Sunday, November 17, 2019

Book Reviews - Just Like A Circus and Stuff

So, these reviews are much more than what the title indicates, but y'all, when there's a chance to use a Britney lyric, you always have to take it.

Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Psychological Injuries by Guy Winch was an interesting reflective piece. The book focuses on giving techniques for addressing common emotional concerns. To do that, the author first names that these emotions are going to happen and normalizes that experience. With that, he believes we should build techniques to address these similar to those we have for basic first aid needs. The book is divided into seven chapters/emotions - rejection, loneliness, loss and trauma, guilt, rumination, failure, and low self-esteem. Each section is then a deep dive into what this emotion is and how it shows up. He then offers exercises to self-assess and address the concern. These are simple and easy to execute which is ideal for someone experiencing one of these emotions. I read this book not going through any of this stuff at present (but will undoubtedly down the road), and I could definitely see this as a resource I would consult when I needed some help navigating. I really appreciated the perspective and reflective opportunities offered up in this one.

Read this book if - You want something to help you through "stuff" and/or want to build your emotional coping toolkit.

All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire was just like WHOA - in a good way. I knew nothing about this book prior to reading other than a friend reached out to tell me I had to check it out and that it had a wild ending. So, I dove right in! What's great about this is that you don't know what genre you're reading, and that's what makes the deception so good! When you begin reading it has YA romance vibes, and those vibes do continue throughout, but really you've got one heckuva twisted thriller on your hands. The story focuses on Elliot and Catherine who find a connection as kids, but then Elliot has to leave town. He returns years later, and they have lots of unresolved aspects of their relationship. In addition to navigating what they are, Elliot is the star of the football team while Catherine is busy helping her mom with a bed and breakfast - and it needs a lot of help, in addition to having quite an array of guests. This book is about Elliot and Catherine, but more than that, there are secrets bubbling below the surface. You know something isn't right, and you wonder how this connects to the main characters. That's what makes this such a pageturner y'all! Again, this was one of those twists you just don't see coming on so many levels. If you need an unexpected thriller in your life, this is absolutely going to be your jam.

Read this book if - You want a book with the kind of twists that will make your jaw literally drop. You want a book overflowing with all the thrills and secrets.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave was a heavy read. I have to offer that up first because that influences how I felt about it. The book takes place during World War II in London. The story centers on Mary who wants to help with the war efforts. She's a little shocked that role is being a teacher, but she goes into the role at full force. With this, she connects with Tom, another administrator. Then, there's Tom's best friend Alastair who enlists in the war. Mary, Tom and Alastair find their way into a love triangle, and the story goes from there. What I liked about this was that it covered dimensions of the war that aren't often focused on. Much of Mary's teaching is for students who are disregarded due to their identities and not given the same type of safety or quality of care. This is something that isn't often named, and I appreciated this new dimension. In general, the emotions covered and angles were just different. That said, this was also a sad book. I won't spoil what went down, but this is one that weighed on me as I read. That's bound to happen given the topic, but worth noting this one has a mood about it.

Read this book if - You want historical fiction that will get up in your feels. You want a story built around a familiar happening with new dimensions.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is a book that's been on my to read list forever. I was excited when I showed up on NetGalley, so that I could finally check it out. The circus is something that always mesmerizes me, and I was thrilled to check out this take on it. Micah's dying grandpa tells him about an amazing circus he attended as a kid. Now he wants Micah to have this experience to reconnect with the Man Who Bends Light. Micah sets out on a quest not knowing how he's ever going to find the circus and perhaps a cure for his grandpa with this man. The story is wonderfully told, and it tapped right into my imagination as I visualized the circus in my head! This is a story built on believing in magic and how that is something that can leave us and/or stay with us. I really liked how it was a quest grounded in commentary of how we choose to see the world.

Read this book if - You want a book that's full of magic. You want something that makes you think about believing.

Until next time!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Book Reviews - Technology, Truth and a Track Star

Why, hello there. I almost, but definitely didn't read on a theme this time. There were two books about technology, one about a track star, and then a rom-com. That said, the two advanced copies I read were fan-freaking-tastic. They are definitely worth checking on. Read on, people I know (and people I don't). . . 

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron was an intriguing memoir. I haven't read many memoirs where the author wasn't "famous," so this was definitely a different foray into the genre. The book starts with the author detailing how he was unknowingly catfishing people. His picture was being used by multiple people, and he had no idea until those who had thought they were communicating with him learned they weren't. This is quite the intense story, but the author's story is so much more. Much of his memoir is focused on his coming out process. After being married to a woman for twenty years and having two daughters, the author realizes he can no longer live the lie he has been. He has always been a gay men, and while he's tried to hide this and ignore these feelings, he can no longer. From here, the book is some recalling of how he's lived this secret, but also where he goes from the revelations of his truth. This one is a deep dive into the emotions of one man's journey. He tells this with such raw honesty, and he gives you an in-depth look into each twist and turn of his journey to (re)discover himself. 

Read this book if - You want a memoir where a guy goes into all the feels. You want a memoir that is grounded in all the honesty (and not about a celebrity).

