Category Archives: Book Review

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels Book Review

When life throws shit our way, we often turn to our favorite books or movies. It is the predictability in a sea of chaos that may be the one thing that gets us through the emotional turbulence.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels, by Rachel Cohen, was published last year. About a decade ago, Cohen was going through tough times. Her father was on the verge of dying of cancer and she was near the end of her first pregnancy. Needing something to provide a source of comfort, she turned to Jane Austen.

In this memoir, Cohen weaves her story with Austen’s while exploring the emotions and narratives within the novels. She writes about dealing with grief, loss, change, and watching your children grow up.

I really enjoyed this book. While reading it, I was reminded why after more than 200 years, Austen is still beloved as an author. The experiences of the characters are thoroughly human. The feelings are ones we can all relate to. If I were to make a list of books for newbie Austen readers, this one would be on the list. There is just enough detail to hook the reader, without going deep into the nitty-gritty details that only a longtime Janeite would understand.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels is available wherever books are sold.

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I Let You Fall: A Romantic Drama Book Review

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it takes a dramatic event to shake us out of that rut.

Sara Downing‘s new supernatural romance novel, I Let You Fall: A Romantic Drama was published on June 20th. Eve Chapman has it all: a supportive family, a loving boyfriend, and a job that makes her going into work worth the agita. Everything changes when she wakes up on a hot London night in the hospital. Watching as the doctors remove the bandages from a woman who has had a head injury, Eve is shocked to learn that she is the woman on the operating table.

While she is physically immobilized by the coma, her soul is stuck between life and death. Eve discovers that she is not alone. Luca Diaz is also frozen in this realm. He becomes her guide, instructing her on how to support those who are still alive. As time passes and they spend more time together, Eve begins to reassess her life choices.

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I loved this book. Eve’s story is powerful. It reminded me that life is short, we never know when our turn will come. It is also a reminder that second chances are possible, it is merely a question of taking them or walking away. Though the romance is threaded into the narrative, what made the book for me was Eve’s journey of discovering what (and who) was important to her.

It is an amazing read. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Let You Fall: A Romantic Drama wherever books are sold.

Thank you to TCK Publishing for the ARC.

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Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic Book Review

Societal change comes in many different forms. Sometimes, it comes via a book. In 1962, Sex and the Single Girl hit bookstores. Written by Helen Gurley Brown, it broke barriers and opened doors. Brown’s groundbreaking narrative told women that they didn’t need marriage to be fulfilled and happy.

In May, Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic, was published. Edited by Eliza Smith and Haley Swanson, it contains a series of essays by well-known authors who apply Brown’s rules and recommendations to their own lives. Each comes from a different background and tells her own story while responding to Brown’s ideas. They also take on some topics that for any number of reasons are not mentioned in the original text. It both honors Brown and takes her recommendations to a level that would have been unfathomable sixty years ago.

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I love this book. Though Sex and the Single Girl was and still is groundbreaking, it is firmly set in its era. This anthology is the perfect follow-up. The contributors walk in the footsteps of women like Helen Gurley Brown while creating new paths for future generations of women. For me, it was a reminder of how far we have come and how much further we need to go.

Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.

Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic is available wherever books are sold.

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Politics Book Reviews: Battling the Big Lie: How Fox, Facebook, and the MAGA Media Are Destroying America & Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

It would be easy to think that those who we elect to speak for our needs in the halls of power are doing their jobs. A deeper dive reveals a lust for power, the need for influence to fill one own pocket, and the lack of care/responsibility to those who put them in office.

Battling the Big Lie: How Fox, Facebook, and the MAGA Media Are Destroying America, by Dan Pfeiffer, was published last month. In short, it describes how both the carelessness of the social media companies and a right-wing conspiracy nearly led to the annihilation of this nation and our democracy. He also talks about how we can fight back and stop the lies before they destroy us.

Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, by Elie Mystal, was published in March. Mystal takes the legalese out of the Constitution and explains them in a way that anyone would understand. Complete with pop culture references and the occasional f-bomb, Mystal points out what is wrong with the law (i.e. racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, etc), and how we can prevent the white patriarchy from dragging us back into the past.

