Thursday, November 30, 2023

This Spells Love by Kate Robb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A Promised Land by President Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Monday, November 6, 2023

Good Talk ... Good Talk by Ginny Andrews

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

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

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

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

Praise for Good Talk ... Good Talk

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

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

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

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars 

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

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


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

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

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Wellness by Nathan Hill

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Saturday, October 21, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Monday, September 25, 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Friday, August 25, 2023

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Monday, August 21, 2023

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 416 pages
Published: April 2023

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez is the second in a series. I purchased and read the first Book of the Month Selection, Part of Your World, in 2022. So, naturally when BOTM published the second book in 2023, I snapped it up quickly. And just like the first, this story did not disappoint. As I mentioned before, Jimenez's books are romcoms with substance. She does an delicate job of balancing sobering topics with timely humor and bringing it all together for a satisfying conclusion. 

The second book in this series focuses on the best friend, Dr. Bri Ortiz, of the main character in the first. We meet Bri, ER doctor, on the tail end of a humiliating divorce where she's trying to regain her self-worth while also attempting to beat the clock on finding a kidney donor for her brother. As it so happens in many romcoms, a timely meet-cute (or maybe in this instance meet-conflict) ensues with one Dr. Jacob Maddox who is equally good-looking as he is good-hearted and who also happens to be on the heels of a horrible break-up. To boot, he just so happens to have recently joined the ER staff at Bri's hospital. As it were, one thing leads to another and these professional colleagues move past their initial conflict and strike up a friendship through a situational fake dating scenario. 

With this being a romcom, I don't think I'd be giving to much away to say the story follows a friends-to-lovers plotline. However, that is not the jewel of Jimenez's book. In both of the books in this series, she tackles serious issues such as depression, anxiety, loss of pregnancy and thoughts of suicide. She artfully presents these in a thoughtful way while not weighing the book (or the reader!) down too much. (Hint: Think Grey's Anatomy but in book form.)  

Recommendation: I truly enjoy Jimenez's writing style, and I can't honestly say if I loved this book more than the first. They are both equally engaging on their own. The books do follow in chronological order; however, I believe they can be consumed as stand-alone stories, with some character overlap in each. So, it is my reader's opinion, that it is not necessary to read them in order. I highly recommend picking up either 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.

Monday, August 14, 2023

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 336 pages
Published: April 2022

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams is her second novel after bestselling and award-winning novel, Queenie, which I also adored! While I did see some similarities in the main character, Dimple, of People Person, the more recent book is a complete departure from the first. This is not a criticism. I find it refreshing when authors can write and offer something new rather than formulaic. Well, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the book. 

It centers around Dimple and her four half-siblings: Nikisha, Danny, Lizzie, and Prynce. Having grown up without financial or emotional support from their absent father, Cyril Pennington, the siblings don't know a whole lot about one another until one day when Cyril picks them up in his gold Jeep and takes them to the park for ice cream. For the remainder of their formative years, they largely grow up with little interaction (save the oldest, Nikisha, and the youngest, Prynce, who have the same mother). However, at the age of 30 Dimple finds herself in a troubling situation and remembering her oldest half sibling, Nikisha, told her she could call if she ever needed anything on that fateful day they all met in the park, Dimple takes her upon that offer. Nikisha calls the other three siblings and together they find themselves in a tense situation that brings them together and helps them learn more about one another ... and their absent father too.

When I first began this book, I thought there is no way I am going to be able to enjoy it and follow this cast of characters than Carty-Williams sets up in the first chapter. However, she is such an excellent storyteller than I quickly found myself engrossed in the shenanigans that the Pennington siblings were trying to resolve as a family unit. Each character is distinctly developed that makes it easy to follow and fall in love with their flaws. Having said that, some characters, like Dimple, were a little more frustrating at times than others. But isn't that the way people work outside of books too? 

I found this story to be driving, funny, and endearing further solidifying my love of Carty-Williams' writing. We need more stories like this that feature people of color. 

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. I snagged my copy at Barnes & Noble, but I am sure you can find it at your local library or discount book store since it's been over a year since initial publication. I think it would make for a fun Saturday afternoon read. 

Please note there are some descriptions of violence, domestic abuse, and a couple of mild sex scenes. 

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, July 31, 2023

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 355 pages
Published: May 2023

The Secret Book of Flora Lea was my first read by Patti Callahan Henry, and I must say her writing is as beautiful as that shimmery book cover. I snagged a hardback copy of this book from my local Barnes & Noble on recommendation of the Modern Mrs. Darcy's Book Club. Each year Anne Bogel puts out a Summer Reading List of recommendations, and this wonderful WWII-era novel was on it for 2023. To boot, the book club got to e-meet the author during an hourlong discussion! 

So, the story. This is a historical fiction novel about two sisters - Hazel, the older and Flora Lea, the younger and titular character, both whom get shipped off from war-torn London. In reality and in the novel, more than 800,000 children were evacuated during the most dangerous areas of the war under Operation Pied Piper. Together are with all the children from their community, the children and relocated, out of harms way, during World War II to live in a small idyllic town that was deemed safer. To help calm her younger sister's fears, Hazel creates stories in the magical world of Whisperwood. Because Hazel is several years older than Flora Lea and they are forced orphans during this time of evacuation, she takes on a mothering role despite the girls being temporarily "fostered" by a single mom living with her son. Everything is going as best it can, considering the circumstances, until it isn't and Flora Lea vanishes seemingly forever. This inciting action affects all parties involved for years to come. 

