Friday, February 28, 2014


I tried to start Insurgent but it had been three years since I had read Divergent so I figured I had better re-read this bad boy so I wasn't completely lost... and it was for book club... and I wanted it fresh on my mind when I see the movie next month. So for all those reasons I reread this book and, if anything, I was even more impressed with this book on the second reading! It was even better than I remembered it! I plowed through it in two days. Seriously, so damn good!

I won't summarize this book, because honestly, you've either read this book already or you haven't. No summary of mine will sway your view. But if you haven't... come on man! Jump on the bandwagon already! You'll love it!

For fans of The Hunger Games and dystopians.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Sweet By and By

This was a cute, heart wrenching, and mildly predictable but still enjoyable christian romance. Country singer, Sara Evans, and Rachel Hauck team up to write this sappy, endearing novel about redemption, heart break, and true love. Jade has an ugly past. Her parents all but abandoned her and her brother and sister and let their grandmother raise them while she was off living vicariously from man to man. When Jade turns sixteen she secretly marries her high school sweetheart only to have her heart broken. Now in her thirties and engaged, Jade begins to have doubts. Can she ever leave the past in the past? Confide in her fiance? Forgive her hippie mother? Find Jesus?

For a Christian romance I was impressed. It wasn't overly Godly and the characters had real, relatable flaws.

The Last Opium Den

I loved this book! This short little essay was phenomenal! Nick Tosches wondered what happened to the opium trade and opium debts so he went off to Asia in search for any remaining traces of it. There was literally none, none to be found in the United States so Nick decided to try his luck elsewhere. His life goal was to try opium, and not just to try it, but smoke it, in an opium den with brocade hangings and buxom women. He soon discovers that he may have dreamed a little too big because opium is mainly used for heroin, and the smokers of old are slowly dying off.

This 74 page book is amazingly informative, funny, and intriguing. I definitely plan on reading more books from Mr. Tosches.


This book was not what I expected or anticipated at all. It was on Buzzfeed's Junkiest Books About Drugs List AND it received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly so I decided to give it a whirl... Ugh, I shoulda gave it up 20 pages in when I couldn't get into it. I powered through all 248 pages hoping that it would at least pick up... nope!

The story follows Paul, a twenty something author living in Manhattan, who plows through life using a combination of drugs and medications. We're not meant to pity him, just observe, as he goes from literary event to restaurant to Taiwan, etc. Paul is a loner and aimlessly drifts around until he finds a girl to attach himself to. When he meets Erin their drug use intensifies and their quest for the meaning of life becomes hopelessly muddled.

It's well written, but not exciting. I couldn't find myself relating to any of the characters. Read at your own risk.

Scraps of Evidence

File this under cozy Christian romance mystery. This is one of those light beach reads that you can knock out in one lazy afternoon. It's not a terribly complicated story line and all the characters (save the very obvious villain) are very amiable (albeit one dimensional).

The story follows Tess, a young, super nice detective, as she adjusts to having a new super attractive, and super nice male partner (sparks fly!). Within a week of working together they got a homicide and the crime appears to be all too familiar. It looks as if the serial killer that murdered Tess' best friend in high school is back! Duh duh duh duh!! If you read the back synopsis "Could a quilt really hold the secrets of a serial killer?" and the first chapter you will immediately know who the killer is. That was my big beef with the book, you don't have to be a genius to figure out the whole thing, the author places way to many "Easter eggs" throughout the novel, giving too much away. Don't get me wrong it was still an enjoyable read, but there wasn't a whole lot of mystery to it.

There are more elements of romance, finding Jesus, and speaking out against domestic abuse, then there were mystery or quilting. For people who don't like violence, or thrillers, or suspense, don't worry, you can get through this book no problem. Unbeknownst to me, this was the 14th book om the Quilts of Love series. I thought it stood well as a stand alone, but then again, I don't know if it's the same characters in every story or if it bounces around.

For fans of Christian romance. Mystery lovers be warned, this is the world's easiest whodunit, proceed with caution.

I received this book for free from LitFuse Publicity in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Enter Today | 2/17 - 3/8!Barbara Cameron Scraps of Evidence Quilts of Love

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood

A.J. Albany kills it in this memoir! Instead of being told in the usual narration form the author tells her story through a series of short memories and observations from her youth. Some are in chronological order, some are not, but together they all tell the haunting, enchanting, and wildly inappropriate childhood of young Amy Joe Albany, daughter of legendary Jazz pianist, Joe Albany. Her observations about drugs, sexuality, and music are stunning, startling, and amazingly ahead of her time. A great memoir full of stories that will stick with you. I can't wait to see the movie adaptation.

