Friday, February 17, 2023

The Devil You Knew by Mike Cobb






Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
 
Pages: 480 pages
Published: September 1, 2022

The Devil You Knew is a mystery thriller written by author Mike Cobb. The book is broken into two parts that chronologically correspond within the two years the bulk of the plot takes places — 1963 and 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1963, three young girls go missing, and the city of Atlanta goes on the hunt for a serial killer. A young, 11-year old William "Binky" (later referred to as Billy in 1980) Tarwater is infatuated with one of the kidnapped girls. As an adult, Billy gets caught up in the suspense of the crimes, and he finds himself in a pursuit of justice for Sam "Shorty" Jepperson, the Black man whom the crimes were pinned on. Sam was ultimately convicted and serving a life sentence for a crime he and his family claim he did not commit. Throughout this nearly 500-page novel and two-decade timespan, the reader is taken on a plot twist-filled journey with Billy, now a journalist, who seems to be one of the few people concerned with truth and justice for all. 

Because the central action of the book takes place in the South in the 60s, one can imagine there were several themes of racism, prejudice and sexism. Additionally, the author has included a large cast of characters that serve as red herrings. Many of those characters are conservative Christians and those typical stereotypes were played into creating intrigue and confusion in determining who the true person is that perpetrated these horrible crimes. While each chapter of the book vacillates from one character to the next in perspective, I did enjoy the main character's narration, especially in the first part of the book. Binky Tarwater reminded me of the main character in the popular TV series, The Wonder Years (either the original or reboot). 

Once the book transitions to 1980, there was more tension in the writing as Billy felt time-pressed to help free Sam Jepperson. Furthermore, the author juxtaposed the fictional crimes of 1963 with the very real crimes of the Atlanta Child Murders between 1979 and 1981. Honestly, I am not typically able to guess the conclusion of whodunit and nor do I want to. I enjoy the journey of reading. However, I was able to discern where the book was going rather early on, but that did not take away from the overall story. My only criticism of the book is it's a little long and verbose. I think the author could find a wider reader following by staying within 350 to 400 pages and curbing some of the vocabulary (e.g., deadheading, Klippel-Feil syndrome, etc.). Some readers just aren't going to take the time to stop and look up the words and others may stop reading all together. 

Recommendation: This was an excellent book with an engaging mystery and (somewhat) satisfying conclusion. The author says that research is paramount to his writing style, and any reader can clearly identify that in how he wove true crimes into this fictional one.  I look forward to reading more from this author. 

Trigger warnings: child violence, domestic violence, racial epithets 

Until next time ... Read on!

Thanks to Reedsy Discovery for an electronic copy of this book. If you'd like to review for Reesdy Discovery, please visit my affiliate link. 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.



Mike Cobb's body of literary work includes both fiction and nonfiction, short-form and long-form, as well as articles and blogs. While he is comfortable playing across a broad range of topics, much of his focus is on true crime, crime fiction and historical fiction. Rigorous research is foundational to his writing. He gets that honestly, having spent much of his professional career as a scientist. He vehemently refuses to box his work into a specific genre. Mike splits his time between Atlanta and Blue Ridge, Gerorgia. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles







Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 576 pages
Published: October 2021

In 2023, I am not trying to reach a certain number of books completed within the year but rather enjoy the journey of reading. This liberating reading goal has allowed me to consider longer books in my TBR (to be read) list. I was rewarded The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles by Book of the Month as it was one of the finalist for 2022’s Book of the Year. All loyal members with BFF status get to select either the BOTY winner or a finalist for free in their January box delivery. Since I’d already read the winner, I chose this nearly 600-page book. 

The story is set in the 1950s where a young man, Emmett, previously in juvenile detention for involuntary manslaughter is released at the end of his punishment and goes home to pick up his 8-year old brother, recently orphaned due to an absent mother and a deceased father. Emmett has plans for the two to get out of town and make a fresh start in Texas. However, his little brother, Billy has other aspirations for them in California. Similarly, Emmett’s fellow detention-mates, Duchess and Wooly, who escape the detention center, want Emmett to join them in hopes of securing Wooly’s hidden family treasure in New York. So, a young man’s best laid plans are soon thwarted, and over the course of 10 days, the reader follows the follies of these characters plus a few others along their trip across the United States. 

