Categories
book review nonfiction

Book Review- Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit

A young woman’s debut memoir of grit and tenacity, as she returns to the conservative hometown she always longed to escape to earn a living in the steel mill that casts a shadow over Cleveland.

Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill…

To ArcelorMittal Steel Eliese is known as #6691: Utility Worker, but this was never her dream. Fresh out of college, eager to leave behind her conservative hometown and come to terms with her Christian roots, Eliese found herself applying for a job at the local steel mill. The mill is everything she was trying to escape, but it’s also her only shot at financial security in an economically devastated and forgotten part of America.

In Rust, Eliese brings the reader inside the belly of the mill and the middle American upbringing that brought her there in the first place. She takes a long and intimate look at her Rust Belt childhood and struggles to reconcile her desire to leave without turning her back on the people she’s come to love. The people she sees as the unsung backbone of our nation.

Faced with the financial promise of a steelworker’s paycheck, and the very real danger of working in an environment where a steel coil could crush you at any moment or a vat of molten iron could explode because of a single drop of water, Eliese finds unexpected warmth and camaraderie among the gruff men she labors beside each day.

Expected publication: March 3rd 2020 by Flatiron Books

What did I think?

I spent a couple days letting this book settle in prior to typing up my thoughts on it. There’s a lot to unpack here. It isn’t just a book about one thing. I mean, no one has a life with just one issue.

Eliese attended college and never expected to be working in the steel mill that dominated her hometown. So there’s a story there.

She also was raped at her extremely conservative Catholic University and they swept it under the rug. That’s a story too.

Finally, she discovers that she has Bi-Polar Disorder which is not only a story, it colors her entire life: school, work, and relationships. These three threads get woven together into one engrossing, relatable memoir.

If you liked the book Educated, and or Hillbilly Elegy, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

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Categories
book review historical fiction nonfiction

Book Review: The Splendid and The Vile

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Crown

What did I think?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Churchhill and everything you didn’t know about him at all in one 500 page tome. Details that until now were dormant and lost are all compiled together in this readable play by play historical account of WW2 inside Winston Churchhill’s closest circle.

I didn’t know anything about Churchill’s daughter Mary, and the sections of her diary gives you a side that history books skip over. As Larson states in his interviews Londoners lived through an entire year of the terror that New Yorkers felt on 9/11. It is intense.

I didn’t like it as much as his previous books and I don’t know if it was this subject matter or what, but this took me a long time to read and I read the whole thing before reviewing. I think you’d have to be a die hard fan of either this author or Winston himself to give this a 5 star rating.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link as it helps pay for this site.

Categories
book review romance

Book Review: Well Met

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Published September 3rd 2019 by Berkley

What did I think?

Some books grab you from word one and this is one of those for me. I’m not even particularly into the Ren Faire fandom. But, if you want to dip your toes into the genre that is Romance, this may be your gateway book. Also, I don’t know that much about Romance yet, but if hot English teacher turned roguish pirate is a thing, someone comment and point me to more books please. Of course the two MC don’t get along at first, and you are just waiting for something to drive them together. It was a delicious wait, the story is the perfect length, and although small towns aren’t for me, the whole plot was completely plausible. This book is the perfect beach/winter day/escape your own life book, and it has zero calories, unlike peanut butter cups. I’ll be pre-ordering the sequel for sure.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link as it helps pay for this site.

Categories
book review MG fiction

Book Review: Quintessence

I attempt to read my advance reader copies in order of release date, although, more often than not one of them peaks my interest early. I have like zero self control when it comes to new books.

I console myself knowing that early reader buzz leads to pre-orders which helps the author get a deal to write their next book. That said, you’ve got a while before you’ll get your hands on this one.


Alma moved to Four Points after her parents bought a law practice in the small Her anxiety is off the charts as she navigates starting a new school in a new town. Her parents are not much help when night after night they encourage her to try harder. She doesn’t want to let them down and hides her increasing panic attacks from them.

One day she meets the Shopkeeper in town and he gives her a telescope and cryptically told to: Find the Elements, Grow the Light and Save the Starling.

At school, she joins the Astronomy club and hooks up with the club members who come together to help her and the celestial being that she sees falling out of a star. Together they learn about astronomy, alchemy, friendship, and loyalty.
It is magical realism at it’s best. I adore this story. I think even readers who are solidly typically in the YA genre will like it.

