January, 2017 Roundup

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Oh. My. Gawd. Y’all! I have been like a reading machine for the last two weeks. Fifteen books in fifteen days! It wasn’t even a goal I set; it just sort of happened. The best part about it is that most of the books were really great reads! I was thrilled. Thrilled, y’all!

Now, I reviewed my reading from the beginning of January previously this month (you can check that out here). Below I’ve included brief reviews for each of the final fifteen novels I read this month. Enjoy!


exitExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Y’all, I cannot rave about this book enough. Five stars, all the way. When Hermione Winters is at a cheerleading camp party, a boy slips something into her drink, and things progress as you would assume from there. But only that far. Hermione is not your typical victim – in fact, she refuses to be one. She is a survivor, and this novel is about just that. With an amazing best friend and other supporters, Hermione fights her way back to a new normal and wields her emerging power like a boss.


wayward-pinesWayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch

All three books in this trilogy are surprisingly fast and easy reads. Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town tell the tale of Ethan Burke and the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho – an eerie, small town smack in the middle of nowhere (literally). Dystopian fiction is not generally my kind of thing, but the concept of this trilogy was too good to pass up. A post-apocalyptic community, overseen by an egomaniacal Big Brother, that has no idea it exists as one? Yes, please. My only complaint is Crouch’s continued use of violence – sickening at times and particularly overdone in Book #3. Wayward Pines is also currently airing as a television series on FOX; you can view its website and watch full episodes here.


range-of-motionRange of Motion by Elizabeth Berg

Lainey’s husband has been in a coma for months. She is desperate for him to wake as she struggles to raise their two daughters. I first read this 21 years ago. I liked it then; it was the first Elizabeth Berg novel I’d ever read, and it turned me into a lifelong fan. Reading it now, however… it was so much more. I just appreciated it so much more. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and wiser, or a more discerning reader now, or what the difference is but the entire book was just so much more beautiful and meaningful this time around. If you’ve never read an Elizabeth Berg novel, this is a great one to start with.


open-houseOpen House by Elizabeth Berg

When Samantha’s husband, David, leaves her she is forced to live her life outside of the box she is used to. Sam grows and grieves as she makes new friends and finds new experiences as a newly single mother. One of the most important lessons she learns, however, is that the person she once was is the person she has always been meant to be. This one was a favorite of mine from several years back; I didn’t love it as much this time around, but still enjoyed it immensely, because: Elizabeth Berg. C’mon, did you really have to ask?


brewster-placeThe Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

The late Gloria Naylor’s debut novel is just So. Damn. Good. Following the lives of seven African-American women living in the same inner-city housing complex, their stories are stark and beautiful and raw and tender. Each woman’s tale reads like its own short story, however, they are all intricately woven throughout the novel. Naylor’s writing evokes vivid images of each woman and their lives, and leads you down a path you can’t come back from. Oprah produced and starred in a mini-series based on this novel back in the day; you can check it out here.


never-changeNever Change by Elizabeth Berg

Oh, yes, more Elizabeth Berg. Had to do it, y’all.  Many, many moons ago I read this novel and absolutely adored it. It is beautiful and charming and life-affirming and heartbreaking. Fifteen years later, I related to it even more than I did the first time around. At fifty-one years old, Myra Lipinski has always lived alone. While she admits that her job as a visiting nurse and caring for her beloved dog, Frank, are fulfilling, she is also quietly unhappy. When a former classmate with terminal cancer becomes her newest patient, Myra’s life changes forever.


good-behaviorGood Behavior by Blake Crouch

Good Behavior is the collected works of three short stories by Crouch, starring the unforgettable Letty Dobesh. Fresh out of prison and struggling to turn her luck around, Letty runs into quite the conundrum: while robbing a hotel room, she unwittingly witnesses two men planning a murder. Try as she may, Letty is unable to just walk away. Unable to go to the police without incriminating herself in the robbery, she takes matters into her own hands and attempts to play the unlikely hero. Good Behavior has recently been developed as a television series on TNT; you can see it here.


