[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I received copies of the books contained in this post for purposes of review.]
September has a lot of great new book releases from true crime to historical fiction, to apocalyptic novels. Here’s what is on my radar this month.
Always the First to Die by R. J. Jacobs. A horror film actress returns to the manor where her first film was made, a place she swore she would never return to after the horrors that took place there. She is forced to return to the island to find her daughter as a category 4 hurricane hits, replaying the plot of the infamous horror film that made her famous. Releases September 13.
Children of the Catastrophe by Sarah Shoemaker. This historical fiction story begins in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire, 1908. Liana Demirgis is being thrust into the spotlight by her mother in order to find a husband. An arranged marriage is made between the Demirgis and Melopoulos families and Liana is wed to Vasili. We follow the couple’s lives as the massacre of Greeks and Armenians after World War I takes place. Paperback releases September 6.
Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird by Phillip Hoose. National Book Award and Newberry honor-winner Phillip Hoose dives into the history of the mockingbird and it’s present day use as the rallying call in the Hunger Games. This YA book uncovers the connections between humans and the mockingbird over the centuries from the White House to modern day books. Releases September 13.
Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer. Oh, I love Enola Holmes and she is at it again. This time, trying to keep a friend with dual personalities out of trouble, while her older brother Sherlock is tasked with bringing the girl back home. What trouble will Enola find herself in this time? Releases September 6.
Fall Guy by Archer Mayor. Book 33 in the Joe Gunther series. This one is for those who love detective novels. When the body of a burglar is found in the trunk of a stolen car, the Vermont Bureau of Investigation discovers evidence in the car linked to an old unsolved child abduction case. Joe Gunther leads his team on the hunt for this psychopath before he kills again. Releases September 27.
Harrow by Joy Williams. Her first novel since Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams creates an apocalyptic story about a gifted young girl who stumbles upon a resort filled with elderly inhabitants who want to violently punish corporations and those who created the environmental apocalypse. Releases September 14.
Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah. This is an incredible story that leads to complete doom every which way Koral turns. This new world was hard to understand in the beginning, but once the races begin, you get snared into its net and can’t help but hope that things will get better for Koral and her family. Will she win the race and help her family out of their ruin, especially when the entire world is stacked up against her? This South Asian inspired story releases September 6.
Nothing But the Night: Leopold & Loeb and the Truth Behind the Murder That Rocked 1920s America by Greg King and Penny Wilson. For my true crime lovers, I can’t sum this up any better than the actual synopsis. The synopsis alone makes my jaw drop. SYNOPSIS: Nearly a hundred years ago, two wealthy and privileged teenagers―Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb―were charged and convicted in a gruesome crime that would lead to the original “Trial of the Century”. Even in Jazz Age Chicago, the murder was uniquely shocking for the motive of the killers: well-to-do Jewish scions, full of promise, had killed fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks for the thrill of it. The trial was made even more sensational by the revelation of a love affair between the defendants and by defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who delivered one of the most famous defense summations of all time to save the boys from the death penalty. The story of their mad folie à deux, with Loeb portrayed as the psychopathic mastermind and Leopold as his infatuated disciple, has been endlessly repeated and accepted by history as fact. And none of it is true. Using twenty-first century investigative tools, forensics, and a modern understanding of the psychology of these infamous killers, Nothing but the Night turns history on its head. While Loeb has long been viewed as the architect behind the murders, King and Wilson’s new research points to Leopold as the dominant partner in the deadly relationship, uncovering a dark obsession with violence and sex. Nothing but the Night pulls readers into the troubled world of Leopold and Loeb, revealing a more horrifying tale of passion, obsession, and betrayal than history ever imagined. Releases September 20.
The Best Friend by Jessica Fellowes. For those who love thrillers, this book explores the friendship between two women. Friends at a young age, and then when men are introduced into their lives, everything takes a dark turn. Releases September 13.
The Deceptions by Jill Bialosky. This book qualifies for the tag of writing about strong women. As a woman’s life unravels at the seams, this teacher/poet spends her days in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sitting before the Greek and Roman gods. They come to life, forcing her to choose between myth and reality. This book is an exploration between ‘female sexuality and ambition.’ Releases September 6.
The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore. This retelling of Ivan the Terrible intertwines the tsar’s story with the mythical witch Baba Yaga. Yes, the witch who lived in a house with chicken legs. Part goddess and part mortal, she is blessed with a long life and youth. She is thrust into the tsar’s court to care for his ailing wife, Anastasia Romanovna, who was being poisoned by someone in the tsar’s court. It is rumored that Ivan’s volatile behavior came out after Anastasia’s death, thus beginning his reign of terror across Russia. This book intertwines the myths of the gods of old with the new Russia that formed as Christianity took over the land. Yaga faced more than just an irate tsar, she also faced an unknown evil that was taking over the land. Was this evil the workings of a madman or the amusement of the gods? Gilmore does an excellent job of making Yaga a participating spectator during this time in history. Yaga is seen as an inspiring demigod, a heroine, and not just an ugly, old witch. Releases September 20.
When I first read a few years ago that women detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detention centers were being sterilized involuntarily, I thought that cannot be true. After reading “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, I now understand the US Government has been using sterilization on the poor, especially on people of color over the last 100 years. And I’m mad as hell about it.
“Take My Hand” is a historical fiction novel loosely based on the 1973 Relf v. Weinberger case where two sisters, ages twelve and fourteen, were sterilized without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama by a federally funded agency. In this story, we follow Civil Townsend, a nurse hired by a clinic to help women and girls with their reproductive health. She believes that all women and girls should take care of their reproductive health. Her mission is to help them.
She is responsible for administering Depo-Provera shots to two girls living in a one room shanty where they live with their father and grandmother. They live in complete squalor.
The girls are ages 11 and 13. The youngest does not speak and has developmental issues. When Civil learns that the youngest has not even had her first menstrual cycle, she questions why the girl is required to receive birth control.
Her friend, Ty, informs her the shot is not FDA approved and causes cancer in animal subjects. This alarms Civil and she realizes this may be similar to the Tuskegee experiments. She decides to stop giving the girls the shots and either get them on birth control pills or altogether stop administering birth control to them since they are not sexually active.
But her supervisor is monitoring the situation and notices the doctored reports. She shows up at the girls’ home and gets dad and grandma (both cannot read) to sign a slip of paper to take the girls to the ‘clinic’ for their shots. At least, that’s what they thought they were signing.
When Civil visits to let the youngest girl know she got her into a special school, she discovers the girls were taken to a hospital to be sterilized. By the time she gets to the hospital, it’s already too late.
Ty’s parents are lawyers and decide to help the family get justice for what has happened. A young white man is assigned to the case to help them. It catches the eye of Senator Ted Kennedy and he brings the family to Washington, DC to tell a Senate committee what happened. The story makes national news and more stories surface from across the nation of women and girls forced to be sterilized by federally funded agencies.
Reports appear of mothers in the midst of childbirth forced to sign papers that will allow the doctor to sterilize them after the birth of their child. The doctors threaten to not deliver the child if they refuse to sign the papers. In California, doctors report that poor Hispanic women are forcibly sterilized. More and more stories come to light as to how bad the situation really is.
We have found that sterilization is the rule, not the exception. It is widely endemic in this country. It is a form of reproductive control.
Last year we did a survey and found that although two-thirds of federally funded clinics’ patients were white and only one third are Black, 43 percent of those sterilized are Black. A report from the United States government…found that between the summer of 1972 and the summer of 1973, twenty-five thousand adults were sterilized in federally funded clinics. Of these, 153 were under the age of eighteen.
“Take My Hand” is terrifying and shocking as you learn that this atrocity happened and continues to happen. This is a war waged against women, especially those who are poor.
Our bodies belonged to us. Poor, disabled, it didn’t matter. These were our bodies, and we had the right to decide what to do with them. It was as if they were just taking our bodies from us, as if we didn’t even belong to ourselves.
The fact that involuntary sterilization still occurs is unfathomable. How is it that an administration that is anti-abortion and pro-life is also pro-sterilization?
There’s also a conversation that underlies all of this and that is the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive health. Throughout the world, talking about any of this is taboo. From first periods to menopause, no one talks about women’s health. It is shunned. In some parts of the world, women and girls do not have access to sanitary napkins or tampons. Girls end up dropping out of school when they get their first periods, because they do not have access to something as basic as pads or tampons.
Sexual health is health care.
Women needed access to reliable birth control and information about their reproductive health.
One item that is very important to mention is that many of these women and girls felt like they had no choice but to accept sterilization. Those who accept government assistance (welfare, food stamps, housing, Medicaid) are subjected to constant government intervention. Government officials constantly came and went out of their homes. For some people, they were threatened that if they did not submit to sterilization, mandatory birth control, etc., they could lose their government assistance.
In some cases, people were not given the proper information on sterilization and Depo-Provera. They were not told that the surgery was not reversible. Side effects of Depo-Provera were not discussed. At times, clinics were not advised on the procedures regarding sterilization or the administering of it. Women and girls were not given alternatives to birth control. For thousands of women and girls, their right to have children was taken away from them without their consent.
That’s the most important thing here…their right was taken from them without their consent.
Women in prison as recently as 2006-2010 faced forced sterilization. Less than a hundred years ago, sterilization was forced on those institutionalized. Many women during that time were not mentally ill. A woman with irregular periods, or a woman whose husband wanted to rid themselves of their wife to marry another woman, could be institutionalized.
During the Trump administration, rumors of detained female immigrants who were forced to be sterilized made the news. But the only response became disgust, and then yesterday’s news.
The war on women needs to end. We don’t hear of men undergoing forced sterilization because they are poor or an immigrant. Their right to their own bodies is not under attack by the government. But for women, we are constantly threatened. It needs to stop. We need to stop being a taboo. Our reproductive health and overall women’s health needs to be considered important in the medical field. When I want to talk about menopause and what happens to the body changing, I need my doctor to be able to know what exactly that is and advise me on what to expect. When we are provided a vaccine, make it not just for men in mind, but women, too. Sanitary napkins and tampons should not be taxed. They are a necessity. It should be covered as a health need.