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters is the rom-com of a book that I just devoured! Y'all, I did not realize how much I needed an absolutely wonderful love story in my life. This review may just be me gushing, but that's because it's just a book that made me smile. Evie is an assistant looking for a promotion. She is assigned to work with Ezra, a well-respected screenwriter, who has signed on to write a romantic comedy. Problem is, he has a case of writer's block. Ezra looks to Evie for inspiration. She agrees to a deal with him where she will recreate meet-cutes from movies in hopes of finding love. Evie needs Ezra to come through on this script for her promotion, so while she thinks this is kind of a ridiculous endeavor, she goes for it. I'll say this with this premise I was sure I figured out how this one was going to end, and I'd read along as a formality. However, I was so wrong. So while this had all the best elements of a rom-com, the plot development was unexpected in a very good way. Evie was a character I loved as a rom-com heroine, and I flew through this one because I was enjoying the twists and turns of Evie's meet-cute quest, and I needed to know where this one was going to go. Thanks to Putnam Books/Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this December read that y'all are just going to love.

Read this book if - You love a good rom-com. You have spent your days/nights watching Hallmark movies.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a book I found my way to via The Great American Read. Ghost loves running - for both the joy and the escape. He's been through a lot with his mom, and he's just trying to navigate life on many levels. Along the way, Ghost finds his way to a track team. The coach is impressed by his talent, and he wants to do what he can to support him. What I appreciated most about this one was that Ghost's struggles were so honestly told. There was so much want to fit in, and that influenced many of his choices. I can see the appeal of this book for kids as Ghost is a relatable character. He's flawed, but he also shows resilience and perseverance.

Read this book if - You want a middle grade book focused on fitting in and standing out told in an honest, authentic way.

Followers by Megan Angelo is a fascinating exploration of technology - both what is and what could be. In the present (2055), the government runs the internet. Way back in 2015, the internet was very similar to now because, well, it is now! The present focuses on Marlow trying to find out the truth about her life. This happens after a bombshell secret is revealed, so she must trek back through the past to get answers. In 2015, the story focuses on Orla and Floss. Floss is a social media darling. Orla dreams of being a famous writer, but to get there, she writes articles to cover celebrities. Floss and Orla form an unlikely friendship, but there are also a lot of dynamics and layers to their friendship. The story goes between the past and present focusing on the social media that was and the social media that is. Throughout, it starts to build a connection between the characters in each time, and you start to wonder how this might all come together. This was the realest of real commentaries on social media. While you could say this is dystopian, you could also say this is legit where we are right now, and the future it paints isn't so far from where we could go. This one captivated me as the author did a fantastic job at using technology as well as characters to tell her story. My only critique is that I wanted to know more! I was so drawn into the world she built that I craved more detail. I had all the questions. Really that critique speaks to the realness of the story that was told! Also, this is an wonderful commentary on the role social media has come to play in our lives, and it's a good piece to turn a mirror on how its used and the dystopia that could very, very well be our reality. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2020 release!

Read this book if - You want a look at social media in both an honest and dystopian way. You like stories where there are intersections you have to figure out.

Until the next round!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Halloween with the BSC!

In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I decided to take the time to check out some "scary" Babysitter's Club stories. I read Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, the second in the original series, as well as the first four mysteries in The Babysitter's Club Mystery spin-off series. Y'all, do I have thoughts for you!

First of all, I realize how young these sitters are! Yes, I was babysitting at this age, but y'all, this is some responsibility they're taking on! Second, I've been (re)watching Rescue 911 lately as its running in syndication! It was one of my favorite shows as a kid, but watching back, I realize how intense this show was. There are so many things that I developed (ir)rational fears of as a result of watching. In reading this set of BSC books, I also realize that some of my reading choices were also a source of these anxious feels.

I started with Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, and y'all, this is a lot for the second book in the series. The title connects to a a jewel thief known as the Phantom Caller because he calls houses and robs them when no one answers. First off, this would never work today, but back when landlines were totally a thing, this was a serious concern. So, as Claudia starts babysitting, she starts getting creepy phone calls. Naturally, her conclusion is that it's the Phantom Caller. Then, instead of involving adults, the BSC come up with ideas how how they'll have a secret code if they need help and lure the caller, and COME ON! So, things eventually resolve when it's discovered that first Alan Gray (always such a nuisance!) was tracking Kristy to ask her to the school dance, then Trevor (the guy Claudia was crushing on) had been getting information from Alan on where Claudia was, so he could call and ask her to the dance. Problem was he kept getting nervous hence all the awkward calls. So, they all went to the dance. Oh, and in case you were worried, the Phantom Caller was finally apprehended.

Next up, it was Stacey and the Missing Ring. First, Stacey is begging her mom for a birthstone ring for her birthday. Her mom refuses. Then, Stacey gets a gig babysitting for a new family. After she gets home, the mom lets her know that she's missing a ring, and she suspects Stacey has stolen it. After lots of dramatics, Stacey finds out the woman's cat had taken and hidden the ring. UM, WHAT?!?! Also, the woman is totally rude and threatens to tell everyone how awful the BSC is - Who would do that to teenagers? Rude.