ordinary-lifeOrdinary LIfe: Stories by Elizabeth Berg

This collection of stories was published in 2001, but I avoided it at the time because I had a long-standing grudge against short stories. I hated them! They ended way too soon for my taste. As soon as you got settled into a story, started investing yourself in the characters and storyline, BOOM! Story over. It was  my worst nightmare. Thus, I refused to read them for years and years. I’ve gotten over this grudge in years past and have enjoyed some truly excellent writing because of it – these stories are included in that bunch. I previously recommended Range of Motion as an excellent introduction to Elizabeth Berg; Ordinary Life would be another great way to start your relationship off with her as well.


real-thingUntil the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg

I read this one for the first time sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with The Boy. I adored this story about 36-year-old Patty who wants nothing more than to have a baby. Unfortunately for her, she’s been unlucky in the love department up to this point and happens to be madly in love with her gay best friend, Ethan. Desperate for something – anything – to happen and aware that time is running short, Patty makes a snap decision that is going to change her life forever, as well as give her the baby she’s always dreamed of.


corona-del-marThe Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe 

This powerful novel follows the lives of Mia and Lorrie Ann, lifelong friends who seem destined to follow diverging paths: Mia living a troubled life and Lorrie Ann sheltered in the cocoon of her loving family. Soon, however, life throws a series of curve balls and each of their paths changes – Mia finding success and love she never expected or believes she deserves, and Lorrie Ann finding herself the hapless victim of tragedy after tragedy. This is a brutal and honest novel of love, friendship,  motherhood, and loyalty beyond normal measure.


sugarSugar by Bernice L. McFadden

Bernice L. McFadden’s debut novel, originally published in 2000, is amazing. A young prostitute, Sugar, moves to small-town Bigelow, Arkansas to get away from a past she is trying to forget. She is befriended by Pearl, who is still wracked with grief over the death of her daughter fifteen years ago. Despite the rejection of Sugar by the townsfolk, she and Pearl form a close bond and the two find healing within their friendship that neither had expected. Unfortunately, dark secrets and true dispositions never stay hidden forever and it won’t be long before Sugar’s sweet new life begins to go sour.


what-we-keepWhat We Keep by Elizabeth Berg

January is officially the Month of Elizabeth Berg, y’all. Whew! Six books by the same author in a ten-day period is unusual for me, but when it comes to Berg, I will make an exception any time. What We Keep chronicles a summer in the 1950’s during which a family fell apart – and the reunion of the mother and daughters in the present day. This is not my favorite Berg novel by a long shot. Now, we could contribute this to the fact that I have my own #mommyissues. But we could also say that Berg’s trademark attention to the beauty of every detail and to the atmosphere itself is simply not as present as it is in other novels. It’s OK, though, Elizabeth – I still love you!!


Plans for February? Nothing specific; I’m just going to take it as it comes. But I know what y’all are really wondering – will there be more Elizabeth Berg on my plate? Why yes, yes there will be. I’ve got a few more of her novels that I’d like to re-read and one or two that I somehow missed over the years that I will be reading for the first time. Yippee for me! But we’ll chat more about that later this month. Until next time, y’all – Happy Reading!!

What was your favorite book in January?

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Winter Reads, 2017 {QuickLit with MMD}

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Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately” – in this case, what I’ve read so far this month.

We were supposed to be hit by a catastrophic Midwestern ice storm over the past three days. Catastrophic, y’all. I was so prepared. I stocked up on food, water, candles, etc. But most importantly, I charged my reading devices: My Paperwhite, my Fire, my iPhone, and even my ancient android tablet for backup. I was not going to run out of reading juice on this watch, no-sirree-Bob. And then – and then – nothing. Well, we got a little bit of ice, I suppose. But it barely dipped below freezing for most of the time. Mostly, it was just enough ice to make the trees and surrounding structures look stunningly beautiful in the morning sunlight and to keep the sidewalks and porches slippery for part of the day. But you know what, y’all? I still read like there was a raging blizzard out there. I holed up in my house with my blankets and my Ruby and I read and read and read. It was great!! Can’t wait for the next storm…

