Thursday, February 24, 2022

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson






Rating: 5+ of 5 stars 
Pages: 385 pages
Published: February 2022

I love Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson so much! This book is my favorite read of 2022 ... so far ... there are still a lot of reading days left; however, it will take something pretty substantial to replace it. 

This generational story begins with siblings, Bryon and Benny, coming together after Eleanor's their mother, death to discuss their inheritance with the family attorney. Much to their surprise, they learn the attorney has a voice recording their mother left behind that instructs them to partake of a family recipe - a traditional Caribbean black cake with someone from Eleanor's past. Through this final piece of communication, their mother reveals some long-buried secrets about herself, their father and the family they thought they knew.

Through flash backs and flash forwards to present day, we, as the reader, are able to put together the pieces of the puzzle of life Eleanor, which culminates in a beautiful love story of friendship, family and the perseverance to overcome the most challenging struggles. I really enjoyed the Wilkerson's writing style and ability to tell a story in such a way that is complex but also engaging and arresting. 

Recommendation: This book gave me all the feels. We never know where one choice may take us, but the choices we make can create an intricately-woven life for us and those we love. I highly recommend this read when you have time to really enjoy it. It is not long, but it is deep and should be consumed with care. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Verity by Colleen Hoover






Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 336 pages
Published: October 2021

The cult following and book club chatter that has resulted from the publication of Colleen Hoover's Verity is absolutely unreal but totally warranted. The book gets a lot of hype, and I do believe it's worth it. It is well written, intriguing and suspenseful. 

The book begins when the main character, author and financially-and-emotionally-broken Lowen, is invited by Jeremy to the home he and his wife, successful and financially-sound author, Verity, to finish writing a book series that, after a traumatic injury, Verity can no longer write. While conducting her research, Lowen stumbles upon this manuscript seemingly written by Verity filled with horrifying admissions. What's more is Lowen starts develop feelings for Jeremy, yes, Verity's husband. 

I think I devoured this book in about two days. There's so much going on in the story, but the author writes in such a way that makes it easily to follow and the reader quickly invested. So much so that groups have been created on social media to discuss the verity of Verity - the character not the book - and the manuscript she allegedly left behind. As for me, I am not going to read too much into it. It was a roller coaster of a read. I enjoyed it very much, and that's the end of it for me. 

Recommendation: This would be a fast summer read for adults. Please note people who are sensitive to pregnancy and abortion may find parts of this novel triggering. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Friday, January 21, 2022

As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall






Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 384 pages
Published: October 2021

As the Wicked Watch is the first in a series about an investigative journalist with detective instincts and a debut mystery by TV host and journalist Tamron Hall. This book was all abuzz in my reading circles, so I grabbed a copy and read it over a nice beach vacay in Belize this January. The story centers around journalist Jordan Manning who, in covering the news story of a recent murder of a 15-year old girl, gets really close to the case often putting herself in harm's way of not only getting the story but also helping solve the crime. 

Overall, the crime and subsequent mystery flows like similar detective/journalist books or even Lifetime movies. Hall provides a lot of detail and character development. Although, I might argue at times, it seems like a little too much, which slowed the pace. I do think this book could have been about 75 pages shorter, but it was still pretty easy to follow. There was enough intrigue to keep me invested plus I intended to participate in book club discussion. 

I think this is a decent debut for Hall, and I think with time her writing will sharpen. I can't say if I could commit to reading all of the books in this series, but it wasn't a bad read - especially with an ocean view as a backdrop! 



Recommendation: Fans of Tamron Hall will want to read this book. I do not think they will be disappointment. There's still room for growth, and I'm rooting her on for book two. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw






Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 354 pages
Published: December  2021
What a wild ride! A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw is mainly mystery, part horror with a touch of the supernatural. The novel begins with Travis Wren, a detective of sorts, who finds missing people. He is hired by the parents of Maggie St. James to locate their adult daughter who has been missing for several years. During his investigation, Travis crashes his truck, and sometime later a member - Theo - of this strange and reclusive community called Pastoral finds the abandoned vehicle with no signs of life around it. Theo and the people who live there exhibit cult-like behaviors and have unrealistic fears about the world around them. The abandoned truck sparks curiosity in Theo to think outside of the Pastoral box, which leads to long-buried secrets being revealed. 

