Thursday, September 12, 2019

Mayhem, Murder and the PTA by Dave Cravens

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 434 pages
Published: May 2019 

Parker Monroe is a tough-talking investigative reporter used to writing headlines, not being the subject of them. When a key source vanishes on a politically toxic story, this single mother of three finds herself at the center of a media storm and out of a job. Ready to reset, Parker moves her family back to the rural town where she grew up. But a gossip-filled PTA, a tyrannical school principal and a gruesome murder make adjusting to the "simple life" anything but. Parker Monroe is about to chase the story of her lifetime...

Mayhem, Murder and the PTA by Dave Cravens introduces the reader to Parker Monroe who is a journalist recovering from a huge misstep in her career. To reset her life she moves across the country and back home with her mother and three children. Upon her return she is confronted by the vice principal of her former school who is a bit of a nemesis. Shortly thereafter, a murder occurs and Parker and her inquisitive nature quickly gets wrapped up in the subsequent events.

This book is what I would categorize as a humorous murder mystery. While there are some dark elements, the book isn't too heavy. The author provided enough detail to keep the reader engaged. While the advanced readers copy of the paperback I received is is more than 400 pages, all of the chapters are all relatively short and the spacing is generous, so it's probably not a true 434 pages. I enjoy mysteries, and this one did not disappoint. I was invested in completing the novel because I wanted to find out how the myriad of characters fit together. Cravens did an exceptional job of giving all the characters - primary, secondary, and tertiary - a purpose and making it easy to discern individual within the entire cast of characters.

My critiques include the incongruence in the author's writing and voice style. He would change from third person omniscient to the main character, Parker, talking to herself which almost made it seem as though he was switching from third to first person. It created some inconsistency for me and caused me to have to re-read several passages. Additionally, I was not a fan of the foul language. I get that Cravens wanted the protagonist to be "tough-talking," independent, and flawed, but I think the obscenities were overdone. Using curse words doesn't make you tough nor does it make you appear tough. It was very easy to tell that this character was written by a male. She almost seemed like a male character in personality. In conjunction with the language and abundance of Bon Jovi references, who the author clearly has an affinity for, I just wasn't impressed. In fact, I think if these were reduced, the book could have been about 1/4 shorter in total. Also, I don't think the sole sex scene was needed nor was it germane to the overall mystery. It definitely could have been left on the cutting room floor. The book is dialogue heavy. There are more direct quotes in conversation and not a lot of vivid descriptions. It seems as though the author took the approach to tell rather than show what was happening.

Recommendation At any rate, I did enjoy the book. I found it humorous, witty, and engaging. I think fans of the mystery genre would enjoy this. It can easily been read in a couple of 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.

As a child, Dave Cravens planned to grow up to be a superhero, the first person to capture Bigfoot and Nessie on film, pilot experimental aircraft out of Area 51, develop cold fusion, and star and direct in his own blockbuster action movies so he could retire at the ripe age of twenty-five and raid tombs the rest of his life. Instead, he got a degree in journalism, which he hasn’t used at all other than to justify his incredibly insightful and valid complaints about the state of journalism. During his twenty-two years in the video game business, he’s written for award winning franchises, directed TV commercials and movies, sprained his ankles numerous times in ultimate frisbee games and published three original novels.

Connect with Dave: 

Prizes: First Prize: $20 Amazon gift card

Second Prize: $10 Amazon gift card
Third Prize: Paperback copy of Mayhem, Murder and the PTA
Fourth Prize: Kindle copy of Mayhem, Murder and the PTA

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 288 pages
Published: July 2019 

I can't remember where I first heard about Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon, but as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to add it to my to-be-read list. I enjoy a good mystery, and I was excited that this one featured African American women. Additionally, I found the twin element intriguing. The publisher, via the synopsis, describes this book as follows:

"On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer's twin sister Summer walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again—the door to the roof is locked, and no footsteps are found. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing woman, Autumn must pursue answers on her own, all while grieving her mother's recent death.
With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. She falls into an affair with Summer's boyfriend to cope with the disappearance of a woman they both loved. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with murdered women and the men who kill them."

Sounds good, right? Well, if that was the story I read I would agree. This was my biggest issue with the book - the synopsis - hence the 4-star (rather than 5) rating. Because the synopsis is was drew me to this book in the first place, I felt a little cheated after having completed it.

