Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

A super cute book that as a bibliophile I appreciated. Was it great literature? No. Was it something I'll read again? No. Was it super fun? Hell yes. Nina Hill likes things nice and orderly. She lives by her planner; any fun that happens is scheduled. Nina works at a local LA bookstore, is involved in multiple book clubs, and kicks ass at trivia with her friends. She even sorts her shelves by Book of the Month, and signed editions - same girl! I felt Nina on a spiritual level; from the way she was organized, valued reading, and got stressed and overwhelmed easily if there was too much on her plate or surprises were thrown her way. And lo and behold, a lot happens to Nina in a short amount of time; she's introduced to a whole new part of her family that she didn't know existed and she starts to develop feelings for one of her rival trivia team members. She's going to have to come out of her shell, (at least a little bit) to deal with the world, and who knows, maybe she'll even like what she finds.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Waiting for Tom Hanks

This was a cute romance but even as it was poking fun of the "outrageousness" of romcoms, it turned out to be just as unbelievable. Annie Cassidy has one religion, Nora Ephron - she worships at the alter of her and the other romantic comedy greats. Annie wishes she starred in her own romcom - then maybe she could meet a guy, but she's in Columbus, Ohio; not exactly a mecca for excitement. That is until a movie starts getting filmed in er neighborhood and she finagles her way onto set as an assistant thanks to her uncle's connections. Drew Danforth, Hollywood star and prankster, is starring in the movie and Annie is instantly attracted to him and he maybe seems to not hate here? Maybe? This could be the beginning of her own movie and romance, but of course nothing is ever easy. Cheesy, fun, witty, and definitely over the top - this light read will put you in a better mood.

The Enchanted Hour

This book made me want kids. RIGHT NOW. It set my clock ticking, so to speak. Which may sound weird, but I dare you to read this and decide that you don't love reading aloud to children and that you don't want to nightly bedtime ritual. The Enchanted Hour breaks down the "magical" benefits of reading aloud and the effect it has on children's growth and family bonds. Everyone knows that reading to your kid is good, but after reading this book, you'll realize JUST how good it is and you'll never skip another bedtime story. It's better than any multivitamin, educational kids show, or preschool. Reading aloud can set your child up for a brighter future than you ever imagined - they will be leaps and bounds ahead of their peers and that isn't just in kindergarten; research shows that the reading gap can actually be seen in HIGH SCHOOL, kids that are read to and read to frequently engage more of their brains, are exposed to more words, concepts, and comprehension. Two passages in the book that really stuck out to me:
 - "A story is never wholly yours again, once a movie has colonized your mind's eye." - on reading the books BEFORE seeing the movie
 - "Owning something and taking possession of it are two different things, of course, A child may have as much right to Beowolf as the scholar who devotes his life to the study of Old English. Yet unless the child meets the hero Beowolf and the monster Grendel, he cannot be said to have taken possession of the property that's his. Let that child's mother read Beowolf in translation at bedtime (if she dares - it's pretty gory), and the child's custody is complete. The characters and scenes and language of the book will become part of his internal landscape. The book's mystical qualities will add sublimity to his experience of life."
A wonderful book. One that I want to own and give out to new mothers.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dissenter on the Bench

Not 100% linear and not exactly groundbreaking; but still a wonderful introduction to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life and work. Not only does it highlight RBG's work as a supreme court judge, but it also paints a broad picture of all the landmark cases that she worked on as a lawyer for the ACLU , as a law professor, and as US Court of Appeals judge. This book's primary audience will be tweens and teens, but could also get reluctant adult readers a good overview. Filled with pictures, court cases, and law terms; this book could really get a kid jazzed about how crucial the law can be. Peppered throughout the book is a bit about RBG's personal life; her kids, wonderful husband, and the unconventional family unit they had as a young family. A good intro on the wonderful things that Ginsburg has accomplished for the betterment of this country that will get any reader pumped up to read more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Fix Her Up

Super cute, steamy, rom-com.  It's fun, predictable, and very passionate; perfect for a beach read and would make a great rated R Hallmark movie. Georgie has had the hugest crush on Travis Ford since she was a little girl. He was her older brother's best friend and grew up to be an MLB pro, she hasn't seen him in years but now that's back in town with his tail between his legs after being dumped from the league; all that is about to change. She's tired of him moping about so she starts to interject herself into his life, whatever it takes to get him back on track to being the man that he used to be. Not the man-whore bit, but the well respected ball player bit. Unexpectedly, Travis actually starts to develop feelings for Georgie, it doesn't help that she grew up gorgeous; but he knows that there is a line you can't cross and there is no way that someone with his reputation should date his best friend's younger sister (she's a birthday party clown for christ's sake AND a virgin!). They're about to cross a line, but neither of them know just where it will take them. Laugh out loud funny, ridiculous, and just plain fun.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Hunt for Red October

I don't remember watching the movie so the plot was brand new to me. That being said, it was a very technical book. I learned more about submarines and sonar then I ever wanted to know. I would have liked the book better had there been more action, less explaining, but I get that it was there to make the story seem more credible. Some Soviet captains decide they want to defect to America so they take their submarine and head towards the US. What happens next is a deadly game of cat and mouse and poor CIA agent, Jack Ryan gets dragged into the thick of it. An entire fleet of Soviet warships and submarines chase after The Red October and America and England work together to come up with a plan to meet this sub before it gets blown out of the water. It was an alright book, but I have a hunch that I would enjoy the movie even better. I love me some Harrison Ford.

