Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Reviews - (More) Captivating Stories

For this round, the theme is easy to identify y'all - It was just stuff that captivated me. There were thrills and twists, wonderful characters, and just masterful use of language that is worth checking out all around! 

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid was such a captivating story. At this point, I have come to know (and love) that this is what I'm always going to get from this author. This book focuses on the formation and eventual break-up of the band Daisy Jones and the Six. While this was fictional, it read like it was a real recounting of a band as it was so unbelievably real and well done. The story of the band is told through interviews which is what makes it especially captivating. Different members of the band walk through the history and evolution of where they went both the good stuff and the really not great stuff. It was so drawn into their story throughout. It was quite the ride, and that's what made it so captivating. This was a great little musical journey through the ups and downs of a 70s rock band and its members!

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen was another brilliant thriller by this writing pair. Again, I know to expect this, and I just dig the thrills and twists they build into their story. The story focuses on a couple who has sought out a therapist due to the wife cheating. This therapist guarantees that she can fix you in ten sessions. The only thing is - She's no longer licensed. However, the couple is willing to give her a chance to fix the broken trust and cracks in their marriage. Along the way, you learn more about not just the couple, but the therapist. You quickly learn there is something going on with all parties, and it is just a matter of all the pieces coming together which is what makes the suspense so, so good. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2022 release! This is another pageturner you're going to need in your life.

I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer was honestly a collection of poems I knew nothing about prior to picking it up. That said, I was so quickly drawn in and captivated by the author's unique and brilliant work. Each erasure poem is adapted from a terrible internet comment. There is such incredible power and insight in her words as she takes on a toxic space which cannot be an easy thing to do. Thanks to the publisher for the early look at this brilliant and emotional read.

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell was an intriguing thriller. I love a dual timeline thriller, and this one was unique in that the timelines were only a year about. Both timelines involve the disappearance of a young couple. One night, Kim's daughter Talullah and her boyfriend go to a party. Kim is left to take care of their baby for the night. And then, the couple never returns. A year in the future an author shows up in the area, and clues lead her to the cold case. She is drawn to finding out the truth, and she starts to reconnect with those who might know something. I will say for me this one was a slow burn as I went. However, in the last quarter of the book, it really picked up! There were some solid twists (especially at the very end) as all secrets were revealed, and there were some things I definitely did not see coming. Thanks to S&S Book Club Favorites for the sneak peek at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Book Reviews - Must Read Magic!

Y'all, this is one of those quartets where each and every book is a must read. This was such a great quartet. There were strong characters, amazing plots, and incredible twists. I always love when I can find a good "streak" in my reads, and this was so, so much of that.

The Perfect Guests by Emma Raus is a story built around the people associated with Raven Hall in two separate, but connected times. It was a storytelling format I adore in that it was dual timelines focusing on two different women. The first part of the story takes place in 1988. Beth is taken to the mansion as a young girl to be the companion to Nina. She forms a friendship with her, but she's also asked to engage in some family deception which makes her feel a certain kind of way. Then, in 2019, Sallie is a struggling actress who receives a call to be part of an event at Raven Hall. She has no idea why she's been chosen for this role, but decides to go. As each story goes, it seems there might be some connections between now and then. And y'all, I loved how these developed. I knew there was something there, but the slow burn of the fusion was especially well done. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me check out this one!

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez was two thrillers in one, and it was just brilliantly done. Hannah and her friends are just having a good time. That is until they spark (literally) a fire - a wildfire that quickly gets out of hand. Hannah is keenly aware of the dangers and impacts of fire as her father is a sheriff. With the fire raging, Hannah and her friends decide to keep the secret between them about what they know happened. However, keeping this secret isn't as easy as it seems, and the guilt and lies start to affect each of them. Then, something else goes down to create even more suspicion. This is also where the second round of thrills begin. This one was some kind of ride y'all. I LOVED how twisty it was and how the lies (and truth) pervaded the whole story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this September 2021 release!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover is my third book by this author, and y'all, this woman can write a twist. Each book is so well-written, sucks you in, and then something unexpected just hits like whoa. This book focuses on a unique arrangement between two people who meet by chance and make an immediate strong connection. Fallon and Ben meet in a diner the day before Fallon is preparing for a big move. They spend the day together, then make an agreement that meeting on this day (November 9) each year will be their thing. Ben is an author, and he also wants to tell Fallon's story through this connection. This does mean Fallon wonders if Ben's motives are real or if there's something else at play. Y'all, this is one of those twists where my literal jaw dropped. It was that good, and it was just so incredible how this book shapeshifted into multiple genres. This was so far from what I expected in the very best of ways.

Dante and Aristotle Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a sequel I've been (impatiently) waiting for because I'm just so darn captivated by the story of Dante and Aristotle. This picks up where the first book left off in that Dante and Aristotle have realized what an incredible connection they have. They've navigated life and adventures as friends and now they're taking on a new adventure of navigating the world in love. Above all else, you should know this book is beautifully written. Dante and Aristotle are characters that the author brings to life in such a wonderful and amazing way. I could tell you the plot, but really what makes me love this series so very much is the humans in the story. This was such an outstanding way to continue this powerful tale. Thanks to NetGalley and S&S Book Club Favorites for the early look at this October 2021 release.

Onto the next ones!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Book Reviews - Complex Characters and Situations

This round had four books each with some kind of complexity, and each type was very, very different.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty was quite the wild ride. I was a little unsure of how I would feel about this one as someone on the cover explained it as "Jaws for parents." As an expectant mom, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go on this journey, but I decided to try it out. Y'a'll, I'm glad I did as this was quite the thriller! The reason for the book's title is there is a literal chain involved. That chain involves kidnapping. Rachel gets a message that her daughter has been kidnapped, and the only way she can get her back is by kidnapping someone else to continue the chain. Rachel is desperate to save her daughter, so like the parents in the chain before her she has to make an impossible choice. More than anything, this book is about the actual chain and figuring out where it started and more importantly how to make it stop. It was such a unique premise, and it kept me reading because I just had to know how it was all going to play out! 

Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz was just a sweet little middle grade read I needed after an intense thriller. The story focuses on Bernice who has an unfortunate last name, so she decides to prevent others from making fun of her by being a bully. Then, Bernice moves and is the new kid. With this new opportunity, she decides to give being a good gal a try. It was just a delight to read how Bernice evolves to find not only friends but herself. It's definitely a good one for kids to learn about how people can and do change.

Linked by Gordan Korman was quite the middle grade read. It focuses on a middle school where a swastika has been painted on the school walls. No one knows who is responsible, and the town is shocked that this could happen. Then, more start to appear. Some of the kids decide to take action. They decide they want to educate on why this is a symbol of hate by bringing attention to the devastation of the Holocaust. Throughout, the story is told from a number of different student perspectives, and each is processing what has happened in a different way and is taking a different course of action. I will say that the reveal at the end of what truly happened at the end of this one was especially powerful and provides an incredible learning moment.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout features a main character unlike any other I've read. Y'all, Olive is something! She's written in this way that is abrasive and somewhat rude, but also caring and insightful. Olive isn't the star of every story, rather her story is told through those of others in her community. Olive has a connection to each of these people, so she is still a common thread throughout, but others are also allowed to take center stage. This was such an incredibly character driven piece, and the way these characters are written is outstanding. I read this for a book club, so actually have read the first Olive book, but after having this introduction I definitely must!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Thrills and Feels (Again)

Hey, I'm back with another quartet with a duo that focuses on thrills and one that's more feels as tends to happen so very often.

