Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last by Kevin A. Thompson

Publication Date: October 16th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

Author, Kevin A. Thompson, is a pastor. As a pastor, Thompson has witnessed many marriages, divorces and deaths in his more than a decade of service. Given his role, this book leans heavily toward holy references, but I loved that he opened each chapter with a bang, quickly grabbing the reader’s attention and drawing you in.

For instance, Chapter 7 lists several Nobel Peace Prize recipients and other historically significant individuals, and, while each person mentioned holds significant prestige, they have something else in common as well – divorce. Thompson’s point isn’t to show that divorce is inevitable and that we are all headed to that ending, but rather to provide reference that success and accomplishments in one’s life do not translate to success in marriage. Just like one works hard in their occupation, one must work as hard, or harder, in their relationship.

As an athlete and “newly” married person one passage that really stood out to me was on page 103:

Ask a coach, “How’s your team?” and they know how to answer. Ask your co-worker, “How are sales?” and they know how to answer…. But ask someone, “How’s your marriage?” and they will fumble and stumble. Why? Because most people never look at marriage as something that can be improved. From the very beginning, they take a passive approach to their relationship, failing to understand its true nature. They treat it as though it’s out of their control. They pretend like marriage just happens.

This is powerful, because people constantly ask, “how are you doing” or “how’s married life” and I just respond with the typically “fine,” but after reading this I have begun to view these questions from the point-of-view of the team coach or class teacher. Is “fine” truly how it is? Or are “sales” behind? Or has your “team” had a string of losses recently? No passionate coach responds to the question “how’s your team” with a halfhearted “fine” that many of us are used to responding with when asked these questions personally.

There were MANY points made throughout Happily that resonated with me. My marriage of only two years is certainly fresh, but whether you’ve been with your spouse months or even decades, the advice within is seemingly sound.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Lethal Target (The Line of Duty #2) by Janice Cantore

Publication Date: October 9th, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Tess and Oliver have both suffered traumatic loss. Oliver, the local preacher has maintained his faith through the difficult times, while Tess, the local police chief, has struggled to answer the “why’s” behind her loss for so many years. So, when the local Oregon pot farm starts stirring up trouble she is forced to confront her faith and maintain composure.

The many ongoing story lines, character insertion and varying plot narrations caused this to be a confusing read. While I fought to keep track of the ever-entering characters, the underlying story packed the suspense ripe for a TV-worthy drama. It was more than apparent Janice Cantore brought her impressive police knowledge in this unraveling of a homicide in small town Oregon.

Despite being book #2 of The Line of Duty series, Lethal Target maintains its ability to read as a standalone novel. However, for fans of Tess O’Rourke, The Line of Duty’s female heroine, be sure to check out book #1 Crisis Shot.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

Lisa, Ava and Marilyn all have secrets, but some secrets are undoubtedly worse than others. So, when each of their secrets start coming out, worlds quickly spiral.

This thrilling read will keep you guessing to the very last page. Heart pounding, twisted and suspenseful, Sarah Pinborough once again delivers. For those who loved Behind Her Eyes, Pinborough pens a more realistic suspense as she intertwines here, now, before and after and the reader is left piecing together a twisted timeline of surprises.

From a self-described, quick to guess the plot, reader, I was more than half way through the book and still trying to untangle all the clues. Pinborough is an author I will continue to come back to as Cross Her Heart not only initiated great conversations, but proved her skill in creating captivating works.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig & Karen White

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Tess, Caroline and Sarah are captured within these pages as their stories are unraveled to create a timeless, romantic drama, filled with love, loss, heartbreak and beauty. Jumping between 1915 and 2013, these three women could not be more different. Tess, a thief, Caroline, a wealthy wife, and Sarah a present-day writer. Despite these differences, their stories on stumbling into love and the heartbreak they each face are important reminders in this ageless historical fiction.

Authors, Williams, Willig & White, have quickly become a female dream team in this, their second book together. This writing team quickly entraps you in this engrossing novel as each chapter and character perspective mesh seamlessly together. Fall in love with the characters this team have created, while learning more about the RMS Lusitania sinking during WWI in this newest historical fiction.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

Publication Date: September 18th, 2018

Rating: 3 Star

When Gracie’s house is broken into late one night she assumes her house was chosen at random.  But, when the burglar confronts her looking for “the key” she realizes her paranoid patient may have been right, someone is after them. 

Detective Nate and Psychiatrist Gracie have just enough history to make their relationship engrossing.  The heartbreak they’ve each experienced provides for deep and emotional character connection.  The first three-fourths of A Secret to Die For is incredibly well done, the suspense of the attacks is unwound and the connection between Nate and Gracie is built upon.  However, as the book begins to climax the finale seems to undermine the detailed build up, wrapping too quickly and neatly not to feel “corny.” 

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive by Jessica N. Turner

Publication Date: September 18th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Stretched Too Thin is the “self-help” book every female needs!  I don’t care if you are a mother or childless, spouse or single, home owner or living with your parents – Turner offers sage advice, relatable experiences and achievable solutions.  From friendship to self-care, work, parenting and home every page had me nodding my head in agreement and jotting down notes for positive changes to make in my own life.  Anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed or guilty will relate to this book. 

As a working female, or adult in general, I often feel overwhelmed in all that needs to be accomplished and the minimal hours in my day.  I feel frustrated that many of the books I read on overwhelmed feelings offer stories with no solutions or workable advice.  Stretched Too Thin provides relatable experiences and attainable action items to better yourself.  It also provides important reminders that every human needs to hear again and again.  Each chapter wraps up with several pages of prompts and activities to help the reader both become self-aware and resolve the concepts broached in each chapter. 

This is absolutely a book I will be picking up again and again!  For any female, mother, adult or employee, do yourself a favor and read this book.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Candlewick Press: The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington & We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

Publication Date: September 11th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

The Red Ribbon tells the story of the Auschwitz experience, or Birchwood as it is translated to, from the lens of a young child.

The Red Ribbon is based on the actual dress shop within Auschwitz created by the Commander’s wife, for the purpose of using prisoners’ talents to create fashion for herself. Within this story, young heroine Ella becomes quick friends with Rose through their responsibilities at the Birchwood seamstress shop. They band together as they work to keep hope through the tortures and terrors they face at Birchwood. Ella finds a way to connect to a slice of home as she designs and executes dresses for the Birchwood guards and Commander’s wife. While Rose shows Ella compassion, friendship and the importance of storytelling.

As a self-prescribed WWII historical fiction lover, I can say I’ve NEVER read a WWII novel quiet like this. Like, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this novel is told from the point of view of the children. The sadness and heart wrenching horrors of the Nazi’s are present in the innocent, child eyes of those who refuse to lose HOPE. I don’t know of a better young adult concentration camp read. Five bold, bright, perfect stars to this read.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.


We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin

Publication Date: January 8th, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

The American Dream is worth fighting for! The empathy within this book provides serves as a call to action.

Author, Susan Kuklin began this book several years ago as she collected stories and more importantly photos of immigrants that arrived or remained illegally in the United States. As this book approached its publication date, and the current United States President began rolling back immigrant protections, Kuklin was forced to pull the photos and change names for privacy and protection of those brave enough to share their story. This story is an unwilling testament to the effects the cancelling of The Dreamer’s Act is having. By cancelling The Dreamer’s Act, we have forced many strong, resilient immigrants back into the shadows.

