AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke


Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 18, 2021

Bittersweet & funny. AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY is about two teens and their father dealing with loss, and just because one member is ready to move on, the others might not be.

Can a disastrous road trip help the Ripley family face their grief after the loss of their mom? Not only is camping at Big Bend National Park the last place Theo and his sister Laura want to spend their summer vacation, their dad has a doozy of a surprise: meeting his new girlfriend.

This book made me teary eyed, and kept me laughing out loud at the witty dialogue. The characters were realistic and I could empathize with each one. The humorous banter and misadventures helped balance the seriousness in the story. Enjoyed! (Borrowed from the library.)

RULE OF THREES by Marcy Campbell


Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: May 11, 2021

RULE OF THREES is an absorbing middle grade family drama that tackles some serious issues, including drug addiction, Alzheimerโ€™s, and infidelity. While these heavy subjects are presented realistically, the ending will leave readers hopeful.

Maggie is a sixth grader, just starting middle school, and she’s already feeling stress from an uneasy shift in her friend group from elementary. It’s a time when relationships change, and new people come into your life, but Maggie never dreamed one of them would be a half-brother she knew nothing about!

Tony is a year older than Maggie, and with his mother struggling with drug addiction, he has no choice but to live with his father who may as well be a stranger. I adored Tony and Maggie, and my heart went out to them. Their reactions to this situation beyond their control were so genuine, and I loved seeing the growth in their characters over time.

This is a thoughtful coming of age story with compelling, imperfect characters dealing with relatable struggles, and it was a delight to read. Highly recommended! โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.ย 

THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND by Colleen Oakley


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 25, 2021

This book was so charming and uplifting. Anders is a journalist working for a small newspaper when he gets assigned to cover the annual cake walk on remote Frick Island. It’s a place without internet and without cell phones, but what it does have is a curious story about a young widow named Piper who acts as though her husband Tom is still alive, and an entire town that goes along with it.

I did question the town’s decision to pretend that Tom was really there (helpful or harmful?), but I decided to suspend disbelief and go with it too!

Anders’s real dream is to be a famous podcaster, and Piper’s peculiarity could be just the hook to reel in thousands of listeners โ€” but at what cost? I liked Anders. He was soooo not what you’d picture as a romantic hero. Awkward. Kind of goofy, though not really meaning to be. A good heart, but not perfect by a long shot.

THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND takes a unique premise and adds a little mystery and romance to create a sweet story of love, loss, and loyalty. I wish it had been more emotional like the author’s last book, YOU WERE THERE TOO, but I still enjoyed it and recommend as the perfect summer read! โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

OF WOMEN AND SALT by Gabriela Garcia


Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: March 30, 2021

I’m torn over this book. I feel like OF WOMEN AND SALT paints a distressing and realistic picture of immigration to the US, particularly what it’s like for women from Latin America entering the country illegally. I would call it a timely novel, though detention centers, family separation, and deportation have been going on for many years.

My issue with this book was its lack of a strong plot. This has been mentioned in other reviews, but it’s more a collection of short stories, some very compelling and others not so much. The novel alternates between several different time periods (not chronologically) and POVs from different generations of women from a Cuban/Cuban American family. It also includes the story of a mother and daughter from El Salvador, whom I loved the most.

This was a short novel, and with the choppy nature of the chapters I felt like the story was missing something that would have tied everything together. There were also characters I wish had been fleshed out more, like Maria Isabel who worked in a cigar factory in 1860s Cuba. I wanted to know more about her life.

OF WOMEN AND SALT is a heartbreaking book that explores mother/daughter bonds, loss, survival, and desperate choices. I just wish it had been more cohesive. โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book (ARC) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.