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig was just a wonderful reflective and honest piece from an author who I've come to love through his books, as well as his social media presence. In the social media space, the author focuses on his own mental health journey in an authentic and at times very raw way. This is an expansion of that journey as he shares a collection of what gets him through. It is a combination of reflections, quotes, and just stuff that has brought him (literal) comfort as he's navigated life. This was a quick read, and it's also a book that you could just turn to anyone page when you needed some inspiration and reminder that you're not alone with whatever your struggles might be. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry was just wonderful. I love the way this author writes relationships and romance, so I devoured this! The story focuses on Poppy and Alex, two friends since college. Each summer, they take a week of vacation together. Well, they did until things fell apart. The book doesn't immediately reveal what caused the rift and instead focuses on the summers when things were good and also the vacation that's ahead. Poppy has decided to give a vacation with Alex a go one more time to see if they might get things right again. This again was just a delight, as it had just the right amount of cheese coupled with great characters!

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins is a twisty thriller set on a remote island. Lux and her boyfriend Nico are hired to sail two best friends to their destination. Everyone on the trip is eager for a break, and the reasons why are revealed as the story goes. As it turns out, that remote island they're headed to isn't so remote as there are passengers from another boat there. As you can imagine given the genre, these individuals have some secrets of their own. Relationships get twisty, stuff starts happening, and the island is far, far, FAR from a relaxing escape. Here's the thing y'all, on premise alone, you probably could've guessed this was going to go sideways, so it's really just a matter of how it goes down when literally everyone is hiding something! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this 2022 release!

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner is a book that just ultimately just didn't land with me. This isn't an instance where I recommend you don't read it, rather it's just me being real with y'all about my own feelings. The premise is there are two women that become connected after one of them inadvertently starts getting emails meant for the other. They have very similar names and emails, so it makes sense it could happen. Rather than just acknowledging the mistake and moving on, the two women connect and form a friendship. Except here's the thing, they may have more of a connection than originally realized, and their connection might not be totally random. It was an interesting premise, especially as the connections were revealed, but again, I just struggled, and I cannot tell y'all more specifics as that would cause me to veer into spoiler territory!

Onto the next ones!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Book Reviews - Books I Was Destined to Love

Y'all, sometimes you just go into books and know you're going to love them. These are 100% those types of books!

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis was just a treat of a romance novel. It was just a joy of a story, and I absolutely adored it. The story begins with two motorists, Sam and Noelle, who are stranded on a highway in a blizzard. Sam helps Noelle, and in doing this, they realize they have an amazing connection. They spend an incredible eight hours together, and then, they just go their separate ways. At least they think that's what is going to happen. Somehow, they keep running into each other, and that connection is still there. Things just keeping bringing them together, and Sam and Noelle start to wonder what this all means. Again, this was just a delight, and sometimes you need that. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this upcoming September 2021 release!

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson was always going to be a book I loved. It was truly just a matter of how much. Y'all, this was a story about two high school theatre kids spending a night in NYC. In an unfortunate chain of events, they're without their phones and have to navigate the city and a whole host of challenges. This had all the vibes of an 80s teen comedy, and I'm forever here for that. It was a story that was just so absolutely and completely right up my alley and just gave me so much joy.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron was such a wild ride of a fairy tale/fantasy story. This is the second book from this genre that I've read by this author, and she is so great in this lane (Additional Plug: Read Cinderella Is Dead!) Briseis has a special gift when it comes to working with plants. When her biological aunt dies, Briseis is left her estate, and her family decides to spend the summer there. Then, weird stuff starts happening. A strange cast of characters shows up, and Briseis does some digging she finds out that there is a complex web to work through. Figuring out what's happened and could happen now falls on Briseis shoulders, and navigating it all is going to be no easy task. This was such a unique premise and tale, and I'm so very ready to keep reading this series!

The Turn of the Silver Wheel by Shawn Keller Cooper is the second in a series about three sorority sisters. There are some connections to their collegiate days, but it's moreso about the women they've each grown into which isn't without lots of challenge and hardship. What I love about this series is the realness with which the stories are told. While fiction, the emotions are raw and authentic. I also appreciate that they cover topics that are heavy, but it's stuff that needs to be talked about and explored! Before diving into this one, you definitely need (and are definitely going to want) to check out Drawing Down the Moon just so you can get to know and (then continue to learn through this one) the captivating stories of these women as individual and sisters through the years. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Books You (Literally) Can't Put Down

Y'all,  the first three of these were books that absolutely live up to the hype I'd heard about them. They were ones that I was so captivated by. It's always refreshing when I get an especially good quartet like this!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is another book that people have been recommending to me for ages, and I finally read it for my online book club. First of all, why the heck did I wait so long? This one was so good y'all! This focuses on the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, specifically Cussy Carter. In addition to being a librarian, Cussy is one of Kentucky's "blue" people. The story is about her work as a librarian, but it's moreso about how she navigates the world, particularly because so many people see her as different. This is absolutely a heartbreaker of a story, but it's also so worth reading given its depth of emotion!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid was just another masterful storytelling experience by this author. Y'all, she just does such a good job at building stories with multiple complex characters. This is the story of four siblings in the eighties. They gather in Malibu for their sister's end of summer blowout bash. Here's the thing though, they each have something they're carrying, and by something, I mean, some pretty big secrets. These secrets are ones that have the potential to impact another family member pretty significantly. As the night goes on, the party gets wilder, and the secrets start to ooze out, too. This was one I could not put down and breezed through because it was such good drama. I needed to know what happened! If y'all aren't reading this author, you are missing out. This is another gem of a read!

Verity by Colleen Hoover is a book I've been hearing/seeing everywhere, so I decided to check it out. Y'all, what a damn ride. There are twists, and there are TWISTS. And this was a TWIST OF TWISTS. Lowen is a struggling writer who accepts a job from the husband of a well-known author. Lowen is tasked with finishing the books in his wife's series as she is currently in a coma. What Lowen finds isn't just the unfinished books, but the author's personal journals. And y'all, WHOA. I really don't want to give much more than this because this is truly one where the thrills (and chills) are. I will also offer the caveat that there are intense books, and then there's this. It is truly like nothing I've read, and just WHOA. You truly need to buckle up and be ready for one wild ride.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty was just a really interesting book. Honestly, it just went in so many different directions. It was so many genres in one and so many things happening. Sophie has inherited a house which is a lot, but it's even more given it's the house owned by an aunt of her ex-boyfriend. It's also a lot given it's on an island whose notoriety comes in the unsolved Munro Baby Mystery. Sophie moves to the island and becomes re-engaged with her ex's family and people who each feel a certain kind of way about her inheritance. Additionally, she wants to know more about this mystery that connects to her home. At times, this read like a thriller (and definitely some unexpected twists), at others, it was a family drama, and others it was a love story. Given all the dimensions, it's definitely one that kept me reading.

Onto the next ones! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Book Reviews - Historical Fiction & All the Feels (Again)

Hey, I read some historical fiction, and some stuff that was emotional, so just another day in the life. . .

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks was quite the middle grade read! This story centers on Zoe in two ways. First, it is about her budding relationship with her father. Zoe doesn't know him as he was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit when she was young. When she receives an unexpecgted letter from him, she has an opportunity to begin exploring and building that relationship. Zoe is also an aspiring cook and trying to get on a kid's baking reality show. Y'all, that's a lot for anyone to manage, but especially a 12 year old! The story focuses on Zoe's determination to get the truth out about her dad and to also realize her baking dreams. She is driven towards both causes, and it was so amazing to read about such a strong girl on both fronts!

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman was one that was bursting with so many feels. It was so, so beautiful, and I just adored the story. Honestly, I just want to leave my review at that. But I will also say it involves a bookstore, so it also reeled me in with that! It definitely takes on some heavy themes, but it does it by centering the impact on the humans involved which adds to its emotional power. Again, I just want to simply say this was just wonderfully written with raw, authentic characters. It's a book that will both break your heart and give you hope which is why it's truly masterful.

Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a beautifully written book. This is my second book by this author, and above all else, she just uses language masterfully to tell stories. That said, this genre isn't really my jam. It was historical noir, and I can honestly say I haven't read one before, but I can appreciate the vibe and experience. The book takes place in 1970s Mexico City, and it's about a woman who wants to know what happened to her neighbor. Along the way, she finds someone else is also looking for her neighbor, and these two start to connect. This is overlaid with the happenings of the times which I honestly knew nothing about. I found it especially fascinating to read at the end about the truth that was in this story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release. If this genre is something you dig, would guess you'll really like this one.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton was historical fiction centered on a woman I knew nothing about, but loved learning her story. The story focuses on Evangelina Cisneros who is imprisoned at the age of 18. She is passionate about Cuban independence from Spain, and she has many, many others who support her fight. Her story is picked up by a young female journalist in the US. She is trying to make a name for herself, and she sees Evagelina's story as that chance. However, she also realizes how committed she is to giving voice to this woman. Marina Perez is the third women whose story is told, and she joins the cause of freeing Evagelina and advancing her cause. Y'all, this was a fascinating story centering women to recount important historical happenings. I loved learning about people and events I didn't know through such amazing women! Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Stories That Stay With You

Finding a common thread for this quartet is easy. These are the type of books that stay with you long, long after you finish the last page. They are each absolutely worth reading.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave was a thriller that I could literally not put down. Y'all, I read it in a day! The story begins with a simple note from a husband to a wife. Hannah knows exactly what, or rather who it's about. But then things get intense. Hannah's husband is nowhere to be found. She's worried, and then, AND THEN, the FBI and US marshals are involved. Hannah's husband is not who she thought he was at all, and Hannah is trying to figure this all out while also trying to figure out where he even is. This was such a ride as Hannah was navigating the emotions of a missing husband as she was also learning she didn't know this man at all. The reveals along the way were just so, so, so good. I was bummed when this one was over because there just weren't any more secrets!

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd was unlike anything I've read. It was so wonderfully brilliant and thought-provoking and emotional and really just all the things. The book centers on Anna - Jesus' wife. The author re-imagines the life of Jesus to include a wife. In doing this, she centers Anna, not Jesus. In other words, this is stories I know, but told in a completely different way. It was such an interesting and powerful experience to read about Jesus as a secondary character and to instead have a woman centered. The story is truly about Anna's quest to find faith and love in a complicated world. I absolutely loved the care the author took to write Anna and really explore her story and struggles. This was just such a captivating read all around! 

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel was a book people have been raving to me about for years, and I finally read it. First of all, I shouldn't have waited this long. Second of all, if you take my recommendation to read it, be ready to be up in your feels. This is the story of a family trying to figure out how to support one another and specifically their youngest child. Rosie and Penn have four boys, and they are confident that their fifth child is going to be a girl, but it's not to be, and they have a fifth boy, Claude. Claude yearns to be a girl and feels he is truly Poppy. With Poppy, the family has to make decisions. This includes who will get to know who Poppy really is. Both keeping and telling this secret has consequences, and the family has to determine which route is best and then deal with those choices. This was such an emotional journey as this family must navigate in the name of care, love, authenticity, and safety.

No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox was just a fascinating reflection. We watch a lot of Family Ties in our house, and I mean A LOT. While we watch it a lot, I'm not as familiar with Michael J. Fox outside of Alex P. Keaton, so thought this new book was the perfect time to learn about how he navigates life. Y'all, this was just such a powerful read. It's emotional and raw, while also being funny and real. It was such an honest window into his life. It was about how he finds the good in each day, but also about how he pushes through the bad. It was truly a portrait of who he is and how he navigates his reality each day to get what he can out of life.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Love Stories, Feels, Twists and Such

Honestly, at this point, I should just title every other post this, as this is the most common quartet mix. Here's what it was made up of this round!

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston was just the YA romcom goodness I needed in my life. The story focused on Sophie. Fresh off a breakup and spending the holidays at her grandparents, she decides to put her love life in the hands of others. She agrees to let her extended family to set her up on blind dates - ten to be exact. It's quite the array of dates, and each family member makes very different choices, and some dates are definitely better than others. Along the way, Sophie also finds that she might have had some love in her life all along. Look y'all, this was just so much cheesy, emotional, wonderful goodness. I could see where things might be going, but that just made me want to read more. Sometimes you just need a book that makes you smile, and this was so much of that.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim was just a delight of a middle grade novel. It focuses on Yumi who wants to attend a comedy camp hosted by her favorite stand-up comedian. However, her family doesn't support her dreams. She finds a way into the camp (by taking someone else's spot), but it means she has to lie to her family and make them think she's taking a test prep course. Along the way, she starts to build her confidence in herself and her craft. I loved that this explored a girl finding herself with a unique hobby. It also showed how she navigated family expectations to find her way to happiness. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo was a novel I first loved because of the format. It was written in verse, and this was just the perfect way to tell the emotional story of two sisters. Camino and Yahala are (literal) countries apart. Camino is in New York, and Yahala is in the Dominican Republic. What they don't realize is that they share a father until he tragically passes away. As the navigate their grief and loss, they each learn that there is someone else who knows how they feel. They also learn that they each knew different sides of their father. While the story is about the secrets their father kept, it's also about figuring out a relationship with someone who comes into your life in an incredibly unexpected way. This one had so many feels, and it was so, so good.

Her Dark Lies by JT Ellison was another book in the subgenre of destination wedding thrillers that I've found my way into lately. The problem with this unexpected subgenre is I inevitably compare and contrast the stories. If I'm being honest (and I obvs am because that's what I do with these reviews), there are other destination wedding thrills I liked better. For me, this was a slow start. I prefer a thriller the sucks me from its first moments, and this one took awhile to get going. The story focuses on the wedding of Claire and Jack. As it goes, both Claire and Jack have some big secrets. This includes some mystery surrounding what really happened to Jack's first wife. Oh, and add a side of some crazy stuff that goes down on the island where the wedding is being held. I did think the big twisty reveal was good, so I was into the thrills by the end. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Book Reviews- A Quartet of Thrills

These books come from a time when I was just wanting a really good thriller. Some of these gave more than others, and some twists and turns were also better than others. So here's where I found those thrills (or didn't). 

Where I Left Her by Amber Garza centers on a mom who drops her daughter off a friend's house for a sleepover. She goes back the next day to pick her daughter up. The only thing is that when she goes to the door, an elderly couple answers. Where has Whitney's daughter gone, and how can she explain how her daughter has just vanished? The story then tells the story of where Whitney's daughter might be with multiple narrators/threads of the story. There are some twists (some really good ones) that are involved within these as Whitney focuses on figuring out what happened and realizing this may have some ties to her own story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2021 release.

Pop Goes the Weasel by MJ Arlidge was a book I think I might have connected with better if I read the book this was a sequel to. I think knowing more about who the detectives were would have connected me to the story more as I would be able to understand how she was investigating and how the cases were impacting her. What the story focuses on is a serial killer and trying to connect with the men who are dying. There appears to be a common thread, but could there be more to each of their stories. This one gave me some shocks and thrills along the way, but also just wasn't totally connected.

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones was a thriller in what appears to be a new subgenre of "stuff that happens at destination weddings" that's emerging. The story focuses on six friends that make up three couples. Rachel and Noah are college friends who are now married to other people - Jack and Paige - and also insist there has never been anything between them. The two couples are at the wedding of Jack's brother Will and Ali. When the wedding weekend begins, all the secrets start to come out. Well, they start to be revealed different characters. Everyone seems to know something about someone else, and the characters have to weigh who else they should tell as there is some big stuff that is unearthed. Given this is in a subgenre I've identified, I do have to say there are others in this vein I have liked better, but this was an intriguing thriller. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2021 release.