Heroine

Heavy doesn't even begin to describe this book. There is a trigger warning at the start of this book and that ain't no joke! I'm not an addict (recovering or otherwise) but this book made me anxious as sin. I know an addict or two and this was so spot on to their behavior and justifications. Heroine follows Mickey Catalan, a high school softball star, as she tries to recover from a life changing injury that threatens to take away the one thing she really cares about, sports. She and her best friend were in a horrific car accident that popped Mickey's leg out of its socket, and the therapy and emotional toll its taking on her, is crippling. She soon starts relying on the Oxy she's prescribed to take the pain away so she can focus on physical therapy. Her only goal is getting healed before spring training so she can start on the varsity team her senior year. But she's not an addict, she's using a prescription from her doctor for the pain. She's not like those losers that overdose and live on the streets. The real question is, what will happen when she runs out of her pills? How badly does she need them to "recover?" A haunting story that shows just how easy it is for ANYONE to get addicted to opiates. It's a slippery slope fraught with good intentions, the end result is just so horrifying. A powerful book that will stay with the reader long after finishing. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

You've Been Volunteered

I loved the shit out of Class Mom so I knew I was in for a treat with the follow up, You've Been Volunteered. Much in the same vein as the first novel, this hilarious book follows one stressed, hilarious, and over the top mother as she takes over being class mom for her son's third grade class. Jen Dixon is irreverent, zany, and over the top in everything that she does. From parenting to sending out class emails, there is something to be said for her pizzazz. When Jen gets volunteered for yet ANOTHER school activity, the safety patrol, it makes her want to vomit. More duties? Can't she just drink wine and take spin class? Plus her husband wants her to start cutting corners and saving money, with coupons and generic brands, gross. Laugh out loud funny, Jen Dixon is the mom's mom, and is the parent everyone secretly wants to be. Great fun!

This Time Will Be Different

Like most teenagers, CJ doesn't know what her goals or ambitions are. The most at home she's ever felt is in the family flower shop where she works with her aunt. When she's using her flower magic to create bouquets, boutonnieres, lockets, and charms she feels like she's spreading a little bit of happiness. When her mother announces that she's planning on selling the shop to the "enemy," the McAllisters, she feels as if the only thing she's ever cared about is going out the window. The McAllisters bought the business from her family for pennies on the dollar when the government forced Japanese Americans to go to internment camps during WWII. It took decades before the Katsuyamas were able to buy it back.... for MUCH more than the McAllisters had bought it for. CJ vows to help save the shop along with her friends, but that too proves to be challenging. Her best friend is falling for a horrible hypocritical lesbian, her co-worker Owen may be forming a crush on her, and her classmates don't all understand why the McAllisters are the "bad guys." CJ has to find out what she truly cares for and fight for it. A good young adult book that covers a lot of hot topics.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Patron Saints of Nothing

Powerful and poignant. This young adult book chronicles one American Filipino teen who travels back to the island for the first time in a decade when he finds out his cousin and childhood friend had been killed. Jay has to confront the fact that while he has been living in a bit of a bubble in his middle class white suburban neighborhood and hasn't really bothered to keep up with his relatives, specifically Jun, who he used to write to frequently. Jay HAS to know what really happened to his beloved cousin Jun, or the grief may eat him alive. Everyone is saying he was shot because of drugs, but Jay can't wrap his head around that, that is the Jun he grew up with. Even though they hadn't talked in years, the island is calling to him to honor his cousin's memory by at least trying to put the pieces together. A wonderful story of identity, family, poverty, desperation, and hope. It's gripping and wonderful, the search for the truth doesn't always take us where we expect it to. A must read.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Ordinary Girls

An adorable, quirky young adult book perfect for every angsty teen (or adult) that read Jane Austen, Little Women, and Jane Eyre on the reg. Two sisters could not be more different; Ginny, the older, smarter, more frazzled sister is forever getting on Patience's (aka Plum) nerves. Patience has forever lived in the shadow of her older sister's intelligence and there are times when she can't wait for her sister to go off to college in a year (if the family can afford it). They live in a gorgeous, old, crumbling down Victorian home, that Patience wishes she could never leave (stupid school). It's her, Ginny, her exuberant and artistic mother, a feisty cat, two rowdy dogs, and their "almost doctor of music" renter who lives above the carriage house. Little does Patience realize how much her fifteenth year is about to change; from boys, to finance woes, to English reading assignments; this will be a year that Plum will never forget. Funny and unusual in the most awesome of ways.