The story I read, I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a little slow to start, and I was a little put off by Autumn and some of her behavior, but the book kept tugging at me and I kept reading it - finishing in just two days. But the book is not a "literary thriller" as described. I would say it is more of a psychological study of how major trauma affects women and how it can be dangerous just living as a woman, a Black woman, in the United States. The prose is enticing. Ms. Buckhanon has a way with words that, as a lover of words and collector of quotations, I can appreciate. The plot twist is interesting but expected, with the indicators that the author placed leading up to it. Once this twist is revealed, the novel changes course and becomes a more complete piece of literary fiction focusing on a very important and relevant topic.

Recommendation I don't want to give too many specifics to spoil this book for potential readers. I do highly recommend it. Just go into knowing the published synopsis is a bit misleading. Read it through the lens of violence against women and healing from it in the age of the me-too movement.

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 2, 2019

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

Title: Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves 
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 272 pages
Published: October 2018 

I don't know what took me so long to get and read Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim. This book is a compilation of essays written by some of the most prominent and prolific African American female authors. From the moment I read the introduction by editor Glory Edim, who founded the Well-Read Black Girl national book club, I felt like I'd come home.

I'd like to think of myself as a well-read Black girl. I have always read. Now that I am post-graduate and post-teaching, most of my free time is just that - mine. So, I read a book about every 7-9 days. I participate in book clubs. The knowledge gained from reading is invaluable. The escape from reality when engaged in a fictional story is cheaper than any vacation (not that I'm opposed to taking a vacation). Reading is, simply, magical. I am a voracious reader, consuming any and all forms of books, magazines, poems, essays, etc. So, when I first heard about Well-Read Black Girl and its founding book club, I knew I wanted to read it. It wasn't until nearly a year after its publication that I was able to snag a copy from Amazon - on sale no less! While I may have been a little late to the party, I am very glad I invested in my own copy (rather than borrowing from the Library, although I strongly advocate supporting one's local Library) because I know I will revisit this jewel again in the future and re-read some of the essays.

This book was written by Black women for Black women, but that is not to say that others could not benefit from it. It is empowering. The prose is beautiful. The stories are heartfelt, and the talent is bursting off the pages and out of the spine of this collective masterpiece. As you might guess some stories resonated with me more than others, but overall I am so thankful for this body of work that has provided representation for a little well-read Black girl like me, and hopefully, for a whole new generation of readers (and writers) to come!

Recommendation Readers write and writers read. If you identify as either, this book is for you. It is targeted to the titular demographic, but wisdom can be gained by any reader. Don't delay like I did, pick up 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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Great Jewel Robbery by Elizabeth McKenna

Series: Book 1, A Front Page Mystery
Category: Adult fiction; Genre: Cozy mystery

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 204 pages
Published: May 2019 

Mystery with a splash of romance…Chicago Tribune reporters Emma and Grace have been best friends since college despite coming from different worlds. When Grace is assigned to cover an annual charity ball and auction being held at a lakeside mansion and her boyfriend bails on her, she brings Emma as her plus one. The night is going smoothly until Emma finds the host’s brother unconscious in the study. Though at first it is thought he was tipsy and stumbled, it soon becomes clear more is afoot, as the wall safe is empty and a three-million-dollar diamond necklace is missing. With visions of becoming ace investigative journalists, Emma and Grace set out to solve the mystery, much to the chagrin of the handsome local detective.

Mystery with a splash of romance indeed! This little cozy mystery by Elizabeth McKenna is a pure delight. The novel features two strong female protagonists - Emma and Grace, an engaging plot, and a little romance that propelled this reader from the beginning to end in just a few days.

The Great Jewel Robbery is the first book in a series and also this author's first attempt at the cozy mystery genre. McKenna definitely succeeded in her efforts. Emma and Grace are friends from college, and when Grace is assigned to work at a charity ball, she invites Emma as her plus-one. Shortly upon their arrival, madness ensues. A guest is assaulted, jewels are stolen, and strange things keep happening. The women's interrogative spirits get the best of them and they choose to stay nearby and help solve the crime of the missing valuables. This decision brings one of the friends, Emma, in close contact with Detective Ryan O'Mara, and that's where the romantic spark is lit. Even so, the book focused more on the mystery than the romantic element, which I appreciated. Overall, the storyline was captivating, and the mystery was intriguing enough to keep the reader's attention. The author provided enough detail and clues that allowed for the mystery to be solved while reading along. McKenna effectively injected humor and provided vivid descriptions. In the end the story wrapped up nicely, and maybe just a bit too quickly, but provided the reader with a satisfying ending.

