Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ogden Nash's Zoo


My family seems to love Ogden Nash but I am just so-so about him. He's like a Dr. Seuss poet for adults. His poetry is irreverent and "funny" and geared towards adult humor. This collection features a bunch of ridiculous animal poetry. Some of it rhymes, some of it doesn't, much of it is nonsensical. The best part of this little collection is the cute illustrations accompanying each poem. Maybe I don't understand or appreciate Ogden Nash at this stage in my life but I will try revisiting him another time.

The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister


A wonderful collection containing the best of Tyrion Lannister's quips, retorts, and comebacks. Easily one of the favorite characters in the book series and the tv show - he also has some of the best lines in the series. This cute little gift book has over 150 pages of quotes and illustrations from throughout the Game of Thrones book series. Broken into sections: on drinking, on being a dwarf, on warfare, on music, on family values, and more - this collection of quotations is perfect for any Game of Thrones fan. 

Monster Stew


Man this book sent me right back to my childhood! A nine year old boy is having the creepiest night of his life. It starts off with his mom making corned beef and turnip stew with lima beans (yuck!) and only gets worse from there. He has to eat nine bites of it! Even the dog won't touch it! His brother gets a stomach from eating it and then there is a huge storm! His mom tells him to go to bed but he swears the bright lights in the sky aren't lightning flashes but rather space monsters. Filled with lots of great illustrations kids will eat up this adorably "creepy" story. Great for young readers. 

...And Then You Die of Dysentery

 


A cute little coffee table book that is sure to garner some laughs and inspire some conversation about the fucked up past time of playing the Oregon Trail. Everyone remembers their first death - this book  combines adulting with life skills we learned from playing the classic computer game, The Oregon Trail. The illustrations/graphics go along hilariously well with each maxim and this cute book will make a great stocking stuffer. I wouldn't mind having some of these "life lessons" framed and hanging. A quick but fun read. 

Dogs Think That Every Day is Christmas


Short and sweet - I was thinking that this was going to be something else entirely - but this book is straight outta left field. That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it - I did - it was just so unexpected. The book opens with a with an introduction and confession about how he wronged his dog Pete when he was a child and has never fully been absolved for it - then follows the poem "Dogs Think That Every Day is Christmas" that is not as child friendly as these amateurish illustrations would lead you to believe. An odd but endearing little book from the master of sci-fi.

Trust


Phenomenal. Mayor Pete does an excellent job of breaking down a seemingly easy concept like trust and applying to American politics, life, and culture, that makes the reader think hard about how and why we got where we are. As he mentions at the onset - this book isn't a map so much as a signpost and his goal isn't too preach at us - but to make Americans understand how important trust is in each other, in our daily lives, and in our government. He talks about how trust used to be so high, how we lost it (or in some cases never received it), and what we can do to gain it back. Mayor Pete's examples, research, and insight into American trust is astonishing and really makes readers think how different our lives could really be. Fantastic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop


A book with no plot may not sound fun - but for fans of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" this book was like catching up with old friends. It takes all the "lose ends" from the previous book and creates new stories for all the surviving characters. Weaving back in forth in time the new stories help flesh out the old and we get to learn more about some of our favorite people. Bud, Peggy, Ruthie, Evelyn Couch, Dot, and more. It is light, funny, and wholesome; it's like coming home. An excellent companion to the first. 

The Black Flamingo


Fierce, fabulous, and inspiring. Written in verse this coming of age teen novel tells of a young boy's journey to acceptance and self love. Michael is mixed raced queer Londoner who has always had an idea of who he is but never felt he truly fit in anywhere. When he goes away to college he discovers the drag society and it's the missing piece of the puzzle. Suddenly things make more sense and Michael has the clarity and the confidence that he aspired to for so long. Moving and honest, this uplifting tale inspires readers to find their own spotlight and revel in it. Fantastic. 

Check, Please: Sticks & Scones


I am not a huge hockey player but I do enjoy that this comic series is about so much more than that. It's about acceptance, finding your people, and making the world a better place. In this second and final installment, Bittle battles with coming out in a big way (to his parents) and struggles with what he will do when he graduates from college. His boyfriend, the big NHL star has a big media moment and things will never be the same again. Will it make them stronger or drive their relationship apart? As always there is lots of backing, keg parties, hockey hazing, and emotions. A fun series and a great finale. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Battle Ground


Probably my least favorite of the recent Dresden Files - not because it's bad but it is literally one giant battle scene. The whole book! I get that this is a MAJOR battle the biggest ever - but I've never read such a long continuous fight scene. Plus there is ne aspect of the storyline that I would have liked to see resolved (Thomas), and there is very sad scene (no spoilers here). Dresden was as usual kick ass and his signature brand of dark humor shines through and makes the depressing not so bleak. Obviously I still need answers so I will continue to read any scraps Jim Butcher sends my way. I've been spoiled by two massive installments in one year and I'm scared I'll have to wait years for another!

