Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James



Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 336 pages
Published: February 2020

I don't even like ghost stories or the paranormal, but I absolutely loved The Sun Down Motel by Simon St. James. It was my first book from BOTM club, and it did not disappoint. I devoured this book every free moment I had over the course of six days. I would have finished sooner, but alas I have a full-time job.

The book vacillates between 1982 and 2017 where Carly, in the more present time, is working as an amateur sleuth to solve the mystery of her aunt who, Viv, who vanished without a trace more than 30 years earlier. In her attempt to find the truth, Carly takes on the life that her aunt lived those many years ago in a town that really hadn't changed as much since the 80s. The atmosphere is spooky, and the hotel that both Viv and Carly work(ed) at is the center of a lot of paranormal activity.

The author did a fabulous job of creating suspense, mystery, intrigue, and fear with her literary devices. I would be lying if I told you I didn't get a little uncomfortable reading some of the passages. The writing was so engaging that there were times when I had to close the book because I was home, alone, at night. My only criticism is that, even with the decades time difference, I sometimes had difficulty discerning if I, as the reader, was reading about what happened in 1982 or 2017. Each chapter did have a label at the beginning that identified the time period and perspective (Viv's or Carly's), but once I turned the page and was deep into one chapter I'd sometimes forget. This may have been intentional by the author to demonstrate how the town of Fell, New York was still stuck in the past.

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed this book and think that my new BOTM membership will be well worth the money paid. I don't even like ghost stories ... until I did. Thanks to BOTM and Ms. St. James for opening me to a new genre!

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 23, 2020

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert



Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: November 2019

I can't remember where I first learned about Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, but the premise of the book seemed like a fun, light read that I ended up taking with me on a work trip. I have a lot of alone time after hours when I leave town for work. So, reading helps keep my mind occupied.

I would categorize this fictional novel as contemporary romance with a hint of humor. The protagonist is Chloe Brown who suffers a critical illness that becomes chronic and forced her into a life of solitude. I kind of relate to the solitude aspect, living as an introvert, myself.

Anyway, Chloe decides she needs to get herself back out there and she makes a bucket list of sorts to help her get a life, hence the title. The first task was moving out of her spacious familial home. In her new abode, she comes into contact with Red, who is the property's superintendent. He's the opposite of Chloe in just about every way. And as you might suspect, a love-hate relationship ensues and you can probably guess where the plot goes from there. No big surprises in the story. It's a tale as old as time.

The surprising, little nugget is the backgrounds of Chloe and Red. We learn some things about them, that happened before they met, that give their characters depth. The author lightly touches on some pretty heavy topics as a result of developing their respective back stories. I wish she would have put some more research and focus into those topics. Instead a great majority of the book is explicitly described sexual encounters. I think these could have been reduced by at least 25%. I found myself rushing through to just get to the expected ending so I could call this one done.

I do appreciate what the author was trying to do as well as her focus on more realistic ethnic and racial representation in novels. I just don't understand why some authors of color have to contribute to the stereotype of over-sexualized black women. That was a little disappointing for me. Additionally, the book was told from the perspectives of both Chloe and Red, but the author wrote in the same voice for both characters. It wasn't difficult to differentiate because one is female and one is male, but because the voices were so similar, the dialogue fell flat for me.

Recommendation: I wanted to like this one. I really did. In looking at other reviews, I realize I am in the minority on this, but my vote is a hard pass on this one as well as the other books in the series that focus on Chloe's sisters.

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 10, 2020

Free Cyntoia by Cyntoia Brown-Long



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 319 pages
Published: October 2019

I first learned about Cyntoia Brown (as she was known then) when celebrities started sharing her story and documentary on social media. When she was released from prison, I celebrated with her and her family. And when she published her memoir, I knew I had to read it. (Thanks to the Fort Worth Public Library for the digital borrow.)

Going in, I thought that I would learn about what a difficult childhood Cyntoia had, how she came from a broken home with no stability or parental support. Serves me right for making assumptions and applying stereotypes! That is not what I learned as I read her story. In my opinion, she had a good foundation but made some poor, and ultimately detrimental, life choices. During the first third of her autobiography, I was so frustrated with and mad at her. By the middle of the book, my heart began to soften, and by the end of the book I was absolutely enamored by the transformation she had made. Essentially, just as I changed my mindset in reading her book, she changed hers over the course of nearly two decades.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Cyntoia Brown-Long (as she is now known). I appreciated the journey she took me on as a reader, and I am grateful for her being vulnerable and sharing her story in this way. It is not a pretty one, but it is a beautiful illustration of God's grace and mercy.

Recommendation: This is an interesting true account of a young life, and how our criminal system impacted it. It is non-fiction but definitely a read for mature audiences. Even if you are not a Believer, I think you can appreciate the maturity and personal growth written about in this book.