Recommendation I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the supportive friendship between the two women. I think this book would be great for readers who appreciate cozies in a modern day setting. Its lighthearted tone would make it nice to take along on a fun weekend trip. I'm looking forward to book 2 in the series.

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 one Christmas when 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). She combined her love of history, romance, and a happy ending to write the historical romance novels Cera’s Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, is loosely based on her life (she eventually married her first crush).

The Great Jewel Robbery is her debut cozy mystery, and she hopes readers will like it as much as they have enjoyed her romances. Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

Connect with Elizabeth: 

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 224 pages
Published: July 2019 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a historical fiction novel based on the real-life Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in Florida. The book is set during the Jim Crow era. In reality, we know that the Dozier School committed horrible atrocities against young boys, many of whom's bodies weren't found until a few years ago. However, much of the news coverage has focused on the Caucasian students. In this fictional account, Whitehead dramatizes what might have happened to the African American boys who were sent to the, now infamous, school.

As you might suspect, some of the depictions are difficult to read and visualize. It's shocking, yet believable, that things described in this book could have happened - and a lot of them probably did. Similar to the author's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Underground Railroad, the book is beautifully written. It paints a vivid picture with its biting prose. Having said that, I don't know if it is because of the subject matter or the overall length of the book, I just couldn't get into this one like I did his previous book. It didn't resonate with me, and it was sometimes hard to follow. I anticipated the plot twist revealed near the end, but I was left largely unsatisfied upon completion. I think this is a story that should be told, and I think Whitehead is a masterful storyteller. This one just did not do it for me.

Recommendation The book is getting rave reviews among many readers and critiques. Because I enjoyed The Underground Railroad, I'd like to say that maybe this book just did not find me at the right time. Read at your own risk.

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.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 448 pages
Published: February 2019 

I Owe You One is the latest, humorous book by prolific chick lit author, Sophie Kinsella. In the novel, we meet aptly-named Fixie Farr, who always puts family first by taking on the tasks of fixing things for her relatives. Hot off her own career disappointment, she is leaving back home with her recently widowed mother and her sister, who is married but staying at home while her husband is abroad for work. Fixie runs the family store with her mother and brother, who lives in town with his girlfriend. When a man in a local coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop, Fixie can't help but say yes and fix what turns out to be a sure disaster, thus saving his computer. As a token of thanks, he proffers her an IOU. When Fixie's high school crush comes into town and down on his luck, she cashes in her IOU.

This book is very typical of Sophie Kinsella. It's a book about a woman who is not so secure in herself. There's a romantic element, and there's some growth throughout the course of the novel. I don't know if it is because I just recently finished a Kinsella novel (Surprise Me!) or if this one just wasn't that good, but I didn't really like Fixie. She got on my nerves. Additionally, I wasn't a fan of the language employed by her brother. It was quite colorful and seemed almost abusive at times. I also think the story went on for too long. The author probably could have cut out a great deal of content and the plot remain the same.

Overall it is a lighthearted novel and good for summer reading.

Recommendation If you're a Sophie Kinsella fan, you'll probably want to read this one so you're not missing out. I can go either way with it. No strong recommendation for or against.

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, July 14, 2019

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 464 pages
Published: March 2019 

My niece snagged a copy of Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds at the 2019 North Texas Young Adult Book Festival. She decided to "repay" me for something by reading it this summer. So, when my online book club took recommendations for a book in the young adult genre, I eagerly nominated this book. In short, I am glad I did.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It centers around Jack King, who is a senior in high school and his love affair with Kate, who is a freshman in college. He meets her while on a visit to her college and immediately falls for her. The challenge is that Kate dies before their relationships reaches its full potential. Jack is then thrust back in time and is granted a do-over. Hoping for a different outcome, Jack returns to the same point in time where he meets Kate five times. The book details how he approaches each returned.  I think the thing I like the most about this book is that while it featured African American characters, that was not the sole focus of the story. Any other ethnic or race could have been substituted and the themes in the story would remain the same.

Sci-fi type books are not typically my favorite reads, but this one wasn't too heavy on the time travel aspect. It focused more on character and relationship development, not only between Jack and Kate but also between Jack and his parents as well as Jack and his two best friends. While the book is nearly 500 pages, it reads quickly and quite smoothly. I finished it in just a couple of days. It is appropriate for its young adult audience, although I think adults could appreciate it as well.