Monday, December 28, 2020

CatStronauts: Slapdash Science


This installment focuses not only on the CatStronauts but on the crew that's looking out for them on Earth at their station. When the head honcho leaves and puts a new cat in charge - pandemonium breaks out and suddenly no one is working together or at all. When they go on a trust building retreat they leave the station in charge of one scientist cat and robot and that's when the trouble gets even worse. What happens if something goes wrong in space and the CatStronauts need help - will anyone come running or are they all too busy? Fun, nonsensical, and great!

Catstronauts: Robot Rescue


Another adorable installment in the CatStronauts series. This one reminded me of the Martian as the CatStronat team decides to go rogue and rescue one of their own. They steal a ship and go on a month's long journey to rescue their good friend Cat-Stro-Bot, who is trapped in ice. A pretty dramatic ending for a kid's book (which made me love it even more honestly) wraps the whole space pirates chapter for the CatStronauts pretty nicely. This book will teach your kids to buck authority and never leave a man behind!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Frankie Comics


Cute and relatable - especially for cat owner. Frankie gets into all kinds of feline shenanigans and her two loving owners play along. Jumping on the table, stealing hair ties, puking everywhere, chasing mice, etc. The graphics are good (although it's weird that the cat has no nose or whiskers) but each of the short comic series (they all are 2 to 4 pages long) are only so so. They aren't laugh out loud funny or ground breaking - they are just cute and okay. It's not a collection I'd read again and I would recommend getting this book from the library rather than purchasing it - it's good to read once, but I can't see anyone going back to it.

I Love You, Miss Huddleston


Laugh out loud funny; this memoir about growing up in small town Indiana during the seventies is an absolute blast. Philip Gulley muses about old Quaker widows, the Thanksgiving table, child labor laws, childhood crushes, and occasional streaks of lawlessness. It was a different time back then and Gulley's effortless and amusing narration sucks readers in and keeps them engaged throughout. Peppered throughout are some childhood photos which add some credence and a focal point for his stories. I haven't read such an amusing and outlandish memoir in a while but I literally (LITERALLY) found myself laughing along with the anecdotes and crazy childhood friends he had. A must read and not just for Hoosiers. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

People Like Her


I was anticipating a lot more from this "thriller." I liked the story-building, the descriptions of the influencing business, and the portrait of the family on the brink but the thriller aspect was buried and partially nonsensical. People Like Her shows the ugly side of what really goes on behind the camera in influencer's life and shows the strains in a couple's relationship as they try to manage two young children,  Mamabare's perfect online persona, and her millions of followers. One of their followers seems to be trying to follow a little too closely although her occasional narration doesn't add much to the story other than confusion. The story is told through alternating viewpoints - the wife, husbands, and the creepy stalker lady. It had a lot of potential and it wasn't awful - it just wasn't my favorite either. I wanted a little more drama and excitement at the end I suppose. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The River Between Us


I haven't read historical fiction in a while and I really appreciated the brevity of this Civil War novel as well as the story within a story. When a young man goes to visit his grandparents in southern Illinois with his father on the eve of WWI he has no idea what he is about to learn. His family is hiding a wealth of secrets dating all the way back to the Civil War. When his grandmother recounts the summer that her life changed forever - both her grandson and the readers are captivated. Two young women exist a steamboat in a flurry of petticoats and finery and change the little Illinois town forever. No one knows if they are rebel sympathizers or society girls - but one thing is for certain - one of the young woman is black - is she a slave or freed? Because there are no suitable lodgings in town Tilly's mother opens up her house to them and life is never the same again. Interesting story that covers aspects of the war that many are probably unfamiliar with. Two fantastic narrators really make this a story worth listening to!

This Book is Anti-Racist


Not just for kids and teens - this easy to understand no-nonsense guide is fantastic to get adults on board/ up to speed, specifically white adults. Tiffany Jewell does a fantastic job of breaking down key concepts, definitions, and providing activities to help readers understand more deeply the injustices around us. This book is a great first step for those who are looking to be part of the solution and not the problem and it is sure to cause good discussion with peers and internally. Should be required reading for all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Punching the Air


This book gets you RILED up - the injustice of it all will have readers angrily turning pages and looking for the hope and beauty in an impossible situation. Written in poetry and prose with art interspersed throughout - Amal's story of how he became incarcerated is powerful and painful. A young Black teen in the wrong place at the wrong time he is now paying the ultimate price. He's unfairly convicted of a crime that he didn't commit and it's hard to keep from drowning in the biased, uninspiring detention facility. Why is the system stacked so hard against him? Will art and poetry save him or will it just drag him down? I would LOVE to discuss this book at a juvenile detention facility - the kids in there would relate so hard to this book. I hope that after covid this book is an option I can bring to the table - their insight and personal experiences would bring so much to the table. A fantastic and powerful book. 

