Thursday, July 9, 2020

Book Reviews - Her Stories

For this round of reads, I have four books that have amazing women at the center of them. They are also four books written by women who have incredible gifts for storytelling. This is one of my favorite quartets of the year.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is a fictional story about Hillary Rodham Clinton. In real life, Bill proposed to Hillary three times before she accepted. The premise of the book is then imagining what might have been had Hillary said no. Some of this book is based in factual happenings. I'll be honest that I haven't read all of Hillary's memoirs, so for me, I didn't know what was fact and what was made up. I wish I would have had that context, and I'd even consider re-reading with that just to see how the author built the story in this way. However, I also didn't feel like my reading experience was hindered by not having this knowledge. The story starts with Hillary's time at Wellesley and Yale where she meets Bill, and then evolves into the alternate timeline. It was really, really fascinating. It's an interesting experience to read a fictional account of a real life person (and in case you aren't familiar, the author first did this with Laura Bush in American Wife), and it also "hits different" given the reality of the present. This is an author who always draws me in with her writing, and I was captivated by this experience. Even though I somewhat knew the woman at the center of this story, I also had no idea what was going to happen in this alternate world, and the way she built this world kept me reading. It was also incredible to me how she shifted certain individuals in Hillary's story based on the different direction she chose. With that, it did bring about some really, real feels, but y'all I loved this journey.

Blended by Sharon Draper is a middle grade novel that brings so much honesty and realness. I have loved finding books like this that offer real talk to kids about things they are seeing, thinking and feeling, and this is definitely that. This book centers on Isabella. Isabella is biracial with a father who is black and a mother who is white. His parents are now divorced, and they have each found new partners. Her parents have shared custody which means Isabella is having to navigate the norms and structures of two homes, in addition to figuring out her own identities. I appreciated the opportunity to hear from Isabella the struggles that this arrangement had for a young girl. I'll also say this gets really intense at the end with an incident that happens. I wanted more about this as it was a lot to unpack and process, and it didn't quite give me that. That said, if an actual kid is reading this one, I think it makes sense to process what happens to Isabella as it's powerful and emotional. 

On the Bright Side by Melanie Shankle is the newest memoir by an author I love. Part of why I find her so endearing is she's an Aggie, so I feel that Texas nostalgia as I read. This collection is focused on (as the title would imply) finding the silver linings and positives in a variety of situations. She identifies things that came seem like a bummer and how to reframe and find the joy in those spaces. With this, she also drives a faith-based connection. I love the authentic way this author writes. She isn't afraid to acknowledge struggles in her life, and she shares how she uses faith, friends and family to work through situations. I will be honest that there are other of her books that I have just loved, and this didn't quite achieve their status, AND this is also an author whose books I'll always read as she just reflects in a way that resonates with my heart.

Smash It by Francina Simone is a book that was so real and such a delight. The story focuses on Liv who decides she needs to take control of her life and really start living. First of all, let me tell you know much I loved how this story began with Liv wearing khaki shorts and a sweatshirt at a Halloween costume party. Everyone else is dressed up, and then there's Live in her normal clothes. I loved this because I felt the connection with who she was. Liv decides it's time for a change and she makes a F*ck It List. She wants to stop being scared, and this list is designed to help her do just that. Y'all, I love a good list, so again this is a girl after my own heart. One of Liv's first challenges is trying out for the school musical. Again, I loved that this is the experience she chose to find herself. Liv's list was so great in that it was stuff so many of us struggled with, especially during those angsty high school times, and she was truly dedicated to figuring out how she could achieve all that was on her list. And while there is some love interests in this story, I also really liked that this book ultimately centered Liv and her list throughout. Above all else, this was Liv figuring out who she was becoming, and she doesn't always get it right which is how this stuff so often works. One last time I'll say I loved Liv, her list and the story of how she navigated achieving its tasks. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this September 2020 release. 

Onto the next ones!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Book Reviews - I'll Take Potpourri Reads for $200, Alex

I hope my witty Jeopardy reference compensates for the fact that I don't have a great introduction to yet another quartet with no common theme. Here we go. . . 

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary was a book I selected for my May reading challenge which was to read a book of letters - It didn't arrive in time for me to read it in May/time doesn't exist in 2020. ANYWAY. I actually can't recall if I read this as a kid, but it didn't seem familiar, so I don't believe I did. For those who haven't read, this is a book of a young boy named Leigh Botts who writes letters to his favorite author. He's navigating the challenges of grade school (including a lunch thief), his parents' separation, and just figuring out who he is. While Leigh is writing letters to someone, only his side is shown. However, Mr. Henshaw's voice comes through as he gives Leigh different writing and reflection challenges. Reading this as an adult, I could see crystal clear how this could be a comfort read to kids. In a very lonely time, Leigh finds connection. He puts his very real feels on paper which shows all he's processing. I already loved the timelessness and enduring power of Beverly Cleary's writing, and this is just another book to remind me of her brilliance.

The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures by Noelle Stevenson was just what the title states. This was a collection of the author's mini comics and short essays documenting all the feels and experiences that were her young adulthood. As I'm now a thirtysomething, I can reflect on my twenties and acknowledge they were hard at times. While I was "an adult" I was still working through so much, and I loved how this collection really gave voice to that. I truthfully wasn't familiar with the author (and also have no idea where I heard about this book), so all of this was new to me. However, I loved getting to see her work and especially loved the simplicity of her art that also so perfectly conveyed the emotional depth of her experience. For me, the highlight and power was strongest in her comics on mental health, and while a quick read for me, it also was one I took a lot from!

Well Met by Jen DeLuca is this month's selection for my book club. This is a romcom i(n a book set) against the backdrop of a Renaissance Fair. Unsolicited Fun Fact About Me: I was in the Early Music Ensemble in high school, and we played at the KC Renaissance Fair. I even have a costume! I share this because this setting had a strange and uniquely special place in my heart. The story focuses on Emily who has moved to a small town to help her sister recover from an accident. Once there, her niece informs her she wants to participate in a Renaissance Fair. The catch is that an adult must be there, so she needs Emily to join. At the fair, Emily encounters Simon who is in charge of the fair. Simon interacts with Emily in one of two ways - He has a serious side as he coordinates the fair from the business end, and he has a more flirtatious side when he's in character for the fair. She can't figure out who the real Simon is, and that makes their relationship/friendship/romance potential a lot to navigate. This was one that was predictable as romcoms often are, but I still kept reading. Sometimes you just need a light* read (*light minus the steamy sex scene), and this was so much that.