What we need right now are two things: hope and a kick in the behind. These books provide both. By writing laymen’s terms, both Pfeiffer and Mystal are giving the average citizens the tools we need to fight against the growing threats of theocracy and fascism.

Do I recommend them both? Absolutely.

Battling the Big Lie: How Fox, Facebook, and the MAGA Media Are Destroying America and Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution are available wherever books are sold.

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If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings Book Review

School used to be a place in which we nurture the minds and futures of the next generation. It has in recent years, become a place of death and heartache.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings, by Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer, was published in 2019. Inspired by a text sent by one of the students who survived the Parkland shooting, the book follows the history of school shootings. Interviewing survivors and family members of the victims, the reader is taken into the emotional heart of the experience and the reverberations that last long into the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It hit me in the right place. I was both angry and sad. I was angry about the lives that were lost. I was sad for the families who would never see their children grow up. What struck me was that most, if not all of the shooters fit into a certain type. They are mostly angry white males who have a grudge and turn to violence to get back at those who they feel have wronged them.

The aspect of the book that has stayed with me was the responses from those who survived Columbine and the other shooting that occurred in the late 1990s. Many of us who were on the verge of adulthood back then are now parents. Though it has been decades since they were nearly killed, hearing the news immediately took them back to that day. It is a reminder that trauma of this kind never truly leaves us, regardless of how many years have passed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings is available wherever books are sold.

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Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel Book Review

A bookstore is much more than it seems to be. It is a magical place in which dreams become reality and we can travel as far as our imagination takes us. It is also a place of business in which office politics and society’s rules play a role in the work environment.

Natalie Jenner‘s new book, Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel, was published last month. It takes place in 1950. Bloomsbury Books has been in London for a century, catering to the city’s book lovers. While times have changed, the store remains firmly stuck in the past. The staff (who are mostly male) are ruled by a list of 51 rules that are unbreakable. Despite this, the three female employees are doing what they can to break boundaries.

Vivian lost her titled fiance to World War II. He was killed in action, leaving her heartbroken. Five years after the war, she is focused on her career. Fashion-conscious and incredibly smart, she knows that she can do more than her current responsibilities.

Grace finds solace in her job. Married with two young sons, she is the sole source of income for her family. Though she loves being a mother and is trying to be a good wife (in spite of her husband’s faults), she would love to do her own thing.

Evelyn has raised herself up from being a farm girl and housemaid via a university degree. When she is turned down for an academic position due to her gender, she takes the job at the bookstore. Just because she is down does not mean that she is out. She has a plan for the future.

I love this book. Like its predecessor, it is well-written, charming, and completely entertaining. I was immediately drawn into this story of three women navigating a world and a job in which they are second class. Instead of shrinking and meekly accepting their roles, they stand up for themselves. It is a lesson that unfortunately, is just as relevant today as it was 72 years ago.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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A Lady for a Duke Book Review

I hope and believe that anyone’s greatest wish is to love and be loved in return, regardless of who they are.

Alexis Hall‘s new regency romance novel, A Lady for a Duke, was published last month. Up until Waterloo, Viola Caroll hid her true self. When it appeared that she did not survive, she took the opportunity to become the woman she knew she was inside. But there was a price to pay for being herself.

Among her losses is her best friend Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. When they reunite years later, Gracewood is a shadow of his former self. Relying on alcohol and other substances to dull the pain, he has become a recluse who is living in the past.

Doing everything she can to bring back the man she knew, new feelings of both the physical and emotional kind bubble to the surface. Viola wants to tell Justin the truth, but doing so may cost her everything she has fought for.

I love that the cover is giving me Beauty and the Beast vibes. I also love that the heroine is transgender. It was a lovely change to a genre and a narrative that many of us know all too well. The problem is that the spark between the main characters is missing. While the author does a great job of keeping us in Viola and Justin’s heads, the all-important “will they or won’t they?” question is missing. I badly wanted to root for them. But the chemistry that should have pulled me in was simply not there.

