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.

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.⁣⁣

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.⁣

5 star reviews, Book reviews, romance

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Fix Her Up was my first book by @tessabaileyisanauthor and I have since read quite a few of her books on my Kindle!  I was elated when she gave me a copy of Love Her or Lose Her.

And y’all.  The hype is real.  This is a great book!

Rosie and Dominic were high school sweethearts who got married before he went to serve our country in Afghanistan.  He came home different and Rosie has not been happy in their marriage, she doesn’t feel seen and heard, their relationship is just physical and not emotional.  Dominic is a blue collar guy from a working class family and his dad showed love by providing for his family and that is all Dominic knows, he is taken aback when Rosie leaves.  Dominic is loves Rosie deeply and agrees to couples therapy with a very untraditional therapist.

Rating: 5 stars!!

Why I Loved This Book: My husband is a lot like Dominic.  He loves me, but he doesn’t always know how to show it. Tessa Bailey did an amazing job writing Dominic’s character, she really got inside the head of a guy who was raised to believe that you show your love by providing and that is all you need to do.  There is one part where Rosie realizes that it takes two to tango and that she had a part in how their marriage fell apart; I FELT what Rosie was feeling, nerves and anxiety and I realized that sometimes I am full of complaints for my husband, but I too, have some flaws.  That night my girls were out and I asked my husband what I do that I annoys him and he told me – I am organized with my time, but I don’t always organize things like our china cabinet or storage closets the way he would like. I didn’t take it personally, I took it constructively and if he’d like to reorganize the china cabinet and storage closets, he can have at it!

This book comes out next Tuesday, January 14. I recommend this book to anyone who likes romance and to ALL MARRIED COUPLES.  We could all use the reminders in this book!!

What is your love language?  How do you show love? What do you like someone to do to show you that they love you?

5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Non-fiction, Women's Fiction

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Rating: 5 stars

Were you outraged when Brock Turner got 6 months for raping a girl on the Stanford campus?  Did you want to throw your phone across the room when you read that the judge said Brock “had a promising future and he didn’t want to derail it” with a longer sentence?  

The message: a boy, especially one who is white, an athlete and wealthy means more than a girl.  

The press had called her Emily Doe, a name given to her by the prosecution to secure her identity, something she embraced for a while because it helped her compartmentalize her pain.  But now she is taking back her power and her name is Chanel Miller and she is making a difference.

This book is gorgeously written.  Chanel is a likable, relatable, flawed character.  I want to be her friend.  

I was upset by the humiliating procedures she had to endure after the rape and although I understand it is necessary, there has to be a better way.  Although Chanel was the victim, she was the one that was humiliated in court and the one who had to answer for everything she had ever done, while Brock was lauded as a star athlete and good student at a school with a 4% acceptance rate.

I was so upset and annoyed by the way Chanel was treated by the court system and the comments people made on articles.  I am glad she wrote this book. I applaud her for the final chapters where she talks about the different issues in our society, a President who says vulgar things on camera to Billy Bush and how these things need to change in our society.  Girls lives and bodies are worth just as much as boys. The idea that boys can’t control their sexual urges degrades boys, they are not animals, they can control themselves and should be expected to and held accountable. I was raised to believe that boys only wanted one thing from girls and that I had to be wary of being alone with boys.  I did not raise my girls that way. I told them to be careful, to be aware, but I told them that boys are human too, with feelings and emotions and complicated layers, just like girls.

5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ALL THE STARS!!

I am sure that you are aware that people are becoming addicted to opioids at an alarming rate.  When I was in high school, marijuana and maybe shrooms or acid were a big deal, now it’s heroin, oxycontin and other opioids.  I read this as part of a Buddy Read and most people either knew someone or knew of someone who has struggled with this. I know three people who have struggled, one of whom died of an overdose.  

This book is told from the perspective of single mom and cop, Mickey, who grew up in a rough, working class Philly neighborhood, raised by her grandmother because her parents were addicts.  Now her younger sister is an addict, working the streets to get her next fix. The story alternates between present day and Mickey and her sister, Kacey’s childhood, their relationship and closeness as children.  There is a murder mystery but that feels like a secondary plotline, the main plotline is loving someone who is an opiod addict, living on the street and toeing that hard line between tough love and having your heart ripped out on a daily basis.  This book shows the pain of loving an addict, wanting the best for them, being embarrassed of them, hating what they are doing to themselves but loving them because you know that deep down they are wounded deeply by life.  

This is the kind of book that makes you want to do something to help.  After reading the book, I looked up photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge that Liz Moore mentions in her book and found photographs of Kensington, where the book takes place.  Mr. Stockbridge has a book of photographs and also a documentary series on youtube. I highly suggest checking out the photos and documentary. 

5 star reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

No Exit by Taylor Adams

5/5 stars

College sophomore, Darby Thorne, planned to spend Christmas alone at UC-Boulder until she got a call from her sister that their mother was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. She tried to beat a blizzard home, but wound up having to stop at a rest stop for the night because the roads were impassable. There were two young men and an older couple already at the rest stop. Darby was trying to get a cell signal in the parking lot to tell her family where she was and that she would not make it home that night, when she saw something in the back of a van in the parking lot. A van that must belong to one of the people in the rest stop.

