Tuesday, March 31, 2020


There's only one word to describe this book. Tedious. A cool concept that faintly glittered through at times but was horrible overtaken by rambling. The story wandered all over the place and had constant diatribes about gardens, snack foods, furniture, gothic novels, and church pitch ins and other mundane shit, that made the story last even longer than it should have. And trust me this story lasted forever. I could not wait for it to be over. The premise was so cool, a bunch of women in this small town keep having erotic nightmares and weird shit is happening. Cool right? It's fucking buried in this novel. Five hours of my life that I will never get back!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Lady Almira and the Real Downton Abbey

A deeper look into one of the mistresses who "ran" Highclere Castle at the turn of the century and through World War I. Instantly recognizable as the setting of Downton Abbey one of the descendants and current occupants recounts some of the lost history of the estate. Lady Almira married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and with it came the beautiful estate of Highclere. Lady Almira's family was a bit of a scandal BUT she was an heiress so her marrying into the family was a godsend for the estate. She knew how to throw lavish parties and always looked for a challenge. She turned the castle into a hospital during the war and considered it one of the highlights of her life. Her husband was infamous himself, he was the man who financed the King Tut excavation and discovery. A fascinating history that focuses more on the family than the house. There are a lot of parallels from the show to the real story which is cool. There are also TONS of photos which is nice. A must read for fans of Downton Abbey and Edwardian England!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What Alice Forgot

People have been telling me for ages to read this book and I'm so mad that I waited so long to! It was wonderful! I couldn't put it down. The premise was unique and really make readers think about the last decade of their lives. Alice Love suffers a severe concussion at the gym and wakes up concerned for her baby. She's 29 and pregnant with her first baby. She's madly in love with her husband. Imagine her shock when she finds out she's actually almost 40, she has three kids AND she and Nick are in the middle of a really nasty divorce. What happened in the past decade? She discovers that she's turned into a person who she's not sure she likes or recognizes anymore. The amnesia can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how she handles it. Clever, witty, heartfelt, and wonderful. Besides Alice's rediscovery if her missing years, we also get two smaller story-lines that focus on Elizabeth (Alice's infertile sister) and Frannie (their adopted grandmother who may finally be finding a love of her own in the nursing homes). A must read!

Distant Shores

This is one of those books that I would probably appreciate a lot more in ten years. It's the story of a marriage slowly falling apart at the seams and a woman who finds herself "passionless" and tired of waiting around for "her turn." Her husband was a promising NFL quarterback who blew out his knee and became addicted to pain-pills. Over the years he's worked his way up being a sports newscaster  for different tv stations around the country. As a result she and her two kids have had to move houses time and again. Once they move into a beach cottage by Portland, Oregon he promises her they are done moving. And she's glad. She loves the view, the house. Their two daughters are in college on the east coast. Everything is going fine. Until her husband finally gets a big break and a huge new job in New York. Without consulting her. He's just so used to Birdie doing what he wants, that he never questions what SHE wants. Can their marriage weather this storm? Can she keep her dream home and rediscover her passions? Perfectly ok story. Ups and downs of a relationship. I think Kristin Hannah's newer stuff is a little more exciting.

Friday, March 27, 2020

142 Ostriches

Running an ostrich ranch in the unforgiving California desert is not how Tallulah Jones wants to spend the rest of her life. She's helped her grandmother run the ranch since she was thirteen years old, but she's finally ready to forge her own path and get out of the Mohave Desert. When her grandmother unexpectedly dies and leaves her the ranch she decides that she's going to sell the ranch even though it's the last thing her grandmother would have wanted. Unfortunately for Tallulah, that's when the ostriches mysteriously stop laying eggs and some unexpected relatives come to town. She must navigate not only her own emotions but those of her fragile and complicated family (birds and all). Brilliantly narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen, who deftly conveys the emotions of all the family members with ease and authority. Fraught with family struggles, addiction, duplicity, and deceit; this courageous coming of age story set in a unique and wonderful backdrop is one that readers won't soon forget.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Secret Garden

Freaking loved this!! I had grown up watching the Hallmark version of this on repeat with my best friend and I must say... it followed the book pretty faithfully (minus the ending where the three kids meet up 10 years later). This is the perfect book to read in the spring and it made me really want to get outside and start working on my garden. There were a couple dated references (Indians being referred to as black and sub-human) that weren't cool but... it was a product of its time. For those unfamiliar with the premises, it basically follows a ten year old girl who was raised in India who is orphaned when cholera kills both her British parents. She is sent to live with a distant uncle in England who she has never met. She is a spoiled girl, used to getting her way, but she befriends a local boy who is so good humored and into nature that she starts to turn into a good little girl. Before long there is another spoiled boy who comes into the mix. Will he change his ways too? Wonderful, great for kids and adults alike. It definitely holds up!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Girls on the Verge

