Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I finally caved and read this super popular book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. I’d been hearing about this book everywhere and decided I needed to see what all the hype was about. I suggested it as a possibility with my book club and, surprisingly, I got very negative feedback. “I don’t need to read another book with someone telling me how to live my life.” Huh. I wasn’t about to try and make anyone read something they didn’t want to read, so I just read it on my own. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, which was fantastic. It was read by the author and she was very entertaining!

Ok, I don’t think I can adequately describe how much I LOVED this book. There are so many truths in it that spoke right to my soul. Things I have struggled with throughout my life were brought to the forefront of my heart and mind and examined with tenderness and humor. We women tend to be hard on ourselves, trying to measure up to the world’s idea of perfection. I think Girl, Wash Your Face is the exact opposite of what that person in my book club thought. Instead of being a book that tells us what to do, it encourages us to love ourselves for who we are and to give ourselves a freaking break. Stop trying to live up to an impossible standard and embrace yourself and love your life. Probably different people will get different messages out of this book, but for me, the message was to be kind to yourself. You’ve got this. 

Frankly, I could do with reading more books with messages like this. 

Love yourself, love your family, work hard, and take charge of your destiny. You can do it.

5 out of 5 stars

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Review: The Windfall App by Teresa Richards

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for quite some time, and I have to say, it feels really good to have finally read it! 

The Windfall App is a standalone young adult suspense novel by Teresa Richards. Marina plays the lottery for the first time on her eighteenth birthday and wins the big prize–$5000 a day for life. Things go south quickly as she learns the dangers of being the recipient of so much money. For a full synopsis, go here

This book is a page-turner and perfect if you’re looking for a fast-paced, entertaining read. It kept my mind occupied at the gym for a few workouts, successfully distracting myself from the drudgery of the elliptical machine. This is actually one of my qualifications for what makes a good book: it must entertain me at the gym. When I’m itching to go to the gym so I can get in some uninterrupted reading on the stationary bike, elliptical, or if I’m feeling really ambitious, the treadmill, that’s when I know a book is going to get a good rating! The Windfall App did that for me!

I loved the San Francisco setting, and I loved Marina’s relationship with her best friend, Darya. Darya is the best friend every girl needs. I got mad at Marina a few times during the story. There were moments when all her problems would have gotten so much easier if she would have just swallowed her pride and had a conversation with her father. Though I suppose this just makes the story more realistic since teenagers often make irrational decisions fueled by their emotions, right??

I highly recommend this one if you’re a fan of YA and looking for a fun, quick read!

4.5 out of 5 stars

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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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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

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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

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Book Review: Dead by Morning

dead-by-morningI know I haven’t reviewed much (read: any) horror on this blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read much of the genre. While it’s not my primary genre of choice, a good dark read can be a fun break from the happy stories I typically choose. Dead By Morning by Kayla Krantz is a young adult horror story with psychological thriller elements and was recommended to me by a friend. 

Synopsis

Luna is a social outcast at her high school. She doesn’t mind; it’s her senior year and she’s looking forward to bigger and better things, like college. Her only problem is that super-popular Chance, whom she despises, won’t leave her alone. What starts as a seemingly ordinary story of a high school romance quickly turns dark when Luna discovers Chance is a Satanist full of deadly secrets. To make matters worse, someone–or something–begins to haunt her dreams, giving nightmares that soon become reality. Luna must figure out how to survive her dreams and convince everyone that pretty-boy Chance is not as innocent as he seems.

Strengths

This book hooked me right at the beginning and kept me reading through the end! The writing style is clear and easy to follow, but still provides adequate imagery so the reader can become fully immersed in the story. The author did a good job in creating conflict in her story; poor Luna is dealing with problem after problem from page one until the end! The pacing is great–the story moves along quickly and kept me interested throughout.

