Upcoming Reviews + TBR Pile

Currently I’m reading (in no particular order, just at the same time):

The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton

Murder She Knit by Peggy Ehrhart

Pleasing Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

the witch doesn’t burn in this one by amanda lovelace

TBR

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

The Wicked Deep by SHea Ernshaw

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Six Cats A Slayin’ (Cat in the Stacks #10) by Miranda James

About (Goodreads)

Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, are busy decking the halls for the holidays when an unexpected delivery and a shocking murder conspire to shake up the season in this all new installment of the New York Times bestselling series.

December twenty-fifth is right around the corner, and Charlie is making his list and checking it twice. He is doing his best to show some peace and goodwill toward his nosy neighbor Gerry Arbitron, a real estate agent who seems to have designs on his house (and maybe on him, as well), while preparing for a very important role, indeed—his first Christmas as a grandfather.

The last thing Charlie expects is to gain several new additions to his family. Charlie finds a box on his doorstep with five kittens inside and a note begging him to keep them safe. With Diesel’s help, Charlie welcomes the tiny felines into the Harris household just as Gerry decides it is time to throw a lavish holiday party.

Determined to make her mark on Athena, Gerry instead winds up dead at her very own party. Though attempts to dig into her past come up empty, Charlie and his girlfriend, Helen Louise, witness two heated exchanges involving Gerry before her death: one with a leading citizen and another with the wife of a good friend. Will one of these ladies wind up on the sheriff’s naughty list? Charlie and Diesel have to wrap up the case before the special season is ruined by a sinister scrooge.

My Thoughts
Even though this is book 10 in this series, don’t let that stop you from reading it asap. It could definitely be a stand alone if you’ve never read any of James’ books. This is also probably my favorite book of the series!

Six Cats a Slayin’ is my favorite book in this series because it is so warm, humorous, family-oriented, and feel good. The development of the main character Charlie Harris is wonderful! You can truly see the care James took in bringing this character to life. Charlie is by far one of my absolute favorite characters from any mystery series I read, and I read A LOT of mystery series, especially the cozy kind. Charlie is just someone you would love to be friends with and be part of his circle. Added to that, his Maine Coon, Diesel, is so amazing! I’m not a huge fan of cats but Diesel would be a cat that I would make an exception. In this book, you get 5 additional cats that were left on Charlie’s doorstep. The reaction Diesel has to these kittens is the sweetest! He instantly becomes Papa Diesel and it is adorable. The situation with the kittens is heartwarming and once you learn the situation and then see the outcome it gives you all the feels, and yes, I cried. It was a very emotional book. I do have to say, that the child was very smart and brave for rescuing the kittens, knowing who to bring them to, checking in on them and even giving his allowance to Charlie for the kittens food. A really great background story weaved into the main mystery story.

One of the things I LOVE LOVE LOVE about this story and the development of not only Charlie but his family, are the REAL issues that Miranda James wrote into this book. Charlie’s daughter in law, Alex, deals with very real postpartum depression. I cried like a little baby, full balling, each time Alex appeared in the book. The amount of truth that James writes about in regards to how some moms feel after having babies is so spot on, that it just made me feel for her. As someone who had postpartum depression after my first child, I related so hard and wanted to comfort Alex..yes, a fictional character! but if you’ve ever experienced ppd then you understand.

The way Charlie handles situations with people, no matter what age, sex, or whatever, is truly the Southern gentleman. He’s like a grandpa that you just want to hug when you read about him and the way he cares for his family, especially his children and grandchildren is just so comforting. I also enjoy his relationship with his girlfriend/partner. I think I like it because the author didn’t make them choose between one place or another, or rush into marriage, or this or that. James made it realistic in the sense that they are older, settled, have their own careers and lives, and now are blending them together to make it work for them. It’s just a refreshing type of situation where you know they’re right for each other, but they don’t make it where they upend their lives to make it better for the reader (or others in their lives). (They didn’t move in together right away, or ask one another to move in and leave their home…no ultimatums or anything..an adult relationship).

Ok, so…this is gonna me a tad of a SPOILER!, so skip this next paragraph if you do plan on reading this book after my fabulous review..

The major twist, which I did not see coming at all, was that the victim was transgender. It was actually a really refreshing twist. The topic is so relevant and the way James included this topic was tasteful and done well, in my opinion. Y’all, really need to read this book because of this TWIST. I mean, you think you know, but then BAM! You don’t!

I really enjoyed this book so much! I enjoy all the books in this series, and I also love supporting fellow Mississippians so that’s partly why I started reading Miranda James. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rating
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommendation
I would recommend this for any adult who loves the cozy mystery genre; adult book clubs looking for a good Fall mystery; any fellow Mississippian looking to support a MS author.

 

If you do read this book, or enjoy my review, please like, comment, share, or follow me!