I’ve read twelve books so far in January, 2017 and have many more waiting in my haul. I’ve been on a winning streak, as well – haven’t hit a dud yet! I told y’all 2017 was going to be a charmed year! Let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading:


born-a-crimeBorn a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s intense and unforgettable memoir of growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa is beautifully written. Full of tales both hilarious and heartbreaking, Noah takes readers from his birth to his early adulthood with grace and humor far beyond his age. In addition to learning about his own experiences and life, I also learned much more about Apartheid than I previously knew – I clearly need to do some more reading on this – while I knew it was awful, I had no idea of the magnitude of its systemic evils.


endless-numbered-daysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

When a prepper Dad abducts his eight-year-old daughter, they abscond to a derelict cabin deep in the woods. Daddy Dearest tells his daughter that there has been a cataclysmic event and that they are the only two surviving humans on the planet Earth. Peggy offers a unique narrative in this compelling coming-of-age novel that will hit you in the gut when you least expect it. The shocking ending is something you will never see coming – I wanted to go back and re-read several chapters of the book so I could relish the brilliance of this twist.


the-underground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s interpretation of the Underground Railroad as an actual, brick-and-mortar railroad, is nothing short of brilliant. As Cora flees the Randall plantation in Georgia, she travels the rails to South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, and further yet.  At each stop, Cora experiences a different aspect of the times, each of which magnificently mirrors racial issues/attitudes in America to come as history moves forward as well as those present today. Whitehead’s portrayal of slavery and the cultural exploration visited upon in this novel are its greatest strengths, creating an atmosphere of grief, hope, and longing. While the stark and difficult subject matter precludes me from saying this book was a pleasure to read, I will say that I am glad that I did. {Thanks to Doubleday Books & NetGalley}


i-am-the-messengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger is a beautiful tale from beginning to end. Following Ed on his journey from going-nowhere, underage cab driver to quiet champion of the people is an honor. As he moves from mission to mission to save the underdog of the day, Ed grows in leaps and bounds. Zusak’s writing is hypnotic; the sharp, emotional impact of the way he breaks his sentences is poetic. His humor is on point throughout the novel. This story is truly a lesson that anyone, no matter how ordinary, can be strong, be courageous, be mighty. This one has all the feels, y’all.


how-it-always-isThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This emotional and compelling novel takes on subject matter that is both timely and so, so important for us to read about. Frankel’s sharp and witty dialogue perfectly complements her deep exploration of tough personal, family, and societal issues. Powerful and captivating, Poppy’s story – and that of her family’s – will leave you doing some serious soul-searching, while giving you insight on the multitudes of ways children’s minds are at work. Each character is exquisitely drawn and woven into this tale, bringing them to life such a way that you cannot help but see yourself and those you love within them. Everyone, especially parents, should read this book. {Thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley}


the-wolf-roadThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this postapocalyptic  psychological thriller, a young girl is lost in the wilderness and is taken under the wing of a woodsman she calls “Trapper.” Now a young adult, having learned a terrible secret about her adopted “father,” Elka strikes out on her own in search of her birth parents. Lewis has created a strong – no, a badass – female lead here, who narrates in a stark and frank manner. Her journey across a dystopian wasteland brings her across more discoveries, experiences, and interactions than she had ever imagined existed. It took me a bit to devote myself to this one but once I did, I was hooked.


unfuck-your-habitatUnf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

As a huge fan of the Tumblr site Unfuck Your Habitat, I was thrilled when I learned Rachel Hoffman had secured a book deal. This how-to manual on developing a housekeeping and organizational system for those of us who have been past failures in these areas is perfect, both helpful and hilarious. Hoffman takes a realistic approach to these tasks, addressing living situations other than that of the everyday homemaker usually depicted in most books of this genre. Her engaging manner keeps readers’ attention and breaks tasks down into their simplest forms so that even the most domestically challenged person can find success. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