And then there was Beware, Dawn! In this one, Dawn starts getting mysterious threatening notes from a Mr. X. The other babysitters start to get these notes, too. Although they don't share this with one another because kids are hosting a Sitter of the Month contest. Obvs, in a club full of babysitters, everyone wants to win. Eventually, they realize that a kid who Dawn had told on for bullying some other kids is behind it all. Again, this is a super creepy situation, and there are no adults engaged to address! Oh, and again, the Sitter of the Month contest ends in a seven way tie because OF COURSE IT DOES.

Next was Mallory and the Ghost Cat. This was the least scary of the mysteries by a mile. Basically, Mallory is babysitting, and she hears a cat meowing. The family doesn't have a cat. They find some stuff in the attic (because of course they do) to make them wonder if it is a ghost cat! Eventually, they find the actual cat and reconnect him with his owner, while still wondering if they're ghosts given resemblance to some attic stuff. Honestly, the most intense plot in this one is that Mallory's Uncle Joe comes to stay with the family. He has some Alzheimer's, so it's the family navigating this, and it's a lot of feels. This one was just a lot of things, none of which were really a mystery?

Finally, there was Kristy and the Missing Child. Y'all WHAT WAS THIS?!?!? A kid on Kristy's Krushers baseball team goes missing. The first suspect is his dad. His parents are divorced, and the mom had turned down his request to take Jake to Europe, so they wonder if he just up and took his kid. From there, everyone focuses on finding Jake. At one point, Kristy organizes a search party. She is allowed to make an announcement on her school's PA system, and she organizes a bunch of the kids the club sits to look for Jake. Again, WHERE ARE THE ADULTS?!? Isn't this a project for adults to coordinate, and why are kids searching for a kid who may have been abducted without their parents?!?! Eventually, they find the kid. He's fallen into a hole at a construction site. Kristy saves the day! This one was definitely something. . . 

I'm glad I finally stepped back into the Babysitter's Club. I've been meaning to for ages, and it was fun to use the holiday for this reason! 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Book Reviews - A MIxed Bag of Reads

As you probably don't remember from my last post, I read four really heavy reads. I made the (unplanned) mistake of starting this round with another heavy read. After that, I intentionally chose a mixed bag of reads to even things out.

The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope is a thriller that is full of some feels. Megan's son, Daniel, is kidnapped by her abusive ex-husband. She always keeps hope alive, but she also goes through the process of mourning the loss. Six years pass, and Megan's life goes on, including a marriage to one of the detective's who worked on her son's case and the birth of a daughter. Then, she gets the call she always hoped for - Her son is alive. Daniel comes back to her new home, but it is far from an easy transition. Daniel is not the same kind, sweet boy that Megan knew and loved. Megan and her family do what they can to make Daniel feel at home, but it's challenging. Throughout the story looks back at how Megan navigated the disappearance of her son, as well as how she is coping in the present with this new version of Daniel. And then, y'all, here was a twist that I did not see coming at all, and that is what made it so very great. Again, this is heavy given the unhealthy relationship that begins the story, as well as how the return goes, and the twist plays a role in that feeling, too, but this is a powerful story of a family working to rebuild and define an unexpected now normal. Thanks to NetGalley for the access to this thriller.

Read this book if - You want a thriller that deals with building a new normal and a super unexpected twist.

We Are Never Ever Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby was just the best of honest humor. It's rare that a book makes me legit laugh out loud, and this was absolutely that type of read. From the first essay, I was drawn into the stories the author was telling. She has a way of writing that makes you feel like she's telling these to you as a friend over coffee/wine/beer/etc. And y'all, again, they're just so darn hilarious. But then, there are moments where the essays take this emotional turn as she navigates grief, complicated relationships, and finding love. I loved the layers of this collection and how she writes in such an authentic way. This was such a unique voice, and it was something I needed in my reading life.

Read this book if - You need a memoir with humor. You want something that'll make you legit LOL while also feel some highly emotional feels.

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton is the first in the Kinsey Milhouse series. This series began the year I was born (which is why I chose to read this one as part of a reading challenge I'm only kind of okay at completing), and this is my first time checking it out. I love a thriller with a female lead, so this was definitely my kind of book. This begins with Kinsey, a former police officer turned PI, being brought out to investigate a woman who insists she was wrongly convicted of killing her husband. She gets to work, and the story goes from there. What I liked about this was the "throwback" vibes of how cases were solved in the eighties. It was something different to look back at how cases were solved back when. There is obviously all the technology today, and it was a nice break to look at solving crime without all of that. I can only imagine how this character develops over the course of the series, and I was intrigued enough to want to dabble in the series again. I'm glad I finally stepped into this world, and I got to ride along to see how Kinsey Milhouse does her work!

Read this book if - You're looking to start the Kinsey Milhouse series and are late to the game like me!

