The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

The Circus Ship (Chris Van Dusen)

Merging fact and fiction, Van Dusen’s award-winning The Circus Ship is a dramatic tale of adversity and resilience, kindness and, well, comeuppance.

Poor weather conditions and villainy capsize a circus ship off the coast of Maine, leaving fifteen animals adrift in chilly water. Through strength of will and perseverance, the quirky menagerie sticks together, reaching at last a picturesque island. One by one they take refuge within a sleeping parish, in pantries and on woodpiles, amongst tulips and within bloomers.  Such is the scene greeting human residents upon waking the next morning—a veritable circus on their doorstep (or closer still)! Is there hope for these two groups coming together in harmony? And can the animals alone save themselves when their despicable owner comes calling?…

Gorgeous artwork and a spry rhyme render The Circus Ship a successful pick for toddlers (if my 2.5-year-old is any indication!) Bright colours and expressive illustrations lend themselves well to prolonged consideration. Moreover, sleuthing out the animals themselves, mid-story, is sure to be a highlight for children and parents alike. While the length of the narrative somewhat tests the patience of my little one, its overall quick pace and fairly straightforward vocabulary ultimately take her through to the end.

This book quickly joined the rank of nightly reads in my household, and I don’t foresee it disappearing any time soon!  For additional reviews, see Kirkus and blogger Rummanah Aasi.

NB: The cover image has been taken from, and links back to, the author’s website.


The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

593ce7_bd097e85ea546db2ceb134702d48200d.jpg_srz_123_183_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz“That’s the whole thing about grieving… It’s part of the deal: You get to be alive and to love, but in exchange you also have to put in some serious hurt time.”

Sixteen-year-old Laurel narrowly misses a fatal car accident because she has to go home and study for her next exam. Unfortunately, the accident that she narrowly missed is the one that killed both her parents and her younger brother as well as the mother of bad-boy friend David Kaufman. In the days and months following the accident, Laurel learns to cope with her grief by making her life has a normal as possible by going back to school, writing exams, and potentially starting new relationships. Through all of these experiences, Laurel manages to slowly fall for David and realize that she needs him in her life just as much as he needs her in his life.

Laurel just lost her family and it was for this reason that I expected the book to be highly emotional and full of teenage angst. My expectations were not met in that regard. Laurel handles her grief with a very mature attitude. Instead of just giving up on life, Laurel continues her life after her family died so suddenly. It was as if the death just happened and life continues right along. What surprised me in this book was the love triangle between Laurel, David, and Joe. I would have liked to see more of David as a character and thought he was more a figment of my imagination then anything else. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed with the book and was rather pleased with how Castle handled both the love story and the grieving processes of Laurel and David. I would recommend this book to young adults who are ready to continue on after someone has passed away. The book is not highly emotional and just deals with death as a fact of life.

To read a review, click here and here!

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Image“It’s all in the view. That’s what I mean about forever, too. For any one of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You never know for sure, so you’d better make every second count.”

After her father dies, Macy hopes to work at a library or more importantly, the library information desk where she can waste the summer away as she waits for her boyfriend to come home from some geeky camp. Instead, Macy finds herself working for a catering business, or more specifically, Wish Catering, where she finds a random group of friends, but more importantly, she finds Wes.  He’s kinda weird and doesn’t really fit in with her lifestyle, but she’s comfortable enough with him to talk about her father’s death and finally face the grief that was threatening to overwhelm her.  In her novel, Dessen tackles such issues as denial, grief, comfort, sadness, and love as the reader engages with the story and watches as Macy fills her life with happiness again.

The book, while being quick paced and having some likable and wacky characters, seemed a bit unrealistic and cliché to me.  This book will probably be enjoyed by young adults, but adults (especially adults that have experienced grief) will have a hard time relating to the issues Macy is faced with.  Macy’s attitude that she needs to be perfect in order to be liked is an overdone cliché and a bit immature for older readers.  The characters, while somewhat likeable, are a bit flat and sometimes annoying. After all that, I would only recommend this book to young adults and wouldn’t recommend it to those 20+.

To read a few reviews, click here and here!

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams



“All life has stopped, even though it’s been a while. You think things get going again. And they do. Sort of.”

As they were growing up in a missionary family, London and Zach were inseparable as sister and brother. They did absolutely everything together until the worst thing that could happen, happened. Zach died and suddenly London’s world was thrown upside down.  Now her father keeps his distance and her mother won’t talk to her. What’s worse? There are rumors that it was London’s fault. Feeling isolated from her family, London finds herself caught up in a love triangle involving her brother’s best friend and a new boy. Will she find peace and redemption as she tries to rediscover love and figure out how to bring her family back together?

Waiting is written in semi-verse.  Because the book is about a missionary family, there is a born-again conversation at the end of the book and because of the Christian element to the story, London struggles with issues from a Christian point of view, especially the issues of her faith and her sexuality. To some, the religions undertones may not run deep enough. To others, there may be too much of a religious element.  Either way, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone, especially someone from a Christian family that can relate to the issues London is struggling with.

For book reviews, click here and here!

My Beating Teenage Heart by C.K. Kelly Martin


“I’m talking to myself in two different personas now. I’m reaching for a full-throttle meltdown and why not? Why stop halfway? Why not just go for it, jump on and ride the wave?”

My Beating Teenage Heart details the story of Ashlyn Baptiste has she tries to figure out what happened and Breckon Cody as he tries to hold his life together and tackle a grief that is strong enough to tear everything apart. Ashlyn is in a coma, doesn’t remember dying, and has no memories of what happened before.  All she knows is that she’s spending every moment watching Breckon, a boy she does not know, as he struggles with the deep emotional pain.  Ashlynn knows Breckon cannot see her, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to communicate with him.

Using alternating voices between the two main characters, the book paints an intense picture of two lives trying to come to grips with heartbreak and life. One is trying to understand and remember what happened, while the other is trying desperately to end what he feels and knows to be true. The novel is surprisingly mysterious because the reader needs to discover the connection between Ashlyn and Breckon. As I was reading, I found that the book was a bit too clean for the topic and wish it would have dealt a bit more with the rawness of death and thoughts of suicide. In saying that, I did not find the book fluffy as it dealt with the teen issues of relationships, sex, friendships, and family dynamic.

To read a review, click here and here!

To view a book trailer, click here!