The Cricket in Times Square


Charming and cute - I somehow missed reading this and my youth. Like the title implies this story is about a cricket who ends up in New York City after getting stuck in a picnic basket. A young boy who works at his family's newsstand has never seen a cricket before and rescues a scared and confused Chester Cricket. Chester starts to live a comfortable life at the newsstand and becomes friends with a mouse and a cat. Together the trio get into mischief and discover that Chester is very talented at making music. Soon big crowds begin to go to the newsstand to see cricket who can play symphonies and other musical acts. But what if fame isn't what Chester wants? A sweet story for young readers - a play on the country mouse/ city mouse trope. Lots of fun!

Black Narcissus


Brooding and gothic; this tale of culture and religion clashing in the mountains of India is unique and compelling. The General has gifted his remote palace to the Sisters of Mary after it was mysteriously vacated by monks after only six months. At first the sisters were delighted, it was odd, yes; but beautiful too and filled them all with the anticipation of work and good deeds. They aim to open a hospital and school for the villagers but a lot of the work is out of their reach - they must rely on one of the few English speaking residents, Mr. Dean to help them with the labor. He's unconventional, uncouth, and has "gone native." He sees firsthand the remarkable transformation of the nuns - the chilling and haunting palace may be too much for the sisters - but what will it take for them to admit defeat? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Christmas Haven


I was hoping that Christmas would be more of a central theme and honestly Christmas didn't play into the story at all. Most of the novel takes place in summer and fall. Ivy Zook has decided that she is going to leave the Amish in order to pursue her dream of party planning. Her mother is devastated and begs her to wit a few months so as not to cause a scandal and ruin her sister's wedding and Ivy reluctantly agrees. When a Swartzentruber Amish man and pregnant woman crash a car into the storefront where Ivy's sister works her mother agrees to take in the young couple until the girl gets better. Things get even more complicated when they learn the circumstances that the two Swartzentruber are fleeing from. Ivy's problems suddenly don't seem so big - but she's still not willing to let anything get in the way of her following her heart. Again - pretty ok - was just in the mood for a holiday read. 

You Should See Me in a Crown


Loved, loved, loved this! Leah Johnson does a fantastic job of bundling hard issues into a fluffy ridiculous event and the result is a readable, heartfelt, and impactful story that isn't too on the nose or too depressing for teens. Liz Lighty is devastated when she finds out she didn't get the expected scholarship to go to college. She doesn't want her grandparents to worry about money so she decides in an act of desperation to enter her high school's prom competition - the winner receives a 10kk scholarship. Liz has always been more of a wallflower - she has her small group of friends - but it's hard being black and queer in Indiana. How on earth will she win that crown?! Humorous, smart, and brave - everyone needs a friend like Liz Lighty - a fantastic teen read about acceptance, courage, staying true to yourself, and doing the right thing in the face of adversity. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Spoiler Alert


Cute, nerdy, and unique. I loved this unconventional romance that centered on a game of thrones-esque fanfic community. April writes steamy fanfics featuring Aneas and Lavinia from the world famous show, Gods of the Gates. Her best friend is another fanfic writer but she's never met him in real life. If she only knew that her best friend is actually the star of Gods of the Gates and writes fanfics because he is sick of how the shows producers keep bastardizing the material. What would happen if they met up? Would steamy Marcus Caster-Rupp be attracted to April despite her size (she's fat and proud of her body) and would she be able to get past his looks and see the insecure man behind his beautifully sculpted body? A romance that deals with trust issues, self-worth, parental troubles, fat-shaming, erotica, and the fanfic community. Lots of fun and very original. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Christmas on the Island


I keep trying to like Jenny Colgan and I keep being underwhelmed by her work. I've been trying to find short holiday audiobooks and this sounded perfect - unfortunately it was only loosely holiday tied and  far too serious for my taste. I was hoping for a little more fluff. Christmas on the Island centered around a cast of characters each of whom is going through some pretty serious shit. Flora has discovered she's pregnant and is unsure how to tell her boyfriend Joel, he's got a troubled past and he might think she's trying to "trap him." Flora's best friend Lorna, the elementary school teacher, falls for the island's immigrant doctor, Saif. Unfortunately, even though he has feelings for her in return - he is still concerned that his missing wife might miraculously turn up from his war torn country after years of looking for her. Flora's brother Fenton, is watching his husband slowly be ravaged by cancer and it's only a matter of time before he dies. So yeah - serious shit is happening on this Scottish island. There are some light moments - but it's not all uplifting and cozy. The best part about this audiobook is that it is wonderfully narrated by a woman with a Scottish accent.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Troubled Blood