Recommendation I would definitely recommend this book for any reader. It has the perfect balance of many literary elements keeping the reader engaged through the end. I can't wait to discuss it with my niece!

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, July 10, 2019

Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward by Valerie Jarrett

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 11:23:00
Narrated by: Valerie Jarrett
Published: April 2019 

Last year I read Becoming by First Lady Michelle Obama. In it, she mentions her meeting Valerie Jarrett and how that changed the trajectory of her career path. So, when I learned that Ms. Jarrett was writing a book of her own, I was excited to get a copy of Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward and read about her life, her perspective of the Obama administration, and how she sees the future.

Similar to Mrs. Obama's book, Ms. Jarrett begins at her childhood. A single child to highly educated (some might even call them "woke") parents who moved to Iran for better career opportunities. Jarrett was born in Iran, but later the family moved to the U.S. after her mom felt that Jarrett was picking up some negative life lessons on how to treat people in Iran. Upon her return, Jarrett recalls the discrimination and bullying she faced in her formative years from her classmates because of her unique beginnings. However, these experiences strengthen her. She became a determined young adult who had lofty goals that included becoming a partner in a law firm, a wife, and a mother before the age of 30. She succeeded in meeting her deadline, but as a result had a marriage that was not based in love. Because this was vastly different from what she witnessed between her parents, this relationship impacted much of her adult life. However, she persevered as a single mom. About a third into the book, we get to that defining moment where she meets Michelle Obama, who was then Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama. She calls it a luck. This meeting of happenstance solidifies her as a figure in the Obamas' lives that remains to this day. As Ms. Jarrett says, she has always felt like a big sister to Michelle and Barack.

Much of the book focuses on Ms. Jarrett's career as a civil servant and the politics of being a senior advisor in the Obama administration. For me, it was interesting to read her perspective on some of the same events that Mrs. Obama shared in her book. While the books might seem redundant, they are not. Where Mrs. Obama comes from a perspective of love and partnership with her husband, Ms. Jarrett's take is more professional and political in nature. She doesn't mince words and is very clear about several major moments that occurred during those eight years. One of those more memorable moments that intrigued me was Ms. Jarrett's re-telling of the nearly destructive relationship between the Obama's and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. She provides much more detail than Mrs. Obama did in her book. I have read several criticisms of how Mrs. Obama presented the spiritual leader in her book. After reading Ms. Jarrett's book, I'd have to say Mrs. Obama was quite kind to him.

I really enjoyed this book. I was able to listen to most of it on a road trip. Ms. Jarrett's voice is soothing and she does a great job sharing her story while keeping the reader engaged. I wish she'd gone into a little more depth about her personal life and maybe reduced the amount she shared about her career in politics. Having said that, the book is subtitled her journey to the West Wing, so I knew what I was getting into!

Recommendation If you enjoy autobiographies and would like to learn a little more about one of President Obama's closest friends and advisors, Finding My Voice will provide just that. Thanks to the Fort Worth Public Library for the borrow!

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, July 5, 2019

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 418 pages
Published: February 2018 

I've read several Sophie Kinsella books, most before I started tracking my reads on While I was waiting for the newer and seemingly popular I Owe You One to become available at my local library, I downloaded Surprise Me.

This novel is true to Kinsella's writing style in that it is light, funny, and poignant. The main character, Sylvie and her husband, Dan go to the doctor for physicals on their 10-year anniversary (odd choice for an anniversary date, but I digress). They learn that they are in tip-top shape and will probably, barring any catastrophes, live the next six decades together. As a couple they are completely in sync, often finishing one another's thoughts and sentences.

I pass him the bread basket knowing that he’ll take the sourdough, not because he likes it particularly but because he knows I love focaccia. That’s the kind of man Dan is. The kind who lets you have your favorite bread.

However, this longevity news completely throws them both for a loop, and Sylvie decides they needs to spice up their marriage with surprises to keep things new and fresh for the duration. The bulk of the book focuses on Sylvie and Dan's marriage, their life together with their twin daughters, and their circle of friends. However, in the midst of this marriage survival plan, Sylvie learns things about Dan, her mother, and her late father that provide more of a surprise that she bargained for.

