Book Review: Pirate Bounty by Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I’m aching for the weekend and it feels so far away! I finally got to a very interesting point in Fire Emblem Engage except, now I’m too busy to have a moment to sit down and enjoy the game…Sure, I’ve got time to play it, but I feel like I can’t fully immerse myself and truly have fun until it’s the weekend when I’ve got a little more time.

For today’s post, I am sharing this week’s book review. This time around, I’m featuring Pirate Bounty: A Military Sci-Fi Series by Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden!


Title: Pirate Bounty: A Military Sci-Fi Series
Author: Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Space-Opera, Action, Military Sci-Fi
Edition: Ebook > Kindle
Length: 360 Pages (Kindle)
Published: 29 Nov 2022
Publisher: Aethon Books

LINKS:
Amazon
: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]


Sometimes, it takes killing to make a living.

That fiancée? She’s married—to another guy.

The family business? His parents sold it.

Jack Bennet returns from the war to find the life he left behind has moved on without him. The only option he has to make ends meet lies in a military surplus junkyard starship. What’s a former Combat Search and Rescue soldier to do?

Fix up the ship, hire the cheapest pilot—a notorious drunk—and take the first contract that comes up: collect a bounty on one of the most ruthless killers in the Pirate Worlds, a place crawling with thieves, cutthroats and con artists whose primary language is violence. Jack must abandon his nice guy persona, or exploit it, if he is to survive.

What could possibly go wrong?

Experience the start of an explosive Military Sci-Fi Series from bestseller Rick Partlow, author of Drop Trooper, and debut author Pacey Holden.

This was a surprisingly random find. I was growing slightly desperate and was on my fourth book of the week (having dumped the other 3) but when I came across this book, I gave the sampler a quick peek, saw some badass scene in the first chapter (prologue) and thought, “This is the one!” I had really enjoyed the writing, my deciding point in getting the book, and probably one of my favorite aspects about the book. The battle scenes were quick, chaotic, and felt like a warfield, and the emotions around it felt real enough to make me picture and visualize the scene perfectly. There was just enough description to make the average scene not too overwhelming, but the real fun kicks in on the battle and fight scenes. It’s an adrenaline rush of movement and everything’s so quick. Blink and you’ll get popped in the face. Lose your attention and you might get shot. I really enjoyed those scenes and that final fight scene had a lot things happening. It was a race against time trying to save someone while trying to make your way through the chase and fight and stay alive. It gets really intense! I do love me intense some intense scenes!

Another thing I really loved about the book were the main character John (Jack) Bennet and his pilot, Robin (Birdy) Hartley. When I saw the book revolved around a ship, I was kind of expecting a whole crew of people (or at least one or two more others). I’m a sucker for a ragtag crew, kicking ass, while throwing quips and banter around so I was just a biiit disappointed in seeing that it was just Jack and Birdy (mostly Jack because as Birdy doesn’t fight and mostly stays up in the skies or trying to sneak off with Jack’s money into a bar or casino). I like that Jack, despite all of his military background, because he’s on his own now, and he’s just one guy against a gaggle of enemies, it’s natural in that he’s constantly getting away by the skin of his teeth, doesn’t get everyone out together, or just gets overpowered. I like that realism. I just got off a round in Fire Emblem where my archer walked away scrap free after 7-8 enemies surrounded him because he’s too overleveled…

I really enjoyed Birdy’s character too. This guy is a drunkard who lives for his next moments with the bottle and lands himself a job in which one of the job duties is to be sober (and remain sober) but he ends up getting himself into a tussle [almost] straight into his role, drunk out his mind and giggling like a madman. By the end though, he was pretty reliable. He really could’ve left Jack to die, but kept his word and stuck around. He’s a mess of a person, but a decent enough human when not blasting his remaining brain cells with happy juice. Even when he was drunk, he wasn’t such a bad person either, just annoying and stubborn.

I will say though, Jack’s abysmal luck is laughable. This luck makes up most of the plot because of the situations he lands himself in. This guy had a future plan only to come home to betrayal after betrayal (heartbreaking really; wtf parents does something like that? And his fiancée too??), get a scrap of metal of a starship as his only piece of his share in the family company being sold, gets a drunkard as his only pilot (budget was tight okay?), still aims for a relatively peaceful and civilian life with a shipping business of his own, gets his business Amazon/Walmart’d before it even takes off, gets tied up with royally pissing off a mobster for his first delivery, lands himself in prison, has to take another job and ends up as a bounty hunter (there goes his hopes and dreams of living a fight-less life), and finally gets roped into some major cult thing trying to get someone out of said scary major cult.

The world building was interesting, though we only got to experience a couple of worlds, we come across aliens, other humans, mobsters, and cults with the creepiest “everybody looks alike” vibe. Classic shiver-down-your-spine kind of cult. The weapons and ships were neat, though most of the concepts did occasionally fly over my head as general background information. 

All in all, a pretty good read. It was the only one of four that I was able to stick with, so if nothing else in my review says much, this one small note might. I enjoyed the reading, while I can’t say I enjoyed Jack’s awful luck at life, it did catapult the plot at a lightning speed because nothing says fast-paced until life throws whole trees at you when you’re still trying to recover from a single lemon…The characters were enjoyable, Jack felt real enough. I definitely enjoyed the writing and some of the dialogue. I enjoyed some of the other characters as well, such as Jack’s love interest Val and a villain named Artemis (an enemy of an enemy is a sorta kinda, more like a bio-prisoner, of a friend of mine) who was a riot to read. If you enjoy sci-fi, spaceships, planet hopping, cult and mobster rage/vengence dodging, bits of romance, drunk but tries to stay sober pilots, and unlucky main characters, pick yourself up a copy of Pirate Bounty. You never know. You might enjoy it as much as I did.

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Book Review: Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton

Happy Thursday! I thought last week went by fast, being that I started my new job a day into the week, giving me a 4-day week, but this week is supposed to be my first full week and it went by even faster than the last! It feels like I blink and it’s already almost Friday. Time is wild!

Today’s post is my review for Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton!