I really can't say much more about this book without giving away too much and detracting from its suspense. It was a very enjoyable read. The author did a good job of creating imagery and making the reader feel as though they are actually in the story. As I read this book, I felt like I traveled to Pastoral myself and at the end I came out of the darkness and into the light. 

Some reviewers have shared that this book is similar to the plot of the movie The Village. I have not seen that movie, but having read about it after I read this book, I can see how similarities are drawn. I think this type of story is best in book form because it's easier to create a sense of confusion with words lending itself to greater suspense. 

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to any mystery and suspense fan. This is my first read by Ernshaw, but I don't think it will be my last. Book of the Month offered up another good suggestion for me, and I extend that suggestion to you! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström







Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 416 pages
Published: September 2021

I had such high hopes for In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström. I really wanted to like it. A story about three Black women living in Sweden all connected by one wealthy, white Swedish man. Kemi, a successful marketing executive, Brittany a beautiful former model now flight attendant, and Muna a poor refugee whose entire family was killed in her home country. 

The book starts off strong with detailed character development. Even the characters you love to hate (read: Brittany) are emotional-provoking and memorable. The book as a decent pace. I think it was a little slow in parts but not anything that prohibited me from finishing the book. However, the ending was very abrupt, and while I don't have to have a happy ending, I'd like to at least have one. It almost seemed as though the author didn't know where to go or how to end the novel. 

Recommendation: This book left me wanting more. I think the author is talented, and I think I would try another book of hers, but this wasn't the one for me. If someone makes it a movie, maybe that will be more compelling. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren







Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 307 pages
Published: October 2020

In a Holidaze by co-authors and friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings who use the pen name Christina Lauren is somewhat of a Goundhog Day romantic comedy in book form. In this Christmas-themed novel [that I received in January of 2021 (thanks, Covid) but held off reading until December 2021], the protagonist, Maelyn Jones, is spending her last Christmas at her family friends' cabin in Utah. Maelyn is having a rough go in her personal and professional life, and she hopes to relive some of the magic she's experienced with her family and friends who have become family. But everything falls apart when she learns that the friends who own the cabin are going to sell it. Throwing her into despair, Maelyn wishes for happiness which sets her into somewhat of a time loop where she continually wakes up on the same day. 

This is a fun, lighthearted book. Most readers and movie-watchers can probably anticipate where the plot will end up. But this is the kind of movie you need this time of year. Something fun, something lighthearted, and being published in 2020, something hopeful which we all could use a little hope nowadays. The story is touching and funny, and if I'm being honest, it is cheesy in some parts. But overall, it's a good read. 

Recommendation: I enjoyed reading this book leading up to the Christmas holiday, and I think you will too. The average reader could probably devour it in just a few days. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Perishing by Natasha Deón






Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 304 pages
Published: November 2021

I snagged The Perishing by Natasha Deón in my monthly Book of the Month box. The book is described as speculative fiction and focuses on a young Black woman named Lou who wakes up, as a young girl, with no recollection of who she is or how she ended up in 1930s Los Angeles. The story follows her as she is put into foster care, graduates from high school and becomes the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times. From there, the book takes an interesting turn as we, the readers, follow Lou's journey. Ultimately, we learn that she may be an immortal as she continues to investigate who she is and why she exists.  

I selected this book with a reading buddy. It is not something I would have read on my own, but I did enjoy reading and discussing it with someone else. Having finished the book, I am 100% sure I do not fully understand speculative fiction or what it is, but I can't say that I didn't enjoy this read. It was interesting and honed in on some important societal issues of the time. 

Recommendation: I would recommend this book when you have time to read slowly and have thoughtful reflection. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite







Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 226 pages
Published: July 2019

Can you say dark and twisty? That about sums up my thoughts of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It was the second buddy read with my partner, and oh emm gee! Nigerian sisters Korede and Ayoola are vastly different. Ayoola is younger, trendier, prettier, and luckier in love. Also, she kills her boyfriends, and her older, more logical sister, Korede, literally helps her clean up the mess. Korede also has a steady and stable career at the local hospital where she has a secret crush on a handsome doctor, Tade. However, when he meets the younger and more beautiful Ayoola, he falls quickly for her, igniting Korede’s fears of Tade’s possible early demise. 