Even though this book is nearly twice as long as the average book I might read, it didn’t feel like it. The writer employs a good cadence that keeps the story moving and even once you reach the end of the story, you’re still longing to learn more about the characters and what they might get into next. I found this book to be both plot and character driven, but I really enjoyed the development of the characters over a relatively short time frame. This was shaping up to be a 5-star read for me until the very last chapter, which I found to be odd and incongruent. The perfect book would have been if it simply ended one chapter earlier. 

Recommendation: This was my first read by Towles. I’ve heard that A Gentleman in Moscow is an excellent read as well. I might consider picking that one up in the near future. I definitely recommend this book and might even go so far as to say to future readers: Stop reading one chapter early. Although that might prove difficult — This book is simply unputdownable! 

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, January 29, 2023

Lunar Love by Lauren Kung Jessen






Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 336 pages
Published: January 2023

Lunar Love by Lauren Kung Jessen is the perfect meet-cute to read at the beginning of the Lunar New Year, and that's exactly when I picked up this book from Book of the Month. The story features protagonist Olivia "Liv" Huang Christenson, a multi-racial young entrepreneur who is on the cusp of taking over her grandmother and aunt's face-to-face, professional matchmaking business when by happenstance she meets Bennett O'Brien, also a multi-racial young entrepreneur who is trying to launch a dating app that mimics  Liv's family busy and is threatening to destroy her family's decades-long legacy. Thinking there won't be room for both businesses in the matchmaking space, the two entrepreneur's strike a deal — that each can find love for the other on their matchmaking platform, and whomever loses will give up their business. 

Romcoms like Lunar Love are perfect because you know how they're going to end. The fun in the romance is the journey from the initial meeting to the end. This book, like many in the genre, was a light read and did not disappoint. I enjoyed not only the developing relationship between Liv and Bennett but also learning about their families, culture and the very realistic baggage they carried. 

Recommendation: I found this book to be a fun yet realistic story that touched on some deeper themes like cultural isolation, fitting in, and imposter syndrome. It was one of my first reads of the new year and perfect for leading up to Valentine's Day effectively using the Lunar New Year as a solid plot device. It could easily be devoured in an uninterrupted weekend. Highly recommend! 

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 27, 2023

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith





Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 08:15:00
Published: March 2022

I borrowed a copy of the audiobook version of The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith, narrated by one of my favorite actors - Mae Whitman - to listen to on a work road trip. As a military brat, taking road trips has always been a part of my life, and for work today, I often drive across this vast land we call Texas. Listening to a good book is the most fun way of multi-tasking, in my opinion. This fictional but realistic story is one of healing and redemption. It focuses on an indie rock star, the titular character, whose mother recently and unexpectedly passed away which results in her having a bit of an emotional breakdown in a very public way. To either deal with or avoid how this event has affected her career, she goes on a weeklong cruise trip with her father and some family friends as somewhat of a surrogate for her mother who had planned the trip before her death. 

I really enjoyed listening to this book. The narrator does a great job of keeping the reader-listener engaged. The story is compelling, and the writing touches on a variety of emotions in a careful and respectful way. There were many points in this book where I laughed out loud, teared up and felt a soft tugging at my heart. I really enjoyed the challenging relationship between Greta and her father. He made me mad at times, but it was real, so real. Not all parent-child relationships are perfect and loving. There are disappointments and expectations unfulfilled. Overall, this was a nice and earnest book that I could personally relate to and I read at just the right time. 

Recommendation: This read was a predictable but lovely journey and teaches the reader that you can find love and forgiveness in the most unlikely places — even on a boat … er … a ship! I would highly recommend this book for someone looking to read a well-rounded fictional story. There are some heavy topics like death and grief, but there’s also lighthearted humor, friendship, forgiveness and a little romance that’s handled in a practical way. 