Title: Tanqueray
Author: Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton
Genre: Nonfiction > Memoir, Biography
Edition: Audiobook (Libby)
Length: 3 hours 17 minutes
Publishing: 12th July 2022

LINKS:
Amazon: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

1970s New York City: Go-go dancers, The Peppermint Lounge, gangsters, Billy’s Topless, and Stephanie Johnson…

In 2019, Humans of New York featured a photo of a woman in an outrageous fur coat and hat she made herself. She instantly captured the attention of millions. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as “Tanqueray,” the indefatigable woman who was once one of the best-known burlesque dancers in New York City.

Brandon Stanton chronicled her life in the longest series he had yet posted on HONY, but, now, Stephanie Johnson—a woman as fabulous, unbowed, and irresistible as the city she lives in—tells all in Tanqueray, a book filled with never-before-told stories, personal photos from her own collection, and glimpses of New York City back in the day when the name “Tanqueray” was on everyone’s lips.

When I first read Stephanie’s story, it was via HONY’s Facebook page and, I’m sure like many others, I eagerly waited for Brandon’s next piece to the story as they typically get posted in a time interval rather than the entire story all at once. It was an amazing story that brought tears to my eyes and I knew, a short time later, that a book was coming out as well. I never actually got around to it, until this month when I’d simply happened upon it while scrolling through Libby, looking for my next read.

This was a great story, although I doubt “beautiful tale” and “wonderful story” is the right word, but, it evoked strong emotions in me and just as I loved the original posts, I loved this book as well. There was a little bit more in this book than what was in the posts and includes an extra (audiobook special) interview towards the end between Brandon and Stephanie, looking for updates from Stephanie and discussing the emotions that came during the process of this book.

The story by Stephanie was captivating and makes you keep reading on. Most of HONY’s stories will have you glued to your phone for updates on the next piece of the full story and this was no different. I’m so glad that Brandon had stopped to listen to Stephanie’s story, even though he didn’t have his equipment on him (and he even went back to grab it!). From this book and from Stephanie, we get to listen to her life as both as Stephanie and as Tanqueray and my was Tanqueray glamorous and unstoppable. She had a special resilience to her. It does have a little different feeling from normal memoirs and autobiographies, but it doesn’t take away from the story one bit. Her childhood and much of her life is incredibly drama filled, intense, and heartbreaking. Her memory and ability to recall all of this information from all the way back to her childhood and her dolls, praying to have a chance to escape her mother. She remembers her good friends, the warden that helped her during her time in jail, the times she spent with other people, the mobsters that helped her…Her ability to show us readers what NYC was like back in the 70s was remarkable and so crystal clear even after all these years.

This was a story that was engrossing and simply too short. It was fascinating though and a great read. I’m glad Stephanie was able to share this story and I’m so glad to come across it again.

Blog Tour Book Review: Unanimity by Alexandra Almeida


Title: Unanimity
Author: Alexandra Almeida
Genre: Fiction > Science Fiction, LGBT, Romance, Dystopian
Length: 570 Pages
Publishing: 18th October 2022

LINKS:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B1TGN5FM/  
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/62835573 

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for this copy! All opinions are my own.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Shadow is a reluctant god with a broken mind and a death wish. He used to be Thomas Astley-Byron, an affluent young screenwriter whose creativity and idealism saved a world from the brink of collapse. Together with Henry Nowak, an AI expert, Tom created heaven on earth by inventing a Jungian simulated reality that helps humans confront their dark sides. The benevolent manipulation platform turned the two unelected leaders into beloved gods, but now everything is failing. The worlds suffer as a sentimental Tom descends into his own personal hell, becoming the embodiment of everything he despises and a shadow of his former self.

His journey from an optimistic, joyful Tom to a gloomy Shadow is paved with heartache and sinister interference from emerging technology. Humans and bots fight for his heart, but their aims differ: some want to own it, some to dissect it, and others to end its foolish beat. Still, the biggest threat comes from within—none of the sticky stories that steer Tom’s life end well.

Who’s pulling on Shadow’s heartstrings? Are their intentions malign or benign? It’s all a matter of perspective, and Shadow has none left.

Now, a young goddess—Estelle Ngoie—has been appointed to replace him, and unlike Shadow, Stella takes no prisoners, and her heart bleeds for no one.

This was a really good sci-fi book with an interesting plot and even more intriguing world and concept that was nicely done, creating this vast world that left me with lots to explore and more to crave. Right away, the plot is intense, we have a goddess questioning herself for reviving a god who clearly did not want to be revived. Straight away, Goddess Stella, a stark contrast to the main character and previous God, Shadow, gets right into business, stating her reason for resurrecting an bringing back Shadow to being that he is needed to save the Down Below, or Spiral World and he’s the only one that can do it.

The book has some pretty complex characters that have some good amount of depth, background, flaws, and problems of their own. Each personality is vastly different from the other and many of them loathing someone else in the group, but it’s going to take a lot of cooperation if things are going to go smoothly and for the plan to work, which is mainly about keeping Shadow alive long enough to “save the worlds.” I really enjoyed the cast of characters from Sybil, the AI operating system that is sketchy through and through, to our protagonist, Shadow, and to Stella and Thorn, two seriously badass female characters. There’s also Nathan Storm, Shadow’s (Tom) soul mate as well as Twist (Henry), Tom’s best friend and co-creator of Spiral World. A colorful bunch indeed, especially as, when it comes to gods, this group seems to be the brattiest I’ve ever seen.

The writing was neat, smooth, and full FULL of dialogue. There’s a lot of talking whether it’s an interview between a talk show host and another character, a deep and intimate moment between lovers, or even in battle, there’s lots of talking. The pace was fine and the characters changed between the current timeline and the past, to give more background and information as the story moved on, which was kind of neat and besides learning more about each character and their origins, as well as their ties to each other and the plot, it’s also a small relief from the intensity of the current timeline, a small breather (although the past can occasionally get intense on its own). 