One By One by Ruth Ware was just a solid thriller. As I say over and over, I often just need that in my life. These thrills are built around a company retreat at a ski lodge. Snoop is an app that lets you listen to what someone else is listening to at that exact moment. The Snoop team is headed to a retreat to navigate what might be next for the company. And then they get snowed in, and chaos ensues. The story's suspense builds with its dual narrators. Pause here for your obligatory reminder of how much I LOVE dual narrators. In this instance, the two narrators are one of the employees at the lodge and a Snoop shareholder who has power by virtue of her shares in the company. The two women's narration show how the group navigates not just the snowstorm, but the murder/disappearances/shady happenings around the Snoop team. It's clear there is a killer in the group, but who is it? Again, this one had some solid suspense that kept me reading. I couldn't figure out the killer's identity, but felt the feels as things got more hectic and dire, and I needed to know how it all played out! This one isn't out until the fall, but when it drops, it's a good thrill ride to have in your life. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this September 2020 release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, June 21, 2020


Another day/week/month and/or however it is we keep track of time these days. Two of these I highly, highly recommend, and y'all will be ever to figure out which ones those are. The other two were honestly just okay, and y'all will be able to figure that piece out, too. But mostly what you need to know is there are two books *coughSLAYandWhiteFragilitycough*  you should read. Okay, thanks, read on!

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo does a fantastic job of exploring how white people learn about race - or don't. It does a great job of explaining why so much of what we learned about racism was wrong and incorrectly framed, and it then starts the process (because you don't just read any book and know it all) of re-teaching what systemic racism actually is. I found the author gave voice and explanation of so many important concepts in such a needed way. While she is a researcher, this was also written in a way that made it very easy to digest and process. This is one I plan to continue to revisit, and for white people looking to (re)educate themselves and take action doing anti-racism work, this is one to add to your list - And you definitely should have a list y'all, not just a solitary read! 

Before She Was Helen is an upcoming release from Caroline Cooney (author of The Girl on the Milk Carton series btw). Clemmie lives in a retirement community. When she hasn't heard from a neighbor in awhile, she goes to check in. He's not home, but she finds this amazing piece of glass art that she shares a picture of with a family member. Doing that sets off a chain of events that she is just not ready for. Clemmie has a past that she's spent a lifetime trying to get away from, and the increased focus on her with this art and missing person is just not what she wants. The story then alternates between what Clemmie has been hiding all these years, as well as what the heck is going on now. This one had a lot of twists and turns, and with those there is some pain. I would give a content warning that part of plot involves sexual assault and stalking. You likely wouldn't know that from the description, and I think it is important to know that going in to make an informed decision on reading. I'll also say that I chose this read I thought it was going to have those "cozy mystery" vibes, but in reality, it had some intense happenings and characters navigating their impacts. The twists did keep me guessing which is what I always dig when reading this genre. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look in exchange for this honest review.

Fathers and Daughters and Sports was an essay collection from ESPN. I heard about it ages ago, and I happened upon it at a book sale awhile back. Anyway. This was a collection of fathers writing about their daughters, daughters writing about their fathers, and sportswriters writing about fathers and daughters. I really liked the first two types of essays, and I wish there was more of that. I liked when there was this authentic and real connection to the story being told. What I didn't so much like was the third person perspective as it didn't have that emotion the other two types of essays did. There was also a really long essay in the middle from that third person perspective, and I found myself again wishing that would have instead have been those personal connections. My overall thought is that I liked some of these, and others not so much as often happens when collections like thse. If this was a thing again (as this book is a decade old) I think I'd only check it out if there were way more fathers reflecting on their daughters and daughters writing about their fathers.

Slay by Brittney Morris was outstanding, and I cannot tell everyone in life enough how much they need to read this book. Y'all, as soon as you finish reading this review, I need you to purchase this book and/or put it hold at your local library. The story focuses on a black team gamer named Kiera. Kiera has created the online game Slay to bring together black gamers across the world. Here's the thing though - No one knows Kiera is the creator. When a teenager in Kansas City is murdered due to the game, the online community and outside world collide. There is a wave of misunderstanding and straight up wrong analysis about what Kiera's game is and trying to do. Kiera is unsure of what action she should take as her game comes under fire and the online community is infiltrated and threatened. Y'all, this was an amazing story. For one, I loved the pieces that explained the game Kiera had built as there was such intentionality in what she and others had built. For two, I loved how it showed how Kiera was navigating not just online life, but real life with regard to her identities. There was power in this component of her story. For three, Kiera was an incredible heroine and just generally awesome as a main character. She was strong, but also still figuring life out as teens do. I cannot tell you enough how much this one captivated me. At one point, I was so invested and worried about what was going to happen next that I had to look ahead to calm my fears. This was a beautiful exploration of community and friendship and family and relationships and self-discovery and literally all the things. This is a book I cannot recommend enough to people as I love, LOVE, LOVED the opportunity to see the world that the author built. READ. THIS. BOOK. NOW. PLEASE.

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Book Reviews - Women's Friendships, Wresting, True Crime, and Other Random Topics I Read On

Okay, y'all, I'm back with another quartet. I'm not going to pretend I read on a theme. I will tell you that this was an especially strong quartet when it comes to books that captivated me. They were ones I found myself reading quickly because I needed to know what happened, and I was so drawn in my the humans involved. This is another round where one or more of these should speak to a variety of people.