Thanks so much for reading,

M.

Puddin’ (Dumplin’ #2) by Julie Murphy

About (Goodreads)

It is a companion novel to Dumplin’, which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean’s star turn in the Clover City pageant.

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

My Thoughts

I’m a super fan of Julie Murphy so if you think this is gonna be negative, move on.

I think in today’s society, the body positivity movement is taking ground and running for all it’s worth. As it should. As someone who grew up thinking that I NEEDED to be skinny to be beautiful, books like these, where the main character isn’t your run of the mill pretty, thin, blond girl is so inspiring. It’s what I needed growing up and still as a 32 year old woman need now. So if I need this, I know a 13, 14, and 15 year old need this too.

Julie Murphy is a hero to me. She writes characters that we all knew but focuses on the ones that may typically go overlooked or just get a mention in other books. In Puddin’, she nails it again. Millie is your average high school girl. She’s not popular, but she listens to her parents, has a best friend, and does her homework. She is your typical all American girl. She’s fat too. And Murphy’s writing gives the character ownership of that word. Fat. It’s not a bad word.  And for those of you raising your eyebrows up, thinking, “NO, fat is definitely a bad word”, hear me out. We follow Millie and her journey of fighting for herself in this book. She fights her mom on going to fat camp, being teased by the popular kids, and also wondering if the guy she likes could ever like someone like her. But fat, as Murphy says in her book, is a descriptive word that only became negative because of society. Society that tells everyone what they should look like, what the next best diet is, what clothes to wear, etc, you get the idea. Fat is a noun. Until society decided it was bad, so it became an adjective.

What makes this interesting and once I got into it, I mean I couldn’t stop reading, is the antagonist is a girl on the dance team, who can’t figure her life out either. She is so focused on what others want for her that she can’t see passed the choreography until she has no choice. I honestly didn’t like Callie in the beginning and wanted so badly to skip the parts with her in it..which would’ve been dumb since the chapters rotate POV. But she is such a spoiled little brat that I was over her crap. But the story comes together. And I actually liked Callie a lot. I love when authors show the growth of a character gradually. And let me tell you, this was G  R  A  D  U  A  L. But it was worth the wait.

I also need to make mention of the parent involvement. Thank you, Julie Murphy. I always am suspicious when books about teens or pre-teens have NO parental involvement. But the books she writes tend to lean toward a lot of parental concern and involvement. Millie’s mom, definitely a smotherer but it’s just real. It’s a real mom-daughter relationship that you just know is based off something or seen somewhere. I mean diet culture is REAL. Millie and her mom’s relationship revolves around diets and movies. So, once Millie realizes she doesn’t need to diet to be beautiful and loved, she breaks her mom’s heart. But, as a mom, that’s what you want for your daughter. To know that no matter how big, small, tall, or whatever she is, she will always be loved and accepted. I know that’s what I want for my daughters. And it’s taken me a long ass time to understand and accept but, in order for my daughters to love themselves, I need to love myself and show them that you don’t have to be a size 2, to be beautiful.

In realising that she is more than just the fat on her body, she owns her life. She stands up for herself and her dreams. Millie is a force, just like Willowdean was in Dumplin’.

And spoiler alert,

She gets the guy. Because some people can look passed the amount of fat on you and accept and love you for who you are.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book! And any book written by the ever fabulous, Julie Murphy. I think that middle school and high school aged students could definitely benefit from this book and also, Dumplin’. Adult book clubs and basically anyone who needs some body positivity in their life.

Rating
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Favorite Passages

 If Dumplin’ was about coming to terms with your own body, Puddin’ is about demanding that the world do the same. I wrote this book for all the fat kids who have waited too damn long for the world to accept them. Stop waiting. The revolution starts with and belongs to you. (Found in acknowledgements)

And why is everyone always trying to take money away from libraries? Aren’t books sort of the reason we’re even in school at all? (p.419)

“Girls don’t have to be nice,” she says simply. “But they should stick together.” She shakes her head. “The wider world wants you to think other women are drama . . . or catty. But that’s just because when we work together, we’re unstoppable.” (p. 287)

If you’d like to check out my Dumplin’ review, click here!

If you’d like to check out my Ramona Blue review, click here!

TBR Pile Update

Currently reading

  1. Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green
  2.  Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

TBR

  • Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  • The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  • The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

 

Finished Reading

the princess saves herself in this one by amanda lovelace (see my review)

the princess saves herself in this one by amanda lovelace

About (Goodreads)

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

My Thoughts

This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a long while and on a shopping trip with my mom, I finally picked it up. And then I sat in the bookstore for 10 minutes and read what I could. I devoured this book like I was had never read a book before, never seen words before. It is that great! It’s eye-opening. It’s relatable. It’s inspiring. It’s just everything.

