Short Books Collection: If Only for a Time by January Fields & When Hope Calls by David Lui

If Only for a Time by January Fields

Publication Date: October 10th, 2017

Stars: 2.4 Stars

This book was a quick read that kept me easily entertained. Rebekah Edwards is a young, female engineer whom is chosen by her firm to go to Singapore for a conference at the last minute. This is Rebekah’s chance to overcome her gender stereotypes in engineering and prove to her firm a worthy employee. Rebekah quickly befriends another young female engineer from Japan, Akari, but more importantly Rebekah begins to lust over one of her engineering idols, Emile Martin.

This book frustrated me. While I appreciate that it was intentionally kept short, sweet and to the point, it seemed entirely rushed. The author could have done a great job opening the book by further building on Rebekah’s jet lagged exhaustion, or further cultivating Akari and Rebekah’s interactions and friendship. This book opened with Rebekah jumping on the plane, being groped by her seat mate, getting welcome cocktails, and bed…in about as many words too. In using the first chapter to develop Rebekah more fully, this book could have started off with more of a kick.

Additionally, I was frustrated with the characters themselves. First, how did Akari’s friendship really even come about? It felt like suddenly they were friends and then Rebekah was telling her everything as if they’d been “besties” forever. Second, WHAT?! Rebekah attended one day of lectures, wants to prove herself to her company, but suddenly is ditching out on the whole conference to see the sights, seriously?! Lastly, the ending just abruptly happened. This seemed to be okay though, as it fittingly trended with the rest of the book’s abrupt events.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.


When Hope Calls by David Lui

Publication Date: August 19th, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

This book centers on a human rights helpline that receives a call from a young girl that had been kidnapped and was assumed to be on her way to be sold into sex slavery. Written by David Lui to promote awareness to human trafficking, I picked up this book because of my location in Iowa.

The state of Iowa is crossed by Interstate 80 and, as such, we have a large trucking industry. On any given day cars are surrounded by long-haul truckers, while the many rest stops that dot our landscape often find several dozen truckers resting for the night.

My grandfather drove trucks for many years back and forth along I-80 and if I could ask him now, I know he would not hesitate to point out the times back “in his day” that young girls would come knocking on the truck doors as he turned in for the night. These girls were the very product of human trafficking, and yes, this happened in “safe ‘ol Iowa.”

Fast forward to 2017, this problem has only multiplied. Girls and boys are still being sold into sex slavery and smuggled into the United States. We are not a perfect nation, but we cannot continue to turn a blind eye on the horrific things happening so close to home. I completed my MBA at an institution that was Catholic in denomination, the sisters of Mercy that represented this institution made it their mission to fight human trafficking in Iowa. Thus, I was quickly brought aware of the issues happening along our interstates. In fact, as recently as last month, a local trucking company was shut down for negative press relating to a trucker and human trafficking.

I hope this book, or even just this post, will create further awareness of an ongoing problem: Human Trafficking.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

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The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad

Publication Date: November 7th, 2017

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

I knew, given the book’s description, this would be a tough one to read. The events Nadia lays out within the pages of this book are still so fresh, having taken place in 2014 to present day. However, despite knowing this and preparing myself for this, this was still a very painful read. As an American there are many, MANY, things I take for granted, however this book immediately re-grounds you and even lights a fire in you to make a difference in doing something positive.

Nadia does a great job of acclimating the reader to her world. She begins by explaining her religion, Yazidi. Yazidi, unlike many religions does not have a book, like that of the bible, as such it is often not recognized as a religion by others and has negative connotations to many of the citizens of Iraq. Regardless, the Yazidi religion is of the utmost importance to its members and holds a powerful grip on the customs and traditions of its people. In this part of the world it was important to understand the powers of religion as it has caused a seismic rift in Iraqi culture. Throughout the book, I compared Nadia’s world to my own in America, the powers religion has on the country of Iraq are a far cry from the rather lacking religious hold in the United States.

I also found Nadia’s description of school interesting. In Iraq, schools are not taught in her native language, but rather in Arab. They are taught about violence from day one, as much of their history revolves around wars and bloodshed that have occurred. She described, this view on bloodshed is portrayed as heroic and patriotic, which I can’t help but find incredibly similar to the teaching of bloodshed in the United States. In the U.S., our military spending is light-years beyond the budget for other necessities. Military is portrayed as the top priority and while members of the military are heroic in their own right, bloodshed is taught throughout the history of the U.S.

