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The Things You Save In A Fire

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine CenterCassie Hanwell is one of the best firefighters in Austin, Texas. Despite being a woman. She is about to receive the highest award from the city. The mayor is to present the award, but instead, city council member Heath shows up. As he is posing for a picture with Cassie, he grabs her ass. Her response? She beats the crap out him with her plaque, sending him to the hospital and her to an unknown future with the Austin Fire Department. There is history between Cassie and Heath that she refuses to talk about and for most of the book, all you know is that it happened on her 16th birthday – the day her mother left her and her father.

After she beats Heath up, Cassie also is contacted by her estranged mother, asking her to move to Massachusetts to help her after she loses eyesight in one of her eyes. Cassie does not want to go. But her fire captain tells her it’s the best way to escape the mess she’s made of her career in Austin with her job still in tact. She moves to a fire department that is old. She’s the only woman. She is paired with the “rookie,” who is the son of a legendary Boston Firefighter, Owen. Cassie and Owen are pranked many times, including being duct taped to the flag pole outside the station. As Cassie proves herself to the firefighters and starts getting closer to Owen, the captain informs them that there is a budgetary shortfall and one of them will have to go. Owen doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Cassie doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Oh, and Cassie is being harassed by someone in the squad. As the harassment escalates, Cassie and Owen grow closer.

Enough plot. I liked, no I loved this book so, so much. I read How To Walk Away and I liked it. But this book, I loved. I love Cassie. She’s tough. Yet vulnerable. She’s hard and unforgiving at the beginning of the book. But she has a conversation with her mother about forgiveness that seems to open her up and shift her life. I liked that fact that the characters were relatable. And very real.

I identified with Cassie’s need to prove that she’s tough to the point that she becomes stone. She refuses to let any emotion in that may indicate weakness. It’s like toxic masculinity – woman style. If you have ever worked in a male-dominated environment, you know what I mean. Any display of care or concern, or – God forbid – tears, and you’re done. The pack will pounce. So you have to be tough. You have to suck it up and put it away to deal with at another time. Katherine Center writes that struggle so well in this book. You can feel Cassie’s fear and vulnerability and rage and frustration. It’s hard enough to be a woman. Try doing it in a man’s world.

I actually liked this book so much, I’m having trouble starting the next one. Do yourself a huge favor and buy this book when it comes out in August. It will be money well spent and you will not regret it.

I won this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reader’s copy.

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A Metaphorical And Physical Gulf

The Gulf by Belle BoggsMarianne is a poet. Her father is a professor. Her mother died when she was younger. Her younger sister is uber-religious and married to a man who is the same. Marianne’s ex-fiancé, a writer, takes a joke she made in grad school about opening a Christian Writing school and makes it a reality thanks to his great-aunt and his brother Mark. Eric wants Marianne to run the school. An odd assortment of characters join the school – two teachers who are not religious and a bit eccentric, a former R&B superstar fallen on hard times who found a life coach and religion, a mother and school teacher who writes poems about Terri Schaivo, and a hotel owner down the beach. They all come together with a hurricane thrown into the mix to provide probably the most interesting book I’ve read all year.

When the school needs money, Mark, the venture capitalist, turns to God’s Word, God’s Word (or GWGW), an sketchy religious institution that has a string of private colleges. GWGW comes in and surprising things happen.

I really liked this book. Partly because I could so feel Marianne’s position – in a job she doesn’t necessarily want, in a place that’s unfamiliar, with no prospects. Who hasn’t been there? She’s honest about her trepidation with the school. But she becomes kind of friends with Jeannine, the poet who writes about Terry Schaivo. She thinks she may rekindle her romance with Eric. And she’s suspicious of GWGW and their intentions.

GWGW reminds me of CCI when I taught at Heald College. They came in with their uniforms and rah rah cheerleader get more students mentality. They seem creepy and nefarious and like conmen, but you can’t put your finger on the actual wrongdoing.  In my case CCI got Heald shut down. So I identified with Marianne’s suspicions of GWGW.

Most of all, I like how this book was written. Because in the end, it’s a meditation on how to get along with people you fundamentally disagree with and don’t understand. Marianne and her sister, Ruth are not close, mostly because Ruth married young, got into the church after her mother died, and is the polar opposite of Marianne. But like Marianne and Jeannine, Marianne and Ruth manage to find a way to mend their differences and respect each other as people. I think that kind of attitude is desperately needed right now. It’s entertaining and I really enjoyed it.

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

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The Floating Feldmans

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa FriedlandThe Feldman family – David; Annette, Elise, her husband Mitch; their kids, Darius and Rachel; and Elise’s brother Freddy and his girlfriend, Natasha – go on a Caribbean cruise. The family is somewhat estranged and they are all hiding things from each other. After a disastrous dinner on formal night, the family tries to patch things up and rediscover each other.

I loved this book. It was funny and touching. The characters were well-drawn and all of them were well-written. The story moved along and got different perspectives as it was written in the third person. What I enjoyed most about Elyssa Friedland’s book was the way she wrote Darius in particular. She captured so well the feelings and emotions of a teenage boy. She wrote Darius in a way that made me feel like I really, really knew him. I liked all her characters, but Darius was my favorite. Sensitive, insecure, nerdy, and all things teenage boy.

