We Met In December

We Met in December by Rosie CurtisJess and Alex meet while sharing a house in London with Becky (who inherited the house and who knows all of the tenants), Emma, and Rob at Scottish chef. Becky has one rule – no hanky panky among the roommates. Alex and Jess immediately hit it off as friends. The book follows them through their friendship, other relationships, misunderstandings, and eventually, back to each other.

I liked this book. It was charming and cute. Jess works in publishing. She’s sweet and a good friend. Alex quit being a lawyer to become a nurse. His ex dumped him because she wanted a certain standard of living. Emma and Alex share some friends with benefits sex and it confuses and upsets Jess. Eventually, they work things out.

My favorite part of this book was when Jess and Alex would take walking trips around London. Rosie Curtis has a knack for describing location and I always felt I was along on the walk. If you are looking for a fast, holiday romance, this is the book for you.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Best Book You’ll Ever Read

American Dirt by Jeanine CumminsDon Winslow calls American Dirt the Grapes of Wrath of our generation. He’s wrong. It’s better. It’s a masterpiece. If you don’t read this book when it comes out in January, you are missing out. You will never know Lydia, Luca, Soledad, and Rebecca. You will never know the people they meet along the way. You will never know their trials and tribulations to reach el norte. You will miss being enriched in a way that only spectacular books can do.

Lydia owns a book store in Acapulco, Mexico. Her husband, Sebastian, is a journalist. Lydia gets a new customer in her store, whom she immediately feels connected to when he picks out and buys books that she loves. Lydia doesn’t realize that he’s the head of a new, violent cartel making its home in Acapulco. When Sebastian writes an expose of Lydia’s new friend, Lydia and her eight-year-old son, Luca are the only survivors when the narcos massacre sixteen members of her family. She and Luca go on the run to try to get to the United States and safety. The book is the story of their odyssey.

This book is filled with tension. Will Javier find Lydia and Luca and kill them? Will Lydia and Luca and the sisters from El Salvador, Soledad and Rebeca, make it safely to the U.S.? Will they be robbed? Will they be killed? Will they be able to have any semblance of a normal life?

This book examines the reasons behind violence, migration, prejudice, love, and hatred. It is beautiful in its composition and lyrical in its writing. Jeanine Cummins has written a masterpiece. It will win every major book award next year and deservedly so.

Very rarely do I pick up a book and feel like I have been emotionally hammered and saddened and terrified and uplifted as much as I was with American Dirt. This book had a profound influence and everlasting influence on my life. I can’t say enough about it. I will recommend it for book club and I will tell every single person I come across to read it. I don’t think any person or reviewer has the words to to state how fantastic this book is. Read it.

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An Everyday Hero

An Everyday Hero by Laura TrenthamI would really give this book 3.5 stars, but Goodreads doesn’t do half stars. This is the story of Greer, Ally, and Emmett. Greer wanted to be a songwriter, but her stage fright derails her, so she moves from Nashville to Madison, Tennessee where she grew up. She, due to an unfortunate decision, is assigned by a judge (who happens to be her uncle) to community service at a foundation who helps vets and their families. She is assigned a churlish teenager, Ally. She is also assigned to Emmett, whom she know in high school. He lost his leg in Afghanistan and is hurting and trying to drink himself to death.

This is a story of love, hope, hurt, redemption, forgiveness, and family. It was sweet and lovely. It was actually the perfect book for my mood. I loved Greer. She is confused and lost. Emmett is confused and guilty and lost. Ally is angry and lost. They all find each other at the right time and in the right place. It’s not overly sappy. It’s not full of platitudes. It’s honest and emotional.

I won this book from Goodreads. I received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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Permanent Record

Permanent Record by Edward SnowdenI always thought that Edward Snowden got a raw deal. I’ve always been fascinated with his case. So I was excited to read (or listen to, I should say) Permanent Record. I found this book illuminating and terrifying. It makes me realize how really screwed we are.

The first half of the book discusses Snowden’s childhood, his trouble with school, love of computers and hacking, and his venture into adulthood. He then discusses his entry into the Army, separation from the Army, and foray into the intelligence community. He discusses what he discovered about he NSA and CIA’s spying on Americans habit and how he felt it necessary to disclose to reporters what he learned. I found the last third of the book the most riveting. Snowden discusses his flight from Hawaii, leaving his girlfriend without a word about what he was doing. His flight to Hong Kong, meeting with reporters and trying to figure out where to go to stay away from the US, were fascinating.