Camille is 17 and pregnant.  She's supposed to be going to a prestigious theater camp but instead she finds herself jumping through hoops trying to get an abortion. It's 2014 and Texas doesn't make it easy for a woman to get a legal abortion. Camille has met dead ends at every turn and when she tells her best friend Bea what she's going to do her best friend is a dead end too. Like her parents, she's religious and doesn't understand why she won't keep the baby. In desperation she turns to Annabelle an older actor who Camille has idolized for years. Together they decide that they will have to journey down to the Mexican border and try to get the pills that way. This is like Juno on a road trip. Full of humor, levity, seriousness, and friends coming together. A wonderful novel that explores what women are forced to do when all routes to a safe abortion are closed. Perfect for teens and adults. Very powerful without being uber preachy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

All the Things We Do in the Dark

The book opens with a trigger warning so you know exactly what you're getting into before you dive into the story. This young adult book covers: trauma, rape, murder, and PTSD to name a few. It's not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth reading if you can handle all that.

Ava has a past, something happened to her when she was a kid and she has the facial scar to prove it. The bad thing is that it isn't much of a secret. Everyone knows. But now she has a new secret. She found a body. An honest to goodness dead body. While the obvious response would be to call 911, she can't bear to. At least not yet. You would think finding a body would take priority, but Ava has a lot else going on in her life. Her friend is acting up, she's crushing on a girl, and her mother is being more protective than usual. What could possibly go wrong? Dark but worth the read!

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Prom

Admittedly I have never seen the musical or listened to the soundtrack so I went into this blind. I was NOT disappointed! Emma is the only out teenager at her high school. It's tough being the only openly gay kid in a small Indiana town. She isn't exactly the most accepted kid, even her parents kicked her out. Her girlfriend, the super popular class president, Alyssa, is still in the closet, as her mother is the head of the PTA. All they want to do is go to prom together and dance, but that's about to be a lot harder now that Alyssa's mother has started meddling. As a conservative Christian she is aghast when she finds out Emma plans on bringing a female date (can you imagine how much more upset she would be if she knew that date was her own daughter!), she swiftly changes the rules so that only boy/girl dates are allowed. Once the news picks up on it, two Broadway stars lend themselves to Emma's cause. They want to fight for justice (and a little free publicity too). Soon the whole situation has spun out of control. All Emma and Alyssa wanted to do was dance together. Wonderfully written, this is a must read for teenagers. It shows just how harmful discrimination is and begs readers to be more open minded and empathetic. Prom is for everyone! I definitely want to see the musical now!

Sunday, March 22, 2020


2020 has been a year of short story collections for me and I am not mad about it! This stellar collection didn't have one dud in it! Set in Appalachia, the stories touch on a myriad of subjects; roadkill, Dollyworld, high school reunions, corpses, forest fires, extra-marital affairs, and honey-bees to name a few. Each story is unique and packs a punch. This is a collection I will definitely return to. It's rough, uncouth, witty, and will stick in reader's minds like gum on a shoe.

The Other Bennet Sister

I'm glad to see Mary Bennet finally get her due! And not any meager scraps; this impressive tome is nearly 500 pages! Broken into 4 parts, the first part to me was the most dull as it dealt with the story that Janeites already know so well; Pride and Prejudice. It tells the story through Mary's eyes and we see how willing she is to take on Mr. Collins, befriend Charlotte Lucas and impress her parents. Once we get past that, we're in all new territory. As the only unmarried daughter, once her father dies she has no permanent address. She must look to her sisters for charity. It's a low point in Mary's life. She is penniless, unmarried, and the ugliest and dullest of her sisters. But finally, her situation changes, and she meets not just one man, but two! They both find her witty, they love her booksmarts, and they don't compare her to her sisters! A little wordy and slow, but very engaging. A must for any Janeite!!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Jane's Fame

Not for the faint of heart, this literary chronicle of Jane's ascent into the world verges on the point of being a heavy read. From Jane's earliest writing, the publication of four of her novels in her lifetime, to all of her books being out of print, to her popularity resurgence with the release of her biography, up to the twentieth century; this book covers her meteoric rise as one of the greatest female writers ever born. I'm not a true Janite, just a casual admirer so I didn't know a lot of what was in this book. I do know that she wasn't very popular in her lifetime (her books were all published anonymously) but I didn't know all the circumstances surrounding that. Claire does a good job bringing readers along through the decades as the cult of the "Divine Jane" grew and spread across the globe. Not a light read, but very enlightening!

Undercover Bromance

I didn't enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the first in the series, but I did like that it was the same group of people. This one focused on Braden Mack the founder of the bromance book club (and the only single guy in it) and Liv, Thea's younger sister. Liv is fired from her prestigious sous chef job after catching her boss sexually harass one of her co-workers. She's determined to bring him down and expose him to the world, to her chagrin though, that means she'll need a little help (her former boss has blackballed her from the entire restaurant industry) from her arch nemesis Braden. Will all the romance books that he's read come in handy? Or is Liv beyond him and any other guy? Humorous, pretty unbelievable, but a fun, fluffy read!