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak was just the quintessential "beach read." I feel like Brenda Novak is one of those authors I always see with books in this genre, but have never read. When the opportunity came from Mira Books via NetGalley to read, I decided to take the time to finally check her out. And y'all, I'm so glad I did. This is the story of three adult half-sisters, but here's the thing - They are just now finding out the others exist. After taking a genetic test, they are connected with one another. They decide to spend some time together at Serenity's (one of the sisters) family cabin. Reagan, Lorelei and Serenity head to the cabin to build their relationship. In addition to the emotion of finding new family, they are each navigating something pretty big in their personal and/or professional life. The story then alternates between each of their stories as they get to know one another, but also explore what they want for themselves. I loved that this was a book that had three women as main characters and really, really developed their stories. I loved the depth they were each given, and the complexities of what was shared. I found I became invested in all three of their stories, and I needed to know how it ended up for them. While it was heavy at times given the situations, I also found this was a light read. It was something I could sit outside with and get lost in, and I really needed that. 

The Holdout by Graham Moore was a book I could not put down. It was the first book I got when my library reopened, and I then proceeded to read it over the course of a day. The story focuses on a high profile case and its jury. Ten years ago, high school teacher Bobby Nock was found not guilty of the murder of his student Jessica Silver. A primary reason for this acquittal was juror Maya Seale. Maya believed in Bobby's innocence and persuaded her other jurors to acquit him of this crime. Ten years later, the jury has been brought together for a reunion. Then, one of the jurors is murdered, and Maya is the primary suspect. From there, the story just goes. I don't want to give too many details because the excitement of the ride is seeing what develops. The story goes between the present with what has happened to Maya and the past with the story of each juror. As you can imagine, there are some secrets and lies in the mix, and those come into play as Maya works to prove that she is not responsible for the murder. These kind of books are generally my jam, and I'm a big fan of the writing of Graham Moore (see The Last Days of Night), so this was definitely something I dug. I loved how fast-paced it was, all the twists and turns, and then that there were even more twists and turns. As I often say, I regularly just need a good thriller in my life, and this was it.

Drawing Down the Moon by Shawn Keller Cooper was a book I found my way to as it was the selection for my online book club, and y'all, I'm so, so glad I did. This was such a wonderful story about women - how they grieve, how they connect, and how they learn to move forward. The story focuses on Jade who has retreated to James Island after suffering a third miscarriage and struggling in her marriage. She retreats to this place because she is struggling, and she attempts suicide. Her attempt is not successful, and she she finds connection with a woman named Agnes. Agnes starts to explore her emotional journey and reality, and this is some tough stuff. Additionally, 20 years earlier, Jade and two sorority sisters had agreed to a reunion. This is the time that is supposed to happen. These two women show up with their own stories and struggles. Additionally, there are longstanding wounds from previous situations that the women have never resolved. Y'all, this is a beautiful story centering women. For one, it talks about struggles of women, including infertility, that aren't always put into stories. It also talks about women's friendship and all those evolve, how they connect, and how they can vary across the lifespan. This was a book that was authentic and raw and so honest. I absolutely loved the way in which emotion was explored and explained through these women. 

The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of Andre the Giant by Bertrand Hebert and Pat Laprage was one of the most comprehensive biographies I've ever read. The lengths these authors went to research and tell Andre's story was incredible. What I especially appreciated was that they even looked at previous media to check its accuracy. Often we just accept what has been written as truth, and surprise, that doesn't always work. This also looks at Andre as not just a wrestler, but also as a human. I liked that they took the time to not just do a retrospective on his career, but to help explain who he was a person, including his relationships, his health struggles, and what he wanted to do beyond just being in the ring. I will say this has a lot of information, and it's a lot to digest. Again, that's not a bad thing, but I when I say comprehensive, I mean comprehensive y'all. Thanks to ECW Press for the early look at this. I'm a bit behind in reading, but the advantage for y'all is that I can tell you this is out now, and for pro wrestling fans (and other people, too), it's worth checking out! Thanks to ECW Press for giving me early access to this book that's available now!

Onto the next ones!

Blog Tour - Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

You know what I never get tired of? BLOG TOUR TUESDAY! I'm excited to be hosting yet another stop, and I'm also excited I'm hosting this on an actual Tuesday! Great stuff all around. Of course, the most exciting part of all is the book! 

As a reminder that no one needs, I love thrillers. Love, love, LOVE them.

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle was the kind of page-turning thriller that I love finding my way to and becoming immersed in all the twists along the way. Predictably, this one begins with a literal stranger in the lake. Charlotte is living a bit of a dream. After a rough childhood, she has found love with Paul, a wealthy widower. She is newly pregnant and excited for what the future holds. One morning while walking down to the lake she founds a woman's body. She is particularly rattled as this is a woman she had seen her husband talking to the night before. This is particularly jarring given Paul's first wife also died by drowning in the same lake. As one might, Charlotte wonders if there is a connection.

An investigation begins, and Charlotte's suspicions don't quit. She wants to believe the man she loved is innocent, but she just doesn't know. In addition to the investigation in the present, there are some threads into the past. Two of the other main characters are Paul's best friends from high school - Micah, who is a police officer, and Jax, who is known for being a bit of an unstable loner. Interspersed with the narrative of figuring out who this stranger is, there is flashbacks to Micah, Paul and Jax's relationship in their high school days. I really liked that these flashbacks were brief as it built suspicion. It wasn't immediately clear why these were involved, but y'all, when that was revealed, it was a solid twist.

Overall, this was just a really good thriller. I always love something where I know all isn't what it seems, but I can't quite put my finger on what that something is. It makes those twists (and in this one, there are many!) so much better. This was an intense read y'all. I'll name that right now that might not be everyone's jam, but if you're looking for a read that's going to keep you guessing as you figure out where the lies are, who is involved, and even who isn't, this is going to be the one for you. Best of all, while I ride in advance, you can read this now as it was released today!


In addition to taking my word for it (because I am a self-proclaimed thriller expert, here is an excerpt from the book to further draw you in!

The town of Lake Crosby isn’t much, just three square blocks and some change, but it’s the only town in the southern Appalachians perched at the edge of the water, which makes it a popular tourist spot. Paul’s office is at the far end of the first block, tucked between a fudge shop and Stuart’s Craft Cocktails, which, as far as I can tell, is just another way to say “pretentious bar.” Most of the businesses here are pretentious, farm-to-table restaurants and specialty boutiques selling all things overpriced and unnecessary.

