The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

The Woman who smashed codesI just finished The Woman Who Smashed Codes a little while ago for my book club. It was a good read. I would recommend it to those who enjoy biographies about strong women, WWI to WWII era, spies, and code-breaking.

Here’s what I liked…

  • Elizebeth Friedman is a seriously cool person. She is smart, independent, and pioneered code-breaking in the United States. She held her ground in a field dominated by men and saved countless lives by breaking crucial codes during both world wars. Plus she spent a lot of time catching Nazi spies, which is so cool. She was a true hero.
  • The subject matter of the book is fascinating. I know nothing about code-breaking and it was so interesting to read about such a mysterious and often romanticized field.
  • I learned about South America’s situation during WWII. I had never learned about what South America did during WWII and had kind of wondered why they weren’t helping out! Turns out they had plenty of things going on. I find it curious that this piece of history was never covered in any of my history classes…

Here’s what I didn’t like…

  • The writing style has some serious issues. Fagone would repeatedly build scenes up to a climax only to either leave it unresolved or give a resolution that was super underwhelming. After a few instances, this tactic became extremely annoying. I suspect this technique was used to try and jazz up otherwise unexciting historical accounts, but it only served to annoy me.
  • This book is way too long. I listened to the audiobook, which is thirteen and a half hours, and I had a really hard time staying interested through the whole thing. My guess is that Fagone had so much raw material to parse through that it was challenging trimming it down. In any case, I lost interest several times. It actually took me about two months to listen to the whole thing because I kept giving up.
  • This might be a petty criticism, but it reads too much like a biography and not enough like fiction. I saw reviews that raved about how incredible this story is and because of this, it is a page-turner that reads like fiction. This is a lie! It is an incredible story, but this does not mean that it reads like fiction. I often struggle with nonfiction because I get bored. I got bored a lot with this book, despite Elizebeth’s story being incredible.

3 out of 5 stars

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Guest post: Teresa Richards

The Windfall App-eBook-Cover

The Windfall App, by Teresa Richards, released this week and I’m participating in her blog tour to celebrate! Enter to win some cool prizes through this Rafflecopter giveaway:

Here’s what you could win!!

The main character in The Windfall App is a girl named Marina, who’s a piano prodigy by day and an alternative rock junkie by night. But there’s so much more to her than just the music, and she wishes more people knew the girl behind the keyboard.

What better way is there to get to know someone than to snoop through their Pinterest pages? Here’s a sneak peek into Marina’s life through what she’s got pinned:

Family is important to Marina, as are her Chinese roots. But, as with all good things, sometimes it takes losing them to fully appreciate them.

1 chinese roots

Marina loves edgy guys and thinks leather arm bands are super sexy. So when she meets a guy who wears one, well, he had her at hello.

2 leather armband

Marina loves unique eyewear. In fact, glasses are her favorite accessory, and she changes them like most girls change their earrings.

3 glasses

Marina loves hiking, and she loves her City by the Bay. She spends a decent amount of time online finding new trails to hike.

4 hikinh

Marina loves alternative rock and, especially, the bass player from the band Walk the Moon. (He’s the one on the far right).

5 walk the moon

The piano is a huge part of Marina’s life. She loves playing, even though she feels suffocated by the expectations that surround her. Throughout the book, she realizes it’s okay to love the piano on her own terms.

6 piano

Marina’s dad started a company called Beanies, which makes organic beanbag furniture. Her favorite Beanie is a giant gray one that sits in the family’s living room.

7 bean bag

Marina’s favorite place to go for a treat is called The Cookie Crumb, where they serve giant chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.

8 ice cream sandwich

Marina’s been dreaming of attending Juilliard school of music since she can remember. She and her best friend, Darya, are planning on heading to New York City as soon as they graduate high school.

9 juilliard


Thanks for giving us a peek into Marina’s head, Teresa! Readers, check out the blog tour schedule here for more opportunities to win the awesome prize pack:

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter!

The Windfall App is available now on Amazon.

Add it to your Goodreads list.

Cover reveal: The Windfall App by Teresa Richards

There’s a great new book coming out soon by Teresa Richards, and I’ve got the new cover! Check out The Windfall App, a YA contemporary suspense.

The Windfall App-eBook-CoverMarina Berghman is a classical piano prodigy with parents who’ve had her life mapped out since she was in diapers. But their plan leaves no room for her secret love of alternative rock, or Sean, the edgy guitarist who recently moved to town.

When Marina buys a lottery ticket on her eighteenth birthday via the new Windfall app, she expects it to be nothing more than a rite of passage. But she wins—the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day, for life. Suddenly given the means to break free from a life she never felt in control of, she’s quick to cut her family ties and turn her back on everything she knows.

But her lottery win was no lucky break. Her prize comes with strings attached, and Marina soon finds herself at the center of someone else’s life or death game. When she discovers evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But he’s harboring secrets of his own.

Now Marina must sort out who to trust and who’s pulling the strings, before her prize turns into a noose.

Here’s an excerpt from the book…


Stay tuned. The Windfall App will be released in July!

