Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 288 pages
Published: October 2023

Anne Bogel of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club raved about The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok during her 2023 Fall Book Preview event. I thought the synopsis sounded intriguing, so when Book of the Month offered it as a selection I chose it for my monthly subscription box. 

In short, the novel tells a believable yet fictional tale of a young woman, Jasmine, who escapes her abusive husband in China in search of her daughter who she believed to have died during childbirth. Her husband told her this horrible tale because of China's One Child Policy. Because of his position in the government, he only wanted - and could only afford - a male descendant. Jasmine learns her daughter has been adopted by a white American couple - Brandon and Rebecca - living in New York. So, she puts herself into impossible-to-overcome debt and absconds to the U.S. in search of the daughter she never knew with plans to recover her and for them to make a life of their own together. 

Each chapter is told either from Jasmine's first-person perspective or from the third-person perspective when developing and defining Rebecca's character. Both women are as different in personality and socioeconomic status as in the way their stories are presented. I struggled for most of the book with this, not fully understanding the change in perspective. However, later in the book, a plot twist is revealed that adds clarity to this incongruent approach. 

Overall, the story is relatively short - just shy of 300 pages, but there are so many details offered up with such beautiful prose that one cannot rush reading this book. My favorite thing about reading, especially fiction, is a beautifully-constructed sentence, and Kwok peppers these thought-provoking passages throughout her novel resulting in an engaging story that captures, commands and captivates the reader's attention. Some of my favorites are: 

Why was it that women had to pay the price for men’s desires? -p. 85
I was trying to hold on to the illusion that I could work in a place like this and do it on my own terms, but I already knew, deep inside, that Opium was going to infiltrate my skin, soak into my pores until I wouldn't be able to tell where I ended, and it began. Walk often enough by the river's edge and your shoes will get wet. -p. 126

In China, I’d seen posters warning girls of the danger of becoming leftover women, women that no one wanted. Leftover like scraps on a table, uneaten food, both sacrilege and wasteful, something that should have nourished our country squandered and turned into rubbish: unwanted, purposeless, of no use to anyone. -p. 167-168

When you love the house, you just love the crows on the roof as well. -p. 211
Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In hindsight, I would not have read it near Christmas as it was sad in its themes, but it did provide a ray of hope in the uplifting, but not totally neatly-packaged, ending. This is a book you read not for a highly actionable plot, although there was some of that, but the journey in following the characters and their storylinles. I'd highly recommend this book for the lone reader or for invigorating discussing with a book club. 

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 12, 2023

In the Likely Event by Rebecca Yarros

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 348 pages
Published: August 2023

I snagged a digital copy of In the Likely Event by Rebecca Yarros from Amazon through the First Reads Kindle program. Because my husband exclusively shops at Amazon and is a Prime member, I get his benefit of free books through First Reads. As luck would have it, several months later my work book club selected this novel as a book of discussion. The premise seemed interesting, which is probably why I selected this book in the first place. 

The primary characters, Izzy and Nate meet on a plane and shortly after takeoff the plane crashes in the Missouri River. Forever bound by this tragedy, the two develop a romantic relationship where timing never seems to align so that it can develop into anything more than the occasional hook-up. (As an aside, I feel like Keanu Reeves's Jack and Sandra Bullock's Annie on the movie Speed told us everything we need to know about this: "Relationships that start under intense circumstances never last." But I digress.) About a decade later, Izzy has started a career in politics and travels to Afghanistan where Nate happens to be serving in the military special forces during a volatile time. When she arrives, he is charged with serving as Izzy's security detail. This encounter forces them to deal with their past and address their future. 

The story was fairly predictable. The alternating perspectives of each of the main characters revealed a bit of relevant background leading up to an interesting, although not completely germane, plot twist. All of their romantic chatter and sexual tension is set on the backdrop of a war-torn country. And like many reviewers have mentioned, this seemed a little ... privileged. Why are they focused on "does s/he love me?" when there are way more important things going on ... like people literally dying. I think this book could have easily been set in the U.S., but perhaps the author thought the international setting would make the story more interesting. I don't think it's ever OK to use other people's true suffering as a prop for a fictional novel. But that's just me. 

