Friday, June 29, 2018

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Ugh, I hate nonsense books. I get that this is for kids and the whole premise is fun nonsense. When Alice falls asleep she goes down into a rabbit hole and enters Wonderland, a place where everything is fun and nonsense. There is no point to anything and everyone is weird and can you tell how much I dislike this book. There is no plot, just a dumb kid named Alice, wandering around Wonderland talking to animals and packs of cards, playing croquet with flamingos and the like. Totally bonkers.


This was an excellent short story collection, there wasn't a dud in the bunch! I thoroughly enjoyed all eleven stories, each of which had ties to Florida in one way or another; whether it was a setting, a hometown, a memory, etc. Florida loomed in the background of these taut tales. From surviving a hurricane while drunk and hallucinating to overcoming a childhood surrounded by snakes and an abusive father to a mother forgetting to prepare for Halloween, these stories are expertly crafted and executed. Each story is a little dark, has some seedy elements, and some very real characters, all in all very Florida-eqsue. A wonderful collection, I would love to read more short stories by Lauren Groff. It takes extreme talent to build characters, setting and plot in a few short pages but she does it exceedingly well!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again

I love Deadpool and this collection.... was very... shit. It was shit. In order to kill off all the Marvel characters, their IQs and powers suddenly shrink and they are no match for Deadpool... puhleaze. At least be inventive about it. I probably would have enjoyed this more had the deaths been more thought out and not so quick. I just can't buy that they would all fall like dominoes. They didn't even show the hulks death, just his body. Ugh. For true Deadpool fans only.

Life on Mars

Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry from Tracy K. Smith. Split into four parts this beautiful and haunting collection will have a lasting impression on readers. One of my favorite passages is even about a library:

"Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room, And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.

The books have lived here all along, belonging
For week at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,

A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies."

There There

This novel is explosive, disarming, and unflinchingly passionate. Indigenous debut author, Tommy Orange, doesn't just emerge on the literary scene, he's kicked down the door. Readers will be gripped immediately and compelled to finish this astonishing work in one sitting. I could not bear to put it down, the rhythm of his work kept escalating, unrelenting, carrying the reader on a tidal wave of passion, much like the frenzied drumming mentioned in his novel. Set in Oakland California, There There follows a cast of Native Americans through several generations as they deal with identity, alcoholism, abuse, passion, family, and friendship. Their stories slowly start merging as all their paths start heading for the Big Oakland Powwow. Their voices are distinct, chapped, weary, and still... hopeful. These characters and their histories will stay with the reader long after this book is finished. A jaw-dropping debut, I can't wait to see what this author has in store next!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Separate Peace

Not exactly what I anticipated, but still a mildly enjoyable read. It reads beautifully but I couldn't care much for the plot. Gene has always been introverted and jealous of his best friend Phineas. At a boy's boarding school in New England they find themselves competing in every manner of sport and game; only Phineas doesn't realize how seriously Gene takes it all. For once in his lousy life, Gene wants to be better at something than Phineas, even if it's just grades. He doesn't want to steal the spotlight he just wants to be an equal. One day while fooling around, tragedy strikes. Will things ever be the same again? Set during World War II, this tale of friendship, loyalty, and competition has still remained a classic decades later. Not my cup of tea, but not bad either.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Note to Self

King, Gayle. Note to Self. 2 CDs. unabridged. Audioworks. 2018. ISBN 9781508260493. $19.99. 

A remarkable, diverse, and talented cast reads aloud letters written to their younger selves. Gayle King (CBS This Morning) selected some of the most inspiring letters she collected over the years and compiled them in this honest, emotional, and uplifting audiobook. Celebrities, athletes, pop culture icons, doctors, astronauts and more read aloud letters that they wish their younger selves could have benefited from and be comforted by. Oprah, Danika Patrick, Kermit the Frog, Tyler Perry, Dr. Ruth, and President Jimmy Carter are just some of the many amazing contributors included. Gayle King does an excellent job introducing each essayist and their achievements. Note to Self is a wonderful and uplifting reflection on youth, lessons learned, and self love. A perfect gift for graduates and fans of inspiring reads. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