I did have a couple of issues though. Sometimes, I just got lost in the plot. I could understand the overall plot and so small details could occasionally be sacrificed. Sometimes though, I might come across a section or even whole chapters where I had to reread because I was a bit lost resulting in either “oh, got it” or just leaving it because while I’m still confused, I figured it’s a small enough detail to deal with later. Then, while I loved the characters (ok, I mean I sort of hated them because it was like being the adult standing in between teenagers and their fighting) I felt a little distant from them. I couldn’t connect with them or their emotions and feelings. Both issues were quite small though and didn’t take away from the overall read. It’s just that something felt off every now and then.

Overall, a pretty good read of hard science as well as bits of philosophy with moments to think and ponder, lots of dialogue and lots of action, intense conversations and intense scenes, high on emotion and I, again, can’t emphasis enough how neat the concept of exploring the dark side of a human’s mind, the level of worlds, and the complex (and coolness) of the science of AI and bots in this dystopian world. A good read, I’d recommend it and wouldn’t mind rereading it again either. 

Alexandra Almeida has over 25 years of experience in technology, strategy, and innovation. In her role as Chief Transformation Officer, she acts as a senior advisor to enterprise executives. Alexandra is an experienced speaker at events such as SXSW, and the Women in Tech Series.

For the time being, and to protect her creative freedoms, Alexandra prefers to write using a number of pen names.

​Her debut fantasy novel, released under another pen name, has received the following awards and recognition:

  • Reader’s Favorite Awards – Gold Medal Winner – Young Adult – Fantasy – Epic
  • Reader Views Awards – 1st Place – Fantasy
  • CIPA EVVY Book Awards – 2nd Place – Fiction – Mythology
  • B.R.A.G. Medallion Recipient
  • Eric Hoffer’s Da Vinci Eye Awards Finalist for Best Cover Artwork
  • The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Finalist – Books for Adults
  • Awesome Indies Approved


Following the self-publishing path by choice to retain full control of her IP, Alexandra invests in the best editors available in the business to match publishing quality standards.

Book Review: Open Season by C.J.Box

The first week of the year’s over and now the second week’s nearly over too! These last two weeks have gone by quickly!
This book was part of my “you’ve had it forever, just read it already” list from my 2023 Bookish Resolutions & Goals post. I knew I had plans on reading it by the time this year ended, but I didn’t think it was going to be my first read of the year. I had needed to pick something for my first read and I had nothing. I wasn’t about to fail my other 2023 resolution of “read every day” on day 1, so I ran around my room and picked a book. I just grabbed whatever was out and Open Season was still on my bed from when I randomly picked the 3 (physical) ones to come up with that list for my New Year’s post.

In any case, I’m very glad to have picked this book up. I was able to get started on that 5 priority reads list of mine early!
So, for today’s post: My book review for Open Season by C.J.Box!

Book Title: Open Season
Author: C.J. Box
Length: 278 Pages
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Published: 31 May 2016 (first published/hardcover/ 9 July 2001)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Western, Suspense, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

The first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett–the book that launched one of the biggest, most reliable, and fastest growing franchises in commercial fiction!

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, a town where nearly everyone hunts and the game warden–especially one like Joe who won’t take bribes or look the other way–is far from popular. When he finds a local hunting outfitter dead, splayed out on the woodpile behind his state-owned home, he takes it personally. Even after the discovery of two more bodies, and the resolution of the case by local police, Joe continues to investigate.

As Joe digs deeper into the murders, he soon discovers that the outfitter brought more than death to his backdoor: he brought Joe an endangered species, thought to be extinct, which is now living in his woodpile. But if word of this rare species gets out, it will destroy any chance of InterWest, a multi-national natural gas company, building an oil pipeline through the mountains and forests of Twelve Sleep. The closer Joe comes to the truth behind the outfitter murders, the endangered species, and InterWest, the closer he comes to losing everything he holds dear.

This book has been sitting on my shelf since I purchased it from an on-sale box in Kmart before the store closed back in 2018. Meaning, this book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for over 5 years now and while I did get around to it once before, I never made it past the prologue of the book (although, it might’ve been because I was moving at the time). I’ll be honest, I almost DNF’d it a few times, I was just not feeling the book for the first quarter of it, but by the time I finished, I was singing praises for it.

I thought that the book was fairly interesting, even in the beginning. With a starting paragraph revolving around the sound flesh makes when it’s been penetrated by a high-powered rifle bullet, it does have a pretty good hook to it. Something dies and needs immediate investigation seems to ensue. The mystery seems to start right away. 

Joe Pickett is a game warden and it’s his job to protect the animals, especially when it’s outside hunting season and poachers are trying sneak around with their work. He’s relatively new on the job, but is an honorable and straight man. Sure, others have successfully gotten away via bribery, but not with Joe Pickett. No sir, he’s not that kind of law enforcer. No bribe and no, he won’t look the other way. If you deserve a ticket, you’re going to get a ticket. He even arrested the governor of Wyoming for fishing without a license (something nobody will ever let him live down)!

The story begins with the death of an outfitter, shot, and who dies on Joe’s property. It’s usually the police’s job to deal with crimes like homicide, but not only does he know this man, but to have had the guy succumb to his wounds in Joe’s very own backyard, this is extra personal. When things get wrapped up too quickly and swept under a rug, Joe takes it upon himself to investigate deeper into the case, sniffing out things that the police had clearly missed previously. However, when he digs too deeply, suddenly his whole life is upturned and everyone he loves is faced with dangers and threats.

My favorite thing about this book are the characters. C.J. Box has an intro (in this edition, at least, ~2016) where he talks about how he picked out Joe’s name, why is the book is set in Wyoming, and about strong female characters and strong female characters we got. Joe’s a huge family man, unlike some of his close friends, who are happy to boast about cheating, such as when Joe walks in on his friend with another woman, despite being married. But Joe? Joe is a good guy and a very loyal husband and a great father. I enjoyed the fact that he isn’t perfect. I’ve seen some cocky cops as well as cops who seem to have stellar records. Well, he has a good handful of items against his reputation by the end (some having recovered though), not to mention how unliked he can be since he simply won’t look the other way. 