Beautiful Blur

Demons can follow you, even when you think you've finally managed to evade them for good. Crystal thought the past was finally in her rear view mirror, especially when she meets the man of her dreams. Paul is everything she never knew she needed; he's gentle and kind, endlessly patient and understanding, and sexy to boot. Crystal can't believe that someone so wonderful would want her just as bad as she wants him. Their fairy tale romance and relationship is perfect.. at first - but soon pieces of Crystal's life that she had kept buried inside start to emerge. Awful flashbacks start to plague her, and she doesn't know how to deal with them. Her perfect relationship starts to suffer, despite everything Paul tries to do to keep her afloat. What will it take Crystal to confront the demons of her past and realize that her life is wonderful despite her emotional baggage and trauma? Filled with romance, passion, intrigue, and traumatic abuse. This novella of redemption and love is sure to delight readers and is a quick read with some steamy scenes that will be sure to delight. It ends on a cliffhanger so be sure to check out the rest of the novellas in this series!

American Indian Stories

This was the first time I had read anything by the famed indigenous author, Zitkala-Sa. This book contained a collection of her biographical snapshots and stories of youth, folk tales, essays, and poetry. They are eloquent, profound, and deeply moving. She had raw power with her words and when you read this book, the imagery it conveys about growing up at the turn of the century on a reservation and what it means to be indigenous is profound. Essential reading for Native American scholars.

The Flatshare

This book was precious!! I absolutely ADORED the quirky, awkward, crafty, tall, adorable protagonist, she was so relatable to be. She could have been me (in my mind) or my best friend. Tiffy just had her heart ripped out of her chest and she needs a new place to live immediately. Shes an editor at a small arts and crafts publishing house so she doesn't exactly have a large salary to find something in London. In desperation she finally decides to answer an ad for a flatshare. At first, she's skeptical, she's never even met the man she's living with due to his opposite schedule, maybe he's a psychopath! But soon as they get to know each other through: coffee cups left out, loads of laundry hanging up to dry, leftovers, and post it notes. The flatshare turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to either of them. Leon is a third shift hospice nurse who devotes all his free time trying to get his brother out of prison for a crime he didn't commit, he barely has time for his girlfriend, let alone a weird flatmate, but soon coming home to Tiffy's notes and stress induced baking is the best part of his day. How long can they go on living together without meeting? Can you find your soulmate without ever laying eyes on them? Charming and wonderful. I adored this book!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

How to Relax

This small pocket sized guide can be devoured all at once or parceled out in small bits every morning with a cup of coffee. It contains lots of bite sized information that can be utilized immediately or slowly absorbed and practiced out when you have spare moments. None of the advice is hard or overwhelming, it's easy to put in practice. From breathing techniques, mindfulness practices, and positive thinking; this little guide has the potential to transform your life in a big way. This would make a great gift and is small enough to carry around with you. Simple, yet empowering.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Black Hole

I feel like I need to take a cold shower after finishing this. It was so dark, despondent and creepy. The illustrations and plot are fantastic though. The 70's were an idyllic time to live if you were a white teenager in suburbia. That is unless you contracted a weird sexually transmitted "bug" that morphed some body deformity. It could be a tail, boils, webbed hands, an extra mouth, shedding skin; it's different for every person. The spread is slow, but it's totally alienating. The shame is all consuming and soon there is nothing to but live in the woods with other afflicted teenagers. There is no hope, no cure, no prevention, and no awareness. This graphic novel is shown through the eyes of several teenagers who have it or will soon contract it. It's dark, weird, and so messed up. It's very nihilistic and unique. I have a lot of thoughts about this book, but I'm not entire sure how to write them out. Read with an open mind and always use a rubber.

These Witches Don't Burn

First off, gorgeous cover. Second off, I'm soo pleased to read more teen books with diverse characters; nearly every one was gay or bi and it was so normalized. Hannah is a witch living in Salem, not one of those Wicca posers, a real live witch. To complicate matters, her ex-girlfriend is also in the coven. Hannah is trying to block her out, but she's everywhere. Her best friend however, is straight, supportive, and has no idea that Hannah is a witch. When she introduces one of her new dance-mates to Hannah, she develops a full blown crush, maybe this is what she needed to get over her ex! Suddenly though, her life and Veronica's is on the line. Someone must have found out they are witches and are trying to kill them. What if it's a blood witch, feared and deadly? Hannah will have to balance romance, school, work, family, magic, and sleep with one eye open. A fun read!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Rest of the Story

I haven't read a Sarah Dessen book in ages - but my lord - did she become an even better writer? Or was I just so nostalgic to get back to her work that I ate this up? Either way, she's the queen of teen for a reason - this was a wonderful young adult contemporary romance with themes of identity, addiction, and family issues. Emma Saylor thought she knew how her summer would play out, hanging at her best friends house while her dad and new step mom honeymooned - but one family emergency later - Emma finds herself without a place to stay for the summer. It's eventually decided that she should go to the lake to  spend the summer with her mother's family even though she hasn't seen them since she was four. As she gets to know her grandma, cousins, and other lake folk - she starts to piece together her mother's past and think more about her future. A wonderful coming of age story. I couldn't put it down!