How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward focuses on the aftermath of a childhood disappearance. Fifteen years ago, Ellie vanished. Her family obviously continues to miss her, feel guilty and/or just wonder what happened. Fifteen years later, one of Ellie's sisters sees a picture, and she is convinced it is Ellie. She decides she is going to take on finding her sister. This is one where I figured out the twist early. For me, I prefer the element of surprise with thrillers, so just reading and seeing my suspicious affirmed just wasn't the same ride I was hoping to find in the thriller.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - A Little of This, A Little of That

Y'all, remember that time I was so close to being caught up on reviews. Well, that was shortly before I was more behind than I've maybe ever been. I won't lament the why and the how, rather I'm just going to start typing. Honestly, the biggest challenge is going to be trying to remember all these books, so we'll just see what happens.

Let's Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower by Therese Huston is a book a coworker and I took on as the inaugural read of a work book club we started. What I liked about this one was that it defined different types of feedback. I'd never thought about feedback in that way, so I found the "buckets" especially helpful. It allowed me to consider the type of feedback I give, and more importantly, the type of feedback I offer. There were some good questions and reflections throughout to also prepare to give and get feedback. I am also a big fan of books like this that gives high level overviews/summaries of chapters to capture the main points which this also offered. I guess, you could say that my feedback is this is a worthwhile read. #seewhatididthere

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant was. . something. The book's premise is that a teen is in a coma, and the mystery is in figuring out why and how this happened. Part of this is connected to the part-time gig she and some others have found being simulated patients for the local medical school. The story then flashes between the past and the present as people try to figure out what happened. The twist at the end honestly requires a content warning because it was heavy and a lot to process. Overall, this was one where I never quite connected with the story/drama, and the pace was a little slow, and then the reveal just kind of shook me.

Black Widows by Cate Quinn is a thriller focused on a husband who has been murdered. Suspicion, of course, turns to his wife - the thing is there are multiple wives to consider. The story is about discovering who killed Blake, but more than that, it's about the stories of his three wives. Each has a backstory that includes secrets and experiences that influence their present day and may connect to a motive. Thrillers are always my jam, and this is one that I couldn't read fast enough, while also being super bummer when it was over. The twists and turns are so good, and it just built intrigue and suspense in all of the stories that were being told about the characters.

Learning to Pray by James Martin was a book I heard about on A Late Show with Stephen Colbert of all places. And goodness, I am so glad I now know this human and his work exists. This was such a fascinating read in that it is part reflection and part education. It focuses on the purpose of prayer, reflections on prayer, and then, it also includes education on how to to pray. With this, there is a deep diver into different types of prayer. I've been praying my whole life, and this was my first exposure to some of these types of prayer. I also found some types of prayer I'd ever like to try. The author writes about faith in such an accessible way, and he does such a good job of explaining the why and how to help you understand the concepts and techniques he's talking about. This was just a beautiful read all around.

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Book Reviews - Wonderful Stories

Back with another round, and I'll say simply that these were just really, really good books!

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was such a phenomenal thriller. I love a thriller where I don't see the twists coming because the build and suspense is so well done. This story focuses on a wedding on an island. At the beginning, you know someone has died, but you don't who it was, why, and who might be responsible. Through the stories of the wedding planner, the bride, the best man, the maid of honor, and a plus one, the story starts to unfold. I love a thriller that builds through multiple narrators, and y'all, this did that exceptionally well. It focused on what was happening on the island as the body was discovered, and it wove a story of what happened before as the intersections between characters started to come together. Y'all, I really just want to say over and over again that this was such a wonderful twisty pageturner of a thriller! 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg was just a delight of a read. I have never seen the movie adaptation (and actually don't know that I've ever known what it was about), so I was literally walking into this book from 1987 as if it was a new release! Fannie Flagg has a gift for writing incredible stories about people and towns. This was my second book of hers, and I am so captivated by the way she writes the details of all of her characters and how she can make these small towns come alive. If you're also just finding this book for the first time, you should know about two women who connect at a nursing home. When visiting, Evelyn becomes connected to Mrs. Threadgoode. Over the course of her visits, Evelyn learns all about her life and the residents of Whistle Stop, Alabama. The stories are so wonderfully told, and I just loved this one.

Broken by Jenny Lawson was fantastic and wonderful and all the things I expect and love about reading this author's work. I love how her books are so honest about mental health. I love how this made me laugh out loud (which very few books actually do) and also cry actual tears. I don't know how to even write a review other than to rave about it with as many different adjectives as possible to tell you this was real and amazing and hilarious and emotional. I am so, so, so glad Jenny Lawson puts these books and her stories out into the universe.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was a book that I've been meaning to read forever, and I finally did as it's the selection for one of my book clubs. This was an interesting tale of the relationship between a brother and sister throughout their lives. This includes tragedy and challenge mostly at the hands of their stepmother and how they choose to take this on through the decades. The characters and decisions they make were so intriguing, and the dynamics are definitely what kept me reading. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Intentional Reads

And we're back y'all. I chose each of these books for a very intentional reason - None of those are related of course, and each of these reads gave me something different and awesome.

Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary was a book I picked up to celebrate the life of Beverly Cleary. While I remember the plots and characters of many of her books really well, I couldn't recall this one even though I clearly recall once owning it (and the cover of that edition even!) This one was just a gem of a throwback. The story focuses on Maggie who is supposed to be learning cursive. She doesn't want to and just doesn't see the point. As the story progresses, Maggie realizes there are reasons she might need to have this skill, and her resistance starts to crumble. This is also thanks to some clever work by her teacher. Beverly Clearly reads are always a delight, and this one was fun to read as an adult - Definitely not as timeless as others given the topic, but a joy nonetheless.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig was just another beautiful, wonderful read by an author I have grown to absolutely adore over the last year. This story focuses on Tom, a fortysomething history teacher. Except, here's the thing, he's actually centuries old. He has a unique condition which means he ages at an incredibly slow rate. This means he's loved and lost and loved and lost again over and over across his lifetime. This is the story of Tom navigating his condition. This means he has to navigate the connections he finds along the way, if he reveals his truth, and honestly how he literally lives each day. I absolutely love the way this author explores questions around life and love and the choices we make along the way. I felt so many feels as I read this one, and I just adored the work of Matt Haig yet again.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller was a solid page-turning gem of a thriller that I just loved. I love a thriller where I just cannot read fast enough because I need to know what happened, and this was so very much that. This is the story of three women in an upscale neighborhood: There's Brooke, the new neighbor who is an author married to a billionaire and 20 years her senior, Erin, a local news anchor, who walks out on her job as a way to jumpstart her career and prove her worth, and Georgia, who is known around town as the Black Widow after her two previous husbands died in what seem to be mysterious circumstances to some. And then, AND THEN, Georgia's third husband dies. Everyone seems to be holding onto secrets, and everyone also seems determined to find out what everyone else is hiding - while also pretending to be besties, of course. The thrills within this one were just so, so good y'all, so I don't want to give you too much plot because the ride from beginning to end is so great! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this October 2021 (I'm so bummed y'all have to wait so long to read this) release!

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris is a book I honestly want to read again. I recognize that's always an odd way to begin a review, AND I think it speaks to what kind of book this is. Nella is the only black woman working at a book publishing company. In so many ways, it's exhausting. And then, another black woman, Hazel, starts. Nella is excited to have someone to connect with, but she struggles when Hazel starts getting opportunities that should be Nella's. Things become even more complicated when Nella begins receiving threatening notes on her desk. She isn't sure who she should trust or what she should do and becomes very suspicious of everyone's motives. The reason I want to re-read this one is that the ways the workplace starts turning on Nella are a slow creep. Reading again, I think I might see that slow burn, but I also enjoyed this the first time through. This was a really unique spin on a thriller. The way it builds and the way the twists evolve were so smartly done. Thanks to Atria books for the advanced copy of this June 2021 release!

Onto the next ones! 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Book Reviews - Feels and Thrills (Again)

I'm pretty sure feels and thrills are my most common reading theme, and it's also a common title. So, here's me reading on this theme again that included some really good reads!