To learn more about Teresa Richards, check out her website.

Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs

My book club this month read Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla, and–full disclosure–I suck at retaining audible information. I’m very much a visual learner, but I’m so busy that I don’t get to read just for fun anymore unless it’s while I’m shuttling children around town or cooking dinner or going for a jog (walk, really…). Anyway, my point in sharing this is that I don’t focus very well when I listen to audiobooks, but I still loved this story. I couldn’t tell you all the finer points of the plot, but Maisie Dobbs is a kicka** private detective just oozing with coolness.

I loved this book for a few reasons. First, Maisie is a good role model. She’s smart, resourceful, brave, intuitive in her work, and lives with integrity. Second, this book covers a period of time which I’m not as familiar with as others. Maisie goes off to serve as a nurse during World War I. I’ve read many books about WWII, but not as many about WWI, and it was nice to experience this period through a new perspective. Third, it provided a great blend of cozy murder mystery, plot, history, and a touch of love story. The ending was heartbreaking and unexpected, but somehow fit the book and mood perfectly.

The only thing I didn’t like was the transitions to the many flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks themselves or jumps in the story, but there was no indication that the scene or time had changed, which made it especially hard for me to keep track of things in the audiobook. A note of the year at the beginning of each flashback would have been helpful.

I’ve learned that there is a whole series of Maisie Dobbs adventures and I hope to read some more someday! I definitely recommend this one!

4.5 stars out of 5

Find the book on Goodreads.

Stony Kill: A Novel by Marie White Small

Stony KillHello readers! I am going to try to be more consistent about posting book reviews here. I received this book, Stony Kill: A Novel, from the author, Marie White Small in exchange for an honest review. I feel bad because she gave this to me about 16 months ago. I remember because it was a week or so before I had my baby, who is now 15 and a half months old. As anyone who has children knows, life gets a good shake-down when a baby arrives, and on top of that I had some complications afterward. Everything is ok now, it just took me a year of off-and-on reading to finish this book!

For backstory, here’s the summary from Amazon:

“After the sudden death of her mother, Joss Ryckman finds herself running away from everything—the life she did not choose of managing the family bakery in Brooklyn, the troubled relationship with her sometimes violent father, and her conflicts with Wyatt, a lover who always wants more. But when she flees to the country farm of her childhood in upstate New York, will she finally find the truth of dark events in her family’s past? Or will all that she has held at bay for twenty years come crashing down? As Joss comes to terms with her loss, she is forced to confront memories of a childhood steeped in both joy and sorrow. As the past seeps in through the rich farmland and the landscape of the treacherous, churning Stony Kill, Piecing together the broken past and her family’s dysfunction, the dark secrets of a family submerged in a history of violence and regret begin to take shape, and the reality of two brutal killings can no longer be denied. Joss must make her own choices and, ultimately, let go.Rich with beautiful language and immersed in powerful descriptions of Joss’s feelings, Stony Kill tells a powerful story of the heartbreak and suffering from violent acts of a dysfunctional family, and ultimately her hope and choice of a better life.”

Overall, this was a beautifully written book: the perfect lazy summer read. I liked how thoroughly I got to know the characters, who were quite well-rounded.

The main criticism I had was that I wanted to pick up the pace–quite a bit. I enjoyed the meandering pace for awhile, but by about halfway through, I started to get a little impatient, which is probably my personality showing through more than anything. The book starts out with a murder that happens at Stony Kill, then flash-forwards to our main character. In my opinion, this murder scene is misleading. It makes it seem like the book will have an element of whodunnit mystery, when in reality, it’s a very different type of story. I spent the rest of the book wondering what that scene had to do with the story I was reading, and honestly, the main reason I stuck it out and finished the book was because I stubbornly wanted to know the resolution for the opening scene.

My criticisms, however, are not indicative of the quality of this book. The writing is strong and beautiful and is probably the perfect fit for many readers. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s!

4 stars out of 5

Guest post: Topaz Reign Character Interview by Teresa Richards

Blog TourTopaz Reign, the latest novel by Teresa Richards and sequel to Emerald Bound, is out! To celebrate, here’s a guest post by the author to give insight into her characters, and perhaps even do some foreshadowing into book 3… Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for some awesome prizes! a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is the prize pack for the giveaway. Some cool stuff here!!

Check out the full blog tour schedule here.

Today I’m sitting down with my characters from Topaz Reign for a little round table discussion. With me are Maggie, Garon, and Lindy, whom you all know and love from Emerald Bound. Joining them are Trevin and Thumbelina, new faces from the groups’ most recent adventure.

Me: So, Maggie, here we are again. Round two of your adventure.

Maggie: Yeah, why did you have to do that? Garon and I were perfectly happy with the way our summer was going until you showed up and threw things out of whack.

Me: Um, I didn’t throw things out of whack. That was Oliver, thank you very much. And you got some pretty amazing news as a result of the whack-throwing so it’s not like it was all bad.

Maggie: *bites her lower lip, but can’t hide the smile stretching across her face* Well, that’s true. I am glad about that.