I've said this before, and I'll say it again, I'm not really intrigued by reading the play-by-play of sexually explicit scenes. It just doesn't do it for me. Overall, I found most of the dialogue to be superficial, and the characters lacked depth. The premise was promising, but it fell flat in the end. I pushed through because I try to complete book club books so I can actively participate in the discussion. 
Recommendation: I'm glad I got this book for free. I've heard Yarros' latest book, Fourth Wing, is super good, but this one kind of tainted her for me. I wouldn't recommend this book and highly doubt I'll be picking up her latest. 

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 5, 2023

Invisible Generals by Doug Melville

Invisible Generals: Rediscovering Family Legacy, and a Quest to Honor America's First Black Generals

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 6:35:00
Published: November 2023

I first learned of Invisible Generals when I heard the author, Doug Melville, discussing the book on "The Daily Show." Then, a day or so later, I heard him talking about the story of his grandfather and great-grandfather - the U.S. Air Force's first Black American generals - on "The Breakfast Club" radio show. I was really intrigued by what he had to say and how the movie "Red Tails" did not properly give these two trailblazers credit. I had a Audible credit to burn, so I purchased a copy. (It didn't hurt that Melville has a nice speaking voice and narrated the audiobook.) I also shared the book's synopsis with my husband, who's a retired U.S. Army veteran, and he started listening with me. We both thoroughly enjoyed this accurate re-telling.

And that's basically the story of how I came to know and learn about Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a father and son who helped integrate the U.S. military and were pivotal in founding the Tuskegee Airmen. 

Like most stories from this time period, the Davis' were each met with their own struggles and challenges to pave the way in a world that viewed them as less than simply because the color of their skin. Melville gives some background on how his great-grandfather persevered, but the bulk of the book focuses on Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who overcame insurmountable obstacles - physical, mental, and racial - to begin a career at West Point, while being shut-out by his white peers, and then to build an outstanding military career throughout several decades and leave a lasting legacy. I think the thing that makes this book inspirational as well as educational is that both generals and their families operated in grace even when grace was not reciprocated. My favorite line from Melville's book is when he mentions that Davis, Jr. and his wife always believed in leading with joy. That's powerful, especially during a time when you could say there wasn't much fairness or happiness. I am not related to this family, but I am proud of the accomplishments that were made as if they were my own. This was a story that had to be told, and I'm thankful the author invested the time and worked diligently to get the book published. 

I truly enjoyed the way this story was presented. It was easy to follow, even in audio format, well-written, and it was a joy to listen to Melville because his passion for his ancestors permeates throughout the story. He is doing an excellent job of honoring their legacy in his own, albeit, civilian way. 

Recommendation: I highly recommend listening or traditionally reading this story. It's inspiring, impressive, and simply wonderful to learn about people who achieved greatness and paved the way for many of us 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.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Book Blitz: Porter & Midge: Paws and Playtime by Giselle Nevada and Jennie Chen

Children's Picture Book / Pet Care / Dog Training
Series: Porter and Midge
Publisher: Raise the Woof Press, LLC
Pages: 32 pages
Published: December 2023

Discover the enchanting world ofPorter andMidge: Paws and Playtime-a rhyming children's book that follows the heartwarming bond between two furry friends, Mastiff Porter and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Midge, and their devoted companions, CJ and Lora.

On a sunny day, CJ's thoughtful idea sets the stage for a joyful exploration of new ways to make Porter and Midge's days even brighter.

Through rhythmic verses, follow their journey as they uncover imaginative games, canine enrichment activities, and thrilling dog sports, all while strengthening their unbreakable connection.

Giselle Nevada has owned several mastiffs, acquired both from reputable breeders and via rescue. Fostering rescued mastiffs and helping them work through their issues led to a keen interest in socialization as a means of preventing future issues. She loves working with her dogs and has dabbled in carting, conformation, agility, rally, trick dog, nose work, and many other canine sports. Her puppy Porter is a testament to early socialization - he has achieved many performance dog titles and has done commercial work. He also has a role in a movie called Match Me If You Can directed by Marian Yeager.