Why not provide adequate birth control to all women? There would be less abortions if women had the proper medical care and access to it. Give them other alternatives to birth control. Sterilization should be a choice, not something forced upon women by the government. Truthfully, I have to ask, why is the government so obsessed with controlling a woman’s body? Women must really scare them.
I have to say, this book made me mad. It is a difficult read, but necessary. Everyone needs to understand the way war is raged upon women, especially those who live in poverty and are a person of color. Women are not yesterday’s news. We are victimized daily in a numerous amount of ways, because we are women. It needs to end.
[All quotes are from “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez]
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]
Hey everyone! So May was a bit of a crazy month for me (as far as work goes), so I was not able to read everything I needed to read. I was not able to review a couple of books in my TBR pile for the site, so they are a bit late getting up on the blog. But no worries…I am reading them now!
I know that most avid readers read between 3-6 books a month. It is a bit unheard of for someone to read between 10-12 books a month (or more). Anything under 10 books is a bit of a slow month for me, especially when a couple of these were children’s books that I got through in about 20 minutes.
I will say that every book I read last month was great, except two. The Envious Siblings was morbid and I did not understand what I read. Behold the Sign was an old book I picked up at a library sale that I found interesting in the occult section. It’s that Supernatural girl in me that wants a bunker library like the Men of Letters do in the show. That’s why I picked it up.
So the annual collecting of my Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) took place over the last three days of May. I headed to the Book Expo, which is designed for industry people to meet with publishers and to discuss business. The Book Con takes place right after the Expo, and that event is for everyone else (i.e. all of the bibliophiles and book lovers out there).
I picked up over 150 titles. Yes, I will be busy.
Before the Expo, a mother of twin 10 year old girls told me about her dilemma with getting one of her daughters to read. She only reads comic books. It drove her mom crazy, because she wanted her to read books like her sister. But the girl’s response was, “But why would I give up pictures books?”
It made me think that maybe as bibliophiles we should not discriminate when it comes to how people choose to read. If comics and graphic novels get them to read, then we should be encouraging them to read more comics. Perhaps some comics will lead them to read books.
It’s keeping that in mind that I decided to expand on the types of reading material I review. I will be reviewing comics and graphic novels along with the other 150+ ARCs I picked up.
Over the last few weeks, I began research to determine the direction this site should go. I spoke with publishers and readers to determine what they want. One thing I discovered is that we are in need of content warnings on books. Not everyone will agree with that, but the people who do need it agree with this concept profusely.
So I decided to blog about books differently. I want to start listing in my reviews warnings about books that may have triggers. I am going to try to use the warning system below to help those readers who need the warnings. Everyone else can just ignore the notations.
If there is a trigger not listed in the graphic above that you would like included, please comment below. I will do my best starting in the June reads and reviews to list these triggers so that you will have a better understanding of what you are getting into when you pick up a book.
What Should Be Wild – This book is literally a modern day Grimm’s fairy tale…the scary kind. This isn’t the kind of book where you can guess what the outcome will be or what is going on. You have to leave the details to the writer. Julia Fine masterfully tells this story from beginning to end.
It is a very strange tale, but this is the kind of story that will stay with you like most Grimm’s fairy tales stay with you (especially the scary ones). I enjoyed this book. I did find it to be a bit of a strange story, but my heart went out to Maisie. Imagine spending your life never being touched, hugged or held, because your touch could kill them. I am happy that the author at least threw her a bone and let her have a dog that did not expire when she touched him.
There are so many elements in this story that make it scary. It’s not just Maisie’s touch of death. It’s the woods, evil people, shadows, and the people that have gone off into the woods, never to return. Maisie is the one that has to navigate through all of that to cure the woods (and herself) of the curse that plagues them.
Content Warning: [A, AC, D, K, S and V]
The Gown – What a marvelous book! I really enjoyed this one. Set in post-WWII era, in a time when people are trying to move forward with their lives. We are introduced to three main characters: Heather (present day), Miriam Dassin and Ann Hughes (1947). Heather is the grand-daughter of Ann Hughes. When this story begins, Ann has just passed away and has left her grand-daughter a box containing old photos and embroidered samples (that upon further searches online, she discovers they are from Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown). She is perplexed as to why her grandmother had these things saved for her. Where did she get the samples? Surely it was not clipped from the gown itself.
Ann never told her daughter or her grand-daughter about her life in England or that she was one of the embroiderers of Princess Elizabeth’s gown. Heather seeks out help from the only known clue she has – a photo of Ann with the famous artist Miriam Dassin.
The book switches between present day and the past to explain the special relationship between two women during one of the most important moments in British history. But instead of focusing on just the big wedding day, the story focuses on the women who helped create the beautiful gown and their own personal challenges. The book was absolutely beautifully done. I loved it from start to finish.
[Content Warning: D, R]
Good Omens – I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this story. I wanted to get through this book as quickly as I could because Amazon Prime was premiering the show on May 31. The book (and the show) did not disappoint. This is a humorous tale of an angel and a demon issuing in the apocalypse, only to discover they completely screwed everything up because they lost the anti-christ.
Who knew that an angel and a demon could become friends? They are on two separate sides, but then they realize that there is a third side…their own side, the one that loves their lives among the humans. If an apocalypse blows everything away, then all of the things they’ve grown to love about Earth will disappear. What a terrible universe that would be…for them.
They decide to ban together to save humanity, even though heaven and hell does not want that.
The Ghost Manuscript – You may start to see a theme with some of the books I am reading these days. That theme has everything to do with King Arthur. This is a new title from Kris Frieswick. I really loved this book more than I thought I would. It’s like The Librarians meet Indiana Jones (and a female Indiana Jones at that). I also find it ironic that our heroine’s last name is Jones, so it adds to the Indiana Jones effect. There are a lot of strong female characters that put the men to shame in this book. It’s a nice change. I highly recommend this book. This is book one in a series.
[Content Warning: D, S, V]
CHILDREN & YA
The Gilded Wolves: Loved this story. I loved being transported to Paris in an alternate 19th century where people can forge objects in a magical way. I loved the character struggles, each one developing independently. The adventure to restore Severin’s claim to House Vanth and new friendships from a patriarch that is in desperate need of friends, makes for an interesting tale. So much involved, but weaved together beautifully.
The ending though will rip you apart. I can’t wait for the next book.
[Content Warning: A, AC, D, SH, V]
The Third Coin – This was an excellent story. I had a hard time putting it down. While Rick Riordan seems to have the market down on the gods and the demi-gods, J.A. Howard has opened up a new door to the Mists of Avalon/King Arthur world for young adults. What makes this series unique is that J.A. Howard focuses on young girls taking the lead in this story.
We see the caste system inside a girl’s school between the popular girls (Top Pops), almost popular girls (Almost Pops), the girls that focus on their expertise (i.e. science, musical talents, etc.), and then the outcasts. Bea, being new to the school, has got the Top Pops down and quickly works her way into the popular group. In her science class, she is teamed up with Nisha, the gypsy girl.
Nisha lives across the street from Bea. Her Aunt Faye runs a Fortune Teller shop. She tries to stay hidden and out of sight from the Horribles (i.e. the Top Pops) because they like to bully her. So when Bea discovers that she can communicate with Nisha without saying words, a door opens for them to become friends.
Which leads us to The Third Coin. Along with the weird skateboarder boy that tends to stalk the front of Bea’s haunted mansion, they set off on a doomsday adventure. They have until their 13th birthday (Bea and Nisha share the same birthday) to find the Third of Five Coins (the Coin that balances the other 4 coins) and return it to Avalon.
This adventure was so much fun to read. What I enjoyed the most were the strong female characters. I loved seeing a popular girl that is intelligent, loves science and books. I also loved the emotional side of Nisha. She is fearful, because she knows she is different. But a good friend will fight to be the light in that darkness. And then there’s Indy. I loved that the author chose that name, because it says a lot about the character. He’s like a younger version of Indiana Jones, so you know the story is going to be good (especially if you are a huge Indiana Jones fan). He is the person that binds the two girls together.
I highly recommend this book if you love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. I can’t wait for the next books in the series.
Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories – This is one of the children’s books I read in May. I really liked this story. If your child likes scary stories, this is a cute set of tales they will enjoy.
The author’s introduction explains why he created these tales. He received a box with different object in it (as well as around it). The note was from the village children asking him to create a story based on each of the objects.
And that is what he does here.
This book is a nice segue into introducing them to Bunnicula and R.L. Stine’s books. It is a safe scary level for young children who love scary stories. [To Be Released: September 3, 2019]
The Envious Siblings – This is one of those books where I was completely perplexed as to what I was reading. Was this for adults or children? Like the title suggests, it is MORBID. I went ahead and handed this book off to a 4-year old girl that loves scary stuff. Maybe she will understand it and enjoy it. For me, because I was confused as to what exactly I was reading, I am going to have to give this a low rating. Maybe when the little girl gets back to me on what she thought, then maybe I can change this rating. [To Be Released: October 8, 2019]
Ever feel like taking a chance in life and leaving your comfort zone for the great unknown? Erik and Emily Orton decided to do just that. They left their lives in New York City behind to spend a year on a sailboat with their five children and they tell their story in “Seven at Sea.”
Erik wasn’t even an experienced sailor six years before their trip. Watching sailboats pass by as he looked out his corporate office, he decided he wanted to learn how to sail. He signed up for classes at a nearby marina and began to learn. Soon after, he realized it would be cheaper and easier if he enlisted his family to take the classes with him to become certified to sail.
Now, don’t think Erik and Emily are multi-millionaires and can do whatever they please whenever they please. They are not rich. They are just a normal middle class family with a dream to be free from the doldrums of the corporate world, and free to set their days as they please.
Even as a family of seven, they were able to find a way to make it work…this dream. They got in as much training as they could, finding economical ways to rent boats, earning money while shuttling their friends around on excursions. But the big step they wanted to take was to buy a boat of their own to take some time away from the city with their family to sail to parts unknown (to them).
It took six years to make that dream a realization, but they stuck to their goal together as a family. Then one day, they bought a boat and their adventure began.
