Friday, May 17, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries
Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
352 Pages
Publication date: March 5, 2019

Murders are happening in the small town of  Sussex all related to the old home of R.M. Holland turned Talgarth High School. Detective Sergent Harbinder Kaur is called in to solve the case revolving around Clare Cassidy.

In The Stranger Diaries, we meet a whole cast of students, teachers and others who enrich this masterful telling of a murder tale fit for a fireside ghost story.  The characters are well fleshed out, the communication is effortless and the not knowing who could be hanging around the corner of the wall was an anticipatory chilling feeling.  I found the story of The Stranger by R.M. Holland told within The Stranger Diaries as a genius move by Ms. Griffiths. You never really knew if the story being told was prevalent to the book or not.  You will have to read it to find out. 

I couldn't put this book down. I found it swerving and curving on who the murderer could be and never suspected who it turned out to be at the end. That is the sign of a good book. 

A who-done-it story within a  twisted thriller how could you not like The Stranger Diaries written by Elly Griffiths?  

I give Stranger Diaries 5 stars for just a good old fashioned murder mystery. :)

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Edna's Gift by Susan Rudnick

Edna's Gift: How My Broken Sister Taught Me To Be Whole
Susan Rudnick
She Writes Press
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
208 Pages

Susan's Rudnick's debut autobiography was filled with heartache, inspiration, and love between two sisters who fight through individual disabilities that in this book becomes a strength for the author, "Susie" as her sister Edna called her.

Even though we never really know what Edna's disability is, we know that Edna is filled with a heart bigger than most in the world. Her understanding of others and her ability to communicate through limited words does not stop her communication through her service and actions. Edna is a beautiful soul.

A reader will appreciate the openness of Susan's story which felt more like a journal of personal struggle, success and doubt filled years of who she is and how she is seen. It is always reaffirming to the reader to know that other people struggle daily just like they do. People who we see as having it all put together like I do in Susan Rudnick. This book helps you appreciate other's lives, other's struggles, and other's success in finally realizing that what helps us become whole is the love, interaction, and service between people.

Susan's struggle with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser Syndrome, "a congenital disorder of the female reproductive system. Girls with MRKH have normal ovaries and fallopian tubes, an absent or incomplete vagina, no cervix and either an underdeveloped uterus (uterine remnant) or no uterus at all."  is the most heartbreaking of all when she finds out she will never be able to give birth to her own child. Susan is haunted for decades of not realizing her dream of motherhood. However, she is finally able to overcome her self doubt, and fulfill her dream through adoption and finally finding the right man to have a child with- her daughter, Rebecca.

The ending is horrific, heartbreaking and just well, sad. I am in awe of the lessons that Susan learns from Edna's death and the perspective she gives her readers on each second of her heartache. Susan Rudnick, in my opinion, is one strong woman.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars for inspiration and forthrightness.

Thanks to She Writes Press for the opportunity to read this autobiography in lieu of my honest review.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Camp Grandma by Marianne Waggoner Day

Camp Grandma
Marianne Waggoner Day
She Writes Press
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
177 Pages

Camp Grandma came to me at a perfect time. A few short weeks ago I became a grandma to a little girl. Over these past nine months, I have been wondering what kind of a grandma I want to be and how I can support my daughter and her husband in loving our little one. This book gave me some great ideas. My grandmother was incredible at infusing her life experiences to us through baking, sewing, and bowling with each of her grandchildren.  I want to be that kind of grandma also.

Camp Grandma is a semi-handbook on how to become a role model, a teacher, a mentor and someone who a grandchild can feel has the very best wishes for them.

Some of this book is pure genius- ideas stemming from the author's own experiences and her values shine light on ways to teach the next generation, however, other parts of this book became a little a too wordy through her experiences like work situations and other life stories that got in the way which made it hard to completely appreciate all the ideas and the good tips of helping your grandchildren become contributing and helpful citizens of the world around them. I appreciate the fact that the life lessons she learned and the experiences she learned them from were an avenue for us to see where the lessons came from they just didn't speak to me as being as important in the book and more distracting for a reader who wants to bounce off ideas from others.

I did love how the author, Marianne Waggoner Day portrayed her grandchildren. They were Impish, easily distracted and very willing when they settled down to learn from their grandmother. These experiences, the interactions with her grandchildren are what spread sunshine through the book.

The sunshine of the book (her grandchildren) and the activity sections of each value Ms. Day was teaching were my favorite parts of the book.  Too bad we couldn't get these sections of the book and the life experiences in a more simplistic format.

Thanks to SheWritesPress for the opportunity to read Camp Grandma in lieu of my honest review.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosney

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay
Published by St. Martin's Press
Released: October 2018
Genre: Fiction 
   240 Pages

A word of Advice:  

If you haven't fallen in love with Paris from reading other books, don't read this book, yet! Read something else, like The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, or my favorite, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  I recommend you do this only because I want you to love The Rain Watcher. 