Jennie Chen is a homesick Austinite who founded Keep Austin Dog Friendly. Over the last 20 years, Jennie has owned Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Lowchen. She has earned numerous titles in conformation, competitive obedience, rally, herding, animal assisted therapy, and more. She is passionate about the relationship people build with their beloved canines, and she has been an advocate for people living with disabilities who need a service dog to live independently. She is active in various dog clubs and can be seen on AKC.TV from time to time.


One Winner
Pawtographed hardcover copy of Porter and Midge: Paws for Safety + a series water bottle
(U.S. only ends midnight, CST, 12/21/2023)

(for direct links to each blog participating in this book blitz!)

Thursday, November 30, 2023

This Spells Love by Kate Robb

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 352 pages
Published: December 2023

This Spells Love is a debut, friends-to-lovers romcom authored by Kate Robb, and I snagged an early release copy from Book of the Month in November, but the book officially releases in December 2023. I think the punnyness of the title won me over. 

The focal point of the story is Gemma Wilde who is grieving over the end of her long-term relationship. To help her recover, her sister, Kiersten, her aunt Livi, and her best friend Dax McGuire meet up at aunt Livi’s for some margarita therapy where they decide to perform a love-cleansing spell that will make Gemma forget all about her down in the dumps love life. The spell is sealed with a kiss from her platonic BFF, Dax. Much to her surprise the spell works, and she wakes up the next morning in a parallel universe where her life is flipped upside down and Dax knows nothing of her other than they work on the same street in Toronto. For the remainder of the book, Gemma struggles to decide if the life she’s been given is one she wants to keep, or if she needs to reverse the spell before the next waning gibbous phase of the moon, which will happen in about a month. But to reverse the spell, she must duplicate all the steps, including kissing Dax. 

The book moves at a fast pace, sometimes too fast for my liking. Some of Dax’s behaviors just seemed incongruent with how men and relationships work in reality. Overall, the plot is predictable and provided an easy read that I finished over the (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday. I think it was a fair debut for this author. After finishing the book then reading her acknowledgements in the back, I learned she is a part of a so-called SmutFest 2.0 community that she deems “her people.” Had I known this, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have picked up a copy because that’s just not my genre. I guess when it comes to romance, I am more of a Hallmark girl. But to each his own, not every book is for every one. 

My other struggle with this book were some of the under-developed plot holes. Like, why didn’t it work out with her long-term boyfriend? Robb alludes to it when Gemma encounters him in her parallel universe (where he doesn’t know who she is either), but she never fully explains the reasoning. Also, did Aunt Livi know what would happen as a result of the spell. Again, the author alludes to it, but there’s never any resolution. And it all left me wondering. 

Recommendation: If you’re into the hot and heavy, this may just be the book for you. While I would classify it as chick lit, I must offer the disclaimer that it’s best read by fully-cooked chicks. There are many, steamy sex scenes and graphic details about male body parts that I’d rate R on the motion picture scale. Other than that, I’d select this book if you’re looking for some mindless entertainment over a long weekend. 

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, November 21, 2023

A Promised Land by President Barack Obama

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 29:10:00
Published: November 2020

In A Promised Land, 44th President Barack Obama provides an intimate, extremely personal account of his campaign for the U.S. Presidency, his historic 2008 win, and the challenges he faced and successes he enjoyed during his first term as President. He also shares how his public professional role affected his role with friends, as a husband and father, and as a formerly private citizen. 

After reading this book, I can appreciate that he served as our 44th President rather than 46th because just about anyone could be deemed successful after number 45. Furthermore, if after reading this book, you cannot appreciate at least one of the major obstacles Obama, many times, overcame to create a better United States of America, I don’t think it’s possible for you to be objective. As President, he united a diverse (read: not just Black) group of citizens to mobilize, volunteer, and vote him into office. He helped bring our country back from the brink of financial ruin, passed healthcare legislation that is still in use today, made a fair pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and oversaw the capture and execution of the terrorist who visited the most deadly attack on U.S. soil in recent history. 