I particularly liked this books because it wrote the family dynamic between all of the Feldmans really well. You picked up on the angst Annette has over the whole family; the people-pleasing nature of Elise; the easy-going Mitch; the fuck-up Freddy. They are so richly drawn. It also makes a point of showing how looks and reputations can be deceiving, we are not the worst thing we do, and all families have some form for dysfunction and crazy.

No matter what kind of family you have or come from, you will identify with this book. It reminded me so much of my parents and grandparents and children and siblings. It’s a really good book that you can’t help but be sucked into and become a part of. I highly recommend this book.

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

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The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi WaxmanNina Hill is my spirit person. She is single, thirty, has a cat named Phil, and works in a book store. Her mother is a photographer who is never home. Her nanny, Louise, raised her. Nina likes her life. It’s planned to the minute. She is in four book clubs and competes in pub trivia. Her life is perfect…

Then Nina gets a visit at work from a lawyer who says that her father (whom she has never met) died and she has inherited a family she didn’t know about, including brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. She also meets Tom, a competitor from pub trivia, who she denies liking, but everyone around her knows she does.

Nina has to navigate all of this craziness with her anxiety and a boss whose hiding from the landlord, a co-worker who pushes Nina to date Tom, and a brand new family who wants to be part of Nina’s life.

This is the third book of Abbi Waxman’s I have read and I have loved all three. This book is sweet and funny and sensitive. I love Nina. I love her cat, Phil, as anyone who owns cats can attest, Phil is the real deal. The book is a celebration of love, trivia, family, and books. I recommend this book to anyone who loves books, cats, complicated family stories, and awkward dating.

I won this book and did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained in this review are mine and mine alone.

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Educated Is Not That Educating

EducatedI bought this book a while ago and have been meaning to read it. Then it got picked for book club so I had to read it. This book was a struggle for me from start to finish. I equate it with Wild, in that people went crazy about that book and after two readings, I still didn’t fully understand why. I’m getting the same vibe about this book – it’s so highly spoken about that you’re supposed to like it. Then I question myself for not finding it likable. Here are my problems with this book.

First and foremost, I think information is missing. Whether that was omission by choice or by accident, I do not know. But it doesn’t feel complete. Example: her fellowship at Harvard. She says that shew as watching television 20 hours a day. She says she thinks she was failing. Then, she’s back at Cambridge and getting counseling. There is no discussion whether she passed or failed her fellowship and if she did pass, how she did it. I do not like loose ends when there is an easy an obvious answer to be had.

Second, the footnote that appears every time she talks about a discussion in which she has paraphrased the discussion. She has email, for example, that she paraphrases and says that it’s paraphrased, but the meaning has been retained. If you have an email conversation, why not print verbatim, the relevant parts? Why do you have to paraphrase it? If you do have to, explain why? To me, it indicates that, for reasons we are not told, she doesn’t not want the original language in the book. I have issues with that.

Third, and this is probably not a fair criticism, but things just seem to fall into her lap. She just so happens to be talked into applying for, and receiving, a grant. She gets talked into and wins the fellowship to Harvard, etc. I’m positive there are more to all those stories. And yes, I realize that if you discuss every detail of every event you will have a thousand page book that no one will read. But. In order for me to buy into this story, I would like to have heard more detail about these things.

Fourth, her language. She’s very flowery and uses way too many attempts at foreshadowing, that, to me, did not pay off. I did not appreciate lines like, “as I would find out years later.” Get to the point. Don’t keep telling me something is going to happen. That gets old and annoying.

I appreciate what Dr. Westover went through and how hard she worked to get where she is. And I generally don’t like to negatively review books. However, were I to give this book a good review, I wouldn’t be honest about what I thought and how I felt about it. I did not like it. I can’t change that I did not like it. I can only try to explain why I didn’t care for it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I am sure I’m in the minority here and if you feel you need to check it out, by all means, do so. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

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No Time To Read

I’ve been in a serious rut with time to read. I have had none. Very long story short, I have had a ton of things going on the last couple of weeks and haven’t read very much. This happens to me a couple of times a year. I have finals to grade, picked up a photo gig, and had the usual stuff, plus a couple of additional things that have prevented me from reading much. I have book club this Sunday and am not sure if I will finish the book by then.

I do not like it when the only time I have to read is my lunch hour. I like to read more than an hour a day. Unfortunately, I have to accept that right now, I can’t. I don’t force it, though because i won’t like the book I”m forcing myself to read. Anyway, this is a short post, but I haven’t posted in twelve days and that’s too long. Forgive this short and complaining post. I will try to be back later this week with more bookish discussion.

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Becoming

Becoming by Michelle ObamaI’m sitting at my computer, trying to think about what I want to say about this book. I listened to the audio, which Michelle Obama narrates. I love her voice. She reads with excellent pacing. The only thing I thought was missing was emotion in some places. However, that being said, it was an excellent audio book.