The title of this book is intriguing. The staccato-like chapters make for a fast read. The passages are descriptive. And the overall plot seems predictable; however, I would argue that there are some deeper issues going on between Korede, Ayoola, and their early-departed father as well. This book has the perfect combination of mystery, intrigue, comedy, and is psychologically thrilling. I think any reader could finish it in a day or two. I enjoyed the story, but I was not a fan of the ending. 

Recommendation: This is a good book. I would recommend it. Was it the best thing I’ve read in 2021? No, but certainly not the worst either. If you’re looking for a novel to help bump your reading challenge number, this one is a good selection. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler







Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 287 pages
Published: June 1979

So, I read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler with my new beau who wanted to connect with me through one of my favorite pastimes … reading. 😍 This historical, science fiction novel - the first of its type written by a Black woman - is about a young woman, Dana, who in present day, is a married 26-year old in the year 1976. However, she unexplainably and involuntarily travels back to the antebellum south via a Quantum Leap-esque time-warp to oversee a young white boy who is connected to her, and then just as mysteriously travels back to present-day. She never knows when it’s going to happen or how long she will remain in either time period. 

Because of the topical nature of the book there were many passages that were difficult to read and envision. As with most stories like this, there were extreme acts of evil but also fleeting moments of compassion. The insecurity the protagonist felt in vacillating between the two worlds was easily imagined by the reader and also gave an idea of how enslaved people may have felt when being forced to interact with cruel and spontaneously hateful slave owners. 

This is an interesting take on historical fiction with an unexpected science fiction twist. It’s creative, well-written and should be read. Science fiction is not my genre of choice, but Kindred is one of my favorite books.  

Recommendation: I recommend this book to anyone. It’s a fast and heart-wrenching read. I think mature teenagers and adults alike can appreciate this writing. Let us continue to learn about history in a myriad of ways lest we repeat it, OK? 

Trigger warnings: descriptive physical violence, rape

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Dream of You by Jo Saxton







Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 240 pages
Published: January 2018

I first met professional author and speaker, Jo Saxton, at a women’s conference hosted by a local church. When my favorite online ministry, Proverbs 31 decided to facilitate an online Bible study in the fall based on Saxton’s book, The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For, I hurriedly registered to participate. 

In this short book, Saxton has offered concise yet powerful information on how to see yourself differently, specifically focusing on how God sees you. Each chapter begins with a thoughtful, heartfelt letter to the reader from Saxton and is then followed with practical applications based on Biblical principles. The non-fiction book is somewhat autobiographical in that Saxton bears her soul by sharing some of her most vulnerable moments with the audience. Additionally, the piece is targeted toward Christian women; however, as with most motivational literature, anyone can benefit from the overarching themes and message. 

Saxton’s writing style is educational and simultaneously conversational. Many of the ideas she presents are done in such a way that any reader can relate and understand. Having heard her speak and following her on Instagram, I would say she has a bubbly personality and that definitely comes through in her writing. 

Recommendation: Overall, I would say that Saxton has a way with words and is a Biblical scholar. I would recommend this book to any of my friends seeking to rid themselves of negative self-talk and improve on self-perspective and reflection. This book is a must read! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith






Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 320 pages
Published: 1955

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is the first book in a series featuring the titular character. In this first installment, Tom Ripley manipulates his way into Dickie Greenleaf’s life by way of his father. A chance meeting in New York with the senior Greenleaf results in an expense-paid trip for Tom to Italy to convince Dickie to come back stateside to be with his ill mother. 

Once Tom arrives by sea, he quickly meets Dickie and his female companion, Marge. Tom is swept into the lifestyle of the well-to-do in Europe and finds a way to not only get involved in Dickie’s life but take it over. As the plot progresses, the readers wonders how far will one man go to achieve what he deems success? 

Mr. Tom Ripley evolves into a sociopath reaching far beyond the bounds of normal social behaviors. The book is fast-paced. I finished it in a just a few days, and it left me questioning what is right and who is right. I read this book for my monthly in-person book club discussion, and overall, I enjoyed it. The additional discussion made the book more meaningful. Highsmith’s style of writing definitely matches the time (~1950s) in which the book was written, and her personality and personal life shine throughout the story. I would suggest reading an eBook copy of this novel as there are several Italian sentences, and an eReader should offer the opportunity to translate it, thus giving the story more meaning. 