The strength it took for HUMANS to participate in this book is overshadowed by the author’s need to retract identifying information of these undocumented persons. Their own safety, despite residing and CONTRIBUTING to a first world country (The U.S. of A), is at risk during this current Administration. There are still too many things immigrant CAN’T do, but the potential to achieve keeps driving them as is evidenced time and time again within these pages.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.

Not the Boss of Us: Putting Overwhelmed in Its Place in a Do-All, Be-All World by Kay Wills Wyma

Publication Date: August 21st, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

I am a self-described, high functioning ball of stress. Ask my husband, at any one moment I am overwhelmed by dishes, laundry, cleaning, my hair, my clothes, the yard, you name it. Even if everything is done, I will stress about “what’s to come.” I feel like many can relate to this. I fail to turn my brain off, even when I’ve left the office I haven’t really “left” the office. I am constantly thinking of the many things I still need to accomplish tomorrow, or this week, or this month. So, when my prior mentioned husband saw me reading Not the Boss of Us, he was thrilled.

Going into this book, I hoped to not only gain perspective on what causes people to feel overwhelmed, but I also wanted to gain an understanding into how to control stressors. I assumed, given the wide-spread population likely affected by these same experiences, this book would provide fact-based research and solutions. Obviously, this was not the case, but I did walk away with several important reminders and perspectives.

  • Social media invades us with “curated pictures posted on platforms [that] tell a story. Then they do what we can’t seem to stop them from doing: inform us about ourselves in relation to others as well as to our own expectations.”
    • It is easy to begin to struggle under the weight of identifiers as “human nature leads us to think we are the only ones feeling a certain way,” when this is not in fact the case. But, social media plays negatively into these feelings and works to further compound.
  • We overlook the practice of thankfulness. Again, we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others we fail to remind ourselves of all we should be thankful for.
    • This simple practice can be done to improve physical and psychological health, sleep, relationships, self-esteem and much more.

In this same vein I deeply related to the following “bombs” we often come face-to-face with:

  • “Status Bombs” – wreak havoc as we compare and identify against the married/not married, job/no job, baby/no baby, homeowner/renter outcomes we see others experiencing.
  • “Stress Bombs” – evoke fear and a sense of anxiety for instance, the fear of failure, fear of falling behind, fear of being left out.

These reminders were important, they conjured deeper reflection and served to right me on my own path of easing the overwhelming feelings many adults face. But, unfortunately these prompts were often hidden amongst Wyma’s own tangled stories and tangents.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, but all opinions are my own.

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

A beautiful historical romance reminiscent of Monuments Men and The Woman in Gold, telling the tale of tragedies faced during WWII and the lost treasures of those taken by the Nazi’s. Max, Callie, Luzia and Annika each provide narration in this time-slip novel as the reader is transported from present day, in Callie’s bookshop, to the horrors of the German invasion of Austria in 1938, and the persecution of Jews.

Love, loss, family and identity are all conveyed beautifully within this engaging and heart wrenching read. Author, Melanie Dobson, provides a unique take on love in war and the sacrifices families and love ones took to protect one another. While the horrors and representations of WWII were not unfamiliar, the way Dobson portrayed the relationships and so eloquently tied them back to present day, drew the reader further into this story. Hidden Among the Stars even had a few twists you won’t see coming.

As an added caveat, I loved that the story tied to the here and now through a book in Callie’s possession. It played stunningly in making this read come full circle. Very well done.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, but all opinions are my own.

Two Reviews: From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein & November Road by Lou Berney

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Publication Date: July 10th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Recently, the New York Times described this book as being “equal parts C-Span and Sex in the City,” and while I’ve been trying to put this review out of my head I can’t honestly think of a more fitting description for this book (I guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks to be NY Times writers). I picked up this book on a whim looking to inject some non-fiction in my recent reading streak and while I often describe myself as an unlucky person, luck was on my side the day I chose to read this one.

Author, Beck Dorey-Stein, begins this memoir as a 20-something D.C. graduate fighting to find a job in a sea of sharks. She effortlessly humors the readers as she describes the HORRID scene that is networking in D.C. Fast forward in her frantic search for jobs as she applies to a Craigslist Stenographer position that lands her in the Obama White House. As if this isn’t cool enough she spends the rest of this read describing her illicit tryst with a fellow staffer, White House travelling experiences and personal encounters with President Obama.

It is no surprise this book quickly climbed the ranks to bestseller. Obama fan or not this was an enthralling read. Although, in full transparency, while this is by no means a “political” read Dorey-Stein does fan-girl A LOT towards Obama & Co.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.


November Road by Lou Berney

Publication Date: October 9th, 2018

Rating: 2.45 Stars

Described as being “set against the assassination of JFK,” I was expecting more of a historical fiction within the pages of this book. However, I quickly discovered this was not the premise of November Road, but rather happens to be the period in which this book takes place.

Frank is a “gangster” tasked with parking a stolen car in a Dallas Parking Lot, after the assassination of JFK he quickly realizes his role and begins life on the run from his mob boss, Carlos Marcello. Charlotte is a wife and mother of two. One night, she decides to leave her alcoholic husband and hits the road. Frank and Charlotte cross paths as the story of love in unlikely places unfolds.

Had the stage not been set for a JFK assassination/mob type book I may have been more receptive to the budding romance within. But, the writing felt forced as Berney injected colorful characters in an attempt to continually remind the reader of the mob influence and foundation of Frank’s story. Conversely, despite Charlotte’s emotionally grabbing backstory, she failed to resonate with me and quickly became an unlikeable character creation.

Just be warned as you embark on reading this novel (should you chose to read it) that it is not a JFK assassination conspiracy, but rather an unexpected romance in the midst of escape.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Published by: Swoon Reads

Publication date: August 21st 2018

Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Overview

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.


About the Author

Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge-watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

Website Goodreads Facebook Twitter


Review

Rating: 3 Stars

I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw author, Maggie Martin, is not only an Iowa native but also a graduate from the University of Iowa. Admittedly, I have not read her debut novel The Big F, however given the incredible talent Martin possesses for capturing the high school female emotions and fears in her newest novel, To Be Honest, I imagine her first is just as enjoyable.

To Be Honest covers some heavy ground, literally and figuratively. Savannah, or Savvy as her friends call her, is struggling with her body image obsessed mom, her parent’s divorce, her sister leaving home to start college, and a boy who may or may not like her. All of Savvy’s struggles are relatable in one way or another and perfectly portray fears we as readers have likely felt at some point.

While this book lacked the shocking plots, and twisted turns I am used to, it was steadily enjoyable, as evidenced by the fact I stayed up finishing it in one day. Its hook is the emotional connectedness you feel to the characters; the shyness of George, the steadfast determination of Savvy’s mom and even the tightrope her sister is forced to walk as she mends the peace at home while trying to fit into college. You may even feel a little better about your own body, your own fears and your own hesitations after reading this, I know I did.

Enter for a chance to win: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d04251232590/

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by Xpresso Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue & An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

Publication Date: September 18th, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

In this series of essays Anne T. Donahue entertains us with stories of work, school, failure, motivation and so much more. Immediately, her writing puts you at ease. Rather than reading this non-fiction curled up in bed, you are transported to a *bar* (or other such *fun* atmosphere) as you hysterically laugh at Donahue’s encounters, failures and attempts at “adulting.”