What “Seven at Sea” teaches us is that we should all work towards our goals and dreams. For the Ortons, it took a lot of planning, preparing and learning before their dream could even begin. Even at the start, when they first arrived on their boat, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was still more to learn and mistakes that needed to be made, because no matter how much you prepare, when you are in the thick of it, it is not necessarily what you envisioned.
With Erik micromanaging their schedule, he quickly learned that you can’t plan life or dreams. You have to sort of go with the flow. They spent the first few months in their first port of call, Sint Maarten (the Netherlands side – the French side of the island is Saint Martin). Between fixing the boat and equipping it with the things they would need to make their journey, they were stuck on Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.
But it was a good thing this happened. It allowed them to get their sea legs taking short jaunts to nearby islands, preparing them for the longer stretches. They made friends with other families doing the same thing as them (always good to know you’re not alone). Thanks to fellow sailors, he was able to learn how to fix his boat – a vital source of knowledge when you’re alone on the seas and no one nearby who can help. These are all things he could only learn with hands on training. Books and the internet can only get you so far.
I will admit, reading this book turned me off from that fantasy of learning how to sail. It’s something I always thought about doing, not necessarily around the world, but maybe off the coast of New England or in the Mediterranean. I’ll explain why I was turned off – learning how to fix your own boat, the problems that could arise, being stuck on a boat with other people – really, it was all of the technical details that turned me off from learning how to sail. Then again, I would probably be the worst sailor of the group like Emily, so maybe someone else can sail and I can just be the matron.
At any rate, being on a boat allows you to have some soul searching moments. Erik shared a lot of his thoughts in this book and they really rang true with how we should look at life, especially the dreamers.
“A lot of times people feel like, ‘Oh we have kids so we can’t do that until the kids are out of the house.’ The time to go is when you have your kids with you because you only have them for a short period. There will be plenty of time to make more money. There’ll be plenty of time to take it easy in retirement when you’re older, but the reason we’re going now is because we want to go while our kids are with us. Let your kids be a reason rather than an excuse.”
I also appreciated Erik’s thoughts on having patience and playing the waiting game.
“For so many weeks, I’d been trying to push and force the situation. I wanted the engine fixed on my timeline. I wanted to hustle off to the BVI (British Virgin Islands). I wanted to know when and where we would arrive in the Bahamas. The truth is, there was no way of knowing. I would have to let it emerge. I could predict, plan, and hope, but in the end, the wind, sea, and a thousand other breezes would shape the unfolding events. I had to wait, just like everyone else. No amount of planning or willpower could make it otherwise. I learned to become fairly zen about it. “It will emerge” was the yin to the yang of “trial and error works every time.” Tenacity has its place. But so does waiting; engaged, curious, and resourceful, but patient.”
On fear and the uneasiness of taking the first jump:
“At the moment, Jane was happier to be at the top of the grotto, barefoot, hot, and scared, than she was to be in the cool, clear water below. Her anxiety over what she could no longer see, and the fear of what it would take to get there, were more powerful than her will to jump. We did our best to help her shift the balance, but it was up to her. Only she could decide when she wanted to move and how she would do it. She could climb back down or she could jump. The push of her current situation, the pull of her new situation, her anxiety about her future, and her loyalty to her present were all shifting moment by moment. We change when we’re more excited about getting the new thing than we are scared about losing the old thing. I go through this same semiconscious process every time I face my own fears. I think we all do. It’s very personal. I internally weigh all these factors in the balance, and something happens or it doesn’t.”
Karina Orton, after being asked how she had changed on Fezywig (their boat):
“I don’t think I’ve changed,” she said. “I’ve become even more myself. I’ve gone further down the path that I was already on.”
Emily Orton on the ‘confidence that it will emerge’:
Erik – “Why do you think the last one is more important?”
Emily – “Because it lets us get started. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to control everything. It lets us be patient while we’re figuring it out.”
Why you should read “Seven at Sea”: If you’re a dreamer thinking ‘someday,’ this book will help give you the confidence to take risks and chase after that dream. It is a raw look into how difficult it is to make your dreams come true. From making excuses to planning and researching for that big day, it’s all about getting over that fear and taking the leap. You have to have patience that the journey “will emerge.” You can’t force it to happen on your timeline. It will emerge on its own.
There are a lot of life lessons here for those who have dreams that want to make them come true. This book is not just about a family who bought a sailboat and sailed from the Caribbean to New York City one year. This is about living your best life and taking the chance to live your life to the fullest and the Ortons are here to inspire you to do so.
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
What if you had a tumor on your face? That’s what young Sophie has, a hemangioma (a
benign tumor birthmark) on her face.
People stare at her, so she tries to hide it behind her hair and her Big
Book of Monsters. When children see her
birthmark, they call her a monster.
It’s easier to beat the bullies to the chase and believe you are a monster before they call you one. Better yet, it is better to believe everyone is a monster or a mythological creature so that you can feel like you are not alone, that this world you live in is filled with creatures that are either good or bad.
This is how Sophie copes with her monster mark. But it doesn’t stop the bullies or reality
from crashing in on her world. Along
with her fairy friend, Autumn, they collect pieces to create a magical amulet
that will cure her from being a monster, making her human again.
What she finds in her journey is that a monster mark is
not what makes you a monster, it’s what you do that makes you human.
This book is rather magical. If we could only see the world the way that Sophie saw the world. It is so much easier to see the world filled with monsters, witches and fairies to explain the good and evil that happens in the world, than to see that humans can be monsters.
What makes us monsters? Is it a disability or a birthmark? Or is it the circumstances with which we live
that can force us to lash out and hurt others because we are hurting
A Monster Like Me not only explores what it means to be a child that looks different, but it also takes a look at bullying in a way that helps bullied children understand why bullies are bullies.
Sometimes when we dream so big and wish for something
so great, it is hard for us to see anything but ourselves and our wants. For Sophie, she learns to see what she has is
a gift that not everyone has. There are
things we have in our lives that we take for granted that someone may wish they
had themselves, like the ability to run around and play, instead of being stuck
in a hospital bed.
It is not necessarily what you look like on the
outside that makes you human, but what you do that defines your humanity.
This book is well worth the read, especially for young
readers facing challenges in school.
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
For all of those lovers out there who need a little bit of Valentine’s Day reading, I would like to introduce you to “Healing Hearts.” This is the latest title from Proper Romance (Shadow Mountain).
If you are a fan of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, then Proper Romance should be your “go to” source for romance books. The books are PG-rated (so no blushing in public during the heated scenes).
“Healing Hearts” is a heartwarming story that will make you smile. When Miriam arrives in Savage Wells, she believes she is there to take a position as a new nurse. As the town whisks her into the local chapel, she realizes she was misled. Doctor Gideon MacNamara has requested a mail order bride, who can also serve as the town’s nurse.
When Miriam realizes she is supposed to marry Dr. MacNamara, she runs from the chapel.
Even though Gideon’s pride is hurt, he cares about the town more and is willing to let bygones be bygones and hires her on as a nurse. After all, it was not her fault that she did not know this was an arranged marriage.
With Miriam comes many dark secrets. These secrets eventually see the light of day as Dr. MacNamara and the town gets to know her. Even though she starts off on the wrong foot by not marrying the good doctor, the town grows to forgive her after she saves them from an epidemic that spreads like wildfire.
And when her past comes back to haunt her, the town rallies around her to save her.
You will enjoy this story from start to finish. There are parts that will leave you smiling with pure happiness. Then there are parts that will leave you at the edge of your seat, wondering just how bad things really are for Miriam…what is she escaping? And when you discover what she’s escaping from, it will leave you horrified.
I always say this about the Proper Romance books from Shadow Mountain, but I really love the stories they publish. Romance books that leave me blushing while I am reading on the train or on the bus are just not the type of books for me. The good old fashion stories from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte where a simple kiss is all that is needed, as well as honesty at how one feels about another, are the perfect romance stories for me.
I enjoyed this story because I could see a little of myself in Miriam. When she says to the doctor that if he really knew who she was, he would find it a blessing he did not marry her, I know I’ve felt the same way time and time again. In a way, it’s rejecting yourself for the other person because you know they will reject you if they really knew you. It saves yourself from whatever heartache will follow.
Of course, in Miriam’s story, he didn’t care. But isn’t that what every person that rejects themselves wants? To be told everyone is broken somehow, so it does not matter?
One very important aspect of the story I found extremely interesting is insanity and how women were treated. It is only in the last few decades that we’ve treated illnesses differently. Women lost all individual rights and deemed insane if they had a seizure or had heavy or erratic menstrual cycles. They were committed to asylums to be forgotten by loved ones. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s were “treated” until they stopped showing any signs of life.
Can you imagine today being committed to an asylum and labeled insane just because you suffered from epilepsy or had a horrible menstrual cycle? These were the issues women faced back then.
“Healing Hearts” brings a lot of these matters to light. It will shock you to discover just how bad things were back then. Even though this is a work of fiction, what happened in asylums, especially to women, still rings true historically.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. The love story will warm your heart. The part where you can’t stop turning the pages is when you discover what happened to Miriam. Stories like this will not only help you to understand the past, but to see that many of the issues that broken people face are still the same. It takes a lot to convince them that people will not hurt them and that they can actually trust people.
That’s the thing with this story, there’s proving to people that you are not what they think you are. You are better than their misconceived notions. You can change the way they think by being yourself. But it takes a lot to trust an entire community with your secrets that they will protect and save you and not turn you over to those who seek to do you harm.
Getting to that point that you can trust people…that is something that Miriam will make you ponder if you could do the same if you were in her shoes.
[DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
My 2018 New Year’s Resolution was to read 100 books. I did not accomplish that goal this year. I was 16 books short. The prior year, I read only 64 books. This year, I read 20 more books than the previous year for a total of 84 books. That’s not bad. That’s 1.6 books each week.
If I keep this up, I’ll be able to finally reach my goal of 100 books in 2019.
Along the way to my goal, I discovered the secret to getting in an extra book a week. On Sundays, I choose an easy read that’s 225 pages or less and read it in one day. Of course, I didn’t discover how this could help my numbers until I was 3/4 of the way into the year.
In 2018, I became more selective with what I chose to read instead of reading whatever is sent to me. I am fortunate that the books I read were the ones that helped me grow this year. I learned so much from every single book, but more importantly, I learned more about myself this past year.