For people like Paul, town is a place to socialize and make money—in his case, by selling custom house designs for the million-dollar lots that sit high on the hills or line the lakeshores. My old friends serve his drinks and wait his tables—but only the lucky ones. There are ten times more locals than there are jobs.

The covered terrace for the cocktail lounge is quiet, a result of the off-season and the incoming weather, the sign on the door still flipped to Closed. I’m passing the empty hostess stand when I notice movement at the very back, a tattered shadow peeling away from the wall. Jax—the town loon, the crazy old man who lives in the woods. Most people turn away from him, either out of pity or fear, but not me. For some reason I can’t put into words, I’ve never been afraid to look him straight on.

He takes a couple of halting steps, like he doesn’t want to be seen—and he probably doesn’t. Jax is like a deer you come up on in a meadow, one blink and he’s gone. But this time he doesn’t run.

His gaze flicks around, searching the street behind me. “Where’s Paul.” A statement, not a question.

Slowly, so not to spook him, I point to the sleek double doors on the next building, golden light spilling out the windows of Keller Architecture. “Did you check inside?”
Jax shakes his head. “I need to talk to him. It’s important.”

Like every time he emerges from out of the woods, curiosity bubbles in my chest. Once upon a time, Jax had everything going for him. High school prom king and star quarterback, the golden boy with a golden future, and one of Paul’s two best friends. Their picture still sits atop his desk in the study, Paul and Jax and Micah, all tanned chests and straightened smiles, three teenage boys with the world at their feet.

Now he’s Batty Jax, the raggedy, bearded boogeyman parents use as a warning. Do your homework, stay out of trouble, and don’t end up like Jax.

He clings to the murky back of the terrace, sticking to the shaded spots where it’s too dark for me to make out much more than a halo of matted hair, the jutting edges of an oversized jacket, long, lean thighs. His face is dark, too, the combination of a life outdoors and dirt.

“Do you want me to give Paul a message? Or if you stay right there, I can send him out. I know he’ll want to see you.”

Actually, I don’t know; I only assume. Jax is the source of a slew of rumors and petty gossip, but for Paul, he’s a painful subject, one he doesn’t like to talk about. As far as I know, the two haven’t spoken since high school graduation—not an easy thing to do in a town where everybody knows everybody.

Jax glances up the street, in the direction of far-off voices floating on the icy wind. I don’t follow his gaze, but I can tell from the way his body turns skittish that someone is coming this way, moving closer.

“Do you need anything? Some money, maybe?”

Good thing those people aren’t within earshot, because they would laugh at the absurdity of the trailer-park girl turned married-up wifey offering the son of an insurance tycoon some cash. Not that Jax’s father didn’t disown him ages ago or that I have more than a couple of bucks in my pocket, but still.

Jax shakes his head again. “Tell Paul I need to talk to him. Tell him to hurry.”

Before I can ask what for, he’s off, planting a palm on the railing and springing over in one easy leap, his body light as a pole vaulter. He hits the cement and takes off up the alley. I dash forward until I’m flush with the railing, peering down the long passage between Paul’s building and the cocktail lounge, but it’s empty. Jax is already gone.
I push through the doors of Keller Architecture, an open space with cleared desks and darkened computer screens. The whiteboard on the back wall has already been wiped clean, too, one of the many tasks Paul requires his staff to do daily. It’s nearing five, and other than his lead designer, Gwen, hunched over a drawing at her drafting table, the office is empty.

She nods at my desk. “Perfect timing. I just finished the Curtis Cottage drawings.”
Calling a seven-thousand-square-foot house a “cottage” is ridiculous, as are whatever reasons Tom Curtis and his wife, a couple well into their seventies, gave Paul for wanting six bedrooms and two kitchens in what is essentially a weekend home. But the Curtises are typical Keller Architecture clients—privileged, demanding and more than a little entitled. They like Paul because he’s one of them. Having a desk is probably ridiculous, too, since I only work twenty hours a week, and for most of them I’m anywhere but here. My role is client relations, which consists mainly of hauling my ass to wherever the clients are so I can put out fires and talk them off the latest ledge. The job and the desk are one of the many perks of being married to a Keller.

“Thanks.” I tuck the Curtis designs under an arm and move toward the hallway to my left, a sleek tunnel of wood and steel that ends in Paul’s glass-walled office. “I’m here to pick up Paul. There’s something wrong with his car.”

When he called earlier to tell me his car was dead in the lot, I thought he was joking. Engine trouble is what happens to my ancient Civic, not Paul’s fancy Range Rover, a brand-new supercharged machine with a dashboard that belongs in a cockpit. More money than sense, my mother would say about Paul if she were here, and now, I guess, about me.

Gwen leans back in her chair, wagging a mechanical pencil between two slim fingers. “Yeah, the dealer is sending a tow truck and a replacement car, but they just called to say they’re delayed. He said he had a couple of errands to run.”

I frown. “Who, the tow truck driver?”

“No, Paul.” She swivels in her chair, reaching across the desk behind her for a straightedge. “He should be back any sec.”

I thank her and head for the door.

On the sidewalk, I fire off a quick text to Paul. I’m here, where are you?

I wait for a reply that doesn’t come. The screen goes dark, then black. I slip the phone into my jacket pocket and start walking.

In a town like Lake Crosby, there are only so many places Paul could be. The market, the pharmacy, the shop where he buys his ties and socks. I pop into all of them, but no one’s seen him since this morning. Back on the sidewalk, I pull out my phone and give him a call. It rings once, then shoots me to voice mail. I hit End and look up and down the mostly deserted street.

“Hey, Charlie,” somebody calls from across the road, two single lanes separated by a parking strip, and I whirl around, spotting Wade’s familiar face over the cars and SUVs. One of my brother’s former classmates, a known troublemaker who dropped out sophomore year because he was too busy cooking meth and raising hell. He leans against the ivory siding of the bed-and-breakfast, holding what I sincerely hope is a hand-rolled cigarette.