“In what Joe and Marybeth later called ‘one [sic] his larger bonehead moves,’ Joe had written the wrong date for the appointment with the director in his calendar and simply missed it. When Joe screwed up, he tended to do it massively and publicly.”

Joe’s bogged down by finances (he barely makes $26,000.00 a year) along with the guilt of letting his family down because of this low income, is later further bogged down by the guilt of his involvement in the case and bringing dangers to their front steps, is a bad pistol shot, and makes mistakes that the community quickly knows about. I love a good cop that can sniff out clues like a blood hound and always seems to know what they need to do next, but at the same time, seeing a guy like Joe, who isn’t perfect and constantly anxious about the events in his life, it’s kind of refreshing.

Then there’s his wife, Marybeth, and their two children, Sheridan and Lucy. Marybeth takes care of her family amazingly well. Pregnant, and caring for the two kids, she always sticks by with Joe, despite how rough their situation is. Sheridan, their older daughter, is one of the stars of the show here, having her own POV chapters and being very involved in the case due to what she witnesses and experiences. Multiple times, she’s in such danger that my heart’s at my throat. She’s so brave in this book and is quite smart as well. 

I also enjoyed the writing. It’s easy to read and where things are needing description, C.J. Box doesn’t overdo it and the writing flows smoothly. Where things shine the most, like I mentioned before, are the characters. I admire Sheridan and loved her chapters. I especially love how C.J. Box was able to easily switch the narrative tone from the point of view of an adult (Joe) to a child’s (Sheridan). This especially shows during moments when Sheridan’s in danger. I could feel her very real fear and it’s horrifying (it’s absolutely terrifying and I’d throw up if I were in her shoes). Villain wise, they’re written in a way where I almost anticipated who they are very early in the book. These characters just ooze a slimy feeling and you immediately distrust them (and what do you know, I was kind of right, even if I did guess wrong). 
Overall, this was a great book and a good start to a new series. When it comes to mystery thrillers, the protagonists, if they are part of the government/law enforcement, I’m generally used to seeing them as spies, FBI, PI, actual police/state agents, forensic scientists, and the such. Now, adding to this mix, we have a game warden, a position I (as someone who lives in the big cities) have never really considered to lead a story. It was a great read that invoked real and helpless fear inside me. I wasn’t so much as focused on the plot itself as I was with keeping track of Joe and Sheridan’s involvement to that plot as well as reading Joe’s despair that he’s let his family down, hard. I’m so used to seeing a seasoned cop, even by the very first installment, that it’s nice to see how green Joe is. I’ve recently reached the end of one of my favorite mystery thriller series, so I’m very interested in seeing where C.J. Box will take our game warden next. Seeing as the series is currently 23 books long, including the upcoming publication for Storm Watch coming out this year (2023), I’m sure this’ll be quite the journey.

Book Review: Metropolis by Monte Schulz

Outside of having a tour or BBNYA deadline to motivate me in picking up a book, I haven’t really been able to read anything in a long time, let alone a mammoth of a tome like Metropolis. I figured, the website was fascinating already, I have barely read anything in the last couple of weeks, and 2022 was coming to a quick end. Why not end it with Metropolis? I’m so glad I got the opportunity to. Shout out to Monte for the copy and for Adrienne from Finn Partners for reaching out to me. What an amazing way to end the year!

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! In the final review and post of the year, and my 100th book review (!!!) today’s post will be my thoughts on Metropolis by Monte Schulz!

Book Title: Metropolis
Author: Monte Schulz
Length: 668 Pages
Edition: Physical > Hardcover
Published: 23 August 2022
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Steampunk, Dystopia, Romance, Literary Fiction

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Monte Schulz, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Publisher’s Page: >LINK<
Book’s Website*: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

*I highly suggest checking out the book’s website, as it’s incredibly detailed and a cool read all in itself.

Regency College senior Julian Brehm’s uneventful student life is derailed when he falls for Nina Rinaldi, a beautiful young revolutionary engaged in political activism against the authoritarian regime that rules the country and wages a deceitful, distracting war. Julian’s love for — and moral alliance to — Nina eventually leads him into a vast undercity beneath the metropolis. Then, east by train and into the war zone itself, where mortal danger in that expanding cemetery of millions threatens Julian’s life; what he witnesses will alter how he perceives the Republic and ultimately his fate within it.

Julian’s adventure can be seen as our own, a world of vacillating morality and unceasing violence. Apathy and passion. Fear and courage of purpose. Julian’s is a hero’s journey into the dark unknown. A love story, which extends in many directions. A war novel of incredible scope and horror. A suspenseful mystery novel with a moral puzzle at its core. And a coming-of-age tale of a young man seeing the world he was born into, more dangerous and more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. Metropolis is a meditation on the meaning of virtue and goodness in the face of the most monstrous crimes. It could just as easily be the story of us.

Wow! I’m going to be talking about this one to friends and family for the next couple of weeks!
For a second, I thought that I had forgotten how to write a review because I was so lost for words. It was a beautiful journey and a rollercoaster of a ride; emotions of all kinds and tears of all sorts flowing. 

The writing of this book was the first thing that I picked up. Atmospheric and memorizing, the writing was charming to boot and was a pleasure to read. I fell in love with every sentence, and the dialogue was not forgotten and left behind. I loved the way the world was built. I loved the way things were described. I loved the characters and I loved how they spoke and interacted with one another. I’d be happy to read this over and over if for no reason other than to get lost in the sentences and wording over and over. 

The world was suffocating, although, as a dystopian, I didn’t expect anything less. The last time I read a dystopian book, it was Perdido Street Station and I could almost feel the tinge of the smog on my tongue. Here, I could almost see everything, feel everything, and it was absolutely horrifying. Between the level of death in certain parts of the book, the tens of thousands of children in danger, the “law enforcement” that patrolled the street to take you to the Mendel building where one might never be seen again, nowhere did life truly felt safe; something that Julian, a student of the college, will soon bear witness to. 

