child love, romantic love, and even doggie love. Personally, I loved how the book explored all of these forms of love!

THE NEXT would be an interesting selection for book clubs. Fortunately, there is a reading guide available with eleven questions. Of course you will want to discuss Joanna's behavior, but Ned and her daughters are interesting in their own rights too. Some of the other themes you might want to explore include revenge, death, grief, music, social media, and peace.

All in all, I enjoyed THE NEXT and recommend it to fans of smart stories about family relationships.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Home Field

Summary: The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football. As the high school football coach in his small, rural Maryland town, Dean is a hero who reorganized the athletic program and brought the state championship to the community. When he married Nicole, the beloved town sweetheart, he seemed to have it all—until his troubled wife committed suicide. Now, everything Dean thought he knew is thrown off kilter as Nicole’s death forces him to re-evaluate all of his relationships, including those with his team and his three children.

Dean’s eleven-year old son, Robbie, is withdrawing at home and running away from school. Bry, who is only eight, is struggling to understand his mother’s untimely death and his place in the family. Eighteen-year-old Stephanie, a freshman at Swarthmore, is torn between her new identity as a rebellious and sophisticated college student, her responsibility towards her brothers, and reeling from missing her mother. As Dean struggles to continue to lead his team to victory in light of his overwhelming personal loss, he must fix his fractured family—and himself. When a new family emergency arises, Dean discovers that he’ll never view the world in the same way again.

Transporting readers to the heart of small town America, Home Field is an unforgettable, poignant story about the pull of the past and the power of forgiveness. -- William Morrow

I don't think you can read HOME FIELD by Hannah Gersen and not make some comparisons to Friday Night Lights. In fact, I saw on the author's website that the television show actually influenced her when writing this novel. I love pretty much enjoy anything that has to do with football; and since I also love novels about dysfunctional families, I figured HOME FIELD would be a good match... and it was. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

HOME FIELD tells the story of Dean, a high school football coach and father of three. Dean's life was seemingly perfect. He married the town sweetheart Nicole and had the job of his dreams. He even won the state football championship for his high school. However, the unthinkable happened -- his wife committed suicide and Dean is left to navigate life and fatherhood on his own.

As hard as it is to deal with the loss of his wife, Dean is also having to help his children deal with the void in their lives. Dean, who spent most of his waking hours coaching or thinking about coaching football, is now having to deal with his two young sons because his stepdaughter Stephanie has left town to attend Swarthmore. Robbie, the 11 year old, is acting out by running away from school; and Bry, the 8 year old, doesn't really understand what's going on and turns to his aunt's fundamentalist church as a way to cope. Nicole always handled most of the issues with the kids and then Stephanie filled in, and Dean is completely lost in how to handle his sons.

Meanwhile, Dean isn't taking his wife's death very well either. Dean discovers that coaching the all-important high school football team in this town and parenting his children is just too much for him; and he is forced to take a step back from his coaching duties. As Dean does his best to keep his family together, he also has to help them (and himself) move forward.

I really liked HOME FIELD. I was both entertaining and touched by the story. In addition, I was impressed with the author's writing as well as her character development -- these people were so flawed yet likable, and I thought she did an amazing job of bringing a small town and its cast of characters to life. All in all, it was a quality read and the characters' stories stuck with me after I finished the novel.

What really impressed me, though, was how well the author handled the subject of grief. Ms. Gersen did a wonderful job in making the pain these characters were feeling real to the reader. At times, the sense of grief was almost overpowering to me. It was incredibly difficult to see how each family member tried to deal with it in his or her own way. Personally, I found Stephanie's ability (or inability) to handle her mother's death to be the most painful. For some reason, her desire to leave the small town and start her own life while also feeling the guilt of leaving her brothers was just so incredibly sad. I couldn't get her character out of my mind.

While the main theme of HOME FIELD was definitely dealing with loss, I also appreciated how the author showed that the family was eventually able to cope and even move on. The book was sad, of course, but it also left me with feelings of hope. I don't want to say that everything was wrapped up neatly with a big red bow, but I did leave the pages of this book thinking that everything could be okay for these characters. Not that everything would be necessarily easy for them, but there was a sense that they could be happy in the future.