All 84 of the books I read this year helped me to answer the questions burning inside of me. They educated me. I learned that everything happens for a reason, and books can find their way into your hands when you need them the most. In May, I was asked to leave New York and travel the world indefinitely with this guy I’ve been crushing on for the last 7 years. When I decided to stay, I realized what was really going on in the grander scheme of the universe. This beautiful man was trying to wake me up and free me from the cage I had built around myself since the tumor was removed (2013). I was blind to what I had done to myself out of fear.
As my crush left for Tibet, Tal Gur contacted me and asked if I would like a copy of his book to review. I read it and thought to myself…WOW. This was the book I needed in this moment. I understood what I needed to do. I needed to free myself so that the next time when the hottest guy I know offers me the world, I will be in a position where I can drop everything and run away with him, because in my heart, that’s what I really wanted to do.
Publishers and authors sent their books. As I read each one, I realized that each book isn’t just an escape from this horrible 2018. It was also the universe’s guide book into helping me get back on my feet again, to seeing what I was doing to myself out of fear, but most importantly shining the beam of light to show me how to be me again.
Sometimes it was the entire story, or it was just a sentence or a paragraph. All 84 of the books listed below were the words I needed in 2018.
The Best of the Best
For those looking for some ideas on what to read, these are the books that I found to be the best reads of 2018.
The Books I Curated Into My Library: For the books I thought were the best of the best were very few. It’s a given that I curate all autographed copies and classical literature into my library. But the books that entered into my collection based on its own merits (i.e. the books I would want saved for mankind to read if there was some cataclysmic end) are as follows: Slade House, Hag, The Air You Breathe, Melmoth,The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Scribe, Dietland, Neverwhere, Sommelier of Deformity, The Stuff of Stars, Everything Happens for a Reason, A Higher Loyalty, Anansi Boys, and The Tuner of Silences.
The Stuff I Learned from Self-Help: This year was a tough year. I literally fell apart. My poor work husband spent most of this year trying to put me back together again. When he wasn’t around, I read a lot of self-help books to try to get back to who I was. Of all the books I read, I think The Abundance Project and Make Peace with Money were two of the most important books, because they speak my language. At work, the Speed Reading book taught me how to perfect my craft (reading).
What really helped me in understanding why everything was happening was Everything Happens for a Reason. When one of my colleagues left to travel the world, Tal Gur contacted me about his book, The Art of Fully Living. I made the difficult decision to not run off with my colleague. While I do regret doing so, I thought…maybe my circumstances will change. Gur’s book helped me to make the decision to free myself from the cage I built around myself that prevented me from running off with the hottest guy I know who was trying to give me the entire world. [Review: The Abundance Project]
The Best YA/Children’s Books: When I tell publishers I read almost everything, that includes children’s books. Oh, and I love YA. Besides Brad Meltzer’s “I Am” collection (I curate all of his titles into my library, because he signs everything I have), I curated in The Stuff of Stars. When I met the author, there was a moment between us when she asked me to read/review her book. I haven’t written about her book yet, because I don’t know how to describe it beyond it being the most wonderful children’s book I’ve ever read. It gave me goosebumps. I cried at the end because it was so beautiful. I thought…if I had a kid, this is exactly how I would feel telling them the story of how they came to be in my life. It was just…I have no words. The story took my breath away. I feel like this book became a little secret in my life that I want to tell the world, but I don’t know how to accurately describe how this book made me feel. So parents…pick up the book. Read it to yourself and then decide.
As for the others, Prince & Knight was beautifully done. Loved it! To finish off the year, I ended with Wundersmith, Book 2 in the Nevermoor series. I love this series. It sucks that I have to wait for Book 3 now. [Review: Nevermoor]
Proper Romance Changed Me: I have a rule. Or maybe I should say I had a rule. I don’t do romance books. But Shadow Mountain Publishing changed my mind about romance books when they launched their Proper Romance group. The book that changed me was Promises and Primroses. Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s followed. They even have a steampunk series that I’ve been trying to finish (when I’m not trying to meet deadlines). What I like about their stories is that it’s not mushy all unrealistic lovey dovey romcom books. There’s no over the top “well this is just unrealistic” love stories. It’s all PG rated. None of that 50 Shades stuff I turn up my nose to. In other words, it’s a clean romance. It’s the way I like stories to be told (in a Jane Austen kind of way), especially because I am the type that will vomit after I say the words “be in a relationship with” or “get married.” [Review: Lies, Love and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Christmas by Accident]
The Scary & the SciFi Books: I read a lot of the Cirque du Freak series this year. I have two books left. Neil Gaiman’s books are excellent. American Gods is still my favorite, but Anansi Boys and Neverwhere were just as good. Erik Therme’s Roam scared me. Scribe was one of the best ghost stories I’ve read in a while. Melmoth made my mouth drop. It disturbed me so much, I had to text my brother (who never reads) about it. Did I mention I curated Melmoth into my library? Hag was excellent (my first book I’ve read that has roots in Scotland). But the story that really scared me this year was David Mitchell’s Slade House (another curated book).
The Best Stories: The stories I really enjoyed in 2018 beyond the ones mentioned above are: Before We Were Yours, The Air You Breathe, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Sommelier of Deformity, Dietland, The Escape Artist, The Girl You Left Behind, and The Other Side of the Bridge.
The Book Deserves Its Own Category: James Comey. A Higher Loyalty. The book was excellent…until the last 3 chapters. This book helped me to understand my guys a lot better, because they used to work with Comey. There’s so much about leadership that I recommend for all lawyers/public officials to read. But the parts that really stood out to me is how he found a silver lining in life when he was faced with tragedy. It made me understand the book Everything Happens for a Reason so much better. [Review]
Food: Every single cookbook I read this year was so amazing. I loved Siriously Delicious so much, I bought the book. Then I found out Siri Daly was signing the book. I showed up and told her who I was and she said she read my review and loved it. Copycat Cooking from Six Sisters’ Stuff is also one of my all-time favorite cookbooks now. The In N Out Burger and fries recipes were so much better than the real thing. I can’t visualize a burger any other way now. Glow 15 made me look at caring for myself differently now. I take different vitamins now and eat differently because of it. I recommend all 3 of these books. [Reviews: Siriously Delicious, Copycat Cooking, Glow 15]
The Classics: My work husband saw Villette sitting on my desk and he asked me about it. He was a literature major in college, so naturally, he would ask. I didn’t have the heart to tell him why I was reading it. It’s a book you read when your heart has been broken. It’s about unrequited love. It took me most of the year to read it, but when I got to the end, I sat there heartbroken for Charlotte Bronte. My friend was going through something similar where someone was in love with her and acting like M. Paul. She couldn’t understand his crazy. I explained to her what was really going on. Men haven’t changed so much in the last 200 years.
I finally read another monster classic: The Invisible Man. I will say I was unimpressed. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow read exactly like the Disney cartoon. Kudos to Disney! I don’t understand why Of Mice and Men is a classic. I’m wondering if it has more to do with the language Steinbeck chose. The highlight and uplifting classic of the year beyond Villette was T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. It had a very profound affect on me.
I also finally read The Great Gatsby. I read it alongside The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. It helped me to really understand the depths of how beautiful this book is. I do not recommend reading The Great Gatsby without Clark’s commentary (it’s only a chapter in X-Ray). You will miss the importance of some of the elements used in the book, like color.
Best Non-Fiction: Slave Stealers. I learned so much about slavery then and now. It’s not so different. The providence at work for Tim Ballard and his team as they try to free children from the depths of hell just amazed me. I remember sitting in bed, reading, exclaiming out loud, “No fucking way!” Just amazing to see the Universe working to help people who are saving the innocents. I highly recommend this book about real life work around the world to stop human trafficking (aka slavery). [Review]
Below is the complete list of books I read this year. If you’re interested in any of them, just click on the book and it will take you to Amazon where you can read more about the book and you can order it from there.
Today, I am introducing a new feature at Perfectionist Wannabe. I will be showing you at the end of each month the books I read that month. At the beginning of each month, I’ll show you my To Be Read pile.
The To Be Read pile is usually advanced copies of books coming out that month I need to get through. I try to read at least one classic and whatever looks good on my shelf I’ve been meaning to get to.
So let’s get to the current October stack. I tried to read as many scary books as I could. Six of the eight books featured are, at the minimum, about a ghost or a witch.
I did not include below “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, because the story is part of a collection of stories. I will include that when I finish Irving’s book.
A young girl, Dores, is a kitchen servant on a sugar plantation. She’s been there since she was born. During the lean years, when sugar prices bottom out, she remains on the plantation with the head cook, when the sugar baron’s family leaves for the city.
But then the next sugar baron in the family arrives with his family. Their child, Graça, is around the same age as Dores. They do not get along in the beginning, but soon Dores becomes Graça’s playmate. They do everything together.
Graça’s mother realizes that unlike her daughter, Dores is intelligent and absorbs everything she is taught. She offers Dores the same opportunities given to her own daughter, but with limitations.
One day, she introduces Dores to music and her world changes.
Music is what shapes this story of the two girls growing up together on a sugar plantation. They later escape to Rio de Janeiro to try their luck at fame and fortune. One girl is the beauty and the voice, the other has the smarts and the talent with words.
Their story is filled with love, loss and obsession. You’ll learn how these girls help make samba a revolution, and how Hollywood changes their lives forever. This is a story that will whisk you away to a time before the great war. You will fall in love in Brazil, and you will grow to appreciate the world of samba.
Hag is a witchy tale that starts off in Scotland and transports you to Colorado and then London as we follow Alice, the descendant of the Cailleach (an ancient witch who takes residence in the Scottish cliffs).
As Alice grows up and tries to understand the weird things she can do, she has no idea her daughter will bring all of the Cailleach ancestors of witches together, bringing the story of the Cailleach full circle.
What I liked about this story is that I saw a lot of myself in Alice. For people that know me very well, they know there are a few things I can do that is just not explainable. I used to tell my dad that if we were back in the 15th or 16th century, he probably would have had me burned at the stake for being a witch.