“‘We do survive, Julian. We survive the most despicable cruelties and heinous acts by our fellow human beings because we have no other choice if we choose to live in this blighted world of ours. I think the Desolation must be a mirror of who we are as a race and species, an example to the gods and universe of man in his most inventive and prolific self. We thrive and celebrate our debauchery, all the while defending what we do as both accidental and necessary. I truly believe we are insane.'”

There was a particular section of the book where Julian left the safety of his old life to deliver a specific item and brings him to where the war sits. The horrors that he both experiences and witnesses is enough to give nightmares and plenty of moments that he goes through is forever seared in my mind; the death, the bodies, and blood, the brutality, so vivid in my mind then and now still. All atrocities that many back home, including Julian had he not travelled so far, was so ignorant of. From there on, the horrors doesn’t stop. 

I adored the characters of the book and the cast was filled with such brightly colored personalities including sane but maybe most likely probably insane, Marco. There’s  our main character, Julian, and his deep love for Nina as well as his care for the energetic and lovely Delia (Nina’s sister). There’s the brilliant (when it matters) drunkard of a roommate, Freddy. The puzzle master, Peter Draxler, was the cherry on top of all this chaos. 

“‘Love is a most powerful inducement. Nothing in our world surpasses it. Without love, perhaps none of this has any meaning but storm and fire. Not enough to suffer for. Loyalty itself derives from the heart in terms of faithfulness which can only evolve from love.'”

The plot was gripping and so interesting. From the very beginning, Julian finds himself wrapped in a giant puzzle that carries him all over the place. It’s like a scavenger hunt mixed with hide-and-seek, except arrest and death was on the losing wager. With Freddy’s help, he’s able to unwind piece after piece of one of the most insane game of hide and seek ever played, clues in books locked behind another language, a lost dog, and running around the underground world… The entire part of the book revolves around this puzzle and I was constantly at the edge of my seat awaiting the next clue and answer. 

I really enjoyed this book and ending the year with this read is an amazing feeling; both because it was quite a chunky book and also because of how much I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the book. A good book that I’d recommend if you enjoy a good puzzle, steampunk vibes, and dystopian government that revolve around some majorly harsh scenes and topics. One of those books I’d happily pick up to reread again and again. 

Monte Schulz published his first novel, Down By The River, in 1990, and spent the next two decades writing Crossing Eden, an epic novel of the Jazz Age. He has taught writing and literature in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB, where he earned his M.A. in American Studies. He lives in California and Hawaii.

Blog Tour Book Review: The Urban Boys: The Discovery of the Five Senses by K. N. Smith

Oooh, guess who’s back to bring you her first post in a long time!
Today is my stop on TheWriteReads blog tour for The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith and I’ll be sharing my thoughts and a review of the book!

Book Description

Title: The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses
Author: K.N. Smith
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Thriller
Length: 292 Pages
Publishing: 29th September 2015
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0989474755/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26850355-the-urban-boys

Book Blurb

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

“A captivating and poetic tale of mystery, fantasy, and reality tied together by action!” 5-stars, Lars Jackson, Amazon Customer

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.


Disclaimer: A physical copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for this copy! All opinions are my own.


Book Review

The story begins with a pretty good hook. Nothing’s more gripping and grabs your attention like two teenagers happening across a murder happening right in front of them. It almost seems like the act comes from nowhere and many years later, the very villain reappears to wreck havoc; destruction ensues and heroes are needed to stop him. The original team failed, but can these boys successed in what the original gang could not do?

The writing is an odd mix; It was the only thing I really couldn’t get over. It’s very poetic and flowery on the edge of purple, but only sometimes. The main characters of this book are teenagers, but there are times that it felt like they were a bit younger, like middle school superheroes, the kind that are 10 and mom waves you off to take on the world (*squints in Pokemon*). So it was a strange mix between YA-aged characters with the occasional middle-grade feel but with literary proses that felt like what I’d read in English class in college. There ARE times when it’s fantastic though. There were a few moments where nothing but purple could be used to describe a scene, lest you do it and the emotions injustice. I’ve seen some people describe the prose as lyrical and I can’t agree more. I swear I shed at least a few tears myself.

Like large almonds, captivating in their shape and color, Jordan and Mason’s eyes beautifully expressed their mixed heritage, showcasing a mash of brown, green, and blue. Reminiscent of a seascape, their dark eyelids and thick eyebrows perfectly framed their bluehazel features.

The parts that were really hard to read were the awkward pacing and descriptions. Sometimes things are overly descriptive and sometimes you lose chunks of time because of the utter lack of descriptions. Things that don’t need any more description have it in abundance. Things that do need more text don’t have it. The writing can be kind of tell-y vs showy.

It is a fast read though. The writing, despite all the flowers, is actually very easy to read. I’ve never had a book so “lyrical” and still so easy to digest. Gone are the days where I reread the same page 10 times because one paragraph lost me completely. Turns out, it really is possible to have fancy sentences that are still readable by my very slow-to-digest brain. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. Combined with relatively short chapters, this was one of the easier-to-read books I’ve gone through all year! I practically inhaled it and it’s very easy to read in a single sitting. 

Magic and worldbuilding-wise, working around a plot related to the heightened five senses was a neat concept. I know super vision, super hearing, and maybe super smelling abilities are part of the widely used superpowers out there, but super taste and super touch are new and creative. The five senses are important and strong when together and that was a major theme in the book; being together. Alone, the boys were weak. What good is super-smelling abilities without the others backing you up? But when the boys work together, that very power can help the group track the villain down and the others can still back him up in terms of manpower and senses. Further in the story, this sense of sticking together becomes even more important.

The characters are interesting. We have a group of teenage boys all with interesting families. There’s a character where his mother had passed after an accident, another whose parents are together, and another who is being looked after by his very hard working older sister. All of their families are very supportive of the boys and are constantly doing their best to look after the boys. In turn, the boys do their best not to stress them out, even if this means hiding their powers and abilities (and the fact that they’re kids trying to save the world; but also let’s face it, tell your pops you have superpowers and see if he believes you).