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.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb






Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 12:04:00
Published: February 2022

The Violin Conspiracy is Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel categorized as a mystery thriller. It opens as the main character, Ray, realizes his family heirloom and primary method of making money has been stolen with a demand for ransom to secure its return. The item in question — an 18th century Stradivarius violin, given to his enslaved great-great-grandfather by his former white owner after he was freed, literally worth millions of dollars. Shortly after this explosive beginning, the reader is taken back to Ray’s high school years as an untrained violinist and gradually brought up to present day as Ray prepares, now a classically-trained musician, for the renowned Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. But without his violin, that has become something of a security blanket, can he play and win? Can he raise the funds to pay the ransom for his stolen heirloom? And can he fend off the descendants of the white family that enslaved his ancestors for ownership of the violin? 

As it might seem from my summary (or the one provided for the publisher), there’s a lot going on in this book. On top of the myriad of plot elements, Ray is also dealing with an unsupportive family. I selected this book on recommendation of my online book club — The ModernMrsDarcy.com Book Club — and specifically in audiobook format. And I will say from a musical perpsective, it was a delight to listen to the musical excerpts played by the author himself. However, the narrator was a huge turnoff for me. The voice acting of many of the characters was overdone and portrayed in a stereotypical way. Additionally, I found most of the characters were written with an overabundance of characters flaws while Ray was written as mostly the perfect victim. I had hoped the characters would have been a little more nuanced, but it was like the author took the worst of every character and amplified it. The angry Black woman trope given to Ray’s mother. The overt racist uncle during a wedding scene as well as the white man at the instrument repair store were written in such a way that their behavior was almost unbelievable for the time period, which I suspect is 2020-something as bitcoin is mentioned early on in the book. Having said this, the author did participate in a Zoom session with the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and he mentioned that the book is somewhat autobiographical. So, perhaps the situations in this book reflect his life (albeit at a different time since he appears to be at least in his late 40s). We write what we know and I don’t deny this is his experience. However, I do think writers have a responsibility to the message disseminated, especially when writing using such polarizing prose. In addition to the stereotypes, I wasn’t a fan of the profanity, finding most of it unnecessary, and I thought this book was a little too long. The best part of the book was the author’s note and playing at the end. 

There are a lot of books out there. As a former musician, I might have picked up this book on my own. However, I was more motivated to read and complete this selection as a result of book club. Having finished it, I might have invested my time in a different selection. 

Recommendation: Not every book is for every person, and this book was not for me. This could have been a beautiful and distinct story, but I just found it to be a character playing the victim instead of truly overcoming. I doubt I will read another book by Slocumb, but I could certainly listen to him play for hours and I wish him the best of luck in his writing career! 

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, January 9, 2023

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier






Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 338 pages
Published: April 2020

Spoiler alert (not really), but there were literally no little secrets in Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier. All the secrets were big … major! This action-packed thriller was filled with one jaw-dropping moment to the next. The novel opens with Marian, the mother of four-year old Sebastian, at Pike’s Place Market during the busy Christmas season when an unexpected phone call provides just enough of a distraction for Sebastian to disappear without much of a trace. All the police can find is camera footage of Sebastian being walked out of the market area with someone in a Santa suit and not much else. A little more than a year later and still no leads, Marian is a mess. Her husband, Derek has buried himself in work, and when Marian hires a private investigator to continue the work the police have listed as a cold case she learns that Derek has had a months-long affair with twenty-something grad student, Kenzie. Marian fixates on Kenzie, who has a sordid past of her own, as a coping mechanism of finding a solution to a problem she thinks she can actually fix. However, one bad decision turns into another, and Marian finds herself twisted in a web of deceit that leads to her undoing but also provides her to the first real lead to what happened to Sebastian. 

While the mystery of who took Sebastian is at the heart of this book, there are so many other topics the author tackles including the grief and loss of a loved one, suicide and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The bulk of the plot focuses on Marian and her obsession with Kenzie. That part of the plot got a little old for me. It was annoying, but realistic, with how Marian saw Kenzie as the enemy even though Derek is the one who made the martial vow with her. However, seeing it through the lens of the guilt she felt for losing Sebastian, I suppose I can understand why the character was written that way. It definitely made her a multidimensional and believable character. I didn’t see the plot twist about two-thirds into the story that led to the conclusion of the mystery, which made the story a satisfying one for me. 

I found Little Secrets to be a fast-paced, attention-grabbing psychological thriller especially written for mystery and suspense lovers. The child abduction aspect may make it a difficult read, but the emotional rollercoaster is worth reading the book to completion. 