After reading this book, I think I became a little more accepting of who I am. Sometimes people have a better intuition than others, or as my friend says, I am better in tune to the universe than most people. I think maybe back in the day, I would have been labeled a witch.
In this book, I believe the author was well versed in the subject of witchcraft and what it has evolved into today. Not all witches are brewing potions or practicing magic. Some are just regular people living their lives, but are a little bit more in tune with the universe and the universe responds.
The Witch of Willow Hall
The Witch of Willow Hall is my favorite scary read this month. Speaking of women trying to understand who they are, the weird things they can do and thinking that back in the day, they would have been burned at the stake or hung by the neck. It is 1821 and right outside of Boston in a town called New Oldbury, Lydia and her family have relocated to Willow Hall to escape the embarrassment her family endured in Boston thanks to her older sister Catherine and brother Cyrus.
Willow Hall is filled with ghosts and secrets, which makes it a perfect place for the Montrose family.
Lydia and Catherine are always at odds. When they lose Emeline, the youngest Montrose, the family begins to completely fall apart as Catherine’s sins unravel before them.
Lydia is not aware she is a witch. She can see ghosts and notices storms brew when she becomes upset. It takes her mother being on her death bed to reveal Lydia’s true ancestry.
For this story, it’s the ghosts that will scare you. What will make your stomach turn is how evil Catherine can be and how she will do everything she can to destroy her sister’s happiness. Oh, and there is a bit of a love story in there, blackmail, incest and scary dead witches…but damn, if this isn’t a great book.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a ghost story. This book is a popular new release for the month of October. I stood in line for a long time to get this book.
I will warn you right now that I had a hard time getting through the first 60% of the book. It kept putting me to sleep. But the last part of the book, I could not put the book down. I kept thinking…why in the world was I having a difficult time reading this book in the beginning? Maybe because she saved the best part for last?
This story jumps between the present and the past. We follow the story of Elodie in the present day. She discovers a leather satchel with a sketchbook and a photograph. One of the sketches reminds her of a story her mother used to tell her before she died. She becomes so obsessed with the picture that she starts to investigate the truth of its origins.
We are then transported back to a different time…around 1862. A group of artists spend the summer at Birchwood Manor. What happens in Birchwood changes their lives forever.
Over the next 150 years, a ghost haunts the old manor. It is her story that is being told and it is up to Elodie to unravel the mystery of Birchwood Manor. The ending is well worth it.
Violin is another ghost story. This time it comes from the queen of vampires, Anne Rice. Believe it or not, it has taken me a few years to get through this book. I started it years ago and then put it to the side. I decided to finally finish the last 150 pages.
It was time to find out what becomes of Stefan, the evil fiddler and the woman he is haunting.
I did not expect that Triana would become a world class violinist that mesmerizes her audiences with the haunting violin that actually does not even exist. This violin was destroyed back when Stefan was alive, but in death, he took the essence of the violin with him and made it real. He made himself (and the violin) real again to those who could hear his hypnotic melodies. So when Triana steals it from his grasp, the violin transforms her world. Stefan will do anything to get his violin back…but how far will he go?
Villette is a classic tale from Charlotte Bronte. I love Jane Eyre so when I got my heart broken, I decided to read this book. It was recommended for people with broken hearts.
This is a somewhat true story of Charlotte’s life…about unrequited love.
It is funny how I saw the things happening in my life, as well as my friends, echoing what I read in this book. Men act funny when they are in love with someone they know they cannot have. It seems that things still have not changed 170 years later.
One person on Twitter told me that she noticed there are a lot of people that have a difficult time with this book because of the ongoing misogyny. But if you press on, you’ll really enjoy how the book ends. I have to agree with her on that. It was very difficult to not want to reach into the book and punch Monsieur Paul, but you’ll find as you continue that he has some redeeming qualities.
Bronte is supreme at writing. What I appreciate about Jane Eyre continues in her writings here.
The rise of the Vampaneze Lord brings Mr. Tiny to Vampire Mountain to issue a new prophecy and a quest for Darren and Mr. Crepsley. They return to the Cirque du Freak to have their first of four encounters with the Vampaneze Lord.
I’m probably going to spoil the next few novels, but my guess is that the Vampaneze Lord is Darren’s best friend from the time when he was still a mortal. This friend is the reason why Darren became a vampire to begin with…to save his life.
Don’t tell me…I want to figure it out myself in the next few novels.
Anita is an immigrant from Mauritius who meets her husband at a New Year’s Eve party in Paris. They have a child together and decide to move to the country where Anita freelances as a journalist and Adam is an architect.
When Adele, another Mauritius immigrant, enters their lives, she turns their lives around. She helps care for their home and their daughter. But she has this magnetic pull about her that inspires Adam to be the painter he always wanted to be and Anita to finally write the novel she’s been dreaming of. But the strange thing is that the subject of their work is Adele.
As the novel goes on, we find Adam is in prison and their daughter is in a wheelchair. But why? What happened? I will say that I never saw the ending coming. It was very surprising.
This is a quick read. Only 176 pages.
The Curated Collection
Each month, when I finish reading the books for that month, I try to decide which books will be curated into my library. This month, I decided to keep Villette (I like to keep all classic novels), The Clockmaker’s Daughter (signed), The Air You Breathe and The Witch of Willow Hall (signed). Generally speaking, if the book is signed, I will keep it. For books not signed, it has to be an exceptionally good book in order to be placed in the curated collection. The Air You Breathe was really that good and deserved to be placed on the shelves.
Do you ever wonder what you should read next? There are so many titles to choose from, but what book should you get? Have you seen the prices of books? No wonder why Amazon is putting bookstores out of business…
Wait…maybe I went too far.
Let me take this back a little. A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine visited me. We went into Barnes & Noble so she could pick up a few magazines. I perused the books on all of the tables, but I didn’t pick up any books.
I said to my friend, “I’ve either read everything here or I have the book already.” She responded, “That does not surprise me.” She’s seen my library and all of my advanced copies of books.
Technically speaking, everything I need to read, I already have. I don’t really buy books anymore, except once in a blue moon while I’m on Amazon looking for an answer to what ails me. There are some titles that I am not able to get my hands on because I make it to the publisher’s booth too late (for instance, I missed out on Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere” last summer). I have a serious fear of missing out when it comes to books.
So while I was looking for a title I did not own already, I flipped the paperback over to see the price and almost fainted at how much a book costs these days. Now, I understand why Amazon is putting bookstores out of business.
The Answer to My Fear of Missing Out
So every now and again, there’s a title that for some reason does not make it into my hands and I am left going…I kind of need that book! Well, the answer to my fear of missing out now comes in the form of $14.99/month from the Book of the Month club. Not only was I able to get my hands on a new title, I was able to get Celeste Ng’s book for free by using the July code: SUGARHIGH.
When you look online, the hardcover is over $20 for “The Summer Wives.” So $14.99 for a new hardcover book is a serious deal. Plus, the more people you refer, the more credits you can receive for more free books.
The way it works is that at the beginning of every month Book of the Month releases a list of 5 new titles that should be the “IT” books for the month. Of the 5, you can pick one for your monthly membership. You can also choose additional titles for an additional $9.99, or you can use credits).
What I love about Book of the Month is that this is a perfect way to start up your very own Book Club. No more fear of missing out on what everyone else is reading. You can stay on top of your reading game. So get your girlfriends to join, your mom, your aunts, cousins, etc. Maybe you can share the different titles between your little network.
So far, I am enjoying this club. It’s every bibliophile’s answer to keeping on top of all of the latest IT titles.
This is book two in the Lavender Tides series. You don’t need to read The View from Rainshadow Bay to get a sense of what is going on, because the story stands very well on its own. It ties in characters from the first book, allowing them to develop their own unique backgrounds within this story.
When I read this book, I kept asking myself which publisher gave me this book. I try not to read the back cover when I start reading a book, because I want to be surprised. There should be no hints as to what this book could possibly be about. I don’t want to know the genre. Yet, if I had flipped to the back of the book, I would have figured out the publisher was Thomas Nelson, a HarperCollins publication.
But I decided to read forward without seeing who the publisher was to see if I could figure it out just by reading the book…and I did figure it out. Some publishers place their own unique stamp (or style) in the type of books they publish. HarperCollins is one of them.
I do not pick up too many religious titles. I avoid them like the plague…UNLESS it comes from HarperCollins. Why? Because even though some of the books they publish may have some sort of religious theme, it is not being shoved down your throat. And I appreciate that.
I knew this was a HarperCollins publication because there were references to ‘praying’ or ‘God.’ No mention of the word “Jesus.” To me, this book passed the test for this site to be willing to write a review. Why? Because in everyday conversation, we may not all be religious, but when people are hurting or need direction, it is perfectly normal to say that we will pray for them or ask God to help them. God is more encompassing of all religions. Using the word ‘Jesus’ limits it to one religion, and not all people believe in that religion.
So let’s talk about “The House at Saltwater Point.”
What drew me to this book was the main character. Not only is she a house flipper, but she is also a blogger for a site called “Hammer Girl.” Ellie is the type of person I would follow on social media. I would probably read her blog, too. She is basically living in a world that many wonder about and would love to know more about. She lives an inspiring life, buying houses, flipping them into something beautiful and then moves on to the next project. I can just imagine how awesome her Instagram account would be!
So throw in a murder mystery with a missing sister (possibly dead) and a bunch of missing cocaine. There is even a terrorist plot underway in her beautiful hometown.
Yes, I said a terrorist plot!!!
Add in a little bit of a love story, family issues, and a lot of suspense in a dreamy locale where you are constantly visualizing the beautiful water with tall boats floating by in a quaint seaside town where everybody knows everyone, and you have the elements of what makes this story worth picking up.
You will have no idea what is going on as the adventure unveils. Is Ellie’s sister, Mac, still alive or is she dead? Is she connected to the missing cocaine? Why is there a terrorist involved in this? What does North Korea have to do with anything? ISIS on US soil? Who is trying to kill Ellie? What did she do? Why is there a dead man in her basement? Why does Mac have information about making EMPs (bombs) on her laptop?
