Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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

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 and @roseyleebooks on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 304 pages
Published: June 2019 

My mom heard about Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes on one of the many morning TV talk shows. Knowing I'm an avid reader, she texted me information about the book back in July. I put it on my TBR list and got on the digital hold list at the local Library. The book became available a few weeks ago. I downloaded it but did not have time to read it until this past weekend. I was forced to finish it in just a day as my loan was set to expire on the following Monday. So, that's how this book found me, and to sum it up in a sentence, Evvie Drake Starts Over is an imperfectly perfect novel that features flawed but lovable characters, and it leaves the reader feeling completely satisfied upon completion.

Evvie (pronounced like Chevy) is the protagonist, and when the book opens she is preparing to leave her jerk husband (although he only seems to have been a jerk to Evvie) when she finds out he's just died in a car accident. Nearly a year after his death, to supplement her income Evvie takes in Dean, a boarder who is a major league baseball pitcher who recently experienced some trauma of his own. Together, these two develop a friendship that is, at times, frustrating but, more often, healing.

The thing I liked the most about this novel is that it featured a strong yet vulnerable female protagonist who learns to save herself, start anew, and create her own happiness. A lot of the plot is predictable, but the delight of this book is the journey in getting to the ending not necessarily the ending itself. I found the writing to be solid, the story engaging, and the characters relatable. This was my first Linda Holmes book, but I certainly hope it's not my last.

Recommendation I absolutely adored this book. It was a perfect weekend read that left me with a soft smile. If you enjoy romance comedies that leave you with a good feeling, you just might enjoy this gem.

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 30, 2019

One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 304 pages
Published: June 2019 

Shortly after I read One Day in December, I stumbled upon One Night in Georgia and the juxtaposition of the titles made me smile. The synopsis of latter made me want to read it. The novel is set in the late 60s where the black is beautiful and Civil Rights Movements are in full bloom. The main character, Zelda, meets up with her college friends and sorority sisters, Veronica and Daphne, near the end of summer to drive from New York to Georgia where they will resume their college education at Spelman University. They meet up with family friend*, Daniel, who escorts them on this tumultuous trip that includes several episodes of racism, terrifying encounters with the police, and some fun and excitement. However, the tone of the book foreshadows a pivotal event that changes the lives of the college students forever.

At just a little over 300 pages, this book is not overwhelming. It actually reads much faster that one might expect. I enjoyed taking a peek back in history through Norfleet's eyes of this time period. It was an important one for African Americans, and the first part of the novel was spot on in capturing the time period, retelling actual events that occurred, and illustrating similar events through fiction. However, about halfway through the book, it changes from a study of the African American condition to a kind of cheesy love story which later evolved into some 50 shades-type prose, and the ending just fell flat for me.

I was hoping for better character development and resolution of the major issues presented like Zelda's relations with her mother, and the relationship between both of them and her stepfather. I wanted more of a conclusion about how Zelda could begin healing from her father's death. The other friends, who had major roles in the story, had their endings wrapped up much too quickly in a few sentences without really dealing with the heavy issues (arranged marriage, sexual assault, biracial identity) they were tackling. Overall, I felt like Norfleet took the easy way out with the ending and left too many other issues up in the air. What began as a driving and intriguing story quickly lost its power and effect.

Recommendation Even though this was a quick read, I would not recommend this one. There are other books that deal with some of the major issues in this book in a more effective way. And maybe that was the problem, the author tried to cram too much into one story and didn't know how to synthesize it all. So disappointed!

*The Goodreads synopsis says Daniel is a family friend of Veronica, but I am certain he was a family friend by way of Zelda. I'm not sure if this the publisher's error or an error on the part of Goodreads.

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 20, 2019

Lords of St. Thomas by Jackson Ellis

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 180 pages
Published: April 2018 

I was contacted directly by Jackson Ellis, the author of this wonderful little gem of a book - Lords of St. Thomas. The book is historical fiction. It is loosely based on actual events and people during the Depression (1930s) in the the small town of St. Thomas, Nevada in the United States. The government has decided to build what we now know as the Hoover Dam. Henry Lord, his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson plan to hold out on selling the family property hoping the project won't take hold. This decision has detrimental effects, and continues to haunt "Little" Henry, the grandson, some 60 years later when the drought has caused Lake Mead to recede and he returns to St. Thomas.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I truly enjoyed this story. I had not heard of St. Thomas or these events until reading this book. The overall tone is sad, but it is a very compelling story. While these events are fiction, they are based in reality. Without giving too much away, many of the tragedies that happened to the fictional characters happened to the real people of this real town. Ellis has done an excellent job researching and writing a story that I, as the reader, quickly dove into. At the end of the book, the author offers suggestions for further readings about the Hoover Dam project and the actual Lords. I really want to go visit the site one day!

Recommendation I highly recommend this book. You can grab an e-copy for less than a fancy drink at Starbucks, and I doubt you'll be disappointed in this quick 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.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

One Day in December by Josie Silver

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 409 pages
Published: October 2018 

I sought out a lighthearted chick lit novel after reading some heavier, darker material. While One Day in December by Josie Silver could certainly be categorized as chick lit, it is also a bit more than that. There are some heavier themes surrounding personal growth and self esteem that I think many women can relate to.

The story, set in England, begins with Laurie on a bus exchanging a longing glance with a young man outside of the bus. As fate would have it, they miss their chance to connect. She is certain their visual encounter is love at first sight, and she spends the next year looking for him when he walks right in their door of the flat she shares with her long-time friend, Sarah. To her dismay, the young man - Jack - has just begun dating Sarah and Sarah is certain that he is "the one" for her. From there the novel spans 10 years of friendships and relationships between Laurie, Sarah, Jack, and other secondary characters.

I classify this book as chick lit because it's mainly about finding love and the reader gets the happy ending; however, the beauty of this story is the journey in getting there. I grew attached to both Laurie and Sarah and the friendship they developed over the years. Some family aren't blood relatives but family just the same. My only real issue with the novel was Jack's character. I'm not really sure why he was always the prize just out of Laurie's grasp as we travel the 10 years with her.

This was a fun story that I enjoyed reading. I am thankful to the Fort Worth Library for the digital borrow.

Recommendation I'd recommend this book for a quick weekend read over a nice cup of cocoa.

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, 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.