In keeping with the education theme, in the United States much time is spent teaching the events of WWII. From the holocaust to the blitz on London, entire units are dedicated to the genocide and study of Hitler’s regime. However, it is abundantly clear within The Last Girl that the genocide of Jews by Hitler was NOT the end of religious persecution or massive genocide. In 2014 and present day, the ongoing genocide of Yazidi’s in Iraq and human trafficking of women are very much still happening, and while Nazi’s were immediately prosecuted for their crimes against Jews it wasn’t until 16 years after the genocide in Rwanda that contributors were tried for their crimes. Nadia begs the same does not happen of participants in the Yazidi genocides.

This book was a huge wakeup call from my American comforts and freedoms. EVERYONE should be educated on the atrocities that continue to happen around the world. As more become educated, and aware of the cruelties happening, I am hopeful the frequency of genocides will recede and Nadia truly will be “The Last Girl.” I applaud Nadia’s courage in telling her story, and taking part in ending the violence. I hope her story urges others to fight back, show compassion to victims and contribute to the end of such violence, as it does me. We can all strive to fight back, even in simple acts such as showing kindness, welcoming refugees, and providing monetary support to aid agencies worldwide.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books, in conjunction with the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Bad Accounts by Kate McVaugh & Letters to the Pianist by S.D. Mayes

Bad Accounts by Kate McVaugh

McVaugh adds a touch of funny while keeping the story believable, a rare combination within my library.

Publication Date: December 26th, 2017

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

Bad Accounts was a satisfying read about a middle-aged accountant, Pia, as she discovers her new employers are running the books for a large drug operation under her nose. The ensuing chase as Pia runs from a hired gun, is hilarious and surprisingly realistic as it keeps you turning pages.

This story is definitely a crazy one, many of Pia’s pursuits seem a bit far-fetched to say out loud, but author, Kate McVaugh, does an incredible job of keeping the story’s crazy within the lines of possible. This book was an easy choice for me as it revolved around an accountant, the California coast and promised a refreshingly funny read. I was not disappointed and was excited to find a book with an accountant as the main character, as an accountant myself it is rare find.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


 

Letters to the Pianist by S.D. Mayes

Publication Date: September 19th, 2017

Rating: 2.45 Stars

I adore historical fiction novels so when I had the opportunity to read Letters to the Pianist I jumped. Letters to the Pianist revolves around a family torn apart when their home gets bombed in the blitz on London during WWII. Ruth, Gabi and Hannah are believed to be orphans and set out to live with their Aunt. However, a man, whom cannot remember anything ends up at the hospital following the bombing. Soon this man falls for a wealthy hospital volunteer and begins a successful career as a pianist. Media coverage on the pianist’s success reveals to Ruth the whereabouts of her father, but doesn’t explain why he didn’t come looking for them.

This novel becomes so enchanting, as it cycles between narrators, that you forget there is supposed to be a war afoot. While I commend the author for attempting a historical fiction, the war seemed to be so far outside of this novel and the characters’ lives it could have almost been a general fiction genre, except for the determined need to tie in Hitler’s Aryan race beliefs into the storyline. So, while it was an okay dramatic fiction book on its own, it failed to insight the historical fiction lover within me.

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

Book Tour: Unfinished by Amy Snyder

Publication Date: July 25th, 2017

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Mirabelle is a writer who just can’t finish any of the stories she starts. When her twins leave home for college, they take with them Mirabelle’s sense of identity. As she strives to adjust to her empty nest she is visited by someone unexpected: a character from the very first novel she ever attempted to write.

Characters from all of her unfinished works begin to materialize in her home, in her car, at her job. They talk, yell, and some even throw things at her. Mirabelle can see them, smell them, touch them and though she knows they’re not real, she can’t help but engage them. She created them, after all. They become part of her daily life and she finds herself alternating between hiding them from and sharing them with her almost-always-doting husband, Alex.

Some of Mirabelle’s characters are like good friends, encouraging her to finish something she’s started. Others manipulate her for their own needs and story lines. Good and bad, these characters are part of her and Mirabelle discovers she needs to both fix and finish them before they destroy her life, her sanity, and her marriage.

Amazon     BN     Kobo     iTunes


About the Author:

Amy Snyder began writing when she realized the strange things that happened in her imagination were far more interesting than the things that happened in her real life. After earning her degree in Radio, Television, and Film from Northwestern University, she worked at a financial brokerage house, a nationally published magazine, an advertising agency, and most recently, an elementary school as a Math Tutor, Substitute Teacher, and Library Paraprofessional.