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, January 1, 2020

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo



Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 400 pages
Published: May 2019

I must say I picked a good first book to complete in 2020. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo is as young adult novel that centers around Emoni who is a teenage mom living with her abuela (grandmother). She is a naturally talented chef and as she approaches the end of her senior year in high school, she's at a crossroads in deciding what the future holds for her.

This story was so real - the content, the language, the emotion. The author did an excellent job of illustrating real world scenarios in a relatable way. She did not take shortcuts or rely on stereotypes or tropes with any of the characters. I appreciated that the story featured a young woman of color but it wasn't necessarily a "Black book" or a "Latina book." The main character could have been any ethnicity, and I enjoy books positioned like that the best. It was a bit of a coming of age novel, not in that it covered an extended period of time but because of the growth the main character experienced. There wasn't an explicit physical challenge for Emoni to overcome but rather an internal conflict to resolve.

While this contemporary book is categorized as young adult fiction, I don't feel it's limited to that demographic. The book has a wide range of appeal, and the writing is solid. I found myself wondering about Emoni's future long after my library loan was over. If selecting this book for your pre-teen or teenager, make sure they are mature enough to handle the content. There are topics of teen pregnancy, and the author uses curse words, albeit in an effect manner. (I'd rate the book PG-13.) Having said that, the topic is surely to make teens consider what being sexually active means and what consequences can come with that.

Recommendation I highly recommend this book. It is always available on Hoopla. If you have access to that service, why don't you download an electronic 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.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal



Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 249 pages
Published: August 2019

Someone in one of my Facebook bookish groups recommended I'm Not Dying with You Tonight — a fast-paced, young adult novel about two girls of different races with different perspectives who must depend on one another in an attempt to survive a chaotic night after a riot occurs at the local football game of the high school they both attend. The book is loosely based on the real-life aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. It was co-written by Kimberly Jones, an African American, and Gilly Segal, a White American. As mothers they decided to collaborate on the now published debut.

I think the authors did a great job of creating suspense and an authentic environment in the novel. I like how they both drew from their personal perspectives to reflect them in their art. The descriptions of each scene were very clear to me as the reader. I didn't really enjoy the over characterization of Lena's character. I think it played into stereotypes of African Americans, which maybe could distract the reader from the true purpose of the book's themes. I also think some of the other characters could have been more developed to provide a fuller, more complete novel.

Recommendation Overall, I did enjoy this timely, young adult novel that people of all ages can appreciate it. It is very fast-paced and can probably be finished in one sitting for most readers. Go grab a copy today, or if you have access to Hoopla, it's always available for an eBorrow.

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 21, 2019

Crossover by Kwame Alexander



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 245 pages
Published: March 2014

Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a young adult fiction novel told in verse. It is relatively short, and because the story is written like a poem it is a fairly quick read. It is about twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, who are somewhat locals stars on the middle school basketball team. They have two caring parents - their father, who had some success on the international basketball circuit and their mother, who is the principal of the school they attend. In this story, Josh and Jordan experience personal growth through common challenges for their age group, but they also are required to mature because of a tragedy that affects their family.

The thing I just loved about this book is that it could have been about any two brothers. The story featured an African American family and black culture, but it wasn't the central to the story. I truly appreciate when authors are able to highlight the culture without being stereotypical or using easily accessible tropes. I also enjoyed the way it was written in verse. I think this makes it easy for young people to enjoy, especially young boys who may not find reading to be cool. I liken Alexander's style to Jason Reynolds. They are both writing impactful stories that are engaging an important demographic. Having said that, I think any young adult (or adult, for that matter) can appreciate this rhythmic story.

Recommendation This was a fun book to start wrapping up my reading year. (I think I have one more read to conquer in 2019.) I highly recommend it to anyone, but I think it will resonate with teenagers 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, December 20, 2019

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin


Category: Adult fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: December 2019 


Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.


Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin is a fictional, generational story that centers on the Sebolt and Platt families. Over the course of nearly 400 pages, the author takes us on a journey of this black family and their struggles with race, gender and other societal issues. The result is a detailed and creative novel based on historical facts that were well researched by the author. 

My reading journey with this book started slowly. It was a little difficult for me to get into at first; however, I did find the storylines of Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner to be engaging. I think the author did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the various time periods presented in the novel. I also appreciated his ability to vividly describe scenes without overwhelming the reader with dialogue.

The most challenging aspect of the book for me was the abrupt changes in perspective and flashbacks in time. Sometimes it took me a couple of paragraphs to re-orient myself then I'd have to go back and reread passages to get a fuller understanding. I forged ahead because of my commitment to provide a thorough review. However, if this book was one that I had picked up for leisure reading, I probably would have given up on it, which would have been a shame because the overall story was compelling. I wonder how different the novel might have been if it was divided and each generation of Sebolts/Platts had his or her own novel.