Weaknesses

There were a few issues I had with the overall story. It was really frustrating to watch Luna let herself be bullied by Chance. A normal person would have gotten help from the authorities–police, teachers, parents, ANYone. Her parents and best friend are so stupid and totally ignore the HUGE red flags about this guy. Normal parents would be more concerned about the safety and well-being of their daughter than pleasing some random kid from school. Her dad doesn’t seem excessively negligent, so I have to assume he’s oblivious to his daughter’s mental state. All of this behavior is a little hard for me to believe because it’s just not consistent with normal, healthy individuals.

Luna is constantly surprised at the horrible things Chance does. Don’t want to give away any spoilers, but she KNOWS he killed someone, yet is horrified when she sees an additional piece of physical evidence. That behavior is inconsistent.

The supernatural elements in the story are not fully explained and leave loose ends. There’s a character named Max who helps Luna deal with Chance. Max shows up with inexplicable knowledge of the whys and hows of her dreams. How does he know this stuff? It’s odd that Luna never questions how he knows what he does. Perhaps she didn’t wonder, but as a reader, I certainly did! Other supernatural stuff–like Luna’s vague ability to know the future, how Chance’s Satanism connects with the dream world stuff, and how Chance gained his abilities–are never really explained. 

Conclusion

Dead By Morning was definitely an entertaining read, especially if you enjoy the horror genre. The writing is strong and mechanically-sound; Krantz has a lot of talent as a writer. There were some loose ends and other issues with the overall story, and I think the supernatural element of the book needed some developing. But overall it was a fun, quick read that horror fans will enjoy. For those who haven’t read horror and want to try it out, I think this would be a good starting book. It’s not overtly gory or unnecessarily gross, but prepare yourself for unexpected character deaths! 

3.5 stars

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Book Review: The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman

I’ve just finished The Bug Boys and, oh, what a delightful read! This good tale can be found on Book Club Reading List.bug-boys

Synopsis

Alex and Ian are two ordinary middle-schoolers growing up in an ordinary small town in England. One afternoon they ate a lunch that made them feel peculiar. Little did they know, that peanut butter sandwich and apple were saturated in an ancient alien life form that turned their bodies into portals to a distant planet. They first discovered something was amiss when, after being forced to swallow a ladybug by the school bully, Alex grew 4 extra arms, acquired super-strength, and could understand the language of bugs–but only for about 20 minutes. With their newfound superpowers, Alex and Ian felt unstoppable. What better way was there to use their new abilities than to fight crime and become superheroes? After dealing with the local school bully, Alex and Ian find themselves tangled up in a corporate conspiracy far out of their league and soon long for the days before their problems became so complicated.

Strengths

This book is SO funny! I love the storytelling style and the humor that is woven so effortlessly throughout. The author has referenced his love of Terry Pratchett and I can see his influence in book’s sense of humor. I love the lighthearted, fresh twist on a superhero story, and I love that the main characters–Alex and Ian–behave exactly how you would expect pre-teen boys with superpowers to behave. They are absolutely believable and genuine characters that are so easy to love. While The Bug Boys is an entertaining read for anyone, if you have a son who might struggle with finding interesting books to read, you MUST give them this one! They will love it! Maybe I’m biased because I’m a girl (and therefore exposed to a plethora of interesting-to-girls literature), but I don’t think there are enough books geared toward middle school boys. The Bug Boys would be a fantastic addition to any young reader’s bookshelf.

Weaknesses

There were a few chapters where the action slowed down a bit, examining the story from a different point of view. While it was nice to get a different perspective, the change in pace during these chapters was a little slower than I preferred. But these chapters were generally brief before connecting back to Alex and Ian’s adventures.

Conclusion

This is a book you don’t want to miss. It has broad audience appeal, thanks to the easy humor and fun writing style, and will be enjoyed by readers of any age. I would especially recommend to middle school age boys, but again, everyone can enjoy this read. Go get yourself a copy and enjoy your next good tale!

5 stars

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Contact the author on Book Club Reading List

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