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert was a delight of a love story. What I loved most is this was so true to life. Rather than avoiding the complicated emotions and baggage that we can bring into relationships, this story made them a central component. After a near death experience, Chloe decides she wants to get more out of life. She comes up with a list of tasks that will help her to do this, and she gets to work. Along the way, she brings Red Morgan, her apartment complex's handyman in to help her with her goals. With this, Chloe feels a certain kind of way about Red, and he feels a certain kind of way about her. In addition, they bring the negative impact of previous relationships and how they feel about themselves into the mix. I again so appreciated this was a story that had a dimension of realness to it. Rather than knowing this was story where I could figure out the ending, and it was just how characters took on faux obstacles, this had authenticity. Chloe's story was such an endearing one, and I found myself cheering for her as she worked to redefine herself and learn she was worthy of love and all the adventures in life. I owe a thanks to NetGalley for the look at this December release. 

Read this book if - You want characters who you can relate to as they navigate actual challenge and relationships.

Until next time!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Book Reviews - Heavy Reads

Whoa, y'all. I usually try to temper my reading, so I don't take on too much emotion. Well, with this, I took on so, so much. They were worth the feels, but goodness, these were a lot, especially given three of the four were real life stuff via memoirs!

Blood: A Memoir by Allison Moorer is a really, really emotional real - like off the charts y'all. As a teenager, Allison's mother is shot and killed by her father, and he then kills himself. Allison hears the gunshots, and she sees the aftermath. The memoir is her reflecting on what led her family to that point and where she goes from that day. The way the story is told is a bit choppy, but that works well because you see how the memory of her family comes back to her in pieces. Throughout she revisits what she remembers of her parents, and all that happened before that terrible day. This is a powerful read as she delves deep into places of her memory that are definitely painful, but also they are what she has left of her parents. This memoir is full of so much raw emotion. She's revisiting her childhood as an adult, and that takes many different directions. She's also able to tap into the parts that brought her joy, while still sharing what made it tough. Throughout, there is also a thread of resilience as you see all she has overcome. This is a beautifully written memoir that is also full of incredible tragedy. Thanks to Hachette Books for the advanced copy of this soon to be released read.

Read this book if - You want to read a memoir that explores the pain of a childhood as an adult, as well as finding resilience in tragedy.

Normal People by Sally Rooney was a read that was definitely different for me. I like books that use keep characters at the center of their plot. This is really characters above all else, and there wasn't really a moving plot I could latch onto because there was so much focus on the characters. The primary characters are Connell and Maryanne. As high schoolers, they form a relationship outside of school, but don't acknowledge that relationship during the school day. The book then traces their relationship through the years. With each interaction, where they each are is different, and they have to assess what that means for the other person and how they now connect - or don't. To me, this is a book that makes you ponder the question of if two people belong together. I have an answer for these people, but I don't want to reveal it here as it would ruin the plot. This is my book club's selection for the month, so I'm interested to hear how other people felt about the relationship. Overall though, this one just wasn't totally for me as I like to have more substance to the plot. 

Read this book if - You want a book that is entirely character driven. You like something that makes you consider questions and scenarios.

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson was a book I went into knowing very little. I saw The Rock had written the foreword, and it wasn't until I started reading that I realized, "Oh, that would make sense because Rocky is his dad." Anyway, that's about me, not the book. This is the story of Rocky's career in professional wrestling. He started young, then worked n a variety of regional promotions through the years. Throughout, he paints a vivid picture of what the life of a wrestler was like back then, and it wasn't always easy. It was lots of grinding to get to the top, and that required a lot of travel which meant that he wasn't home a lot. He also speaks to what it was like to be one of the first black wrestlers. This impacted how he was treated, as well as how he was pushed in different promotions. Given all the bells and whistles that come with wrestling these days, I find it interesting to read about what it was like "back when," and it was especially interesting given Rocky's perspective. Throughout he paints a honest picture of his story. Sometimes that means he brings to light where he struggled, and that makes his story all the more real. I literally only read this because it was recommended to me by the publisher (thanks ECW Press), so it was a surprise to read such a well-told and interesting story about a wrestling legend. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release.

Read this book if - You want a historical look at pro wrestling. 

Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper is an incredibly intimate exploration of one women's complete transformation. Megan grew up in a church that is known for extreme hate under the guise of religion. Growing up in Topeka, I can remember Megan's former church's pickets at my church, at the mall, and at high school graduations. As a child, it was such a confusing experience, and as an adult, I appreciated the window she gave into the why (and not to justify, but to give insight into what they believed they were doing) of their behaviors as she goes through her own childhood. She does a masterful job that is at times hard to read given all the terrible and disgusting actions of the church. She also explores and acknowledges when she was on board for what the church was preaching, and then she she also shares how she started to question what she had been brought up in. Throughout, this is an emotional read, and there were times I found myself in tears as It read. It is emotional to see how many people the church has hurt in the name of their faith, to read about Megan's connections to her families and how these relationships change, to see the strength she found in leaving, and to learn of the unexpected connections she found when she needed them most. This was truly Megan's heart in a book. Throughout she has an incredible honesty, and she gives such detail to her story. I was so blown away by this memoir, and it's one that will definitely stay with me.