Monday, June 24, 2019

With the Fire on High

LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! I loved the characters, the layout, the recipes, the plot, and that beautiful ass cover. How can you not pick up this book with a gorgeous cover like this? Emoni has a lot on her plate. Not only is she a senior trying to figure out what her future after high school will be; but she lives at home with her grandma and two year old daughter, works part time, and tries to excel in class. Emoni's real passion is her daughter and cooking. She can whip up recipes that will make the strongest men cry, and whenever she is overwhelmed she feels safest in the kitchen. When her high school offers an immersive culinary class that will have a week long study abroad component in Spain, Emoni is torn. How can she afford to go and how can she leave Babygirl alone for a week? Is wanting to take this class selfish of her?  To make matters worse, that good looking boy Malachi is in that class. She doesn't have time for boys and their nonsense. A wonderful book about taking risks, putting family first, and realizing that just because your path doesn't look the same as someone else; doesn't mean it is any better or worse. A truly wonderful book that will resonate with many readers.

The Summer of '69

What a wonderful beach read. I breezed right through this and enjoyed every minute of it! The summer of 1969 on Nantucket won't be the same without Tiger, the beloved brother and son of the family. He's just been deployed to Vietnam and everyone knows nothing will ever be the same. This story is alternately told between his three sisters, and his mother; from dealing with first crushes, alcoholism, cheating husbands, and wild carefree parties; each woman is wrapped up in their own little world. Addictive and compulsively readable this story has it all; romance, adventure, intrigue, and hope. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book; this was my first Elin Hildenbrand but I will certainly read more!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Time Traveler's Wife

Reading this book is akin to being on a roller-coaster. You will feel an insane amount of emotions all the way through and when you shut the book for the final time you aren't sure sure how you should feel. Emotionally drained? Sad? Exhausted? Glad you aren't married to a time traveler? Beautifully written and expertly crafted; this story-line is easy to follow despite its complex back story and unpredictability. From the age of 6, Clare knows she is destined to marry Henry. He's been time traveling and conversing with her for years; she can't wait to grow up and meet him on a normal timeline. Told from both of their perspectives and spanning years, this novel about a relationship that involves time travel, never once manages to be over the top or too science fiction-y. It's plausible and it makes their relationship stronger for it. It's a unique story, that readers won't stop being able to think about. I resisted reading it for a long time (stubbornness maybe?), but I'm not mad now that I've finally gotten around to it. I'm not quite sure why I didn't give it a full 5 stars, the length maybe? Overall though, a pretty solid and unconventional romance.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Seeded and Sodded

A wonderful wrap up on her gardening trilogy. This short book of gardening vignettes, letters, short stories, and secret messages is wonderful. It's a quick read and easy to put down and pick back up (while you tend to your gardening of course). This trilogy is the perfect gift for any gardener in your life; it's witty, cute, inspiring, and endearing. And it will motivate you to work in your garden like never before!

New Kid

After being told repeatedly to read this book I finally see what the big deal is. This graphic novel is perfect for middle schoolers, in fact it should probably be required reading. It deals with racism, bullying, peer pressure, and how not to be an asshole. I know a lot of adults who could get something out of reading it too! Jordan is starting an elite new school and isn't sure if he'll fit in, there are only a few other black kids there and he desperately wants to make friends and fit in. As he adjusts to his rich new school, he keeps drawing in his sketchbook and learns that there is more to people than meets the eye. It's funny and inspiring and it's helping kids realize that they aren't alone and everyone is just trying to fit in in their own way. A fantastic graphic novel that everyone should read.

The Daughter's of Temperance Hobbs

This book was the perfect witchy summer read that I didn't know I needed. I have never read the first book in this series, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment or understanding of this at all. Connie thought she just had to worry about finishing her book, getting her tenure packet in, and grading her student' papers; but on top of that her boyfriend just proposed, she might be pregnant, and she found an old family heirloom that could turn her research and life around. Her mother has convinced Connie that no men live long after "the next generation is set" and Connie is desperate to discover if that is true. She plunges herself into researching family history and realizes that her mother is right, but there may be a loophole, weather work. If she can figure out the writings she discovered in her mother's house, she may be able to save the life of the man she loves and become more intimately connected to her family history then she ever thought possible. Fascinating read! I loved the history components and all the characters, I'll have to go back and read the first one now!

Legend

Quick, fun, teen dystopian novel. It has all the classic hallmarks of the genre. Set in the future of the United States, where war and disease are rampant and the divide between the wealthy and the poor is great. The Republic wages war against the Colonies although no one really knows whats being fought after anymore. Two young teens from vastly different parts of society soon realize that they aren't each other's enemy; they have to learn to trust each other to uncover what the republic has really been hiding all this time. Fast paced, full of teen angst, romance, betrayal, and more.

Side Jobs

This is really a 4.5 star book, I enjoyed the variety of  stories that Jim Butcher included and they all tie in very well with the established timeline. It was nice to see some characters get some extra TLC in this collection because it's hard to give that many the same amount of love. It was also a pleasure getting to see some more bad guys, Harry Dresden sure knows how to piss off some creepies! There were also two stories included that weren't told from Harry's perspective and that was pretty cool. James Marsters did a good job narrating them and giving them a different "feel." Overall a solid collection varying in length, theme, characters, and hilarity. Now I need another full installment of the Dresden Files. I can't wait anymore!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found