Recommendation: I would highly recommend this book. I devoured it in a couple days because I just had to know who done it, what Marian was going to do to Kenzie and if Marian and Derek’s marriage would survive such stress. I was able to borrow a digital copy from the Fort Worth Public Library with no wait. So, check your local library for a copy today! 

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers






Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 336 pages
Published: August 2022

I read All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers on recommendation of a local book club. The premise was interesting - a young child abducted from her midwestern America home and murdered decades ago affects the life of Margot, her friend and next door neighbor. Years later, Margot is now a struggling journalist, returns to her small hometown to take care of her ailing uncle and another child murder occurs forcing her smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery that has ties to the one that occurred during her childhood. 

The plot was intriguing; however, there were several plot holes requiring the reader to suspend belief to plow through to the end. The protagonist seemed like an intelligent person who made some stupid and irresponsible life choices. Additionally, the initial murder seems to have been ripped from the headlines of the tragic JonBenĂ©t  Ramsey case of the 1990s, which, quite honestly, seemed lazy. 

Having said that, the book is a relatively fast read and could easily be finished over a weekend. I was very disappointed in the cliffhanger ending that provided no real resolution. While I don’t necessarily have to have a novel tied up with a pretty bow in the end, I think this ending was poorly executed and it fell flat for me. Unfortunately, this was not a good start to my year of reading. 

Recommendation: I borrowed a digital copy of this book from the library and am thankful for local library resources. This is definitely one I wouldn’t spend money on and would be very reluctant to recommend to others. 

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, December 31, 2022

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox






Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 330 pages
Published: December 2021

What a fun little Christmas read The Holiday Swap by writing duo Maggie Knox (Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley) turned out to be! I was looking for a light, fun pick-me-up for the end of the year festivities, and this book did not disappoint. It's about identical twin sisters, Charlie, who lives the seemingly glamorous life of a celebrity chef in Los Angeles and Cass, who helps run the family bakery business in their quaint, cozy hometown of Starlight Peak a couple of hours drive away from LA. When a work accident causes Charlie to lose her sense of taste and smell at the most inopportune time, Cass steps in, and the sisters do a switcheroo for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Thrown in the mix are two handsome love interests of both sisters who each think he is dating the other sister. It sounds like it could be a recipe for disaster but turned into one for holiday rom-com fun! 

I really enjoyed the fast-pace nature of the book as I was trying to get this one in just under the 2022 wire. (I succeeded.) But I also appreciated the love and loyalty each sister had for the other. I do wonder if the authors pulled on their relationship as friends to develop such realistic and thoughtful characters. This is a feel-good book with characters that are well-developed and it has all the plot elements of a holiday Hallmark movie - romance, comedy and some tasty food treats! 

Recommendation: The synopsis on Goodreads.com says this book is perfect for fans of One Day in December by Josie Silver, and having read that one too, I have to say I agree. This could be a fun read any time of year, but it is especially touching during the holiday season. I highly recommend! 

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, December 23, 2022

Murder up to Bat by Elizabeth McKenna


Series: Book 2, A Front Page Mystery
Category: Adult fiction; Genre: Cozy mystery

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 186 pages
Published: August 2022


Mystery with a whiff of romance … After falling in love with the quiet lake life and a certain police detective, former Chicago Tribune reporter Emma Moore trades interviewing jocks for chasing champion cows at the county fair. As a small-town newspaper reporter, she covers local topics both big and small, but when her friend Luke is arrested for the murder of the head coach of his club softball team, she’ll need to hone her investigative skills to clear his name. Emma calls up best friend Grace for help, and together the women go up against cutthroat parents willing to kill for a chance to get their daughters onto a premier college sports team.


Murder up to Bat is my third read written by author Elizabeth McKenna. In all three novels, I have found McKenna to be a talented writer with an attention-grabbing story. In her latest novel, which is the second in the Front Page Mystery series, we again meet friends Emma and Grace. Emma, who is now living in the town where she last investigated and reported on a robbery, and plans on spending a weekend with Grace, while she's in town, along with her police detective boyfriend Ryan. However, just before the festivities begin, one of their close friends, Luke, is arrested after the head coach of the softball team he sponsors is found dead in his fitness center. The fast-paced book covers the effect this homicide has on the friend group and Emma's relentless pursuit to find the truth and save their friend from decades in prison. 