Read this book if - You want a memoir that truly shares one woman's journey. You want to look at how hate happens, but also how redemption can happen.

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Reviews - Catching Up on the Future

I took this round of (e)reads to clear out some of my advanced copies that have been on my (virtual) shelf for a minute and/or awhile. Some of these will be out later, and some are already released because #toomanybookstoreadinmylifeprobs. Read on. . .

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp was a book I really liked for the first quarter. Kate meets Scott on a social media detox retreat, and they start a relationship. Things seem to be going well, and Kate and Scott are due to move in together. The day this is due to happen, Scott disappears. Kate is left with an empty apartment where she finds Scott's phone. She's sworn off social media due to her addiction, but she also knows this could have the answers of why she's been seemingly ghosted. So, that sounds like an intriguing premise, right? Well, that's where the focus starts. Then, the book just went all kind of directions, and it just didn't gel with me at all. I found myself doing lots of "Wait, what" and "Really?!? REALLY?!?!" as I read. I found I was then reading not so much because I was captivated, but I just wanted some resolution, and that took a minute given this one was nearly 500 pages. The premise of this one was really intriguing to me, but what actually went down was just so far from what I was hoping to get out of reading. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look in exchange for my (always) honest review.

Read this book if - You want something where literally nothing is at it seems - and then some.

The Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent advertises itself as the story of Cassie whose trying to find out what happened to her neighbors' peacocks. Y'all, this is so, so, SO very much more than that. While this is how Cassie's story starts, it covers a great deal as she is navigating some complicated stuff. What especially resonated with me was the theme of mental health that was masterfully done. I loved the care and honesty that was given to this topic, as Cassie show struggles in others, while also managing some feels of her own. If you're looking for a book that could start a conversation on this topic, this could be it. Cassie is also navigating some tough family dynamics, bullying, and an ill grandparent. Each of these happenings are shown from Cassie's perspective which is powerful. Throughout she is working on her story, so she processes each development in real time, and y'all, again, it's just beautiful. I loved how authentic and real Cassie's story was. This one gave voice to stuff kids are definitely experiencing and can't always make sense of. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at what I thought was going to a lighthearted book, but instead gave me so, so much more. 

Read this book if - You want a middle grade read that honestly explores the emotions around some real life tough stuff. You want a book to give voice to stuff that does happen to kids, but isn't always in books.

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas was a beautiful story told through grief and trying to make sense of the middle school world. Justin's dad dies tragically, and it leaves Justin with so many questions and emotions. He misses his dad, while realizing there is so much he didn't know about him (but wants to), and finds he especially wants to know more about what happened on the last day of his life. Along with him, Justin's brother and mom are also navigating their new normal as a family of three. This is complicated as they are each grieving the loss and trying to figure out how to contribute to their household. Finally, Justin is a middle schooler, and with that, there's all the middle school things going down as he struggles to find his place and his people. He is particularly hesitant to engage in activities that remind him of his dad, and that is hard for others to understand. For a middle grade read, this packed an incredible amount of punch related to emotion. This is set against the Gulf War, and Justin's dad was also a veteran suffering from PTSD, and both of these things drive the plot and associated emotions in different ways. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2020 release. This is one of those books that will stay with you in its feels and characters for sure.

Read this book if - You want a middle grade read with honest and raw emotion. You want a book that masterfully examines grief.

Best Friends Forever by Dawn Goodwin is a book about flawed characters and an extremely flawed friendship. This is one of those books where you just don't like the characters, and it's like reading an especially scandalous Lifetime movie. This the story of Anna and Vicky who have been, well, best friends forever. Anna has been tragically killed, and Vicky shows up at her house to help David, her husband, and two young children. However, David senses something is just not right with Vicky's insertion into their lives. The book goes back in time to show the evolution of Anna and Vicky's friendship, and there are heaping helpings of problematic dynamics and situations in that y'all. In real time, it is David trying to make sense of what happened to his wife, why Vicky has taken the role she has, and how the two might be related. I really like a plot that uses the past and the present to weave a story together, and this was very much that. This is also used to build more complete pictures of the characters, and that does mean lots of secrets and lies are revealed. I would also offer strong content warnings as there are instances of sexual assault, abuse, and very unhealthy relationships. Thanks to NetGalley for access to this read in exchange for my review.

Read this book if - You want something that is overflowing with lies and deceit?

Until next time!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book Reviews - Dystopia on Sesame Street?

Each time I start one of these posts, I think about how I hoped this was going to be the time I read on a theme. And then, AND THEN. . . I don't. At least with this round, I could generate a comical title given the extreme variance? So, here we go with another quartet.

The Importance of Being Ernie and Bert by Bert and Ernie was a book I adored. I could have told you that was going to be the case before reading a page. However, this was also so much more wonderful than I anticipated! The book focuses on the friendship of Bert and Ernie through their individual personalities as it showcases some aspect of life from each of their lenses. I found myself chuckling at so many of these because they are just so very well done. This book perfectly captures the essence of both Bert and Ernie, and as an adult (and lifelong fan) I loved how their characters shone through. Again, this book was perfect. I could say this over and over (and I kind of have), but y'all, this is just one of those reads that is guaranteed to make you smile.