I also enjoyed hearing from his now wife, Lindsay, via her journal entries from the time he left. What she went through was harrowing. The fact that she has stood by Edward says a lot about them both.

Everyone should read this book. And everyone should be extremely troubled by its contents. What the government is doing is predisposing us to lose our privacy, piece by piece. Everyone should be afraid after reading this book, but everyone should definitely read it.

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The Night Fire Burns Bright

The Night Fire by Michael ConnellyI read somewhere that Michael Connelly is the Raymond Chandler of our era. I actually think he’s even better than that, and The Night Fire is proof. Connelly brings Bosch and Ballard back together to solve two seemingly unconnected murders. This book has it all-suspense, plot twists, and damn good police work.

The book starts with a cameo by Mickey Haller. Mickey is defending a schizophrenic man who is charged with killing a judge. Bosch finds evidence which leads to the man’s acquittal. This enrages the detectives working the case. They refuse to admit someone else may have committed the crime. Meanwhile, as Bosch starts working to find who murdered the judge, he receives a murder book from his former partner’s wife. It was a drug murder that occurred years ago.

Ballard is working the death of a homeless man who was immolated in his tent. Ballard finds out the seeming accident is a murder and begins to investigate, putting herself in the crosshairs of her former boss, Captain Olivas, who sexually harassed her. The beauty of this book is how the threads of the plot weave together seamlessly and organically.

The thing I love about Connelly’s writing is how effortless he makes it seem. His legal and police procedures are spot-on. He does his research. But more than that, Connelly uses location as character. His descriptions of LA, the way he weaves Bosch’s memories from old cases into the new books, is just amazing. It’s like reading a real person’s thoughts. It is a gift and it is what makes Connelly unmatched in this genre. I try to read the books slowly so I can savor the language and admire the skill, but alas, I always find I’ve reached the end too soon.

I love Bosch and Ballard’s partnership. They are smart and savvy and compliment each other’s investigative skill. I cannot wait to see what Connelly has in store for them next. Do yourself a HUGE favor and read The Night Watch. Even if you are new to the Bosch/Ballard books, you will not be disappointed.

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When Life Gives You Pears

When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie GaffiganJeannie Gaffigan was diagnosed with a pear-sized brain tumor removed. This book is about her diagnosis, surgery, and recovery from the tumor. She details life with her husband and five children. She was a “supermom” as I like to call them – the moms who have all their shit together, work on a rigid schedule, and seem to have the perfect life. It wasn’t until she was stuck in the ICU, unable to see her children, that she realized that her “supermomness” was holding her back from enjoying her kids and her life.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s sweet and serious, funny and engaging. She has a casual writing style that I enjoy. You can tell from reading this book that she adores her family. She discusses candidly that things that went through her mind both before and after her surgery. She is honest about her jealousy of her husband being able to leave the ICU and go home (which I identified with because my dad went through that before he died), she talks about the contempt she had for people who could eat (she was unable to swallow after the surgery and went without solid food for four months), and she talks about how much she adores her brothers, sisters, and parents, who dropped everything to help her husband maintain the household with as little interruption to the kids as possible.

If you are a fan of funny people and memoir, you will enjoy this book. I sure did.

I won this book from Goodreads. I received no other compensation. The opinions herein are mine and mine alone.

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Dear Edward

Dear Edward by Ann NapolitanoI don’t know what you are going to be doing on January 14, 2020, but if you are a reader, you should be buying a copy of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. I have not felt like this about a book since November Road by Lou Berney. And though the two books are about vastly different subjects, they share one thing in common – writers with a gift for language.

Edward Adler is the lone survivor of a plane crash that kills is family and 188 other people. He goes to New Jersey to live with his aunt and uncle. Edward’s physical and emotional recovery from the crash are painful and difficult, but made easier by his new next door neighbor’s daughter, Shay. Edward takes to sleeping on Shay’s floor at night.

Edward discovers, one sleepless night, his uncle John’s spot in the garage. Edward finds folders full of information from his ill-fated flight and two duffle bags secured with combination locks. Shay and Edward open the bags and find hundreds of letters sent to Edward after the crash. He reads the letters. He and Shay catalog them and decide who they’re going to respond to. The letters provide some closure for Edward and he and Shay make a plan.