Recommendation: This book is a classic. I intend to see the 90s movie now that I finished it. As always I would recommend reading the book before seeing the movie, and I would encourage readers to read this book with someone as the discussion enhances the experience. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster







Rating: 1.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 341 pages
Published: March 2021

Book of the Month missed the mark with this recommendation — What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster. The synopsis does not describe what the book is about, but I can't even tell you what it was about because it was all over the place. The constant switching between perspectives and time periods was ineffective and confusing. There was a lack of character development, and I was sorely disappointed that all of the brown and black people in this book were portrayed in such a negative light. I do not know what Coster was attempting to do, but this whole novel was poorly executed. If BOTM gave refunds, I would ask for one. However, the books are provided at such a discounted rate, I can let this one failure slide. 

Recommendation: I do not recommend this book, and I have nothing more to say beyond that. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney







Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 295 pages
Published: September 2021

Is there a such thing as too many plot twists? In Alice Feeney's latest novel, Rock Paper Scissors, I would say yes. There was simply too much going on in this story about a couple who win this weekend in a remote area of Scotland during a snowstorm.  The author provides the audience with an unreliable narrator through omniscient storytelling and letters from the wife. As the case in most mysteries, there is a plot twist toward the end of the book, and this one is pretty dark and twisty. 

This is an interesting, albeit unrealistic, story. For the most part, I enjoyed the journey of reading. I am interested to see what the screenwriters do with the Netflix adaptation. I liked the twist. I did not see it coming, and I think it was cleverly done; however, I just wasn't a fan of the ending. It's probably the just and fair side of me that felt a little cheated, but that's all I'll say without giving any more away. 

Recommendation: This is my first Feeney read, and I'd recommend it, especially during a cold winter weekend. It's a fast read that will get your blood pumping and warm you up in no time! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, September 13, 2021

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard







Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 305 pages
Published: August 2021

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard is one of the few books that has already taken on the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is set in Ireland where protagonists Ciara and Oliver meet just before the world shut down in March of 2020. There's an instant connection, and when their town goes on strict lockdown (This is not like the U.S. lockdown.), the two decide to move in together to get to continue to see each other and get to know one another while staying within the guidelines of the pandemic quarantine. 

As the title suggest, fifty-six days later one of them is dead. The bulk of the book goes back in forth in time slowly building the story and providing clues as to who is dead, why and who is responsible for the death. I enjoyed reading this story. We are just far enough past the lockdown for it to be entertaining and relevant to the reader. Howard is an excellent suspense writer. She crafted a story just over 300 pages that provided a lot of detail for well-rounded character development. I felt like I could really picture the scenes and scenarios that she illustrated through her writing. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a great build, but if I am completely honest I was a little disappointed in the final twist. I think she could have left it one step/twist before the final twist. Maybe that's just me wanting believe in the goodness of people. Anyhow, I won't give too much away. You'll have to pick up a copy for yourself! 

Recommendation: If you're looking for a realistic escape from reality, I would strongly recommend this mystery thriller set in the not too distant past. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena






Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 349 pages
Published: July 2021

Not a Happy Family is an aptly-named mystery by Shari Lapena. It is about a very (white) privileged trio of siblings who immediately upon learning their parents have been murdered begin to calculate what benefits they will reap from their untimely deaths. Enter their bitter aunt who is sure their father (her brother) has adjusted his will to include a larger portion for her, and the siblings absolutely lose their mind because instead of inheriting tens of millions, they may only get a few million dollars. The whole plot, while realistic in some circles, was almost laughable. 

Most of the book vacillates between each of the family members providing more information with each short chapter leaving the reader more confused as to who the actual murderer was. You do learn at the end, but it's just beyond that revelation that the author introduces a twist that provides a satisfying ending. 

This book was a Book of the Month Club selection, and it didn't disappoint. My rating is a little low just because I couldn't really relate to the characters and their "problems." But it was an interesting read. I was invested to complete it. The author does a great job creating suspense and intrigue, thus engaging the reader. 

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this novel as a quick read for mystery lovers. It will keep you guessing until the very end! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, August 23, 2021

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue




Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 384 pages
Published: March 2021

Told over several decades beginning in 1980, How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, is a heart-wrenching literary novel about a U.S.-based oil company that takes over the land of a fictional African village. To make economic gains, the company does so at the cost of the environment and the people who live in the small village of Kosawa. Thula, the book's main character, is a young girl when the oil company took over her community's land and throughout the novel she emerges as the central figure in the community's struggles. Her personality is different from other girls in the village in that she seeks an education for herself and is an independent and critical thinker. As a result of her dreams, she travels to the United States where she get a post-secondary education and learns about systematically resisting inappropriately assumed authority. She ultimately becomes a driving force in the efforts to regain control of her land. 