Everything After
by Jill Santopolo was a book that totally swept me away. I read it in a day because I was so darn captivated. Emily is a successful psychologist who loves her work helping college students - Much of that is because she sees herself in them. She is also in a relationship with Ezra, a doctor, who she loves. Then, her past comes rushing back. Emily hears a song on the radio. It seems to be by her first love, Rob. Not only that, it seems to be about her. The song transports Emily back to her life before. She wonders what might have been and even if that's the life she was really meant to have. The story waffles between Emily in the present and the reveal of what Emily's life was like before. This was definitely an emotional read, and I was so drawn in by the characters as Emily returned to the past, and she also pondered what her present and future should be. It was a book that had me so much in my feels, and I absolutely and completely loved this story.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez is a story about navigating the aftermath of a tragedy, particularly when someone is not who they seemed to be. Julia's sister Olga is tragically killed. Olga was adored by her parents, and Julia has felt she's always lived in her shadow. Julia also realizes that she didn't really know her sister, and when she starts digging, she realizes she really, really didn't know Olga at all. This book is a beautiful story of navigating grief and trying to find connection even after someone is gone. Julia is a character who is written in such a raw and honest way. She is trying to figure out where she fits, how to understand her family, and how to just be and understand life without her sister. I was so emotionally drawn into this wonderful and totally amazing read.

Just My Luck by Adele Parks was just not what I expected at all. The premise of the story is that there are three couples who buy lottery tickets together. They'd had the same numbers for years. Then, due to a rift in the group, they decide not to buy tickets together. One of the couples buys the ticket on their own, and then they win. What follows is an exploration of the not so great sides of being a lottery winner. This includes the friends claiming they deserve a share, random people coming after the money, and just adjusting to being a family who suddenly has all the money. About 3/4 of the way through this one, the tone and plot of this one took a pretty significant turn. It caught me way off-guard because it was just so much - too much for me really. This was an interesting exploration of the untold side of winning the lottery and also just so freaking many plot twists. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron was quite the ride, and I just loved the thrills it provided! The story focuses on Cassie. Cassie was once a lawyer (and the story of why she's not is not immediately revealed), but for now, she is working for a temp agency. In this role, she is assigned to review emails for a lawsuit. Wading through the emails, Cassie finds her way to a couple's personal correspondence. She is so drawn into their life. Drawn into the point that Cassie wants their life, or more specifically she wants the husband, Forest. Cassie's focus turns from her work to learning all she can about Forest, so she can make him hers. Y'all, the twists in this one were wild. Every character has some level of secrecy about who they really are, and when those reveals happen, they are so, so good. I don't want to say too much because this is a thriller where the best stuff is very much the reveals as the story goes on, so I'll just say that this is absolutely a book you're going to need in your life. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this July 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Wonderful Stories

Y'all, this round included a triad (within the quartet) of just wonderful reads. They were unique stories told in different ways that I just connected with and loved!

Bump by Matt Wallace was a book that was totally and completely my jam - like I don't know a book that has been more in my lane. It's about a girl who loves pro wrestling, specifically the luchadores. Y'all, I was a girl who loved pro wrestling (and still does), so this was just made for me. The story focuses on MJ. MJ struggles to fit in, and then she finds a local wrestling school. She convinces her mom to let her train there, and she is so excited by the community she finds. She is truly doing what she loves, and it is an opportunity she savors each and every day. There are some challenges at the school, and I don't want to say too much, but y'all the plot of this one had me captivated! It's so important to have books where kids can see themselves and know it's okay to love what you love, AND to love yourself. This is absolutely what this book is, and I'm so glad there is a now a book about a girl who digs pro wrestling in the universe.

Sunshine Girl by Julianna Margulies was just a delight of a memoir. What I liked above all else was that this was really more focused on her as a person versus her as a celebrity. It wasn't the hot gossip from ER and/or The Good Wife, rather it was about reflecting on her childhood, young adulthood, and also how she found her way to each of these shows. I felt like I got to know who she was as a human navigating the world versus just the actress sliver of her life. It was also really interesting to see how she reflected on the challenges she'd navigated along the way, and she did this in a very honest, authentic way. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2021 release

Open House by Katie Sise was a book I picked up because I just needed a thriller in my life. That really perfectly describes what this is - Just a thriller with some twists and a plot that keeps driving. The story focuses on a ten year old missing persons case. Ten years ago, college student Emma disappeared. Since then, her sister has always needed closure of what happened, as to her closest friends. Ten years later, another incident connected to Emma opens the case back up. The story waffles between the past of Emma's story and the present of what's going down to slowly reveal truths on both ends.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver was the most wonderful blend of beauty and love and heartbreak. Lydia is sure she and Freddie will be together forever. Then, on her 28th birthday, Freddie is tragically killed in a car accident. Lydia is overcome with grief, and she is at a loss for where to go from here. Freddie is gone, except he's not. Wait, what? Lydia has a medication that when she takes it before she goes to sleep, she is transported to a place where Freddie is still alive. During the nights, Lydia then is living the life she hoped she would. During the day, she's got to deal with the reality that life needs to go on. Together, with Freddie's best friend Jonah and her sister Elle, she starts to figure out what her new normal is. I'll be honest that I could see where this one was going, and I loved it anyway! The build was just so good. It was also a really wonderful exploration of grief and trying to figure out what to do when you life is shattered. I devoured and adored this one y'all!

Onto the next ones! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Book Reviews - Reframed Feels

Again, I'm not quite sure how to group this quartet together. Really what comes to mind is that they all had some kind of feels, and they also all told stories in a bit of a unique way? Sure, Andrea. Read on, I promise my reviews are better than this introduction.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey was an interesting memoir. I always find memoirs hard to write about because I'm really critiquing the way someone talks about their own life. I mean, who am I to judge about how someone chooses to do this? I think what I learned most about Mariah was the difficulties of her childhood. This was hard stuff to read, and I appreciated how she showed the connections of this time to her music. For the stuff about her marriages and fame in general, I maybe wanted more, but again, totally her call? It strangely did make me want to see Glitter as I've never actually watched. I know, I know, but I feel like I need the context. All in all, I don't feel like I fully know the meaning of Mariah Carey as the title indicates, but I do have her perspective on a variety of things which helps. 

Hood Feminism: Notes from a Woman That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall was phenomenal. It should be required reading, and I personally should have read this sooner! It's been on my list for awhile, and when I heard the author on NPR, I decided there was no more waiting, and I needed to read this now. This is an exploration of what feminism leaves out and why that's a problem. Gender equity isn't just about gender equity, rather there are a number of issues that need to be part of the conversation around the push for systemic change. Each chapter of the book explores a different one of these issues and specifically how they impact women, especially women of color, and then makes the case why this matters. Throughout, I learned so much. Of all the chapters, I would say the one about food insecurity has stuck with me the most. I have plans already to revisit this one as it opened my mind to so many issues that I need to be not only informed about, but to advocate for.

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly is the third in the Lilac Girls series. Although it's part of a trilogy, reading the first two books isn't needed to follow this one. Much like the first in the series which I have read, there are three storylines. Two of them are more protagonist-y, while the other is clearly an antagonist. This book is set in the Civil War. One of the women is a Union nurse, another is a slave on a plantation, and the third is the wife of a plantation and slave owner. As it happens in Lilac Girls, the three stories have intersections throughout to really tell the story of the war. It's definitely an emotional ride, and there is a lot of pain in the stories of these women to the point that it is a really difficult read at times. That said, it's also important to know and remember and understand that pain in history and the impacts that can still show up today. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this soon to be released novel. 

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano was just an absolutely beautiful book. The story is about a young boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash. In the crash, he has lost his entire family, so he is navigating his new normal. The story focuses on his grief and how he navigates life with his aunt and uncle. The story is also about the plane's passengers, and it explains who many of the passengers were and what they were carrying with them on that tragic day. I won't explain the end because that's part of the story, but I have to say I was in tears by the end with the way all the stories come together. It was just breathtaking and wonderful and had me all up in my feels - Honestly, the whole damn book did, and that's what makes it worth reading.

