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Book reviews

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

I stayed up until 2am in order to finish this book and I woke up with so many thoughts and feelings about it. I don’t know how to write this post without getting political.

I homeschooled my girls and one of the things we did for history was to compare and contrast Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States with Larry Schweikert’s The Patriot’s History of the United States. One of the things we learned was that when the United States was being settled, there were more black slaves than white landowners and a system needed to be put into place so those slaves did not rise up and kill all the white men and take the profits. We are still dealing with that system today.

In 2007 when Barack Hussein Obama won the Democratic Presidential Nomination, I woke my sleeping first and third graders up and had them watch the historic moment with me, tears streaming down my face, they were so confused and they asked me why I was crying. Because I had hope for our country. Because I was proud to be an American, something I don’t often feel. Because the country was finally doing something to erase two centuries of oppression. Because our country sent the message that skin color no longer mattered. I remember seeing grown men on TV speechless, crying, unable to talk. It was such a powerful night.

But in the subsequent 8 years, the GOP showed again and again that they would not work with a black man. Men who felt pregnancy by rape was God’s will would not work with a black man. Men who felt that women belonged at home and not in the workforce would not work with a black man. The GOP made their senators and Congresspeople take a vow NOT TO WORK with a black man, even if his ideas were good.

I was so disheartened during the 2016 Presidential election when I realized that our country really had not come as far as I hoped that we had in terms of racism. I was devastated when I woke up that November morning to learn that a misogynistic, racist man who made fun of disabled people, felt he could grab women by their pussies and had the most ostentatious show of white privilege ever at the Republican National Convention was elected President of the United States.

In the last 4 years, I feel like our country has been going backwards in terms of racism and books like A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler are necessary.

A Good Neighborhood is a book about a Haitian woman with a PhD in ecology and her neighbor, a white, wealthy Southern man who doesn’t believe in college, especially for women. He tears down the home next door to hers and builds a huge mansion, asking favors from friends and having officials look the other way in the name of cronyism because he is a rich, white man.

The dichotomy between these two people and the way they see and interact with the world is something we all need to be aware of. We need to bring awareness to.

There is a lot more to the story, but I hope you read it and I don’t want to give a lot away.

4.5 star reviews, Book reviews, romance

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Rating: 4 stars

Two years after losing her fiance in a motorcycle accident, Sloan finds a dog running around in the street.  She ends up bringing him home and calling the number on his id tag to locate his owner, who does not respond.  After several days, she is in love with the dog and finally the owner, Jason, calls and explains his situation.  He and Sloan end up texting and talking and when he gets back into town, she agrees to go on a date with him.

This was a really cute, light, happy story.  Jason is a semi-famous musician and I usually avoid books about the rich and famous, it’s just not my thing.  But I loved @authorabbyjimenez’s first book, The Friend Zone, and so many of my friends loved this one, so I gave it a shot.  With a semi-famous musician as a lead, I expected a story of excess and extravagance, two things I am not interested in reading about, but this story could not have been further away from that.  Jason was a very down-to-earth, family oriented guy. I loved how Abby Jimenez explored the demands of a record label, the demands of a music career and touring with a band. I thought it was really well done and added a lot of depth and dimension to this unique rom com.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes romance and rom coms.  

5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

Wild at Heart by K.A. Tucker

The Simple Wild was the first romance book I read.  I was blown away by the chemistry between Calla and Jonah.  After I finished the book, I walked around for three days feeling as though I had just fallen in love. Over the last year, I have been making my way through K.A. Tucker’s backlist.⁣⁣

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I was so excited for Wild at Heart.  Instantly upon starting this book, I was swept up in the chemistry between Calla and Jonah – there is just something about these two characters!  Wild at Heart picks up where The Simple Wild left off (you really do need to read that one first), Calla and Jonah move in together, in Alaska and they start a business together that keeps Jonah away from home a lot and challenges Calla in ways that make her grow and make me like her more and more and more (I almost put The Simple Wild down because Calla annoyed me so much, but she continues to grow as a character and I now want to be her friend!).  ⁣⁣

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Wild at Heart is the story of what happens AFTER Happily Ever After… Wild at Heart is the real heat and raw energy of a relationship.  It’s the frustrations of working together and giving so much of yourself and trying to make something work with someone else.  It’s about compromise and real life.  It’s about facing challenges with your partner and sacrificing for your partner’s happiness and drawing the line at where you sacrifice and where you tell your partner what you need.  Relationships are SO MUCH MORE than physical attraction and snarky banter, Wild at Heart tells the story of Calla and Jonah’s relationship beyond getting together and giving in to the heat.  Wild at Heart tells the story of a real couple facing life and challenges together, making sacrifices for each other and learning to ask for what they need.⁣⁣

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There is something really special about the chemistry between Calla and Jonah and I felt like I was leaving two friends when I finished the book.  I hope K.A. Tucker more books and tells more and more of their story. ⁣⁣

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR, K.A. Tucker and Atria books for my copy.

Book reviews, Personal

Life Update

I have not done a life update in a while and I thought I would.

I spent years being worried about my girls growing up. I always dreamed of being a mother, of having babies. I never really considered them growing up. I had so much fun with my girls. I loved rocking my babies. I loved playing with them and taking them to the park when they were toddlers. I always enjoyed reading to them. I enjoyed cooking and baking with them. I felt like I had found the Holy Grail of more time with them when we started homeschooling. I loved spending days and days with them learning new things and exploring. The idea of all of that changing really scared me.