Do I recommend it? A highly disappointed no.

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Out of the Corner: A Memoir Book Review

From an audience perspective, it would appear that both starring in a blockbuster movie and coming from a respected performing family guarantees success in Hollywood. Anyone who knows the truth would say otherwise.

Out of the Corner: A Memoir, by Dirty Dancing actress Jennifer Grey, was published last month. Grey is Jewish acting royalty. Her paternal grandfather, Mickey Katz was one of the most famous comedians and musicians of his day. Her parents, Joel Grey (of Cabaret fame)and Jo Wilder followed in her grandfather’s footsteps. Raised in both New York City and Los Angeles, she rose to fame in Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and other 1980s classics.

The reader is taken on an emotional journey through her early years, the ups and downs of her personal and private life, and finally, her finding peace with her identity.

This book is amazing. Grey’s tale is emotional, human, honest, and goes straight to the heart. She leaves no stone unturned, revealing her flaws, her mistakes, and the various heartaches that came her way. Within the narrative, there were two stories that stood out. The first was her father publicly coming out almost a decade ago after spending a lifetime in the closet. The second is her wish to speak to co-star Patrick Swayze one last time. It is a heartfelt wish that I think that anyone who has lost a loved one will understand.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on a “best of” list come the end of the year. It is one of my favorite books of 2022.

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If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be Series) Book Review

At its heart, Cinderella is the story of finding the good in life and rising about the shit that fate has sent our way.

If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be Series), by Julie Murphy, was published last year. Cindy Woods is a plus-sized recent college graduate. After spending the last four years in New York City, her career path is stuck in first gear. With no other options, she returns to Los Angeles and her childhood home. She is welcomed with open arms by her stepmother, Erica Tremaine, and her stepsisters.

Cindy is a fashion fanatic. Due to her size, finding the latest and greatest clothing that fits her has always been a problem. When Erica’s Cinderella‘s themed reality dating show, Before Midnight (a la The Bachelor), is down a contestant, Cindy agrees to step in. It was supposed to be a way of getting her designs noticed. It also doesn’t hurt that the guy at the center of the program is good-looking.

Instead of quietly staying in the background, Cindy becomes a fan favorite. She also starts to fall for the guy. She will have to take a jump into the unknown, not knowing if it will end in heartbreak or a happy ending.

I loved this book. Murphy pays homage to the 1950 animated Disney film while writing her own story. In another narrative, Cindy would either have to lose weight to achieve her goals or be forced into the fat and funny sister/best friend role. The cherry on top for me is that Cindy is not looking for a man, her priority is her professional future.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Eternal Book Review

Growing up is never simple. We are often faced with challenges that force us to make difficult choices or face a reality that we would prefer not to.

Eternal, by Lisa Scottoline, was published earlier this year. Growing up in Rome, Marco, Sandro, and Elisabetta have been best friends since they were young. Marco is the son of a former cyclist and ardent follower of Benito Mussolini. Elisabetta was raised in an artistically inclined family, Her dream is to become a novelist. Sandro is Jewish and a promising mathematics genius.

Two major events upend the world as they know it: World War II and their teenage years. Marco loves Elisabetta. But Elisabetta loves Sandro. As their love triangle intensifies, so does the fascist government and the increasing influence of Nazi Germany.

Soon, they will all be tested. As a Jew, Sandro’s world becomes ever restricted by the antisemitic Nazi race laws. Marco gets involved in local government and Elisabetta must fend for herself. Everything and everyone they know will become unrecognizable, forcing all of them into adulthood and the complications that arise from this transition.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a reminder that the Holocaust extended to the whole of Europe. The Jews of Southern Europe were a target as much as their Central and Eastern Europe co-religionists. What was different was that Rome’s non-Jewish community did not wholeheartedly accept the ideology of the German invaders. There were many who maintained friendships with their Jewish friends and neighbors while helping them in whatever way they could.

Though it is not a quick read, it is well worth the time it takes to complete the novel. I was quickly engrossed in the tale and the changing relationship between the main characters.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Eternal is available wherever books are sold.

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