First off, obligatory disclaimer that I do not endorse JK Rowling and her transphobic views. I am eliminating the author from this book series (as I have with Alexi, Diaz, Carroll, and others) and appreciating the story for the story. Personally I think this is my favorite in the series. Which says a lot as this dense book is over NINE HUNDRED PAGES! I've been all in on Cormoran Strike since the first book in the series and I love him even more now. I love that Robin is his full fledged partner and I love that beneath their mutual respect is simmering slow burn attraction (kiss already!). For the first time ever they decide to take on a cold case about a woman who disappeared more than thirty years prior and what they have to go on isn't much. Everyone assumes the Essex Butcher murdered her along with others but there has never been any proof. When Strike and Robin finally get their hands on the police notes they're horrified by the state of the case. It was mishandled from the beginning and the officer in charge back in the day suffered a neurotic break in the middle of it - attributing suspects to black magic and astrology. On top of that Strike's aunt, the woman who raised him, is slowly dying and Robin's ex-husband is determined to draw out the divorce proceedings. They have their hands full. So many layers and twists and turns - I didn't see the end coming. Fantastic detective novel!!

Monday, November 30, 2020

The Animals in That Country


This was.... an odd ride. It was completely unique and I wasn't sure where the story was going to take me but I had a fun time on the way. A pandemic rips through Australia and those effected have the ability to understand animals. People aren't sure if they're hallucinating or conversing with animals but the whole country has gone mad. People start liberating animals from zoos, sanctuaries, and farms and the whole continent is a madhouse. Jean has worked at a sanctuary for years, alternating between showing tourists the dingoes and watching her granddaughter. She's not your typical grandma though. She's an alcoholic, who loves chain smoking, and swearing. Jean gets along better with animals then she does with people (her granddaughter being the exception) and she's actually looking forward to catching this disease. She wants to talk to her dingoes. Only she has no idea what she's in for and she's in for one hell of a messed up journey. Unique and mildly terrifying - do we really want to know what the animals are saying?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Twelve Days of Christmas


Ugh - this was just over the top. It was predictable from chapter one, unbelievable, and just not great. I couldn't care less about either of the characters and it took willpower for me to finish it to the end. Julia is a happy cheerful person - she greets everyone hello, remembers her bar barista's name, and volunteers all over Seattle. While "auditioning" for a job she has to create a blog and if she has more readers and hits then the other candidates she'll get her dream job. The only problem is she doesn't know what to write about. Her friend tells her that she should kill her neighbor... with kindness. Her apartment neighbor, Caine, is a short tempered brute and Julia decides that her blog will center on 12 days of kindness. What she doesn't imagine is that they'll fall in love. It's not believable - it happens very fast - and I don't care how sad his childhood was - he's a jerk. What will happen if he finds out she's been blogging about all this - oh no?! Predictable and unbelievable. The book did not fill me with kindness - it filled me with impatience. 

What You Wish For


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. People have been raving about Katherine Center's books for a while now and I didn't get the hype until I finally doubled down and read one of her novels. I went into this novel blind (all I knew was there was a school librarian in it) so I had no idea if it was going to be funny, a romcom, serious, etc. Honestly it's a mixture of those three things. Samantha Casey has her dream job - she's a school librarian at one of the most fun and progressive elementary schools. Her icon, neighbor, confidant, and school principal has just died and to her surprise they announce that the new principal will not be Max's wife - but Duncan - a teacher from Sam's past. Duncan was her biggest crush - the coolest, funniest, most engaging teacher she ever worked with. Rather than deal with her emotions around him she found a new school and hasn't thought of him since. But now he's going to be the principal and things are going to change in unexpected ways. Heartfelt, engaging, and filled with fun quirky characters who are trying to make it through life. I will definitely read another one of Katherine Center's books!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Greenlights


Part memoir, part advice, part poetry - Greenlights is McConaughey's love letter to the world. He had an unconventional childhood and the journey into acting was less meandering than most. His stories were not just interesting but genuinely well written. He sprinkled in tips and advice throughout the book based off what he learned but it's not preachy - it just goes with the flow. I always thought he was a bit of a hippie but after reading this book I know he 100% is! From bongo-ing naked to having wet dreams that alter the course of your life to living in an airstream for years - Matthew is the man. He lives life on his own terms and it's not always sunshine and roses (although it is more often than not). He does what he wants and he's reflected a lot about how he got there and where he's going. Interesting, fun, and all around good celebrity memoir. I loved all the photos and notes with advice (the poetry was so so - but it did add to the book even if I didn't love it). 