Ugh, this was overwrought and over the top. I despised pretty much every character, the main protagonist was unbelievably .... pathetic. Martha Storm has bent over backwards for years taking care of everyone but herself, sacrificing her happiness, her fiance, and slowly her sanity. She cared for her ailing parents for fifteen years, she does odds and ends for everyone all over town, and she is so agreeable to helping with whatever that none ever feels bad for taking advantage of her (which is often). When a mysterious book shows up on the library's steps she realize her past and future are about to get more complicated. It's an old book with a dedication to her from her grandma Zelda, but the humdinger is that it's dated a few years after Zelda apparently died. As Martha starts to try and unravel this mystery she starts to realize that maybe she needs to start caring for herself before running herself dry catering everyone else's needs. Along the way she starts to reconnect with family, get more assertive at work, and squeeze in time for romance. UUUGHHH. I hated Martha. Read and make your own judgement.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Obsidio

The Illuminae Files has officially gone down as my all time favorite young adult trilogy. Seriously. This series was good from start to finish. The action never let up, it's full of twists I didn't see coming, twisted artificial intelligence, teenage angst, young love, and more. It had everything I wanted in a book. Oh and it's set in space... so yeah, it's pretty amazing. It's really hard for trilogies to live up to the hype or to even compete with book one, but each installment of this series brought the heat. I loved it. I loved the characters, the sarcasm, the wit, the foul language, and the seriousness. Seriously, this series is the bomb. I won't stop raving about it, just read it already!!

Monday, June 10, 2019

To Obama

I gobbled this book up! The act of letter writing is so powerful and this book does an amazing job highlighting the importance of everyday Americans who sat down to write or type a letter to Barack Obama while he was in office. While president, Obama averaged 10,000 letters a day, and employees in the correspondence office would select ten letters for Obama to read at the end of every day. The letters weren't all positive; some were critical, some had suggestions, some were from from kids, some wanted to see something to get done, but they were all powerful. Some of the letters moved me to tears or made me laugh out loud. Some were even so elegant it made me jealous of the author's writing prowess. Author, Laskas includes a sampling of letters and in between, her chapters highlight how the correspondence office operated, the back story/interviews conducted with some of the letter writers, and some wonderful insight on how and why the letters that Obama received helped him shape policy and speeches and how they were truly representative of the American people. It's a wonderful book.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Becoming

I really really enjoyed this book. It was candid, heartwarming, intriguing, and overall quite inspiring. Michelle Obama seems like one of the people that you would like to sit down with over a cup of coffee and just chat about anything with. She's real and down to earth and reading her memoir made me respect and admire her even more. From her wonderful childhood, early adversity, and romance with Barack, I enjoyed every aspect of her story. She has managed to stay humble and honest; even while being one of the most "visible" women in the past decade. Every aspect of her life has been criticized, analyzed, and knit picked yet she believed in her husband and her family so she toughed it all out and has an amazing story to tell. Wonderful!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Buried

Guys... this might make my Christmas card top 5 this year. The Buried was THAT good, I'm still thinking about it! Peter Hessler combines archaeology, cultural and religious customs, politics, language, family relations, and the Egyptian Revolution and writes a compelling narrative of his family's time in Cairo through the lens of the Arab Spring. Peter, his Chinese wife, Leslie, and their two newborn twins settle in Cairo for several years and experience it all. I learned SO MUCH. And it wasn't dry or overwhelming; it was fascinating stuff! Sprinkled throughout would be tidbits about Chinese immigrants selling lingerie, the oppression of women, and anecdotes about the world's friendliest trash man, I can't get over how well this book read. This is definitely one I will come back to again. I've loved Egyptian history since I was a child and getting to read about it's modern day archaeology and it's political climate was so intriguing. It makes me want to go on an Egyptian reading binge. Wonderful, wonderful political/cultural/memoir. A must read!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Bride Test

This is the quintessential beach read. The plot is over the top, the characters are almost too quirky (if that's possible), and it is overall super cheesy. I clearly devoured this book in one setting. It was cute, regardless of how ridiculous the entire scenario was. I kept rooting for the characters even though it's soo predictable how it will all turn out. Khai's mother is soo worried about her autistic son never getting married that she finds a likable, honest female janitor in Vietnam and convinces er to be a mail order bride for her son. She agrees because she wants to find a better life and maybe a father for her young daughter. Khai agrees to give her a trial run and they soon find themselves in the awkward predicament of living together and getting used to each other quirks. Over the top, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Other Wes Moore

I get what this book is trying to accomplish and it is motivational, but their was something missing for me. I can't quite pinpoint what it was however. The Other Wes Moore is the story of how two young men, from the same city, with the same name, the same race, similar ages, and similar childhood led vastly different lives. One is a Rhodes Scholar and veteran while the other is serving a life sentence for murdering a cop. Wes Moore (the successful one) starts writing to the other Wes Moore in prison and soon the two are meeting and comparing lives. Wes then breaks down critical moments in their lives where their actions defined how the rest of their lives would end up. The book is about how choices determine our fates and how the little things can really add up. At the back of the book are a lot of resources on organizations that are meant to steer people on the right path and how to fix up some of their mistakes. Motivational and inspirational, but somehow still a miss for me.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Women Talking