My short review here cannot do this book justice. This book is a good read regardless of your political affiliation as it provides insight and understanding of what intellectual and soft skills are required to bring people of differing perspectives together for the success of one’s country. 

Recommendation: I already had great respect and admiration for the Obama family before reading this perspective (I read Becoming by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018), but it was a gift to get an inside look at not only the decisions the President made but the thoughtful manner in which he took to get to those decisions. I am thankful, that as of this writing, the First Amendment is still in tact. I highly recommend this book for those seeking to learn more about Obama, his administration, and the inner workings of public policy. 

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, November 6, 2023

Good Talk ... Good Talk by Ginny Andrews

Good Talk ... Good Talk by Ginny Andrews
Genre: Nonfiction / Humor / Comedy / Essays
Publisher: Ginny Andrews Comedy, LLC
Date of Publication: October 5, 2023
Pages: 171

Raise your hand if you have ever run into a mannequin in a store and apologized. Continue to keep your hand raised if you want to pre-write thank you notes to those whom you anticipate attending your funeral because you suffer from chronic “way too nice” syndrome. Keep it up high if you have ever farted in church or yoga class. Man, my arm is getting tired!

Most people are awkward during the middle school years, grow out of it, and blossom into mature, well-functioning human beings…I’m still waiting for this to happen. Awkwardness is my hidden talent, although most who know me would tell you it isn’t hidden—it’s written on my forehead. My daily life is filled with epic failures. Sometimes I feel like I’m one big malfunction! As I have gotten older, I just try to embrace it.

After you read this collection of essays, hopefully you will be able to accept your imperfections too! Nope, probably not because I’m still not there! However, maybe my comedy will stick with you like that hemorrhoid you can’t seem to get rid of, like ever — Good Talk ... Good Talk.

Praise for Good Talk ... Good Talk

“Reading Ginny Andrews’s Good Talk. . .Good Talk is a lot like hanging out with that girlfriend that invariably makes you laugh until you cry." Lauren Cassel Brownell, author of Zen and the Art of Housekeeping and Dying to Donate

Good Talk ... Good Talk is a laugh out loud winner, filled with quirky stories reminiscent of Patrick McManus.” J. Andersen, author of The Breeding Tree, The Gene Rift, and Legacy’s Impact

“Anyone with anxiety will totally relate to Ginny Andrews’ humorous tales of the struggle of day-to-day life in today’s world.” John A.B., Amazon Reviewer

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 

Good Talk … Good Talk by Ginny Andrews is a relatively short, fast paced, and humorous collection of monologues written by a 40-something former high school teacher and coach who is trying on comedy for size. After reading her lighthearted and thoughtful book, I think comedy is something that will fit her pretty well. 

In each of the short 21 chapters of her debut, she shares little vignettes or essays about awkward encounters in her life. Andrews employs self-deprecating humor to provide not only insight to her life but society’s response as well. Her writing is easy to follow and I found myself laughing at many points throughout her vivid story-telling. If for nothing else, you should do yourself a favor and pick up this book to read chapter 8: Bengay in the Night

I found this book to be an easy read. My only criticism would be the overall structure of this book. Because each chapter as written as an essay, it’s almost like each chapter is standalone rather that components of the book as a whole. As a reader, I would have liked to see more of a thread through all of the chapters that tied the book together a little more succinctly. 

Recommendation: I enjoyed getting a peak into Andrews’ life. The stories she shares are sometimes emotional and often funny, proving that none of us should take this life too seriously. If you’ve ever found yourself replaying an awkward interaction in your mind, you just might relate to this book. I would recommend this as a quick weekend, pick-me-up 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.

Ginny Andrews is a former high school teacher and coach, who is now an aspiring comedian, speaker, and writer. She would greatly appreciate it if you purchased her book! Door Dash, dog-sitting, used car sales, lawn mowing, and selling random items found in her house aren't high paying gigs!