As for the boys themselves, they’re pretty fleshed-out characters. The five boys claim a sense each and it was interesting getting to see how each of them adjusts to their powers, how they use them to both fight and support each other. They have individual lives outside of kicking butt, they have their own problems at home or with girlfriends, and all of them come from different circumstances. Despite the differences, they still do their best to mold their newfound powers to be inclusive of the others in the group and come to the aid when it’s needed.

Overall, this was a good book that I would recommend to YA readers. The writing is flowery and lyrical, is heavy on metaphors sometimes and quite poetic, but it’s also very easy to read, easy to digest, and with shortish chapters, I was able to fly through this book. The pacing and occasional awkward time skips made things feel a little off when reading, but that’s my only gripe with the book. The cast of characters are some pretty good and decent kids with their families just as good of people. All in all, a good book with a neat concept. 

About the Author

K.N. Smith is an award-winning author. She is a passionate advocate of arts and literacy programs throughout the world. Her lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist and grind through action-adventure and urban fantasy in edge-of-your-seat narratives. K.N. has over twenty-five years’ experience in communications and creative design as an award-winning consultant. Reading is still her foremost hobby. She is also the founder of Mental Health California™, and creator and director of Brother Be Well, her signature nonprofit community initiative. Discovery of the Five Senses was awarded “Best of” in the category “Outstanding Young Adult Novel” at the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Awards at the 10th Annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair. The event, voted one of LA’s best annual book festivals, attracts over 200 authors, poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, performers, and literary/ educational exhibitor participants, and boasts an audience of over 5,000. She is also a Readers’ Favorite “Gold Medal” honoree for “Young Adult – Mystery”.

E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I skipped last Thursday’s review as I had a major appointment/meeting over in midtown and had spent the previous night (most of the week, actually) preparing for it. But hey, none of that this week, so here we are! Back again with a Thursday review and today, I’m featuring another Grand Central Publishing book, E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney!

Book Title: E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes
Author: James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney
Length: 292 Pages
Publication Date: 6 Sept 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Edition: Paperback
Genres: Nonfiction, Medicine, Biography, Autobiography, Science, Short Stories

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

They save our lives every day, and we’ve never heard their stories.  The life-or-death intensity of working on the front lines, from America’s greatest unsung heroes.

“The compassion, the work ethic, and the selflessness of nurses … are given the respect they deserve and captured beautifully here.”
–Sanjay Gupta, MD, neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent, CNN

“James Patterson’s account of the twilight world between life and death that nurses inhabit is one of the most moving things I have ever read.”
–Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom and The Perfect Storm 

Around the clock, across the country, these highly skilled and compassionate men and women sacrifice and struggle for us and our families. 

You have never heard their true stories. Not like this. From big-city and small-town hospitals. From behind the scenes. From the heart.  

This book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you understand. 

When we’re at our worst, E.R. nurses are at their best.

A tribute to those who fight on the front lines of the E.R., this was a lovely read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s formatted in a way that reminds me of the old Chicken Soup for the Soul books where you have true short stories taken as snippets from the lives of ordinary people, aiming to inspire you in some way or show you life through someone else’s eyes for a burst of a moment. These snippets are very short and some are only a mere two pages long, while others are only a little more. I always feel like short stories, especially micro-stories, are too short for my taste, but not here. Each are pieces that are just enough. Here, in Walk My Rounds With Me, we are seeing through the eyes of E.R. Nurses.

This book is separated into four different sections: Day Shift, Night Shift, Flight Shift, and a Thank You section in the end. Instead of chapters separating the book up, the names of nurses are there instead. Every chapter starts off with a short introduction paragraph and background of a nurse following by a story/moments they recounted during their day, night, or flight shifts and how it’s always something they’ll remember or how it’s changed them since experiencing it.

Many of these stories are powerful pieces, and there are some stories that I didn’t expect at all. Nurses are heroes that often go unappreciated, and this book is a way for the authors to show a glimpse of the work they do to the world.

There are many very interesting moments and stories throughout this book. There are some that brings me to tears, in laughter and saddness. There are plenty of life lessons that lies in these pages that I know I will carry with me. Some of the moments that I will always remember: just how hard nurses advocate for their patients, breaking hospital policies to give their patients one final humane moment, how nurses must put on a strong face to deal with an angry person who “has been waiting for a long time” after coming right out of a room for a child that has just passed, how important it is to be allowed to express your emotions and sorrows, the countless miracles next to small incidents that could take away lives (a small bump to the head), and how there’s nothing that’s totally predictable.

I used to really enjoy the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and for all the short stories I’ve read recently, this one especially touched a nostalgic part of me. The stories are simple but profound, the writing is done well, and I’ve gained a great deal of respect for nurses of all sorts. They put so much work into getting nursing degrees and come out to deal with some of the most awful things and nasty people. They sit with us through some of the worst days of our lives. They bring small joys to us when it feels like there are none left. Truly a wonderful collection of admirable people and stories that I loved.

Book Review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
This week’s book review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford!

This was my most anticipated read of the year and I kept pushing it off as if to make the read even more rewarding the longer I wait for it. I finally got around to it, and I absolutely loved it!

Book Title: Righteous Prey
Series: Prey Series / Virgil Flowers
Book # 32 (Prey) / 14 (Virgil Flowers)
Author: John Sandford
Length: ~412 Pages (Based on Kindle Pages)
Publication Date: 4 Oct 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: eARC (NetGalley)
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author Website: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.

Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, the Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

5 bitcoin traders, immensely wealthy, and absolutely nuts in the head, conspire along with another individual to commit crimes “for the better of the world.” They kill those they deem worthy of death, post their crimes out as press releases along with the reasons that the individuals were killed, and a hefty amount in bitcoin is donated to a charity afterwards, a test to see if these non-profits would accept the money if they were to come out of these crimes; blood money. Lucas and Virgil aren’t called on, at least not until one of the killings happens on Minnesota soil and the BCA and US Marshal become involved.

