• Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  parenting,  Recommendations

    Book Review: This is How It Always Is

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    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    – Martin Luther King Jr.

    Rating: ✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    If you want to read a book that will make you laugh, cry, think, and easily find your way into someone else’s shoes, This is How is Always Is is a great pick.

    I was raised conservative Methodist, went to private parochial school, and was indoctrinated with conservative southern views and politics just by living in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Today I classify myself as a moderate liberal but more than that, I classify myself as pro-kindness and believe it’s important to extend respect and grace even when we have different views.

    This book does a beautiful job of illustrating just that: grace.

    When Claude, the youngest of five boys bounds down the stairs in a dress and insists on wearing it outside the house and eventually to school, everything this family knows as normal is turned upside down as Poppy emerges as their youngest family member.

    Remember the part about being in someone else’s shoes? That happens a few minutes into the book and the author doesn’t let you change your shoes until the end. And at that point I don’t really think you will want to anyways.

    From each family member’s perspective, the reader gets to question, grieve, get angry, keep secrets, and learn to accept their youngest sibling/child as Poppy.

    There were the expected struggles in school, with friends, and most often with other adults but you also got the unique voice of Poppy, an intelligent, insightful, and brave girl. The author did a fantastic job giving us a glimpse of the inner dialogue of a child trying to figure out who they are; just like all kids.

    It gives the reader plenty of time to consider what they would do and for me it was obvious: I would love my child and support them as they figured out the world.

    We all have our differences, be it mental illness, a physical disability, personality quirks, or even something that happened in our past that permanently changes who we are. Despite that, we all want to be who we are and to be accepted. Same with Poppy.

    The characters were all well-developed and I especially enjoyed the relationship between the husband and wife, Penn and Rosie, who also had non-traditional roles. Penn is an author and stays at home. Rosie is a physician. The dialogue between the two of them was real, honest, and accurate for parents navigating raising five children.

    My one problem with the book as a whole was when Penn and Rosie referred, multiple times, to having four and a half boys. It’s their story but it felt like a minimization of their youngest child. A kid is never half a kid.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and while I found the writing a tad sloppy at times, it never distracted from the story or the very timely message. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories about real families dealing with real issues. Don’t be afraid of an “agenda” because it’s just not there.

    The only agenda here is that parenting is messy and all we can do is love our kids for who they are, not who we want them to be.

  • Audiobooks,  Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: the creepy edition

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    Photo by ramy Kabalan on Pexels.com

    Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

    Don’t hate me, I don’t love Halloween.  This week’s list prompt is a freebie list of Halloween/creepy books so I’m going with creepy. Here’s my top 10 in no particular order:

    1.Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – Abraham Lincoln’s young son dies and is laid to rest in a crypt that Lincoln returned to several times (true story). Young Willie Lincoln spends a night in a purgatory of sorts with a cast of characters in various states of flux. Highly creative with lots of historical insights; this book was creepy and extremely entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend the audiobook!

    2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – Think dark fairytales, a reclusive grandmother, and a granddaughter hunting for her mother who went missing; presumably in The Hazel Wood. This book was full of imagination and just dark enough to be creepy at times. The cover art is also a work of art in it’s own right.

    3. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – What’s not creepy about an adorable first grader plotting to kill her mom so she can have her dad’s attention all to herself. Her schemes are pure psychopathy and gave me the chills more than once.

    4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Screams from the attic, a mysterious fire set in the house, and Jane left to figure out the mystery on her own while being pursued by Mr. Rochester a.k.a. Mr. Nothing to See Here.

    5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – Be careful what you wish for. A homely, plain girl inserts herself into the Parrish life she believed she wanted. Except that Mr. Parrish was a monster.

    6. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – What’s not creepy about the daughter of a female serial killer who turned her own mother into the police? The descriptions alone of living in that house are what nightmares are made of. The audiobook was fantastic!

    7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – A young girl is murdered and the book is told from her perspective. Creepy. And terribly sad.

    8. Pet Cemetery by Stephen King – This was my first Stephen King book and I used to read it under my covers with a flashlight. It would scare me so bad that I would go hide it under the couch in the other room so I could sleep.

    9. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll – Two girls harmlessly flirt with two guys on a train. A year later and one of them is still missing. The plot twists were intriguing and kept you guessing until the end.

    10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – This was by far Flynn’s creepiest novels. Libby is the sole survivor of a family massacre in her own home. Her brother is convicted but questions still surround the night of the killings. Well written but one I will never read again.

    What are some of your favorite creepy books?

  • Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations

    Feel Good Books : Recommendations

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    What do you read after a book that wrecks you? A Little Life – I’m looking at you. And this type of book doesn’t have to be rainbows and sunshine; just a different range of emotions or a unique quality to the book.