For fans of memoirs, coming of age stories, and jazz.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue

Hands down the most compelling and chilling photo documentary I've ever encountered. This images will haunt you. Eugene Richards captures the crack epidemic in three impoverished neighborhoods; Red Hook Housing Project, East New York, and North Philadelphia. The haunting photos of people shooting up, running from cops, sleeping in shacks, working the street, etc. are accompanied by dialogue from addicts, and people living in the neighborhoods. It's profoundly sad, many recount what bright futures they had, friends who were murdered, babies who were lost. It gets you right in the gut. This book forces you to pay attention to this horrific problem that plagues our country and cities.

If the pictures don't capture your attention, the statistics will.

"There were 107 murders, 145 rapes, 3,285 robberies, and 567 felonious assaults in East New York in one year, a population of 160,000."

"The United States accounts for 5% of the world's populations and consumes 50% of the world's cocaine."

"By 1990 in New York City... over 40,000 children were in foster care, approximately 90% of them born to drug using mother."

This book makes you open your eyes to the issue, and after viewing the images, you'll never be able to close them again.


Shiver me timbers!I got the shudders after reading this book! Before picking this novel up I was mildly familiar with William S. Burroughs, Jr. but I really only wanted to read it because it was on Buzzfeed's 20 Junkiest Books about Drugs list. And boy oh boy was it junky!

Obviously this book is not for the faint of heart. It is nothing but drugs, drugs, drugs. It is told in the stream of consciousness style that beatnik authors and poets were so fond of and explores a summer spent in New York, bumming around and shooting up whatever could be found cheap. Nothing really matters, not friends, family, food, living quarters, just the drugs. That's what's needed to keep going for days at a time with no sleep or real thoughts. I've read other books on drug use, but this one in particular made me want to take a shower and steer as far away from drugs as humanly possible (not that I ever have any urge to do them, but this is a real reminder and ridiculous badness of them).

For fans of beatnik writing or drug memoirs.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Such a Full Sea

This is the first book by Chang-rae Lee that I've had the pleasure of reading and now I certainly plan on reading more! Lee has a beautiful way with words and they just flow on the page creating a literary masterpiece that compels you to pay attention and care about the matters at hand. It's not easy to write a book in first person plural but Lee does so, and does it so masterfully that it is almost unnoticeable.

Citizens of B-Mor (formerly Baltimore) collectively narrate the story of a young girl named Fan who leaves the safety of the compound to search for her boyfriend Reg, who has mysteriously vanished. Fan must find her way through the treacherous open counties where food is scarce, disease rampant, and crime rages. Along the way she meets many strange characters who go out of their way to help her track down Reg, even though she isn't one of them. The counties people are no doubt jealous of her "privileged" life and the Charter people would look down on her for being lower class workers.

While Fan is trying to make sense of her new surroundings, the omniscient B-Mor narrators fill is on how things have changed since Fan voluntarily left the safety of their compound. There are riots, guerrilla movements, discontent. Will it last, or will they eventually forget about Fan? Will Fan ever find Reg? Read to find out!

Even though this is a dystopian that takes place centuries away in America, it is still totally relate-able to us. Lee paints a picture of the lower, middle, and upper classes and the pitfalls of each one. It's truly ingenious and a work of art. Now I know what all the hype was about!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Princess Ever After

Rachel Hauck brings every girls dream to life in this funny, charming, and romantic novel insisting that fairy tales can come true. Regina Beswick is just your average girl next door (that is, if your girl next door was a super beautiful accountant turned car shop owner, who has never been kissed) until one day she finds out that she is heir to a throne and destined to be a princess. She has to find out if she can handle what God has in store for her, because she would be perfectly happy restoring classic cars for the rest of her life. Does she have the courage to become a princess, to rule people, and leave her family behind?

The beginning was a tad long, but I suspect that was because the author was trying to paint a believable picture and make the whole thing seem more realistic. It's not every day someone finds out they are heir to a throne thousands of miles away. The romance between Regina and the Minister of Culture, Tanner, is cute but happens a little fast for my taste. Let's just say I wish that I found my true love and confessed my feelings for that person in less than a week.

Overall, the story was cute, the cover artwork adorable, and this book will have christian romance fans clamoring for more in the royal wedding series (this is the second).

I received this book for free from LitFuse Publicity in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle

What in the name of all things holy did I just read?!?! I don't really know, but I loved every second of it!! Teenage boys are going to LOVE this book. And I foresee it being banned at most school libraries. Which will hopefully spur more kids to read it! Ahh soo good!

Most people are probably sick of dystopian or Armageddon novels, and to those people i say... read this book! This isn't just an end of the world novel, it's also filled with dark humor, sexuality, teenage love, confusion, and every other possible emotion that a teenage boy is capable of feeling. It's funny, inappropriate, and deeply personal all in one go.

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin is in love. He loves his girlfriend Shann, and... his best friend Robby who just so happens to be gay. He can't make heads or tails of his feelings. Is he gay too? Bisexual? Experimenting? Before he can properly figure out the answer to questions, Ealing is overrun with giant six foot tall praying mantises that only want to do one of two things. Eat or fuck (kind of like teenage boys).

Even though this is an outrageous tale, the characters seem totally real as does the serious points the author makes about scientific research done for the sake of profit at the expense of mankind.