Someone to Love


A rags to riches regency romance that reminds me of a reverse Cinderella story. Anna Snow is summoned to London from the orphanage that she grew up in and now teaches in. She has no idea who her family is and she's hoping when she arrives in London that she'll finally know more about her the circumstances that led her to being raised in an orphanage. She's desperate to be loved and to have a family. What she discovers is that her father was a Duke! He recently died, but  she has a stepmother and three siblings, now she has a family that she's always dreamed of having! It's all quite complicated though and no one is very happy about the new "interloper." Her recently discovered siblings want nothing to do with her and the one person who takes an interest in her is her haughty and well dressed step cousin. He along with some of the extended family decide she needs a makeover and a lesson in manners and etiquette. Anna's curious circumstances have made her the talk of London! Slow burn romance, the first few chapters are hard to adjust to the language and extensive family names - but once you get past that it's smooth sailing. I didn't love all the characters (or care about them) hence the low rating. The ending was... interesting. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Joy to the World


Honestly, this is exactly what I needed. It's been a while since I read any regency romance and this inspirational novellas were just what the doctor ordered. Each story was only around 100 pages but did a beautiful job of setting up the whole story and characters in no time. In" Heaven and Nature Sing" two former love birds are thrust together at their godmother's house over the holidays. Will they get past the misunderstandings that drove them apart nearly a year ago?  "Far as the Curse is Found" had definite Beauty and the Beast vibes. A masked man takes an unmarried young woman with child under his wing and allows her to work on his estate. Will she thaw his cold dead heart? The final story "Wonders of His Love," follows a widowed woman who starts to follow for the Scottish painter who has been commissioned to paint portraits of the family. Will the dowager stand in her way? Will she find her voice? A thoughtful collection - will appeal to fans of regency romance and inspirational fiction. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany


Absolutely charming! I loved the back and forth between two second born Italian American daughter (cousins Emilia and Lucy) and their great Aunt Poppy's romantic love story in the sixties. Their mysterious (and forbidden) great aunt Poppy takes Em and Lucy out of New York City to an all expenses paid trip to Italy. The goal of the visit is for Aunt Poppy to find her old lover on her 80th birthday and break the curse that plagued their family for generations. The curse says that all second born daughters will never find lasting love due to either death or heartbreak. It's been challenging growing up hearing that their whole lives but Em and Lucy decide to hell with it and embark on a crazy Italian adventure with a relative they barely know. It's romantic, it's crazy, it's fantastic. Wonderful plot and characters. I was definitely invested and thoroughly enjoyed the unconventional ending. I want more books about this family!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Incandescent Visions


Lyrical and poignant - this collection of poetry from Lee Hudspeth is thought provoking and moving. The poems explore creativity - its birth, its expressions, its manifestations - and in the process readers find themselves going on a unique journey. Broken into five chapters - each one varies in themes of creativity but all are wondrous to the ear and to the mind. Poems vary in length - but chapter five is dedicated to haiku's - my personal favorite expressions of poetry and a nice treat that I was not anticipating. The poem that resonated most deeply to me in this collection was aptly titled, "Cornerstones" which I took delight in re-reading several times. I also enjoyed that the author included an afterword and explained the origins and background to some of the poems. It really helped flesh them out and allows readers to appreciate them even more. A fantastic collection that poetry fans will devour with gusto. I look forward to reading more by this inspired poet!! 

Redbird Christmas


Honestly this was a delightful listen. It's not in the realm of possibility for me but I loved the endearing cast of characters and the quaint town where everybody knows everybody's business, When Oswald T. Campbell's doctor tells him he may not live to see Christmas if he doesn't leave cold wet Chicago and head south to a sunnier climate - he doesn't know what to do. His doctor handed him a faded brochure about the small town of Lost River and it's health resort. With nothing better to do Oswald heads down there only he's renting a room in lady's house because not only does he only have his disability check alone to live on but the health resort burned down decades prior. In no time at all he is swept up in the small town drama, oddities, and feuds. When he meets the little redbird named Jack who lives in the grocery story and a little orphaned crippled named Patsy - he has no idea how much his life is about to change for the better. Perfect for fans of quaint small towns. I love the southern drama - this was a unique holiday listen. 

Crazy Stupid Bromance


This series is the most enjoyable and over the top fluff. The perfect antidote for 2020! Each installment of this series focuses on a different member of the bromance book club and focuses on their romantic foibles. Crazy Stupid Bromance centers around Noah and his feelings for his best friend Alexis. Since he helped expose her previous boss for sexual harassment with his IT skills and hacking they've been inseparable. But it's clear that they both want more than friendship and neither is willing to admit it. Noah joins the bromance book club against his better wishes because he's willing to do whatever it takes to never lose Alexis. To complicate things though - Alexis finds out that she has a sister. She grew up with only her mother and never knew her father. Butt now a long lost sister wants to see if she's willing to donate a liver to save their father - a man she's never met. Where has he been her whole life? She's got a lot on her plate so good thing she has Noah to lean on. Will a new relationship strain their friendship though? As always lots of fun, witty banter, and light reading. 