Canadian or not, Nobody Cares summarizes experiences we’ve all faced, but rather than looking back with bitterness, this work of art shows us the hilarity of growing up. One cannot help but connect with the struggles entangled in the essays within, similar in nature to that which Lincee Ray gives us in Why I Hate Green Beans.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by ECW Press, in exchange for an honest review.


An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: January 8th, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Jessica Farris finds herself entering a psychology study on ethics and morality conducted by Dr. Shields that promises generous compensation as a reward for participation. But, upon advancing beyond the INTENSE questionnaire portion she begins to wonder how far she is willing to go. Is the manipulative nature of her tasks too much? What are the ethical and moral issues Dr. Shields is working to uncover?

When a duo of authors such as Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen combine to create a book like the masterpiece that was The Wife Between Us one can’t help but assume “maybe it was a one hit wonder.” But then, you find yourself engrossed in their upcoming An Anonymous Girl and you can’t help but KNOW you may have stumbled upon a pair of super heroes better than even Batman and Robin. These two are clearly unstoppable as they create another sure hit in this one!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lakes of Mars by Merritt Graves

Publication Date: September 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

Merritt Graves is new to the book scene with this, Lakes of Mars, as his debut novel. However, this is not Graves’ first rodeo in writing as a longtime member of the band, Trapdoor Social. In fact, this novel is unique in that he’s created an accompanying sound track to complement the read, which can be found at https://soundcloud.com/trapdoorsocial/sets/the-lakes-of-mars-soundtrack.

Lakes of Mars is narrated by Aaron Sheridan. Aaron has just joined the Fleet in hopes of being placed in the most dangerous deployment zone, the Rim War. Instead, he is sent to the elite Corinth Station to train and enhance his flight skills. The ensuing story sets the stage for what promises to be an action-packed series.

This book is best described as an emotionally charged Ender’s Game as Graves equips us with more fight scenes, charged relationships and battle training on steroids. We are entertained with Aaron’s infatuation for Eve and his loveable “nerdy sidekick,” Sebastian. Buckle up as Graves seems to just be getting warmed up.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin & A Daring Venture (Empire State #2) by Elizabeth Camden

Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin

Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

Pippa is a senior in high school, passionate about photography with hopes of fulfilling her father’s legacy within Tisch’s photography program. But, has she inadvertently closed herself off to experiences as she charged toward this perceived plan? In this fourth and final installment of the Pippa Green Series the reader is reintroduced to the stressors of high school and dramatics of the college search.

In full transparency, I did not read the first three books within this series. Regardless, I did not feel “lost” as I read Golden Hour, but rather sensed I was missing some significant backstory on many of the underlying characters. Author, Chantel Guertin, did a fantastic job creating her characters as I immediately felt comfortable with Dace and Pippa, despite jumping into their friendship at the finale. However, the plot and drama within felt mundane and overplayed. There was nothing that stood out from this book and the MANY other books that cover these same themes.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, ECW Press, in exchange for an honest review.


A Daring Venture (Empire State #2) by Elizabeth Camden

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

Rosalind Werner is a female, doctorate level trained, biochemist in early 1900’s New Jersey. She is working diligently to convince the state to allow chlorine dilution in the water supply to reduce water-borne diseases, a system we continue to utilize today. Nick Drake is a wealthy-by-chance, newly appointed Commissioner of Water in New York who begins to fall for Rosalind despite his skepticism toward “poisoning” the people’s water supply. The ensuing story is one of historical romance.

Rosalind’s intelligence and education are continually mentioned within A Daring Venture. Nick is self-conscious someone of Rosalind’s level would be attracted or interested in a plumber, such as himself. As a well-educated woman myself, this continued dynamic was EXTREMELY off putting. I loved that author, Elizabeth Camden, gave us a strong female lead, but these efforts were contradicted by the male’s insecurities.

Additionally, while this book reads as a standalone within the series, the plot kept rehashing an event that occurred in Germany, prior to Rosalind’s upheaval to America. This specific plot was written in a way that made it seem as if the reader should have previous knowledge of what occurred. This, as well as the Doctor Clean plot line, made for an unpleasantly confusing read.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos & Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos

Publication Date: August 7th, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

My comfort zone typically resides FAR outside of the fantasy realm, however the gripping cover design and terminally ill character within The Crescent Stone caused me to pick this one up, and I am so glad that I did. As the first book of The Sunlit Lands series we are introduced to a teenager, Madeline, as she battles the final months of lung disease. Madeline, and her comically relieving side kick Jason, exchange a year of service in the Sunlit Lands for her health and the promise of a pudding cup every morning. The encounters, battles, friendships and lesson gained from the Elenil society hit critical elements humans can certainly stand to be reminded of.

Author, Matt Mikalatos, delivers an exceptional young adult fantasy that pairs humor and death in this provocative read. Madeline and Jason provide us a unique education on many key lessons in how we treat one another, the lengths we’ll take to save ourselves and the importance of not judging a book by its cover. All lessons our parents likely tried to teach us, framed in a more exciting way by Mikalatos. A strong series opener, promising an exciting, young, fantastical storyline while instilling important takeaways.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

Publication Date: July 17th, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Business minded, non-fiction books are often quickly passed over by readers as they can be perceived as dull, un-engaging or lacking in actionable substance. However, as a young professional that LOVES to read I am continually pushing myself to diversify my choices to include a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Given my role in the business environment, I try to pepper my mix with business and self-improvement focused books. For this reason, I was excited to have the opportunity to read Shift Your Thinking for Success.

Author, Dean Del Sesto, is a successful brand and marketing guru. He is described as a “brander of 800 plus companies” and certainly seems to boast a successful business career. I was hoping his successes, failures and experiences would be well articulated and sprinkled among the topics discussed within, but was disappointed to see this was infrequently the case. In fact, not ONE study with actionable data was cited in this book. This may be a first for me, a business minded book lacking scattered personal experiences and analytical data, I was disappointed to say the least. I am often careful to recommend self-improvement books to readers for fear of turning them off to this genre permanently and while I’ve come across several five-star business reads, this is certainly NOT one of them.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an honest review.

Actress to Author: Any Man by Amber Tamblyn

Publication Date: June 26th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

I recently had the opportunity to see Amber Tamblyn read from her debut novel Any Man. While this was an incredible experience, even more amazing was the dialogue and questions it sparked amongst those in attendance. The topic covered by this book, male sexual assault victims, is rarely discussed. In Tamblyn’s recent interview with NPR she quotes “[This book] aims to degender the conversation around sexual assault and sexual violence. While also, I think, re-sensitizing us as a culture to what…rape culture actually is and what is means and how it manifests.” Although, beyond this, the light this novel shines on the media is raw, real and necessary. Tweets like “Katy Perry debuts new colorful haircut at concert benefiting trans victims of sexual assault” portrayed in the book, may not have occurred in real life but are certainly not unbelievable.

To back up a bit, author Amber Tamblyn may not be an unfamiliar name. Famous for her acting career in both television and film, in roles such as Martha M. Masters in House and Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Tamblyn has also written works of poetry, Dark Sparkler and Bang Ditto. Recently, she co-wrote and directed Paint It Black now on Netflix and is even credited as one of the founders of the Time’s Up movement.

