Tag Archives: book review

DNF: Liv by Kelsie Rae

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Liv had her life all figured out until it was shattered by the loss of her husband. He left her a piece of him she hadn’t planned on. How can she pick up the pieces when she doesn’t know how?

Liv:

I never imagined my life would end up this way. I thought I had everything figured out until I got the call my husband was killed in a car accident and that my period was late.

Dead Husband: Check
Positive Pregnancy Test: Check
Screwed Beyond Belief?: Double Check

Luke:

I was never supposed to see her again. That was the deal. Leave her and my ex-best friend behind to finally mend my broken heart and move on with life. And it was going smoothly, too. That is, until said ex-best friend dies and and his wife, Liv, lets a secret slip at his funeral that I can’t possibly ignore.

Out of my freaking mind?: Check
Extremely Angry Girlfriend who will kill me when she finds out I have a new roommate?: Check
About to get my heart ripped in two?: Double Check

Bailed at 30%

I picked this up as a Kindle freebie, so I can’t be too upset for being disappointed in this.

This was a short novel, so when I made it to 30% sure and there wasn’t much in term of character development or really, much of anything I realized that it was time to get out. I enjoy a romance, but I have to draw a line when the romance is the only thing that is propelling the story forward. I could probably even forgive this is there wasn’t much plot, but the characters were interesting…but sadly, the characters were flat and I was disappointed as there was so much that could have been included. Liv and Luke are 23, but Liv had been married to her dead husband for five years and she worked minimum wage jobs so her husband could go to school. She mentions several times that her former Mother in Law hates her but again, this isn’t explored. Luke left town immediately after high school graduation, it was hinted that he left town because he was secretely in love with Liv but it’s just such a laughably cliched problem that I just couldn’t take him seriously.

So I finally decided that it wasn’t worth forcing myself to continue reading this. It was clear where the story was going to go and the journey to the end was not going to be able to hold my interest.

Out of Orange by Cleary Wolters

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The real-life Alex Vause from the critically acclaimed, top-rated Netflix show Orange Is the New Black tells her story in her own words for the first time--a powerful, surprising memoir about crime and punishment, friendship and marriage, and a life caught in the ruinous drug trade and beyond.

Fans nationwide have fallen in love with Orange Is the New Black, the critically acclaimed and wildly popular Netflix show based on Piper Kerman's sensational #1 New York Times bestseller. Now, Catherine Cleary Wolters--the inspiration for Alex Vause, Piper's ex-girlfriend, friend, and sometimes-romantic partner on the show--tells her true story, offering details and insights that fill in the blanks, set the record straight, and answer common fan questions.

An insightful, frustrating, heartbreaking, and uplifting analysis of crime and punishment in our times, Out of Orange is an intimate look at international drug crime--a seemingly glamorous lifestyle that dazzles unsuspecting young women and eventually leads them to the seedy world of prison. Told by a woman originally thrust into the spotlight without her permission--Wolters learned about Piper's memoir in the media--Out of Orange chronicles Wolter's time in the drug trade, her incarceration, her friendships and acquaintances with odd cellmates, her two marriages, and her complicated relationship with Piper. But Wolters is not solely defined by her past; she also reflects on her life and the person she is today.

Filled with colorful characters, fascinating tales, painful sobering lessons, and hard-earned wisdom, Out of Orange is sure to be provocative, entertaining, and ultimately inspiring.

I read the Kindle edition of this

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know that I was a big fan of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. I had already read Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name and the series really got to me.

After watching the series, my interest was piqued on the subject of incarceration and the justice system. When I saw this book come across my radar as a Kindle deal, I bought it without reading into it. It wasn’t until I read the opening few paragraphs that I realized…oh my god, this is the story about Alex! Except, really it wasn’t because the Alex Vause in the series was very heavily fictionalized. About the only similarity was the crime that was committed and even then, it was much more glamours on tv then in reality (as most things are).

I enjoyed this though. Cleary Wolters is a good writer and did a good job at capturing that time period in her life and the people in it. There isn’t much excitement, truthfully, and that was a good thing as this was clearly about how exciting drug smuggling is but instead how completely insane, dangerous and often time boring the profession is with not much profit.

I do kind of wish Wolters would have touched a little more on what the day to day life was like for her in prison but after Piper Kerman’s memoir it might have seemed a little too redundant.

