This Will By My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

Publication Date: January 30th, 2018

Rating: 3.45 Stars

This book was a first for me. My first collection of essays, my first in depth read on what it is like to be a black female in America and the first book in which I will NEVER be able to truly empathize with an author, or characters the author has created within, because of my skin color. As author, Morgan Jerkins so eloquently wrote on page 170, “they were sympathetic, but they weren’t capable of true empathy – this fear wasn’t theirs to know.” This sentence houses one critical difference in my white world and Morgan’s black world: I simply cannot understand what she has gone through, and continues to go through, the fear she has faced, and continues to face, because I will never have to experience it on the same level as her. Granted, on one level I can relate to the fear all females will encounter at some point, but her fear goes further than anything I will ever experience, she is a layer beyond anything I CAN experience – her skin color compounds her fear.

This Will Be My Undoing is full of raw emotion. Jerkins, allows us into her interpersonal most thoughts as we experience life through her. She allows us to experience an otherwise uninteresting cheerleading tryouts, through the mind of a black 10-year old. She takes us through her personal thoughts on her body, relationships and academic encounters. Even people I otherwise idolize, such as Michelle Obama, take on an entirely different meaning for her. The talent and voice portrayed within strongly resonated with me (albeit some were TMI), causing me to re-evaluate my own experiences, encounters and world events through a new lens. Jerkins’ skill appears effortless within each essay, while her drive toward success is palpable, and she appears to be only just beginning.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Lullaby Road (Ben Jones #2) by James Anderson

Publication Date: January 16th, 2018

Rating: 3.49 Stars

Some background on me is necessary in understanding why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. For starters, I reside in Iowa. For those that don’t know, Iowa is a HUGE trucking state. Not only do we house The World’s Largest Truck Stop, but Interstate 80 (I-80) cuts directly across Iowa, providing us an endless supply of trucks on our interstates. Secondly, both of my grandfathers were truck drivers. My mother’s father drove trucks up until, and even beyond, retirement. From milk delivery, to hauling and dump trucks, my maternal grandfather did it all. It is because of these relations that I so deeply fell into this book.

Lullaby Road is set in Utah, along a thoroughly abandoned stretch of Highway 117, as we buckle in for an absorbing ride with Ben Jones during his daily desert deliveries. Like Iowa, Utah provides miles of flat, uninhabited road with unpredictable, ever-changing weather…so I felt right at home. Author, James Anderson’s poetic background was on full display through his enchanting character creations and “desert rat” living arrangements; he kept the reader held through an exciting week on the road with Ben Jones. However, Lullaby Road’s finale brought us an abrupt ending that ultimately felt unsatisfying and while I do hope to see more from Ben Jones, I would have enjoyed a smoother ending to this one.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England #2) by Roseanna M. White

Publication Date: January 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

The trailer for this book can be found at https://bit.ly/ASongUnheardTrailer and features incredible talent on the violin, more of which can be read about within the pages of this book. A Song Unheard is book two of the Shadows Over England series, and while I have not read book one, I did not find that this hindered my abilities to fully enjoy this second book in any way.

Author Roseanna M. White, displays incredible talent as we are transported to WWI London, Wales and Brussels. Willa Forsythe, one of London’s top thieves is put on assignment in Wales as she is to use her talents to steal a cypher from famous violinist, Lukas De Wilde. An otherwise unrecognizable era, is not lost to historical detail, as the setting focuses in on relatable dialogue, dress and scenery.

Lukas’ story as a violinist in a Wales based orchestra closely mirrors a traveling orchestra that truly existed during this period. While Lukas’ backstory also incorporates the seriousness of locating and helping refugees, the historical significance is not lost within the budding romance that is tangled throughout.

In Willa’s character, White gives us a female, badass leading character, whom is fiercely independent, refuses to be wooed by a man and is extraordinarily talented on the violin to boot. All in all, a great combination for an entertaining, historical romantic fiction.