Recommendation This is a valiant debut novel, and I think the author has a promising future in creative writing. I'd recommend this read when you have time to really delve into it.

Until next time ... Read on!

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







Jeffrey Colvin served in the United States Marine Corps and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Harvard University, and Columbia University, where he received an MFA in fiction. His work has appeared in Narrative, Hot Metal Bridge, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and is an assistant editor at Narrative magazine. He lives in New York City.


Connect with Jeffrey: 
December 13: Kahakai Kitchen
December 18: Amy’s Book-et List
December 20: A Page Before Bedtime <--- You are here.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Killer Resolutions by Elizabeth McKenna


Category: Adult fiction; Genre: Mystery Suspense
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 174 pages
Published: October 2019 


For fans of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None . . .

In a remote lodge in northern Wisconsin, friends gather for a festive, New Year’s Eve weekend. When a blizzard traps them with a murderer, who will be left to kiss at midnight?

Five years ago, a tragedy shattered the friendship between Dani, her older brother, and their college pals. When her brother invites the old gang for a weekend of outdoor winter fun at a remote lodge, she sees it as a chance to reconnect and heal. But when her friends are murdered one-by-one, Dani must determine whom she can trust before she becomes the next victim.

Killer Resolutions by Elizabeth McKenna is an adult fiction mystery novel that features a group of college friends reconnecting five years after a horrible tragedy involving them all. In present day, the past event is still affecting the friends, and one by one we learn the deadly results of the issues not resolved between them.

The story is brief, fast-paced, and intriguing. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to review another McKenna mystery. I find the author's writing to be engaging, keeping the reader's attention to the mystery is solved through to the very last page. I feel the same about her newest mystery novel.

I finished Killer Resolutions in just a few hours. Once I started I had to keep turning pages until I learned who the killer was. McKenna did a good job keeping the suspense going. My only critique of this book is that it was a little on the short side. I think a little more character and plot development delving into the the history and motives would have made the story more complete.

Recommendation This is a book that you'll want read with your night light on! The book is dark yet timely with the upcoming holidays. There is some explicit language in the book, so beware if it is the type of thing thing that bothers you.

Until next time ... Read on!

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









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). 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, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.



Connect with Elizabeth: 


Prizes: Win one hard copy (U.S.A. / Canada) or one of 5 ebooks (International) of Killer Resolutions (Total: 6 winners)




Dec 2 – Miz B – book review
Dec 2 
 Library of Clean Reads 
Dec 3 
 Working Mommy Journal
Dec 4 
 The World As I See It
Dec 5 
 Locks, Hooks and Books
Dec 6 
 From the TBR Pile
Dec 6 
 Literary Flits
Dec 9 
 Momfluenster
Dec 10 
 The Phantom Paragrapher
Dec 11 
 Bookmark and fork
Dec 12 
 A Page Before Bedtime < --- You are here.
Dec 13 
 Adventurous Jessy
Dec 13 
 Cheryl's Book Nook

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado


Full Title: Because of Bethlehem: Every Day a Christmas, Every Heart a Manger
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 196 pages
Published: September 2016 

I purchased a Kindle copy of Because of Bethlehem: Every Day a Christmas, Every Heart a Manger by Max Lucado in order to participate in an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries. In addition to the book, I was able to take advantage of the supplemental materials included in the study.

This book was a quick read, making it a benefit during one of the more busier times of the year. I found the stories easy to digest, often completing a chapters while waiting in line at the grocery store or on my lunch break at work. As a Christian, I found the themes fairly elementary. Lucado added a lot of personal anecdotes, which made him more relatable to the reader. But if I am honest, I really didn't have any big aha! moments with this book. It was a fun read for the Christmas season that reminded me of things I already knew.

Proverbs 31 Ministries motto goes something like: Your life may be crazy, but your Bible study doesn't have to be. I think this study was a good example of that. It's as light read about an important topic that reminds the reader of the reason for the season.

Recommendation I think this book would be a good selection for someone young in their Christian walk or for someone who doesn't have much time to delve deeply into a Bible study.

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, November 30, 2019

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 321 pages
Published: May 2019 

I ran across How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper when I was browsing my local B&N. I purchased another book that day, so I made note of this book to borrow from my local library. Many critics have compared Roper's debut novel to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and I can certainly see why. It has the same pace and ended with the same satisfying feeling.

This realistic fiction book centers around Andrew who lives a life of solitude. Five years ago while interviewing for his current job, the interviewer asks Andrew a question he wasn't quite prepared for and Andrew provides a made-up answer. From there one lie demands another until he's curated quite a fantasy. Five years into his tenure, Peggy comes on board as a co-worker Andrew must train. As he gets closer to Peggy, it's inevitable that the truth must come out. The result of all of this is a creatively written story of personal growth.