Though I’ve seen books revolving around an individual or groups of people going after people who deserve justice, it was still a pretty good book and I enjoyed the plot. Beginning with weeks of staking out their victims, following their every move and tracking all of their personal securities, these five million/billionaire, along with their leader, come up with extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans that fully cover their tracks behind them. It’s nearly impossible to link the crime back to the perpetrator, at least, of course, until the killer in Minnesota slips up and it’s just enough of a clue for Lucas and Virgil to work off of. From there, the plot takes off and it doesn’t take long for the duo to identify some of the members of the Five and begin their pursuit. When The Five’s plans begins to crumble beneath them, people start to get really desperate. And desperate people are dangerous people.

In the first book where Lucas and Virgil worked together, Ocean Prey, Virgil actually worked mostly with Rae and Lucas with another team, covering background. Both having a criminal mind, nabbing clues in not so legal ways (like breaking into a house to investigate with a copy of a key made by pressing clay on it?), they have vastly different personalities when it comes to crime. Lucas sees things like a puzzle while Virgil’s more emotional (not that deaths don’t affect Lucas), but there’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

Lucas and Virgil were each other’s closest male friends, in the way men form friendships around shared traumatic stress and a predilection for jockstraps. Though they were friends, they were not alike.

Lucas could look at a body and become immediately absorbed in the technical details of the death: how the killing had been done, possible motives, who had the opportunity. He saw murder as a puzzle. The body was a detail, but not the only one. Murder signaled a competition that he was determined to win.

Virgil sought balance, rather than a victory. He wanted to wrench his world back into what it should be, a peaceful place where people cooperated to create a civilization. He disliked violence and rarely resorted to it. Murder was always a shock to his system.

In Righteous Prey, this time the duo really does work together, starting by visiting the scene of the Minnesota death, and “walking and knocking” on doors. Lucas being Virgil’s old boss, they’re best friends and their conversations can be pretty golden at times. There’s a hilarious supermarket scene with the most cliché undercover cop “quick pretend we’re a cute couple to avoid attention” trope that was the comedic highlight of my read. They’re funny and witty, and fantastic at bouncing ideas off each other. The bicker and banter between them reminds me of siblings and their interaction lightens the tenser parts of the book.

The woman called, “What’d you do? Did he see you?”

A male agent, also inside the store, who’d been looking at tomatoes, said, “They walked by him holding hands. [killer] wouldn’t look at them. He’s a homophobe and thought they were gay.”

Lucas, not transmitting, said to Virgil, “I won’t live this down. You will, of course, being an ambisexual hippie.”

The woman agent said, “That’s so cool. That’s really so cool.”

Lucas: “Ah, Jesus.”

There’s a lot of character development over the course of multiple books, for both Lucas and Virgil. Virgil has been writing as a side gig since the earliest books, more so as a magazine column writer, though. Soon, taking nature photographs and writing for magazines became writing fiction books for publishing deals and he’s in the middle of his third novel when Righteous Prey is taking place, with Lucas, a game maker himself, encouraging him. Because cops burn out hard and fast. Lucas, already rich off his games and only picking up the most interesting of cases can only hope that Virgil will follow because neither of them can see the latter continue to run around Minnesota for much longer. They’re getting older and their lives have been constantly at stake. They barely make it through this book (though I’ve definitely said this earlier in a few other books too, so…)

There were some places that were slow, you can’t have promising leads forever, and there are multiple times the duo run into walls. Still, the thrill is always present and there’s always some form of a chase, but the killers are just as slippery as they are elusive. Along with cash to back them up, clever alibis, and this case taking place across multiple stakes, Virgil and Lucas are just running all over the place. In fact, if The Five had kept all of this on the down low, and not going about publishing every hit to the public, they probably could’ve easily gotten away with these killings for a long time!

All in all, I had a wonderful time with it and I’m definitely going to get the physical copy when it comes out next month. My only worry is, with Lucas and Virgil growing older, having promising new careers on their horizon, family, and with Lucas’ adoptive daughter, Letty, having her own spin-off series now, we may very well be nearing the end of both Lucas and Virgil’s adventures. The book ends pretty well though, especially given the scary events that took place in the climax. It has a very open end feel to it, with plenty of possibilities to come. Another gripping and solid book from Sandford. I could not put this one down!

Book Review: Glittering a Turd by Kris Hallenga

Book Title: Glittering a Turd: How surviving the unsurvivable taught me to live
Series: [Standalone]
Author: Kris Hallenga
Length: 7 hours & 8 minutes
Publication Date: August 19, 2022
Publisher: W. F. Howes Ltd
Genres: Audiobook, Nonfiction, Nonfiction > Memoir, Medicine, Family

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

Kris was living a totally normal life as a twenty-three-year-old: travelling the world, falling in love, making plans.

However, when she found a lump in her boob and was told that it was not only cancer, but also incurable, life took on a completely new meaning. She was diagnosed at an age when life wasn’t something to be grateful for, but a goddamn right.

Little did Kris know it was cancer that would lead her to a life she had never considered: a happy one. From founding a charity to visiting Downing Street, campaigning at festivals to appearing on TV, and being present at the birth of her nephew; in the face of all the possible prognoses, Kris is surviving, thriving, and resolutely living.

Glittering a Turd is more than just another cancer memoir; it’s a handbook for living life to the fullest, shining a new perspective on survival and learning to glitter your own tu*d, whatever it might be. Kris has survived the unsurvivable for twelve years. Here, she begins to discover why.

This was a wonderful and informative book with all the right levels of humor in it. I surely did give my girls a little feel up after the first few chapters. The writing was nice, things always moved along easily and smoothly, and it was easy to understand. One thing stood out the most, and not just because it was important, but rather the memories it brought up for me. Too often, people go to the doctor for concerns, only to be met with a hefty bill and “It’s just anxiety.” This is a huge killer, causing minor symptoms to progress into something far more serious and deadly.

Kris shows us her cancer journey from the day she was diagnosed, over a decade ago, and how life has changed for her since then. She’s started a charity called CoppaFeel!, aiming to educate and spread awareness about breast cancer, such as knowing the signs that could save your life and reminding you to check your breasts often. She’s appeared on television, was able to live a thriving life, being there with her sister at her nephew’s birth, and even started a food truck business with her twin sister, Meron.