Impeccably researched and written, Michelle McNamara does an impressive job piecing together what exists of America's most notorious and least known serial killer, the golden state killer. Obsessive and determined, Michelle spent years tracking down leads, reading old police files, newspapers, interviewing victims and more to try and create a profile to understand more about the sadistic man who killed more than a dozen people, raped over 50 women, and burglarized over 100 homes in California during the seventies and eighties. Unfortunately she never got to see the man responsible caught and found, she died in 2016. Her husband and researcher finished her book for her and shortly after its release the Golden State killer was found, caught by DNA evidence. Compelling and dark, this true crime story will keep you up at night.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Call of the Wild

Honestly, the best part about this book was that it was narrated by Jeff Bridges. I love animal books but I feel as if I really would have enjoyed this much more in my youth. The Call of the Wild tells the story of Buck, a mixed breed dog who is stolen from cozy home and his lush life as a house dog to be taken up north to be a sled dog during the Yukon Gold Rush. Buck quickly acclimates to the tough life and sets himself apart from the other dogs with his strength, smarts, and cunning. Told entirely through Buck's perspectives, this was one of the first popular books that had an animal as a narrator. To me the most interesting parts were about the wilderness, the scenery, and the people; it was a fascinating time during the late 1800s! Even though it is a little violent, this is a great kids book, especially for animal lovers!

Into Thin Air

A chilling (see what I did there) account of the Mt. Everest disaster told from the journalist who experienced it first hand. Everest is one of the most deadly and sought after climbing achievements, no amount of peril can stop people from climbing the highest peak in the world. Jon Krakauer, an experienced climber and journalist is lucky enough to get sent on an expedition led by the best team to go up the mountain. Nothing could have prepared him for the icy hell that waited for him up in the mountain. Over the course of a few months he had become close with his climbing companions and they were all so excited to make this dangerous journey little did they know that there time was to be cut short and not all of them would make it down the mountain. Thrilling, captivating, enlightening, and ALL AROUND engrossing, I could not put this book down. Even though Jon fills the reader in on who dies right in the first chapter, leading up to those moments and learning about the history of Everest, mountain climbing, and the skill needed to complete such a a feat was mesmerizing. It was so interesting and rest assured I will NEVER participate in mountain climbing after this. A must read!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2018


I haven't picked up a David Sedaris book in ages and I'm soo glad I did, this was legit laugh out loud funny, irreverent, and at times somber. I didn't listen to the audiobook but I could still her his unique voice in my head as I read which only added to the hilarity. His short essays spanned from the seriousness of his sister's suicide and mother's alcoholism to a deformed boxed turtle and shopping for "unique items" in Japan. His family is uproarious and odd and I feel like we should be best friends. I love his sister Amy (who gets mentioned frequently) and everyone else sounds like jolly good fun. I know I'll laugh just as much when I read this the second time around some day. A wonderful new addition to the Sedaris collection, such a talented humorous author.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Red Ribbon

Sometimes I steer away from Holocaust fiction because there is so much of it and sometimes it's too much to take in. It's like reading misery porn and at a certain point you have to take a breather. The Red Ribbon is a young adult novel that focuses on a little known bit of Auschwitz lore, the sewing studio. The commandant's wife is a fashionista and she decides that she  may as well put some prisoners to work crafting her stylish new outfits and tailoring her clothes. The officer's wives get jealous and soon she opens it up to them and expands the workshop. Fourteen year old, Ella lucks into working in the studio and tries to lose herself in her work so she doesn't have to observe the hellhole around her. At least she's making pretty things even if they are going to monsters. Her only other distraction is a quirky young girl named Rose who spins the most delightful stories and always seems to have her head in the clouds. Although annoyed by her at first, Ella soon realizes how important it is to have hope and keep dreaming and they soon become inseparable. Although not explicitly graphic, this book doesn't shy away from hard truths either, it's a nice middle ground that young adults can read without being "too horrified" while still being informed about atrocities.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


I just can't hate this series. Try as I might to despise Amish fiction, this adorable, quirky, and wholesome little Amish fairy tale series has warmed my cold black heart. I just love it! Ella is the second in the series and is loosely based on the Cinderella fairy tale. Complete with the cruel stepmother, rude stepsisters, and playful mice it has a few interesting takes as well, instead of a glass slipper there is a pie contest, there is "magic," the fairy godmother is a kind lady in the congregation, etc. It's disgustingly wholesome and clean and I still loved it. I can't wait to read Sadie, the Amish take on Snow White and I hope there are more in this series!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Shack