This book is an average sized book, just shy of 400 pages, but the content is so much more. Mbue's lyrical prose, haunting descriptions and vivid detail stay with the reader long after the book is over. The story is one most have heard before - profits over people; economy over environment. However, because this book was told over several years with vacillating perspectives it provided depth and understanding of how corporate greed can cause so much physical and psychological damage. 

As I read the book and learned more about Thula, mainly through her letters and narratives of others in her family and village, I likened her to Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party. So much oppression and devastation, as well as the desire for justice for her village, pushed her into a corner. Sometimes we want a happy ending in a book, but there never could be one with this plot. After so many years of marginalization, distrust and violence, how could there be? 

I can tell that the author took great care to craft a well-rounded story. Her writing is spot on, and her creativity evokes emotion. My only critique is that I wish she had included more details about Thula's father and his role in seeking justice. However, it sometimes makes sense to leave some plot elements open and up to the reader's imagination. 

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it when you have time to truly savor the writing. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Survive the Night by Riley Sager




Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 324 pages
Published: June 2021

Survive the Night by thriller author, Riley Sager, which is a pseudonym, was a highly anticipated novel by mystery/thriller readers and Book of the Month members alike. The book is set back in the early 90s on a small college campus where student Charlie is looking for a ride home and meets up with Josh, who is looking to ride-share. Charlie is in the midst of the grieving process as her close friend and roommate was recently the victim of a supposed serial killer near the college campus. As a result, she suffers from cinematic delusions. 

The premise of the book was definitely intriguing to me.  Because it is set in the early 90s where instant communication was not readily available, it created tension and suspense. However, it did seem a little far fetched. I was just a little younger than Charlie during this time frame, and I can not see myself basically hitchhiking with a total stranger when there had been criminal activity abound. The other plot element of Charlie being a bit off her rocker because of past trauma and the grief process was awkward. I understand it was added to create confusion for the reader as they attempt to figure out the antagonist of the book. But again, it seemed a little far fetched to me. My final criticism was the ending. I think we had no choice but to guess who the serial killer was because Sager had elemented literally very other character introduced, but it just didn't make sense to me.

I've only read one other Sager book, and I had a lukewarm response to it as well. Maybe I am just not a fan. But I did give it a college try and completed both books! 

Recommendation: If you're a fan, you probably already have a copy of this book. If you're into mystery/thrillers, this could be right up your alley. I'd say borrow a copy from a friend of the library before investing too much into it. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 256 pages
Published: January 2020

Earlier this year, I participated in another Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study centered on my fellow Texan's book, Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts by Jennie Allen. I am active in this Proverbs 31 Ministry and you can visit any of the previous study books I've reviewed by conducting a simple search for "Proverbs 31" on my website. As someone who can be overly analytical and held captive by my anxious thoughts, I was very interested in the premise of this book. Allen posits that a person has an average of 9,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and those can often be negative. She opens her book explaining that "the greatest spiritual battle for our generation is being fought between our ears." Her book is a form of spiritual self-help on how to take those negative thoughts captive so that one doesn't suffer from paralysis by analysis. 

Her writing style is contemporary and light. She shares a lot of examples, including personal experiences. Because I studies with the Proverbs 31 Ministry, I had access to her teaching videos. While these videos supplemented the book, I found them quite challenging because of Allen's voice (sorry!). But I did very much appreciate the nuggets of wisdom she shared throughout the book. Some of my favorite quotes are listed below. 





"...yet we have allowed our minds to have outright meltdowns with zero corrections (page 38)."

"Tell me what you're thinking ... and I'll tell you who you are (page 43)." 

"We are made to experience life and peace as we begin to think less about oursevles and more about our Creator and about others (page 56)." 

"In the stillness and quiet, not only do we connect with God but we are also able to more clearly identify what is wrong. Recognizing our spirals and naming them is the first step in interrupting them (page 70)." 

"Father, help me see things not as they seem to me but as they truly are (page 81)."