DAYUM! This book was eye opening and painful to read. The writing was wonderful but the subject matter itself was so hard to stomach, even more so because even though this story is fictionalized, it's based off of true events. Between 2005 and 2009 hundreds of Mennonite women and children were drugged in their sleep and raped. The small Mennonite colonies thought that demons and ghosts were violating them in their sleep, when they reported it to their husbands and fathers no one believed it at first, when women started taking to each other they realized that it wasn't just them, nearly all women (regardless of age) were being attacked in the night and then waking up violated with blood and semen on their thighs and bed. The rapes continued happening until a woman caught two of the attackers sneaking into her house before they could knock her out with the Belladonna spray. The men were then arrested (for their own safety), but the woman found no solace. They were soon told that in order to get to heaven they had to forgive their attackers and allow them back into the community. Women Talking is a fictionalized account of the women meeting and trying to talk out their feelings and their best plan of action for when the men return. They decide that they have three options: stay and do nothing, stay and fight, or leave . Over the course of two days they discuss the pros and cons of each and in the process reveal their deepest, fears, concerns, and questions of faith. It's heartbreaking, empowering, and a must read. Wonderful, albeit upsetting.

We Hunt the Flame

Rich, complex, and fantastical; this young adult fantasy is filled to the brim with memorable characters, beautiful world-building (very old world Arabian), and atmosphere. Zafira has always braved the wicked forest of Arz to help feed the people in her community. Only a handful of people close to her know that she is "the hunter," the kingdom is rigidly patriarchal and would bite the hand that feeds them rather than accept that a woman disguised as a man is their savior. When Zafira is visited by a silver witch who invites her on a quest to bring back magic to the world, Zafira is torn, but ultimately decides that she has to go. Little does she realize that the people who will accompany her on this dangerous mission are more bloodthirsty and cruel then the darkness of the Arz. A little overwhelming at times with special language inserted into the dialogue and into the names of all that surrounds them, but as the reader gets further along in the story it all starts to click into place. It wouldn't be a young adult fantasy without some romance so of course we have a little of that and a LOT of action. I can't wait for the next one in the series!

Cari Mora

I had higher hopes for this. I've only been waiting half a lifetime to read something new by Thomas Harris. His Hannibal Lector trilogy is on of my all time favorite book series and as a kid I read it REPEATEDLY. His beautiful prose, fiendish villains, and strong female protagonists are still present, but the story-line and plot left a little to be desired. Cari Mora is about a young woman who fled violence in her own country only to fall back into it in the US. Cari is the caretaker for the infamous Escobar house in Miami; she's used to working with film crews and others who want to rent the space, but when a group of seedy looking men rent the house out, she quickly ascertains that they have something sinister in mind. They are looking for hidden gold, rumored to be hidden somewhere beneath the house, and they will stop at nothing to obtain it. Cari must resort to the cunning, shrewdness and survival instincts she thought she had left behind to keep from falling prey to these evil men.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

I really wanted to like this book, but at most I could give it a "meh." I do like to see more inspirational romance hitting the market and I think many readers may enjoy it, but it was just a little over the top for me and I didn't necessarily love either of the characters. I didn't hate them, they were just a little to underwhelming for me. Cadie McCaffrey has a great job and a great boyfriend, well great"ish." She and her boyfriend have been together for four years although the past year has been a little off. He's been working more and she thinks things are a little strained because of their "sex talk." Things reach a braking point when Will works late and misses her birthday/their anniversary that SHE COOKED and their make-up dinner a few days later goes south (of her pants!!!!).  Cadie can't handle it anymore, she wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but she is resigned to the fact that he won't ever ask her to marry him. She breaks it off and Will is shattered. He decides to watch all her favorite romcoms for inspiration and recreate some of the biggest most romantic gestures in them to win her back. Of course, nothing goes to plan and things get derailed pretty quickly. Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is a meet cute rom com with a splash of religion and a heavy dose of romantic pop culture. I didn't hate it, but I really didn't love it either.

The Lost Family

I don't know where I expected this book to end up, but it wasn't what I imagined. That being said, it wasn't a bad thing, this book took me along for a ride that was different and unique. The characters are all horribly flawed, while still being likable and sympathetic. The book opens with Peter Rashkin, a Manhattan restaurant owner who is grateful for escaping the Nazis, but also feels safest hiding in a kitchen. He lost his wife and twin daughters in a camp and to honor them he names his flourishing restaurant after his wife. For two decades he's devoted every minute of his day to the success of his restaurant, he has no time for relationships or fun. That is until he meets a charming model named June Bouquet. She's easily two years his junior and they share next to nothing in common (except for their good looks) but they strike up a romance that turns out to be what neither of them expected. June always feels she is in the shadow of Peter's dead wife, and Peter just wants the simplicity of the kitchen with an occasional spice from June. As their story progresses it expands, shrinks, aches, and longs to be fulfilled. The Lost Family is the story of a non-traditional romance with heavy baggage and the tolls it takes on those involved. I liked how the story progressed across decades, the characters were also rich and complex and it felt so real. A fulfilling tale of loves progression and recession.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Mister