Any Man is not a long book by any means, at less than 275 pages it is frankly one of the shorter books I’ve read in quite some time, in fact it took me mere hours to read. I mention this because while it may be short in length, it packs a heavy subject, one that sparks an important conversation and forces us to take a hard look at the media, bullying and how numb we’ve become as Americans. Maude is a female. Maude is a serial rapist. Maude targets men. And, as unfortunate as it may seem, the experiences the men in this book face are common place for many women. That is what is so powerful and so painful, Any Man starts a new discussion, a discussion for EVERYONE, it provides a realm of empathy for men to understand the female experience that has unfortunately rocked too many. While not EVERY female has experienced sexual assault first hand, many can name at least one close friend that has, or even detail an experience where they’ve been utterly terrified both walking home alone at night or at a party full of people.

On a lighter subject, this book incorporates the proven talent of Tamblyn’s writing, in parts written in prose as it flips between the men subjected to Maude’s horrific acts. From the tweets, newscasts and internal dialogue inserted into the pages of this timely read, Tamblyn nails it on all fronts!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Just WOW! Embedded in this book is a young woman, Sadie, who suffers from a speech impediment. As if this doesn’t provide enough frustration on a daily basis, Sadie is also responsible for raising her younger sister Mattie in their junkie mother’s absence. When Mattie is found murdered, Sadie disappears. This book alternates between Sadie’s experience and a podcast program covering Sadie’s story.

Sadie is in a league of its own, never have I read such a gripping suspense that injects podcast transcripts to aid the non-linear timeline within. Sadie, despite her hardships, is a relatable character and while author, Courtney Summers, gave Sadie a heavy childhood, she also used this book as a platform to enlighten the reader on the internal struggles of those suffering from speech impediments. This may seem trivial to the naked eye, but had a significant effect on Sadie’s interactions and internal dialogue.

This book transports the reader between podcast listener to white knuckler, as the veil is slowly pulled from our eyes and Sadie’s “plan” comes to fruition. Disturbingly well done, a gripping read that will be sure to catch you, coming this September!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

This book took me out of my comfort zone as I entered the fantasy worlds created within The Edge of Over There. Abra Miller may be young, but she’s been chosen to carry the sword. So, when another Tree of Life appears she must enter the gateway between her world and Over There to destroy it. But who can she trust? And will she destroy it in time?

The Edge of Over There is book two of The Day the Angels Fell series so I was worried I would be lost jumping right into the middle of the series, especially given the fantastical nature of this read, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was drawn into Abra’s orbit as she balances the mysterious characters that enter her life with her responsibilities to destroy the life-giving trees.

Author, Shawn Smucker has incredible eye for detail as he creates a purgatory-type world, full of characters, conflict and separation. The world Smucker has created may be fiction, but his style of writing makes it feel so real, the landscape, magic sword and angelic characters blended seamlessly into the story making it feel like a suspenseful read in the heart of fantasy.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Otherwood by Pete Hautman & Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Otherwood by Pete Hautman

Publication Date: September 11th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

I am beginning to fall in love with Pete Hautman’s writing. He so perfectly captures the imagination of young kids. I loved Slider, but Hautman has certainly kicked it up a notch in his newest novel, Otherwood.

Elly and Stuey live on different sides of the woods. They share a birthday, so naturally they become quick best friends. But, suddenly their realities split and they must come to terms with the path they’ve been set on.

A perfect mix of the popular Dark Matter, (hold the science) neatly wrapped in a young adult package. The blending of dreams, imagination and the reality young kids often lose themselves to, in this wonderfully written, fast paced novel of Elly and Stuey, as they live amongst the realities they’ve created. Worlds often change, unintended consequences occur, but Stuey and Elly are determined to hold on to one another.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.


Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

From the author of the beloved classic, Because of Winn-Dixie, comes Kate DiCamillo’s newest novel, Louisiana’s Way Home.

Louisiana Elefante is used to Granny waking her up in the middle of the night, but this time as she is ripped from her bed with just the clothes on her back something feels different, it feels like they’ve been driving forever and that they won’t be returning. So, after settling into a Motel, Louisiana makes fast friends with the local Minister and mysterious boy hoping to avoid any more good-byes.

The Pinocchio themes interlaced throughout the book are extremely fitting as Louisiana is forced to quickly grow from the young child she is to an adult, tasked with caring for her ailing Granny and finding a way to pay for their motel room. Friendships, family, sadness and heartbreak grace the pages of this timeless story as DiCamillo’s talents are on full display in this newest young adult read.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.

When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Within the first chapter of this read Alicen has lost her daughter, husband and seemingly perfect life in Santa Monica. Her childhood friend, Lou, invites her to return to Red Lodge, Montana as Lou packs up her family’s past. It is here Alicen begins to hear voices and see things. Is she going crazy? Are her delusions real? Will she ever find peace after the death of her child? What unfolds within is a twisted, layered story of suspense, mental illness and grief.

I was immediately drawn to When Through Deep Waters as it seemed to put mental health at the center of its story, however I found it difficult to get into as I read. The pace is slow as the reader is led through Alicen’s relationships with her Grandma Joe, Mom and Lou. The past is infrequently dispersed throughout the present day as the author attempts to inject hereditary characteristics and Alicen’s upbringing. Lou’s mom even makes a VERY brief entrance to deliver a crucial piece of the storyline. But, despite this, the story failed to engage.

Where Dekker fell short in pace she certainly made up for in creating an incredible fantasy land within Alicen’s mind. This book serves to ignite the mental health conversation and treatment methods as it did not stray from the uncomfortable. While it may not be the quickest read you pick up this summer it definitely touches on many important, and relevant, topics in any landscape.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Publication Date: January 9th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

I was extremely excited to pick this book up. I’d seen The Immortalists mentioned by so many different media outlets, reading communities and publications, as it was widely promoted prior to and after its release. Suffice to say, all this “hype” ultimately caused the book to fall a bit short in my eyes. It was because of the “hype” that I held this book on a pedestal, a pedestal that I deemed to be too high after finishing the story within.

The premise of The Immortalists is so intriguing as four siblings decide to visit a mysterious woman whom tells each of them the exact day they will die. This book causes deeper thought as each sibling is then followed to their death, leading the reader to ask whether they were truly to die that day or if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Benjamin has succeeded in seeding the conversation around life, death and the choices we make. However, her attempts to reintroduce characters from one sibling’s storyline to the next fell flat as the tie back was not seamless and felt forced. In instances such as this, whenever I come upon stories that try to cross characters thru storylines, I immediately reflect on John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, a book that so perfectly achieves the reintroduction of characters that every similarly done book I encounter is immediately compared to it. So, while the story is intriguing, thought-provoking and entertaining in its own right; it unfortunately didn’t live up to the hopes, “hype” and enthusiasm surrounding it.

 

Two Reviews: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy & The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Mothers groups have begun to gain popularity across the US, including many local groups here in Iowa that host events for new or expecting mothers as a way to provide social opportunities, sounding boards, tips and tricks.

The Perfect Mother follows one such group dubbed “The May Mothers” as one of the member’s babies goes missing after a night out together. Secrets begin to surface about each of the members as police work to find missing Baby Midas.

A riveting read as Molloy has given the reader several mothers, and one father, whom possess perfectly contrasting personalities, helping to aid the reader in not only keeping track of each character but by adding another level of engagement to the already stirringly suspenseful read.  Given I listened to this as an audiobook it would be an injustice to not give a shout out to narrator, Cristin Milioti, as she added an enjoyable layer to this read. Milioti brought to life each character through her flawless British and Southern accents and ability to quickly flip between characters in conversation.

