Sunday, July 7, 2019

Book Reviews - Drama, Drama, Drama. And Some Inspiration.

Y'all, can you believe we're already in the second half of the reading cycle?!? I've read some great stuff so far, and this quartet (mostly) starts the next six months off strong!

Taffy SInclair and the Melanie Makeover by Betsy Haynes was a random 80s paperback I'd picked up awhile ago. This was, um, interesting. This was about Taffy (who is the bully/snob/jerk of the series) taking Melanie under her wing for a new modeling school being held at their local mall. Talk about hilariously dated, y'all. The rest of the Fabulous Five worry Taffy is trying to steal Melanie away from them. Drama ensues from there. This was just odd to read as an adult. The Fabulous Five is a self-improvement club, but really they mostly hope to be popular. At 36, that's just not something I care about, and I wanted the girls to just stop with it all. Also, there were lots of mean girl antics, and it was just. . . a lot. I did dig the eighties fashion featured on the cover though. 

Read this book if - You're looking to revisit the Taffy Sinclair series? I wouldn't recommend if you've never checked it out before.

There's No Such Thing as a Bad Kid by Titus O'Neil (Thaddeus Bullard) was a really interesting and revealing read. I went into this knowing Titus as a pro wrestler, and I learned so much more about him as a person through this honest (really, really honest and emotional) memoir about his growing up. I had no idea how much he had gone through and overcome to get to where he is today. It was incredible to see all the times he could have given up, but didn't, and similarly how others could have given up on him, but also didn't. In addition to being full of him recounting his story, this was also about the lessons he had learned and wanted to share with others. In this, he talks about how he now pays it forward and gives back, and this book was also him dispensing advice and wisdom from where he's been. Y'all, this was such an eye opener. There was a little bit of wrestling here, but really, this is about Titus/Thaddeus the human, and that is the story worth sharing/reading. I understand and appreciate how and why he now uses the platform he's been given. This was some kind of a life story, and I have a deepened respect for Titus' mission to share this story and help others get where they want to go. Thanks to NetGalley and ECW Press for the advanced look at this powerful August release.

Read this book if - You want an inspiring, empowering read. You want to read the story of a sports entertainment superstar who has overcome a great deal to get where he is today.

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir is the story of a reality television show called Six for Hicks. The HIcks are a conservative Christian family that are the focus of a reality television show. The story begins with the realization that Essie, one of the daughters, is pregnant. To avoid any bad press, it's decided that she will marry a high school classmate (with his family receiving significant financial compensation), and the baby will then be born "early" to resolve the storyline on the show to align with the values they subscribe to. The story is told from three points of view. First, there is Essie. Then, there is Roarke, the classmate she is set to marry, and he has secrets of his own. Third, there is Liberty, a journalist Essie reaches out to for coverage of the nuptials, who also has her own past she's working through. As the story goes, it is revealed, there is far more to the Hicks' story than what is seen on television. One of Essie's sisters has been away from home/off camera, and Essie works with Liberty to find out the truth, as she wonders if this connects to her own truth. Through the three narratives, you begin to learn the secrets different characters/the family has been keeping and how different family members have chosen to navigate this (actual) reality. As a big fan of reality television, I liked how this was a blend of a life in the public eye, as well as the story of a broken family. As the secrets came to light, it was also definitely an emotional read given the heaviness of the ultimate truth reveal. 

Read this book if - You want something that dabbles in reality television, family drama, and all the secrets.

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Ramin Setoodeh is a retrospective of The View. What made it especially great was that the author interviewed all the co-hosts to build this story. It was very much a direct source piece which made it much more interesting and compelling. The book starts with the initial vision for the show from Barbara Walters, then traverses through each of the iterations of the cast. I've been a regular to casual to hardly ever watcher of the show through the years, so I definitely had my own memories of watching many of the casts and moments mentioned. This did a really good job of explaining how certain things actually went down from multiple angles. Were there "villains" in the story? Yes, but there was explanations for why that was the case. The natural drama of the story came from the storytelling and memories of the people that were there, and that's what made it so compelling. 

Read this book if - You want to do a deep dive into the history of The View. You like your nonfiction with quite a lot of drama. You have been/are a viewer of The View.