As in her previous books, it took me little to no time to get into and be captured by the story. McKenna does a great job of creating suspense while also making the story easy to follow. With a total page count of just under 200, this is a quick read that covers a weekend in plot timeline and also could easily be completed in one. But don't mistake the shorter page count for lack of depth. McKenna explores themes of competition in student sports as well as overly-aggressive parents of those athletes. While the story if fiction, I am sure readers can relate (in some way) to the seemingly unrealistic (read: they're not) behaviors of sideline parenting. 

I was glad for the opportunity to revisit some previously-read characters and get involved in their lives again. My only critique of this book is the believability that Emma's character would be able to get so involved in an investigation and her brazen questioning of police tactics. However, I would say this is a minor fault when reviewing the book as a whole. 

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this book for cozy mystery fans. It would be a great read to get baseball lovers ready for the season as well. 

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.








Elizabeth McKenna’s love of books reaches back to her childhood, where her tastes ranged from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Stephen King’s horror stories. She had never read a romance novel until her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

Her novels reflect her mercurial temperament and include historical romances, contemporary romances, cozy mysteries, and dark mysteries. With some being “clean” and some being “naughty,” she has a book for your every mood.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband and Sidney, the rescue dog from Tennessee. When she isn’t writing, reading, editing, or walking the dog that never tires, she’s sleeping.


Connect with Elizabeth: 





Monday, December 19, 2022

Help is Here: Finding Fresh Strength and Purpose in the Power of the Holy Spirit by Max Lucado








Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 234 pages
Published: September 2022

Help is Here: Finding Fresh Strength and Purpose in the Power of the Holy Spirit by Max Lucado was one of the last books I read this year and the very last Online Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. This short but powerful book focused on who the Holy Spirit is as part of the Trinity and why we were given such a gift in the Holy Spirit by God. 

I enjoyed learning more about the Holy Spirit and the gentle reminders the author gave to simply ask Him for help when I am in trouble. The book was written in a clear and practical way making it easy for any reader to understand no matter the level of his or her knowledge of Christianity. I also appreciated the examples that Lucado shared about his personal life, make application seem relevant to everyday life. 

“The word intercede simply means to stand in the gap. The Holy Spirit becomes our advocate. He knows exactly the right words to say to the Father at just the right time to meet our unspoken need.” -Max Lucado
Something that I appreciate about all of the studies facilitated by Proverbs 31 is they are soundly-based in Biblical Scripture. One can go to the Bible (or an online version of it) and cross-reference the teaching from the study book. Additionally, while the Ministry is targeted toward women, I find great value in the organization choosing good books regardless of the author’s gender. We can learn from anyone whose work in based in Scripture. 

Lucado serves at a church in my home state of Texas. Through his writings, I find him to be a Biblically-based and Spirit-led leader of the good news, or Gospel as we Christians call it. 

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to anyone at any time of year, but I found this one especially timely as I reflected on the year coming to a close and things I wanted to change (e.g., resolutions) for the new year. And if you decide not to pick this book up at all, the title alone offers a huge inspiration, Friend, Help is Here, indeed! 

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 18, 2022

The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland






Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 368 pages
Published: September 2022

When you're reading a book that's so good, you don't notice the milestone high school reunion at the center of the plot references the same year you graduated. That was me reading The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland and, why yes, that is my high school graduation cap tassel in the bookstagrammable photo on this post. This is a story about four friends who were all voted a superlative their senior year in 1997 and when they revisit each other and the school 25 years later, they realized they have missed the mark. Together, they vow to capture what was once predicted for them all those years ago. (Oh my gosh ... all 25 years ago!)

Melissa Levin (Most Likely to Win the White House), Priya Chowdhury (Most Likely to Cure Cancer), Tara Taylor (Most Likely to Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant), and Suki Hammer (Most Likely to Join the Forbes 400) in their early 40s realize adulthood is often not all it's cracked up to be. Each woman struggling with her own personal and professional challenges attempt to change the course of her life with the help of her friend group. This book is what I call realistic fiction. It's a totally made up story of situations, circumstances, and the resulting emotions that come from those events. Being exactly the same age as the characters I found the story totally relatable. However, I think someone older can appreciate the lessons learns and someone younger could possibly heed the warnings. Life is not about labels but rather living in and loving your true self, unapologetically. 