Connect with Ginny: Website | Facebook | Instagram | X (Twitter) | Goodreads | YouTube | Amazon | TikTok | BookBub

Signed paperback of Good Talk ... Good Talk + $25 Amazon gift card
Ends Nov. 10, 2023, midnight CST
(U.S. Only)

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Wellness by Nathan Hill

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 624 pages
Published: September 2023

Wellness by Nathan Hill is being touted as the next great American novel. I am not sure if that is the case. I didn’t read Hill’s debut, The Nix, but I will say he does a great job of writing an engaging story that compels the reader to stick with the story until this end. And at more than 600 pages, it can take a while to get there. I enjoyed the journey, but I am still undecided on how I feel about the destination. 

Wellness is a story of growth for main characters Jack and Elizabeth who meet in Chicago as young adults, fall in love, get married, have a child, and then realize they aren’t the people they were when they met. (Is this groundbreaking?) Through a series of flashbacks and present day scenarios the author illustrates the events that formed the characters into the people they are presently. In an attempt to discern who they are as mature adults, the two embark on a variety of tactics to save themselves and their marriage. Are they successful? I’m not quite sure, I think the ending can be left up to interpretation.

Even though this was a longer novel, it didn’t seem that way. I was invested and able to finish the story at a moderate pace. I enjoyed the flashbacks that gave the reader detailed background into the nuances of the characters. They were both clearly drawn together because they’d suffered from horrible parenting. What I did not care for the overabundance of cited references throughout a fiction book. It almost made it seem as though it was fiction purporting to be non-fiction. I think the story could have been just as strong with out and the dozens of reference works listed at the end. 

Recommendation: I really wanted to enjoy this book. After hundred of pages, I was all in, but the ending kind of fell flat to me after all that build up. I think the author was struggling with bringing it all together, but I did enjoy his writing style. I may pick up The Nix or his next work, but sorry Oprah, I’m just unsure about the accolades that all the critics are giving this one. 

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, October 26, 2023

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 292 pages
Published: May 2014

I was gifted The Vacationers by a coworker who read this Emma Straub novel during her honeymoon to Kaua'i. Since I was going to the same island for my honeymoon, albeit years later, I thought I'd save the book for a nice beach read during my stay. And I successfully implemented my plan. Husband. Check. Beach. Check. Book. Check!

The story is about the Post family who travels to Spain during the summer holiday where their teenage daughter, Sylvia, will be immersed in Spanish with a personal tutor. Joining them is their adult son, Bobby and his girlfriend and their two family friends, Charles and his husband Lawrence. Together, they will celebrate what will be Franny and Jim Post's 35-wedding anniversary. However, as with most families, dysfunction and secrets kept that eventually spill make for a challenging time over the course two-week vacation. 

This is one of those stories where there isn't a ton of action. It's more-so just a peek into normal character's lives and the challenges they face. There are some deeper topics, but nothing too heavy, and the book's pace allowed me to participate in the Posts vacation while I was on mine. The book is less than 300 pages, and made for a nice and easy read while soaking up some sun. 

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book. I suspect I enjoyed it because of circumstance and surroundings, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I would recommend it as a light read to help readers get out of a reading slump. And if sun, sand, and water can be your backdrop while reading it, I highly recommend that too! 

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, October 21, 2023

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 236 pages
Published: January 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith made its way to my radar after watching the 90-minute movie adaptation, Love at First Sight, on a whim on Netflix a few weeks prior. As I was embarking on a 6+ hour flight to start life with my husband (i.e., honeymoon), I thought this would be the perfect light and short read to enjoy. Both the book and the movie feature the same predictable meet-cute scenario, although there were some liberties (as per usual) taken with the film. I found them both equally entertaining, emotional, enjoyable, and a nice way to begin my last quarter of 2023 reading. 

So, basically what happens is Hadley is on her way from the U.S. to England to participate in her father's wedding to a woman whom she's never met. Whether as a result of bad luck or subconsciously not wanting to watch her dad really put the nail in the coffin of his marriage to her mother, she misses her original flight and meets Oliver. Their seats are near each other on the flight she makes and they spend the bulk of it getting to know one another. However, once the plane lands, hectic schedules and potential delays separate the two, and the only thing that can bring them back is a little romantic fate. 