In a Holidaze


Cute, charming, and a great holiday romance. I didn't love this as much as the last three Christina Lauren books I read but I only think that's because I'm not a fan of groundhog day or other book/movie tropes where you keep reliving the same days over and over again until you "learn your lesson." Honestly that was the only thing I didn't like about this book. Maelyn Jones and her family spend Christmas every year at their friend's cabin in the mountains. Their parent's friends and their kids come as well and it's like a huge extended gathering that Maelyn looks forward to every year. It doesn't hurt that she also gets to see Andrew, the boy she's had a crush on him since she was 13 (even though he's practically her brother). She royally screws everything up though when she makes out with Andrew's younger brother, Theo, while drunk and he witnesses it. She's mortified - if she could only turn back time. On their way to the airport their car is hit by a truck and she wakes up... on the plane headed to the cabin for Christmas. What? It takes a couple attempts at reliving Christmas to figure out what she's supposed to do but soon she realizes she needs to choose which of the brothers will make her happy. Witty and hilarious. I love this writing duo!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Kindest Lie


Raw and vibrant; this debut novel from Nancy Johnson is a must read. Ruth and Xavier are living their dream life in Chicago - things are going so good that Xavier is talking about kids. He's ready and they're ready financially - the only hold up is Ruth. When she finally tells him the secret that she's kept hidden for eleven years - everything starts to fall apart. Why did she wait so long to tell him and is there any way she can fix the damage done to him and to her own family? Since they're no longer talking she decides to head back to Indiana to stay with her grandma and brother for the holidays. She hasn't seen them since her wedding and she has some serious soul searching to do. Maybe she'll even find the answers to the questions that she's looking for and some answers she didn't even know she needed to discover. A beautiful tale of love, loss, redemption, second chances, and the pursuit of the American dream. Heart wrenching at moments but filled with beautiful and flawed characters that resonate with readers long after they've put the book down. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Last Anniversary


I'm rounding up from 3.5 stars because I really needed some fluff and this hit the spot even if it didn't hit all the right notes. I'm a sucker for Liane Moriarity's writing style and I enjoy her charismatic and slightly over the top characters. When Sophie discovers that her ex-boyfriend's aunt has left her her house on Scribbly Gum Island she is confused but elated. She'd always had a soft spot for beautiful island - the fact that it was home to Australia's greatest unsolved mystery was just a bonus. Told in alternating perspectives from a myriad cast of wonky characters - The Last Anniversary is a tale of adapting to change and coming to terms with the past. For years those on Scribbly Gum Island have lived with the secret of the disappearance of Alice and Jack Munroe. Now that there is a new resident on the small island who isn't family - will the secret escape? Fortunately, Sophie is more interested in finding true love and having a baby before she hits 40 (it's approaching so quickly!). The interactions between all the characters is wonderful, absurd, and fun. A light fluffy read that is enjoyable despite being a little over the top. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Merry and Bright

How is this not a Hallmark movie? Seriously. If Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas and You've Got Mail had a love child - Merry and Bright would be it's offspring. Merry is all work and no play she's got a few weeks left at her temp job and the overtime is killing her. She really needs the extra income so she can finish her last year of college and help out her family. She lives at home with her mother who has MS, her father, and her 18 year old brother with down syndrome - and due to all the extra hours she's been putting in at work - she hasn't even gotten to enjoy their company very much. As an early birthday gift her mother and brother Patrick buy her a subscription to an online dating service and fill out her page for her - instead of putting a picture of her up on it - they put a picture of their family dog. Their hope is that Merry will find someone who is attracted to her personality - rather than looks. To her surprise a man with a picture of his dog as his profile picture responds to her page and the two hit off. Soon the two are staying up late every night chatting. Will they ever meet and if so will they like what they see? 100% predictable and 100% sweet, charming fun. It's pure holiday fluff. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Soul of a Team


Not what I had initially anticipated at all - yet still highly satisfying and thought provoking. Former Indianapolis Coach, Tony Dungy, lays out four leadership principals that can transform a group, workplace, or team, and illustrates how effective they can be through engaging storytelling. He tells the story of the Vipers football team and the year it took to get them from inhouse fighting, selfishness, and separation to unity, respect, and goodwill. It wasn't easy and there were a lot of roadblocks on the way - but when they made an effort to apply the SOUL principals that their mentor Tony Dungy provided them, things slowly started to change. I though football was a great way to tell the story because it's easy to see how the organization fares through wins and losses - but obviously this book is meant for any place of business or organization. At the conclusion of the fable there is a detailed breakdown of each of the SOUL principals, followed by thought provoking questions to get you thinking and on the right track. There are some religious elements thrown in the end (bible references, etc) but those don't necessarily have to be a hinderance. The message of the book is good with or without Tony Dungy's faith at the end. An illustrative guide to creating and cultivating a winning organization. 