*Disclaimer: A review audiobook was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

Publication Date: June 19th, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

“According to Granny, Northerners have a lot of misunderstandings about the South. Like how folks shivering up there in Vermont and Minnesota think we’re picnicking in the warmth and sunshine all winter long – perpetual summer.” (p. 19)

The James Family of Lamoyne, Mississippi live with a negative stigma over their family. Tallulah ran from her small town to escape the whispers and looks, but when her younger brother is imprisoned for murder she feels drawn home to help him.

Crandall beautifully touches on Southern values, mental illness and troubled childhoods in her newest, The Myth of Perpetual Summer, even successfully weaving in the civil rights movement and Vietnam war protests through the time periods captured within. However, like Remains of the Day, current day seems to take a backseat to the past as Tallulah seeks the closure she so desperately needs from her childhood.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Justice Betrayed (Memphis Cold Case #3) by Patricia Bradley & Lone Witness (Atlanta Justice #2) by Rachel Dylan

Justice Betrayed (Memphis Cold Case #3) by Patricia Bradley

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Elvis Impersonators, badass female law enforcement and psycho killers – if Patricia Bradley didn’t already have a killer combo (pun intended) her talent to draw out suspense certainly would have been enough, in book three of the Memphis Cold Case series. Read in a series or standalone, Bradley expertly interlaces snippets of the killer’s thoughts, keeping the reader guessing in this entertaining suspenseful romance out now!

Was Rachel’s mother murdered in a kidnapping gone wrong 17 years ago, or do the recent murders of Elvis Impersonators mean her mother’s killer has resurfaced? Justice Betrayed leaves the reader guessing right to the last moment.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Revell Publishers in exchange for an honest review.


Lone Witness (Atlanta Justice #2) by Rachel Dylan

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

Author Rachel Dylan knows her way around the courtroom as her talents are on full display in her newest book Lone Witness. The simultaneous telling of a beautiful love story between two broken people and the fear that brings them together. Prosecutor, Sophie Dawson and private security officer Cooper Knight are so well done, as is the real fear you feel for Sophie’s situation.

This book is straight out of a Law and Order-esque TV show with strong female lawyers to boot! An enchanting read as you feel the fear for the tangles of Sophie’s job, love for the characters uniting and passion for the work the ADA’s office is doing. Dylan expertly weaves the bad guys with the good as the reader is left scrambling to disentangle Sophie’s dangerous predicament. Anyone whom loves law dramas and romance will not be dissatisfied or lost in book two of the Atlanta Justice series.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls’ Guide to Conquering Life: How to Ace an Interview, Change a Tire, Talk to a Guy, and 97 Other Skills You Need to Thrive by Erica & Jonathan Catherman

Publication Date: May 15th, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

This husband and wife team set out to create a book that encased everything a girl, becoming a woman, needs to know. They did this through ten essential categories, detailing “How To” steps, with varying anecdotes scattered throughout the chapters. These “How To” stages are simplistic enough for a younger audience, while successfully keeping the topics light and understandable. The pictures included at the beginning of each kept the book from becoming too dense as the introductions to each category provided insights into why the authors determined each of the subject matters as important for young women.

My only hesitations were the prehistoric references. For instance, chapter one on “Guys & Dating” does not discuss the changing dating environment with modern technology and dating apps. It’s also important for the authors to cater to the target audience. Studies find most young women/girls, particularly those generations targeted by this book, have attention spans of a matter of seconds. Given this, and after reading The Girls’ Guide to Conquering Life, I didn’t encounter a solid reason why any female should choose to READ this book rather than YouTube each “How To.” As a young adult that recently renovated an entire house, without hired help, the wonders of YouTube and quick videos serve to teach more efficiently than reading, no matter how simplistic the steps are.

As mentioned this book focuses in on ten different categories. These categories, and my thoughts on each, are as follows:

  1. Guys & Dating – As mentioned earlier this chapter lacked discussion on the ever-changing dating environment. As technology and dating apps begin to take center stage at all ages, how can young women navigate? The subjects broached within this category were extremely rudimentary, with topics such as “How to Talk with a Guy You Like” and “How to Plan a Date.”
  2. Social Skills & Manners – This section brought up interesting topics such as the differences in American etiquette and European. As a cultural melting pot we must remain respectful to others. I enjoyed the “Did You Know” facts interspersed throughout, specifically page 46 which states “how we communicate is so much more than the words we choose. Communication is a combination of these elements: 7% Words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language.” Despite my age, this remained a great reminder.
  3. Work & Ethics – The focus was on work more so than ethics, as this segment broke down everything from the application process to resignation. Although, again, I felt the authors failed to capture the power of technology and relationships in getting jobs today.
  4. Wealth & Money Management – Tied with the famous Dave Ramsey money management tips, this section focused on things like “don’t buy it if you don’t have the cash,” and “avoid using credit cards at all costs.” For the target audience, I’m not sure this chapter’s “debt” topics were pertinent. Regardless, as a woman in the financial industry, these suggestions are not often realistic because if we can’t buy with credit many people wouldn’t own cars and certainly wouldn’t own houses. Rather than shaming women into not spending money, we must teach women how to ask for help financially. I would have liked to see more detailed budgeting tips within this chapter as rigid financial budgets prevent overspending before it happens.
  5. Health & Beauty – Do male targeted books have chapters on maintaining healthy hair, skin, teeth and nail routines? As a self-described tomboy, I always hate to see chapters that open “How To” books to glaring gender differences, but given the changes to the body during puberty, lessons on maintaining oily hair and odors are necessary for the target audience.
  6. Clothes & Fashion – The authors did an incredible job opening this chapter with strong female quotes, including Anne Klein stating, “clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will,” (p. 137). This sets the tone for the entire topic from learning what specifically causes clothing to smell to why stains need to be removed as outlined within.
  7. Sports & Recreation – This covered a wide breath of sports, from how to kick a soccer ball to how to properly throw a dart and why. Young readers are given detailed instructions on the fundamentals, such as shooting a basketball from the finger tips so it rolls off the middle finger. As a collegiate athlete I was thoroughly impressed with the level of PROPER detail given on these athletic topics.
  8. Cars & Driving – I think many females will agree being stranded somewhere, alone, is one of our worst fears. It is therefore important all girls know how to change a tire and jump start a car. This chapter gives the reader the instruction necessary to successfully complete key tasks so one is never left on the side of the road dependent on a stranger.
  9. Food & Cooking – I would no longer categorize myself as a “young woman” and I still struggle in this department. The authors did a great job of explaining how and why foods are cooked as they are. For instance, why fish is cooked skin on and how to sharpen your knives so they remain most effective. I don’t care how old you are there is always more to be learned about cooking and food prep.
  10. Tools & Fix-It – I was apprehensive going into this chapter, I didn’t think I would gain much from this chapter given my background in large DIY projects, but I was wrong. While I did disagree with some of the “must-have” tools for your tool kit, I did gain insight into the real reason for the slanted bubble on a level and a few other interesting tips.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson & The High Season by Judy Blundell

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

Publication Date: May 29th, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Elyse and Gabe couldn’t seem more opposite. One in Austin, the other in Portland. One a skateboarder, the other in theatre. And finally, one a family, the other “raised” by an addict. So why does Jennifer Donaldson follow these separate lives throughout Lies You Never Told Me as she flips between each’s narratives?