“It’s Charlotte,” I say, but I don’t know why I bother.

On my sixteenth birthday, I plunked down more than a hundred hard-earned dollars at the courthouse to change my name. But no matter how many times I correct the people who knew me back when—people who populate the trailer parks and shacks along the mountain range, people like Wade and me—no matter how many times I tell them I’m not that person anymore, to them I’ll always be Charlie.

He flicks the cigarette butt into the gutter and tilts his head up the street. “I just saw your old man coming out of the coffee shop.” Emphasis on the old man. “If you hurry, you can probably catch him.”

I mumble a thanks, then head in that direction.

Just past the market, I spot Paul at the far end of a side street, a paper cup clutched in his hand. He’s wearing the clothes I watched him pull on this morning—a North Face fleece, a navy cashmere sweater, dark jeans, leather lace-up boots, but no coat. No hat or scarf or gloves. Paul always dresses like this, without a second thought as to the elements. That fleece might be fine for the quick jogs from the house to his car to the office door, but with the wind skimming up the lake, he must be freezing.

The woman he’s talking to is more properly dressed. Boots and a black wool coat, the big buttons fastened all the way to a neck cloaked in a double-wrapped scarf. A knitted hat is pulled low over her ears and hair, leaving only a slice of her face—from this angle, her profile—exposed.

“There you are,” I say, and they both turn.

A short but awkward silence. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he looks surprised to see me.

“Charlotte, hi. I was just…” He glances at the woman, then back to me. “What are you doing here?”

“You asked me to pick you up. Didn’t you get my text?”

With his free hand, he wriggles his cell from his pocket and checks the screen. “Oh. Sorry, I must have had it on Silent. I was on my way back to the office, but then I got to talking and…well, you know how that goes.” He gives me a sheepish smile. It’s a known fact that Paul is a talker, and like in most small towns, there’s always someone to talk to.
But I don’t know this woman.

I take in her milky skin and sky blue eyes, the light smattering of freckles across her nose and high cheekbones, and I’m positive I’ve never seen her before. She’s the kind of pretty a person would remember, almost beautiful even, though she’s nothing like his type. Paul likes his women curvy and exotic, with dark hair and ambiguous coloring. This woman is bony, her skin so pale it’s almost translucent.

I step closer, holding up my hand in a wave. “Hi, I’m Charlotte Keller. Paul’s wife.”
The woman gives me a polite smile, but her gaze flits to Paul. She murmurs something, and I’m pretty sure it’s “Keller.”

The hairs soldier on the back of my neck, even though I’ve never been the jealous type. It’s always seemed like such a waste of energy to me, being possessive and suspicious of a man who claims to love you. Either you believe him or you don’t—or so I’ve always thought. Paul tells me he loves me all the time, and I believe him.

But this woman wouldn’t be the first around these parts to try to snag herself a Keller.
“Are you ready?” I say, looking at Paul. “Because I came in the boat, and we need to get home before this weather blows in.”

The talk of rain does the trick, and Paul snaps out of whatever I walked into here. He gives me that smile he saves only for me, and a rush of something warm hits me hard, right behind the knees.

People who say Paul and I are wrong together don’t get that we’ve been waiting for each other all our lives. His first wife’s death, my convict father and meth-head mother, they broke us for a reason, so all these years later our jagged edges would fit together perfectly, like two pieces of the same fractured puzzle. The first time Paul took my hand, the world just…started making sense.

And now there’s a baby, a perfect little piece of Paul and me, an accidental miracle that somehow busted through the birth control. Maybe it’s not a fluke but a sign, the universe’s way of telling me something good is coming. A new life. A new chance to get things right.

All of a sudden and out of nowhere I feel it, this burning in my chest, an overwhelming, desperate fire for this baby that’s taken root in my belly. I want it to grow and kick and thrive. I want it with everything inside me.

“Let’s go home.” Without so much as a backward glance at the woman, Paul takes my hand and leads me to the boat.

Excerpted from Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle, Copyright © 2020 by Kimberle S. Belle Books, LLC. Published by Park Row Books.

About the Book: When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned. At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two. As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

About the Author: Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links:
Twitter: @KimberlySBelle
Instagram: @kimberlysbelle

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Reflections Through Reading

It's a secret to a grand total of zero humans how much I love reading and how I look to books for so many things in my world. As I wanted to deepen my understanding and awareness of what's happening in our country around race, I immediately turned to books to begin and continue that journey. 

If you've been around my reviews for awhile, you know I blog in quartets. I felt that it was important right now to not wait until I had four books. Rather I wanted to share what I read initially as I know there are people who look to me for what they could and should be reading.

I share these reads and my perspectives from my own identity as a white woman reading to understand the black experience. You'll also notice I've titled this post as reflections versus reviews,  and I would note that was intentional as my objective in reading this round was different than when I pick up a book most of the time.

I would also note these books are a starting point for me. They are a starting point in that I want and need to read more, and they are also a starting point as I determine actionable steps from here. 

I've also noted below what I have yet to read. I'd welcome the opportunity to process and discuss if anyone is in search of that space. I'd also love additional recommendations of what else I could and should read - I've started with nonfiction, but would love recommendations of fiction, YA, middle grade reads, and/or anything that's especially worth an audiobook listen. 

Here are the first two books I found my way to.