lucky-boyLucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy is the devastating and haunting family saga of two women – Solimar and Kavya – both mothers, both to the same little boy. Exploring such timely issues as immigration, undocumented workers, infertility, motherhood and more, readers will be captivated by the stories of the women who give their hearts to a small boy named Ignacio.  The alternating tales of Soli and Kavya will capture you and hold you until the very end. This is an absolutely important book that adds much to the global conversation regarding immigration in today’s world. {Thanks to Penguin Group/Putnam & NetGalley}


a-perilous-undertakingA Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

After waiting impatiently for the last year, Book #2 of Raybourn’s new Veronica Speedwell series was released this January. Book #1 was a tough act to follow, but Raybourn did it with aplomb. Veronica and Stoker return only to be roped into a murder investigation with the intent of proving the innocence of the accused murderer. Their sharp and witty banter flows as they romp through each escapade, making it through by the skin of their teeth. This one wasn’t as fabulous as Book #1, but it did come close – can’t wait for its follow-up next year!!


i-liked-my-lifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life is the heartwarming and clever tale of a father and daughter struggling to connect as they grieve the death of the woman they both loved. I adored this novel, narrated by Madeline, Brady, and Eve – Madeline being the late mother and wife to Eve and Brady, of course, back from the grave and working behind the scenes to help her family move on without her. Fabiaschi is a master of real, true-to-life internal dialogue. This book about survival, moving on, personal growth, and finding your family again will warm your heart – and tingle your spine with an unexpected twist at the end. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


charlie-freemanWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

This debut family saga tells the tale of the Freeman family, who have moved from Boston to live in the countryside at the Tonybee Institute while assimilating a chimpanzee into their family and teaching him sign language in an experiment that is just waiting to go awry. While sweetly titled, do not be fooled – this is not a heartwarming novel. The Freemans’ story and that of the Tonybee Institute is messy and sorrowful and wrong, and there is an underlying tension throughout the novel that eats away at your nerves. There’s no holding back in this one; Greenidge goes for broke and takes you along for the ride.


always-sarah-jioAlways by Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is at it again in this poignant and gripping novel about love lost and love found as the past and the present collide in the most tragic of ways. Ten years after losing the love of her life, Kailey has moved on, never knowing that the past is about to catch up with her and tear her newly built world apart. As she tries to piece together the shards of what could have been, Kailey is faced with a decision – one that only the heart can make. Jio’s newest novel, while slightly predictable, is full of tragedy, love, and intrigue – a definite must-read for her fans and more!


As I mentioned above, twelve hits so far this month! Not too stinking bad, if I do say so myself. Hopefully you’ll find something on this list to add to your TBR, because really – can you ever afford to run out of good book ideas? Not on my side of the woods, you can’t. Thanks for joining me for a look at my Winter Reads so far; I’ll catch you up with my next round-up near the end of January. Happy Reading, y’all!!

What have you been reading so far this month?

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End-of-Year Roundup: Best Books of 2016

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Well. Thank goodness THAT is over, amiright? It’s good to be in 2017 and starting off fresh, is it not, friends? I love the New Year. I love so many things about it: the feeling of renewal, of fresh starts, of second chances, of redetermination, of hope. This year is gonna be my year, y’all, I can feel it – and I just know it’s going to be your year, too!

I originally was not going to write a “best books” post for 2016 because of the fantastic amount of excellent fiction (and wee bit of non-fiction) I read last year, but several people requested that I did write one, so… here we are! In no particular order, I will proceed to share with you my Top 11 Fave Books of 2016. Why eleven, you ask? Because I can, that’s why.

Y’all, these books were so amazing. Please do not ask me for a top one, two, or three. I honestly could not break it down for you. Each one has its own unique personality and charm, and you must read each of them! I will say that A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold is such an important book to read, especially if you are a parent or someone else who works closely with children. It truly changed the way I think about and interact with my son on a daily basis. Also, major trigger warnings if you are going to read Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – while this is a truly compelling collection of short stories, she does write about sexual violence toward women on multiple occasions.

Oh my gosh, you guys – I am so excited for the books to come in 2017! I’ve already started my year off on a great note – more to come on that later – and plan to keep it going strong. Woo-hoo!! Happy Reading in 2017, y’all!!