At first I didn't think I was going to enjoy the book. Sylvie kind of got on my nerves, but Kinsella did a good job of giving the character depth and growth over the course of the novel. What I had expected was a light and funny novel, and I did get that. But as a bonus, I also got a story that had a bit of a dark side with the main character emerging as a more holistic individual on the other side. I think this quote by one of Sylvie and Dan's neighbors completely sums up the book:

Love is finding one person infinitely fascinating.” John seems lost in thought again—then comes to. “And so…not an achievement, my dear.” He gives me a mild, kind smile. “Rather, a privilege."

Recommendation Once again, Kinsella did not disappoint. She is a master storyteller and knows how to effectively inject humor into her work. I would recommend this as a great summer or beach read. Oh, and the Fort Worth Library just released I Owe You One, so I'm adding it to the list!

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, June 23, 2019

In My Father's House by Ernest J. Gaines

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 224 pages
Published: June 1978 

In My Father's House by Ernest J. Gaines was the June read-along with one of my online book clubs. The book itself if relatively short, but there is a lot of detail contained in this story set in the 60s during the Civil Rights Movement in the small town of St. Adrienne, Louisiana. The story begins with a mystery man, Robert X, who comes to town. His entrance directs the story to the revered Reverend Philip Martin. During the course of the novel, we learn than Reverend Martin has led two lives, and the house of cards he so carefully built is all about to fall down due to the presence of the young Robert X.

This is the first book I've read by Gaines. I found his writing to be simple yet powerful; clear yet descriptive. He captured the essence of the time period and the struggles that many people of color were facing during that time. He presented the story in a fair way that left me thinking about it for days after I've finished reading it. Having read this book, I'd definitely be interested in reading more of his writing.

I think if I could have read this story when it was first published in the late 70s, it would probably have had a higher rating. However, more than 40 years later, some of the plot just made me frustrated because we've come so far. So, even though the book was short, it was difficult for me to plow through. Not only because of the status of African Americans but also women. I think I struggled with Reverend Martin's treatment of his wife (as well as her acceptance) more than anything. But those were the times.

Recommendation This was a good read. I don't know that I would have picked it up on my own, but I am thankful it was selected for our monthly book club reading.

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, June 18, 2019

The Latte Factor: Why You Don't Have to Be Rich to Live Rich by David Bach

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 03:59:00
Narrated by: Mizuo Peck, David Bach
Published: May 2019 

This quick read was recommended to me by a good friend. Similar to the style of Who Moved my Cheese, The Latte Factor by David Bach is a small book that packs a powerful punch. Told in story form, the author offers a 3-step solution to attaining financial freedom.

The book is told in such a way that any reader can comprehend. You don't have to be an investor or a math whiz to understand and put his advice into practice. My main issue with this book is that for this practical advice to work, you have to already be at a certain place in life. You must have a stable, consistent income where you have the ability to buy lattes (or whatever your guilty pleasure might be) so that you can give them up. You will get no argument from me: Putting aside ~$300 per month in an interest-bearing account will help you go far, but there are simply a lot of people who don't have that "extra" $300, and it's not because they are buying lattes, or cigarettes, or whatever. It's because they are paying the light bill, or the mortgage, or buying school supplies for their children.

While I think the advice is common sense and easy to put into practice, you have to be starting at that level. Having said that, I think this book is probably best for a recent graduate who doesn't have an enormous amount of debt or financial responsibilities or maybe someone who is about five years into his or her career. The author might want to consider a slightly different approach for other target audiences.

Recommendation This book is a quick read (or listen) with some valuable advice. I just don't think it's a one size fits all type of solution. Thanks to the Fort Worth Public Library for the borrow!

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, June 15, 2019

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 375 pages
Published: September 2018 

I absolutely adored Black Girls Must Die Exhausted (BGMDE) by Jayne Allen! This book was selected by one of my book clubs, and it did not disappoint. The story centers around a 30-something reporter journalist, Tabitha Walker, who gets some personally devastating news at the onset of the book and the remainder of the book is how that news affects her, the decisions she makes, and other people close to her.

As a young, single, career-minded woman living in a metropolitan area, I found the main character to be very relatable. The story line was spot on, and the writing was impeccable. The author was able to create engaging imagery that evoked a myriad of emotions in this reader. I found myself tearing up more than once while reading BGMDE. The ending was not perfect, but it was satisfying. Although, I was a little surprised to learn that this book would be the first of a trilogy! Now I'm invested and must read the subsequent books that the author is working on.

