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!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Book Review - Reading in the Future (Again)

Last week, I was traveling, and I took the time to catch up on my (endless) bank of advanced copies - mostly in the virtual form, as e-books tend to travel better than a suitcase of books. However, just in case the technology fails, I always make sure to have at least one (or three to five) "real deal" books with me. 

Here are some things to watch for y'all!



Reputation by Sara Shepard is an upcoming book from the author of the Pretty Little Liars series. I give you the intel on the author as that frames up the type of thrills and scandals that you should expect diving into this one. This story revolves around two major events - First, Aldrich University (an elite private university) has all the emails of its faculty, staff, students, and alumni uploaded to an online database. As you can imagine, this is an opened can of all that stuff put into writing that you probably didn't want anyone in life to be able to search. Second, Dr. Greg Strasser, a well-known doctor, is found murdered. Kit Manning is in the center of both scandals as she works for the university's foundation, and Greg is her husband. From there, the story just goes as you would guess given those two plot points. The secrets are unveiled and twists are revealed through multiple narrators. As you can imagine, everyone has something to hide, and those emails bring all kinds of drama to light. Y'all should know that this one packs literally all the scandal possible into its pages. They all intersect-ish along the way, but also, it sometime took me a moment to re-calibrate to which scandal involved who and how different folks might have a relationship. This is one that kept me reading. Because it was all the things, I wanted to know what those things were, and I needed to know how it all ended. Was it off the rails? Absolutely. However, I learned very quickly that's what I was in for, so I held for the ride. I would definitely recommend that if you check this one out that y'all go in with a similar mindset. Just imagine you're reading the script for a Lifetime ultimate movie mashup, and that's what this is - Not good or bad, it's just . . .something. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me check out this December release!

Read this book if - You want a book that is like a Lifetime movie on steroids. You like something with an endless amount of secrets and twists.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is so, so emotional and compelling. I did not know what to expect with this one (beyond the plot and blurbs from authors raving about the book), and y'all, the intense feels of this one kept me reading. Goodness. The story focuses on two families who live in an upper-class suburban neighborhood. First, there is Valerie Alston-Holt, a black woman who is a widow and professor, and her biracial son Xavier. Then, there are their new neighbors, the Whitmans. Bradley, the father, who works in the HVAC industry, and he's doing well enough to be able to buy this new house for his wife Julia, his stepdaughter Juniper, and daughter Lily. From here, the story just goes. There are dynamics and interactions throughout centered on a variety of identities, primarily race and gender. There are also some relationship dynamics at play throughout. Y'all, again, this book was emotionally heavy. It was one I was wrapped up in, but there was so much tragedy as a foundational component of all that goes down. With that, the tragedy is very real. It shows societal dynamics in such a real and saddening way. Know that this is one that's not going to end in a "And they all lived happily ever. . ." kind of way. However, this is an important story in that it looks at the dynamics and realities of neighbors in an authentic way meant to make you think and discuss the tale with others. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for letting me get an advanced look at this amazing piece of writing due out in February 2020.

Read this book if - You want a powerful book about relationships and identities. You want a book that through tragedy really makes you think.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti is the story of Mafalda, a girl who is losing her sight and will eventually be blind due to a genetic condition. As Mafalda recognizes what is to come, she reflects on what she is going to lose in the process. She also begins to see how the world around her is changing. With her fate decided, she makes a resolution to move into the cherry tree. This tree brings her happiness, and as she stands to lose so much, she decides to find refuge in a place that she feels comforted and safe. Y'all, this is a middle grade book full of feels. Mafalda's story is emotional. That emotion becomes even more real knowing this is a condition the author also has. Through Mafalda, she is telling the story of what it feels like to lose a sense. Even though there is a lot of sad, there is also a lot of good stuff as Mafalda learns to lean on her family, as well as friends she finds along the way. In all this, she learns who she is able to count on and trust through the process. This is another middle grade book that centers a character with an identity that isn't often seen, and it tells her story with such authenticity. Thanks to NetGalley for the connection with a wonderful, real story out now.

Read this book if - You want to read an honest story giving voice to an experience through a kid's eyes.

Life's Short and So Am I: My Life In and Out of the Wrestling Ring by Dylan "Hornswoggle" Postl is a memoir about a dream realized. Born with dwarfism, Dylan Postl always dreamed of becoming a pro wrestler just like his hero The Ultimate Warrior. Even recognizing there were significant barriers to the dream, he remained dedicated to building a career in the ring. This focuses on how he first got his start in the business, and then most of the story is about his time in WWE. What I appreciated about the WWE portion was the honestly and depth of detail given. He gives an inside look at how stories are built (and how he wanted many of them to go), how he received a push (or didn't), the "behind the scenes" story of some of his most memorable matches, and how his interactions were with others on the roster. As a fan of pro wrestling, I appreciated he didn't hold back. He was honest about his best moments, but also took the time to write about some of his frustrations and down moments. In addition to focusing on his time in the ring, this is a book about Dylan as a human. He talks about his relationships (again sharing the good and the bad), as well as what it's been like to become a dad. Throughout, he had a candor that made his story interesting and enjoyable to learn about who he is beyond his character on television. Thanks to ECW Press for recognizing my love of pro wrestling and giving me the chance to check this out before it's September 2019 release!

Read this book if - You enjoy pro wrestling. Obvs.

See y'all soon!