Me: Okay, so let’s talk about the new adventure. Thumbelina, why does it take you so long to enter the picture?

Thumbelina: It doesn’t take me all that long, really, you just don’t recognize me at first. Keeping my true identity a secret is what’s gotten me this far.

Me: But don’t you feel the tiniest bit of remorse? Deceiving people like that?

Thumbelina: No. I did what I had to do and I would do it again. If being alive for so long has taught me anything, it’s not to trust strangers.

Me: Speaking of strangers … Lindy, what made you trust Trevin?

Lindy: *ducks head, but not before I see her blushing* Well, it helped that he was the son of my most trusted bodyguard. *darts a glance at Trevin and he grins* And when he offered to teach me how to swordfight, that just sealed the deal, you know?

Me: That’s right. Your brother refused to help you, didn’t he? And that’s when Trevin stepped up.

Garon: Hey, to be fair, I didn’t think I’d be sticking around long enough to teach her anything. *darts a longing glance at Maggie, who holds his gaze*

Lindy: Trevin was the first man to treat me as his equal. Before I became Queen, I was just a silly girl to them. And after, despite the fact that most men treated me with the respect due a queen, they also treated me like some fragile thing. I’m not fragile. I can do hard things, and I can make difficult decisions. And it’s nice having someone around who supports that. It makes me even stronger. *reaches over and grabs Trevin’s hand*

Me: *swooning*

Maggie: Learning to swordfight was one of my favorite things about this adventure. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill I can use much back at home.

Me: No, I imagine not.

Maggie: But I found this cool group in DC that teaches sword fighting to people who need it for entertainment purposes. Like traveling Renaissance fairs and actors involved in medieval plays and movies. I’ve been volunteering there a couple times a month and I think if I get good enough they might give me a job.

Me: That’s amazing! I’m so glad you found a way to use your skills back at home.

Maggie: Me, too. It’s really fun.

Me: *turning to the group* Let’s talk for a minute about the altered gemstones. First we had an Emerald, now a Topaz and a Pearl. Seriously guys, are there any more gemstones I need to be aware of? And where did Oliver get all of them anyway? Did he have a hidden cache of pirate treasure or something?

Garon: He found the Emerald while traveling during his days as a medicine man.

Thumbelina: And the Topaz was brought to him by the witch, who probably stole it from some traveling nobleman.

Me: And the Pearl?

Thumbelina: He spent a lot of time by the sea. Out of all the stones he used, the Pearl was by far the easiest to come by.

Me: So did he have others?

Thumbelina: Pearls, you mean? Sure. He collected them.

Me: *raising an eyebrow*

Thumbelina: But he did not alter them.

Trevin: *leaning forward in his chair* Are you sure? If he did, it would be helpful to know now before another crisis arises.

Thumbelina: I’m sure. One hundred percent sure. There are no more altered stones.

Me: *eyeing Thumbelina* We don’t really get to say good-bye to you at the end of this adventure—you kind of sneak off during the night.

Thumbelina: I left early in the morning. Not at night.

Me: Still.

Thumbelina: I had to find my husband, you know that. Make sure he was okay.

Me: And did you? Is he okay?

Thumbelina: I found him, yes.

Me: Well, good. So what’s he like? We didn’t learn anything about him at all during your latest adventure with the Topaz.

Thumbelina: It’s hard to describe someone you love so much in a way that does them justice, you know? I’d rather have you meet him and see for yourself.

Me: Really? We can meet him? Did he come in with you today?

Thumbelina: No, he’s not here. But I’ll introduce you to him soon.

Garon: I’ve met him. You’ll like him.

Me: That would be amazing.

Thumbelina: I think he’d like to meet you, too.

Me: I’m going to hold you to that.

Me: Well, guys, that’s all we have time for today. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. I hope to see you all again soon.


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Book Review: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz Reign.jpgCalling all fairy tale fans: here is a book for you! Book one of this series—Emerald Bound—gives us an interpretation of the princess and the pea. Topaz Reign continues this tale and introduces the story of Thumbelina.

Lindy—the princess who slept on an enchanted emerald, or “pea”—is back in her native land and time. As she tries to learn how to lead her country, a topaz that grants its wearer unmatched beauty and power threatens to overthrow her family, country, and even the world. With help from friends and family, Lindy must figure out the secret of the topaz and destroy it, before it destroys everyone she loves.

Lindy is my favorite character from Emerald Bound, so I was very excited to see her grow into a confident, powerhouse woman in this book. Maggie and Garon are also significant players in this story, and Tanner has a more important role in helping take down the wearer of the topaz.

I loved trying to figure out which character was Thumbelina, because it’s not obvious at first! Thumbelina is another fairy tale that, like the princess and the pea, is not one that I’ve heard many times. I feel like Hollywood and mainstream books redo the same fairy tales over and over—Cinderella, Snow White, the “classic” princesses—and I love the author’s ability to bring lesser-known fairy tales to the limelight and give them a twist.

Like Emerald Bound, Topaz Reign is so much fun, full of action, and sure to keep you turning pages!

5 out of 5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”five” width=”300px”]

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