You can probably guess exactly how the story unravels. It's one we've all read or seen in one form or another. I just really enjoyed the escape from reality to read something totally fun during one of the most happiest times in my life. It's a young adult novel, and as a middle-aged reader, I have no regrets. 

Recommendation: I'd give this book (and the movie too!) a go if you're looking from some lighthearted entertainment as we enter the cozy, holiday season. At less than 250 pages, it can easily be completed in a day. 

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 30, 2023

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 08:51:00
Published: January 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney was a monthly book club selection by Ginger from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. When she introduced this older novel, she prefaced it by saying it's one she reads every year around Christmas/New Year's. The recommendation, synopsis, and nostalgia piqued my curiosity so off to the library I went for the audio copy. 

I must say, I did enjoy meeting Lillian Boxfish, an octogenarian, who sets out on a walk in New York City on New Year's Eve and, as she takes that walk, she reflects on a live well lived. As readers, we are put in the position of voyeurism, and as such, we learn about her childhood, the aunt who inspired her, her upward-moving career as an advertising copywriter, and her indifference to becoming a wife or mother, yet she becomes both anyway. We learn about her struggles in those areas, some of which lead to her divorce, and finally where she's ended up several decades later. Like real-life professional women, Lillian is multi-faceted, complex, and alluring. 

It's quite possible this is the case because her character is inspired by a real-life poet and advertising professional, Margaret Fishback, who was the highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world in the 1930s. Personally, I related to Lillian a lot - being a professional marketer who has chosen to prioritize my career over being a mother (gasp!). Additionally, Rooney through Lillian's voice, provides a lot of funny quips and thoughtful quotations throughout the story. 

"Choice is an illusion promoted by the powerful." (page 214)

"No matter what first draws our attention, language is where we make our decisions. (page 229)

"...a dull and dogged reminder that I was just like everyone else in suffering the injustice of chronology: I could only walk through it facing forward, going in that one direction." (page 266)
(Most of the quotations I've highlighted here are in the latter part of the book because I snagged an e-copy as I fell more in love with the story. I do intend to mimic Ginger, and read this book again next year.) 

I liked going back and reminiscing to a simpler time with Lillian Boxfish. The book would have been a solid 5-stars for me had it not included the stereotypical tropes of young men of color robbing on the streets of New York. But can I really be angry about something so real through the eyes of an 80-something white woman? I think I will just take it as it is so as to enjoy the story. 

Recommendation: I recommend giving the audiobook a listen as the narrator really brings Lillian to life. A great read for Christmas break to discuss with family and friends. 

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 25, 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 327 pages
Published: August 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus was more like a whaleFAIL for me. The cover is beautiful. The premise is intriguing, but the story simply fell flat for me. To be honest, this is not something I would normally read, but the synopsis and aforementioned cover just grabbed me. (So much for judging a book by its cover!). 

The arresting plot is about a young man, Jay, who is attempting to grieve and cope with the death (by suicide) of his father, Mitt. Mitt and Jay have been estranged for sometime, and even on Mitt's deathbed, Jay can't seem to bring himself to visit and reconcile with his father. And quite honestly, I understand the hesitation. Mitt was described as a narrow-minded, chauvinistic man's man who could not process that his only son had different aspirations and was a bit more nuanced as an individual. Mitt lived his life without much emotion, and he seemed to be embarrassed when Jay showed any. But I digress. 

The story opens, and Mitt has died. Jay is grieving, and has decided to go out to the ocean where his father died by suicide to find and collect his remains. What he sets out to do at the beginning of the book is so dangerous that he must do it in secret. As luck (or commonsense) would have it, he dives in with this scuba gear, encounters trouble with a squid and ends up swallowed by and in the stomach of a whale. The story is told as he travels through the four stomachs of said whale, and it claims to be scientifically accurate. I am not a scientist or a diver, but there was definitely an overabundance of technical details in the story, so yeah I guess it probably is technically accurate. But does that really matter? I would argue, no. The scientific minutiae made it difficult for me to accurately picture what was happening. Coupled with the overwrought descriptions are seemingly random flashbacks in Jay's mind of interactions with mainly his father but also his mother and sisters. 