I did this to myself. No-one forced me to read this, but I said "screw it" and threw caution to the wind. I knew better, I had read the 50 Shades trilogy. In the back of my head, I thought, maybe she's improved, maybe all the fame helped her get better editors and better ideas. I was wrong. So wrong. The Mister makes 50 Shades look like a damn masterpiece. This was somehow far worse than 50 Shades; I honestly didn't know that could be possible. The Mister features a WEALTHY LORD (named Maxim... are you kidding me?!?!) who starts to fall for his new maid, Alessia. Alessia escaped from some "shady shit" in Albania and she is in London illegally. She hasn't been around for very long and is soo naive! She is literally screaming damsel in distress. Maxim is a rich playboy who bones a different woman every night of the week. Then he sees his new maid and becomes infatuated with her and helps save her from the "shady shit" that's following her from Albania. He wants to "keep her safe" and "keep her to himself." They soon start shagging and he's even a gentleman and takes her virginity... All the while, Alessia is so naive she doesn't even know that the man she has been cleaning for/making love to, is a Lord. I mean, for fucking real?!?!!?! Since it's E.L. James there is a ton of steamy sex (that's perfect every time - I mean a virgin who gets the hang of it that quick?! How neat!). If you're looking for a story that is short on plot and heavy on unrealistic sex, then this is the book for you. I'm tired of reading about naive dumb girls that need a man to rescue them and show them around a bedroom. Next!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Skin Game

This series continues to get better and better. I immerse myself so fully into when I'm listening to the audiobook, that it can be hard to come back to reality. It's so in depth and wonderful and their is no other series that has such wonderful character growth. In this book, Harry is ordered by Queen Mab to help his archenemy, Nicodemus, on a secret mission to rob Hades safe. Backed into a corner and with no way out his must think five steps of his enemies (now co-workers) and pull of the biggest job of his career. He enlists the help of his good friend (and hopefully soon lover!) Karen to help and they have to lean on each other now more than ever. Wonderfully written and plotted, this book was amazing from start to finish. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Moment of Glory

This was an interesting and in depth look at four golf players who went from being virtually unknown to overnight big winners by winning the four majors in one year. Tiger Woods was out of the picture as he tinkered with his swing and tried to "improve," his changes pretty much removed him from the competition and allowed rookies to step up to the plate and have remarkable years with him out of the picture. John Feinstein highlights these four player's back-stories as well as documents the year leading up to their big years. It was really fascinating and interesting to learn about how four players were able to get at the top of their game and take home the biggest golf prizes in the world. Feinstein also covers how the players dealt with their newfound fame and how it ultimately affected their golf game. Interesting, but VERY detail focused and a bit overwhelming at times. Recommended only for big time golf lovers and not the average Joe.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing

This may have gotten a 5 star review if it wasn't for all the hype surrounding this book. For months, all I've heard is rave reviews about this book, it's THE hot book of 2019. Obviously, I had to find out what the hype was about. Honestly, it was a pretty decent book... it just wasn't AMAZING. It was very atmospheric with lush prose and beautiful setting. The quick and dirty summary of this book is the sad story of the marsh girl (Kya). A five year old girl is abandoned by her mother and siblings and left to "live" in heir dingy swamp cabin with her abusive father. She learns to avoid his tempers and keep her distance - but soon even that relationship will end. Having only attended school one day in her life and only having known her family, she is a shy recluse and hides from strangers. She is content to hide out in her corner of the marsh and study the shells, grasses, birds, and fish. That is until, she meets a boy. Flash forward a few years later when a boy is found murdered. How does it tie into the marsh girl? Or does it all? Beautifully written and heart-wrenching - this story of an abandoned child is haunting. Good book, but it falls just short of greatness and the expectations that everyone set. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Notes to Self

A collection of raw essays filled with emotion, character, and bravery. Emilie Pine has had a challenging life, not that she wants your sympathy; she wants the power and release of writing it down and trying to make sense of what she's internalized and learned over the years. From learning to accept and love a father who suffers from alcoholism so severe that his body is starting to shut down to making peace with the fact that her body didn't "betray her" by not having children to coming to terms with her tumultuous teenage years; this poignant and deeply personal essays are beautifully written and will resonate with readers. It's unflinching glimpse into Emilie Pine's greatest regrets, sorrows, truths, and mistakes; and turning the table on those negatives and making them a crucial, vital part of self.

Miracle Creek

DAYUM! This book was gripping from page one. A "submarine" used to immerse patients with high oxygen flow explodes, killing a few patients and injuring others. The submarine was a new kind of treatment used to treat disabled kids as well as other ailments so the deaths and injuries are even more harrowing. All fingers point to Elizabeth, the mom of the little boy who was killed, as the culprit. She "suspiciously" sat out from the submarine and was caught drinking and smoking with the same kind of cigarettes that were used to start the fire. As the story unfolds, each chapter is told through another character; from the people who ran it, to the people inside the submarine when it caught fire.  Angie Kim did a damn good job writing complex characters that make it impossible to determine who the culprit is. Slowly it emerges that many have motives, many have weak alibis, and many have way more involvement in this tragedy then they realize. This book is fast paced and heartbreaking. Full of twists and turns that kept me guessing. Storytelling at it's finest.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Under the Table