This book was INTENSE. This book set the new bar for thrillers.

I had actually thought I needed a break from thrillers because they were getting predictable and not holding my interest. I had heard great things about this one and had a few days before my next buddy read began when the box from Baker & Taylor came in at work, so I quickly cataloged it and brought it home. And stayed up until 2:30am reading it!!

If you like thrillers that are intense with a lot of action and reliable, strong, female leads, then read No Exit.

5 star reviews, Book reviews, Health, Sustainability, vegan

The Vegan Starter Kit by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.

5/5 stars

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IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS INTERESTED IN BEING VEGAN, THIS IS A GREAT BOOK!

I don’t give many 5 out of 5 star ratings, but this was definitely a FIVE STAR.  Neal D. Barnard is a physician and he recommends a vegan diet.  I have been looking for someone in the medical field who would look at a vegan diet from the perspective of a more traditional medical background. I wanted to see if someone who had that background would agree with the holistic nutrition community on veganism. Dr. Barnard feels a vegan diet can be healthy if people take the time to understand their nutritional needs.

I have been a vegetarian for 30 years.  Last summer, my daughter introduced me to Ellen Fisher and Hannah McNeely and through watching their videos, I started to really think about and look at and research vegan diets.  I don’t particularly enjoy eggs, but I forced myself to eat them for protein so giving them up was not difficult.  I thought it would be difficult to give up cheese, but it has not been at all.  I have not experimented much with vegan cheeses, but I have bought a few non-dairy ice creams and sorbettos and they are AMAZING!!! So, when I saw this book, I thought: THIS IS FOR ME!!

This book is great for anyone who is considering a vegan diet or someone who is already vegan.  Dr. Barnard presents things in an easy to read format.  The book starts by explaining what veganism is and then all of the health benefits: heart disease reverses, cholesterol levels improve, cancer risk falls, diabetes and high blood pressure improve, painful conditions improve because of less inflammation in the body and you reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Since Dr. Barnard has gone to medical school, he is able to really explain why these things happen on a vegan diet.

I absolutely love the way this book is written.  It is so easy to understand.  Dr. Barnard gives suggestions for eating a vegan diet while pregnant and he gives information on raising vegan children.  He also explores the myths surrounding veganism.  One thing that Dr. Barnard stresses throughout the book is the importance for vegans to take a B12 and a D vitamin supplement.  I thought this was one of the best books I have read on veganism.

4 star reviews, 4.5 star reviews, 5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, Women's Fiction

My Top Ten Books of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

I saw a lot of book bloggers and bookstagrammers doing this and I thought it would be fun. I learned a lot about what I like to read during the process. I like books that stretch me and challenge my views and make me think.

My favorite books this year:
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The Wife by Alafair Burke– This was my first book by Alafair Burke and I look forward to reading more. This book kept me guessing and I never could have predicted that ending!
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Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering – reminded me of what it was like to be in college and willing to do anything to be liked. I also had an eating disorder and was prone to self-destructive behavior at that time in my life.
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Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia – I fell in love with the outside-the-box thinkers and the rebel heroine and the Boundary Waters. I loved this story that kept me literally on the edge of me seat.
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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – This book was like Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls – the factory in town is poisoning people, the main character is assigned to check it out and encounters all the popular people from high school who are still acting like its high school. There is also a sweet romance.
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Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – this book blew my mind and made me rage and cry and understand life for a smart, successful African immigrant who is gay and from a conservative family. This book challenged me in all the best ways.
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Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – the aftermath of a school shooting and how it effects one family. This felt real to me because we are not perfect in our life or our grief.
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The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– this book reminded me of what it was like to be a new mother; it reminded me of the solid group of mom friends that I had when my girls were little. The ending was a surprise.
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Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jenny Worth – I LOVE this show and the book gets into more details about the people and what the East End of London was like in the 1950s. 🥂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – this book showed me what racial profiling FEELS like.
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How to Walk Away by Katharine Center– all the feels and inspiration. There is so much about the human experience in this book. She is left by her fiance when she is in the hospital after becoming paralyzed in an accident that was her fiance’s fault, her fiance’s mother-in-law needs some throat-punching, there is a whole thing with her sister and a lot of sexual tension with her physical therapist.

I had a REALLY hard time narrowing it down to just TEN BOOKS, here are a few more that I REALLY enjoyed:

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – this book made me think, it made me see things from perspectives other than my own (as most of Jodi Picoult’s books do) and I love to understand different points of view and challenge my own.
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One Day in December  by Jodi Silver – Love is all around us. I loved this book. It felt real to me. Just seeing someone on the bus and falling in love and having it be easy wouldn’t seem real, but the way this story unfolded felt real and beautiful and at times it ripped my heart out.
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Winter in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand- after four glorious Christmases with the Quinn family, I didn’t think I could get as into a new family, but Irene is my mom-if-adult-kids role model, I love Huck and Ayres and I am Team Cash all the way. This book had me feeling all the feels and immersing myself in another family’s woes.
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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – As a child of the 70s who grew up watching Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams, I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to live off-the-grid and this book gave me a taste of what that might be like. Along with a beautiful love story.
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Watching You by Lisa Jewell – I know this has not been popular, but I loved it. I loved the characters and I found the ending unpredictable. 🥂
Did you read any of these? What did you think?