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown was part memoir, part reflection on a journey, and part exploration of how race and racism truly show up. This book centers the author's journey as a black woman in predominantly white spaces. She reflects on this part of her experience, and she then shares her relationship with her blackness and how this has evolved. She also names how whiteness shows up in problematic and harmful ways, including an exploration of "good" people and "nice" people. What I found powerful in this read was how she named how racism can and does show up. She delineated this from the concept of a racist and refocused on the systemic nature of actions and behaviors. Throughout she named concepts and happenings in a powerful and important way. I found myself highlighting many of her reflections as ones I wanted to return to and reference often. This is also a relatively short read (<200 pages), but in those pages, there is so much emotion in the reflections she offers. Finally, I should note I finished this one just before Reese Witherspoon selected this for her book club. I've not participated in her club at all, but if that's been your jam, I would definitely encourage you to engage as you do for this specific book.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is the "YA version" of the nonfiction/history text by Ibram X. Kendi. This is my first time trying a YA adaption. I chose to go this route first and foremost because I love the writing of Jason Reynolds. Secondly, I know my own struggles to read nonfiction/history texts, and I felt this was going to allow me to better take in the content. That said, I cannot recommend this version enough. Jason Reynolds is this incredible lyrical writer, and the way he crafts narratives is absolutely masterful. He was clearly writing in a tone for teens, but I was also drawn in by how he made history so accessible and easy to understand. This book is truly from the beginning as the title says in that it begins with the 1400s and goes through the present. The book is then chunked by years and significant happenings. Throughout, this explores historical events that are shared in US History classes, but explains that all is not what it seems by a longshot. In this way, this book is a re-learning of what systems were created, broken down and then re-created in another way. This also looks at policies and their impact - some of which are long, long, long term. Seeing the ongoing connections, threads and proliferations of happenings and people and polices was eye-opening for me to have a better understanding of the roots of systems. This is one I've been recommending to all since reading, and I also plan to buy a copy once it becomes available again. Y'all this should be required reading in US history classes.

So, that's where my reading has started. I'm working my way through Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad. I say "working my way through" as this is a book that explains terms, then asks you to explore your own relationship and experiences through journal prompts. With that, it takes some time, and I appreciate that it forces me to not just read, but engage with the terms and how they show up for me. I've also got a copy of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo to get through. Finally, I'm waiting to receive my copy of So, You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and a volunteer committee I'm on is going to be reading that one together. As I said, if anyone is looking for a processing buddy as you read, you know where to find me.

Onto the next ones!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Reviews - Thrills and (Base) Steals

Welcome to my long-running series "Books I Read With Absolutely No Common Thread." In today's edition, we have inspirational fiction, sports, and two thrillers. So, here we go again. . .

Her Amish Suitor's Secret by Carrie Lighte was a stop on a recent blog tour here.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein was a book I picked up to read partially because I miss baseball so darn much. And while I've read a lot of baseball books over the years, I appreciated that this one examined a completely different world. This one focused on the minor leagues specifically AAA. The book follows six players, two managers and an umpire through their quest to make it to the majors. Each chapter zones in on one of these men and where they are in their journey to make it to the big leagues. Some of these men have been there before and are making their way back, while others are trying to finally achieve that long-held dream of being a major leaguer. This book really focuses on the reality of what this dream is like, and the reality is y'all, this isn't easy. It's hard to keep hope alive, and it's also hard to let dreams go. I felt a particular connection to this book given some of these men had played for my hometown Kansas City Royals. I could remember them being with us at other parts of their journey, and it was interesting to read these honest and raw experiences. I appreciated that this book covered all aspects of what being a minor leaguer is like, and y'all sometimes that's some really tough stuff. This one was also a timely and helpful read as I think about the realities of current minor leaguers. For every big name star, there are many, many more at the minor league level trying to break through. To truly understand major league baseball, you need to understand this part of the equation, and this book is a fascinating read for that exploration.

Don't Look for Me by Wendy Walker was a legit jawdropping thriller. I mean, y'all, when one of the big twists was revealed, I audibly gasped I was so shocked. This is my third thriller by this author, and what I love is that she writes her twists and turns in such a unique way. One of the ways she does this is by making it so you're just not sure what characters you can trust and/or who's actually telling the truth. It's this plot device that makes those reveals so darn good! This story focuses on Molly Clarke. She is a mother who has mysteriously disappeared. Ther are some things that have happened to her family that make people wonder if she was abducted, or if she just decided to leave on her own accord. This premise of doubt lays the foundation for some kind of ride. This is a thriller told through multiple characters' points of view, and yet again I'll remind you that this type of storytelling is what I love. Storytelling in this way also allows you to get nuggets of each character's personal story, but also gives you clues into those of others, as well as again what might not be true. Y'all, this author can write some kind of thriller. I could not devour this one fast enough because I needed to know what had really happened to Molly Clarke. Thanks to NetGalley for an early look at this one. You can go on this thrill ride when this book is released in September 2020! (In the meantime, if you haven't read The Night Before by the same author, check it out!)

Find Her by Lisa Gardner was a dark thriller, and y'all, I'm going to own that just didn't connect with me. I was intrigued by the initial premise, but as I read, it went down a path that was a lot for me to read. I say that because sometimes a review is more about the reviewer than the book, and that is what this is. This thriller first focuses on Flora. She was kidnapped as a college student five years ago. She was found, but she is still navigating the trauma of that experience. Meanwhile, other women have gone missing. Something goes down with a potential suspect, and it seems Flora may be involved. The question then becomes how Flora is connected, but also what happened to these women. The story alternates between the story of Flora's abduction in the past and what is happening in real-time. In the present day, there is also work being done by a detective to not only figure out how Flora is involved, but where these women are. This one was a pageturner in the very literal sense of the world. It was such a twisty ride throughout. As I said, it's definitely a dark and emotional read given the trauma of the stories, so know that going in as you look to the strong thrills it provides.

Onto the next ones! 

Book Reviews - None Is Like the Other!

Remember when I was good at keeping up with reviews? Yeah, me neither because that doesn't happen ever. These are books I read awhile ago as I do, and also as I do, each of these is from a very different genre!

This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf was a recent stop on a blog tour here.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas is the second book in the A Court of Thorn and Roses series, and y'all, this one was some kind of ride. As I mentioned in my review of the first book of the series, fantasy is not my normal jam, but this series so is! The second book picks up where the first left off with the story of Feyre. I don't want to give too much up in this review as much of the excitement of this series comes in the journey. I will say I thought I knew where this one was going early on, and that turned out to be far, far different. I then loved how the story progressed and ultimately ended. Again, this was not what I expected as all. Also, as I say over and over, this is not what I have picked up my own, but now I am so, so drawn into this faerie world! What I love about this series is the way the story is built - The characters and relationships are so compelling. The depth of this part of the story has drawn me in, and y'all I need to know what happens to these people (and/or faeries).  I also love the dynamics of the worlds created in this one, and how this plot builds. Again, I recognize the intentional vagueness of this review is odd, but I'm going to respect others who want (and NEED) to go on this journey! Y'all, I loved the first one in this series, but I LOVED this one, and I now am excited to see what happens next!