You will ask a lot of questions, and they will all be answered in the most incredible way. Did I see who the mastermind was going to be? No. Then I felt stupid for not seeing the foreshadowing. [That’s how you know it was a well planned murder mystery…when you feel like you should have seen the result coming at the end, but you didn’t.]
I really enjoyed this book. I do not read suspenseful murder mysteries very often, but this one is worth the read. Despite the crazy that comes out of the town of Lavender Tides, it sounds like a dream. The locale seems like paradise, if it weren’t for all of the sinister plots going on.
There are elements in this story that ties in the first book and will likely tie in the third book. What binds the stories together are Shauna and Grayson. Shauna’s story appears in the first book.
She is not a main character in the second book, only Grayson. There is enough intrigue that I looked up the first book in the series. It goes further into Shauna’s tale of what happened the day of the earthquake. The line that hooked me in this book to want to pick up the first book is Coble’s reference to the earthquake being caused by Shauna’s father. Now, she has my attention.
Should the American public read Jim Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty? If you care about the facts, truth, democracy and America, then YES! you need to read this book.
“What is happening now is not normal. It is not fake news. It is not okay.” – James Comey, p. 276.
This book is not about Trump or a disgruntled former government employee trying to get his 15 minutes of fame. This book is about ethics and leadership. Someone is ringing the liberty bell sounding the alert that something is very wrong. We need to pay attention to what is being said and what is happening.
Every fact in this book is being echoed and repeated again and again everywhere we turn. These very facts were even featured in the Democratic National Committee’s complaint in DNC vs. Russia, Trump, et al.that was filed in court on April 20, 2018. If you have not read the complaint, take time to read the facts. It details how the Russians interfered with our election and how the Trump Campaign worked with the Russians to commit treasonous illegal acts to get Donald Trump elected.
While those of you who may read this post are not Democrat and will dismiss the action because it is a lawsuit filed by the DNC, the point I want to make is that the DNC echoes what the former FBI Director mentions in his book and in his memos. The truth is being repeated again and again. It is up to you whether you want to take the politics out of it and focus on what is more important, the truth or the lies.
As Americans, we cannot dismiss what is happening. Take the politics out of of it. That is what Comey is doing here and has been doing ever since he first became a public servant. He serves America, not any political party. After reading this book, I think you will understand how stupid and nasty politics can be. There is no place for it in our justice system.
Before I begin my review of James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty, I need to do a full disclosure.
I do not know Mr. Comey personally, but I do know former AUSAs (Assistant US Attorneys) that worked with him and for him. Two of them are actually his friends. I am proud to call all three of those former AUSAs “my guys.”
The characteristics I admire the most about Comey, I see in my guys. The ethics, professionalism and leadership are all things they learned from him. These are all traits I cherish greatly in my guys, so to see people challenge Mr. Comey, it is like a punch in the gut to me. People are saying the things I love the most about my guys are not worthy of praise…when they are.
With leaders like Comey, you can see how they inspire and challenge people to be better than they already are. One of my guys did that with me. His leadership skills are a direct result of what he learned from Comey. This is him in a nutshell:
“Effective leaders almost never need to yell. The leader will have created an environment where disappointing him causes his people to be disappointed in themselves. Guilt and affection are far more powerful motivators than fear.
They love this man, know he loves them, and will work tirelessly not to disappoint him. People are drawn to this kind of leader, as I draw on all those years ago to Harry Howell, the grocer. A leader who screams at his employees or belittles them will not attract and retain great talent over the long term.” – James Comey (p. 135)
That is why you should read this book, especially if you are in a leadership role, or want to one day be a leader. Comey’s leadership points are all the points I value in ethical leadership.
But we can’t talk about Comey without talking about the elephant in the room.
There is a consensus among us that Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails was ill handled. I would not have gone running to Congress or made an announcement that there was a ‘matter.’ He should have waited until the investigation was concluded before saying anything. Because in the end, they found nothing worth prosecuting her for.
Comey thought about this from every angle (after the fact), including what his colleagues would say. No surprise, they said those things. Imagine their surprise when I pointed to the exact passage in Comey’s book where their criticism of his handling of the emails was what he knew they would say about him.
He even thought about what someone else would have ultimately decided if they were in his place (concealing until the investigation was complete). He chose to speak, rather than to conceal. That is a decision he does not regret making. The only thing he regrets is that Clinton ever had a laptop to begin with. He wishes she never did this with her emails.
He presents all of the facts and all of the factors influencing him in this decision and asks if you would have done things differently. Or would you have done the same thing?
That being said, I do believe that as each and every one of us has a right to speak, you also need to let Comey speak. He has that same right, too. After all, he is one of us now…a private citizen.
I attended his first stop on his book tour. When my guys asked me how it went, they were shocked at my response, because I walked away from the event hurt and sad. Comey was okay. He is everything and more than I expected. It was what happened that night that bothered me.
When I arrived at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, I saw 30-40 NYPD officers out front. There were several manning the doors to the store. At first, I thought there was a bomb threat or a situation going on and I needed to evacuate. That’s when I saw them.
Sectioned off to the side were two groups of protesters with signs with Trump’s words about Comey on them. Trumpers.
When I realized that was why all the cops were there, I showed the cop my bracelet and he opened the door for me. As I made my way upstairs, the escalator leading to the event was blocked off. People were just standing around looking at security. So I asked security if the event was full. She started to say something and I showed her my bracelet. She waved me through, saying I was okay.
I took my seat in a room packed with people that not only bought the book, but support Comey. They were there to hear what he had to say, because really he’s not the bad guy. He is the good guy that Trump decided to make into his enemy.
Comey arrived and described what is in 11 of the 14 chapters of the book (you know, the part the media is not talking about). When he switched to answering pre-submitted questions, a protester spoke up and started shouting at him. The rest of the room tried to drown her out so that the microphone and cameras could not pick up what she was saying.
In that moment, I felt complete sadness and disappointment in the human race that our political climate has led us to irrational monsters like this. I looked at Comey as all of this transpired. Even though it was like they were throwing shit at his face, he did exactly what his childhood mentor, Harry Howell, would have done. He turned the other cheek and smiled.
Five minutes or so after the first protester was removed, another stood up holding up some flag about fascism. What that has to do with Comey, I don’t know. But as I felt that disappointment and sadness again, I looked to Comey. Once again, he stood there silent, waiting for the woman to be removed. He had turned the other cheek and smiled. This is what I call a man with good moral fiber.
As I left at the end of the event, I took the escalators down. On the next floor, a group of protesters waited. One woman saw me and pushed people aside and almost climbed onto the escalator. She started yelling at me and anyone that would listen: “Did he even apologize?”
Of course, I am thinking, “For what?” But I am not about to take the bait and argue with a woman acting bat shit crazy. I mean, she was trying to jump onto the side of the escalator to get to me. I just gave her a complete look of disgust because this is not normal. This is not how people act.
As I started to leave, a NYPD officer held the door open for me. I did not even have one foot out the door of Barnes & Noble when a Trumper yelled something so horrible at me, the cop reeled back in disgust.
I think I stopped, realizing something was amiss and turned in the direction the words came from. The cop quietly said to me, “Just ignore her and walk away.” I don’t even know what the person said. I just followed what the officer said because he was trying to protect me.
I crossed the street into Union Square and almost cried. Why? Because of how low humanity has become. I felt disappointed that people act this way. I was sad for humanity, but even sadder for Comey. Everyone deserves the right to speak, including him.
That is the purpose of this book. This is Comey trying to tell you about his life and career and what led him to making all of the decisions he made.
DO NOT, and I mean DO NOT go by what the media is telling you this book is about. Read it for yourself like I did. I bought four copies. I gave one to each of my guys.
And for that Trumper protester that said shit to me…and I know you are the same person who said you were banning Barnes & Noble when I first arrived. My only response to your ban is: So? You probably don’t read books anyway. You should try. That way you won’t be wasting your time outside of a bookstore yelling at it.
A Surprise For You
So I recorded the audio from the event. I didn’t get the first few minutes of it, because I wasn’t thinking. But I did get the majority of it, including the protesters. When the second protester came by talking about fascism, I covered the microphone on the phone.
While I believe that everyone should have their right to speak, there is a time and a place for it. If you are shouting something bat shit crazy that the world does not need to know, I am not giving you MY platform to continue your crazy.
So whether you, the reader of this post, think this is unfair, keep in mind that there are certain ideologies that should not be passed around. Those truths belong to that woman. I don’t need it and the world does not need it. She needs it.
This event was about Jim Comey, not her. You came here to read about Comey, not the ideologies of a deranged woman. Bearing that in mind, I am sharing with you the audio from the event.
The Review From Someone Who Actually Read the Book
“The credibility of the Department of Justice is its bedrock. The American people must see the administration of justice as independent of politics, race, class, religion, or any of the many other things that divide humans into tribes.” – James Comey
There are 14 chapters in this book. Only 3 chapters detail what happened with Trump. The rest is about Comey’s life and career. One surefire way to tell if the person of the book review actually read the book is one simple thing…did they find the bombshell Comey drops in the book? If there is no mention of the bombshell or that it even exists, then guess what? They didn’t read the book.
Comey even dropped the clue in the audio feed (see above). I was not that far into the book when he mentioned it, but now that I’ve read the book, I am like…WHOA! And guess what? I am not going to tell you what the bombshell is. You have to, I don’t know, read the book to find out.
I say that to be mean, because I know a lot of the reviews out there are based on people reading the last three chapters of his book. They skip over the first 11 chapters as if they are not relevant, when they are. I would call every single one of those book reviews FAKE NEWS. And each and every single media person that published their reviews as such should be ashamed of themselves. What happened to ethics and integrity?
Then there are also the plagiarizers. You know who you are. Read the book.
What you need to know…
Why You Need To Read the Book
When I first began reading Comey’s book, I did not know what to expect beyond the fact it was about ethics and professionalism (and something in there about Trump). And truthfully, I am glad I did not know what to expect, because it was a pleasant surprise. I wanted more and more of what Comey had to say about his life and career.
The Thursday before the book came out, I stood in my work husband’s office as he showed me framed collages of his work at the US Attorney’s Office SDNY taking down notorious criminals, including the mob. [After prosecutors successfully convict a notorious criminal, someone in the US DOJ compiles all of the newspaper headlines, shrinks them down and puts them into an artful collage to give to the prosecutor.] So imagine hearing those stories and then opening up Comey’s book and reading about those same stories from another, more in depth perspective.