UGH! I can usually suspend my disbelief when I read romance, but this was too much even for me. This was over the top RIDICULOUS! No aspect of this romance was believable, starting with the characters themselves. Zoey Sullivan is spending a year in New York reinventing herself as a chef for hire. She and her dead beat husband agreed to separate for a year and then try again; the problem is Zoey has been super checked out from that relationships for years. Not that she hasn't been faithful, her younger, plucky sister (who she shares an apartment with) is always partying and getting laid while Zoey cooks and wallows around... until she meets Tristan. She picks up a new client who requests a big Cajun dinner to impress some clients. When she shows up to his apartment she realizes that not only is he wealthy, he's drop dead sexy. Only catch is, he's a total nerd and has some social anxiety. The two hit it off and Zoey decides to befriend the stud and show him how to dress, talk to people, and have a good time (pot calling the kettle black - bitch can't do any of those things either). We are supposed to believe that Tristan doesn't own a cellphone, doesn't know "any slang," doesn't know about politics or TV shows, and the only video game he knows is Sonic.... But he's also drop dead gorgeous and doesn't know how to talk to girls. Of course they are smitten with each other, but Zoey is trying to stay faithful to her stupid husband. Spoiler alert, she caves and seduces Tristan in the most over the top way that doesn't even begin to fit her personality. It's dumb. And the ending is even dumber. The whole book Zoey goes on and on about how she doesn't want kids. Then (huge spoiler - don't continue reading!!) she marries Tristan and gets knocked up and is suddenly cool with it...... ok. Not a fan of this stand alone. Not at all.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Open

I really wanted to give this book 3.5 stars - but that's not an option on here. I didn't dislike the book, there were just A LOT of players to remember and keep track of and at times it got overwhelming. Other than that, this book is a good read not just for golfers, but for event planners. It's the play by play account of all the blood sweat and tears that went into making the Black Course at Bethpage a US Open site. It took years or work, negotiations, contracts, money, and hard work to transform the old public golf course into a masterpiece worthy of hosting a major golf championship there. Many thought it could never be done because traditionally all championships are played at ritzy private courses. But one man's dream became reality and Open is the story of hard work, perseverance, and the love of golf.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Flowers for Algernon

This book didn't make me cry (although it came close), but it was very sad, emotional, and raw. It won major science fiction awards, but to me it's more literary - it's so human!

Charlie Gordon isn't very smart... he has a severely low IQ and as a product of his time, was often referred to as retarded. His story is told through a series of journal entries (or progress reports) about his life cleaning in a bakery, attending classes for the mentally challenged, and the prospect of an experimental surgery that will make him smart. He's 32 and all he want in life is to be well liked, he figures if he can get smart he will be able to achieve that and so much more. The scientists have already operated successfully on a mouse named Algernon, and they seem fairly confident that the same results will apply to Charlie. He happily allows them to operate on his brain and is initially frustrated because he doesn't perceive anything as happening, but slowly his mind starts expanding and his entries become more and more eloquent and hopeful, until one day ... they aren't hopeful and happy anymore. Groundbreaking and wonderfully believable. Charlie's journey from "dumb" to "smart" is a revelation and brilliantly told. I loved this book even though it made me an emotional wreck.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bad Blood

I will admit, I wasn't initially jazzed about this book, but once I started reading I couldn't put it down! It was weirder than fiction. How could someone build an empire on lies that was harmful to those seeking medical health?!? Elizabeth Holmes started Theranos, a company that promised that one drop of blood could be tested for up to 800 different things in one small device. The problem is that that device didn't exist, it just wasn't possible, but she kept promising her investors that is was and thought she could fake it until she made it. They had prototypes, but they were YEARS away from even being able to make good on half the promises that Holmes alleged her machine could do. The blood tests they ran on their prototypes were riddled with errors and working for this company was causing employees some PTSD and major ethical qualms. Turnover was high and people were fired left and right for questioning anything. In short it was a nightmare, but no-one outside those walls knew anything was wrong; they were charmed by Elizabeth Holmes and her vision. She charmed so many investors that soon she was worth over 5 billion dollars. Things started to unravel though as disgruntled former employees and disillusioned investors started opening up and the Wall Street Journal launched a major investigative piece into their company and practices. What they discovered was worse then they could have imagined. A roller coaster of crime and ambition. A must read!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Firefly Lane

Firefly was kind of a let down for me because I was so over the moon obsessed with her last two books, The Great Alone and The Nightingale. Those were both 5 stars and this was an alright read about best friends forever. It got a tear or two out of me, but I didn't love the characters like I knew I was supposed to. Kate is a down to earth mom and Tully has only ever wanted to be the most important female anchor in the world. Their friendship started when they were 14 and they have stuck by each others sides even when their paths started to diverge. Tully has shied away from love ever since her mother abandoned her and she was raped at a young age; the only family she has ever needed was Kate. Kate on the other hand has only ever wanted real love and is content to start a family of her own instead of conquering the world. Firefly Lane is the story of the ups and downs and the ebbs and flows of their friendship through the decades. I like Kate well enough, but the indomitable Tully, I couldn't get behind. The story isn't intricately plotted, it just long. Not bad, not great. Chick lit at its finest.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Ms. Marvel: Time and Again

I had been a little meh about the last few volumes, but this one really renewed my love for this whole series. It really shows the stress of being a teenager, sometimes there are scarier things then fighting villains, like keeping secrets from your friends or trying to come to terms with your crush. Kamala Khan fights off the bad guys while navigating friendship, family, the future, and compassion. Cute while still being totally kick ass!