Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Review: The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live

The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live by Heather B. Armstrong
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I am so conflicted with this book.

The good is that the author is honest about her depression and describes it so very well. Her writing is compulsive and her relationship with words is enviable. I applauded anybody who is willing to write an honest memoir. But that is where my conflict comes in. It is certainly her choice to share what she wishes to share of her personal journey and I acknowledge that. What drove me crazy was the little tidbits that hinted of a much, much bigger story that is probably relevant to her journey but then, after one sentence, she drops it. Why mention it at all if it isn’t going to be fleshed out adequately for the reader? There are deep issues with her father and I respect her discretion as she has a continued relationship with him yet she intimates how very horrible he was to her in her childhood by making a reference to TV bombshell and then drops it.

I found the author very, very good at describing how it feels to be so depressed that she wanted to be dead but much of the book is a lot of description of the sounds of her mother’s shoes as she walks quickly a conversation about constipation. Her writing tends toward promising something deeper but leaves me wanting as it doesn’t deliver.

Apparently, there are also inside jokes or references that I didn’t get. I don’t like to feel stupid or excluded when I read a book. I enjoy an intellectually challenging read but the references were not that. They were inferences made within her mind, pop culture, or her blog. Truthfully, I’m not as trendy as she is.

I admire the author for who she is and what she has accomplished and continues to accomplish. Fans of her blog will probably understand a lot more than I did. My review is based on my frustration level and not on Ms. Armstrong’s writing style.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: Even If I Fall

Even If I Fall Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting and intriguing premise. What happens after the “Whodunnit” in a small town? Best friends, a murder, a confession with vague details, the convicted goes to prison, two families are left broken. The protagonist, Brooke, is the younger sister of a brother she loves very much and visits him every Saturday at the penitentiary. She is isolated both socially and within her family as each member carries the sin of the brother.

Meet Heath, the brother of the murdered best friend. Trapped and isolated because of the crime against his brother, living with a different family dynamic that holds him hostage. A unlikely friendship with Brooke. How do either of them or all of them move forward? What happened that night and does it really matter?

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Review: My Lovely Wife

My Lovely Wife My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not like the storyline of this book, yet... I simply could. Not. Put. It. Down. First chapter is short and sweet and I’m hooked. I really wasn’t going to read the book based on the premise which is that a seemingly normal suburban couple with two teenage kids get an adrenaline rush by killing women. Ick. Not my cup of tea. Here is why I didn’t put it down.

It’s not graphic. Even when other details come up, the descriptions are left to the reader to fill in the dots. Just enough detail to know but not enough detail to be completely offensive. Yet I’m disturbed that I wasn’t offended enough to put it down. That’s good writing.

The story unfolds with twists and turns. The POV is the husband. You kind of understand him and want to like him. They both have secrets. Neither are innocent yet I had to stop myself from wanting him to get away with it. I was justifying his level of guilt. They each play different parts in the crimes and THAT is the hook.

The last 50 pages or so even disturbed my plan to make chocolate chip cookies. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. I guess my summation is that the story is really not about the crimes. In fact, as disturbing as these people are, the author writes a very well written novel that focuses on events outside the crimes.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: Here and Now and Then

Here and Now and Then Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I pretty much love time travel books, particularly ones that are well done and have rules and constraints. This is one of them.

Kin is a secret agent time traveling enforcer. He gets his orders and carries them out. His assignments have to do with people who have changed events through a time traveling blip. The most often offenders are trying to play with the stock market or some other monetary gain. The book opens with Kin taking out a target but not before the target shoots him where his beacon is imbedded, purposely cutting him off from his own timeline, 150 years in the future. The quandary is that he is to not have contact or interfere with others or events in order to keep the timeline pure. Yet as the years drag on, he forgets his other life (it’s a time traveling truism that you can’t comprehend too Times at once for long. Horrible headaches). By the time his retriever finally comes, Kin has spent 20 years living a life in his past.

With all the rules and regulations, how will the agency view his years in the past? His life lived? The lives he changed? On the other hand, how does he settle into his old life in the future after spending decades in the past? Hint: time in the future did not pass at the same rate.

I can’t remember what the book description included so I want to be very careful about what I say but the conflict was quietly engaging and resolution very satisfying. Actually, quite clever and heart warming. I think that is the problem I’ve had with time traveling books in the past is that the ending leaves me feeling sad. Not this one.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is not the story that is particularly exciting but more of the atmosphere that is painted as well as the simple life of living where the crawdads sing. Of course, there is a plot and a mystery. There is even a court case yet the most compelling reason to continue reading is the protagonist and her sharp, intelligent mind yet her simple life that she enjoys. The love story didn't hurt, either.

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Review: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Somehow I believed I had an understanding of discrimination. My dad was a freedom rider. He started Head Start in Mississippi and Detroit. He got beat up by the sheriff we saw in Mississippi Burning. He was out on the night that MLK Jr. died and feared for his life. He told us all of these stories and more and taught is about civil rights. And all this happened when I was a little girl so it was a long time ago.


The events covered in this book did not happen a long time ago. There may be more discrimination in southern states but it’s happening now all the time, all around me, to people I know. For all my talk and even action to champion the underdog, at the end of the day I come home to my middle class home, mortgaged against my husband’s and my underpaid but highly educated jobs, where my kids have plenty of food but “nothing to eat,” and my reflection in the mirror is of a white, middle aged woman.

To Bryan Stevenson - I am in awe of his perseverance and rabid optimism in his cause. He has made a huge dent in a societal problem that MLK Jr. died for. The issues persist in much more sneaky manner which makes this problem harder to fight and so insidious. But there innocent are men and women who are living life because of this man and his vision. I honestly can’t celebrate him enough.

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Review: The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent book! Multifaceted that gave me a new appreciation to the soldiers of this war and the horrors they saw and experienced. The Winter Soldier also gave a satisfying ending. Not necessarily a happy ending but one that, when I read the last word, closed the book, I felt satisfied.

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