Onto the next ones!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Book Reviews - Ghosts, Thrills, Hackers and Baseball-y RomComs

Hi y'all. This round of reads were quite eclectic - There was a ghost story, a domestic thriller, some YA hacker romance, and a romcom in a book. Each had something I dug, and I would guess you might be able to find something that you'll dig, too. Read on, friends.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein was a different kind of read for me - in a good way. It's the story of Tyler who is a teen in 1990. His parents' marriage is struggling, and he and his dad head to Riddell House where his dad's family is. The Riddell House is full of secrets and spirits - literally. Tyler serves as the narrator and tries to navigate the history of his family that he's never been told. This means navigating generations of secrets, conflict and some ulterior motives. In particular, Tyler's dad and his sister are trying to get their father who suffers from dementia to sign some paperwork to sell off and take the profits from the sale of the estate. In all of this, Tyler begins receiving "messages" and tips as to what really happened in dreams, within the house, and seemingly from a ghost. Ghost stories aren't really my jam, but this was masterfully told. There was such mystery around the family, and I loved how suspense was built and secrets were revealed. It was also just really well-written from a storytelling end which kept me engaged. It isn't without tragedy, so going in, be ready for that, but this is such a strong story of a broken family and a teenager trying to find his way.

Read this book if - You want a coming of age story with some mystery. You want a ghost story grounded in family secrets.

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle is the story of a wife who is looking for a fresh start. Told through alternating perspectives of a wife and husband with additional narration/context from an investigator on the case, it's figuring out where the wife went and who was involved in the disappearance. "Beth" is looking for a fresh start as she flees from her violent husband. She needs to escape, and this chronicles what she left behind and where she's gone since. In the other part of the story, Sabine has left behind a husband, Jeffrey. He doesn't know where his wife is, and the investigation hones in on him. There's some additional layers to the story involving Jeffrey, Sabine's sister Ingrid, and Sabine's lover Trevor. Marcus is a detective who is committed to doing whatever it takes to find Beth. I went in thinking this one might be like other thrillers in this lane, and y'all, this one was so much different than I anticipated. It was twisty with a really jawdropping reveal towards the end. I saw it coming a bit, but in a "WHOA!" kind of way. I loved the trio of narrators in this one, as they each helped you piece the story together, but also, it made you question who to trust, and what the real story might be. Thanks to NetGalley who allowed me to get an early look (that is now real-time for y'all) at this recent release.

Read this book if - You want a domestic thriller with some great twists. You like thrillers that build suspense with multiple narrators.

Ask Me Anything by Molly E. Lee is YA romance with a bit of a spin. It's the story of two high schoolers into hacking/coding - Amber and Dean, and their story is built through alternating chapters. As a punishment, Dean has to start a coding club, and Amber is the only attendee. Their relationship builds there and through online chats. Amber is also frustrated with her school's approach to sexual health education. She decides to start an anonymous blog where students can submit questions and get real answers. It quickly gains a following from her classmates. The principal who doesn't support the blog's approach to the topic blackmails Dean into finding out the identity of the anonymous source of the blogger. He quickly realizes the principal is not a great dude, and blackmail is something he leans on often, so Dean must figure out what to do with this. This is one that took me a bit to get into, but I liked the different spin on a story. I liked that it was real dilemmas and told through different activities/interests than what you can often see. Thanks to NetGalley for a look at this recent release!

Read this book if - You want a different kind of YA romance. You want a "Damn the man!" type YA story.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes was just a delightful read. I mean, y'all, it involved baseball with a romcom vibe. Was there ever a doubt I was going to dig it?!? This is the story (obvs) of Evvie Drake. It begins with the truth of Evvie's story which then becomes a secret she harbors throughout the story. Evvie's story is also about her being a widow. She is navigating life after in her home in small town Maine, and she does this partly with the support of her best friend Andy. Andy's childhood friend Dean is needing a place to get away. He's a former major league baseball player forced out of the game after he got a case of the "yips" (Here's Rick Ankiel's experience with them as a reference point). His downfall has been extensively covered, and he's looking to get away from it all. Renting the apartment in Evvie's home allows him to do that. What follows is an unexpected friendship and connection between Evvie and Drew. As they go along, they're both still navigating their own "stuff" and also have to do that together.  What I loved is that it had romance, but it was told in a emotionally real way. Evvie and Drew both have their baggage, and that wasn't ignored, but it was really explored. Y'all, this was one I just loved. I found myself rooting for Evvie and Drew throughout as both individuals and a pair. Sometimes you just need a fun, good book, and that is just what this was for me.

Read this book if - You're looking for a fun, but emotional read. You want a good story of redemption in a variety of ways. You just need a good book.

See y'all next time!