My only complaint about this book is with the publisher. The book is not available in most large libraries, and I think that is a disservice to the author and potential readers. More young women should have access to this story. This is not a story for black women; it's a story for all women.

Recommendation I definitely recommend this book. I think it is an intriguing read for all, but I think it might resonate with working women the most.

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, June 14, 2019

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Rating: 1 of 5 stars
Length: 06:29:00
Narrated by: Tiffany Haddish
Published: December 2017 

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish represents about six and half hours of my life that I'll never get back. This book was painful to listen to. I didn't find a lot of humor in it but rather a very sad description of the comedienne's life and pursuit for acceptance through success.

I know Haddish is known for her raunchy comedic style, but I felt like she was over the top in this book. In her quest for a laugh, she came off as offensive, cold, and culturally insensitive. Personally, I have been blessed to live a fairly stable life, and I don't wish to question anyone's trauma. However, some of the stories Haddish re-told in this book were simply unbelievable. She lost all credibility with me when she, at 13, tried to seduce her black male doctor after nearly dying from toxic shock syndrome. I was later further offended by her mocking of her mentally disabled boyfriend. And then I found it very sad that she got an abortion because she couldn't raise a child with her abusive boyfriend yet no sooner than she healed up from the procedure she was right back in his bedroom. Her whole life just seemed sad, and my hope is that she has sought some counseling to help deal with these issues, if they are indeed true.

Beyond the content, the book was poorly written. There was way too much foul language and overly explicit scenes described. The final product could still benefit from some heavy editing. Haddish shared at least half a dozen stories of men telling her she's "too beautiful" to do this or "too pretty" to do that. Additionally, many of her sentences ended with "and stuff." It was just a grammatical nightmare.

This book was vastly disappointing for me. I had hoped that Haddish might offer some type of inspiration. Typically, when I read or listen to an autobiography I come away from it liking the person a little more than I did previously. Sadly, with The Last Black Unicorn, I like Haddish a lot less.

Recommendation Life is too short, and there are too many other books. Try something else like We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union or Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

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, June 1, 2019

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 336 pages
Published: September 2016 

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a slow-paced novel set in the United Kingdom - mainly Scotland. This is a book that should be approached and read purely for entertainment. It's about Nina, a librarian, who recently is laid off due to a restructuring of her City. She steps way outside of her comfort zone, relocates, and starts her own mobile bookstore in a van. In a different place and with a new spin on her career as a literary matchmaker, she finds added excitement in her life.

I enjoyed the first two-thirds of this story. The writing is good, and the author paints a picture of an unsure young woman who branches out in a quaint little farm town. All of the secondary characters are interesting and add value to the development of the primary character, as she grows more sure of herself. However, the last third of the book seemed a little rushed like the author was unsure of how to wrap up the plot.

I struggled with a few other things in this book. The romantic element - I don't think it was needed. There was a lot of potential with Nina's character as well as her discovery of a new profession/business venture. I think the author could have fleshed that out more rather than introduce a slightly unrealistic romantic plot that seemed to rush to the end. Also, I didn't care for the way the author simply wrote off the Marek character. I found it insensitive. I know the book was published several years ago, but it's almost inflammatory considering immigration relations all over the world today. And finally, the title of the book bothered me because nowhere in the novel is there a bookshop on the corner. However, after reading through some Q&A on Goodreads, I learned that the more relevant U.K. title is Little Shop of Happily Ever After, which makes so much more sense. Why the title was changed for U.S. publication is beyond me.

Recommendation This is a light read for a summer weekend when you don't have anything important to do. There are some touching moments, but don't expect it to be the next Great American Read or anything. Just take it for what it is at face value.

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, May 26, 2019

When You Read This by Mary Adkins

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 375 pages
Published: February 2019 

I may have mentioned this before, but I really do enjoy reading epistolary novels. I like getting a peek into others' correspondence and thought processes. So, when my fellow blogger friend offered this book up for review, I quickly put myself on the hold list for When You Read This, Mary Adkins' debut novel.

In short, this novel is about, Iris, a lady who dies of cancer like a lot of people do - way too young. The unique angle is she leaves behind a digital trail of blog and message board posts where she shares her journey of her illness leading up to her untimely death. As a dying wish of sorts, Iris leaves these writings behind for her boss, a public relations professional, Smith. (Yes, Smith is his first name.) Smith must work with Iris' sister Jade, who is reluctant to have the material compiled in book form.