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

The Divinity Bureau by Tessa Clare

Publication Date: September 21st, 2017

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Independent of the story within this book author, Tessa Clare, is a success story in and of herself. After a roller-coaster of a childhood, she became homeless at the age of 18 while working full-time and putting herself through college. It is during this time when the story of The Divinity Bureau began to formulate. Four years later this book came full circle.

Tessa Clare is not the author’s real name. It is not uncommon for authors, like actors, to create a pen name to write and publish books under. However, Tessa Clare has not chosen a pen name for convenience, but rather out of fear. In her blog post she indicates she has hidden her real name for fear of her physically and emotionally abusive family finding her. The extraordinary ending to this personal tale is that Tessa has overcome so much to write such a powerfully heroic story within a dystopian world.

The Divinity Bureau sets the stage for government conspiracy and corruption while successfully weaving in a romance for the ages in this new young adult, dystopian novel by debut author, Tessa Clare. In a world of overpopulation the United States, South America and Canada have been divided into colonies. Within these colonies the government holds the control to randomly select who lives and who dies every quarter. But, when 19-year-old April McIntyre’s name is selected Bureau IT employee, Roman Irvine, decides it must be a mistake, in an age of immortality no one under age 100 is ever selected.

The Divinity Bureau delivers a fast paced read as Romeo and Juliet meet modern day Hunger Games. In fact it would come as no surprise to see this romance for the ages one day hit the big screen. Be sure to pick up a copy and follow Tessa Clare as she proves an author to watch out for.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Rancher’s Baby by Maisey Yates

Publication Date: January 1st, 2018

Rating: 1 ¾ Stars

This book seemed forced from the get go, as Serena is called to the funeral of her ex-husband, reuniting her with her college crush and best friend, Knox. When ex-husband, Will, walks into his own funeral Knox determines Selena and him are at risk of a “threat”, causing Knox the NEED to stay at Serena’s remote cabin for an indeterminate amount of time, until the threat is diminished.

Knox’s perceived “threat” is incredibly unbelievable as the author attempts to find a reason to throw Serena and Knox into close proximity. After the first few pages the “threat” is all but forgotten and barely mentioned as the book progresses (not to mention the threat is never resolved within the book). It is also difficult to envision these two taking said “threat” seriously as they go camping alone in the woods and to public charity events together.

Despite this haphazard attempt to throw these two together, the romance lacks steam while the plot lacks believability. The book does have some redeeming qualities as it touches on loss, grief and regret; stemming from the “death” of Serena’s ex-husband Will, and Knox’s young daughter.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.

Three Reviews: Terminal Secret by Mark Gilleo, Improvement by Joan Silber & Imagine That by Mark Fins

Terminal Secret by Mark Gilleo

Publication Date: September 26th, 2017

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

My New Year resolution consisted of FINALLY tackling my “to-be-read” pile that has begun to get worryingly large.  By happenstance I plucked this book off the top of my pile first and boy did it set a high bar!  I was looking forward to this read as I had not heard of the author and it promised to get me back to my love for police procedurals.

A private investigator and Washington D.C. Detectives working seemingly disconnected murder cases come crashing together in an unexpected way in this new novel by Mark Gilleo.  Without giving away any of the entertaining details, Gilleo perfectly merges the intricacies of the crime while constantly piquing the readers’ interests.

Admittedly, this book included some obvious history between two of the main characters, Dan and Wallace.  While this does not seem to be a sequel, the history between the two is not thoroughly elaborated on within the pages of this book.  Despite this, Terminal Secret provided an intensely entertaining read.  Any fans of police procedurals, such as Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly that seek a light hearted read should definitely pick this one up!

*Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.


Improvement by Joan Silber

Publication Date: November 14th, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

A single mother in Harlem, an independent aunt with a youthful past in Turkey, and the decisions they’ve made including the implications that result.  A story of that ties each of us has to one another, whether we are aware of it or not.

Like the rugs Kiki sold in Turkey, each of author Joan Silber’s characters are intricately woven into one another.  Improvement establishes itself to be an incredible work of fiction as Silber skillfully ensnares the reader by lending each character a writing style and voice of their own, successfully connecting us more deeply to the characters within.