The book starts with her childhood and continues to the beginning of the Trump administration. I found her perspective on things to be refreshing and interesting. I liked Michelle Obama before I listened to this book. But now, I love her. She’s smart, educated, independent, and thoughtful. Her writing style is familiar and friendly, yet somewhat reserved.

I especially appreciated her honesty about raising children in the glare of the public spotlight, issues with her husband’s idiosyncrasies, which we can all relate to, and the stamina and courage and thick-skin you need to do those things with such grace and dignity. I cannot even fathom how hard that must have been.

The chapters dealing with the Obama administration were my favorite, only because I was wondering what the Obamas thought about the media glare, politics, etc. of being in public life. I’m sad that Michelle Obama said at the end of the book she doesn’t ever want to run for office because I think she is the type of the person this country desperately needs in leadership.

I have not read books by other First Ladies, so I don’t have a frame of comparison for this book, but I really did enjoy this book.

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Choosing Books

A book is a gift you can open again and again – Garrison Keillor

untitledBetween 600,000 and 1 million books are published in the U.S. every year. Even if you could read at birth, you would never be able to consume all of those books in your lifetime. And that’s just one year. Everyone who reads has preferences about what they read. I have been thinking lately about how I choose the books I read. In thinking about that, I have realized it’s kind of a complicated process.

I read several mystery and thriller series, so the first consideration I have when buying or reading a book is whether it’s part of a series I read or a new series I’m going to try. I read roughly 20 different series. So, when those books come out, I pick them up and read them as quickly as possible.

The second consideration is whether the author is someone I’ve read before, who doesn’t write a series. Abi Waxman, Susan Reiger are examples. I like their writing and will read just about anything they write.

The third consideration is subject matter. Is it something I’m interested in reading? My reading topics vary. I like mystery/thriller, chick lit, legal thrillers, good stories, history, true crime, etc. If it is a subject I’m interested in, I’m likely to pick up the book.

If it’s an author I’m not familiar with, I look at all of the following: the cover art; the blurbs from critics, authors, etc;  the first paragraph; and the last sentence. To me, those are good indicators of whether I will like the book. It’s not foolproof, but most of the time, it works. I have discovered some really good books and authors that way.

I enter to win a lot of books. And I win a lot of books. Sometimes, I read them and don’t care for them and sometimes I read them and find a new author to add to my growing list of people whose books I will read no matter what. But I try to read and review them all. It keeps me in books and reading and busy. Busy is good.

So, how do you choose what you read? What considerations do you have when choosing books? I’m interested to hear how other people choose their books.

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Girl, Read This Book

Girl (2)I really, really wanted to hate this book. In fact, I’m not sure why I entered to win it. I am always leery of “lifestyle” gurus. (Martha Stewart messed me up!) And I hate Gwenyth Paltrow. But. I decided to read this with an open mind. I decided that I would give it a fair and honest review. So, here goes….

I did not read Girl, Wash Your Face, though I saw it everywhere. But this book. It did something to me. I have probably sticky-noted half this book. If you are planning something big for your life. If you want to reach a goal you think is impossible. If you want to feel better about being human, then you need to read this book. Yes, there were things about it I found … presumptuous. That having been said, Rachel Hollis provides some really, really good advice on how to achieve your goals. Some of the advice is obvious – have a clean house because chaos breeds chaos – and some advice is not so obvious – stop making to-do lists and use a list that has goals, steps and mile-markers.

I am in the process of planning something that I think will be big in my life. I have been working on it seriously for a few weeks. This book came along at the right time. It has give me some excellent advice about how to make this new project truly successful. So this book came to me when I needed it and I have taken to heart a lot of the advice in it.

Things I like about Rachel Hollis: she is honest about the fact that she cannot do what she does without help. She has a nanny, a housekeeper, and a staff who help her. Most lifestyle people want you to think they “do it all” and do it by themselves. This is bullshit and she says how damaging it is for women who read and buy into these “lifestyles.” They feel incompetent and unable to succeed because they don’t see the behind-the-scenes that really goes on. I respect and like that fact that she is honest about how she does it. I also like the fact that she admits that she doesn’t like volunteering at her kids’ school and, therefore, doesn’t do it. She is kind but firm about saying no.

Things I don’t like: the folsky, aw-shucks thing. I don’t know if it’s genuine. But it annoys me. To no end.

I still think that this book is a book EVERY WOMAN should read. It is filled with good advice. It is practical and helpful in most ways. I banked a lot of really good information from it. It’s short – 200ish pages. It’s well-written and easy to read. So I suggest you pick up a copy and pursue your dreams.

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

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So Here’s The Thing…This Book Is Funny

So Here’s the Thing… by Alyssa MastromonacoI did not read Alyssa Mastromonaco’s first book. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I just haven’t gotten yet. This book is a collection of essays and stories that are informative and entertaining.

Ms. Mastromonaco worked in the Obama White House. She went on to work at Vice and A&E TV. Her stories are funny and sweet. I particularly liked her essay about not having children and being a cat lady. She is honest and refreshingly funny.

If you are interested in politics and women and funny stories, this is the book for you. Word of caution, if you are a Trump person, you may want to skip this book. And if you follow my reviews, I highly doubt you are a Trump person. But just so you’re warned.

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

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