This book is a quick read since it's all emails, text message chains, and digital postings. However, don't equate the quickness for weakness. The book tackles the heavy subject of death and the grief of those we leave behind. But it's not all darkness, I had several laugh-out-loud moments while reading this book. There were also points that made me reflect. In the end I appreciated the character growth illustrated through flawed but likable characters.

Recommendation I think this book is for anyone. It has a myriad of elements that would appeal to most any reader. The summer may be for light reading, but I think this book gives the reader a nice balance heavy and light material. This is a strong 4.5 out of 5 stars 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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Narrators: Phylicia Rashad and January LaVoy
Length: 14:20:00
Published: June 2017 

In the midst of a reading slump, I solicited help via social media and was provided with several recommendations. The first I chose to take up was Mrs. Coretta Scott King's autobiography, My Life, My Love, My Legacy. This book was published in 2017, more than 10 years after her death. The book is a chronological story of her life as it was told to Dr. Barbara Reynolds.

For this re-telling, I selected the audiobook which was read first by January LaVoy then after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, was read by Phylicia Rashad of The Cosby Show fame. My biggest question was why the change in narrators. I think maybe the publisher wanted to give readers an audible signal that Mrs. King's life vastly changed after her husband's, her love's murder but that she continued to live a life full of charitable work and purpose.

And that is my biggest takeaway from this wonderful book. Mrs. Coretta Scott King was an activist in her own right. She was an educated and independent woman who was a loving daughter, mother, and wife. She was a fierce partner and confidant during her husband's very demanding and successful life. I truly enjoyed listening to the stories, many that I've heard growing up, from her perspective. It was also eye-opening just how much she did after that fateful day in April of 1968. Her strength through harassing and threatening phone calls, her patience with an often-traveled spouse who's work was never done, and her persistence and commitment to non-violence when there had been so much violence against her family. I appreciated how she shared private bits of her relationship with her children. I also enjoyed learning little facts about her that I never would have known, like her reason for never re-marrying and who funded her living quarters in the latter part of her life.

Dr. King is well known for his eloquent speaking and presentation skills. This book proves that Mrs. King was also a talented communicator. In this book, her prose is rhythmic and inspirational. I closed my listening app feeling satisfied as it ended with this:

For struggle is a never-ending process, and freedom is never really won. You earn it, and win it - in every generation. -Coretta Scott King

Recommendation: I absolutely recommend this book to anyone. It should resonate with any reader on a variety of levels as it activates a wide range of emotions. Mrs. King has left a long-lasting legacy that her children and grandchildren should be most proud of. I am thankful for the recommendation from Kara, and I hope my review is a way of paying it forward to another reader.

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, May 8, 2019

What We Lose: A Novel by Zinzi Clemmons

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 213 pages
Published: July 2017 

At its core, What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons is a story about grief, depression, and healing. In this short fictional novel, Clemmons presents a story centered around Thandi, born of a South African mother and black American father, who loses her mom to cancer. The plot is Thandi working her way through this loss. She also explores seemingly unrelated themes of femininity, race, sexuality, and identity.

Clemmons has received rave reviews on her debut novel. I'm not as impressed. While there were some touching passages that resonated with me, I found the book to be very disjointed and lacking fluidity. Maybe she was trying to illustrate the emotional elements of grief through her writing. I found it very cumbersome. At times I could not tell if she was writing fiction or non-fiction. She references real life events and scientific studies like the book is a work of non-fiction, but then she has Thandi's story, which is somewhat fictional, sitting on top of the book. I say "somewhat" because she, the author, has admitted to borrowing experiences from her relationship with her own mother and using them in the novel. I know authors do this - you write what you know. I truly believe this gives the stories depth. However, in my humble opinion, Clemmons did not execute this well. I found myself re-reading passages to understand if the events she was writing about were regarding a real life person, like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama or if she was referring to the fictional character, Thandi.

I liken the tone and pace of this book to Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot. There seems to be a trend of authors writing their trauma through their books. I suppose this is a tool to heal. I just don't know if it's effective from a creative standpoint.

Recommendation This was an interesting read that I finished in about two hours. Obviously, it has resonated with many people. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The one thing I did take from it was: Love your mom while she's still here. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! :-)

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.