This novel gave glimpses of recognition to a beloved favorite, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, despite its comparatively less satisfying ending.  Ultimately, Improvement held more story within its 250 pages than many of the books currently in circulation.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.


Imagine That by Mark Fins

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

A heartwarming story set in the imagination of an eight-year-old, gifted child.  I picked up this book as I felt a loose relation to my own brother, based on the book’s description.  My brother grew up gifted and skilled in the art of entertaining himself, not unlike Mark Lenard, the main character of this book.  I vividly remember how easy it was to bring my younger brother out shopping with my mother and me, as we knew he would be easily entertained with something as simple as a clothes hanger, playing for hours on end in his own mind.  I was so unlike him in this respect it always entranced me to watch him play, wonder what exactly was really happening in the world he’d created for himself.  The similarities ended there however, as Mark struggled to find friends, finding them in unusual places and wondering into trouble as he acts out his imaginations.

Imagine That teaches us all a little more about love and the important things in life, uniting us emotionally and humbly to the characters created within.  I loved the inclusion of Jewish culture and religion throughout this book, it combined in teaching me above and beyond the obvious themes of the book.

*Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: Into the Air by A.K. Downing

BE SURE TO PICK UP A COPY OF THIS BOOK: FREE on Kindle January 11-13th

Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Summary: When Mia Bryn escapes her underground compound and travels into the air, she never imagines her world will explode. Separated from her father and attacked by creatures she never knew existed, Mia flees into the forest. Within hours, she finds an abandoned girl, discovers a link to her missing mother, and meets beautiful, golden-eyed Archer. But why is an ordinary girl from a compound being hunted? And how can Mia survive in a world she knows nothing about?

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About the Author

a.k. downing

A.K. Downing’s young-adult novel, Into the Air, is a 2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story follows the adventure of teenager Mia Bryn as she leaves the safety of her underground compound and tries to survive in a world no one has inhabited for more than a hundred years. Growing up in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, Aimee spent her summers exploring the fields, woods, and orchards of her grandparents’ farm. She was inspired by prepper shows and survivalist websites to create a story that weaves together the best aspects of young adult fiction – adventure, teenage angst, and a hint of romance. Aimee studied graphic design at Kent State University and currently works as a Creative Director. She enjoys history and camping and feels there is no better way to see the world than from the top of a horse.

Author Links:

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Into the Air by A.K. Downing

Publication Date: September 29th, 2016

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

Into the Air by A.K. Downing is book 1 of The Air Series, a new dystopian series you didn’t know you NEEDED. Think Hunger Games mixed with Allegiant as Mia Bryn hungers to go above ground into the air after living her life in the underground communities safe from the radiation levels above ground. But, when her invitation to join the City Site above ground comes, her world is quickly ripped apart. Suddenly, Mia must learn to survive on her own, in a world above ground, as she struggles to unravel her family’s mystery. Love, loss, deception and friendships bubble to the surface in this not to be missed series by A.K. Downing.

The reader quickly falls for Mia as you can’t help but feel alongside her as she experiences air, sky, trees and sunsets for the very first time. Mia’s descriptive encounters of each new experience certainly make you want to wander outside and re-experience it for yourself. But beyond Mia’s encounters, Downing has created a surreal experience of radioactive destruction above ground, in a seemingly plausible storyline, making you want to befriend the “dooms day preparers” next door.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me as part of this tour, in exchange for an honest review.

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren

Publication Date: January 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

“There’s something to be said for being around people who knew you before you were a grown-up, before everything changed” (p. 124). This romance goes beyond that of a love story as the reader is thrown into the actionable life of an undercover FBI agent coming off assignment and a group of people (FBI agent included) who survived a horrific high school shooting as they are suddenly thrown back together 12 years later for the filming of a documentary on the subject.

The news, as of late, is sad and painful. Shootings and gun fueled massacres seem to dominate the news waves. Gun control has taken a front seat in political debates and yet this book beautifully and tragically allows us to see the effects of the people so deeply affected and traumatized without the making it politically charged. In fact, The Ones Who Got Away, shifts the focus from the negative outcomes of guns to create a beautifully painful love story of two survivors and the friendships that arose from the ashes.