If this is the kind of book that your kid adores, imagine the joy of your child going to the mailbox each month for a shiny new book of their very own, and then meeting with kids their age to talk about the latest, greatest middle-grade titles. Consider a Bookish Society Membership!

Categories
book review historical fiction MG fiction

Book Review: Gold Rush Girl

Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mud-caked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an unintended — and perilous — adventure to save her brother.

Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence and adventure, and she yearns to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold! But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away on the ship. Though San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Until one day, when Father is in the gold fields, her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped. And so Tory is spurred on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships. Beloved storyteller Avi is at the top of his form as he ushers us back to an extraordinary time of hope and risk, brought to life by a heroine readers will cheer for. Spot-on details and high suspense make this a vivid, absorbing historical adventure.

Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by Candlewick Press

What did I think?

I’m a huge Avi fangirl. Some of my very favorite MG books have inspired long rabbit trails through history in our homeschool. If you have a kid who loved Charlotte Doyle or even his Oliver Cromwell books this one is a bit like that. It’s deliciously long, most MG books will cut the adventure off to make the book easier to get through for reluctant readers, not the case with Avi at all. The reader gets to read every twist and turn of the adventure as if you are a fly on the wall.

I liked Tory and was rooting for her to succeed in her quest for a more “free”? life for herself. I actually didn’t care whether she found her brother or not as he annoyed me with his constant whining. I was rooting for her and her friends and hoping they didn’t get hurt in the search. In the end the story is more centered on all of them, and it’s set up for a sequel, which is awesome.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link as it helps pay for this site.

If this is the kind of book that your kid adores, imagine the joy of your child going to the mailbox each month for a shiny new book of their very own, and then meeting with kids their age to talk about the latest, greatest middle-grade titles. Consider a Bookish Society Membership!

Categories
book review historical fiction

Book Review: The Dutch House

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested. 

Published September 24th 2019 by Harper

What did I think?

I love a long family saga and this one ended way too soon for me. I wanted to know what would happen to the next generation.

I think one of the reasons it resonated with me was the storybook atmosphere of the house, the evil stepmother, and how terrible things just kept happening. The characters in the story had a lot to deal with and they did the best they could again and again.

There’s a lot to unpack here for a discussion, the trend after WW2 to buy that big house outside the city, the dysfunctional family dynamics caused by divorce, what does forgiveness look like in real life?

The Dutch House by Ann Pratchett turned out to be the exact book I needed to break me out of a weird reading funk. I was reading, but nothing was “amazing” and for me that’s rare. I saw this book on the seven day shelf of the library and picked it up. It’s not really new, no one cared whether I read it, and most of all I was under no obligation to review it at all. Those factors along with the fact that it’s also a great story leaves me writing this review today.

If you like audio books, Tom Hanks reads this book, and I found the sample compelling. If I do a re-read it’ll be a audible book for sure.

Categories
Uncategorized

Book Review: Temporary Wife Temptation

Much more than he bargained for…

“You want me to find you a wife?”

“No. I want you to be my wife.”

Garrett Song is this close to taking the reins of his family’s LA fashion empire…until the Song matriarch insists he marry her handpicked bride first. To block her matchmaking, he recruits Natalie Sobol to pose as his wife. She needs a fake spouse as badly as he does. But when passion burns down their chaste agreement, the flames could destroy them all…

Published February 4th 2020 by Harlequin Desire

My thoughts:

I’m a sucker for the fake marriage that turns into a real romance. Garrett knows what is expected of him by his family and he pushes against it all anyway for love. Swoon. This is only my third Harlequin book this year and so far they are hitting it out of the park. Two thumbs up for this book- it’s just what you need on a quiet snowy afternoon of cozy reading!

Categories
Uncategorized

Book Review: Witness Protection Widow

New from Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.

Can the witness protection program keep her identity secret?

After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

Published February 1st 2020 by Harlequin Intrigue

What did I think?

This new series is like a police procedural if you added romance and shook it up. This might be your gateway into romance if you normally read Patterson or Grisham. It’s a page turner full of suspense for sure. I normally pride myself in figuring out the upcoming plot twists, and in this one I was never really sure what direction the story would go.

Allison got married to a mob boss without knowing about his real job. The last three years of her marriage were spent as his prisoner after she discovered his mob ties and confronted him. When she witnessed her father in law kill her husband she escaped and went to the FBI.