This book was utterly amazing. When I say Ann Napolitano has a gift for language, this is what I mean. Edward has tracked down his brother, Jordan’s girlfriend. “Thank you, he thinks, and watches her turn and walk through the deli door. He watches his new life walk into his old life.” It’s a two sentence paragraph and it has been sitting with me since I read it. Near the end of the book, she writes, “Edward closes his eyes. He is the boy buckled into a plane seat, gripping his bother and father, and he is the young man sitting on the ground that plane crashed into. Eddie, and Edward.” Those are just two examples of her beautiful prose. The book is full of prose like this. It’s such a pleasure to read that I was finding myself putting it down so it would take me longer to finish so I could savor the story and characters and writing just a little bit longer.

The characters are rich and so well-drawn. They are complicated and three dimensional. I wish that she would have spent a little more time on Edward’s aunt, Lacey. She is one of the most important characters, but I feel like she is the least developed. That is really the only criticism I have of this book. It is one I’m going to pick for book club and it is one I will definitely revisit. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Read it. You will not regret it.

I won this book from goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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18th Women’s Murder Club

The 18th Abduction by James PattersonIn this installment of the Women’s Murder Club, Lindsay Boxer is investigating the abduction of three teachers who work at an elite prep school. They seemed to have vanished in thin air. Meanwhile, Lindsay’s husband, Joe, is investigating the case of a woman sighting a Bosnian war criminal who was supposed to be in prison. Their cases converge in a surprising way.

I really thought that the last couple Women’s Murder Club novels were formulaic and that James Patterson had run out of creative ideas. This novel makes me think that isn’t true. It was a quick read and I enjoyed it. I really wanted to give this 3.5 stars, but Goodreads doesn’t let you give half stars.

If you are interested in a police procedural that is a quick read and has some good plot twists, this is the book for you. And if you’ve never checked out the Women’s Murder Club, you can read this without having to read the rest. But if you’re looking for a new series, start at the beginning.

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Tweet Cute Is Just That

Tweet Cute by Emma LordPepper goes to a private high school in New York City, where she’s lived since she was 14. Her parents own a fast food chain. She doesn’t feel like she fits in at her school and her mother has left her to be in charge of the company’s Twitter feed. Enter Jack. He’s a senior at Pepper’s school and his parents own Girl Cheesing, a deli. Girl Cheesing accuses Big League Burger of stealing their grilled cheese recipe. Let the Twitter War begin.

Tweet Cute could easily be pigeon-holed as a YA Rom-Com and left to teenage girls to read. If you did that, you would be missing out on a delightful book. It may be because I have kids that are about this age, but I loved the story. It has the perfect combination of snark and sweet. It’s a magic recipe. The characters are likable and well-developed. It’s a sweet story that discusses things that all teens and people can relate to – interpersonal relationships with your parents, peers, and sibling; misunderstanding a person’s motives; social awkwardness; and peer pressure. The story flows as easily as the banter between Jack and Pepper.

This was just the book I needed. It was light and sweet and refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And you will, too.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The views expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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True Believer

True Believer (James Reece, #2)So I listed the Terminal List as one of my favorite books in 2018. The debut thriller from Jack Carr was one of the best firsts in a series I have ever read. His second book, True Believer just came out and I was worried that it wasn’t going to live up to the Terminal List. I had no cause to worry. True Believer is pure rocket fuel.

The last time we saw James Reece, he was traveling via sail boat away from where he brought down a large government conspiracy to avenge the deaths of his wife, child, and teammates. Reece ends up in Africa at the game preserve of his friend’s uncle. He works there and is enjoying the life of a guide when a former teammate shows up. But he hasn’t been ordered to kill or capture Reece, he has come with an offer- work to dismantle a terrorist cell led by a former Iraqi general and be pardoned by the President, along with all his “accomplices,” or suffer the consequences. Reluctantly, Reece accepts the offer.

This sets off one of the best cat-and-mouse thrill rides I have ever been on. Is Reece going to find the Iraqi and the rogue CIA officer? Is he going to die from a brain tumor that has been festering? Will his friends survive? Those are all questions I am not going to answer here. It would take away the insane amount of fun you will have reading this book. It is tightly plotted and well paced. I really only have one complaint about the book, but I can’t discuss it here because it’s a spoiler, but if you have read the book, you absolutely know what I’m talking about.

I like how Jack Carr brings some of his real life struggles to the page without being obvious about it. In fact, I wouldn’t have known he did so if I hadn’t heard him on the Jocko podcast. And while the book is a thrill ride, my favorite section was when Reece was on the game preserve. The description of tracking the elephant will stay with me a long time. Jack Carr has the same gift as Lou Berney – he shows, he doesn’t tell. It’s rare and it’s beautiful. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for James Reece and us next. Do yourself a favor and read the Terminal List and True Believer. They are fantastic books. written by a gifted writer.

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