I don't normally read books on theology but this was on The Great American Read list so I HAD to get to it. It wasn't an awful read, I loved the narrator who really made the whole sad story sound homey and comforting. Mackenzie Phillips isn't in a great place in his life. After the brutal disappearance of his daughter and the strain it placed on his family, he's hardly equipped to deal with religion, he's just going through the motions. One day he receives an odd piece of mail, a note from God telling him to meet him at the shack (the last known place his daughter was at), and against his better judgement he actually goes. What transpires there in that shack changes his outlook on life, his attitude, and his spirituality. This book questions your beliefs on God, Jesus, the Holy Trinity, the afterlife, the what ifs and many other questions, especially the classic; "why do bad things happen to good people?"

Surface Tension

I LOVED Mike Mullin's Ashfall series so I knew I had to check out this stand alone teen novel, especially since it was in such a different direction from his last series! One thing they have in common is strong male leads that are fast thinkers, and are sarcastic, witty, head strong, and resilient. Jake finds himself in an impossible situation, he witnessed an act of terrorism and now the terrorists are out to get him, only nobody believes him (except for his super wealthy, super awesome girlfriend who mostly believes him). He's trying to stay one step ahead of them, but it's practically impossible to do when you're a broke teenage boy in Indianapolis with only a bike to your name. Alternating with his fast paced story for survival is Betsy's story. Betsy is a terrorist, she' trying to make her dad proud and if that means she has to kill Jake then so be it. Alternating perspectives really help flesh out the story and spell out the "whys?" of the story. Well written but super super unbelievable. No teenager is outsmarting terrorists like this, it was a little over the top. If you can suspend belief then you will love this novel, if not? You should probably pass on it.

The Kiss Quotient

I haven't read a romantic comedy in a while so I was excited to check out The Kiss Quotient because it had been receiving a lot of buzz! A successful businesswoman obsessed with her job in economics becomes frustrated and scared at the prospect of dating and sex. It doesn't help that her mother keeps pressuring her to find a man and hinting that she ants grandchildren. Stella decides that her Asperger's is getting in the way of relationships and she vows to get more practice so she can find a man and not scare him away. She decides to hire a male escort to show her the ropes in the bedroom and to give her tips on dating and small talk. To each of their surprise they hit it off perfectly, and soon her "training" is stretching out, it's almost as if they're really dating. She's all in, but her sexy male escort has some skeletons in his closet. Pretty sexy and mildly explicit, fun, and fresh. A nice beach read.

Three Dark Crowns

One of the most unique teen fantasy novels I've read in a while. Three triplets with special abilities are born to the queen and on their 16th birthday they must fight to the death to see which will become the future ruler. The three sisters are raised apart from each other by people who share their talents; Mirabella is an elemental and seemingly the strongest of the sisters, Arisnoe is a naturalist and has so far been unable to develop any of her talents, same goes for Katherine, the poisoner, she too is helpless at her craft. Their time is running short, they must soon face each other and see what damage their talents can afflict, wonderfully written with one hell of an ending. I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Kitchen Confidential

I'm sad I waited until after his death to read this wonderful culinary memoir. I was hooked from page one, this was an amazing and impossible to put down book. Bourdain pulls back the curtain on what is really happening in kitchens and it's fascinating, scary, and very exciting. It's not all fun and games, it takes dedication, thick skin (physically and emotionally), endurance, and skill. Filled not only with his journey into the culinary belly of the world, this memoir also dishes on what days to order meats and seafood, how to tell if a restaurant deserves your business and many other useful tidbits that I would never have known in a million years. He is also very real about his vices, addictions, and drugs found in virtually all restaurants of the world. Superbly written, witty, and engaging this memoir is not just for foodies, it's for everyone. Sad we lost such a great personality, but his voice will live on through his books and on his shows.