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman was a book that pleasantly surprised me. The story focuses on a mother and daughter who are on a college tour. Jessica, the mother, is hoping this trip is a chance to bond with her daughter. Emily, the daughter, is unsure about what she wants to do after high school, but hasn't yet fully had that conversation with her mother. The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Jessica and Emily, and y'all, again I'll say how much I love dual narrators. This was especially well done as the alternating narration built depth in the characters. It showed how each of the women was navigating the trip, how they felt about the other woman, and how that had changed and/or was changing. I also really liked how the dialogue flowed so well and had some wit throughout. I was drawn into the relationship and how they navigated things. It was complex at times, but also lighthearted. Again, sometimes you need those light reads, and this was definitely that with the added depth of relationship. Thanks to Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, for the early look at this June 2020 read. If you're looking for a nice, chill summer read, this is going to be your jam.

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor was another one of those middle grade books that had me up in my feels. This book focuses on Lydia. 13 year old Lydia's mother has recently died. Her father left the two of them years prior, so Lydia moves in with her Aunt Brat and her wife Eileen. Lydia is now navigating a new town, grief, and then a dog is added to the mix. Lydia has never really been a dog person, so this is new for her. This one was some real, REAL emotion y'all. Lydia reflects on her time with her mother (including some tough stuff), friendship (again, some hard stuff), and her father leaving (once again, it's tough), and each of these situations show that life isn't easy. Lydia is trying to find her place in this new family while also keeping the memory of her mother alive. I always appreciate a middle grade read that deals with real feels, and this definitely does that. This was an advanced copy (thanks HarperCollins) I've had for awhile, and it's been out since February 2020, but I put it off because I knew it was going to be emotional. That said, this is worth the read for kids and adults. Grief can be messy, moving to a new place can be messy, finding your place in a family can be messy, and each of these messes should be talked about like they are here!

Onto the next ones! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Blog Tour - Her Amish Suitor's Secret by Carrie Lighte

Okay, y'all, today is the final stop on by #BlogTourTuesday series for May. And again, I know that today is actually Wednesday. That's just how life goes right now, #amirite. I know I often say I read out of my lane, but this may be the furthest I have ever gone. One of the recent requests I received involved selections from Harlequin's Love Inspired line which is inspirational (aka faith-based) romance. After receiving a few of these requests, I thought to myself, "Why not give this a try?" So, that's how I found my way to Her Amish Suitor's Secret by Carrie Lighte.

This story begins with a non-Amish guy (known as an Englischer in Amish speak) going to the Amish community to help his brother out posing as a groundskeeper. His brother has been accused of theft, and there is a belief that there are secrets hidden away in this community. While in the community, he connects with Rose who runs the grounds for the lakeside cabins. She's been hurt in love before and is hesitant to fall in love again. As you might guess based on that premise, there is a little "something something" brewing between these two. This is definitely one of those books where you know how things are going to end, and that's totally okay. The joy is being on the journey to see just how specifically that plays out. For those who are curious, the way the Amish vibes played in were in some of the language and how the relationship developed and feelings were acted on. It was really just a romance told in a different way. I'm glad I got the chance to dabble in this genre. It was a nice and easy read, and sometimes you just need that predictability.

And in case you also have some curiosity, I have the opportunity to share an excerpt with you!

“Isn’t it quiet where you live in Wisconsin?”
“It’s not this quiet. This peaceful. There’s something about being here, where sometimes the loudest sound I hear is water lapping the shore… It makes me feel so calm. I feel like that when I’m working in the fields, too. Probably because when I was young I used to es-cape to the garden when—”
Rose stopped paddling, eager to hear the rest of his sentence. He hardly ever talked about his youth. “When what?” she pressed, looking over her shoulder to get a glimpse of his face.

Over the past couple of weeks while chatting with Rose, Caleb had occasionally forgotten to guard his Englisch identity, but until now, he’d always guarded his emotions, especially those concerning his upbringing. He hadn’t meant to disclose his feelings tonight—he hadn’t even intended to spend any time alone with Rose. But opening up to her seemed to happen naturally, in spite of yesterday’s resolution to put distance between himself and the Amish of Serenity Ridge. So he continued, “My mamm and daed bickered a lot and it helped to go outdoors to get away from them. When I was gardening, I forgot about their troubles. Tending to Gott’s creation made me feel… Well, it made me feel tranquil.” Kind of like how I feel right now.
Caleb had also stopped paddling and mild waves gently rocked the canoe. In the moonlight, he could see Rose’s eyebrows were furrowed and she appeared to be contemplating what he’d just said. After a quiet spell, she questioned, “Does gardening still bring you a sense of tranquility?”
“Jah, it does.” Caleb’s mouth went dry as he anticipated her next question: she was going to ask why he’d become a teacher instead of a farmer, and he couldn’t drum up a credible reply.
Instead, she gave him a fetching smile and, before twisting forward in her seat again, she added, “I’m glad. For our sake, as well as for yours.”
Caleb let his breath out slowly. He dipped his paddle into the water and Rose did, too. As they journeyed he thought about how amazing it felt to confide in her. Maybe he wasn’t being honest about the facts of his life, but tonight he’d been honest about his emotions. And even though Rose’s back was to him as she sat in the bow, there was something so…not necessarily romantic, but so personal about being with her that he’d never felt with his friends or any of the women he’d ever dated. Rose seems to enjoy spending time with me, too, Caleb rationalized. So what’s the harm in continuing to develop friendships here as long as no one finds out I’m Englisch?
When they pulled onto the shore near the trailhead by Paradise Point, Caleb hopped out and dragged the canoe several feet up the embankment so Rose wouldn’t get her shoes wet, and then they headed for the forested path. It was much darker beneath the trees than on the open water, so Rose shone the flashlight on the ground in front of her. Caleb initially tried to follow in her foot-steps but after tripping twice, he decided to accompany her side by side on the narrow path in order to get the benefit of the light.
“I think we should talk so we don’t startle any animals,” Rose announced loudly. “Or we should sing.”
“My singing would frighten the animals,” Caleb jested. 
“In that case, you should have serenaded the skunks on the porch—maybe they would have left.”
“Or they would have sprayed me,” Caleb said. “This probably isn’t the right time to ask, but are there many other kinds of animals in these woods?”
“Serenity Ridge has a family of moose that sometimes make their presence known. The other night when I was coming back from the dining hall, I thought I heard one in the bushes behind me, but then it went quiet.”
Caleb’s ears perked up. “What night was that?”
“I think it was last Monday or Tuesday, but don’t worry, it turned out to be a deer—I saw its tracks on the path. That’s the thing about animals and buwe—they always leave tracks. When my breider were young, my mamm always knew when they’d been exploring down by the swamp instead of doing their chores because of what her kitchen floor looked like. You’d think it would occur to them to take off their shoes before they came inside, but it never did,” Rose said, giggling.
For the rest of their hike Caleb asked questions about her siblings and their families, and he told her a couple anecdotes about Ryan, too. Finally the trees thinned out and Rose announced they were nearing the summit. Caleb was about to remark he wished they’d brought re-freshments when he heard a noise in the distance, almost a metallic sound, or like something scraping against a rock. He came to a halt and tugged Rose’s arm to make her stop, too. With his chin nearly resting on her shoul-der, he whispered into her ear, “What was that?”
“I didn’t hear anything,” she whispered back, and flashed the light into the woods on one side of the path and then the other. Caleb didn’t see anything unusual. He didn’t hear anything unusual, either, other than the thundering of his pulse, which was probably more from standing so close to Rose than from being alarmed. Half a minute passed and nothing stirred in the woods.