But now, here we are, they are no longer babies. They are both taking classes at community college. Allie is applying to four year schools. She wants to stay local and live at home. She has always had her own room and the idea of having a roommate is not appealing to her at all. She plan to major in Communications and there are many colleges near us that offer wonderful Communications programs. We are waiting to see where she gets in and where she decides to go.

Although both girls have been attending community college for two years now, Piper was not attending full time as she was technically still in high school (she is a high school senior currently). Piper still has another semester or two at community college. She is also thinking about majoring in Communications as it encompasses a lot of the things that she is interested in.

Both girls have jobs. One girl has a boyfriend. They are both going to Europe with their college this year. We have been going through a lot of adjustments and changes and you know what? Now that it is here. It’s wonderful. I love seeing the things my girls are doing and hearing what they are up to. It’s fun to see where their futures will take them. I am nervous about them traveling abroad without me, but I think they are ready for the adventure.

Jason and I have more time to pursue things we want to do. We go hiking and visit breweries and vegan restaurants. We go to the city where he scours record stores to add to his collection and I scour bookstores. We went to Nashville last fall for a week by ourselves and had a blast. This year we are looking forward to several long weekend trips and considering a bigger trip as well. We are no longer running to kids to activities, which gives us time to spend weekends in our pajamas reading or making elaborate meals. Our house is to our liking and after years of looking for a house with more land, we have decided to stay here (the new Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has nothing to do with that 😉 !) until we know where the girls will land and then we are planning to move out of this high tax state to someplace within an hour or so of the girls.

Cheer!

5 star reviews, activism, Being a Librarian, Blog Tour, historical fiction, race relations, Racism

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Thank you @randomhouse #partner for my gifted copy of this classic novel.⁣

Did you realize that this book was 50 years old?  ⁣

“Fifty years of young black girls learning that even the greatest voice among them was once muted by pain, fear, and insecurity.⁣

Fifty years of young black girls finding out in these pages that trauma forced upon them in their youth didn’t have to stifle their dreams for a grand future.⁣

Fifty years of Random House publicly acknowledging that the stories of black American women matter, are worthy of their moment in print, and can change the world when shared widely with all readers, respectfully, and authentically.⁣”

Sharing with us her grandmother’s wisdom and her brother Bailey’s cunning wit, Dr. Angelou gave so many of us exactly what we needed: context for the historical injustices meted out by an oppressive society; firm examples that beauty is not for the mainstream to determine, but is rather found in all a person has to offer, in her talent and smarts more than her pretty face and long legs. And she powerfully bestowed on us an unflinching reminder that we can overcome any obstacle and let our lights shine.” ~ Porscha Burke, editor at Random House⁣

It’s been years since I read this book and I am looking forward to a re-read.  ⁣

Do you re-read books?  Have you read this book?  ⁣

5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

Mercy House by Alena Dillon

Let me tell you about the book I am reading!⁣⁣
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I love Mercy House by alena.dillon . It’s about nuns who run a shelter in Brooklyn for abused women and girls. The backstories on the girls show how they came to be in the bad situations that they were in and is appealing to the side of me that wanted to be a social worker or therapist. Sister Evelyn has her own upsetting backstory. ⁣⁣

I was raised Catholic and I attended Catholic school. I had some experiences with nuns which I still reflect on, some good, some bad. I have been sharing my experiences in my stories. This book feels very cathartic in terms of my experiences.⁣⁣
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Something I did not know, which takes place in the book, is that Pope Benedict XVI, sent bishops to investigate nuns and make sure they were upholding doctrines of the church and not being “too feminist” in a time when the Vatican was covering up pedophilia accusations for priests.⁣⁣

Blog Tour, historical fiction, Women's Fiction

The Moonshiner’s Daughter by Donna Everhart

This book is absolutely fascinating and beautifully written.

Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.

Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth—one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie.

Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths—and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.

Trigger Warning: Eating disorders

Memoir, Women's Fiction

Life’s Accessories: A Memoir by Rachel Levy Lesser

Do you remember what you were wearing when certain events occurred in your life?  Maybe you remember the dress you were wearing when your husband proposed or the scarf you had on when your brother asked you to be in his wedding.

Rachel Levy Lesser does remember what she was wearing when every significant event occurred in her life.  Life’s Accessories is a quick read – I read it in an afternoon – that feels a lot like talking to a friend about life, love, family and fashion.  The idea of this book is really cute, but the observations about life are relatable as we share in the author’s happiness, sadness, difficult times and absolutely wild times.

5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

We have been having kind of a crappy week around here, so last night, after dinner, my daughters ran to Whole Foods for some Abe’s Vegan Blackout Cupcakes and Cashewmilk ice cream. Because sometimes you just need to change the energy, do you know what I mean? You need something good to happen to chase away the bad.⁣

When I originally heard this book, If You Want to Make God Laugh, was about apartheid, I thought it would be upsetting and depressing and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. But after so many people raved about it, I decided to try it and I’m so glad I did! The writing is like putting on a comfy sweater, it envelops you and cocoons you and you never want to stop reading this story of two estranged white sisters and a young poor Zulu girl in South Africa in 1994, just as Nelson Mandela wins the election and apartheid ends. Politics play a small role in the book, it’s mostly about friendship, caring for those you love and being true to yourself. There is an abandoned baby. The AIDS epidemic touches the lives of the characters in a beautiful and human way. There are power play politics. I learned more about canned trophy hunting (which is something I’d already been vehemently opposed to). This book is anything but depressing, this book makes you glad to be alive. It makes you remember the importance of family. It makes you remember that even with the bad in the world, there is still good.⁣