I do think HOME FIELD would make a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide available with eleven interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include grief, loss, guilt, home, family, acceptance, and forgiveness. I have a sense that many readers will relate to the characters' intense feelings of loss, so it could be a meeting that requires tissues!

I found HOME FIELD to be a beautiful novel about loss and resilience. I definitely recommend it to fans of stories about dysfunctional families.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Guest Review: Free Fall

Summary: Pilots with no control…

High above the Adirondack Mountains, a commuter flight to New York City turns into a rolling, twisting nightmare, plunging from the sky before the crew regains control. Then, in London, a jetliner crashes into the runway, killing fifteen people.

Investigators with no answers…

Reporter Kate Page believes something beyond mechanical—or human—error is behind the incidents that have air investigators baffled. But the mystery deepens as teams scramble to pinpoint a link between the tragedies, and Kate receives an untraceable message from someone boasting responsibility and threatening another event.

A looming disaster…

As Kate, the FBI and the NTSB race to find answers, the shadow figures behind the operation launch their most devastating plan yet, and time ticks down on one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever known. -- Mira

I have to be honest. There is no way I would ever read FREE FALL by Rick Mofina. The premise of an airplane going out of control with no explanation is way too scary for me. Lucky for me, Booking Pap Pap read it instead. Here are his thoughts:

In FREE FALL by Rick Mofina, the main character is reporter Kate Page who works for a newswire service. While in the office on the weekend fine tuning a news article, Kate hears on the scanner a report about a New York commuter flight that has malfunctioned sending the passengers into a panic. Kate immediately heads for LaGuardia airport to learn as much as she can about the flight. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is quick to identify the problem as pilot error but the pilots insist that the advanced operating system failed. As the investigation is taking place, another airliner with the similar operating system crashes while landing in London killing several passengers. Pilots again say the operating system failed but investigators again lean toward pilot error. Investigators insist that the two accidents occurring so close together is a coincidence. As Kate tries to find a common thread in the two incidents, she receives an email from a party claiming responsibility and threatens even more death and destruction. Kate reports the email to the FBI but aviation authorities insist it’s a hoax and claim airplane operating systems cannot be hacked or controlled remotely. All parties are concerned about reporting the story without the full facts and causing panic in the airline industry. Kate continues to chase the story as she confronts resistance from her own editors, the FBI and the NTSB. Kate’s efforts result in her and her family becoming targets. Soon the FBI, Kate and the NTSB get on the same page and work together to try to avert a major disaster.

Author Rick Mofina does a great job of weaving all the characters into the story while maintaining a high level of intensity. Mofina makes the storyline even more realistic when he goes into great details in describing the work of an airline disaster investigation and follows the work of the FBI in trying to solve the case. Although the characters are well developed, they are not the story. The story is the airlines, the sophisticated operating systems and the question as to whether they can be hacked. What results is a chilling fictional account of an issue that we all can relate to. Is airline travel safe?

FREE FALL is a complex thriller that centers on a subject that is too real. I suggest that you don’t do what I did. I read this thriller before getting on an airplane.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kid Konnection: Atlas of Animal Adventures

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an awesome book that's perfect for the animal lovers in your life!

Summary: From the team behind the best-selling Atlas of Adventures. Head off on a journey of discovery, with this book that collects together nature’s most unmissable events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviours, and Herculean habits. Find hundreds of things to spot and learn new facts about every animal. -- Quarto Publishing Group

ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a giant (11 inches x 15 inches) picture book that is written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Lucy Letherland. It is as gorgeous as it is informative, and it is just a terrific way for kids ages six to nine to learn about animals and the world.

ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a great book that is so much fun to look through. Even the endpapers are adorable -- the ones at the beginning are filled with hundreds of bird illustrations and the ones at the end with sea creatures. The book begins with an atlas of the world with some cute illustrations of the animals that live on each continent and ocean. The book is then divided into chapters by continent with detailed information about animals and their unique habitats.

I absolutely love ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES! The book is gorgeous to look at with Ms. Netherland's drawings; however, I was impressed with all of the information it contains. Each page is primarily filled with illustrations (which kids will love), but they do include a brief explanation of a specific animal and its traits. There are also close-up drawings of the animal as well as interesting tidbits about other animals that live in the same area. For example in the Africa section, there is a page spread devoted to hippos in Botswana; and in the Australia section, there is a page spread devoted to the platypus which also includes a little bit about the azure kingfisher.