But she’s always been a writer.

Amy lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut with her husband, two teenage children, and two cats. While she has been known to talk out loud to the characters she’s writing, she hasn’t had an actual hallucination…yet.

https://www.facebook.com/amysnyderauthor/

https://amysnyderauthor.com/

https://twitter.com/amysnyder71


Review:

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

I made it a point not to read the author’s bio or press releases outside of the books description prior to starting this book. This means, I went the entirety of the book thinking “OMG, is this the author’s memoir with fictional twists!” This book was so well written, from the “writer’s” point of view that I literally thought Amy Snyder changed her name to Bella and wrote a book about herself.

As the description indicates, this book is about Bella, a mother whom has dedicated her life to raising her kids and who loses her identity and purpose upon dropping her twins off at college. Soon after dropping the kids off at college the characters from all the books she never finished begin showing up in her life. Bella is a writer with a habitual problem of never finishing the endings. This means she shelves her projects, to be done “at a later time,” but never gets back to ever finishing them. When these characters start showing up, they seem so real to Bella, it is hard for her to separate them from reality and they begin to take over her daily interactions.

The “hallucinations” Bella has scream stress, anxiety and fear to me.  Stress and anxiety of losing her children and beginning “empty-nester” life with her husband, Alex. Fear of losing her identity as a mother and never accomplishing something tangible in her life. Anxiety arises from these unfinished books that continue to take up shelving space in her closet and remind her of her artistic failures. The mental health themes in this book were at the forefront and I would have loved to have seen the author address this topic more tangibly. In fact, the only ode to mental healthcare was Bella’s visit to a psychiatrist in which she was given pills to “settle her mind,” and refused to take them.

That being said, this book felt so real to me. Admittedly, it was slow in parts as I anxiously awaited the return of her “imaginary characters” and I found myself trying to connect the dots between her characters’ personalities and Bella’s own emotions. Upon concluding this book, I was SHOCKED to learn that Amy did not actually experience this level of artistic awareness, but rather possessed the talent to write as if she did.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me as part of the Unfinished book tour in exchange for an honest review.

Cover Reveal: The Billionaire’s Secret by Mika Lane

The Billionaire’s Secret  by Mika Lane

Publication date: December 6th 2017 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Billionaire's Secret.jpg

Enter to win a copy: Rafflecopter Giveaway


Synopsis:

He’s straight as an arrow on the outside. And crooked as sin on the inside.

By day, Varden Gallagher goes to work at One Market Street, where he’s manager of a big, successful hedge fund. He’s powerful, wealthy, and can have any woman he wants. But at night he slides into a secret world. One where wealth and power count for nothing, and all that matters are your desires, and how you control them. Or don’t.

When he sees his business associate’s daughter—fresh out of college reporter Saffi Bartlett —at the secret Club Silk, he decides to have some fun. Little does he know, the joke’s on him, and it looks like his sinful ways won’t be hush-hush for much longer.

After all, isn’t it the straightest arrow that eventually breaks?

Goodreads

Mika_

AUTHOR BIO:

Writing has been a passion of Mika’s since a young age (her first book was “The Day I Ate the Milkyway”), but erotic romance is now what gives purpose to her days and nights. She lives in magical Northern California with her own handsome alpha dude, sometimes known as Mr. Mika Lane, and an evil cat named Bill. A devotee of the intelligent and beautiful, and lover of shiny things, she’s a yogi, hiker, traveler, thinker, observer, and book worm. She has been known to drink cheap champagne and has way too many shoes. A National Reader’s Choice Awards finalist, Mika always deliver a hot, sexy romp, often with imperfect characters, and a promised happily ever after (or at least happy for now). She LOVES to hear from readers, and can be found at www.mikalane.com, and facebook.com/mikalaneauthor, when she’s not dreaming up naughty tales to share.

 

Author links:

https://twitter.com/mikalaneauthor

http://mikalane.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mikalaneauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15945940.Mika_Lane

Two Reviews: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer & Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Publication Date: November 21st, 2017

Rating: 1 ¼ Stars

This was a rough read. I can honestly say it has been awhile since I have considered quitting a book, but I most definitely would have quit this book had I not owed a review. I felt like I was reading a mundane drone of life in a bad relationship. While this author showed incredible writing talent within the descriptions provided of every day characters and everyday life, the plot failed to draw me in throughout the entirety of the book.