And that review, is coming from someone who hardly ever reads poetry. I avoid it typically and read fiction- cutesy fiction. But I follow Lovelace on Instagram and I’ve seen and read other reviews of her book and I just was compelled to read it for myself. I’m glad I did. It was a great decision and I plan on buying her other 2 books as well.

Why did I like this poetry so much, especially since I’m not a poetry fan in general? Her story is raw, real, and set up in a way of telling that grabs you and holds on so tight that you have to pause after each section to take a deep gulping breath. She writes her raw poem and then at the end,

-she writes the tag line, the real, raw happening.

I love her writing style because it’s refreshing, and bold, and honest. It’s, in a word,

FANTASTIC.

And I can’t say enough about it. It made me very emotional and I related to some of her story too. And THAT, is why it’s beautiful.

Rating

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommendation

I would recommend this book for high school literature classes; adult reading groups/ book clubs; and for indivudual readings for ages 16+.

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Trigger warning ahead: This books plot is based on a person taking her life and the after effects that happen to her family. It also deals with taboo of depression. If you have any history with suicide, please do not read this book or my review. Thank you. M.

About (Goodreads)

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My Thoughts

Trigger warning ahead: This books plot is based on a person taking her life and the after effects that happen to her family. It also deals with taboo of depression. If you have any history with suicide, please do not read this book or my review. Thank you. M.

I’ve been looking for a book that I could finally mark less than 5 stars. This IS NOT it. This book is astounding. A debut novel by the author and she hit out of the book park (library?). Honest, raw, emotional. A roller coaster of emotions from beginning to end. From the very first sentence I was hooked. That is hard to do people! To engage your reader from the very beginning is sometimes SO damn difficult that some books don’t truly get their groove until mid chapter 1, maybe chapter 2.

I honestly think though that the character Leigh is what makes this book, which is great, since she’s the main character. Leigh is an emotional ball of fierce who is struggling like any child would with the sudden death of her mother. By going on this long journey of finding out how to find her mother again, she also learns about her long estranged grandparents, sees her father through new eyes, and learns so many new, sad, and wonderful things about her life, family, and most importantly, herself.

It takes true craft to have the reader also grieve with the character. I mean, I felt the emotions, not only for Leigh, the daughter; but also, for Dory, her mother. As someone who has depression and anxiety this story is relate-able. And that is where the author gets you. She made the story relate-able for almost everyone who reads it. Whether you have depression or some other form of mental illness, know someone who has, or maybe a close family member who has a mental illness, you can on some level feel the emotions from all characters. I think the topic of suicide and depression is such a heartbreaking yet relevant topic for today. The way Pan writes this story is exquisite and delves into how families deal with these issues. It really shows you that saying, “you never know what happens behind closed doors”. In this case, no one really knew what Dory was going through, no one noticed. It’s easy to hide behind a fake smile.

One of the quotes that really stuck with me from the book was

Depression, I opened my mouth to say, but the word refused to take shape. Why was it so hard to talk about this? Why did my mother’s condition feel like this big secret?

“She’s forgotten how to be happy,” I told him.

this conversation takes place between Axle and Leigh and it made me cry. It really is that difficult for some people to say, to understand, to deal with. Taboo. It’s a conversation people need to be able to have so they can help each other. Because mental health does affect everyone. I mean, depression comes with highs and lows. When you are in the low part, it takes A LOT to come up sometimes. And in order to get out, you NEED someone who can pull you up a little at a time.

One of the key aspects in this story also is art. Leigh is a very talented artist who expresses herself in what shade something makes her feel. “What color?” is said throughout the story and flashbacks between her and her best friend Axel. It’s such a different perspective on how to see things. Colors. They are everywhere but how often do we actually pay attention to what shade of blue, green, yellow, etc the thing/person/object/place is? We don’t. We move too fast. This book is a whirlwind yet the colours are extraordinary. It paints a new picture when specific colors are added to the mix. Leigh and Axle do a wonderful job of painting their pictures both separate and together. And y’all, you will want them together. They are precious.

I need to touch on the father. Leigh’s father is a hard working, intelligent, loving and caring man who truly does love and care for his family. The stories told about him and Dory are sweet. It makes you wonder how in the world he missed the signs? This book really conjurs up the questions people always have about suicide. Whose fault is it? Is it the families? Is the persons? I think survivors guilt is what most feel. I can’t know because I have never lost anyone close to me from suicide. I can only say from reading the book that it seemed like what Leigh was feeling until she found her answers in Taiwan visiting her grandparents. It’s really relieving to see that he does change and support Leigh in the end though. I think he realized that he needs her and supporting her and loving her is what he needs to do.

The journey in Taiwan that Leigh takes is so original, at least to me. It was a crazy roller coaster of ups and downs, and mental games. Leigh powers through memories and you’re taken on a walk down memory lane, but not just Leigh’s memories, everyone’s memories. Leigh’s, her dad’s, her grandma’s, her aunt, her father, all the important keys to her mother’s life that will hopefully end in Leigh finding the red bird.