The last pages of the book are devoted to something I know my kids would have loved! There is a "Can You Find?" section that includes adorable illustrations of objects and animals that kids can search for throughout the 80+ pages. I had fun myself going back and looking for a few!

Overall, ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a wonderful addition to any home or school library. It's fun and educational! What more can you ask for in a kids' book?

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: The Guineveres

Summary: To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other’s confidants, teachers, and family. The girls are all named Guinevere—Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win—and it is the surprise of finding another Guinevere in their midst that first brings them together. They come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent by different paths, delivered by their families, each with her own complicated, heartbreaking story that she safeguards. Gwen is all Hollywood glamour and swagger; Ginny is a budding artiste with a sentiment to match; Win’s tough bravado isn’t even skin deep; and Vere is the only one who seems to be a believer, trying to hold onto her faith that her mother will one day return for her. However, the girls are more than the sum of their parts and together they form the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives.

The nuns who raise them teach the Guineveres that faith is about waiting: waiting for the mail, for weekly wash day, for a miracle, or for the day they turn eighteen and are allowed to leave the convent. But the Guineveres grow tired of waiting. And so when four comatose soldiers from the War looming outside arrive at the convent, the girls realize that these men may hold their ticket out.

In prose shot through with beauty, Sarah Domet weaves together the Guineveres’ past, present, and future, as well as the stories of the female saints they were raised on, to capture the wonder and tumult of girlhood and the magical thinking of young women as they cross over to adulthood. -- Flatiron Books

There sure has been a lot of buzz about THE GUINEVERES by Sarah Domet; and after finishing it, I totally understand why. This novel about four teenage girls, all named Guinevere, takes place in a convent; and in many ways, is a coming of age story. I thought this novel was extremely well done, and the writing was certainly something special.

THE GUINEVERES tells the story of four Guineveres -- Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win. Each girl arrived at The Sisters of Supreme Adoration convent within a few years of each other and become fast friends. They were all left at the convent by their families (with little explanation) and never really had any contact with them. Thankfully, they had each other.

Each girl definitely has their own personality, but they all complement each other. One thing they have in common, though, is a desire to leave from the convent and live in the real world. The girls come up with a hysterical plan to hide in one of the floats during the annual festival as a means of escape. Unfortunately, the nuns figure out their plan... that float was darn heavy for a nun to pull! And their punishment is to work in the convalescent ward tending to soldiers and the elderly.

When one of the girls at the convent is allowed to leave as a nurse to a recovering soldier, the girls come up with another brilliant escape plan. They each pick out a comatose soldier to tend to with the hopes that the soldiers will fall in love with them. They spend hours caring for these men and are certain that they will recover... and take the girls with them when they leave the convent.

I really appreciated THE GUINEVERES! It was a terrific story and truly unlike anything I've ever read, although I have seen some comparisons to THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. It's hard to believe that this is Ms. Domet's debut novel. The writing is so polished and so smart. I'm definitely looking forward to more of her stories in the future.

I am pretty certain that I haven't been able to convey just how well written this book is. I feel as if Ms. Domet accomplished quite a bit with this novel, and I loved how well she told these girls' stories. The background stories of the girls' path to the convent were gradually revealed, and I found them to be heartbreaking. As I learned the history of these girls and their parents, it helped to explain their characters' personalities and motivations. In addition, I loved that we discovered what happened to the girls after they left the convent and were out in "the real world."

I also love how the author wove the themes of Catholicism into the novel. Of course, there were nuns and an alcoholic priest whose stories were intriguing (and a bit funny!) However, I appreciated that each of the chapters were named after important events in the Catholic faith such as the Ascension, Advent, the Assumption and more. Even more interesting was the author's choice to intersperse a few small chapters on the lives of special female saints like Saint Cecelia and Saint Christina the Astonishing. I know this sounds a little crazy, but it all worked!

All in all, my favorite part of this novel was the character development of these four girls. While they all had very different personalities, somehow they all seemed like one. Maybe it's because they all were deserted by their families and they felt trapped in the convent. Or possibly it's because they all had the same dreams of falling in love and escaping. However, I think the author's choices in style also had a major effect on this feeling. While Vere was the primary narrator, she often times used the first person plural to describe their stories. It was a really interesting use of words that most definitely conveyed a unity between the girls.