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Ordinary Days

(Stack of books I have read, but haven't yet shared.)

Y'all, I'll be honest that this post has been stewing in my head for weeks. I've had many thoughts on the focus, and I just keep not writing it. So now here I sit, I'm going to just start typing words, and we'll see where we land.

Things are hard right now. I know, I know, I'm stating an obvious for so many humans, including me. But I didn't let myself name this as I needed to for a long time. I'm saying this now, and I'm processing what this means for me.

As a secret to no one, I love reading. My feeds regularly have the books I've been reading - except that hasn't been the case for the last two months. If you've ever heard me talk self-care, you've likely heard me say that I track what I read as a way to check-in with me. When there are gaps of times when I haven't read anything, it's my sign that things might not be so great. February was that. I also looked back and realized that when I was reading I wasn't enjoying it. I honestly had gotten to this place where I was reading for process and not really connected with anything I'd finished. While ruts aren't atypical, what I found as I looked back was the majority of what I had read just wasn't my jam. Truthfully, it was quite a jarring set of revelations.

After figuring out what was going on, I had to really think about why this had happened. Where had things gone off-course? Reading is what I do, so how could I mess this up?

Before I went too far into this exploration, I gave myself some grace. I/we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and nothing is normal. I feel like everyone has had these peaks and valleys, and mine just came late in the game. 

Second, I took the time to really understand what was going on. I returned to why I started sharing what I was reading in the first place. Y'all should know that for a long time I was afraid to share these regular updates with the masses. And then I faced that fear, started posting reviews/pictures of quartets, and people were a fan. I've loved how people have told me they've found their way to books because of what I had read/shared. I've loved when people ask me directly for recommendations, and I also love when people share their recommendations with me. I didn't need to overthink a solution to where I was/am, rather I just need to get back to why I started. 

Also, I've realized I need to post in a way that makes sense to me. Honestly, I think I let the stress of comparison and likes and all the social media things consumed me. I loved this process so much more when it was what I wanted to do. I'm really not sure how that pressure hit me like I did, but that grace I decided to give myself means I don't have to analyze that extensively. I can say it just is and keep on moving.

Really what happened is that I let this joy become ordinary. I let my light become dull. I started going through the motions, and it was not fun.

I was thinking about this all as a greater experience in the experience that has been the last year. From the beginning, I have drawn the line that this is not a learning opportunity. I don't want to have some post about all the things I learned in this time. Because honestly, a lot of times I'm just trying to get through the day. A lot of times I'm dreaming of what cannot be. Look y'all, I've been a rule follower my whole life, and I am still very much that person. It has been an impossible challenge to emotionally navigate how it feels to be so impacted by the lack of rule following. A year later, I have no good coping mechanism for that other than having a good cry every so often.

More than anything, I ache for the normal of ordinary days. I yearn for the choices of a normal day. I want reading to be something I do, not everything. I also want to wander libraries and to sit at local coffee shops with books and to again just do normal book-ish things - normal everythings. I know it's coming, but also I still miss it. I have found that I have to let hope for what is to be exist in the same space as the grief of what hasn't been able to be. There aren't any easy answers for me, and again, I give myself the grace that this is just how it has to be.

I say this piece to really say that this reading thing was a sub-rut that was part of a greater rut.

So I'm going to get back to posting reviews and books. I did about all the books I've read in the rut that were just okay - It was a process, kind of like a book report on assigned reading, but I made it through. And from here, I'm more intentionally making choices of what I read. There is a method to this, and it's my method, and that's okay.

More than anything, I needed to put this out of my brain and into words. Maybe it has a flow, maybe it doesn't, but this is how life is right now. 

Here's hoping for more ordinary days soon. . .whatever that might be.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Book Reviews - Books That Stick With You

Unsurprisingly, I'm back with another round of reviews. This round was heavy on the kind of books that stick with you long after you're done reading, as well as the books you are likely to revisit again (and again).

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler was a delight of a YA romance. The story focuses on Lara. Lara has had a longstanding crush on Chase, the popular, handsome athlete (who is not a jerk - worth noting because that's not always the case in stories like this/IRL), and he's now interested in her. This is just what Lara has wanted for years. Except Lara had a very unexpected summer of romance with Jasmine. And then, AND THEN, Jasmine shows up at her school. Now Lara has some tough choices to make to figure out what she really and truly wants. Y'all, this was a really well done account of high school. It even gave me some throwback feels of my own high school days which I don't always love, but in this case, it speaks to how well it was able to craft a real story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2021 release!

Four Winds by Kristin Hannah was so powerful and amazing. This author is absolutely incredible when it comes to historical fiction. This story centers on the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. With this, it really hones in on what the human experience of this time was like. The story focuses on Elsa. The book begins with her life taking an unexpected turn. What follows is then the story of the hard decisions she has to make for herself and her family throughout this time. No choice is easy, and this is an incredibly emotional read. However, that pain is important in understanding the reality of what this time was like. I learned so much through the way this story was told. There was incredible care given to building a plot that really conveyed just how hard this time was. Elsa was also an amazing character. The way she and her story evolves is what really drew me in as I was so rooting for her and all she encountered. This is a story that will absolutely draw you in, hit you in the feels, and stick with you long after you're done reading.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown was fantastic - obviously. It'd been a minute (or seven years) since I last read it, so I was way overdue to revisit this one. This is just a wonderful reflection on the importance and power of vulnerability. There's just a way that Brene explains things that just resonates with me. The last time I read this I borrowed the book from a friend. I'm very happy to now have a copy where I've been able to mark my favorite stuff that I can revisit. There are just so many messages that spoke to me for night now, but also all of the times. I am so thankful for the work and wisdom she provides in giving voice to such important topics.

The Black Friend: On Being a Better While Person by Frederick Joseph was outstanding. The author uses his own experiences (which are honest and emotional) to explain different topics around racism. Within the stories, he takes the time to educate on what is actually happening. With this, he uses specific terms (and includes an incredible glossary at the back) to explore the reality of situations he has found himself in. The power in this is that these aren't just abstract concepts, but lived experiences. With each story, he also has an interview/reflection with someone to further explore the chapter's focus. While this is a YA read, it is definitely a solid read for humans of all ages.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Feels Central

There isn't really a common thread in this round, so I'm not going to try. I will say that two of these were so freaking packed with feels. There are worth the read, and they're going to stick with you long after you're done reading.

Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews was one heckuva twisty thrilling ride. Florence aspires to be an author, but hasn't found her big break just yet. Then, an amazing opportunity comes her way. Florence has the chance to be the assistant to the mysterious Maud Dixon. Maud's work is well-known, but no one knows who she actually is. Helen (aka Maud) and Florence are on a book research trip when tragedy happens. Florence wakes up in hospital alone. It appears Helen has been killed, and Florence now has the opportunity of a lifetime. Given the secrecy of Maud Dixon, Florence could finally be the author she has dreamed of being. However, this decision is not as easy as it seems, and there are some big challenges ahead as Florence takes on the charade. This was a clever premise, and another thriller that kept me turning those pages because I needed to know how it all ended up for Florence/Maud. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

Beartown by Fredrik Backman was a book I have simply waited too long to read. It's absolutely beautiful and captivating and heartbreaking and just all the things you hope a book will be. The story centers on a hockey team in a small town. Hockey is baked into the town's identity, and the story explores what this connection means, especially when a traumatic event occurs. As Backman books tend to do, it was the characters in this one for me. They were so wonderfully written, and the way their stories each unfolded, both with joy and pain, just drew me into the town. This was one of those books that sucked me in from its first pages, and it did not let me go until the last sentence. The good news is that there is a sequel. I'm not sure what that experience will be like, but I can tell y'all that this book is one you must have in your life. 

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji was a fascinating exploration of how bias plays into our lives each and every day. Rather than being a "call out" of behavior, it explores how this shows up and why this matters. It is very much grounded in research and understanding what science can tell us about why we act the way we do. It is also one of those books that I want/need to go back and revisit the key points to really digest the concepts and understand how this is showing up not only in others, but in me, too. 

