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!

Book reviews, romance, Women's Fiction

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Would you forgive someone for doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?  Is it ok to do something bad if your reasons are good?

That is what Tate and Sam must confront in Twice in a Blue Moon.  They had met as teens in London when they were both on vacation with their grandparents.  Tate had confided in Sam and he had betrayed her confidence and her life was irrevocably changed.  Years later they meet again and the chemistry is still there, just as strong and Sam explains to Tate why he did what he did.  He hurt her badly, but he did it for a noble reason.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

I liked the moral dilemma and the second chance romance.  I felt the chemistry between Sam and Tate. But, I will be honest that I didn’t like either one of them very much and for me, that is a big thing.  I need to like them and/or at least be able to relate to them and I did not with these characters, they felt a bit one dimensional to me.  

A big thank you to Libro.fm for my copy of this title. Have you heard about librofm?  Librofm allows you to support independent bookstores when you buy audiobooks.  They have several different plans.

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. 

Book reviews

Second Chance Supper Club

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you ever read a book that just really hit home for you? Neither my husband nor I are particularly close to our siblings, we have tried, but it’s just the way it is. I can see how once parents are no longer in the picture, it’s really easy to lose touch with one another.

Ginny and Julia had a falling out after their parents’ death and they have not spoken in years. Julia is a broadcast journalist who says something online that forces her to leave her career and reevaluate things. With nowhere to turn, she goes to her sister, Ginny, who runs an underground foodie experience with her daughter, Olive. Ginny has her own issues and wants to turn her sister away, but instead, she puts her sister to work and as the two sisters work side by side, they get a second chance at their relationship.

This book felt personal to me because although I don’t see my brother as often as I would like (he’s busy with his life and I am with mine and we talk on the phone often, but we only get together maybe ever 6-8 weeks), there is something that happens when we are together, a commonness-things we have in common, things just flow and are easy and there is something so beautiful in that. My husband’s family is not close. Friends were always prioritized over family and as a result, my husband hardly speaks to either of his brothers. It’s taken me years to accept this (although I will never understand it). Even though they are not close and years can go by without seeing them, when we do see them, I do sense that there is a common thread, common stories, a joy in being together that they feel.