He must have imagined it, Caleb thought, merely two seconds before an earsplitting shot reverberated through the night air.

About the Book: HER AMISH SUITOR’S SECRET by Carrie Lighte (on-sale May 19, 2020): Sometimes the truth comes at a cost. Can she forgive him when she learns his true identity? Posing as an Amish groundskeeper at Rose Allgyer’s lakeside cabin retreat, Englischer Caleb Miller is determined to clear his brother’s name of theft. But as he’s drawn to Rose’s good nature, the burden of his ruse gets heavier—especially after learning Rose was deceived by her ex-fiancĂ©. Still guarded, will Rose trust Caleb with her heart when she discovers he isn’t who he claims to be?

About Carrie Lighte: Carrie Lighte enjoys traveling to Amish communities across the United States and she hopes to visit a few in Canada soon, too. When she isn't writing, reading or researching, she likes to hike, kayak and spend time at the beach.

Purchase links:

Discover more about uplifting and hopeful Love Inspired novels today:  

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Book Reviews - Laughs and Compelling Characters

Well, well, well, once again we have a variety of reads. Some made me laugh, some made me cry, and in many instances those were the same book. What I really liked about this round was there was some amazing storytelling and some especially incredible characters. Read on to find out more!

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is a fascinating historical fiction piece focused on the American Library in Paris. I always appreciate a historical piece that exposes me to new pieces of history, and this was definitely that! This is story of how books played a central role in the resistance primarily focused on the story of a young library named Odile. In addition to telling the story of this past experience, this also includes a storyline in 1983. Lily doesn't understand her older neighbor. She seems to be hiding something, and Lily is a curious teenager who just wants to know more. She decides to do a school project on her, so she has to share her story. As you might infer, this neighbor has connections to the library. It's not revealed just what those connections are, so part of the captivating nature of this story is learning more about her through Lily's research. The past and (sort of) present have really emotional and compelling stories. I was so drawn into Odile and Lily's pieces of the story. In the past, it was so incredible to read how the library remained dedicated to sharing knowledge and truth even when it was dangerous. In the present, Lily is navigating so much "stuff" in addition to learning more about her neighbor, and I was so emotionally drawn into her reality. This was just a beautiful read in its characters and storytelling. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this February 2021 (Whoa, I did not realize publication was so far away!). Way, way in the future, this is a book you'll absolutely want to check out.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry was such a unique read y'all, and that was very much a good thing! The story focuses on the 1989 Danvers women's field hockey team based in Salem, Massachusetts. Tired of losing, the members decide it's time to call in some help to win in the form of magic/witchcraft. From there, the season begins to take some unique turns. This book was a delightful blend of late 80s references, humor, dark magic, and just really great storytelling. It's so unlike anything I've read, as well as a bit outside of what I normally read, but y'all, I was so darn captivated from beginning to end as the story is so creative and told masterfully I also loved the depth of story for each member of the team, as well as the diversity of their stories. It's hard to put words to a review for this one because it's so unlike anything I've read (and I know I've said this over and over), but this is one I read in a weekend because I just loved being whisked away to this pop-culture saturated, Emilio Estevez notebook inspired (yes, you read that right) magic world of high school girls!

Best Behavior by Wendy Francis was featured on a recent blog tour stop that you can see here!

The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe is by the author who runs a podcast of the same name. Admittedly, I've heard of the podcast, but I haven't listened, so in some aspects, I feel like this was seeing a movie before reading a book! However, I also felt like this was a really good set-up for the backstory of the podcast to launch me into listening. Since I'm a non-listener I can only speak for sure from that perspective, however I do feel like regular listeners would also like this collection of stories. The book is really written as a memoir of life with mental health. I really love the way he talks about his experiences as it's a unique blend of humor and raw honesty. There were times I was laughing, as well as times I was teary. I found I could really connect to the way he talked about his mental health, and he gave language to this in a way that was relatable. In addition to being about his own journey and experiences, he also talks about his podcast. He talks about how it came to be, as well as messages from a variety of guests. I appreciated with this how it shows both variance and commonality in the experience of mental health struggles. As I said, I did things a little backwards in reading this first, but I also plan to now check out the podcast because I'm so drawn into the author's perspective and story! Thanks to St. Martin's for the advanced copy via Shelf Awareness!

Onto the next reads!