Read this book if - You are a superfan of Bert and Ernie. You just need something to put a smile on your face. 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood was a return to the world of Gilead. This is a book that had me captivated from its first pages to the very end. I could not read fast enough because I was so drawn in, but also I was so drawn in, I didn't want this book to be over. The tone of this one is different than The Handmaid's Tale, but definitely still full of all the dystopia. This book focuses on three women - each in a different situation - that are connected, but it's not immediately revealed how. The plot is then driven by each of these three tales told in pieces each chapter which then starts to show the common threads. These characters are really what pushes the novel forward, and I found myself drawn into each of their stories. I do wish I would've re-read The Handmaid's Tale before returning to this world to really see and feel all the connections, and I would like to read these as a pair someday. The sequel definitely wasn't a need, but it was a literary experience to return back of a place and hear stories I never thought I would.

Read this book if - You want to return to the world of Gilead and see what happened after.

The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott was a book I initially was hesitant to read. It seemed it was going to be a full on ghost story which honestly isn't my jam. However, this was not exactly what this was, and that's a good thing! After her mother's death, Ailsa inherits her childhood home. With her return to this place, the mystery of the disappearance from 27 years ago comes back fast and furious. Throughout, the "ghost" of Ailsa's father is imagining where he went. There was such power as these narratives were shared, and Ailsa still didn't have the answer she craved. In addition to the options given via narratives, suspicious things start happening around the house, and Ailsa wonders if this involves her father. This book did a great job of building suspense. The thrills it brought were connected to both the physical facility, the people who were there, and the past secrets, and that's what made it so compelling! Thanks to Berkley Publishing for the advanced copy (that I am woefully behind in reading), so I could be swept away in this mystery!

Read this book if - You want a thriller built on all the secrets and unsolved mysteries. 

American War by Omar El Akkad focuses on the second civil war. In the year 2074, the former United States of America is divided via a conflict that began with disagreements over the use of fossil fuel and protecting the environment. Much of the story focuses on Sarat, a girl who moves to a relocation camp after her father is killed. Sarat finds connections with rebels of sorts, and she's drawn into their world. She explores how she might help their cause which becomes her own. For me, what intrigued me most about the story was not where the focus was placed. I wanted to learn more about the events and happenings that led to the war. Instead, this focused more on the after, and at times for me, too much so. I am not saying that this was a bad story, in fact this is quite well told. Rather for me the focus just wasn't what intrigued me most. As the story got further and further into the after, I wanted to learn more and more of the before. This was such an intriguing (and not entirely unimaginable) view of the future, and I had so many questions about what got the country to this place. However, the focus was definitely more in sharing pieces of Sarat's story as a centerpiece for exploring the war as a historical happening, and that just left all those questions I had lingering.

Read this book if - You want to see the future at peak dystopian levels.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Book Reviews - Pumpkin Spice Scandal!

One of my goals for October is to read more on themes. These are September reads, so you get what you get here. . .

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up by John Carreyou was another fantastic piece of media on Theranos. While I know this predates other media (the podcast, the movie(s), and the articles), I hadn't had a chance to read . This is a wonderfully done expose on everything that went down. The interesting dimension of this one is the way the author is involved in the story. It adds an additional layer of intrigue. As with all dives into the story of Theranos, you'll read this and just say "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!?" throughout. Seriously, even though this wasn't my first exposure to the story, I was still captivated at every turn. If you're not familiar, this is the story of a company that promised to change the medical industry via blood tests requiring only a finger prick. Wow, that sounds awesome, right? It does, but what isn't so awesome is that it's not true. The book is then an exploration from idea to truth exposure. It's a wild ride, and you'll be captivated by all the angles of this scandal!

Read this book if - You are interested in learning more about the Theranos scandal - either because you don't know a thing, or you have consumed lots about it!

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day by Melanie Barnes is a thoughtful reflection on the pace of life today. The author advocates for literally slowing down to actually take in the world and humans around us. Given the subject matter, I appreciated that this isn't a lengthy read. Rather she focuses on easy to implement strategies to make this happen. Prior to reading this, I hadn't heard the term formally used, so this was also a good exploration of what a slow living lifestyle would look like. Much of that lifestyle means being mindful of the moment you're in, putting down you're phone, and finding contentment in the everyday. This isn't a lengthy read, so if you're looking to get an introductory look at the concept, I think this is a good place to start. Thanks to NetGalley for the early peek at this read!

Read this book if - You want something to introduce you to the topic of slow care. You're feeling overwhelmed by the pace of life these days.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks was a read that oozed autumn in the most wonderful of ways. The only way this could have been more full of fall would have been is if this was pumpkin spice scented. Also, I wouldn't hate if there was a pumpkin spice scented edition released! This is the story of Deja and Joseph who have been co-workers at the pumpkin patch for years. It's now their last night working together, and they decide to go on an epic adventure. As they do, they take in on the pumpkin patch things. Y'all, literally all the things. Best of all, this involves so many delicious fall treats as they traverse through the park that I am still craving. This is just a wonderful story of friendship, and the illustrations are outstanding. It's just an absolutely awesome seasonal graphic novel. Sometimes you just need a read that makes you smile, and this is the book to do just that. If you're going to read this (and you should!), you'll definitely get maximum enjoyment if you do this in September through November to soak up maximum autumn feels. 