The Rules of Magic


This book was spectacular from start to finish! Honestly I liked this even more than Practical Magic. I LOVED learning about the great-aunts and how they came into magic and into the Owens family house. It was a fantastic prequel that began in New York City  with an oddball trio of siblings - Franny, Jet, and Vincent. They grew up completely "normal" - even though there has always been something pulling at them. When Franny gets an invite to go to her aunt's house in Massachusetts for her 17th birthday she feels the pull. She never even knew she had family outside her household, so the siblings are extra curious. All three decide to spend the summer with their mysterious aunt and that's when everything changes. They learn about their family's history, curse, and magic bloodline. Nothing will ever be the same for them. Filled with love, loss, lyrical genius, and heartbreaking beauty - this book is impossible to put down. I loved every flawed, complicated, and beautiful character. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Monopolists

I had no idea behind the origins, evolution, and scandal of this beloved game. It was fascinating to learn more about such a pop culture item. Who doesn't have at least one edition of this board game in their house. I thought the book could have been shortened because the legal aspects towards the end really dragged on - but other than that I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at such an "ordinary" item. When the game was first created at the turn of the twentieth century - the creator called it the landlords game and it came with two sets of rules. On one set of rules the goal was to spread the wealth because only when everyone  has the same opportunities does someone wine. The other set of rules was the monopoly version that we all know and loved. The goal was to make people see how bad monopolies are - winning because one person has accumulated all the wealth shows how vile monopolies are... right? Wrong. The "bad" set of rules became an underground sensation. People were making their own canvas boards and adding their own distinctive names and rules. The set we know and love got all the place names from Atlantic City where is took off. Decades passed and a man named Darrow claimed it was his own and sold it to Parker Brothers where it became an international sensation. Only it clearly wasn't his - having been played in pockets all over the country for three decades. The Monopolists gives the inside scoop on all these incidents and ends with the fight over the Anti-Monopoly game - an attempt to go back to the creator's anti-monopolist roots. Fascinating - but a bit long at parts. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Magic Lessons


Captivating from the very beginning - fans of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, will absolutely adore every line in this prequel. Set in the seventeenth century this prequel traces the family magic all the way back to Maria Owens and her daughter. Filled with adventure, travel, curses, familiars, the witch trials in Salem, love, and the all too familiar witchy adages - this prequel fits perfectly within the series and help fleshes out the backstory of a family's magic. I don't want to divulge too much other than this is gorgeously written and will make you want to re-read the other books in this series. Truly this may be my favorite. I adored the characters and the trials they faced as Owens women. Fantastic - I hope that Alice Hoffman writes more about this amazing family. The Owens' curses, magic, and familiars merged together for a perfect October read. I need more!

Nothing Short of Wondrous


I really like the concept of this series - inspirational historical romance set in different spots of American Wonder. The first book in the series took place at the Grand Canyon and this installment featured Yellowstone. Both have completely unrelated characters so there is no harm in reading this series out of order since there is no continuity. The US Calvary has just been tasked with patrolling Yellowstone and keeping not only the visitors, but the park safe as well. Widowed Kate Tremaine and her young son own and operate one of the few hotels allowed on the park. She's anxious that her lease be extended because this is the only home her son has ever known, plus she loves the geysers that her hotel looks out upon. Congress, Lieutenant William Prescott has been tasked to look over the part of the park that Kate's hotel is on and they strike an uneasy truce. Kate will show him the ins and out  of the land acting as their guide - in return Prescott and his men will help her with some manual labor around the hotel. The unlikely pair start falling for each other - and danger in the park draws them even closer together. Clean, wholesome, and fluffy. Great historical romance with a beautiful scenic background. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Map of Stories


A quick enjoyable read - I enjoy this series the more the bookwandering world is fleshed out. I really wish that this series had been around when I was a child. It's so magical and playful! In this third installment, Tilly is desperately trying to find the Archivists so they can right the wrongs that the head of the English Underlibrary are doing. Her grandparents don't believe that the archive - but her mother does. Tilly and her best friend Oskar are secreted out of London to Washington DC by her mother who wants them to follow the clues Tilly has gathered and find the archivists. With the help of her mother's friends; Tilly and Oskar go to the Library of Congress and encounter their biggest adventure ever. They encounter paper forests, magic trains, William Shakespeare, and more - but the clock is ticking - will they be able to save the future of bookwandering? Fun and inventive. I can't wait for more in this series! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Float Plan