What were your fave books of 2016?

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November, 2016 Reading Roundup

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I hope everyone had a pleasant Fall holiday in November; we certainly did here at the Pathologically Literate Household! We do things small over here, so it was just Poppie, The Boy, and myself with a ham and some yummy side dishes… nice, peaceful, and more importantly, zero family drama – LOL!!

Reading slowed down a bit this month (compared to October, anyway) mostly because I’m sleeping again at night (thank you, sweet baby jaysus!). I still made it through seventeen good ones, however. Let’s take a look:

    • The Girl Before by J.P Delaney  {4 stars}
    • Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall  {4 stars}
    • Good as Gone by Amy Gentry  {3 stars}
    • The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch, #21) by Michael Connelly  {4 stars}
    • Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan  {3 stars}
    • The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan  {3 stars}
    • Night School (Jack Reacher, #21) by Lee Child  {3 stars}
    • Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight  {2 stars}
    • Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes {4 stars}
    • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon {4 stars}
    • Bloodroot by Amy Greene {4 stars}
    • The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan {4 stars}
    • The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner {3 stars}
    • The 4th Man (Quincy & Rainie, #6.5) by Lisa Gardner  {3 stars}
    • The Whistler by John Grisham {2 stars}
    • The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter, #1) by Megan Shepherd (3.5 stars)
    • The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes  (4 stars)

I have to say that The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was a standout read, as was Bloodroot by Amy Greene and Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall. If you’re looking for Christmas gifts for loved ones, these three are good places to start.

Can you believe it’s December already, y’all? I just put my Holiday wreath up and we’re picking up a tree later this weekend. Time went crazy fast in 2016! I think I’m going to slow things down for myself a little bit this morning by making a delicious pot of coffee and curling up with a cup and my current read… Ahhhh, I feel cozier already!! Stay warm, everyone and I’ll catch you on the flip side!

What are you reading to keep yourself warm this month?

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October, 2016 Reading Roundup

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October just flew by this year and oh, lawd, y’all – did I get some reading done or what?! Twenty-three books in thirty-one days! Whew! How did I do it? More importantly, how can YOU do it? I’m going to let you in on the secret, y’all. Pay close attention, now.

INSOMNIA.

Yes, you heard me right. Insomnia is the trick to hitting your reading goals and beyond! October, 2016 will forever be known as the Month of No Sleep in the Pathologically Literate Household, let me tell you. It was not a fun time (although, as mentioned, I did read like a fiend). Magically, as soon as November hit, I began sleeping like a baby. Go figure. But let’s take a look at the reading gold I hit this month:

    • Cop Town by Karin Slaughter  {3 stars}
    • City of Thieves by David Benioff  {3 stars}
    • Certain Girls (Cannie Shapiro, #2) by Jennifer Wiener  {4 stars}
    • The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel {4 stars}
    • Witness to a Trial by John Grisham  {2 stars}
    • Redemption Road by John Hart  {3 stars}
    • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware  {4 stars}
    • News of the World by Paulette Jiles {5 stars}
    • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan {4 stars}
    • The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott  {3 stars}
    • Winter at the Door (Lizzie Snow, #1) by Sarah Graves  {3 stars}
    • The Violets of March by Sarah Jio  {4 stars}
    • A Most Novel Revenge (Amory Ames Mystery, #3) by Ashley Weaver  {4 stars}
    • The Mothers by Brit Bennett  {4 stars}
    • Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan  {4 stars}
    • Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan  {4 stars}
    • Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles  {3 stars}
    • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold  {4 stars}
    • Faithful by Alice Hoffman  {5 stars}
    • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch  {4 stars}
    • The Lost Girls by Heather Young  {3 stars}
    • Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn  {3 stars}
    • The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner  {4 stars}

I grabbed a couple of books from the distant past to re-read this month, which is rare for me – I’m usually of the “so many books, too little time” frame of mind. Jennifer Weiner is a favorite author of mine and it was great to re-read Certain Girls, the sequel to Good in Bed, one of my fave books of all time. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was my other re-read (from nearly fifteen years ago!), and it was just as spellbinding as I remembered.