This book is narrated by Cass, a widowed mother of two, who finds love again in Ryan Connor. We are dropped into Cass and Ryan’s marriage as they have produced a two year old to join Cass’ two previous children and they have completed a move across the country to Seattle, from New York. Cass is convinced Ryan has poisoned her in an attempt to get out of their marriage with his child and the deed to their house, but Cass must prove she is really being poisoned, rather than a delusional schizophrenic.

This book did an injustice to the deeper premises within: female victims and mental health. Throughout the book, the topic of discounting female victims in rape and abuse cases continued to surface. Cass even went so far as to jokingly present a class lecture on the topic. Like, WHY ARE WE JOKING ABOUT THIS DISCOUNTING FEMALE RAPE VICTIMS’ ACCOUNTS?

Mental health was also brought up as Cass sought the help of health professionals and the police. In both circumstances she was disregarded and even locked in the psychiatric ward for evaluation. These experiences, as they happened to Cass, certainly opened the readers’ eyes to the atrocity experienced, but these eyes were barely staying open regardless, thanks to the book’s mundane plot.

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


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Publication Date: October 17th, 2017

Rating: 2 Stars

This book will make a lovely holiday chick flick, as it seems it is destined to do, but I found it to be rushed and under developed. A relatively simple story about rich families and trouble finding love, or rather, a rich woman settling for a mate she doesn’t truly love due to perceived family pressures. This was a classic read about a boy getting the girl that is determined as “out of his league.” This whole book reeked of #FirstWorldProblems from the first page to the last and while it was certainly cheesy (which is actually okay for me), it was rushed to execution and irritated me throughout with its rich people problems.

If you are looking to escape into a holiday chick flick, I advise waiting to catch this one on the lifetime holiday schedule (as it was picked up as movie rights). Until then, we still have Thanksgiving to survive before the Christmas music, books and movies really begin.

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

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

Publication Date: September 26th, 2017

Rating: 2.45 Stars

Set in the mind of stereotypical teenager, Matt, as he realizes one day he’s fallen in love with his best friend and neighbor, Tabby.  Their story together, as narrated by Matt, A Short History of the Girl Next Door.

*As a warning to all parents, this is narrated by a male teenage character.  This means there is excessive swearing and inappropriate thoughts/conversation topics.  The author does an okay job of keeping it to a minimum/mild level.*

I was drawn to this book for the classic, dramatic high school novel it seemed to promise.  I looked forward to the basketball references it appeared contain and the high school friendships/loves it alluded at in its description.

Despite delivering on many of the things I was hoping for, this novel still seemed to fall short.  The author took the approach of using Matt to narrate in the first person.  While this is not all that unusual in many books, especially one fitting this description, it came off as lazy.  In narrating this book from Matt’s perspective, it allowed the author to focus on developing Tabby, rather than developing Matt.  The author seemed to assume we would relate and feel empathetic or love towards Matt by giving us the opportunity to ride along in his head throughout the book. That was not the case, I found it harder to engage in the story line and really relate to Matt.

Author, Jared Reck, is a teacher himself.  In this book he did an incredible job of creating an accurate picture of high school, boys’ friendships and stereotypical drama one may or may not have encountered in their own high school experience.  As a reader, I was able to easily visualize the memories Matt paints for us in his head.  However, the book didn’t really start for me until about two-thirds of the way through, when the emotional story telling began.

Ultimately, this was a hard book to swallow.  Despite the first person narrative, I failed to develop a connection with the main character and did not enjoy the male, teenage references and degradation of women.

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

From Book to Big Screen: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Publication Date: October 10th, 2017

Rating: 3.20 Stars

Admittedly, this was my first Agatha Christie book. For starters, author Agatha Christie is a #girlboss, her books are outsold ONLY by the Bible and Shakespeare, selling over one billion in the English language and another billion in translations! She is also the only crime writer to have created two equally famous and loved characters: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, I chose a Hercule Poirot novel, Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery.

Typically, I don’t start reading a book part way through a series. This specific book is #10 in the Hercule Poirot Series.  I chose to make an exception to my rule seeing as a new movie, by the same name, is set to be released November 10th. Watch the trailer here to see more.

Given the time period of this book I was forced to reorient my brain to think early 1900’s, this caused me a few cases of re-reading to ensure I was grasping the dialogue and cues of each character. Also, given this book takes place in Europe and, as hinted by the French nature of Hercule Poirot’s name, it is unsurprising there were many French words dispersed throughout the book, some of which may have been lost in translation with my English-only brain.