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum is an incredibly emotional, powerful and tragic read. The story focuses on three generations of Arab-American women. Deya has grown up without her mother, Isra. She has been told her parents were tragically killed in a car accident when she was young. However, she discovers some correspondence that makes it seem this isn't what actually happened. The story then goes between Isra and Deya's. In Isra's story, it's how she entered into her marriage and what came next. In Deya's story, it's her quest to find the truth. This is a story of a culture of silence, incredible secrets, and important revelations of the truth. It is a book that has stayed with me and will stay with me. It is full of so much pain, but there is also such power in the truth that is told. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Short Stories and Long Thrills

Oh, hi. It's another round of books. There isn't much to offer as an introduction - Two of these were thrillers, and two were short stories. Cool.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie was quite the ride. This is only my second Agatha Christie (Why is this? I need to fix this y'all), and I just love her timeless storytelling. This story revolves around a murder on a train. Detective Hercule Poirot must figure out who is responsible by interviewing a slew of suspects. Each alibi initially appears to work, and there is no motive that is immediately clear. Then the detective does some work y'all! As the secrets came out and the truth was unraveled, the story was just so damn brilliant. Agatha Christie is truly the queen of thrillers, and I loved the ride (pun intended) this one took me on, especially one heckuva reveal!

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was an incredible set of short stories. The difference in this collection is that there is a thread that connects one story to the next, and all of the stories included are then part of a larger overall story. I don't want to say too much because honestly the beauty and intrigue is in seeing those connections come to light. I will also say that many of these connections are through tragedy, so know that this is a story not only full of some twists and turns, but some pretty intense feelings. (Note: The book does have a content warning, and I would definitely suggest evaluating that before you dive in.) This was one of those books that absolutely drew me in so many ways - It was the plot above all else, but it was also just masterful storytelling. Thanks to NetGalley for an early look at this April 2021 release!

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks was a short story collection that was extremely well-written with words, but also just okay. The stories each had a typewriter involved somehow which was an interesting spin, and I just didn't really find anything truly hit me in the feels. This is frequently my struggle with short stories, so not a new challenge, and I just really missed this as I read. I kept reading, and I appreciated the unique premises of each story, AND I also just feel "meh" about the experience. 

Tell No One by Harlan Coben was a book I picked up because I just needed a reliable thriller. When I need that, Coben is often where I turn. This story focuses on David Beck who tragically lost his wife eight years earlier. In present day, it seems that she may still be alive, but that can't be true or can it? David decides to believe it could be true, and the case is opened again. As Coben novels do, this one had some great twists with one big mega-twist revealed at the end. It was told in a way that I also didn't guess what was going to go down which is the mark of an especially great thriller for me. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Late to All the Parties

For this round of reads, I was just late to reading. It was two blog tours that didn't get posted on time, an ARC that has been out for a year, and an adaptation where I hadn't read the source material. All that mind this an interesting round. . .

Girlhood by Masuma Ahuja was a blog tour stop you can check out here.

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian was a blog tour stop you can check out here.

Providence by Max Barry is not a genre that I read ever. This is also an advanced copy from March 2020 that I'm just now getting to which is more about me than anything else. The start of the pandemic just wasn't a time I was ready to delve into exploring the discovery of alien life. Again, this is about me as a reader. Anyway. This story is about astronauts who are chosen to taken on a hostile alien force seven years after they were first encountered. Each astronaut is selected for the mission for a specific reason, AND each of these humans has their own "stuff" they bring to the mission. The story is about the aliens, but more than anything, it's about the people who have been tasked with taking on the mission. It's a lot of pressure to lead this work, and they feel this. It's good for me to read outside my normal zone every once in awhile, and I appreciated the angle this one took on in exploring what an alien encounter might look like in the (not so distant) future. 

Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility by Lauren Edmondson was a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility. Here's the thing, y'all, I haven't read S&S, seen the movie, and am not actually familiar with the original story. With that base knowledge, I think I would have enjoyed this more as I could connect that adaptation with the source material. This context (or lack thereof) influenced my reading experience for sure. The story focuses on a family scandal. Senator Gregory Richardson has died . . . in the presence of his young mistress. Thirtysomething Daisy then returns home to help her mother and to help prepare the family estate to be sold as they are in financial ruin. As the story goes, more secrets are revealed about her father, and Daisy has to figure out how to keep the pieces together which is not an easy feat. I really felt like I was missing something not knowing S&S, and it also was an interesting story about what to do when family secrets bubble to the surface! Thanks to NetGalley for this early look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

(Late to the) Blog Tour: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

 Once again, I'm catching up with another (nearly missed) #BlogTourTuesday stop. This one is for How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian. 

The story focuses on Izzy. Since her father was tragically killed while deployed, she and her mom and brother have moved often and been trying to find someplace to call home. At their newest stop, Izzy loves her school. However, even though she finds friends and a boyfriend, she's doing this with a secret. She's on scholarship, and she doesn't have the privilege that the other students do. Her family has also been selected for a Habitat for Humanity build. While exciting, Izzy doesn't want to be the face of this project, especially because she doesn't want her classmates to find out who she really is. She especially doesn't want her boyfriend to know as she's never had a relationship like this. This book explores the complexities of one girl's story. She is in some ways living multiple lives and cannot live her full truth in any of them. Like many young adult reads, I think about when I was the target audience. This is definitely a story I would have been drawn to. I would have liked the love story overlayed with the difficulties of Izzy trying to find herself.


Children’s Book Council: “Hot Off the Press: February 2020”

Latinos in Publishing: “January 2020 Latinx Releases”

Kirkus Reviews: “11 Early Books We Love”

Kirkus Reviews: “16 Books We Can’t Wait For in 2020”

“A Pretty In Pink story about grief, family, class, and first love.”


(Late to the) Blog Tour: Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja

First off, this was supposed to be a #BlogTourTuesday post, and then life happened. So, here I am running after the blog tour train that's left the station trying to jump on at the last minute.


Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja is a glimpse into the experiences of girls around the world. Their stories are told in their own words through diary entries and question prompts. The stories are then overlaid with information about the realities of the countries where they live. Each girl is navigating some unique challenges individually and in the community/country around her. My only critique (in a good way) was I wanted more! I was so drawn into each girl's story that I wanted to know what was next for her, how she was doing, and just a general deeper dive into her life. That said, I think this book is also intentionally set up this way to be a conversation starter. The stories of each girl can show other girls similarities around the world while also showing what it's like to live in different countries through the experiences of a real-life person. I also dug that these stories include pictures. Again, you really get drawn into the worlds of these worlds in just a few pages. As a kid, this would have absolutely been a book I was captivated by, and I think it's great that girls today have this collection.

Given this is a book tour, I have some special "treats" to share. Here are a few excerpts from the book!

Book Reviews - Things to Think About

And here's another round! Three of the four of these had some great inspiration and reflection opportunities. So, let's go!