Recommendation: This was a good read that tackled some serious issues us middle-agers face (Oh my gosh ... I'm middle aged!) in an easily digestible way. There were equal parts of introspection as well as comedy. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend. However, I do not recommend the labels even though I may or may not have been Most Likely to Write an Award-Winning Book ... Does a middle-of-the-road blog count? 

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 23, 2022

We are the Light by Matthew Quick







Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 256 pages
Published: November 2021

I held high hopes for my latest Book of the Month selection. Written by the same author who wrote the critically-acclaimed book turned movie, Silver Linings Playbook, We are the Light touches on some of the same themes of Matthew Quick’s earlier popular book. In the quaint community of Majestic, Pennsylvania reeling and trying to heal after a mass shooting at a local theater, we find Lucas, the main character deep in grief after an unimaginable tragedy and the abrupt and involuntary end of his relationship with his Jungian analyst, Karl. The book is told in epistolary format as Lucas writes unanswered letters to Karl. In the midst of these letters, the reader learns that Eli, the brother of the mass shooter, has taken up residence by pitching a tent in Lucas' backyard. This circumstance creates an opportunity for Lucas to help Eli in the aftermath of this tragedy. 

The book is relatively short, but there is a level of complexity and a large cast of detailed characters that make it a slower read. The heavy themes of grief,  tragedy, abusive relationships, anger, spirituality and gun-control are a lot to process. Additionally, because of the format in which the story is told, there isn't much room for dialogue and the narrator (Lucas) comes off as a bit of a rambler. I am not sure if that's the challenging writing style or if it is done on purpose so that the reader can sense the same despair as the main character. Finally, the aspect of Jungian therapy didn't resonate with me. I don't know if this is because I don't know a lot about it or it's too complex of a therapy method to cram into a ~250-page novel. 

Overall, I found this book to be promising, but I think I read it at the wrong time. I was looking for something lighter to begin closing out the year, even bypassing a book about suicide, to read this one because I thought there would be a little more light at the end of the tunnel. While the ending did create a bit of a lift, it wasn't as satisfying as I would have liked. After listening to Quick's interview on the Virtual Book Tour podcast, I can appreciate that he tried to provide some light for the reader. 

Recommendation: I've said it before, books find us a different times. Sometimes it's the right time, but I think this book wasn't something I was ready to read during the holiday season. If I was a re-reader, I might pick it up again. However, I will chalk this up to a BOTM loss for me. 

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 31, 2022

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy






Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Pages: 320 pages
Published: August 2022

I’m not gonna lie. When I first read the title of former child star Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, I thought it was a little harsh. Who really thinks that? Who actually says that? Who writes that down for all the world to see? Well, apparently, Jennette McCurdy does. And after reading her memoir, I’m less judgey about her title. Honestly, I’m kinda glad her mom died too. 

McCurdy grew up in a dysfunctional household with a manipulative narcissist for a mother who coerced her into child acting well before the age of 10. Many parents and their children grew to love her as she played the character of Samantha Puckett on Nickelodeon’s iCarly and spin-off Sam & Cat sitcoms. I do not have children, and I was too old to watch these shows at the time they aired, but what seems like a fun thing turned out to be a grueling career - especially for someone so young. 

I think McCurdy did an excellent job with the writing in this book. She presents her autobiographical information in such a way that the tone and thought processes align with her age at the time being described and not her synthesis of it as a young adult. I think this made the book very engaging and also allowed the reader to feel the emotions she was feeling. There were so many times when I just wanted to give 6-year old Jennette a big ole hug. The first third of the book is dark, the second third is very dark and the last portion of the book offers some hope and much-needed light. The reason for my less than five-star review is that I felt that some of the stories jumped around a bit and often made it difficult to follow the timeline. Having said that, if you don’t get caught up in those details and just focus on the emotion and challenges, I don’t think it takes too much away from the story. 