From the mob stories to being on the edge of your seat as Comey races to save the day against agents from the White House who sought to take advantage of an incapacitated Attorney General to Comey’s discomfort, trying to hide from President Trump, almost to the point of jumping out the window, his book will intrigue you as you beg for even more. You will laugh, cry, feel heartbroken and proud that this man tried to stand up to do what he believed was right every single time.
More importantly, he tried his best to distance himself from politics so he could focus on the rule of law. Comey stresses how important it is for the DOJ to be separate from the White House and politics. They must be independent so that they can protect Americans and the US Constitution. The FBI does not protect the President. That’s what the Secret Service is for. The FBI protects Americans and the Constitution. It should never belong to any President or political party. It must be independent.
“We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.” (p. 275)
When I mailed this book to one of my guys that decided to return to the senior levels of government to be one of the people Comey references above, I noted that everyone gets a little something different out of what they read in books. For me, it has a lot to do with things happening for a reason.
The part that stuck out to me as the main theme throughout is that he keeps repeating everything happens for a reason.
When he was a teen, the Ramsey Rapist paid a visit to his home. What happened that nightmarish night would later help him go down a path that would lead him to becoming the FBI Director, putting away criminals like the Ramsey Rapist.
When he was learning the ropes, fresh out of law school, he would watch as AUSAs prosecuted members of the mob. He would later become an AUSA prosecuting mobsters, to one day becoming the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
When they lost their infant son, Collin, to sepsis (a blood infection), his wife tried to find meaning in the loss. She never wanted what happened to her to happen to another mother. So she went on a mission to make sure the laws in America changed. And they did. Collin Edward Comey’s death is the reason why today, pregnant mothers are tested for the Strep B virus, and the babies are treated with penicillin when they are born.
“But sometimes it isn’t when we face death ourselves, but rather when death takes away those we love the most, that we really learn about just how short our time on earth is and why what we do with that time matters.” (p. 43)
It is in reading these stories from moments in his life that you can see how James Comey shaped his own fate. When bad things happened, he (and his wife) looked for the silver lining. They never let those moments deter them or destroy them, instead, they used those experiences to help guide them in their journey to becoming better versions of themselves.
It is in understanding the moments that shaped James Comey that will help you to understand the decisions he made with regards to Hillary Clinton’s emails and Trump.
Can We Trust Comey?
Someone asked me recently if Comey is credible. I am going to say, “Yes.”
It is not in his character to be the bad guy. He is not going to lie about the things that matter the most. Sure, he used to lie about playing basketball in school, but that is only because the lie did not matter. But the truth is the lie did matter. He regretted ever lying to begin with.
What tests your moral fiber of whether you are innately good or bad is when you do something bad like bully or lie. How did you feel afterward? Did you feel remorse? Did you hate that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you did something wrong? Or no? You felt nothing?
I think at some point, in order to test who we really are, we have to stand on both sides to understand our own moral compass. Comey talks about the years he was bullied (including the wedgies), and then the time he bullied someone else and regretted it. He also talks about the lies he told people about playing basketball, and then later regretted.
He uses himself as an example to compare the good/bad moral compass when he describes the bullying and lies coming from Trump. It is far different and allows you to see this presidency from a different perspective – his own.
You must keep in mind that Comey is a Republican. He donated to campaigns that ran against President Obama. But you will see his respect for Obama as a leader and what he learned from him on how to be a more effective leader.
You don’t have to be from the same political party to respect someone as a leader. When you take the politics out of it, things get done. You learn more from each other.
Working under Bush and then Obama, Comey learned many things about leadership. Knowing how a president is supposed to act, taking notes means that something is amiss and not right. In a way, everything that happened in his life up until that moment, prepared him for what was to come. It helped him to make the decisions he made, including legally releasing the unclassified memos as a private citizen, and writing this book.
In the End
With Comey’s firing, I wonder how this will shape the next part of his story. His book sold out within two days. He sold 2x more (600,000 copies) than Hillary Clinton’s book sold (300,000 copies) in the first week. That $18 signed first edition copy I got was worth $500 just six days later.
He may never return to government service. Maybe he’ll continue to write more books, sharing his stories from his mob days or his days as Deputy Attorney General or FBI Director. Or maybe he’ll continue teaching the world the importance of ethical leadership.
If you want to know what I really think…everyone who cares about what is going on today should read this book. I enjoyed this book immensely. When he described the White House encounter with Trump and how he was trying so hard to hide, I laughed hysterically. I cried when he described the note his mother kept in her drawer. My heart broke when they lost Collin. I sat on the edge of my seat as they sped down Pennsylvania Avenue to get to the Attorney General. And my head shook at the evil words Trump delivered to Andrew McCabe.
I want to leave with this quote from his book that goes perfectly with what Perfectionist Wannabe is about. This is an example of what one of my guys learned from Comey about leadership. He passed these qualities along to me and it helped shape me into who I am today.
“LeBron James…he is never satisfied he is good enough. I have read that he spends every off-season working on some part of his game to improve it. At first glance, that seems crazy; he’s already better than everybody else. But it makes complete sense when you consider his perspective: he isn’t measuring himself against the other players; he is measuring himself against himself. The best leaders don’t care much about “benchmarking,” comparing their organization to others. They know theirs is not good enough, and constantly push to get better.” (p. 135)
Due to be released on January 2, 2018. Imagine on your 18th birthday you can make one wish and it will come true. What would you wish for? That is the question Eldon is faced with as he approaches his wish day. He has no idea what he wants to wish for. His mother wants him to wish for money, so they are not stuck struggling anymore. His sister’s medical bills are breaking them. Maybe he should wish for his sister to be ok, and not comatose. But then again, if he were to do that, the medical community would ask questions. Then the town of Madison’s little secret would be revealed. As Eldon questions what to wish for, he notices something…everyone who made a wish already are unhappy. Their wish did not bring them happiness. He wants everyone to be happy, but what could he possibly wish for that will bring everyone in Madison happiness? You’ll never guess what his wish will be…
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.]
From the author of Salvage the Bones comes another great American novel set in the rural south of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where young Jojo lives with his grandparents and baby sister. His white father (Michael) is locked up in the state penitentiary. His mother (Leonie), a drug addict and sometimes mother, is absent from their lives most of the time. This leaves Pop with the duty of teaching Jojo how to become a man, while they take care of Mam, who is dying from cancer. When news comes that it is time for Michael to be released from prison, Leonie decides to take the kids with her, along with a friend, to pick him up. This proves to be a thoughtless decision, because she does not have a mothering bone in her body. This road proves to be a horrible mistake for both Leonie and the children. In the spirit of those deep seeded southern stories of the supernatural and spirits of the dead walking the earth, we find that this family has a special gift. This gift will bond mother and daughter, brother and sister during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
We live in a time where there are very few well written novels entering the market. Jesmyn Ward is one of the most exceptional writers of our modern time. For book collectors, her works should be added to your library. She was added to mine. This book is one of the most important books to read in 2017.
Due to be released on Halloween 2017 (or shall I say “Hallowmas”). In the advanced copy I received, the publisher said that this book came to her shortly after the election last year. She needed a place to escape and this book became a wonderful escape. I have to say that I agree with her. I’ve read many amazing books this year, but this one quickly became my favorite one of the year (so far). Meet Morrigan Crow. She’s cursed. Every single thing that goes wrong is blamed on her. On Eventide, all cursed children are killed. As the hour approaches for her death, a strange gingered hair man arrives to take her away to a place where she cannot be killed on Eventide. That land is called Nevermoor and here, Morrigan has been selected to become part of the Wundrous Society. There are many applicants, but only nine places available. They only accept those with the best knack. As Morrigan goes through each trial, she wonders what her knack is. She has no idea, only her patron knows what that is. With the Stink (cops) breathing down their neck because they know Morrigan is an illegal in their republic, Morrigan must face her fears and win each trial in order to stay in Nevermoor. If she doesn’t secure a spot, she could be killed if she is sent home. The problem though for Morrigan is that the final test is the Show Trial, where she is supposed to present her knack to everyone. She doesn’t have a knack. The ending will surprise you. I absolutely love this book and hope you will enjoy it as much as I have. It’s a world you want to escape to.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a commission.]
Stay With Me is one of the most phenomenal books of 2017. Written by Ayobami Adebayo, this debut novel takes us to Nigeria where we are introduced to Yejide and Akin. Yejide and Akin are happily married, but are missing one thing…a baby. Akin’s mother begins to pester the couple about an heir before bringing members of the community to their door to suggest Akin take on another wife to produce an heir. Yejide is infuriated. She does not want to live in a polygamous household. She is so desperate to have a baby, she seeks the help of shaman. When she leaves the mountain she believes she is pregnant. Her belief is so strong that her body starts to fake her pregnancy. Akin becomes worried about her and her sanity. He begins to accuse her of betraying her until nine months later, there is no baby. A year goes by and still there is no baby. Akin goes to great lengths to give Yejide what she wants, even if that means destroying their marriage in the end. This book is a powerful novel about love and marriage. It shows how other forces can interfere and ruin marriages all for the sake of an heir. They blame the wife as if all infertility is her problem, not realizing that the issue may lie with the husband. A very sad, but incredible story. A must read for 2017.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a commission.]
Due to be released September 26, 2017. Imagine Guardians of the Galaxy meets Doctor Who, and you have Farway Gaius McCarthy and his band of misfits scavenging for priceless artifacts throughout time aboard their ship, Invictus. From the Titanic to the Library of Alexandria, Far and his friends steal precious items for clients until things begin to go wrong. Far was born outside of time. His mother gave birth to him on board the ship while they were traveling between Ancient Rome and 2354 A.D. As a result, it created a disastrous ripple effect in the universe. The universe now needs to set things straight, even if that includes destroying all traces of Farway in every dimension he exists. An excellent read and incredible adventure worth following as Far and his friends travel through time together, trying to escape being erased from existence.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a commission.]