I really did enjoy following along this story's path of redemption. The triggering event is something that could easily happen to anyone who doesn't deal well with pressure or in social settings, but it also provides a nice lesson in the end that doesn't necessarily tie the story up neatly but does make it complete. I have thought about this book long after completing it - probably because I wonder if I will die alone one day - but also because the author is exceptionally talented. I can't wait to see what Roper writes next.

Recommendation This novel should definitely be on your TBR (to be read) list. It's a dark comedy with a meaningful message.

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 20, 2019

Beautiful, Complicated Family: Vols. 1 & 2 by Rosey Lee





Genre:
Fast Fiction

Pages: Volume 1: 33 pages | Volume 2: 29 pages
Published: November 2019
 

Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 1 and Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 2 explore the connections that can hold people together or tear them apart. The stories in this collection capture struggles that are common in today’s families—secrets, mother-daughter conflicts, coping with aging family members, and a more subtle question of what makes a family. The issues will seem familiar to you, but there are unexpected twists when you least expect them. The relatable characters and endings may pull at your heartstrings, so don’t be surprised if you laugh or cry along the way. Like most families, the relationships in this uplifting collection consist of intricate elements. Sometimes things get messy, but it’s always beautiful. Each volume contains five flash fiction stories (very short stories of 1000 words or less each). Read each story in about 5 minutes and get Volume 2 of the collection for free using a link within Volume 1.


 

Volume 1 Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 
Earlier this year, I was approached by author Rosey Lee about reading and reviewing her upcoming fast fiction novels: Beautiful, Complicated Family, volumes 1 and 2. I enjoy helping new authors, especially authors of color get exposure, so I eagerly agreed. 

Volume 1 is 33 pages, and Volume 2 is 29 pages. I had never read the fast fiction genre until reviewing these books. Fast fiction is just what it indicates ... fast. Both books could probably be read in an hour or less by a dedicated reader. However, because of the short and fast-paced nature of the books and the short stories contained within them, the reader should not mistake this for light content. Rosey Lee tackles tough topics that we might all find familiar being part of complicated, and maybe even dysfunctional, families. Her writing style is quick but engaging and the stories leave you thinking and wanting more from the characters. 

Volume 2 Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 

I have to say that is probably my main criticism with these compilations. They are just a little too short for me. Rosey Lee teases the reader with some intriguing content and just when I was getting invested, the stories abruptly ended. I'd love to see the author flesh out some of these stories in to full fledge novels. I think the characters deserve that, and I definitely think Rosey Lee has the talent to write a more traditional-sized novel. 

Recommendation: With such a short bit of content, my review is also short. I definitely think the books are worth the read, and I hope to see more from this author in the future. If you have an hour or so of free time, why not download the books ... for free ... using the "buy now" links below. Until next time ... Read on!

Thanks to Fiction Physician, LLC and Netgaelley for the advance readers copy of these books. 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.

 


Volume 1 contains a link to get Volume 2 for free! Simply subscribe to Rosey Lee's website.
Alternatively, readers can purchase Volume 2 from anywhere that sells ebooks.
 


Rosey Lee writes uplifting fiction stories about family and friendship. A native of the Westbank of New Orleans, Louisiana, Rosey is a fan of good food and a good time. As a child, she dreamed of a career in writing, fashion design, and acting. She uses the pen name Rosey Lee as she pursues her passion for writing. Her alter ego is a physician who has dedicated her career to individual and community-based approaches to health equity. She enjoys cooking, flower arranging, listening to live music, and occasional bursts of fanatical bargain shopping.

Rosey’s flash fiction has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Bending Genres, Barren Magazine,
Turnpike Magazine, The Wellington Street Review, and elsewhere. Her work has also been
nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net anthology. Connect with her at roseyleebooks.com and @roseyleebooks on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


 


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 320 pages
Published: August 2019 

Things You Save in a Fire is an adult fiction novel by Katherine Center. The protagonist, Cassie Hanwell, is a firefighter in Austin, Texas who gets relocated to a Boston firehouse after an unfortunate event. A promising female firefighter in progressive Austin, Cassie struggles to acclimate in her new role at the Boston firehouse, which is much more traditional. She starts at the same time as male rookie firefighter, who is the son of a firefighter, and surprisingly the two find out they have more in common than the job.

This book is not your typical romance novel. There is depth. Heavy issues like grief, mental illness, opioid addiction, and the ability to forgive are tackled. I think the author did an excellent job of touching on these tough issues while keeping the story entertaining. There were many well written passages that illustrated Center's talent as a writer.

I didn't really enjoy the romance aspect of the book. It seemed a little rushed and unrealistic to me, but I enjoyed the story just the same. My favorite themes were those of redemption and forgiveness.

Recommendation This was a heartfelt and moving story that I think anyone could appreciate. However, I think it might hold a special place in the hearts of us feminists.

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.