I took away so many things from McCurdy’s story, but one of the main things that is still troubling me after completing the book is the use of child actors for such graphic shows and films. For example, do we really need to be employing and featuring child rape victims on Law & Order? Yes, I get that those situations and storylines are a reality, but do we need to subject real children for fictional stories to satisfy our need for entertainment. Additionally, I think every child actor should have a third-party advocate that stands to gain no financial benefit from his or her career but rather be put in place to guard against children basically being forced into a career with grueling schedules like McCurdy faced. Overall, we must work to protect the physical and mental well-being of children. 

Recommendation: This was a difficult but necessary read. I pray blessings and continued growth for McCurdy. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book at a dark time in your life as it is very depressing in certain parts, but I would encourage everyone to read it - especially mothers. And take it in bite-sized chunks. This is easily accomplished with the short 91 chapters in 320 pages. 

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 17, 2022

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 320 pages
Published: July 2020

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle is about Hubert Bird, a Jamaican expat living in England. During the latter portion of his life, he finds himself a widow miles apart from his daughter who lives in Australia and just as far apart emotionally from his estranged son. However, Hubert has been lying by putting on false pretenses about his life - painting a picture of an active, senior lifestyle. However, when, by happenstance, he meets his neighbor, a young single mom named Ashleigh, Hubert’s lonely life is turned upside down and he gets a much more exciting life than he ever could have imagined. 

The thing I liked the most about this book is that it so relatable. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t experienced a sense on loneliness at one point or another in his or her life, so the imagery that Gayle is able to develop through his prose is easily imagined. 


“It was a kiss that didn’t say goodby so much as hello.” 

“Extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people like you and me, but only if we open ourselves up enough to let them.” 
My only critiques about this book are the dialect in which Hubert spoke. I understand the need for the colloquial nature of Hubert’s conversation to make his Jamaican ethnicity seem more authentic. However, it seemed overdone and far-fetched that he would continually speak using “me” rather than “I” after having lived a successful life in England. Additionally, the author shows us that he knows the proper English way to speak, he just doesn’t, which seems lazy and contradictory to someone who worked so hard not only in his professional life but his romantic one with Joyce. Additionally, the reveal about Rose seems to come out of nowhere. I suppose this is a very real possibility, but it really didn’t flow in the book. It seemed like a last-minute Hail Mary to assist the book in closing. And finally, if I had my druthers, I’d rather the story had ended at chapter 49. I don’t really think the “Eighteen Months Later” epilogue was needed to complete the story.

Recommendation: I don’t think this book is about the story so much as it’s about the message it represents. It was published in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time where I suspect many people were experiencing some type of loneliness. However, the message is evergreen and can be appreciated at any 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.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen






Rating: 5+ of 5 stars 
Pages: 304 pages
Published: August 2022

Listen. I have read some good books this year. It’s absolutely impossible to pick a favorite book, but Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen is very near the top! This is a story about a young lady, Zoey, whose mother died when she was very young and she was raised by a reluctant father and evil stepmother. The moment she finishes school, she leaves for college near Mallow Island, South Carolina, a town where her mother willed a condo to her. The condo is situated in a small, intimate community called Dellawisp named for the beautiful yet busy birds. The other residents, a bohemian, young transient woman, a professional chef, and two odd sisters who happen to also be at odds with one another. The community is managed by an older man named Frasier. Shortly upon Zoey’s arrival, one of the residents dies and that leads to a chain reaction of connections within the Dellawisp community. 

The story is short and sweet and even a little predictable, but the true gem is the beautiful writing with a touch of magical realism. This is my first read by Allen, but her writing is so moving that I am sure I will seek out another work of hers - of which there are several. Other Birds is one of those novels that found me a just the right time and touched all the right places in my mind and heart. 

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. It will make you think, laugh, and tear up a little. It’s the perfect book to cozy up to on a fall evening. 

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, September 7, 2022

Fighting Words: 100 Days of Speaking Truth into the Darkness by Ellie Holcomb







Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 248 pages
Published: October 2021

Fighting Words: 100 Days of Speaking Truth into Darkness by Ellie Holcomb is the latest study book I completed with Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies group. This book provided 100 days of effective verses from the Bible with commentary from Ellie Holcomb that served as a bite-sized, daily devotional. 