Rating: four out of five stars

The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

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Christopher and Hannah are a happily married surgeon and nurse with picture-perfect lives. All that’s missing is a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, turns up at their hospital, Christopher forms an instant connection with her, and he convinces Hannah they should take her home as their own.
But Janie is no ordinary child, and her damaged psyche proves to be more than her new parents were expecting. Janie is fiercely devoted to Christopher, but she acts out in increasingly disturbing ways, directing all her rage at Hannah. Unable to bond with Janie, Hannah is drowning under the pressure, and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature.
Hannah knows that Janie is manipulating Christopher and isolating him from her, despite Hannah’s attempts to bring them all together. But as Janie’s behavior threatens to tear Christopher and Hannah apart, the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.

I read the Kindle edition

Warning: this review may contain spoilers. In fact, I will just be blunt. The following will contain spoilers so read at your own risk.

The thought I had immediately after finishing this novel was literally…omfg, why! I then proceeded to spend the next ten minutes or so bitching at my husband about the end of this novel…or rather, the lack of ending. I can understand ending a book on a cliffhanger but should be used carefully if the book is a standalone.

But I will get to that.

The plot of the story was good. In fact, it is one of those stories that completely grabbed my attention and I just could not stop thinking about it when I wasn’t actively reading. It was intense and as I tweeted at one point, it was causing me anxiety. It was a book that truly messes with your mind and makes you question everything you think you know about the characters. The characters weren’t great. They weren’t very well developed but then again, the plot propelled the story forward and the characters lack of development was forgivable.

But then the ending happened. Suddenly, as if the power suddenly went out, the story concluded and nothing was explained. It was a complete disappointment. After nearly 400 pages, it wasn’t something that was expected and ended up being one of the most disappointing ending to any books I have ever read.

Rating: two out of five stars

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.
 
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
 
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
 
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten

I read a physical copy of this, that I purchased at Black Tree Books in Oneonta, NY.

I actually finished this a few weeks ago but never saved it on my Goodreads list so this book isn’t quite fresh in my mind but hopefully I can do the book justice.

I don’t read too many historical fiction novels, but when I do they tend to be books from the later half of the 20th century. I’m not super proud of this fact but the truth is, I never really connected with history unless it was something I could relate to.

Lilac Girls takes place during WWII, a subject that I do have an interest in. I does take a little time to get aquainted to the three characters that the story is told by but once you get a sense of who everyone is, its easy to get hooked. Caroline and Kasis are great narrators. Herta is challenging, as she is clearly the enemy and gets the least amount of attention in the book but at the same time-I felt for her. Recent events have taught me that it is very easy to get swept up in what is happening around you and to buy in to what the people in authority are telling you. I wish her story had been different, but the juxtaposition from Caroline and Kasia was startling and worked well.

After reading this, I have found that now I want to read more historical fiction and I would like to try branching out to different historical periods. I recently purchased The Red Tent that has been on my radar for a long time and I am interested in giving Circe a go.

Rating: Four and a half stars

“It only hurts you to hold on to the hate.”

― Martha Hall Kelly, Lilac Girls

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
AndSimon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

I read the ebook version of this.

At the beginning of this novel, I almost gave up on this. It seemed like it was going to be a complete shit show. Everything just seemed sloppy. The cops were imcompetent. The school was incompetent…the characters were kind of caricatures of The Breakfast Club and I was almost sure that the rest of the book would be trash…

But I held in there, at first because I wanted to at least see whodunit and then I continued to read it because I found that I was actually kind of enjoying getting swept up in the mystery and while I stand by my assessment on the characters with just a bit more depth to make them seem not completely ridiculous, it was actually a pretty fun reading experiences.

If you are looking for a more serious thriller, then maybe this wouldn’t be worth the time but if you want to read a more fun mystery then this is a good pick.

Rating: Three and a half stars

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

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The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:

First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.
Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.

I listened to the audio version of this.

If you have already read the original Freakanomics book, or listen to the podcast, this book isn’t a whole lot new information. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t interesting-just that it wasn’t any big revelations included in this book. I’m kind of disappointed by it, I enjoyed the original book but I guess it makes sense.

I did enjoy it, and I was excited to see that my old advisor in college was an information source for one of the sections. I hadn’t been aware that he was considered an expert in his field but now I definitely want to dig a little more into his studies.

I gave this three stars and found myself subscribing to the Freakanomics podcast as I did find it interesting enough that I do want to learn more.

DNF: If the Shoe Fits by Pauline Lawless

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'Calling All Shoe Addicts', said the advertisement that triggered a response in four very different women, each at a difficult time of her life.

Niamh, at 23, the mother of a five-year-old and twin girls aged four, is desperate to have a home of her own. She longs to escape the house of her vicious mother-in-law but her charming, irresponsible husband and the mountain of debts they have makes this seem ever more unlikely.