If you have no Parisian reading experience The Rain Watcher might just make you feel as if it is one dreary city from it's setting. I promise it is not!!! Prop up your reading taste buds. I Promise you won't regret it. 

And now for a short review:

The Seine River is bursting at its seams and so it seems is the Malagarde Family who meets in Paris for their Patriarch Paul's 70's birthday. Each family member has their own niche in the world and each family member holds secrets that they are afraid will disrupt the family if anyone in the family finds out. The Rain Watcher tells the story of a father and son relationship that hasn't age well over time. It tells the story of a mother who has shut down her emotions after her son tells his truths, and it tells the story of a sister who seems all put together but may not be as put together as she seems.

This book is fraught with emotion. It is a hard book to get into, however, don't give up! Plug on, because once you do, you will enjoy every second of your journey.

Author Tatiana de Rosnay, the author of Sarah's Key (one realistic WWII emotionally draining book. If you haven't read it or watched the movie, you really should! Make sure you have some Kleenex) gives another stunning book to the reading world that pulls your heartstrings, makes you reevaluate your relationships and hopefully makes you a better friend, daughter/son, sister/brother, mother/father, and or, wife/husband/partner. 

I gave this book this rating for honest familial relationships, real conflict, and picturesque writing. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli

The Perfume Burned His Eyes
Michael Imperioli
Akashic Books
256 Pages

What does the music of Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, The 1970s, Suicide, Sex, drugs,  & alcohol, a  Young Boy from Queens coming of age in Manhatten, and mass hysteria have in common??? They are the elements of a Historical Fiction debut novel by Sopranos actor, Michael Imperioli.

The gist of the story is this: Matthew’s father split on his mother when he was a baby. Matthew’s mother inherited the family fortune and moves Matthew to a world so foreign from his Queens upbringing even though they only move across the East River to Manhatten.  Matthew meets Veronica his spirit animal who teaches him to think differently than he might have to live in his lonely shell. Then, Matthew delivers food to an apartment a few floors above his own which houses, none other than the musician Lou Reed.

My Review:

Author Michael Imperioli's debut novel is stunningly vivid. His characters, especially Matthew, are well fleshed out, they are easy to get to know, easy to understand why they have the personalities they have and easy to be compassionate towards. I wanted to adopt Matthew's friend Veronica and take her away from her traumatic life and show her what a good family looks like. How she can be loved for being herself. That she doesn't have to sell herself just to exist. The Climatic twist between Matthew and Veronica is heartbreaking. I cried in realistic horror. As the unlikely father figure musician Lou Reed teaches Matthew confidence, self-respect, and appreciation for the life that Matthew has with this mother.

The Vibe of Manhatten flows in the background like a hidden character. The noises, the smells, and people add to the setting of The Perfume Burned His Eyes.

This book has some elements of teen prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse as part of a coming of age novel.

I gave this book 4 stars for keeping me emotionally involved, the historical fiction story about Lou Reed and amazing writing for a new author

I thank Akashic Books via Edelweiss+ for the opportunity to read The Perfume Burned His Eyes for my honest opinion.

Just for fun -- 
here is an interview of author Michael Imperioli on The Build and his new show Alex Inc. 

When Charley Met Emma

Publisher: Beaming Books 
32 Pages
up to age 7 (although I really enjoyed it as an adult)
release date: March 12, 2019

Congrats to author, Amy Webb on the release yesterday of your book When Charley met Emma. Such a compassionate, thoughtful, must read book. Beautifully illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard. Suggested for ages 3-7.

I thought I would do a vlog review today. Let me know if you like it. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Womanish by Kim McLarin

"Womanish: (Opp. of "girlish," ie. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, "you acting womanish," i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior... Acting grown up. Being grown up..." - From Alice Walker's Definition of a "Womanist"  from In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist Prose.

Author Kim McLarin offers a wide view of her life and the aspect of trying to find love through honesty and no holds bar use of words. I gathered so many amazing quotes from throughout the book. I grew to understand a life that in no way would I have experienced growing up in Utah. Do I understand being teased, picked on and being different than my peers? Absolutely.  However, I did not live in a world where there was a systematic generational struggle to just been seen as an equal. I can't imagine having to deal with being a woman and being a minority at the same time. That is where this book helped me to understand the struggle that Black Women encountered as being a double minority. 

I have been told by friends that my review might not be accepted by some people because I am White. This is absurd. I can still enjoy a book no matter the color of an author's skin or the color of my skin (which by the way is a light caramel color as I have a natural tan pigment thanks to my German ancestry.)  As a reader, I can relate to what the author writes about on the whole because I am an empathetic, compassionate and educated people watcher.  My skin color in no way negates my being able to review this book.