But the book that stood out the most for me this month was something truly special, y’all. News of the World by Paulette Jiles is a finalist for the 2016 National Book Awards. News of the World is my most recent Favorite Book of 2016. Captain Kidd and Johanna have stolen my heart. This is a beautiful, enchanting, rollicking, and humorous love story between an old man and a ten-year-old girl (but not in a creepy way), set in the wilds of Texas shortly after the end of the Civil War. I laughed, I gasped, I wept – and I devoured it in one sitting. You have to read this, y’all. Promise me. Promise. Or I won’t be able to sleep…

What have you been reading this Fall?

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I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

i-almost-forgot-about-yoiu“The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning.

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, quitting her job as an optometrist, and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love. Like Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, I Almost Forgot About You will show legions of readers what can happen when you face your fears, take a chance, and open yourself up to life, love, and the possibility of a new direction.” – Goodreads

I’m just going to say this up front, y’all: I have not yet met a Terry McMillan novel that I didn’t like. I began reading her novels twenty years ago, when I picked up Waiting to Exhale at a bookstore clearance sale (this was long before it became a movie – just sayin’). I then began gobbling up everything McMillan had written, that I could find, and have remained a loyal fan to this day. She has never let me down. And I can say the same for I Almost Forgot About You, her most recent novel, published June 7, 2016. It is a winner through and through.

54-year-old Georgia Young is a successful optometrist living in the San Francisco Bay area. As the single parent of two grown daughters, she is twice-divorced and growing tired of her rather pedestrian, routine daily life. After learning of the death of a man she once loved, Georgia comes up with the grand plan of hunting down all of the men she has loved in her lifetime. She wants to let them know what they meant to her, to ask what they loved and didn’t love about her, to gain understanding and closure – but most of all, to forgive and to be forgiven. Cheered on by her two brutally honest best friends and distracted by her two troubled grown daughters – and 81-year-old newlywed mother – Georgia embarks down memory lane and discovers that there is much more to life than the one she has been living.

Georgia Young – what a character! Such a loving woman – although those she loves get on her last nerve. Georgia is wise, experienced, and street-smart, yet in the next moment can appear clueless and blind to something she is feeling or experiencing – though not to worry, her eyes are always opened sooner or later. McMillan has created a superstar cast of supporting characters to surround her protagonist, imbuing each with enough personality and spark to last long after the story has ended. As usual, this novel is laced throughout with strong, intelligent, proud women – something I’ve always loved about McMillan’s writing.

Initially I was concerned that I wouldn’t bond with Georgia – I focused on the age disparity between she and I – but there was nothing to worry about; she was as relatable as I have always found McMillan’s characters. Indeed, there was no better guide than Ms. Young for this journey through a middle-age crisis – and no better creator than McMillan for a story and characters who spread their arms to include us in their loud, crazy, joyous lives. I Almost Forgot About You is a summer read you do not want to pass on – go and get you some, y’all!

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Crown Publishing {via NetGalley}

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt-to-the-sea“Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.” – Goodreads

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a woeful and fictional depiction of the true story of the world’s most disastrous maritime tragedy known to man.

In 1945, near the end of World War II, four youth from different war-torn countries and of different backgrounds converge on a frozen path, intent on traveling to board a ship – the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff – bound for Kiel, Germany, where they are purported to be safe from Stalin and his army, who are pursuing them. What follows is the largest maritime disaster and loss of life in recorded history

Joana is a compassionate and knowledgeable nurse from Lithuania who brands herself a murderer as she grieves for her lost cousin and family. Emilia has been fleeing the Russian troops since she left Poland and is harboring a precious secret under her coat. Florian is a Prussian art restorer who is enacting his vengeance upon the Reich as he travels undercover. Alfred is an SS officer and sailor who maniacally worships Hitler and fantasizes about proving his heroism to the world at large.