Salvation Station

A crime thriller about a woman adept at changing identities and latching onto widowed priests. She seduces them and over months starts draining church funds. The cops are onto her though when the bodies of her husband and two children are found buried in the backyard of her old house. She may have started fresh in a new city, but they're looking for her. A determined police officer is determined to hunt down this sadistic woman before she strikes again. Told in alternating perspectives, one through Captain Linda's investigative journey and another following the televangelist who has suddenly fallen for a new woman. It's not much a of a "mystery" as readers know exactly the kind of woman the televangelist has found himself with. The only question is, will Captain Linda find this woman before she kills again? How high will the body count be this time?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Poet X

Brilliantly narrated by the author. This novel in verse tells the story of a fifteen yer old girl trying to navigate New York City, her poetry, religion, her parents, her twin brother, and her feelings toward men. As a curvaceous Afro-Latona, Xiomara is used to the catcalls and ugly things people say to her; but she channels that energy into her notebook. When a new teacher debuts a slam poetry club she is compelled to it, but will anyone relate to her words, will she have the strength to speak them out loud when she can't even stand up to her mother? Heartbreaking, riveting, EMPOWERING; this audiobook was masterful. A brilliant coming of age story!!

A Good Neighborhood

Beautifully written but heartbreaking. I think I should have read this when the world wasn't falling apart. The story of two neighborhood teenagers who fall in love and the motives of their parents and their neighborhood that ruin and manipulate the situation. Set in South Carolina, this tale of romance, revenge, ecology and music sets the stage for a tragedy. Slow to unfold, but suspense building as readers wait to see what it's actually building up to. Heartbreaking, powerful, and sad. A book you won't be able to forget!

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Jane Austen Diet

I'm not gonna lie - this book was witty as shit. Did I think a lot of it was a stretch? Yes. However, there are still a lot of takeaways you can get from this book. Eat with friends, go on walks, appreciate nature, wait to eat in the morning, slice your bread thin, sugar in moderation, etc. Between Jane Austen's novels and personal life; the author tied together healthy lifestyle habits that are still relevant today. Amusing and intriguing, but it won't exactly spur you to go out and lose 30 pounds the Jane Austen way.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The War That Saved My Life

Simply WONDERFUL! The audiobook is sublime and done by a woman with a wonderful English accent who can switch between kids and adult voices seamlessly; it's impressive. This Newbery Award winning middle grade book tells the story of two young kids who are sent to live in the English countryside during the Bombing Blitz of England in WWII. Technically they weren't sent, but they decided to run away. It would be an adventure, why not join the other children leaving? Ada has a twisted foot (club foot) and her mother is so ashamed and disgusted of her that she has never been allowed to leave the apartment or attend school unlike her younger brother. Suddenly, the English countryside is at her disposal. Susan the woman who was forced to take them in, finds herself thawing to the children. They've had a rough life and so has she. Can they survive this war together? A wonderful, compassionate, moving book!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

Interesting take at Jane Austen's love life told in comic format. Personally, I loved that there was no color and really enjoyed the inking and the story line. Because so many of Jane Austen's letters were burned after her death we'll never know the full story of her first and probably only true love, but Manuela Santoni did a wonderful job re-imagining what that romance may have looked at. Fun graphic novel that Austenites will love!

The Children of Men

I saw the movie, but it had been YEARS so I had completely forgotten how it ended. So I went into this book pretty ignorant. Told in a mixture of diary entries and third person, The Children of Men, tells the story of a world where no more babies are born. It's been 25 yearss since the last child was born. Schools are closed, playgrounds dismantled, and suicide encouraged as an option for the elderly who know that there is no more "family" to care for them. It's pretty bleak, but people are trying to make due. Theo Faron, a divorced history professor has just muddled along for years, simply existing. That all changes when one day a woman approaches him wanting to use his contacts to the Warden of England. Suddenly, he starts to realize how messed up things are around him, his eyes become open and he wonders if they do have what it takes to turn around the hopelessness. Bleak, depressing, dry at times, but a unique concept that will stick with readers. I definitely want to re-watch the movie now!

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Splendid and the Vile

I love good WWII historical nonfiction and Erik Larson did a WONDERFUL job piecing together a story not just of Churchill, but his family, the people he worked with, and the bombing of Britain. I know there are a ton of books on Churchill, but I've never read them. I've also never really taken the time to learn much about the Bombing of Britain. This book combined so much I didn't know into a wonderful narrative filled with direct quotations, whether it be from diaries or speeches. Even though I clearly know the outcome of the war and know that the Nazi's did not end up invading; it was still fascinating to read about Churchill and how he came into office the day the Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. The way he led Britain was inspiring and Erik Larson does a wonderful job of writing about how passionate, persuasive (and peculiar) he was. I definitely want to go read more now! Impeccably researched, never dry, and always engaging; this is how non-fiction should be written!