While the content each day was a quick read, it did require some reflection on how the greater message could be applied to one’s life. In addition to being an author, Holcomb is also a songwriter, and she included some of the lyrics to her songs in the book. I though this added value for people who enjoy music and are auditory learners. Holcomb did note early on in her book that she would be including the information about her songs but didn’t want to come across as trying to push album sales. I certainly did not get that feeling by reading her book as the tactic was not overdone. 

As with most books I read via the free P31 OBS program, I gained so much more by having a community of women who were learning alongside me. Being part of the Facebook group added another layer of depth for this study. 

Recommendation: As always, Proverbs 31 picks powerful, life-changing books, and Fighting Words did not disappoint. Whether you read this book in 100 consecutive days or pick it up as time allows, you will be changed. Go snag your copy of this Bible-based today! 

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, September 4, 2022

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Crosby






Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 336 pages
Published: July 2021

In July 2021, S.A. Crosby’s Razorblade Tears was published. Sometime near its publication, the book must have been added to Book of the Month’s monthly selection. However, something else must have caught my eye that month because I did not choose this book. Then, in July of 2022, President Obama listed the book on his annual reading list, and I still did not snag a copy from any of my favorite places. Then, at the end of the month Amazon offered a $5 discount on digital books, and I guess that five bucks was the push that motivated me to grab a copy. But still, I didn’t start reading the novel until the end of August. Upon completing it, I am wondering: Why did I wait so long?! 

So, let me tell you about it. Razorblade Tears is a fictional story about a very real emotion - revenge. A black father’s, Ike, son and a white father’s, Buddy Lee, son fall in love and marry each other and then are mysteriously and gruesomely murdered. These two tough-enough fathers who also happen to be ex-convicts team up to solve the crime that the police are moving too slow on. Their love for their sons, regret for judging their sexual identity and experience on the other side of the law fuel their passion to seek, find and create justice for their loved ones. 



Tears ran from his eyes and stung his cheeks. Tears for his son. Tears for his wife. Tears for the little girl they had to raise. Tears for who they were and what they all had lost. Each drop felt like it was slicing his face open like a razorblade.

“Get that what’s normal ain’t up to me. That it don’t f*cking matter who he wanted to wake up next to as long as he was waking up,” Buddy Lee said.”

“No, hate. Folks like to talk about revenge like it’s a righteous thing but it’s just hate in a nicer suit,” Ike said.

A good father, a good man, loves the people that love his children.

This time they didn’t feel so much like razor blades. They felt like the long-awaited answer to a mournful prayer for rain. 


I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this book because I felt I couldn’t really relate to the plot. However, I was completely wrong. This book evoked a myriad of emotions for me as we all have at least one person in our life we love like this. Additionally, Crosby wrote the story in such a way that the plot moved quickly and the descriptions came to life. I truly felt like I was reading an action movie. There really is no need for this to go to the big screen because the author did such a good job writing it, but I wouldn’t be mad if it was turned into a movie and Denzel Washington played Ike. I’m just sayin!  

Recommendation: This book is dark, but it is good. It is vivid. It is engaging. If you enjoyed The Equalizer movies, you might enjoy this book. It’s a quick read too. Don’t be like me. Don’t delay. Grab a copy for your favorite bookseller or library today! 

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, August 14, 2022

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez






Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 359 pages
Published: April 2022

In all seriousness, I needed someone to take my hand, give me a hug, and tell me everything was going to be OK after reading Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. This book was an emotionally-wrenching read for me. Inspired by actual events pre-Roe v. Wade, fictional character Civil Townsend is fresh out of nursing school with a job at a family clinic to help women with birth control and family planning. She is assigned to help two young girls (11 and 13), and Civil soon learns that the federally-funded clinic and the head nurse who leads it don’t have the community’s hearts interests at heart. 

This novel is intriguing, engaging, and riveting. It includes all of the relevant literary devices, but the most painful part of the book is that it is based in fact of events that happened to real people. And sadly, with the current state of women’s health and reproductive rights, we are doomed to repeat a variation of this embarrassing part of U.S. history. 

Recommendation: I strongly recommend this novel. It’s one of the best works of historical fiction I’ve read in a long time. Read this story and then research the actual facts after you’ve done so. 

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.