This all-encompassing novel quickly turns terrifying and unpredictable as the tale of high school fragility is on full display. What begins as a high school “love” story quickly becomes a dark, twisted, intertwined tale of two teenagers.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


The High Season by Judy Blundell

Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

A cultural clash of the rich and locals Ruthie, Jem and even Doe fight to afford their sleepy summer getaway town. This beachy, female drama plays out in the Hampton-esque town of Orient.

The High Season stars slowly as Blundell paints the necessary character dynamics that drive the story behind the local Orient families and the summer crowd. The middle-class of Orient fight to maintain the laid-back vibe as the rich begin to flock in the summers, quickly choosing Orient over the showy lifestyles of the Hamptons. Bringing all the drama and air one would expect from the stereotypical rich artists portrayed in the movies, this book is sure to keep you reading on under your beach umbrella until the sun falls below the horizon.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blind Betrayal (Defenders of Justice #3) by Nancy Mehl

Publication Date: April 17th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

E.J., Casey and Doug have one job as US Marshalls – getting their witness, Valerie, to Washington DC safely to testify. So, when a bomb goes off at their St. Louis headquarters their plans become frantically changed. Who’s after them and will they arrive safely? These questions are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as this mildly romantic suspense novel weaves a tale that would make any US Marshall service member blush.

The heroically portrayed law enforcement officers represented within show incredible dedication and determination that mirrors the reality of those that serve. The twists, turns, alleys and dead ends Mehl skillfully constructs will keep you flipping pages, but be sure to keep the characters organized as there seems to be a never-ending stream of law enforcement introduced and perspectives portrayed. While Blind Betrayal may be the third in the Defenders of Justice Series the reader is not left feeling lost in the third book, each character is appropriately built to allow this to be read as a standalone.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

First Published in 1989
Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

“I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished.” (p. 244)

As of late I have been diligent in digging from each book the true meaning behind the books’ title. Often, such is the case with this book, the name of the book is mentioned within an important passage. This method of “name dropping” quickly points the reader to the theme the author most-likely attempts to impress on you; such is the case in this, The Remains of the Day.
Mr. Stevens is a butler at the once esteemed ‘Darlington Hall.’ His current employer, the American, Mr. Farraday is going abroad for an extended time and all but demands Mr. Stevens take his Ford for a retreat amongst the countryside. This adventure quickly takes a backseat to the story that unfolds in Mr. Stevens’ memories. Tangled among his “retreat” is his wish to visit the Hall’s former Head Housekeeper, Miss Kenton whom has recently sent him a troubling letter.
The stories that unfold over the course of the solo motoring trip across the countryside lend to a story that is both formal in its presentation and depressing in its tales. It is not hard to grasp the reason this book was chosen as the 1989 Man Booker Prize as Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing is beautifully captivating and eloquently charming. A post-war novel that strays from the “status quo,” The Remains of the Day drifts beyond any novel we’ve become accustomed to in recent day WWII historical fictions.

Coming in June: Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells & Just Let Go (Harbor Pointe #2) by Courtney Walsh

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Jaycee Givens has had a tough life. A mother addicted to heroin, the loss of her baby brother and her pregnancy to an abusive boyfriend. But, author Amy Sorrells reminds us that with faith, the cycle can end. Jaycee refuses to let her poorness define her, but rather her relationships with others propel her to overcome and provide her future child a “chance.”

Before I Saw You takes a hard look at the opioid crisis in Indiana. Forcing the reader to see the impacts of addiction on otherwise “normal” families. As Jaycee strives to overcome her family’s past she is portrayed as embracing her faith so deeply the reader begins to embody it and roots for her to find happiness and a sense of family in the relationships that remain. This story is full of sadness, hope and resilience that clings to your heart and reminds you with faith you can get through anything.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.


Just Let Go (Harbor Pointe #2) by Courtney Walsh

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Grady Benson is a bad boy Olympic Skier, seemingly approaching his final days of ski success. Quinn Collins is the 28-year-old owner of her recently purchased Forget-Me-Not flower shop, once owned by her mother. Both hold onto the pain of their past in this tale that will have you laughing, crying and begging for it to never end.

Just Let Go is the perfect chick flick for a cozy night in, sure to warm your heart despite the cold Michigan setting surrounding this story. Author, Courtney Walsh, delivers this romance to near perfection as the characters fight their way out of their comfort zones into each other’s hearts.

Book two of the Harbor Pointe series reads as easily as a standalone novel, with the promise of more romantic adventures as the series continues.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace by David & Jonah Stillman

Publication Date: March 21st, 2017

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The constant stream of books claiming to provide insight to specific generations leaves me feeling like I’m in the midst of an identity crisis. As this book defines generational markers, my family is often clashing with the “typical.” Raised by parents just on the cusp of being defined as baby boomers, I squeak into the Millennial generation while my brother slips neatly into the Gen Z population. As you can then imagine I found some aspects of this book intriguing while I other aspects have certainly been excessively played out.

Father and son team, David and Jonah Stillman, set out by defining the key traits of the “Gen Z” generation. On pages 10 to 12, the Stillmans define these key traits:

  1. Phigital – “born into a world where every physical aspect (people and places) has a digital equivalent.”
  2. Hyper-Custom – “ability to customize everything” creates “an expectation that there is intimate understanding of their behaviors and desires.”
  3. Realistic – Given the world events of their childhood, this generation has developed a “pragmatic mindset when it comes to planning and preparing for the future.”
  4. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – this generation stays “on top of all trends and competition.”
  5. Weconomists – “push to breakdown internal and external silos to leverage the collective in a new convenient and cost-effective way.”
  6. DIY (Do-It-Yourself) – Encouraged to be independent by parents, this generation “believes that they can do just about anything by themselves.”
  7. Driven – “participation is not a real award there are winners and losers.”

Each chapter spends a significant amount of time comparing each of these traits against other generations and ultimately offers no substantial solutions for bridging the gap of ALL generations represented in the workplace. In fact, it became clear the authors lacked solutions when the book continually referenced the Millennials’ need for participation trophies because their parents (the Boomers) raised them to feel they needed these, therefore shifting the very trait Boomers hate about Millennials right back on the Boomers. Blame shifting isn’t going to solve issues, but the point the authors attempted to make is the deep reflection on the roles, values and experiences at play by each generation of parent and the effects these parenting styles had on the generation as they combine in creating a work culture heavily influenced by each’s upbringing.

As a Millennial myself, that grew up with a Gen Z brother, I deeply related to the Driven trait. As stated on page 277 Gen Z has a desire to win, needs help balancing their competitive drive with being team players, need to be encouraged to admit mistakes and talk about them while also needing help keeping one foot on the brake petal to avoid going too fast and making mistakes. Managers should be coaching Gen Zers on when to take a step back, and how to slow down and allow ideas and information to percolate; Gen Zers want to keep moving forward quickly. Workplaces also need to offer this upcoming generation opportunities to learn and grow rapidly if they hope to avoid losing them, while being sure to offer a combination of private space and shared workspaces.