"Loneliness can make us thing that everything is a threat, even if there is no real threat to be found (page 92)."

"When you're looking for intimate friendships, you've got to start with emotionally intelligent friends (page 99)." 

"But our tool for defeating 'what if' is, found in two words: 'Because God (page 109).'" 

The Bible tells us that we are not to conform to the ways of the world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Or more simply put: Quit your stinkin' thinkin'! This is a perpetual battle which requires the constant equipping and preparing of one's mind, and my personal belief is that I can overcome the negative thoughts through the reading of God's Word and improving my personal relationship with Him. 

Recommendation: I think some books resonate with some people more than others. This book definitely resonated with me. Allen's down-to-earth approach backed by scientific facts and Scripture offered a well-rounded thesis on a very important and prevalent issue that many people face daily. This is a relatively short read, and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 248 pages
Published: August 2020

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi was the pre-selected read for my in-person book club in July. This book was also a Book of the Month selection last year. However, I did not choose it then. But because book club does what it does best - motivates me to read something I normally wouldn't read on my own, I got an electronic copy from my local library and started the journey in advance of our monthly meeting. And I am glad I did. 

This is a book that begins with the end. The audience knows what is going to happen by the book's title. The story, of course, begins and is centered around its titular character - Vivek Oji - who has died a mysterious death. The remainder of the relatively short book flashes back, and the author crafts a beautifully written tale that circles back to where the book begins. I read this book in a couple of days, and I found that the author has a talent for writing. They* uses effective turns of phrase to illustrate not only the plot but also the emotions of the characters. My major issue with this book was some of the vastly undeveloped points within the overall plot. Emezi also introduced some characters and ideas that were not fully expounded upon (e.g., Vivek's aunt and the relationship with the church). 


The pain was still too personal, the information too new. Juju wanted to hold it, cup it in her hands a while longer before she uncurled her fingers to expose it to others.


I think this book had a good premise, it wasn't fully thought out. Just shy of 250 pages, Emezi certainly had more space to flesh out some of the concepts. Because this book is about identity and being given the space to be who you are, you would think they would have done the same in crafting the story. 

Recommendation: This may not be popular opinion, but I think, sometimes, creators can fixate on an issue that is prevalent in current culture thinking it will automatically be a success by the very nature of the topic. However, as an avid reader and part-time writer, the craft still has to be solid to merit success. I am lukewarm about this book. I wouldn't say I don't recommend this book, but I wouldn't necessarily highly recommend it either. However, I would read another book by this author.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

*Akwaeke Emezi uses the pronouns they/them/theirs.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson





Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 374 pages
Published: August 2021

I purchased Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson as an early release through my Book of the Month club membership. The synopsis is what made me select this book. The story narrowly focuses on two African American women from different backgrounds who, in an attempt to run away from some challenges at home, join the Women's Army Corps during World War II. The book is historical fiction in that the two primary characters are fictional; however, the Women's Army Corps that quickly cleared a months-long backlog of mail for soldiers, was indeed real. Many of the secondary characters in the book are based on real people and some points of the broader plot are based in fact. 

I really enjoyed reading about this part of U.S. history that has been hidden but is now making its way to the forefront. In July of 2021, news outlets reported that the 6888 Central Postal Directory Battalion may finally receive a Congressional Medal for their efforts. 

The book is a fast and easy read. I did this as a buddy read with one of my bookish friends. We set out to just read the first five chapters before discussing but quickly surpassed that! The underlying theme of race and the time period the book was set in created tension. Because these women were doing something groundbreaking with respect to race and gender there wasn't much foreshadowing needed to predict that some horrible conflict was going to be the central and defining aspect of the story's plot. The things I didn't care for in the book was the alternating perspectives without giving a clear indicator. Additionally, in dialogue, I wish the author would have just referred to some of the secondary characters by name. For example, in chapter 5, there's an exchange between Eliza and her parents. And as the dialogue transitions from character to character, the author identifies Eliza but refers to her parents as "Mother" and "Father," which I found a little cumbersome. 

Overall, this was a good book about an important, overlooked, part of U.S. history. I would love for Alderson to explore writing additional books about some of the other secondary characters in the book. It would make for an engaging series. (And I'm not even big on book series!) 

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this book as an educational read for middle schoolers and up. The historical background and creative writing makes it a pleasurable read. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.