I don't read a lot of "alien" books, but I was pretty impressed with how unique a concept this book was. Earth has been settled for a century, with aliens as the governors of the planet. It's been a century of peace but some humans don't like that they aren't "free," and keep trying to incite violence and upheaval. Donovan is an exo soldier, which means that at 6 years old he was given alien cells that help him live longer, protect himself, and better serve the aliens. He's able to armor himself just like the aliens and it definitely comes in handy when he's kidnapped by human terrorists. Donovan isn't sure what they are fighting for. Isn't earth better with the alien overlords? Unique and inventive; this is storytelling at its finest. Perfect for fans of young adult fantasy.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


Knocked this out in about two hours. This is such an important book for middle school kids to read. It addresses the fears and challenges of being labeled "other" and is heartfelt and real. Rachel is a seventh grader who likes to play soccer with her friends, dress up, watch girly movies, and have a good time. She's a pretty average kid, that is except for her special doctor appointments twice a year. She has scoliosis and they have to measure her spine and keep an eye on her. No big deal. But one visit the summer before school starts, it becomes a very big deal. Her back is getting worse and the doctor says she has to wear a brace. For 23 hours a day. How will she be able to stay on the soccer team? What clothes can she wear? How will she ever talk to her crush or go to school? She gets made fun of, struggles with soccer, and doesn't feel like her mom is listening to her. Clearly it's not smooth sailing but with the help of her pregnant mother, her dad, and her friends she learns how to adjust and how to make the best of an unfortunate situation. All kids should have to read this and learn a thing or two about empathy. Great story!

Out of the Embers

Charming, romantic, and light; Out of the Embers is the first in a new inspirational series, Mesquite Springs. Evelyn and six year old Polly are in town getting supplies when the orphanage they both live in burns down killing everyone inside. It's horrific and upsetting. Since her parents murder ten years ago, Evelyn is sure that someone is out to find her and finish the job. What will happen when they discover that she wasn't really in the orphanage when it burnt down? She takes Polly with her and convinces her that they need to pretend to be sisters and go far away. They ride for days and stumble upon a gorgeous little town by the name of Mesquite Springs. When Wyatt, a young horse rancher offers them shelter; they soon find out that they don't want their temporary stay to end. Evelyn and Polly adore Wyatt's mom and sister and they quickly become family to them. It doesn't help that Polly wants Wyatt as a daddy, and Evelyn gets butterflies when she talks to him. But what will happen if their trouble catches up to them? Are they really safe in Mesquite Springs? A quick breezy read that will have readers charmed. The suspense is light, the romance is slow burn, and the characters all are pretty likable (and have great luck!). Perfect for anyone looking for a nice inspirational read!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Pleased to Meet Me

I adored this book. I by no means am a science guru, however I found this book to be delightfully informative, educational, and not too bogged down with details. This is a quick tour of the human body's inner workings for the average laymen. From what are the only two fears humans are born with to why old people use so much perfume to why certain people are attracted to each other to addiction. So many aspects of our personalities and bodies directly correlate to our genes, our parents, our bacteria, and our environment. Straight up fascinating stuff. The author may lose some readers with his section on belief (politics man - but the science is SO COOL) and his section on souls, but hey, the more you know. Personally I loved it. I liked learning about the factors that made me tick. I would never have known! It was straightforward, funny, filled with lots of Star Trek and pop culture references. This book really reminded me of Mary Roach's books (Stiff, Gulp, Spook, etc.) and fans of her would definitely enjoy this book as well.


Ahern, Cecilia. Postscript. 9 CDs. unabridged. 10hrs. 2020. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781549102080. $30.00. 

PS, I Love You's long awaited sequel by bestselling author, Cecilia Ahern, will not disappoint readers who were first charmed by Jerry's letters of love from beyond the grave nearly two decades ago. Set seven years after the death of her husband, Jerry; Holly has made a pretty good effort at "moving on." When her sister bullies her into recounting  her "PS, I Love You" letters on a podcast, Holly is floored at the response. Her story has really resonated with people. Terminally ill strangers are reaching out, wanting her help as they navigate how to leave behind meaningful messages to their loved ones. Holly swore she left that life of illness and death behind, but she begins to see the larger picture and the impact that she could help these people leave behind. Beautifully narrated by Amy Huberman who deftly navigates between Holly's humorous, heartfelt, and introspective moods. Cecilia Ahern shines beauty, dignity, and humility onto a wonderful new cast of characters. A wonderful followup that will have readers once again crying, but loving every minute of it.  - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN