Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

on October 11th 2016
Narrator: Ari Fliakos, Audra McDonald, Cassandra Campbell
Small Great Things Book Cover Small Great Things
Jodi Picoult
Historical Fiction
Ballantine Books
October 11th, 2016

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

I found this book very moving and very thought provoking. I applaud the author for tacking such a topic. Racism in a professional environment is something that many people deal with but often find very little allies when a major situation arises. I don’t want to rehash the blurb because it was clear on the book subject.

I couldn’t put this book down once I started because it was so real especially in this current racially charged environment. I just hope that readers don’t get caught up in the minutiae of the author’s race and really let the message penetrate.
What made the story so powerful was that each character had major flaws and had opportunities to make different choices. I found myself saying “Why did he do that? Why did she say that? What was the point of going over there?” and so on. The insidiousness of racism and the far-reaching consequences to all involved. I found this book painful at times but it is a very necessary read because the problems in the book are still present in society today. I both liked and disliked Ruth and her attorney throughout the book. I mostly despised Turk but I realize that his behavior had been instilled in him at such a young and impressionable age. I have little tolerance for racists so empathy towards Turk is something I didn’t have much of. White privilege is something that many people refuse to acknowledge and that was at the heart of this story.
I wish the twists weren’t so convoluted and dramatic. Even with those extreme leaps in the story, I highly recommend this book to all who are willing to examine their own hearts about race relations in our world today.


From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)five-stars
From Sand and Ash Book Cover From Sand and Ash
Amy Harmon
Historical Fiction; Historical Romance
Lake Union Publishing
December 1st, 2016
audibook; e-book

Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

This book was a lyrical work of art.

Definitely Amy Harmon’s finest work and I have enjoyed all of her books thus far. There were so many things I loved about this book but writing stands out the most. Amy Harmon’s storytelling was so intense, visceral and poignant. This story was set in Italy starting before the German invasion and lasted for the Nazi occupation of the Italy. It was such a dark and depressing historical period, but the author managed weave a tale of love, hope, faith and loyalty.

Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were childhood best friends despite being her being Jewish and him being Catholic. Despite their affection for each other, Angelo decided that he could best serve God as a priest.

“God makes me strong. He gives me courage. He gives me peace. He gives me purpose.”

As Angelo joined the priesthood, Eva began navigating life in Italy where Jews were stripped of every conceivable right of citizenship despite the Jews “making up 1% of the countries population”. At her darkest hour, Angelo took in Eva and some other family friends to hid them, but it endangered all the priests around.

Angelo was forced to consider what his life would be like if the Nazi’s were to find Eva and the other Jews that the priests were protecting. While Eva struggles to survive, she was also forced to deal with the fact that the man she loved chose to be a priest over a life with her.

This story was both inspiring, enlightening and emotionally POWERFUL. Every time I felt despondent, a gestured or an event occurred that contributed some reason for hope and encouragement.

“Hope is the only thing resistant to the fear, and it is the hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”

The author didn’t mislead the readers by painting a rosy picture of war times. But those tendrils of devotion and faithfulness kept me optimistic as I listened to tale. The narrator Cassandra Campbell was excellent in her various accented voices. She was a great choice for this book.

I loved both Eva and Angelo for different reasons. Both were strong characters, loving, honest and altruistic. Eva though just stole my heart. She had a clarity about almost everything. She was decisive and even stubborn. Angelo was so endearing because he truly tried to honor his faith even if he had to sacrifice his own heart. I admired his commitment and his perseverance. The author did an amazing job developing these characters as well as the overall plot. I never felt that the author sacrificed the historical plight of the people in favor of a love story. It made everything feel so much more authentic and genuine. I am always amazed at the blessings that occurred despite immense suffering during the tragedies of war. This story was one of the best written historical fiction novels I have ever read.

 **Special Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for the e-book given in exchange for an honest review.

About Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in thirteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written ten novels – including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her recent release, The Bird and the Sword, is a Goodreads Choice finalist in Fantasy.

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott & Larry Platt

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott & Larry Platton 2015-03-10
Pages: 320
AmazonB&NNarrator: Adam Lazarre-White, Cassandra Campbell
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer.  You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” – Stuart Scott The fearless, intimate, and inspiring story behind ESPN anchor Stuart Scott’s unrelenting fight against cancer, with a foreword by Robin Roberts. Shortly before he passed away, on January 4, 2015, Stuart Scott completed work on this memoir. It was both a labor of love and a love letter to life itself. Not only did Stuart relate his personal story—his childhood in North Carolina, his supportive family, his athletic escapades, his on-the-job training as a fledgling sportscaster, his being hired and eventual triumphs at ESPN—he shared his intimate struggles to keep his story going. Struck by appendiceal cancer in 2007, Stuart battled this rare disease with an unimaginable tenacity and vigor. Countless surgeries, enervating chemotherapies, endless shuttling from home to hospital to office and back—Stuart continued defying fate, pushing himself through exercises and workout routines that kept him strong. He wanted to be there for his teenage daughters, Sydni and Taelor, not simply as their dad, but as an immutable example of determination and courage. Every Day I Fight is a saga of love, an inspiration to us all.From the Hardcover edition.

 photo Stuart Scott at ESPN_zpsyyndgigu.jpg

Stuart said “This is what Cancer does. It makes everything profound. It makes everything urgent.”

I just finished this book and I feel inspired. I have lost family members to cancer and I hate cancer for the insidious disease it is. But listening to this audiobook, I felt hope and courage. Stuart Scott said “You beat Cancer by continuing to live, by refusing to be just a cancer patient.” And he did his best to live despite having this disease that ravaged his body.

To hear his life told from his own words was so thought-provoking and motivating. He said about cancer “it can kill you and make you stronger, all at the same time.” What an intense, yet poignant outlook on the sickness that did eventually take Stuart’s life. The narrator Adam Lazarre-White was amazing.
From the beginning, through his voice I heard Stuart Scott and forgot it was another person narrating. He had all the same general easy going tone and even excitement that drew audiences from every facet of the sports universe. It is a thing of beauty when the narrator doesn’t displace the narrative, but instead, immerses the listener into the words on the page.

It felt like hearing Stuart in my ears, directly from his own mouth. This is one of the most reflective audiobooks that I have ever listened to. I heard the author’s love of his life, his family and his job. If there is one thing I saw on ESPN, it was that Stuart enjoyed relating the daily goings-on in sports. This was a man who brought his all and made it entertaining and relatable to me.
This book also gave me a different insight into the life of a person trying to live despite cancer. It was eye opening that hearing what I considered words of support such as “you are going to beat this” or “you are stronger than this disease” may not be what the cancer patient may want to hear. It also made me cognizant that “the cancer” not be the subject discussed all the time since they already live it every minute of every day.
This memoir also serves a love note to his fans but most of all, to his loved ones to tell everyone how much he enjoyed his life and loved his family. It also imparts to the reader that Stuart recognized the trust sports fans all over placed in him. This narrator delivered this story with confidence and it was amazing that Stuart was devoid of self-pity. That’s not say Stuart didn’t express misery at times, but he continued in spite of his despair. That is what I take away from this memoir. As Stuart said:

“Cancer can kill you. But it can also make the man you always wanted to be.”

I take that quote to mean that I should make every minute count. So I will hug my family and tell them what they mean to me by words and deeds daily. When I don’t feel like working out or eating properly, I will remind myself, that Stuart Scott went to work out for 45 minutes after each chemotherapy treatment. When I don’t feel like doing my job because I don’t feel like it, I will remember the effort it took for Stuart to pull himself together to accept the Jimmy V award at the 2014 ESPY. He embraced each opportunity he could in his 49 years of life; I will seek to do the same.

*Special Thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Blue Rider Press via Netgalley

 photo Stuart Scott_zpsdxglquck.jpg

Blossom Street Brides (Blossom Street #10) by Debbie Macomber

Blossom Street Brides (Blossom Street #10) by Debbie MacomberSeries: Blossom Street #10
on 2014-03-25
Pages: 336
AmazonB&NNarrator: Cassandra Campbell
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Debbie Macomber has won the hearts of millions of readers with her moving and inspiring stories. Now wedding bells are ringing in the tight-knit community that gathers around A Good Yarn, a store in a pretty Seattle neighborhood. Knitters come to the store to buy yarn and patterns but somehow they leave richer in friendship and love.

Lauren Elliott has waited years for her long-term boyfriend, Todd, to propose, yet he seems more focused on his career than their relationship. When Lauren learns that her younger sister is pregnant before she herself even has an engagement ring, she feels overjoyed yet disheartened. Knowing she can’t put her future on hold, Lauren prepares to make a bold choice—one that leads her to a man she never dreamed she’d meet.

Newly married to her second husband, Max, Bethanne Scranton is blissfully in love. But with Max’s job in California and Bethanne’s in Seattle, their long-distance marriage is becoming difficult to maintain. To complicate matters, Bethanne’s cunning ex will do anything to win her back.

Lydia Goetz, too, is wonderfully happy with her husband, Brad, though lately she worries about the future of A Good Yarn. As she considers how to bring in business, she discovers that someone has beaten her to the punch. Baskets of yarn are mysteriously popping up all over town, with instructions to knit a scarf for charity and bring it into Lydia’s store. Never before has her shop received so much attention, but who hatched this brilliant plan?   As three women’s lives intersect in unexpected ways, Lydia, Lauren, and Bethanne realize that love heals every heart, and the best surprises still lay ahead.

I received the advance reading copy of the paperback, l but decided to purchase the audiobook from audible. Boy, am I glad that I did because I really enjoyed this audiobook. This story featured 3 women who were connected via the Blossom Street Community. Lauren works for Lydia in her yarn store, A Good Yarn. Bethane is a customer and friend of the two ladies. This is their journey with love and sacrifice.

Lauren Elliott is tried of waiting for her new reporter boyfriend Todd to propose and so she just ended things. She is also tired of being such a good girl and so hesitant about everything that she asked a stranger Rooster to dinner. Rooster is different from anyone she has ever dated, after all Rooster is a biker, winery owner. For some reason, they work. But everyone around them had opinions and it became a strain on their new relationship.

Bethanne Scranton is a year into her new marriage with her second husband, Max. But the long commute was putting a strain on them. Max owns a winery with Rooster in California, and Bethanne and her children lived in Seattle. Also, Bethanne’s ex husband is pulling out all the stops to win her back and it’s causing a strain with Max.

Lydia & Brad Goetz, are worried about their adopted daughter as she continues to have nightmares. Also, they don’t know about the viability of their business a Good Yarn. They can’t afford to pay for a professional therapy group for their daughter. How can they help her and help their business?

This story was engaging, it had humor, it had sad and happy times. Most of all, it reminded me of my family interactions. The author managed to write such likable characters and I was just rooting for them the entire time. Books like this is why I love “Love”. I felt immensely satiated at the end of this audiobook, like I just ate chocolate cheesecake, rich, creamy and divine. Bravo Debbie Macomber. The narrator brought this book to life and captured the personalities of the characters. What a treat this book was.

**Special Thanks to Ballantine Books via LibraryThing for the ARC of this book