Read this book if - You're looking for an autumn read. You want an all-around great story of friendship.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly is a story told in the past and the present. In the past, it is an eclipse in 1999. Laura and Kit are avid followers of the phenomenon. As they are walking around, Laura sees something happening between a man and a woman. It's a fleeting moment, but Laura knows she needs to address the situation. (I would offer a content warning here that much of what follows is related to this alleged assault.) With this, Laura and Kit become connected with the woman in unexpected ways. After sharing the initial incident, the story then moves to 2015. Laura and Kit have changed their names and are in hiding. The story then alternates between back then and now to piece together what happened after the moment in 1999 and what has got them to where they are in the present. For me, I like alternating timelines as a way to build suspense. This definitely kept me reading. Ultimately, this just wasn't my jam. I don't mind when you cannot figure out the truth of a tale, but the way this was told just didn't connect for me. I also just really didn't like the twist in the tale - I found myself saying, "Wait, that's it?" This had an intriguing premise, and I liked the way it was built around eclipses, but from a thriller end, this just wasn't one I dug.

Read this book if - You want a thriller that builds plot around what is the truth - and what isn't?

Until the next round.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Book Reviews - Babysitters, Blue Jays, Enneagrams, and Amelia Earhart!

Again, so much for reading on a them, but also, this was so much great stuff. These four were so different, and I really, really liked each one!

The Babysitters Coven by Kate Mitchell was just such a delightful and witchy read! The story centers on Esme. She's been in a babysitters club (yes, it was inspired by that Babysitters Club) forever, and in some regards, she's outgrown it. Then, Cassandra shows up. She wants to join the club even though she's not an experienced sitter. She instead reveals she's joining because her mother left her a note instructing her to find the sitters, so she has. From there, things go all kinds of ways as Esme and Cassandra find out the real meaning of being a sitter and how this connects them. Y'all, this one was just so fun. First of all, it has some amazing BSC and 90s throwback vibes. There are all the witty references, and I was so here for that. Secondly, I really dug how the witchcraft storyline was woven into the friendships and relationships within the story. As Esme finds out more and more of the witchy truth, she learns what she thought was always true is not so much. If you're looking for a Halloween/fall-themed read, or you want to feel some major nostalgia vibes (in the most enjoyable of ways), this is a book you must get into your life. Also, let's talk about how absolutely wonderful this cover is! Thanks to Get Underlined for the advanced look at this one in exchange for me sharing my honest review!

Read this book if - You want a BSC throwback with a side of supernatural happenings. You always wondered what would happen if your 90s babysitting faves had some witchy vibes!

Saving Jemima: Life and Luck with a Hard Luck Jay by Sue Zickefosse is a love letter to blue jays. One thing to know about me is I absolutely adore blue jays. Growing up, my grandparents had a pet blue jay that my uncle had rescued. Frank was a dearly loved pet, and I grew up assuming all families knew the joy of a blue jay in the home! Well, they didn't, so this book is a great window into what this is like. Y'all, blue jays are a wonderful and fascinating bird. I loved reading this tale of another blue jay that became part of a home. This was also a great look at the life of wild blue jays. I learned so much, and I'm looking forward to putting my new knowledge to use as I watch the blue jays on my backyard feeder. I especially liked how it shared how to attract more blue jays to a feeder and what to watch for when you see them. I could rave about blue jays for days and days, and my house has slowly filled with blue jay items as a result of said adoration, so there was no doubt I'd love this one. If you share my love for the jays, then this is a must read. If you're reading this and all, "Whoa, how does she love this bird this much?!?" you should read this one and understand! 

Read this book if - You are looking for a book that is a deep dive into an animal. You want to learn all the things about the blue jay.

Millenneagram: The Enneagram Guide for Discovering Your Truest, Baddest Self by Hannah Paasch was my first foray into the Enneagram. I've been wanting to check this assessment out in depth for awhile, and I'm glad this is the place that I began! At its core, this is the Enneagram, but it's reframed for today. With this, there are pop culture examples and just a humorous and honest language. The book explains each type helping you understand yourself, while also understanding why the heck others are the way they are. The book is grounded in strong information, but throughout it's got this tone of humor. It's about not taking ourselves (or others too seriously) as we settle into who we are and show that self unapologetically to the world. For me, this was the perfect way to begin by Enneagram journey as it is good foundational knowledge in a relatable and enjoyable way. This is one that I plan on revisiting often as I learn more about my own type (1w2) and that of others!

Read this book if - You want to learn more about the Enneagram. You've started doing some Enneagram work, and you'd like to look at it from a unique perspective.