    My criteria:

    • Rich characters that aren’t always up to something sinister or awful.
    • Originality. Have you ever read a book and wondered how an author even came up with the idea for the book?
    • Mystery without the gore and with great twists of the plot.
    • A story of an ordinary family that overcomes ordinary family issues.
    • A story of redemption. The ending may not be fairytale perfect but you feel good about where the characters ended up.

    Here are five of my favorite feel good books… in no particular order:

    1. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Set in the late 1930’s, this is a coming of age story set in New York City. The characters are so diverse, interesting, and each have their struggles which make each interesting to follow. The writing in this book is excellent and the constant descriptions of martinis inspired me to try my first dirty martini. Now, that’s good descriptive writing!
    2. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – This book falls into the mystery category. The twists are unbelievable and I’m usually pretty good at figuring them out ahead of time. Adele, one of the main characters, made my Top 10 Villain list.
    3. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – Atwood creates a story of redemption through the arts with a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a prison. There’s also a touch of sweet revenge.
    4. The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg – I read this book once a year. It’s about a family that appears functional on the surface but is anything but. As the plot develops, it’s so enjoyable to watch distant siblings come together.
    5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – This is one of the most original books I have read. A 15-year-old boy on the autism spectrum investigates the death of his neighbor’s dog Sherlock Holmes-style while navigating life, school, and the world that he sees very different at times.

    What are some of your feel good book recommendations?


  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Recommendations

    ARC’s: Advanced Reader Copies and how to get them

    What is an ARC? It’s essentially a book release 3-6 months ahead of publication to librarians, booksellers, professional readers, reviewers, contest winners, etc. The cover and contents may differ because it may not be in it’s final published form.

    I stumbled upon my first ARC purely by luck. It was Baby Teeth by Zoe Stage… which, BTW is a great creepy book for this time of year.

    I honestly don’t remember how I found the request link for Baby Teeth but one day a book showed up in my mailbox with a few instructions about the publication date, hashtags to use on social media, posting pictures, and the timing of the review. I remember thinking, “how cool is this? A free book to read and review!”.

    Then I just had to convince my husband that the book was indeed free and, no I did not order yet another book. I also may or may have not let him also think that with other books that have since arrived on our doorstep.

    Over the course of this year, I have discovered that I really enjoy not just reading new books but writing and sharing book reviews. What a great combination!

    This week I started looking at NetGalley, a site for “readers of influence”, to request ARC’s from hundreds of publishers listed on their site.

    I registered, filled out my profile, and found a few of my favorite publishers. Now, I had read on other blogs that it’s fairly common for your request to get turned down so I requested 15 books just to increase my chances.

    I was sent 14 of the 15 and they now live on my new Kindle.

    So here are a few things that I’ve learned from this process:

    1. Fill out your profile as completely as possible. Some publishers have very specific things that they are looking for, I.E. an active blog, a Goodreads account, an Instagram following, a history of solid reviews, etc.
    2. Request books that fit with the preferred genres listed in your profile.
    3. Be mindful of the publication dates – I’m so glad I did this because I will still be able to handle 14 books to read and review.
    4. Make a schedule of your books and what needs to be read first and then the dates the publisher requests you to abide by as well.
    5. Be OK with e-reader copies. We just de-cluttered our entire home so I’m really happy with electronic copies. It’s also more environmentally friendly.

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    This also gave me an excuse to buy the Kindle Oasis which I am super happy with. It is waterproof, super light, glare-free, has page turn buttons, the screen adjusts based on the light in the room, and probably my favorite feature: it has built-in Audible with Bluetooth capability.

    Happy reading!

    Do you read ARC’s? What has been your favorite book you have received?

  • Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Writing

    5 Star Recommendations

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    What makes a book a 5 star book for you?

    My criteria includes:

    • Characters that are interesting, endearing, or so good at being so evil.
    • Writing that is sound and has a clear voice.
    • Imagery. This is a big one for me. If I can hear it, taste it, see it, smell it, or touch it, I’m probably going to be your biggest fan.
    • Relatable. Even if I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian; if there are elements I can relate to, I will find this kind of book enjoyable.
    • Powerful and compelling. Do the characters and story stick with me days/weeks after finishing the book?

    Here are five of my favorite 5 star books from 2018… in no particular order:

        1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – One character: Jude. Remember those books and characters that stick with you? I still think about Jude almost six months later.
        1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Imagery set this book a part from other coming of age novels. I could hear, smell, see, and taste the marsh air when I listened to this audiobook.
        1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman- I found myself so interested in each character; their likes, dislike, quirks, and faults. You know it’s a good character when even their faults are appealing.
        1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Alice, the main character, had such a strong voice and inner dialogue. And that is despite losing her memory in the book.
        1. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – I am not a Punjabi widow but I found this book to be so relatable. Reading a book about a community of women gaining their collective voice despite old beliefs and opposition reminds me very much of where we are in 2018 with #metoo and #believesurvivors. There is power in community; especially a community of women supporting other women

    I’m curious, because all readers are different, what are some of your favorite five-star books?

     

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