Any adult reader can discern the main character is grappling with his father's death and the overbearing whale is serving as some sort of paternal metaphor. I think the overall premise is thoughtful; however, the execution just didn't do it for me. It was erratic and disjointed, and I didn't really enjoy the journey. I was just ready to take one big breath of fresh air when it was over. 

Recommendation: I always say not every book is for every one, and maybe this one wasn't for me. I don't know that I'd be running to the bookstore or library to read another book by this author. But to each his own. 

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, September 15, 2023

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 09:46:00
Published: January 2022

I snagged a copy of The Housemaid during on of Audible's annual 2-for-1 sales (along with The Guncle by Steven Rowley, but I haven't gotten to that one yet.). Because my work book club had chosen it for our monthly selection and I have a 50-mile commute to work, the Audible sale came in handy. A couple of coworkers had mentioned that the book was good ... but, oh boy, was it unputdownable good! 

The story centers around Millie, a young down-on-her luck ex-con living in her car, who takes a job as a housemaid and nanny for a family that, at the outset, seem too good to be true. As the story evolves, she finds that Nina, the woman of the house, seems to have some mental health issues. (As I was reading, I thought she might be suffering from biopolar personality disorder.) Her young daughter, Cecelia appears to still be struggling with her terrible twos several years late. And Nina's poor husband, Andrew resembles the perfect victim. However, all things aren't as a they seem and a mid-book plot twist flips the story on its head, propelling the reader to a captivating, albeit disturbing, conclusion. 

The author did a great job of creating a suspenseful tone that has the reader questioning the narration. The emotions evoked grip the reader into making an investment to finish the story. I enjoyed McFadden's writing style and the fast-paced nature of this mystery thriller. I wouldn't classify it as scary, but it is definitely creepy. 

There is a second and third book in the series, The Housemaid's Secret and The Housemaid is Watching, that I have yet to read. I'm not a fan of series as I like reading different types of books by a variety of authors, but if the second two are anything like the first, hold on to your seats! 

Recommendation: This was a fun listen, and I suspect reading an e-copy or hard copy would be just as compelling. Book club choice for the win with this one. Highly recommend for a fall, spooky story. 

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, August 25, 2023

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Duration: 9:03:00
Published: March 2019

I had been hearing about Daisy Jones and the Six for years … probably ever since it published … then again when the limited series aired on Amazon Prime Video. I kept thinking I should try reading it, but other books got top billing. Well, an Audible promotion and recommendation that Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel is best listened to prompted me to download an audio copy. And now, I am a fan girl of a totally fictional band. 

The story centers around Daisy Jones and a young band called The Six, led by the Dunne brothers. Both Daisy, as a solo artist, and The Six are trying to make a go of it in the music industry filled with underage sex and an overabundance of alcohol and drugs. Separate chance encounters with a successful producer provide the impetus for him to put the two together. There is a lot of conflict and sexual tension between Daisy and the older Dunne brother, Billy, that fuels the fire for creativity and catapults the group to stardom. Then, at the height of their success, the group disbands never to play together again and no one knows why. The present-day story is set up in documentary style, decades later, with each member sharing through flashbacks their respective memories and perspective on what happened. 

The audiobook is truly a treat to listen to. There’s a cast of characters, many of whom are well-known actors, who take on the personality traits of each character and really make the story come to life. While listening I kept wanting to hear the music. And that’s the bonus about Daisy Jones and the Six, Reese Witherspoon as producer with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber bring the story to life. I am typically a person who always says the book was better. And the book was good, but the musical drama made the story so much better, allowing the characters to show us the chemistry among them just as well as Jenkins Reid told us. 

Recommendation: I highly recommend consuming this story via audio, and I equally recommend watching the TV series after you read the book. As with most adaptations, there were some liberties taken. And then, when you’re still jonesing (pun intended) for more, take a listen to the soundtrack on Spotify. 

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.