Through the voices of these four young narrators, Salt to the Sea reveals to readers the calamitous tale of the Wilhelm Gustloff – which, despite the loss of over 9,000 lives when it sank at the hands of Russian torpedoes, is to this day a much overlooked tragedy in maritime history. This enormous pit of loss, horror, and despair is where Salt to the Sea is at its best. The fear and hopelessness of these characters is palpable, as is their will to survive and continue on toward salvation and a better life. It is easy to feel their grief and guilt for those they were forced to leave behind, and for those who died along the way during the long, hard trek.

It is quite clear that Sepetys was meticulous and exhaustive when it came to her research. The content of this novel meant much to her – one need only to read her touching Author’s Note at the end of the novel for proof. Unfortunately, I found that I was unable to forge an emotional connection with the novel, nor did I form any sort of attachment to one or more of the characters. The structure of the book was short and choppy, with each chapter only a few pages or less – this isn’t always a problem for me, however, with four separate narrators it cut short the time spent with each character and put me at a disadvantage when it came to forging a relationship with anyone.

Salt to the Sea is definitely a novel worth reading, if not for any other reason than this is a haunting tale that needs to be told to the masses.  The horror and tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the enormity of the impact on the people who were kicked out of their homes and forced to trek so many miles through vicious snow and low temperatures, and the fate of so many who were a part of Operation Hannibal as they attempted to escape the Eastern Front press of the Russian army are things that must not fall by the wayside of our awareness.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

Shelter by Jung Yun

shelter“Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child?

One of The Millions’ Most Anticipated Books of the Year (Selected by Edan Lepucki)

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one’s family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.” – Goodreads

On the surface, Shelter by Jung Yun appears to be a tale about a modern family in the midst of a financial crisis, brought on by living above their means. Add to that some parent/child family dynamic issues between Kyung Cho and his wealthy Korean-immigrant parents and there is a sense of palpable tension to the novel right from the start. Yet this is nothing compared to what is about to come – nothing compared to a tale so captivating, so devastating, that you won’t be able to put this book down until you’ve read every last page.

As the Chos are showing their un-fixed fixer-upper in once of the area’s nicer neighborhoods to a realtor, the three look out the back window to see a naked woman running about in the field behind the home. As Kyung looks more closely, he realizes that the woman is his own mother, with whom he has minimal contact in his daily life. And thus begins the emotionally frenzied pace of a novel I least expected.

Kyung’s parents, Jin and Mae Cho, have been the victims of a brutal home invasion in their ritzy neighborhood just blocks away from Kyung’s own home. Kyung is forced to bring them into his own home to care for them. This brings into play a plethora of issues, not the least of which includes the long-hidden abusive relationships within Kyung’s family: his father’s abuse of his mother, his mother’s abuse of Kyung, and even Kyung’s own emotional self-abuse that permeates this story. Kyung seems to be constantly filled with a sense of rage and ineptitude, trying his hardest to instill a sense of normalcy within his family yet furious when he senses anyone else – his wife, his parents, their church members – trying to do the same.

There is some strong writing and certainly a few harrowing (read: graphic) scenes in Shelter, that may cause some discomfort, however, I feel that they fit concisely within the context of the story. Ultimately, this affecting story has an universal appeal. Kyung, his struggle to hold on to his wife and child, his resistance to forgiving his parents, and his inevitable fall from grace – along with the devastating effects of the home invasion upon Jin and Mae – will keep you hooked from beginning to end as you race through the pages of this gripping and satisfying literary thriller.

Shelter by Jung Yun – On sale March 1st!

4 stars

Source: Macmillan-Picador {via NetGalley}

Libraries Around the World Coloring Book by Lacey Losh

cover_librariesaroundtheworld“50 libraries from across the globe have been transformed into line art coloring pages in this unique coloring book collection. These line art images will delight the adult coloring crowd as well as all ages of coloring enthusiasts.

The Libraries Around the World Coloring Book offers a first-of-its-kind combination of two current trends (the adult coloring phenomenon and little libraries) into one neat package. These coloring books feature libraries, large and small, with locations in 23 US states along with 13 countries on 6 continents!