The Comedown

This is a great sweeping literary novel in which every chapter is from a new character's perspective, which is innovative and fun, but also a lot to remember. All the characters are bound together by two yellow suit cases filled with money (supposedly), but could just as easily be filled with bricks and packing peanuts. When Leland Sr. walks off the top of a building he leaves behind two families and lots of questions. They've all heard the lore about the suitcases, but where are they? Set in the underbelly of Detroit this saga covers decades, fleshing out the plot story by story. Ultimately, it was a little too literary for me. There was times I just couldn't get into it even though the writing was superb. Interesting, just not always compelling for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2018


It's been a decade or so since I watched the movie, so this book was still full of surprises and suspense. It was genuinely good and it makes me want to re-watch the movie something fierce! Compelling, humorous, full of small town hopes and aspirations, second chances, and second guesses; Jaws is much more than a "horror" novel. At the center of the story is Brody, the police chief of Amity, a beach community with a population 1,000 in the winter and 10,000 in the summer. After the human remains of a missing swimmer are found, Brody tries to close the beaches. Shark attacks are a serious business and he's never seen anything like this! The community in an outrage declares the beaches need to stay open for tourism and Brody reluctantly agrees. Amity becomes a nightmare. A young boy and an old man are eaten on that first day and soon others follow. They're not dealing with an ordinary shark. Brody will need all the help he can get to take of this beast haunting his town's waters!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


“Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone..” This book is about a disruption in the time continuum, but at it's heart, it's soo soo much more. It meanders it's way through reminisces of war, a childhood spent in Indianapolis, ex-wives, family members, science fiction, dark jokes, and so much more. Vonnegut is the master at spinning a tale which seemingly takes the reader through a wandering labyrinth, only to discover at the end that it weaved a beautiful web in the process ("some pig" indeed). Describing this book is a fool's errand. Just read it because it's Vonnegut and it's quotable and funny and dark and wonderful. So it goes.

Monday, June 4, 2018


LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book!! This small middle grade book is impossible to put down, even for a adults! Castle is your not so average seventh grader. His mom is raising him the best she can after his violent father was locked up and Castle can get himself into trouble. One day killing time after school, he stumbles on a track team practicing near his house and next thing he knows he's drafted on the team. He's a black kid from the wrong part of a town and he's trying to prove himself.... to himself. But even though he can outrun a lot of his problems, he can't outrun himself. A wonderful novel and I can't wait to read the rest in this series!

For Everyone

Loved, loved, loved this short little poem/letter/advice book. As the title suggests it's truly for everyone regardless of where you are in life. It's an encouraging note of affirmation that we all have dreams and we all deserve to have them. Unlike self help books this slim volume isn't telling readers how to act, think, or believe. It's reaffirming what we already know is deep inside of us and letting us no that we are not alone and we are not failures. It's beautiful, heartfelt, and utterly quotable. This is perfect for everyone and is a book I will return to again and again.

Charlotte's Web

I feel like I read this as a child, but I legit can't remember! I've certainly seen the movie and remember the general plot, so who knows. I may have read this in my youth, I may have not. Either way it was a delightful re-visit to a children's classic. This version was made even more enjoyable since it was narrated by the author and he did a wonderful job with the accents and pacing. It was truly a fun read. If you're one of like five people that has never read or seen Charlotte's Web, it's the tale of a pig who befriends a barn spider and in an effort to save him from the ax, she starts writing marvelous things about Wilbur in her web. It's a wonderful story of friendship, farms, and family. Still delightful half a century later, this will always be a family classic!


This book is SOO descriptive! I honestly thought it pulled away from the story a bit. The first third of the book dragged on and on and I was bogged down with the descriptive details of every outfit, thought, vase, drink, and more. It definitely picked up in the second part but I wanted to quit reading long before I got there. In essence, this book is about a young sister who is a total jerk and joy-kill. She does something unforgivable and awful that impacts those closest to her and it has a ripple effect throughout the whole book. I wanted to like this, but I just couldn't get past the flowery pose. I bet the movie is better!

The Road to Magnolia Glen

A misunderstanding has Kiera Young and her two younger sisters almost sold into a brothel upon their arrival in the new world. Thankfully, a fellow Irishman aboard their ship, saves the day and whisks the girls off to Breeze Hill Plantation where his brother resides. Unluckily, the Young Irish lasses may not be as safe as they think even though they are far from port. Quinn and his brother do all they can to keep the girls safe, but suddenly Quinn's heart is in danger. He finds himself falling for Kiera and has to rethink what his future has in store. Is there room in his heart and his home for this troubled, beautiful young girl? A little bit of danger, intrigue, romance, and inspiration are tucked into this novel. Although it's the second in a series, it features different characters and reads easy as a standalone.