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman is a book I heard about ages (like a legit decade y'all) ago, and I finally have read it! Yay, me? Anyway. The book was first published in the sixties, and almost sixty years later, it is still incredibly relevant. Told in a variety of correspondence methods, this is the story of Slyvia, a young teacher assigned to a metro high school. She very quickly comes to see the realities of this school, including the stories and challenges of her students, the lack of resources to do her work, and the frustrations of administrative demands. Throughout, she tries to do all she can to help her students, while also encountering a variety of barriers through them, her colleagues and the administration. This was such a unique storytelling technique, and it worked so well to really help me see Sylvia's struggles. I was so drawn in, and I was rooting for Sylvia and her students even though the obstacles were many. This is a book whose subject matter is timeless in its frustration, but also in its inspiration. It's one I could see myself revisiting as it's just so well-crafted and has so many messages that are so important to continue to hear about education.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was such a beautiful, wonderful book. After being totally captivated by The Midnight Library, I needed more of this author in my life. This is a memoir focused on the realities and struggles of mental health told in an honest and authentic way. At times, the story is hard, but those are the parts that are so, so very important to hear and know. Even through the pain, this is above all else a story of hope. As the title says, this is about finding joy and perseverance even in the darkness. This was just a book that had me (predictably) in my feels, but also gave me so much to reflect on and sit with, too. It's another one I can see myself revisiting, and I'm also ready for more Matt Haig reads in my life.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers was a re-read in preparation for the two authors coming to an event at work. Y'all, this book is a must-read. I am so appreciative of how these two women are able to speak and explain politics/life. They are able to work through difficult topics with such intentionality and grace. Given I was re-reading, I took time to mark my favorite passages (and there were many), and these are words I will revisit. Also, if you're not yet listening to Pantsuit Politics, it's absolutely a podcast you need in your life. 

With so many of these quartets, you need to cue the "One of these things is not the other" music, and this last one is obvioulsy that!

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade was just a delight of a romance read focused on April and Marcus. Marcus Caster-Rupp is the star of Gods of the Gates (which is akin to Game of Thrones in its hype and fandom). While the show has made him a star, Marcus also isn't so much a fan of how the story has been adapted for TV from books. Wanting to re-write the stories, he finds connection and community in the fan fiction community. April is a member of that community. She finds particular connection with one particular user, and unbeknownst to her, that user is actually Marcus! April also loves cosplay, and she goes viral for one of her costumes. That post catches the eye of the real-life Marcus, and they end up on a date. Marcus learns that April is actually his fanfic friend, but he decides not to tell her. From there, the real-life and online relationships take different twists and turns given what Marcus knows (and April doesn't). I really liked the fanfic angle of this one. It's a dedicated community, and it was fun to see how this story was built around the world they live in and fandom they cultivate!

Onto the next ones!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Reviews - Highly Recommended and (More) Time Travel

Hey, here are two books that helped me get through my endless advanced copy queue and two that came highly recommended that I also just LOVED.

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux was a book I've had in queue for quite some time. This is my first time reading this author, and it was an enjoyable ride - I'll be back for more! This story revolved around a cold case brought back to life. While I haven't read the earlier iteration, this is a missing persons mystery where an "old gang" is getting back together to solve the crime. That said, I didn't feel like I was missing out by not knowing these characters before this installment. Kate, Jack and Sara come together at Oxley Manor where two people went missing long ago. As those who were connected to these people back when come back to Oxley, the trio must determine what their stories were then and now to finally solve these cases. This was an interesting ride as the past and present became connected, and the trio tried to piece together the clues. Thanks to NetGalley for the (belated) look at this read!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was absolutely stunning. I don't even want to write too much about I because I can't even begin to do the beauty of its story justice. The book revolves around the concepts of "What if?" and regret in such a captivating way. The story is told through Nora. Nora has lost hope in life, then she is whisked away to a library. It's a library of her life. Each moment is cataloged, but also there are stories of what might have been. Nora is given the chance to explore those lives she never lives, but has wondered how they might have played out. I won't say much more because the joy of this one is in the journey. I absolutely loved this one and the messages and how it just made me think and feel. Read. This. Book.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tayor Jenkins Reid was a story I absolutely loved. The way it was written sucked me in from the first pages, and then I literally couldn't put it down because it was so interesting, and I had to know all of Evelyn's story! Evelyn Hugo is a reclusive movie star. She gives no interviews until she reaches out to a magazine requesting Monique for an interview. Monique is not a well-known writer, so she is unclear why she has been chosen. Evelyn is adamant that she will tell her story to no one but Monique. Monique and Evelyn start meeting, and Evelyn walks her through her life/husbands. Each of these stories comes with truths that have never been revealed, including who Evelyn's true love was. This one was full of feels and a twist that got me to gasp when revealed. I just loved this one y'all!

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris was a book I honestly didn't understand the scope of until the last pages. Once the story really clicked, it was so, so powerful. The story is about two brothers who have tragically lost their parents. Alex is a 16 year old just trying to get through life - his grief, his job, his relationships, and oh yeah, that thing where he can see the future. In his visions, he sees that his younger brother Isiaah is going to die. Alex decides that if this is the future, he still has time to change the story. He commits to spending as much time as possible with Isiaah and to righting the future that he doesn't believe is inevitable. Through this, Isiaah and Alex start to become closer, but Alex never forgets what his brother's fate could be. While this is about two brothers, it's really about what it's like to be a young black man today. The threads of this reality are woven through the fictional tale of these two brothers. While centered on an imaginary skillset, the real components of this fateful tale matter. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this powerful April 2021 release.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Book Clubs and Time Travel!

For this round, I've got two books I read for book club and two advanced copies. Quite the array of reads in this quartet, but all had me in my feels in one way or the other!

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code by Liza Mundy was the fascinating story of a part of World War II that isn't well-known, and y'all, IT SHOULD BE. This is the story of the women who were code breakers during the war. That's right, women were doing this work. Recruited primarily on college campuses and because they were single (they definitely unpack this strategy), THOUSANDS of women did this work for the Army and Navy. This book is interesting to hear about the work they were doing, and it's even more interesting to hear the stories of who these women were. The book did interviews with the women who were still living, as well as archival research to share this story with the world. After the war, these women were told they had to keep this work a secret which is an interesting dynamic that is also explored. This was the first read for my sorority book club, and honestly, I'm not sure I would have picked this one on my own. However, I'm so glad I now know these stories, and the critical role women played in this war! There was also a recent PBS documentary that I'm excited to check out to continue learning these important stories.

Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis was a wonderful pageturner! It's told in two timelines (and y'all know I love a dual timeline/narrator set-up) revolving around the New York Public Library. In 1913, it's about Laura, a woman trying to figure out her place in the world. Her husband is the superintendent of the NYPL (where they live y'all!), and they are raising their two kids. She is also in journalism school, and she loves exploring her love of writing. Part of this writing brings her to the Heterodoxy Club, a world of women and way of thinking that draws her in. Meanwhile in 1993, there is Sadie, a curator of the NYPL. Also, Laura is her grandmother who is known as an esteemed essayist. Then, things start disappearing from Laura's collection. For one, Sadie hasn't shared her connection, and for two, she isn't sure what is happening. In both timelines, there is suspense about some curious happenings in the library, and the way each woman grows through her story is just wonderfully done. This is one that swept me up into its world, and I didn't want to leave. I loved the suspense and depth of the stories of these two women and loved how the mysteries were revealed!

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li was another one of those middle grade books that had me all up in my feels. The story was about Ro who has tragically lost her father and remains connected to him/his memory through their shared love of rockets. Ro finds friendship with Ben, who has realized his estranged father is the creator of his favorite space-based comic. Ro and Ben join up as science fair partners, and they start to navigate their school/life together as friends. Part of this means working through bullying, and this is some tough stuff. They are both also grieving for their fathers in different ways. What I appreciated about this one was that the emotions were so real. It really explored each of their challenges, as well as the rocky road that middle school can bring. It didn't hold back on those feels, and it wasn't always happy, but also these characters found joy in their connection. Thanks to Quill Tree Books for the early look at this recent release!

Muted by Tami Charles was a heavy read. I knew that was going to be case going on, so not a surprise, but a notation. Told in verse, it is the story of Denver. She and her best friends Dali and Shak have aspirations of being the next big R&B girl group. Then, in a dream come true, they are connected with Sean "Mercury" Ellis, a big name R&B artist. They really want to make their dream happen, so they agree to work with Mercury as much as possible. They soon realize this is far from a dream, and they are stuck in a world where this man has all these power and control. Denver wants to keep her dream alive, but she wonders if is worth these sacrifices and isolation. This was a hard and emotional read, but it's also important to know these stories are real. Thanks to Scholastic for the early look at this February 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!