The twist of her former boyfriend being her Witness Protection Marshall opened the door for them to reunite and find out why they had broken up in the first place.



		
Categories
book review MG fiction

A Treasure Trove of February MG New Release Books

What’s better than one new book review? How about four at once? I try not to write batch reviews, but I am struggling to catch up this week. If you would like any more details on any of these amazing new titles: please comment here or on any of my social links.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

Published February 4th 2020 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

I think: this is a critical (possibly future award winning) book to hand to the pre-teens in your life. The simple solidarity of all the women in the story amazed me. The author told some hard truths in a simple, believable way. In short, it has two plotlines: the mystery of who is sabatoging Mia’s grandma’s cricket farm and Mia figuring out how to find her voice to share why she is avoiding gymnastics. Best for Middle Grade- YA readers

When Big Ben sounds the stroke of midnight, Emily’s parents vanish.

As an adventurous eleven year old, Emily packs her sandwiches and her hedgehog, Hoggin, and heads into the Midnight Hour. A Victorian London frozen in time, the Midnight Hour is a magical place of sanctuary and of peril dreamt up by children – and inhabited by monsters of legend, creatures of the imagination, and a Postal Service determined to save the day (and night!). To save her mum and dad, Emily must be brave enough to embrace her own inner magic …

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere meets The Phantom Tollbooth in this classic-feeling adventure, full of astonishing world-building.

Published February 7th 2019 by Chicken House Books

What I thought: We’ll be listening to this one on Audible soon. Modern girl meets Victorian London with magical creatures? That’s our love language. 5 stars.

Lydia knows more about death than most thirteen-year-olds. Her mother was already sick when her father left them six years ago. When her mother dies, it is Lydia who sits by her side.

Fully orphaned now, Lydia follows the plan her mother made with her. She uproots to rural Connecticut to live with her “last of kin.” Aunt Brat, her jovial wife Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord Elloroy welcome Lydia. Only days after her arrival the women adopt a big yellow dog.

Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

What do I think?

Bring on the tissues. (in a good way.) Sometimes life is full of hard things and I firmly believe that the more kids read about real life troubles the easier they will have dealing with them in their own lives.

After a harrowing summer camp, Arlo Finch is back in Pine Mountain, Colorado, preparing to face a new school, new threats, and two new Rangers in Blue Patrol.

Arlo is about to undertake his most dangerous journey yet: all the way to China to try to bring his father home.

But when the mysterious Eldritch reveal their true agenda, Arlo must make an impossible choice: save his friends and family, or save the Long Woods. Both worlds will never be the same. 

Published February 4th 2020 by Roaring Brook Press

What did we think?

This was an excellent wrap up to the Arlo Finch Trilogy. If you haven’t read these, now is the time when you can binge through all three at once.

If this is the kind of book that your kid adores, imagine the joy of your child going to the mailbox each month for a shiny new book of their very own, and then meeting with kids their age to talk about the latest, greatest middle-grade titles. Consider a Bookish Society Membership!

Categories
book review nonfiction

Book Review: American Sherlock

Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities–beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books–sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the “American Sherlock Holmes,” Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America’s greatest–and first–forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural.

Heinrich was one of the nation’s first expert witnesses, working in a time when the turmoil of Prohibition led to sensationalized crime reporting and only a small, systematic study of evidence. However with his brilliance, and commanding presence in both the courtroom and at crime scenes, Heinrich spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools that police still use today, including blood spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests, and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence. His work, though not without its serious–some would say fatal–flaws, changed the course of American criminal investigation.

Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon–as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.

 February 11th 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

My thoughts:

Oh, how I adore CSI and all that goes along with it. I read this at an absurdly slow rate (for me). In this book, you get to know Heinrich’s life story and hear about his personal life as he basically invented crime scene investigation as we know it today.

 Heinrich’s methods of handwriting analysis, laboratory testing of trace evidence, blood evidence observation, deductive reasoning, and other techniques that made him a criminal investigator ahead of his time.

 He was also an early adopter of victim profiling, and victimology has taken on an increasingly important role in identifying unknown killers. He used photomicrographs –magnified photos were taken through microscopes — and turned them into comparison shots to be used in court to depict significant differences to juries, a method still used today.

All the science is fascinating, and then the narratives of each crime and trial made this book read like a marathon of Law and Order for me.

All in all, I’d give it 5 stars. (Note that I’m not going to rank in stars this year unless it is a 5 star ranking from me.)