An absolute must read. For fans of young adult literature, dystopians, black humor, gonzo writing, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now

Oh Matthew Quick, stop being so damn adorable! This book has so much heart, charm, and wit that I don't even think my review can begin to do this book justice! If you loved any of Quick's other works (Silver Lining's Playbook, Boy21, Forgive Me Leaonard Peacock, Sorta Like a Rockstar) then you are guaranteed to love this one as well. Quick has an uncanny ability to bring to life the most flawed, unconventional, unimaginable characters and then make us care for them with such zeal that it's almost frightening. All I can say is read this damn book. You won't regret it. Quick is a mastermind and his beautiful prose and quirky characters will stick with you long after you put the book down!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Labor Day

I soo longed for this to be a romance. After I saw this book featured on Buzzfeed's list of books getting turned into movies and saw the movie trailer, I knew I had to read it. The trailer with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin looked beautiful and haunting and romantic. Which is what the book is, only... less on the romance.

The story is told through the eyes of thirteen year old Henry Wheeler, and explores one life changing labor day weekend that he spent with his mother and an escaped convict. He comes into their life by accident, but it appears that the escaped convict, Frank, is anything but what the newspapers make him out to be. He is thoughtful, handy, and considerate, and quickly steals Henry's fragile mother's heart.

This is more of a coming of age story then a romance, and it won't end the way you expect it to. But that's no reason for you not to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I can't wait to see the movie!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You

I dare you to find a more dysfunctional family then the one Jonathan Trooper lovingly paints a portrait of in this zany and ingenious novel. It's a funny and brutally honest read.

Judd Foxman has hit a bit of a rough patch. His wife of ten years has been cheating on him with his boss forcing him to move out and live in a  damp basement, and his father just died. To top it all off, his father's dying request had been for his family to sit Shiva for seven days, so now Judd is stuck with his crazy family for a full week. Between his three siblings, mother, extended family, and constant stream of mourners it will be a miracle if they make it out alive.

Jonathon Tropper does an amazing job of bringing his quirky characters to life, and even though you hate their flaws, you end up loving them all for their downright craziness. This is a family you wish you would have lived by, they're so dysfunctional, they're fun.

A witty read, recommended to all.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

With Autumn's Return

It was nice to read a Christian historical fiction novel that didn't have a damsel in distress for once. Elizabeth Harding is a tough, no nonsense broad (okay, okay, she's a lady) that defies the sexist stereotypes of the day and becomes a doctor, which for taking place in 1887 AND being an "inspirational" read, is kind of a big deal.

The crux of the story is that a nice lady doctor moves to Cheyenne to open her own practice only to discover that, shocker, people don't think  women should be doctors; they don't have the brains plus they should be in the kitchen or poppin' out babies. Elizabeth is initially discouraged, especially after the smokin hot lawyer next door tells her her business is doomed. Slowly she starts building up clientele (hey treating whores will pay the bills!)  and she discovers that her lawyer neighbor is actually quite nice (and did I mention attractive?). The two start courting and everything seems peachy, until gossip and deceit amongst Cheyenne's wealthy threatens to tear apart everything Elizabeth has worked so hard to build!

This book is the third in the Westward Winds series, but honestly I didn't discover that in the end. It serves as a stand alone book quite well.

For fans of historical Christian Romance and take charge leading ladies.

I received this book free from Revell Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Anderson, Laurie Halse. The Impossible Knife of Memory. 8 CDs. unabridged. 9hrs 13 mins. Brilliance Audio. 2014. ISBN 9781480553606. $59.97. 

Bestselling young adult author and Printz Award nominee, Laurie Halls Anderson (Speak, Fever 1793, Twisted) brings to the table another unforgettable novel that will have teenagers and adults alike clamoring for more. Seventeen year old Hayley Kincain has more on her plate than most of her fellow high school students. She and her father have spent a lifetime trying to outrun their memories, but now that they've settled in their father's hometown, the memories catch back up to both of them and threaten to swallow them whole. For Hayley, memories of abandonment, her mother and grandmother's death, and her stepmother's lack of commitment start to surface, first as ripples, than as waves. For her father, a veteran of the Iraq War, the horrors he saw in the war, won't stay hidden. He tries to numb the memories with drugs and alcohol, and his daughter is left picking up the pieces. And as if Hayley's life weren't anymore complicated, a sweet young man who just wants to see her laugh and smile comes barging into her life. For once, Hayley finds herself thinking about the future, but how can she do that when her past is hidden and she has to take care of her father? Narrated beautifully by TV and voice actress, Julia Whelan, whose youthful voice does wonders in bringing Hayley's own voice to light. Also, co-narrated by Luke Daniels whose gruff and melancholy voice is the perfect portrayal of Hayley's father. Engaging, heartfelt, and compelling - another must read from one of YA's best authors. For fans of young adult literature and coming of age novels. Erin Cataldi, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, IN