I can relate to the part where Leigh complains about being told she’s exotic or asked, “What are you?”. My daughters are part Asian and I’ve been asked on occasion that question and been told that they look “so exotic”. My reply though is usually, “they’re not dancers.” My humor is either not appreciated or goes WAY over the person’s head.

Rating

🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠

Recommendation

I would recommend this book for high school literature classes,but as long as teachers announced the subject matter in advance; adult book clubs could also benefit from this subject matter.

Other

Please leave a comment, like, or follow me. I love feedback so long as you’re nice and it is helpful.

M.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

About

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

My Thoughts

This book was so good, in fact, it was stupendous! It’s been a long while since I’ve read something that I just truly loved from beginning to end. This book is such a great story. The plot is great, the characters are amazing, and the situations are legit and actually could happen. There’s nothing really fantastical about this book. It’s all possible.

Tanner is my favorite character. He knows who he is, and lives his life by it. His parents love him and accept him too. His best friend Autumn, is so relatable. I swear I could be her if my best friend was a boy growing up. Cause I know I’d be in love with my best friend if he was like Tanner.

What the authors, (Christina Lauren is a pen name for 2 women who write together, they’re BFFs),did is genius. The title of the book is clearly explained, the love story is what we need in today’s society because representation matters in all forms, including sexuality.  I feel like they show a high school students true feelings about love and life and how damn confusing it is.

I honestly have had trouble coming up with words to express just how fantastic this book and how important it is for people to read this book. But not just this book, any book that has relationships that stray from the heterosexual genre. For those who don’t like these types, this book is a good place to start. It gently but genuinely shows you that love is love.

The LDS aspect was very intriguing to me. One of my best friends from college is Mormon and she helped me understand her religion more through our friendship. A lot of what was explained in the book I knew because of her. I do have to say though, as a parent my heart broke for Sebastian in the parts where his parents were making him question everything.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended for middle and high school students; book clubs; anyone who may need a little love story; anyone wants to learn about a type of LGBTQ+ relationship; everyone.

You will not regret reading this book. And if you do, re-read it.

M.

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

About (Goodreads)

Things Chloe knew: Her sister, Ivy, was lonely. Ethan was a perfect match. Ethan’s brother, David, was an arrogant jerk.

Things Chloe should have known: Setups are complicated. Ivy can make her own decisions. David may be the only person who really gets Chloe.

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own, so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen-yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

My Thoughts

I’m not sure what I expected going into this book, but it definitely wasn’t this absolutely amazingness!

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that drew me in so quickly. I was invested in the characters and what was happening. Chloe was such a strong female character and it made me love her. Her sister,Ivy, I thought was such a great and enlightening woman character. I haven’t read many books that center around autism and what it’s like for the siblings, and how the parents are and what the parents are like in the situation. I feel like in this case, the mother didn’t know what she was doing because Chloe had always done everything when it came to Ivy. You can see it and feel it. Chloe knows so much about Ivy and knows that eventually, Ivy needs to know how to do adult things. I think my favorite part is that you realize you truly never know what someone else is going through or what their home life is like. Chloe’s friends are the typical high school teens whose lives revolve around themselves. It’s normal. And yet, at the same time it is so frustrating that I wanted to punch James and Sarah in their faces. After Chloe and James’s breakup the way they talk to her is just aggravating. They truly don’t understand and don’t want to understand.

Something must be said for David. What a gem. Like yes, he’s the worst but he’s also the Best. His humour and sarcasm are life. When he and Chloe finally get along, it’s so worth the dialogue. Which, btw, is one of the BEST things about this entire book. The dialogue is amazing and just spouting with all the sass. I live for sassy dialogue and this book delivers.

I think this book would be a great tool for understanding autism in families. Also, in reference to families, this book shows the good,bad, and ugly of blended families. Step- parents often get a bad rap and while there is a heap of it in there, it also shows the presumptions made about step parents. More importantly, it shows how people with autism are smarter than most give them credit for and how irrational and uneducated some people can be about the topic.

I highly recommend this book to everyone but I think it would be beneficial for anyone who has ever had any contact with someone with autism. I feel like family members with autistic relatives could glean something from this read, some sort of truth.

Rating

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Best for ages 13 and up; book clubs for both adults and school children in 7th grade and higher.

M.

Currently reading/TBR

Currently Reading:

  1. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  2. The Librarian Aushwitz by Antonio Iturbe
  3. Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
  4. The Next Always by Nora Roberts
  5. Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce

TBR

  1. Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green
  2. Circe by Madeline Miller
  3. The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro
  4. This is Me by Chrissy Metz

 

 

 

If you have any book suggestions please leave me a comment below!

M.