Amelia Earhart (First Name Series) by Andrew Prentice was such an unexpectedly informative and enthralling read! As a Kansan, Amelia Earhart is a historical figure I have always known. While I know some of her story as a female pilot, as well as the tragedy of her death, this was an outstanding deep dive into her life for kids! What I appreciated most was the honesty with which her story was told. It didn't shy away from mentioning some of her struggles with family, and that's a critical part of her story. I also appreciated how it framed up how she came to love flying and what it meant for a woman to take on this pursuit. As I was reading an advanced copy of this one (thanks to Abram Books for that!), I thought I might just do a skim of a story I already knew. Instead, I found a read that invigorated my interest into Amelia's story. This is an incredibly well done biography of Amelia Earhart for kids, and if you're an adult who wants to (re)visit her story, this is also a great place to start!

Read this book if - You know a lot or a little about Amelia Earhart and want to know more!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book Reviews - Twists, Feels, and Just Good Reads

Remember that time I said I was going to be better about reading in a theme? Yeah, this wasn't this at all. With that, 75% of these were really awesome books on their own. 

My Life As Lotta: A House Full of Rabbits by Alice Pantermuller is an advanced copy of a children's book first published in Germany and now translated to English that I received. I read a fair amount of middle grade fiction these days, and I'm always mindful I'm not the target audience. Oftentimes, I still find the stories relatable and enjoyable. This is one that's definitely for kids, particularly with its tone, format and illustrations. So, if you're a kid and/or know a kid, try this out? I will say the one storyline I really liked revolved around recorders. Y'all remember recorders? Those were some kind of experience, right?!? It was fun to remember that instrument and to see that some things never chnage. So, for that nostalgia, it was neat. Overall, this one was built on stories and scenarios that would make kids chuckle. Thanks go to Sterling Publishing for the early look at this October release.

Read this book if - You're looking for a light-hearted kid's read. You want something for a kid that reads like a kid wrote it - in a good way.

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds is an upcoming short story collection that y'all are going to need to read. This is my second Jason Reynolds book (the first being Long Way Down), and I"m absolutely amazed how he crafts words to tell stories. This is ten stories (one per block) of students as they walk home from school. What impressed me most about the stories was how he was able to change the tone with one sentence. You could think you knew the characters and direction of a story, and then in a moment of magnificence, words changed it all. It was absolute brilliance. Sometimes I struggle with short stories because there's not enough there for me to feel connected. Y'all, this is not that. There are ones that days later I can still recall because they were so wonderfully told. Some of these are stories of the everyday - variances of the realities of middle school we all know, while others peel back layers to reveal challenges these kids are navigating. With those challenges, there's a wonderful heart to these stories. It's this depth that makes these stories that form a connection. I also really liked how there were threads that tied these stories together. They were very subtle moments, but that also made this a cohesive collection. Overall, this is another wonderfully written piece by this author. This author is masterful with how he uses words in such a unique way, and I will continue to devour anything he puts out into the universe. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this October release!

Read this book if - You're looking for a read that is just a masterful use of language. You are looking for something that's just unexpected - in a good way.

No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy was just a really good reflection of what work is and what it really should be. Here's the deal y'all, I'm an emotional human. It's who I am, and it's always I'm always going to be, so this was a book that was really my jam. This book acknowledges the existence of emotion, takes the time to break down how they can work for you, and more importantly, it looks at how they don't. Rather than advocating for turning off emotions (which is impossible), this is about how to make your feels work for you, and how to navigate the feels of others. The book further breaks this down into several areas of work to again make emotions work for you. Oh, and the illustrations in this book are so, so great. They are this blend of reality and humor that just work. I resonated with so many of them, and I'd love to have them posted in my office as regular reminders. This is a book that I want to go back and read again. There were so many tips I dug, and there are ones I want to be sure to revisit and keep in mind. I love that this was a book about finding balance and taking care of you in the workplace. So many books about work and "business" leave out the human who is doing things, and I appreciate that this book unapologetically put the feels right where they need to be!

Read this book if - You want a book about work that is focused more on the human element. You want a book about (literal) emotions of what we do.

When She Returned by Lucinda Berry was quite the thriller that I could not read fast enough because I had to know what was going to happen. Eleven years ago, Kate Bennett vanished. She left behind a husband and daughter who had to make sense of life after. Eleven years later, her daughter Abbi is sixteen, and her husband Scott has remarried Meredith, a widow he met in a support group. And then, Kate returns. Where has she been? Who is she now? And what does everyone do with this development? Y'all, this one is a ride. Told through the now of Meredith and Abbi's perspective, as well as the then of Kate's, this story pieces together what each of these women feels and has felt, and how they all are trying to move forward (and/or in the past). I don't want to give too many plot details, as the thrills come from the way the pieces of the puzzle start to come together, and y'all, those pieces come up until a big ol' twist at the end! That said, I do want y'all to know that Kate's disappearance does have some connections to a cult. You'll see that hinted at in the description, and the way the author tells this part of the story builds a unique psychological story. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me peak at this page turner due out in October.

Read this book if - You like a thriller that has some unexpected twists - I mean, that's every thriller, but this is a unique one. You like a thriller that builds suspense through the present and the past.

Until the next round!