Amber, former air stewardess whose husband Dermot left her for a younger woman, has lost all her confidence and is drowning her sorrows with alcohol.

Tessa, beautiful former model, paid the price for living life in the fast lane when she almost died from a heart attack. Her reliable friend, George, persuaded her to come and live with him in Ireland. She now realises that she's made a dreadful mistake.

Rosie, recently widowed, can't come to terms with the loss of the man she loved so much. Life without him doesn't seem worth living.

All of them, needing a way out, find it with the Italian designer shoe company, 'If The Shoes Fit'. This leads them to a new career, great friendships and a life-changing experience.

I stopped reading at 50 pages.

I think I picked this up as a freebie so I felt comfortable with my decision to stop reading this as 50 pages went by and I was not engaged enough. As I will sometimes do in situations where I’m not enjoying a book but can’t decide whether or not to move on or keep reading, I went on Goodreads and read a review that helped me decide that I probably was not going to get much out of it.

The review on the book was somewhat decent, it seemed like while it might not be a great book-it would be an enjoyable read for someone who is a big fan of fashion and lighter fiction but I don’t care much about fashion (especially shoes) and I like my novels with a little more meat.

Hopefully my next read will be a little more my syle.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

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Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group--a secretive extremist cult--founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe's Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he's tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.

I read the Kindle edition.

I don’t remember what brought me to this novel, nor did I know anything going in.

This was complicated. Through a lot of the story, I just wasn’t sure what was going on. I couldn’t tell what to believe, or what characters, if any characters deserved my sympathy. It was a short novel but it was dense with information.

This is not a novel to read casually. In fact, I need to go back and reread it again when I am not distrated. There is a lot to process, in such a short time.

I’m not giving this a rating because I don’t know what to think. It was one of those books that I know I didn’t like-but at the same time, feel in awe by how complicated a story this was and how R.O. Kwon was able to manipulate everything so you really do not know who’s to be trusted, who’s telling the truth and what the truth is.

“People with no experience of God tend to think that leaving the faith would be a liberation, a flight from guilt, rules, but what I couldn’t forget was the joy I’d known, loving Him.”

R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one. 

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

Several years ago when I finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, I swore to myself that was the last book I would read about a dog dying. That book destroyed me, and my dog loving heart could not handle another dead dog book.

And then Lily and the Octopus appeared on Libby and I felt compelled to at least give it a shot. I hadn’t heard a lot about it but it definitely sounded like something I would enjoy, even if it did break my heart.

The first thing I noticed is that Lily and the Octopus didn’t read like a novel. It read like a memoir and I immediately connected with Ted and Lily. I could almost see Lily and a few times I looked down from my phone (where I read this), and was actually shocked to find no dog by my side.

I did start fading a bit on Ted and Lily’s adventure, that I felt could have been dealt with better but I think a lot of it was bad flashbacks of lectures of symbolism from my lit classes in college (and hence the reason my degree was psych and not literature).

I loved this book. Lily stole my heart for sure, and I could not feel more excited for Ted at the end.

Rating: four stars

“To focus, I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.”

― Steven Rowley, Lily and the Octopus

All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher

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Lenny (short for Eleanor) feels like the world is about to end. Her best friend is moving to New York City to attend Julliard and her dad has terminal cancer. To cope with her stress Lenny is making a list of all the ways the world can end—designer pathogens, blood moon prophecies, alien invasion—and stockpiling supplies in a bunker in the backyard. Then she starts to develop feelings for her dad's very nice young doctor—and she thinks he may have feelings for her too. Spoiler alert: he doesn't. But a more age-appropriate love interest might. In a time of complete uncertainty, one thing's for sure: Lenny's about to see how everything is ending and beginning. All at the same time. 

I read the Kindle edition of this.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was YA, but very much relatable to anyone who has dealt with a sick parent. While both my parents are still alive, my father, whom I was close to growing up has dealt with a lot of health concerns and a few near deaths over the years. Often when he is sick and is in the hospital (which does happen every few months) I’m worried that it will lead to even more problems. With Covid-19, my nerves regarding my dad are even more jangled and so I truly connected with Lenny.

There were however a few subplots that I didn’t like. Lenny is involved in a school performance and the play does not seem plausible-at all. It is like this avant garde performance that didn’t seem the type of thing that high school kids would be involved it. And then there was this little love interest thing going on that seemed forced and put into place just because…it didn’t go anywhere and I think it was the weakest part of the story.

Rating: Four stars