Regardless, my favorite thing about this book was how it was laid out. There were three distinct parts. The first part of the book worked to establish the facts. The second part laid out the evidence, which was organized nicely and consisted of Hercule interviewing each passenger. Lastly, the third and final part was the deciding of the guilty. My analytical, organized personality was in heaven with this book’s layout. I knew Hercule’s intentions exactly, as he worked logically, and the book made it easy to follow in the moving from one intention (facts) to the next (evidence). Also, seeing as the suspects were confined to whomever was on the train, no additional characters were introduced, making it an easy mystery to follow, with a great cast of diverse characters to boot.

Despite all this, I found the ending to be rather unsatisfying. I am one to enjoy a great mystery, trying to guess the outcome or “whodunit,” but the manner of solving this case was entirely outside of the reader’s hands. There were far too many lucky “guesses” of Hercule Poirot and the correlations tying passengers together were done so in a way the reader would have had no relation to or ability to guess for themselves. Essentially, there was no way the reader could have guessed the outcome because there was no way the reader could have possibly connected the dots simply by reading the book as it was put forth.

*Disclaimer: This book was generously provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From Actress to Author: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Publication Date: November 7th, 2017

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

You may know author, Krysten Ritter, from her lead roles in Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, but she is breaking into a new role as an author with her debut novel Bonfire. Admittedly, I am not a big Marvel fan and haven’t particularly been drawn to Krysten’s acting work, but I LOVED her as an author and I definitely look forward to more work penned by her.

This book provided a simple, but complex storyline as Lawyer Abby Williams returns home to small town Indiana for the first time in a decade. Abby is investigating the local plastics factory, despite the town’s infatuation with said plant, Optimal Plastics, whom gives back to the town and remains the area’s largest employer. As the reader, we are seamlessly introduced to Abby’s high school acquaintances and made privy to all the torturous high school experiences Abby faced.

I finished this book in record time as I worked to unravel what actually happened ten years ago, how it happened and who did it. This was a truly griping debut with just enough twists to grab hold and keep you reading while maintaining ease and engagement. I look forward to the bright writing career ahead for Krysten.

However, one area for improvement that I found was the title. The name “Bonfire” did not seem powerful enough, nor did it resonate with me after reading this. A title like “Never Coming Back,” “Optimal Cares,” or something more clever would have stood out to me more. The cover and title seemed too simple for such a powerfully packed novel. Nonetheless, be sure to pick up a copy tomorrow, November 7th and see Krysten Ritter’s writing talent for yourself.

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

Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women by Roseanne Montillo

Publication Date: October 17th, 2017

Stars: 5 Stars

This book was an easy choice. As a *retired* female athlete I often forget about the women whom came before me and paved the way to allow me to play collegiate soccer. These women allowed me the opportunity to choose sporting practices rather than sewing practices. This riveting non-fiction was exactly what I needed to not only remind me to keep fighting for women’s sports, and women’s rights in general, but also humble me for the opportunities I have had that others before me have not.

Betty Robinson was a female track athlete in an era when men’s sports prevailed. While track never appealed to me (who WANTS to run for fun, isn’t that punishment?), my cousins were record-holding track and field athletes all through high school. This connection, through my cousins, only helped to further draw me into this book. Conversely, I’d recently finished The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the similarities in time period and storyline captured my intrigue as well.

Despite the very title of this book holding Betty Robinson’s name, there are several other prevalent female track athletes mentioned within. These names included: Polish-American Stella Walsh, Texan Babe Didrikson, the first African-American female to compete in the Olympics, Tidye Pickett, and young Helen Stephens. Without giving away too much, appearances of these women and the muscles they possessed caused extreme out roar in the media and public. Remember, this was a time that believed women ONLY belonged in the kitchen and definitely should not possess “manly muscles” gained from athletics.

This story follows Betty from a 16-year-old, discovered for her speed after running down and catching a morning commuter train, to a 20-something Betty recovering from a plane crash and never expected to run again. Throughout, Betty’s resolve, resiliency and strength are on full display, and while she may not have fully understood her place in history at the time, it is clear to the reader how important those 1928 Olympics would become for female athletes in the United States.

As a side note, it was interesting to see the different takes on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After having just finished The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which followed a MEN’s rowing team and their treatment/accommodations in Berlin, it was certainly eye opening when compared to the WOMEN’s track and field team’s treatment and accommodations. Even the comparisons within the books regarding swimmer Eleanor Holm and her removal from the Olympic team while aboard the USS Manhattan on the way to Berlin, differed when told from the women’s point of view.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books, in conjunction with the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.