This book is due to be released on August 1, 2017. This is by far one of the best stories I’ve read this year. I gave it 5 stars because this is more than just a Spider-Man story. This is about a kid facing adversity, just like every other kid out there. He may have super powers, but it does not mean that he is not a victim of society. He is learning how to be a hero, not just a superhero fighting super villains. Jason Reynolds is an excellent writer. The story is absolutely incredible. I had a hard time putting the book down. I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it again. This is a must read for everyone. Get this book for your kids. Read it yourself. I don’t like Spider-Man, but I do love Miles Morales. Excellent read. [PW REVIEW]
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.]
Book: Miles Morales
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Marvel Press, Disney Book Group
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: (5 / 5)
There are very few books I cross paths with that make me very excited to share with everyone. For Jason Reynolds’ upcoming release “Miles Morales,” I can’t wait for all of you to read this book.
Yes, this is a Spider-Man novel. Forget Peter Parker, this story is about Miles Morales, a mixed race kid from Brooklyn going to a posh boarding school in Brooklyn on scholarship. He is a genius with a 4.0 GPA, so smart, the neighborhood speaks of him with pride. What makes this story unique though, is that this is about rising from adversity and becoming a better person.
Miles is from a poor family. His dad’s past is that of a common criminal, along with his uncle. They start off doing a lot of bad things as teens, because they feel like they have no choice. If they are going to survive, they need to steal and make fast money.
Then one day, Miles’s dad meets a beautiful woman, falls in love and leaves that world of crime for something better. He wants to have a family that does not need to resort to crime to survive. They are trying to give Miles a better option in life.
Leaving crime, though, means disowning a brother. But that doesn’t stop Miles. He sneaks out to see his uncle, because that’s what you do for family. During one of those visits, he is bit by a spider, just like Peter Parker.
Going to school has its own challenges. He works hard at his grades, trying to maintain his 4.0 GPA. He has a work study to help cover the room and board at the school. He tries so hard to do everything right, but society tries to push him back down.
His history teacher, Mr. Chamberlain, has his own opinions on blacks and slavery. They are very backwards ideologies. He makes each teaching lesson a lesson on the importance of black people remaining slaves. He believes they need to stay within their element and not try to rise above (i.e. go to an elite boarding school).
These lessons disturb the students, but they just put it off as crazy Mr. Chamberlain. Ironically though, Miles’s spidey sense goes off every single time he is in this class. Thinking someone outside needs to be saved, he runs out of the classroom (saying he needs to go to the bathroom, which Chamberlain denies) only to find nothing at all. He ends up getting suspended from school for a week.
He leaves his work study to show up at an open mic night to get extra credit for one of his classes (and pass a poem to a girl he’s crushing on), only to discover the next morning that cans of sausages were stolen during his shift. Something like this could lead to his expulsion, because they assume he took it because he’s 1) black and 2) poor. He doesn’t even like canned sausages.
His father is trying to teach him how to grow up to be a hero to his community first. When he comes up against all of these problems both at school and in his neighborhood, the question becomes what type of person will he be. Will he turn bad or good in the end?
This book is mainly about the challenges many people face across America. It is about learning how to be a hero, no matter who you are or where you are from. You do not necessarily have to be a superhero with powers in order to be a hero. Sometimes just helping out your community, picking up trash, and helping your neighbors is part of being a hero. You are helping someone else that needs help. That is what heroes do.
But what is a Spider-Man story without evil villains out to destroy the world? Oh, there are a few bad guys in this book that leads to an epic fight scene in the end. So do not go into this thinking this is just about evil super villains, because this book is more than that. This book is truly about a boy learning how to be a hero with and without his powers.
The message in the end is that “We can all be heroes.”
I give this book 5 stars, because it is so well written and a tremendously awesome story. I was so absorbed in the story, I couldn’t stop reading it (and this was while I was doing a Game of Thrones binge).
The story is more than just the regular superhero story. It is a story about a kid trying to be a hero when the world keeps trying to stop him. It’s hard for a lot of kids to go up against a system that wants to see them fail. Miles Morales is one of those kids.
Just because he’s Spider-Man, it doesn’t mean that he’s not faced with personal challenges that are similar to so many kids out there. He is victimized because of his race and his socio-economic class. There are people that want kids like Miles to fail because they are black or from a bad neighborhood or from a parent that is a known criminal.
His family may struggle, but his father, that known criminal, is trying hard to make sure his son doesn’t turn out like he did. He changes his life around so that Miles can have a better opportunity. Miles deserves a chance to be the change.
What I Love
What I love about this story is that Reynolds is teaching kids that they can all be heroes. It starts in your own neighborhood. Little things like helping the elderly, cleaning up the streets, or helping your neighbors can result in a positive change in our communities.
Reynolds doesn’t shun the stories of people living in their cars or kids being falsely arrested for crimes they did not commit. This is the reality in our world. Having a family member in jail, visiting them in a detention facility and trying to be a family are all part of the story many kids experience.
The author brings the realities around us into this story. Even superheroes can experience the same adversity as the kid that picks up this book. What Reynolds is saying to these kids…YOU’RE NOT ALONE.
In conclusion, I cannot begin to express how much I absolutely love this book. I do not even like Spider-Man. I am a Superman kind of girl. This story though made me into a Miles Morales fan.
This is an excellent story that should be on everyone’s must read list this year.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.]
This book is due to be released on August 29, 2017. A coming of age novel set in Royston, Massachusetts. Two girls, Julia and Cassie, grow up together in this small town. Julia is from a good, middle class family, while Cassie is from the other side of town. Having known each other since nursery school, the girls spend one last summer together before middle school. They seek out and discover an old asylum where they spend their days playing and pretending. Without knowing it, these are their last days together being close friends. When they enter middle school, Cassie finds new friends and becomes popular. She starts dating the boy Julia has a crush on, a complete betrayal. Then one day, Cassie’s mother marries, changing the dynamic in their household. Cassie slips into a deep depression that changes everyone’s lives. She disappears. Even though they are no longer friends, Julia is the only one that can save her. She must go back to the place where she lost her friend. This is a story about friendships and dealing with depression. It doesn’t effect just one person, it changes the lives of everyone around that person.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.]
Looking for something new to read this summer? There are a few that are out that you can purchase now, and a few coming out this August.
1. Unraveling Oliver. Considered to be one of the IT books of 2017, “Unraveling Oliver” tries to explain why Oliver Ryan, a prominent Irish children’s book author, beat his wife into a coma. Never having displayed violence before, Oliver’s friends try to explain what happened to him. From his childhood all the way into his adult years, Oliver’s story is unraveled piece by piece.
At first, you will feel sorry for Oliver. As the story completely unravels, you realize just how horrible of a human being he was. He commanded the respect of others for decades. One act brought him down.
[Due to be released August 22, 2017.]
2. The Leaf Reader. This mystery will keep you guessing all the way until the end. Marnie Wells is an outcast, because she’s one of the weird kids. She starts reading tea leaves for the popular kids and winds up deep into the tale of what happened to Andrea Quinley, one of the girls that went missing.
Her best friend, Matt Cotrell, seeks Marnie out to see if she has the answers he’s looking for, sending them on a chase to find Andrea, who is presumed dead. Instead, they uncover a much deeper secret that threatens both of their lives. Andrea’s disappearance is linked to Marnie, just not in a way anyone could ever imagine.
This book will have you guessing all the way until the end. The details are always unraveling. Nothing is ever set in stone where you can guess who did what. A must read for those who love thrillers.
[Book is out now.]
3. The Hearts We Sold. Imagine we live in a world where demons walk beside us and they are out in the open. Everyone knows demons exist. People trade parts of their bodies for wishes without ever asking what they do with the body parts.
Dee Moreno is in a tough spot when she discovers that her scholarship to a boarding school is drying up. She has to come up with the money for the rest of school or find somewhere else to go. She doesn’t want to return to her dysfunctional home.
When she sees a demon knitting outside of the hospital where she volunteers, she decides to take a chance. She gives the demon her heart in exchange for money that will get her through a doctorate program (if that’s what she wants). In return, she has to do the demon’s bidding over the course of 2 years.
What she doesn’t know is why the demon is sending her and a group of teens to do his bidding. She has no idea what these demons are trying to do with their body parts. What they discover is much scarier than the thought of demons walking the Earth.
[Due out August 8, 2017]
4. DragonWatch. If you are looking for your next YA series, FableHaven is a great place to start. FableHaven is a 5 book series that takes place at a sanctuary for mythical creatures. DragonWatch picks up where FableHaven leaves off.
With the Demon King vanquished, the Dragon King rises. He wants out of the sanctuary and into the world. Our heroes Seth and Kendra head off to the dragon sanctuary to be the new caretakers.
The kids need to prove to everyone that they can do the job and keep the dragons at bay. Their adventure takes them on an adventure to find a way to keep the castle safe. If the dragons overtake the castle, they can escape into the world. What the two discover is that they need each other to be strong, but they also must learn how to be fearless on their own.
Brandon Mull is one of my favorite young adult authors. The FableHaven series (and now DragonWatch) is an incredible universe to escape to. You will see the beauty in fairies and unicorns, but also the very ugly and scary in demons, trolls, and creatures that you don’t want to bump into.
For those looking for a series, this is one worth diving into. You’ll fall in love with this world.
[All books in the series and DragonWatch are out now.]
5. A Dog’s Purpose. For those who love animals (especially dogs), this is the book for you. We follow one dog’s soul as he (or she) goes from one dog’s life to another. Each life bears an important part in the dog’s future lives.
The story though is about Bailey and his boy, Ethan. The two grow up together and have many grand adventures together, including getting lost in the woods. But Bailey can’t live forever and eventually dies at an old age. He is reborn again and again.
As a police dog, she learns how to search and find. She sees her purpose is to help save lives. In her next life, he uses that search and find technique to find his boy again.
This time his boy is an old man who is alone and has no purpose. It is up to Bailey to help Ethan find his purpose. All the while, he hopes that Ethan will realize that he is really Bailey.
A wonderful story as told by a dog. This book will make you hug your fur babies (and monsters) a little closer. It will make you love and appreciate them a little bit more.
[This book is currently out.]
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of books 1-4 above from publishers in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]