I adored this book! I read it in one day. The characters were charming, quirky, and realistic. They were battling demons and weren't always the nicest to each other - but honestly - it was refreshing to see characters be so REAL.  Anna's fiancĂ© tragically committed suicide nearly a year prior. Not only did his life end that day - so did Annas. She's been stuck inside her grief unable to cope for months. When she gets a reminder on her phone about a trip they were supposed to take together; Anna decides to be reckless and take the boat and do the trip on their sailboat solo. After one night of she realizes there is no way she can do all the island hopping by herself - she already almost crashed the sailboat in 12 hours and she still has over a month to go. She finds Keane, an experienced Irish sailor, willing to help her for free, in return for a trip to Puerto Rico. He's adrift in life as well - having lost his leg in an accident a few years prior. Once a sought after sailor - now he's reduced for begging for piddly little jobs to scrape by because most don't trust that he is able enough. At first Anna is still consumed by grief but soon she and Keane start making new memories; sunsets at sea, dolphins, weathering storms, and even finding a stray dog. Together they learn that even though the future may not be certain - the future looks a lot better when they're together. Utterly charming. A great story filled with unforgettable characters. You'll be rooting for them the whole way!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Snapped


This one definitely tackled some big issues (more so than her other three) and I really appreciated her author's note at the beginning. Elliot Reed has received her dream job - she working her late father's favorite pro-football team, the Mustangs. She thought it was going to be a cakewalk but when the hunky quarterback blacks out the NFL logo on his jersey AND kneels during the anthem for a game she knows that she has her work cut out for her. Soon she's having to work directly with Quinton to "restore" his image and run damage control. People all over the country are sending hate mail, spewing vitriol, and slandering him every chance they can. What Elliot doesn't expect is that sparks will fly with Quinton. He's filling a hole she didn't know she had in her life. Touching, deep, funny, and extremely relevant. I could have done without some of the side characters (Elliot's friends) - but I have a sneaking suspicion they are due for their own books soon - if Vonnie doesn't get one next! Love this series. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Melody Finch


Fans of Disney's The Rescuers, the crocodile hunter, and Zoobooks (the magazine for kids) will eat up this inventive and educational middle grade adventure story. Set in Australia's Murray Darling Basin; Melody Finch follows a young girl who has just been magically transformed into a Diamond Firetail Finch. A drought is slowly crippling the rivers and the surrounding ecosystem that all the animals, birds and insects rely on. Melody finally begins to realize just how important the rains are to the wildlife and she begins to appreciate all the nature around her no that she has a bird's eye view of what is actually going on. Storms finally come bringing blessed rain; but Melody must fly from Charleville to the Coorong to tell her grandmother not to sell the Isabella, a boat that's been in the family for generations. With the drought crippling the tourism economy her Nana Bell needs to make ends meet - but if the rains reach her in time she won't have to. The journey to Coorang will take Melody days to complete but now that she's made new friends the time seems to "fly" by. A wonderful way to introduce children to Australian wildlife; at the conclusion of the novel there is even a little encyclopedia outlining all the animals, birds, and insects that Melody encountered on her journey. Fun, fanciful, and wholesome - a well written adventure story that kids will eat up. 

Every Body Looking


Iloh, Candice. Every Body Looking. digital. 2020. Penguin Random House Audio. 

Moving and lyrical - this coming of age story set in verse is sensational and unforgettable. Burdened with heavy expectations at a young age, Ada struggles to figure out who she is underneath the mask she puts on to appease her parents and her peers. Her father is a Nigerian immigrant and her mother is an emotionally abusive African American woman suffering from many mental health issues. Her father has custody and raises her in the church - setting very high standards for how she should look and behave. All Ada wants to do is dance and draw - but she is an obedient daughter and always puts her elders first. Told in alternating timelines between public school and moving away to college - readers feel the anguish and inner turmoil as Ada struggles to peel back the mask that holds her in place. Flashbacks to painful moments from the past - being molested by a cousin - segue to painful moments in Ada's now -  suffering through a gynecology visit. Culture, sexuality, passion, and inner truth are discovered and fought for. Expertly narrated by the author herself - this coming of age story is one readers won't forget.  At times painful, but ultimately cathartic for Ada and readers alike; impossible to put down. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Aurora Rising


YES! There was a hole in my life after reading the Illuminae Files and this definitely helped patch it up! This teen science fiction story is amazing. First off - the characters are amazing. You could hate science fiction and still love novels by this writing duo because their characters are so compelling - they are witty, unique, and the chemistry is palpable. Secondly - the action never stops. It  is almost impossible to set this book down while you're reading it. It's too addictive and one more chapter turns into an hours long binge. Finally - the worldbuilding and the story are complex and intricately plotted. But don't let that scare you - the story flows so well that it never seems complicated or cluttered. When Tyler flew out into the fold to burn off some steam he certainly never expected to find anything or anyone out there. He catches a distress signal - from one of the most infamous lost vessels of all times - the Haddenfield. The ship disappeared nearly three centuries ago but the distress signal is still coming in strong. When Tyler boards all the humans in the cryo chambers have shriveled and died over the centuries - all except one. What happens next is like a series of dominos falling onto one another and starting a chain reaction. When Tyler and Aurora go back to the space station together they have no idea how much their lives have just changed. SO FREAKING GOOD!