To break that down:

  • Workspaces – the recent trend has been to create an “open workspace” that “offers collaboration and free flow of ideas.” As a person that prefers quiet when working, these open concept spaces terrify me and truthfully would turn me off to a workplace. As identified by research within Gen Z @ Work, it would appear I am not alone in this feeling.
  • Slowing Down & Admitting Mistakes – The Gen Z generation grew up with a constant stream of knowledge and rapid technological advances. It should then come as no surprise that they may “get their bodies moving a bit faster than their feet” and need to be told to slow down, let information process before diving in. I think this goes for any generation in the workplace as we are constantly bombarded with the feeling of feeling behind, we need to remember to slow down to avoid mistakes and achieve accuracy and the success we so yearn.
  • Opportunities to Grow & Learn – I can’t imagine any generation wants to sit in one position for 50 years with no opportunities for advancement, further knowledge or growth. The difference is that Millennials and Gen Zers aren’t afraid to leave when workplaces aren’t offering them what they need. Gen Z @ Work touched on the need to overcome the costly mistakes employers are making that causes them to lose employees to competitors with more avenues for career growth. Employers are being challenged to rethink job paths, titles and responsibilities to better retain generations that demand more engagement of their employer.

Regardless of the generation, the message is clear – employers cannot get complacent if they hope to facilitate the successful blending of multiple generations within their workplace. Whether you turn to Jonah & David Stillman in your journey to understand the generations or turn to another book, it would be clever to prepare yourself for the challenges that are certain to arise.

Coming Soon: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Publication Date: June 19th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

A jacked-up blend of The Wife Between Us and The Girl Before. This incredible, edge of your seat thriller is sure to be one of the summer’s hottest books!

Admittedly, I have not read Paris’ first novel Behind Closed Doors and while I liked The Breakdown, this newest novel blows it out of the water! Written in three parts: 1) Then and Now, 2) Finn and Another and 3) Just Finn. This novel had my heart pounding as I tried to keep up with the web Finn was spinning for himself.

Twelve years ago, Finn’s girlfriend vanishes from a rest stop. Finn cooperates with the police to be cleared of any foul play and while he may have told the truth all those years ago, it wasn’t entirely the full truth.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Three Reviews: I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke, The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi & Layover by Amy Andelson & Emily Meyer

I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke

Publication Date: June 15th, 2017

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

This book is not at ALL what I expected. This psychological drama is sure to keep you guessing as the author transports the reader between past and present, and among different narrators as the reader works to unwind Eloise’s twisted secrets.

I LOVE psychological dramas. Typically, books with changing timelines or flipping narrators spark my interest, but I Know My Name had a bit too much of everything. The grandmother’s narrations, although brief, did not seem to fit the outward views other narrations gave her and Lochlan’s behavior and lack of parenting/husbandly duties rubbed me the wrong way early on. But, despite this, my “meh” feelings toward this book arise from the lack of an “ah ha” moment. The climax is so slowly untangled by the time you’ve reached the peak you’ve forgotten why it was thrilling to begin with.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided via a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.


The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

Publication Date: May 3rd, 2018

Rating: 2 Stars

The Baghdad Clock begins with a childhood fantasy, quickly transitioning to life in a war zone as the young narrator works to keep the neighborhood’s memories alive. Spanning the Gulf War to Desert Storm and “Bush’s Attack” this story is the unfortunate history many children likely share as neighbors are forced to emigrate from their homes.

I originally was drawn to this book as it was compared to The Kite Runner. This comparison led me to disappointment as this novel did not live up to the timeless and moving story housed within The Kite Runner. Translated to English by Luke Leafgren, the underlying themes shone through still seemed to be missing the emotional story encased in The Kite Runner. This book felt like there was interlocking details lost in translation, especially as it surrounded the dreams and fantasies of the book’s narrator. This “lost in translation” element caused the book to lose its cohesiveness and ultimately the transitions from chapter to chapter were lacking in seamlessness.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.


Layover by Amy Andelson & Emily Meyer

Publication Date: February 6th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

Three step siblings, on a layover in LAX, decide to skip their impending family vacation and awaiting bombshell to become “runaways” enjoying all that LA has to offer. The experiences that follow this decision build a deeper sibling bond than any “typical” vacation as we are reminded that family comes in all different shapes and sizes.

This young adult fiction will breeze by, not unlike that of 806 by Cynthia Weil, as unlikely siblings each with their own complex issues run into all sorts of drama as runaways (pun intended). A fresh take on siblings of a broken family, Layover will leave you satisfied.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

Series Spotlight: Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro

I recently finished the Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro.  This series wraps with the third and final book, The Case for Jamie.

Publication Date: March 6th, 2018

Rating: 4.99 Stars

It cannot be put into words how sad I am that the Charlotte Holmes series is ending. By no means do I pretend to know all there is to know about Sherlock Holmes, but when I stumbled upon a female re-telling of modern day Sherlock I couldn’t pick up a copy fast enough.

This series begins with A Study in Charlotte.  It is within this book that we grasp Charlotte Holmes’ quirks, and Jamie Watson’s teenage boyish charm. Both Charlotte and Jamie are decedents of the famous Sherlock Holmes and James Watson, whom end up at the same boarding school after a series of unfortunate (read: fortunate) events.

In book two, The Last of August, we are whisked to Europe as we discover Charlotte’s family life and become introduced to the infamous Moriarty family. This book strays from the boarding school setting and provides an action-packed Holmes family drama, allowing a deeper look at how Charlotte became the teenage prodigy that she is. So, unsurprisingly The Case for Jamie allows Jamie Watson’s family to take center stage as the Moriarty family drama continues amidst a “missing” Charlotte Holmes.

I closely follow the Sherlock series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch on PBS (seriously go watch this on Netflix NOW if you haven’t seen it yet) and have watched several big screen Sherlock Holmes renditions (meh) and thus feel I possess enough “knowledge” to pronounce author Brittany Cavallaro nails it! From the coming together of two separately strong characters, Watson & Holmes, to the Moriarty escapades and ultimate disappearance of a Holmes, the Charlotte Holmes series captures it all with a modern young adult twist. Beyond that, Cavallaro has melded the classic, drug-addicted Sherlock Holmes into a brilliantly tortured female Charlotte Holmes lead. If you haven’t picked up book one of this series, RUN to your nearest bookstore and get started!

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Maggie is supposed to be a happiness expert, she’s written a bestselling scientific novel based on her research on that very topic, but she can’t seem to find happiness or put her life back together after being dumped by her fiancé. So, when Maggie is forced by her best friends and publicist to speak on a singles cruise about her upcoming book on resilience, the last thing she expects is to begin feeling for another passenger. The falling, fire and fight that follow are on par for the Hallmark Romance movies Maggie so desperately craved post-breakup.

This book appealed to me after having recently experienced my first cruise (albeit not a singles cruise). I connected to the dining experiences, on board bars and constant shows/activities portrayed within. However, the seemingly forced placed Christian references detracted from the reading experience and lead characters as they are portrayed were disappointing at best. The females were jealous and “boy obsessed,” while the men were focused on their desire to help. The supporting characters too, felt forced with wildly random interjections of Maggie’s ex-fiancé, the surrounding family drama and the work stressors all of which combined to weakly fit into the book’s underlying story. What I hoped would be a beachy read was met with poorly timed phone calls, fires and familial background.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier & Dawn Girl (Special Agent Tess Winnett #1) by Leslie Wolfe

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Date: June 12th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

From the inside of a women’s prison, to the head of a lost 16-year-old, and finally to a recovering ex-con living in fear, Jar of Hearts grips you in EVERY exciting way. Although, be forewarned there are some graphic scenes and serial killers, nonetheless this held all the pieces of a great thriller.