Beautifully written, Kris spoke to us in a way that was like as if she were a friend updating us on her condition, a mix of humor and seriousness that taught me many different lessons from making sure to check your boobs often to speaking up for yourself when you want a second opinion. She doesn’t mince words and is honest and open about her life and journey with us. The highs and lows, the joy, laughter, and tears, they’re all there and I felt every emotion. This was an incredibly inspirational read that I would recommend to anyone.

Book Review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy

Happy Thursdays!
Did anyone watch the Nintendo Direct from earlier this week? I actually cried at the announcement of the Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life remake. A childhood favorite brought to the present, sure makes the swellest present! Unfortunately, Alear’s god awful design in the newest Fire Emblem: Engage announcement, from the same Direct, has ruined the presentation for me. It’s just…that Colgate, Nintendo Switch colored hair. Just…why?? Fantastic art otherwise, not too sure about the animations, and not too keen on the unoriginal “yet another revived Fell Dragon in need of slaying” plot. Am I still getting it? For sure!

This week’s book that’s up for review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy. Thought to have been long overdue for a review, now that I have checked the publishing date, I actually made it on time for release! Phew!

Book Title: The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream: A Novel
Series: [Standalone]
Author: Jeannie Zusy
Length: 306 Pages (Paper) > Paperback ARC Edition
Publication Date: September 20th 2022
Publisher: Atria Books
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Family, Humor, Literary Fiction, Womens Fiction

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to Goodreads, the author, and Atria books for this copy! All opinions are my own.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.

Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.

Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.

Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. Add two devoted but feuding immigrant aides and a soon-to-be ex-husband who just won’t go away, and you’ve got a story that will leave you laughing through your tears as you wonder who is actually taking care of whom.

Oh, this was such a refreshing read that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Three sisters and all of the worries, self-doubts, and struggles between them. What’s on the surface is never “just the only things” that’s going on.

I struggled to get into and start the book because every time I cracked it open, there are no chapters but rather, four long parts. Stopping in the middle of a reading session was always awkward, but it wasn’t that much of a problem when you finally get into the book. Even if I didn’t like the way the book was divided, I fell in love with the intensity of the writing and the realism from every character. It felt like reading right off Maggie’s private journals, like listening to a friend tell me about her day, like being in her head and hearing and experiencing all of her worries. The writing is choppy in places but I loved most of everything else; the tension, the frustration, the thoughts of both Maggie and those around her, and of course all of their joys and mini celebrations too.

The story begins with Maggie driving Ginny back to live in New York, to be closer to her. It’s a trip from Maryland, somewhere Ginny will never see again and she doesn’t even know that yet. Virginia (Ginny) has an intellectual disability and despite living just fine on her own and away from her siblings, ever since she’s retired from her job, her life has gone downhill, her health in decline. She’s no longer able to take care of herself and her diabetes is not being properly managed, causing her to end up with sepsis and nearly dying. She doesn’t want to move, and oldest sister, Betsy (Bets), says that Maggie should just be allowed to live how she wants to live. If that means leaving her to her own devices and she dies from it…well…

So, against both her sisters’ wishes, Maggie brings Ginny closer to her, in upstate New York. Because what does Bets know? She’s off in California, surfing up her dream life and appearing on television!

This was a heartwarming read. I know it’s listed as humorous, but I felt kind of sad through the book. Sad for Ginny’s loss of freedom and loss of independence, something she’s had for decades. Sad for Bets and sad for Maggie and Ginny who know that something’s up with Bets to act so aloof and distant (physically and mentally), but we never know what and why. Sad for Maggie who is a bit neurotic and lonely but means well with all her heart. Sad for the kids and how the “divorce” affected them. But it was also refreshing because it shows the complex emotions and issues that make up a family: the relationship between the sisters, loneliness of the husband living separately but the kids also never being home, coming to terms about past mistakes and the growth, the bickering that stems from misunderstandings, the burnout, the drinking, the “am I really doing this for Ginny’s health or my own selfishness?”, the “When is it Maggie’s turn to be taken cared of?” Emotions are very strong here and I know I’ve cried a few times.

The characters here are wonderful, so well-developed, and again, as real as it gets. Bets is far away and acts like she doesn’t care that Ginny is no longer able to care for herself or the fact that she nearly died. She acts aloof, but from the beginning you know, through her brief encounters and calls, that something’s wrong on her end and nobody knows what until the end. Just as much as it affects Maggie, it too lingered in my mind from the very beginning, “What’s wrong with Bets? It’s bad, but we don’t know what and she won’t say anything.” Maggie always means the best, but at times she can be controlling and even intimidating in her “never wrong” attitude. She means well, but her work goes unappreciated on all ends. She knows that she can be controlling, but she also knows that the alternative is that the world falls apart: Bets will grow farther and farther away, Ginny could die, her sons could leave her for good.

Ginny struggles with her many losses too, from nearly dying to being torn from her own home, in Maryland, to first being put in a nursing home and then, against her will, put in a house that Maggie helped her find only to have a home-aide follow her everywhere and not let her do the things she enjoys (such as cutting back on a lot of sweets). She can’t even hold her own dog anymore and she loves Rascal!

Still, it’s not all sad and there are sprinkles here and there. I wouldn’t call it a depressing read nor would I call it a comedic one either. The best description may be, bittersweet with a hint of warm cinnamon. Life is hard with a rare treat in the middle. It’s a dark chocolate cupcake kind of bittersweet humor. Every character has their ups and good sides and their downs and flaws. As hard as things are, and as distant as the three sisters have become, the ending was relieving and as everyone comes back to some form of connection and a mutual understanding is made, you could almost feel the weights lifted from everyone’s shoulders, main and side characters alike. Bets tells Maggie of her own struggles, in both past and her current life, and Maggie sees Bets off on a warmer ground. Ginny begins to love New York and Maggie has something great to look forward to again.

It’s a hard read for sure, the tone, even with all the bits of humor thrown in, is still serious. Oftentimes, my heart clenches after an argument because I understand how hard the situation can be. It was a wonderful read and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my very small pile of books I would reread when I get a chance to.

Heart touching, heartwarming, heartbreaking. Special and loving.