I'm sure it won't surprise you ant THE GUINEVERES would make a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide available with 22 (wow!) questions, and they are really, really good ones! I think I touched upon many of the themes, but some things you might want to discuss include the feeling of being trapped, friendship, grief, wishes, gender norms, faith, war, wonder, pain, memories, family, and hope.

THE GUINEVERES is a fantastic novel for fans of literary fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: This Was Not the Plan

Summary: From the acclaimed author of The Darlings comes a “funny, bittersweet, and ultimately uplifting look” (Sarah Pekkanen) at fatherhood, love, and family life.

Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, This Was Not the Plan is a “sparkling and heartfelt” (Bookpage) story about loss and love, parenthood, and friendship, and what true work-life balance means. -- Touchstone

After I finished reading THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN by Cristina Alger, I realized that I don't read a lot of feel-good books. Or at least, I haven't read a lot of them lately. It might be related to the amount of thrillers that I've read in recent years, but I can't remember the last time I smiled after finishing the last page of a novel. THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN definitely warmed my heart!

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN tells the story of Charlie Goldwyn, a man who has been dealt his fair share of heartache. He lost his wife in a tragic accident and was left with a toddler son. Fortunately, Charlie's sister serves as the primary caregiver for his son Caleb because Charlie works non-stop as a high power attorney. And I mean non-stop! The novel begins with Charlie working three straight days (or something crazy like that!). Despite leaving his son with virtually no mother or father, he can't stop now because is fairly certain that he is on track to become a partner in the firm.

However, when Charlie attends a company party and over imbibes, he speaks out against the companies his firm defends and ends up losing his job. In what seems like an unfortunate twist of events, Charlie ends up spending lots of time with his quirky five year old son. He also finds himself facing some painful events from his past... and discovers that there's more to life than just work.

I really enjoyed THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN, and I admit that I fell a little in love with Charlie and Caleb. Charlie was an extremely well drawn character who evolved so much throughout this novel. It was difficult not to root for him; and while I was pretty sure how this book would end, I didn't mind the predictability of the story one bit! And Caleb was just an adorable boy who was also a bit different from his classmates. He loved the colors pink and purple, had his own sense of fashion, and also happened to not have a lot of friends. I adored how Charlie accepted his son for who he was. Even when Charlie was a very attentive father, I knew he still loved his son... he just didn't know how to be a father.

And part of the reason Charlie wasn't a hands-on father was that Charlie didn't grow up with a dad. His mom got pregnant with a married, high-power attorney (See any similarities there? Can you say daddy issues?) and chose to bring up Charlie and his sister on her own. Charlie never knew the entire story and spend 35+ years upset with his father for neglecting him. He also spent a major part of his life trying to perfect to prove to his father that he didn't need him. I enjoyed seeing how the relationship with his father eventually played out in this novel; however, I will admit that I preferred the dynamics between Charlie and Caleb.

One thing I absolutely adored about THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN was how it ended. Remember when I mentioned that the book was kind of/sort of predictable? Well, I basically knew that Charlie would end up realizing that work isn't as fulfilling as being a parent, brother, and son. However, I have to say that I thought how the author chose to end the novel was clever. I don't want to give too much away, but Charlie didn't get everything he wanted... and Ms. Alger definitely didn't wrap up his entire story with a pretty red bow. Having said that, the novel did end rather open-ended or at least I sure hope the ending is up to interpretation!

I also really appreciated how this book tugged on my heartstrings while also making me laugh. There really is a lot of humor in this novel. I found myself laughing quite a bit at Caleb (in a good way), and I thought the scene where Charlie embarrassed himself was hysterical. And there were many more truly funny scenes and characters. However, as a mom who decided to stay home with her children, I also found this novel to extremely touching. My heart went out to Charlie. He sure had a lot of hang ups, but he was a good man just trying to do the best he could.

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN would make a great book club selection. I was excited to find a reading guide with ten quality questions as well as a few suggestions for how to enhance your book club meeting. Some of the themes you might want to discuss are grief, guilt, parenting, father/son relationships, second chances, work/life balance, the definition of family, friendship, happiness, acceptance, love, and healing.

Overall, I enjoyed THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN so much. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy family dramas and sentimental stories.

Thanks to Get Red PR and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.