This isn’t a book focused on gun control. It isn’t a book focused on the families of lost children, but rather a book on the happiness that can still result in life despite horrific experiences.

*Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

2017: My Year in Books

For those that have been asking, I wanted to provide an easy reference to all the books in 2017 that I rated 5 stars! Across 2017, I read 96 total books or 29,303 pages.  These books were read across many platforms including hardback, paperback, Kindle ebooks and pdfs.

I am horrible at making decisions, but dare I say my favorite book(s) of the year were:

  1. Non-Fiction: The Mole People by Jennifer Toth (unfairly this will always be a favorite of mine, I just happened to re-read it this year)
  2. Fiction: This was a harder decision so I’ve chosen three
    1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This one fed into my unhealthy addiction to Hollywood Gossip mag
    2. The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
    3. The Heart’s Invisible Fury by John Boyne
  3. Young Adult Fiction: Another tough category to pick a favorite in
    1. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan – although I’m told this must be listened to in an audiobook for its incredible music
    2. Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer
  4. Young Adult Non-Fiction: The Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today by Candlewick Press – Unfortunately this doesn’t publish until March 2018 so be sure to pick up your copy then

All books read in 2017 given 5 Star ratings (in no particular order) include:

  1. Artemis by Andy Weir
  2. House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
  3. The Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today by Candlewick Press
  4. When Hope Calls by David Lui
  5. Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women by Roseanne Montillo
  6. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
  7. Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe by Inara Verzemnieks
  8. Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer
  9. The Mountains Between Us by Charles Martin – although please do not let the movie persuade you into not reading the book as I was not a fan of the movie
  10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  11. The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth
  12. The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster
  13. Slider by Pete Hautman
  14. A Million Junes by Emily Henry
  15. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  16. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  17. The Circle by Dave Eggers – another case of the book being better than the movie
  18. The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
  19. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – fed into my unhealthy Sherlock Holmes addiction
  20. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  21. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  22. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
  23. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Actor to Author: Why We Don’t Suck by Denis Leary

Publication Date: October 24th, 2017

Rating: 2 ¾ Stars

Admittedly this is not a book I would typically be drawn to. I try at all costs to avoid negative, politically charged books as I see a plethora of this every day on the news, at work, etc. but when the opportunity presented itself to read a book by Hollywood Actor Denis Leary, regardless of its subject, I thought “why not?”

You may know Denis Leary as the actor in TV Series Rescue Me or as the voice of Diego in Ice Age. You may even know his wife Ann Leary as New York Times bestselling author of The Good House or The Children. But, you most likely do NOT know Denis Leary as an author. As an author, he has written ten books, one of which is Why We Don’t Suck.

Why We Don’t Suck is written as a stream of conscious. As thoughts presented themselves, regardless of the subject, Leary wrote them down within the pages of this book (and maybe even the pages of 10 other books…). The subject matter of this particular book ranges from the political climate of Trump, Clinton and yes even Bernie, to Denis’ own celebrity encounters, while rounding out with discussion on the future as run by the millennial generation.

I found that I actually enjoyed much of what he had to say, it was certainly entertaining if nothing else. The most powerful of all subjects addressed regarded political affiliation. One story on said topic involved Leary’s ramblings surrounding twelve different people in his life. Two such people discussed were friend, Michael J. Fox, and a firefighting cousin. All twelve of the people Leary touches upon faced or continue to face adversity, like that of the two identified above. From being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 29 to perishing in the line of duty, Leary’s point remains the same: these twelve individuals possess strength and remain heroes in their own right, regardless of who they voted for. The moral presented is all too often forgotten as we bicker about “Trump this” or “Hillary that.”

While Leary’s ramblings often seemed just that…ramblings…he did have moments of eye opening remarks that brought the spotlight back on ourselves as we are forced to reflect on the America we’ve become, or maybe always were. Nevertheless, the writing WAS entertaining, albeit random and wandering at times, it is clear Denis would definitely be fun to have around the dinner table and maybe even your bookshelf.

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