This coloring book includes library steward stories, location details and interesting tidbits alongside the coloring sheet for each library, connecting art and education with the mental health benefits of coloring.” – Goodreads

I almost titled this post, “In Which I Don’t Even Know Where to Begin…” Do I start by professing my love and obsession for Little Free Libraries? Do I launch into a lecture about my newfound love for adult coloring books and the multitude of mental health benefits to be gained from coloring in them? Or do I simply begin by telling you about Lacey Losh’s amazing new publication, the Libraries Around the World Coloring Book?

little-free-library

What exactly is a Little Free Library, you ask? The Little Free Library website states:

“A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.”

The mission of Little Free Libraries is:

To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.”

There are currently over 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, bringing curbside literacy home and sharing millions of books annually. You can read more about the history of the Little Free Library movement here.

Lacey Losh, author of the Libraries Around the World Coloring Book, is the steward of a Little Free Library right here in my very own Lincoln, Nebraska. You can visit – and LIKE – the Losh Free Library Facebook Page here. Lacey collected 50 photographs of Little Free Libraries from across the globe, created line art pictures from them, and gathered them into a coloring book collection that will delight the minds of creative, coloring individuals young and old alike. Each picture also includes charming details and stories about the library it represents.

Great things about this coloring book (other than featuring LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES?!):

    • Each picture is on a page of its own, with no picture on the backside
    • The paper is of the perfect weight; even markers would work without bleeding through (NOT including Sharpies, friends!)
    • While each picture is detailed, it is not so intricate that it is difficult to color and can easily be completed in one sitting

I was so thrilled to be gifted a copy of this coloring book. The lovely pictures and charming stories, along with Lacey’s personal bio, brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I realize I am a library nerd, but I think you will be moved as well. There are two things you need to do today: visit a Little Free Library near you, and snatch up a copy of the Libraries Around the World Coloring Book! Go and get you some, y’all!

losh-free-libraryAbout the author:  Lacey Losh is a professional Digital Prepress Specialist and Graphic Designer. She is the steward of a Little Free Library in her own front yard, now in its third year of operation. She also volunteers as a Community Organizer with Common Root, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based nonprofit agency. Lacey is currently working on her second coloring book project, The Tiny Living Coloring Book. You can learn more about Lacey and her work at her website, Coloring With Lacey!

Libraries Around the World Coloring Book by Lacey Losh: Get it Today!

5 stars

Source: Lacey Losh

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11-22-63“Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.” – Goodreads

Holy Mother of Sweet Baby Jesus.

Hands down, BEST book I’ve read this year.

Sorry, David Joy (I promise you came in at a close second).

I was a Stephen King fan back when I was in middle school. In my first year of high school, I read It, which scared the crap out of me. Beyond words. And that, my friends, was the end of me and horror novels. I broke up with Stephen King lickety-split, I will tell you what. Swore him off fo-eva, y’all.

But people would not shut up about 11/22/63. So, I bought it for my Kindle Paperwhite. Back in, oh, January of 2013. And there it sat, on my Kindle bookshelf, for two years. Taunting me, daring me, threatening me with visions of 849 pages of possibly creepy science-fiction-y boredom… Oh, how wrong I was. How. Wrong. I. Was.

Along with all of the accolades, ultimately the premise of this book was just too good to pass up. At the urging of my MomAdvice Book Club, I gritted my teeth and dug in. And I’m ever so glad that I did. There is so much to this novel that it is difficult to craft a concise summary about it. It is nothing like the Stephen King novels I read oh so many years ago. Those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in 60’s history – and maybe a side interest in sci-fi – will enjoy this book.

And, y’all, this is no joke – I flew threw all 849 pages of this novel – absolutely captivating, I tell you. King quite obviously researched the hell out of the time period he was writing about – details, details, details. His writing was simply flawless. I was a bit concerned that at some point, perhaps near the end of the book, that things would take a bend toward the science fiction side of things and ruin the beauty of this work – and while it did rear its head, it wasn’t in a bad way at all. Y’all, I am not lying when I tell you that I loved everything about 11/22/63. Except the fact that it ended. Boo-hoo for me.

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Read it today!

5 stars

Source: Personal Library {Kindle Paperwhite}