I loved the switching between Kai, the police officer on the case and Geo, the girlfriend of the serial killer, as the depth of the story from childhood to the release from prison made this book so intense. In every flashback more suspense is unraveled, pushing you further and further into sleepless nights to finish. Geo’s otherwise perfect life is hiding secrets that hold the key to solving the story. If flashbacks and perspective flipping are your type of reading pleasures you won’t want to miss this one!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Dawn Girl (Special Agent Tess Winnett #1) by Leslie Wolfe

Publication Date: August 22nd, 2016

Rating: 4 ¾ Stars

I first learned of Leslie Wolfe when I came across a book entitled The Watson Girl, this book looked completely enthralling so I decided to pick up the first book in the series, and thus Dawn Girl was cracked open.

We quickly meet Tess Winnett, a brilliant FBI agent who wastes no time with pleasantries. Tess boasts an equally impressive skill to solve cases and accumulate complaints against her. And while Dawn Girl may be book one, there are some serious undertones to Tess’ past unknown trauma at play within.

The research author, Leslie Wolfe put into Dawn Girl is incredible, from the procedure and uncovering of clues to the psychological profiling and twisted serial killer I am blown away. Wolfe’s talent and eye for detail are on full display here. Now that Rizzoli and Isle has been cancelled on TV you will most definitely find me curled up on the couch with more Leslie Wolfe novels!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley & Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

Publication Date: May 8th, 2018

Rating: 3

My Ex-Life is FULL of contrasting characters, from OCD to hippy and flighty, these characters made me quickly fall into this book. By the end, I was sadly smiling and pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment I found within this easy-to-read book.

This book was simply described to me as being about a man who hears from his ex-wife as he himself is struggling through life. He drops everything to fly east and live under the same roof, picking up exactly where they left off 30-years ago. This description nails the premise of the book, but does not sound particularly enthralling. In fact, the description on the back flap nearly turned me off from picking the book up to begin with. However, I am so glad I did as the familial relationships, drama and rebuild were hilarious and enchanting.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a “must read,” it was “okay” and just what I needed in an easy read, despite the convoluted relationships it housed.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Publication Date: April 10th, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Life seems great for Daniel, he’s gotten into the art school of his dreams, how can it not be? But, ever since his early decision application he can’t seem to find inspiration to draw anymore, and his reserved parents seem to be hiding something from him. Picture Us in the Light is a young adult immigrant’s coming of age story.

This is a jumpy book as author, Kelly Loy Gilbert, inserts flashbacks and letters from the past. Gilbert tiptoes around friendships and labels in this book as the reader is often left wondering about Daniel’s internal frustrations and sexuality. The storyline is jumbled and kept mysterious for seemingly cultural purposes, but ultimately detracts from the overall story of beautiful chaos within.

Daniel, his parents and his gang of friends combine for a wild ride through teenage angst, fear, anxiety and cultural norms. But, the secrets and mysteries only serve to further confuse and undermine the modest story within.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club: The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman

Publication Date: October 15th, 1999

Rating: 2 Stars

Michael Ruhlman is first a foremost a writer, he “enrolls” in The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to write about his experience. This means, he is not a chef and has no experience in the culinary field prior to entering this rigorous program. This book is DENSE, especially for someone with limited cooking knowledge and vocabulary such as myself. I am not, and don’t pretend to be, the chef in my own house; sauce from a can is more than sufficient for me and I do not find myself seeking out restaurants to find the best “palate enhancing” meal. This book was definitely a struggle for me.

I did enjoy the story as Michael got into the kitchens and begun to experience a “restaurant-type” atmosphere. The relationships he outlines briefly provide respite from the otherwise heavy culinary descriptions. The immense physical work and speed Ruhlman portrays as being necessary to pull off a lunch or dinner service did stir fleeting excitement and gave me intriguing insight into the intense world of chefs. But, the book lacked the storyline to make it enjoyable for the average reader as many of the concepts were otherwise lost on me. Although, the brown sauce debate of brown roux versus pale roux does have me googling what widely accepted answer is…

Three Reviews: Skyjack (Thea Paris #2) by K.J. Howe, Indecent by Corinne Sullivan & Coach Wooden’s Forgotten Teams: Stories and Lessons from John Wooden’s Summer Basketball Camps by Pat Williams and Jim Denney

Skyjack (Thea Paris #2) by K.J. Howe

Publication Date: April 10th, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Thea Paris is back at it again, albeit this time she is one of the hostages. This action-packed sequel to K.J. Howe’s first Thea Paris novel, The Freedom Broker, has us globetrotting Europe to rescue a plane full of hostages and thwart a bioweapons attack.

Thea Paris is many things, heroine, bad-ass, female and diabetic. These traits combine to represent a character not often portrayed in books, in fact I haven’t read ANY other books that feature an action hero with diabetes. Well done to Howe for diversifying her characters and providing a representative cast to a broader population. Character casting aside, the detail in this book is uncanny, from the architecture to the fight scenes a lot is packed into these 400 pages.

However, ultimately the many plots, ongoing character development, villains and everchanging landscape made this book a dragging read. Don’t set this book down or you will have trouble remembering all the “henchman,” conflicting villains and never-ending character development.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.


Indecent by Corinne Sullivan

Publication Date: March 6th, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Imogene is a 22-year-old teacher’s apprentice who becomes involved with a 17-year-old student at the prestigious all-boys boarding school in which she is employed.

This book’s style of writing and character flaws reminded me heavily of Poison and Baby Teeth, both books that I did not particularly enjoy the first time around. Although I am admittedly a sucker for boarding school scenery, as it lends easily to MANY different plot choices, I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the author’s portrayal of the female lead’s all-encompassing craziness as she pursued student, Adam Kipling.

Without spoiling it, should you decide to read Indecent, the ending left me rather unsatisfied and felt abrupt, wrapping up all too quickly after dragging out the teacher-student attraction. I was certainly hoping for more given the plot description, but felt this book fell flat.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Coach Wooden’s Forgotten Teams: Stories and Lessons from John Wooden’s Summer Basketball Camps by Pat Williams and Jim Denney

Publication Date: February 20th, 2018

Rating: 2.45 Stars

My college basketball team was led by head coach Randi Peterson and while I was not a basketball player myself I often heard about her legendary half time speeches and her supernatural ability to command respect from both players and opposing teams. It is my awe of Randi that caused me to pick up this book on John Wooden, as I sought to uncover more on the success and positive characteristics of the two coaches.

“Competitive greatness, as Coach Wooden defined it, is not only consistent with good character but also requires it. You can’t achieve competitive greatness without good character” (p.138 ).

Authors, Pat and Jim, spent an immense amount of time compiling videos, interviews, insights and much more on the structure, impact and background of the John Wooden summer camps. Over 30 years later, the campers and coaches attest to the effects the camp and Coach Wooden had on them. The influence that Coach Wooden so seamlessly emanated is what every coach, teacher, and human being hopes to leave on the world.

Regardless, the book lacked a logical timeline, cohesiveness and engagement. The quotes and MANY names dropped within this book were overly confusing. It was clear the authors idolized Coach Wooden, enough so that they’ve written several books on the subject. But, while I enjoyed learning more about the man who deceased in 2010, one book on him was certainly enough for me.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.