Ms. McLarin takes up a case in point in her book to prove my view of being able to understand. One of her friends, a Black Women gave an example at the workplace, 

"My distrust of white women at work has escalated. It wasn't something that I thought about a whole lot previously, but recently I've become aware of one who smiles in my face but whom I've learned has done some serious backstabbing behind my, well, back..." 
I tend to find this, for me, to be more of a gender experience, not a racial experience as many women are caustic to other women. So I relate to what Ms. McLarin's friend is saying as I too have had that happen to me throughout my life. 

Womanish is a handbook for rising out of the ashes and being who you are, not how people see you...

There are so many humanistic truths in this book that I had to keep re-reading to make sure I didn't miss any of the realities this book talks about. There are also so many ugly things that Ms. McLarin has gone through with her experiences of dating and "online dating" and which by reading this book has shown me to have made her stronger, and yet a tad cynical about love. I think that one of my sons would agree with her that "online dating" just sucks all the way around.

Using key quotes from other authors, motivational speakers and real-life people to reinforce her experiences are a gold mine. I especially liked Page 101 where she talks about the lies we believe about ourselves being the center of the universe from babyhood on to whenever either our parents or the world teaches us the opposite. If only all people would learn this lesson.  And still, at various times in our lives, we go back to that "lie" that we are "better than", more "special than" someone else.  This is something I agree with -- it is pure bunk no one is better than anyone else! These are things she has taught her daughter trying to break the "wrong messaging" in her head about being inferior to a majority race. It's what I taught my daughter also that she is fierce, level-headed and can make decisions based on her "truths" not what others see or think of her and still capable of understanding that others are her equals and deserve her respect.

Ms. McLarin talks about gender equality. Her discussion about the physical acts of sex and the way men and women differ in their thoughts about it was refreshing. It was to the point, hilariously ironic and overall factual. No matter what a man thinks about how sex for a woman it's all about "emotions" that is neither the sole desire or the actual truth. Give me a break women don't feel desire just for the sake of wanting sex? Right...

To be honest, did I agree with all of what was written in Womanish? No. That my friends are the joys of reading and opening up your heart to understanding. It's like communicating with a friend, you don't always agree with their views but you can still be accepting of their views as they see it and apply those things you hadn't thought about and agree with into your heart and mind which will help make your life better and your dealings with your fellow humans more meaningful.

I wish that my copy wasn't an ARC so that I could quote so many of the truths that she gives. It was an uplifting read from me although, I know that some non-Black readers will take offense to capitalization of B in black and not capitalizing W for white, which is just too bad because they will be missing the bigger story, and prove Ms. McLarin's point.

Womanish is filled with love, wisdom, truth and a residual of the ugliness that is racism and the strength of people who are trying to raise themselves up from a past filled with blockades of raising up to the equality of everyone else in the country at the same time inspiring her child to be the best of who she is and see life as it should be, not as it has been. 

Thanks to IG Publishing for the opportunity to read Womanish by Kim McLarin in lieu of my honest review. 

You can read this book now as it was released on January 22, 2019. Help the "moms and pops" of the industry to stay open... buy the book at your favorite Indie Bookseller, or if you really must buy from your local big box bookstore to keep your taxes low by supporting your local community. 

For writing quality and honest life lessons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Once upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Published by Atria Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
480 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

You guys, Once Upon a River is one dreamy Fantasy Mystery! This a book for your book club or just for the fact that you want to disappear into a world unlike your own.  

Diane Setterfield is a brilliant writer. The intertwining of story, the life experiences that cross over into other realms. The confusion that one little baby can create. Is so well told that you just can't put this book down.

Descriptions in this book, especially of the river, are like describing someone you love with all the emotions and senses that you hold for that person: anger, admiration, sensuality, cold-heartedness, the tinkle of laughter, the observation of movement when your child, spouse or lover walks away from you.  For example, 
"The River was quieter like this than when it dawdled. There was no idle splashing on the way, only the purposeful surge forwards, and behind the high-pitched ringing of the water on shingle at the river's edge was a kind of hum, the sort you would expect to hear inside your ears after a bell has been struck by a hammer and the audible ringing has died away. It had the shape of noise but lacked the sound, a sketch without color."
 Can you see it? Can you hear it? Dang, that is some lyrical writing!

I am not going to give any of this plot away, I fear that the joy from reading this book by me talking about the plotline will be taken away. It's just had that kind of impact on me.

If you love a good fantasy like Inkheart; Lord of the Rings; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe I can see you falling in love with this book.

By the way, If you haven't read Ms. Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale yet you should read that also. 😉

It's Just that good!!

*Thanks to Atria Books (an Imprint of Simon and Schuster) via Netgalley and for allowing me to read and review Once Upon a River in lieu of my honest review.