Fast forward a couple of decades later, and Hazel is working at an antique book shop where she comes across a rare book that features Whisperwood - the fictional world that she created for her younger sister. Certain this is proof Flora Lea is alive, Hazel goes on an investigative hunt, much to the dismay of her long-time boyfriend and his family, to find out more about the rare book, its author, and (she hopes) her sister. 

This was such an emotional read for me because I get so invested in these WWII-era stories. Henry did an excellent job of pulling the reader into the world of Hazel Mersey and Flora Lea. Her desciptions were vivid and the plot was engaging albeit hearwrenching at times. 
Recommendation: Prior to reading this book, I had no knowledge of the Operation Pied Piper program, which is a HORRIBLE name by the way, or how it has integrated itself into pop culture even today (see Paddington Bear). Learning this tidbit is one of the reasons I so enjoy reading and further proof that, yes, we do need another WWII story because there are just so many stories to tell, educate, and inform. I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by Patti Callahan Henry! 

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, July 15, 2023

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 337 pages
Published: March 2023

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley is not your usual humorous chick lit novel. Basically, the book is a fun telling of a female friendship between the unlikeliest of characters. Tanner, a 21-year old who is down on her luck after a horrible accident at college and Louise, an elderly woman living alone who has a fall and breaks her hip. Her adult children, who do not live nearby, hire Tanner to move in and help take care of their mother. Being pushed into the job by her mother, Tanner begrudgingly shows up to do the bare minimum. Similarly, Louise does not think she needs the help, so the two spend most of their time speaking as little as possible to one another. But when Louise shows in Tanner's room at 1 a.m., with a bag of cash, insisting they leave right away and offers to pay Tanner to drive, the two go on the trip of a lifetime. 

Through everything they encounter while they're traveling, to the text message exchanges between Louise's three adult children who are trying to find where Tanner and Louise have absconded, to its satisfying conclusion, the story is definitely a well-rounded one. The tone is mainly lighthearted, but there are some nuggets of wisdom that Louise offers in her dialogue with Tanner and that the author provides through her omniscient narration both give this lovely book some depth. This is my first book by Oakley, and I will certainly be reading more of her stories. 

Honestly, I didn't really like Tanner at first, but through witty prose and careful character development, Oakley was able to win me over to both ladies, and I absolutely adored their relationship in the end. 

Recommendation: This is a light, laugh out loud, fun summer read. I finished it in a couple of days - and enjoyed every page turned! 

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, July 6, 2023

All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 341 pages
Published: June 2023

Listen. I slept on Razorblade Tears, and didn't pick up a copy until several years after publication. So, when I heard about S.A. Cosby's newest book, All the Sinners Bleed, I took myself right on up to Barnes & Noble and got a hardback copy. And, boy, am I glad I did! I love the way Cosby writes. I like the way he weaves themes of social justice, race relations and morality into his stories. I enjoyed the grittiness of the plot that sucks you in from chapter one and is hard pressed to let go upon completion. He is a storyteller in every sense of the word. So, let me try to tell you a little about this story. 

This novel features the first Black sheriff, Titus Crown, in a small Virginia town who finds he has a serial killer in the community a year into his tenure. The inciting event ocurrs early on in the novel and the bulk of the book surrounds Titus trying to unravel the mystery and locate the killer(s). Cosby definitely writes a thought-provoking, fast-paced, suspense-filled novel. My only critique is that the ending fell a little flat because I would have liked to know more about the antagonist and their motivations for doing what they did. Additionally, being a proponent of Black love, I was a little disappointed in what happened with the protagonist and his girlfriend. Having said that, it was totally realistic what happened and how it unfolded. I'm thankful for Cosby writing Darlene as the heroine of her own story. (Asking for a friend - Can we get a spinoff, Mr. Cosby?)

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed this story and found it to be a good read. I would rank Razorblade Tears above this one, but still a strong piece of fiction, indeed! 

Until next time ... Read on!

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

Friday, June 23, 2023

Everything's Fine by Cecilia Rabess

Rating: 4.75 of 5 stars 
Pages: 335 pages
Published: June 2023

I stumbled upon Everything's Fine (and that beautiful cover) by Cecilia Rabess through the Mocha Girls Read Book Club. The synopsis captivated me, so I put my name on the list at my local library and soon got the electronic loan. The story begins with Jess, an African American woman, who has recently graduated from college and starting an entry-level gig at Goldman Sachs. On her first day she learns she's on the same team as her conservative college nemesis, a white man named Josh. From day one, it is clear they Jess and Josh are opposites in just about every way, and from there a love-hate relationship develops and evolves. 

While romance is not my favorite genre to read, I thought this book was done well as it not only focused on the romance but other challenges that women of color, particularly Black women, face in corporate America. The sexual tension between the main characters on the backdrop of the challenges of being a woman of color in a largely white male world all while two people on diametrically opposing sides of the political aisle makes for an engaging, albeit frustrating, read. Additionally, there's the struggle of developing an interracial relationship in a society that's on the tail end of the Obama administration and on the cusp of what we now know as at the hot mess of the Trump administration. The ending was real but unsatisfying in a challenging way because it was so real. It left me returning back to a question I've often pondered as a societally-defined undesirable woman: Can you truly be known and seen by someone who doesn't understand your day-to-day struggle? After reading this novel, my answer remains the same ... a resounding no. I think the character would figure this out in a future time period. Maybe Rabess can gift us a sequel! 

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book. One; because I'm in a time period of intense romantic love and could relate to those feeling and two; because I also deal with microaggressions in a largely white male-dominated field every day. It was all very relatable to me, and while I didn't necessarily agree with all of Jess' choices, I could totally empathize with how she felt in certain scenarios. Having said that, I would never (and I know they say: "never say never") rely on a man (of any color) for financial stability. 

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.