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.

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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.

Book Review: Winter Prey by John Sandford

Last week, I shared my review for Silent Prey, the sequel to Eyes of Prey. That was the first time I’d seen a repeating villain in any of Sandford’s books, but in this fifth book of the series, Davenport has moved on. This time, we’re going to experience the bitter cold of rural Wisconsin and this time, his foes may endanger his life in ways even the bloody Bekker didn’t…

For this week’s review, we’re featuring Winter Prey by John Sandford! Stay tuned!

Book Title: Winter Prey
SeriesPrey/Lucas Davenport Series Book No. 5
Author: John Sandford
Length: 336 Pages (Paperback)
Published: 1 March 1994
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

CW/TW: Blood, death, murder, arson & fire, mentions of torture, graphic violence, sexual abuse of minors, pedophilia, death of a child, alcohol abuse, attempted murder, hostage situation

The Iceman is Lucas Davenport’s most determined foe – a serial killer driven to cover his brutal tracks with blood.  Sandford again creates almost unbearable suspense as we wait for the Iceman’s razor-sharp corn knife to strike again.

“Winter Prey” unfolds in the cold and driving snow of the north country. The wilds of rural Wisconsin are the perfect setting for the chilling terror caused by the Iceman, a killer who knows Lucas’ every move – a coldly brilliant madman who can’t be stopped.  Turn up the heat and listen as Lucas Davenport faces his most dangerous challenge.

The fifth book in the Prey/Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford, this time, Lucas Davenport is taking a break from the Minneapolis police department, something he’d already done in the previous book, though he had been called over to New York as a consultant on a case instead. Here, we begin the book with a blistering and brutal winter, the coldest of blizzards, whipping through the pages, and you can almost feel the winter come alive, even as I sit here reading in the sweltering heat of August. This time, there’s no case to help in. This time, Davenport is just relaxing in his Wisconsin cabin and…he’s pretty bored. That is, until the local law enforcement hears about him staying up here and asks for his help on a homicide and arson case. Davenport is almost gleeful. Almost. Because this case gets disgusting pretty quick at the discovery of a photo of a man and an underage kid.

“‘Yeah. And now I’ve started writing simulation software for police crisis management, for training dispatch people. Most of that’s computers, dispatch is. And you get in a crisis situation, the dispatchers are virtually running things for a while. This software lets them simulate it, and scores them. It’s kind of taking off.’

‘If you’re not careful, you could get rich,’ Weather said.

‘I kind of am,’ Lucas said gloomily. ‘But goddamn, I’m bored. I don’t miss the bullshit part of PD, but I miss the movement.’

Like all of Sandford’s books, I adore his writing, especially the ease with which he could portray a scene with just a few simple, but nicely picked sentences. The scenes are crisp in my mind and the action is never ending. The thrill and fears are always jolting, and some (deserving deaths) make the endings just so darn satisfying. I love the way Sandford writes, scenes and dialogue, but I love his characters more. In fact, I think I live for his characters more than the plot, even if there’s equal attention to both.

In Winter Prey, we are introduced to a new recurrent character, Weather Karkinnen, someone who became and remains a very important person in Davenport’s life as she shows up again and again, and even cross series. My first introduction to her was in the spin-off/parallel series, Virgil Flowers, and there, I don’t know much about Weather other than her relationship with Davenport. It’s so fleeting and impersonal, small mentions here and there, a drop in on their home now and again, and so on. Getting to know Weather more (and yes, that’s her actual name), was just as fun as getting to know younger Davenport. Both are so much more wild in their earlier days, and that, of course, makes sense since this is the main series and Weather is more involved with Davenport here rather than just giving off the “a friend of a friend” vibes like in Virgil’s story. I rather enjoyed her character and interaction with Davenport.

As we often see in the other Virgil Flowers and Prey books, we get to see the story from the perspective of the villains in the book, and they are absolutely awful people; rotten to the core. This was a hard book to read because of the disturbing series of events, though it’s not the first time I’ve read a Sandford book with criminals involved in sexual abuse against minors. That would be Bad Blood over in the Virgil Flowers series as he investigates a sex cult (and it was just as bad…). Just as the antagonists in that book were dirtbag levels of vile, so are the group in this book, particularly the main antagonist, who seemed to be the leader of the sex ring, the “Iceman.” They lack all signs of empathy and humanity. There are plenty of sad folks between both series, some bad guys I even feel kind of sorry for, but here, I felt none of that. I hated them from the moment I got to know them, and cheered at every success that Davenport came across.

The book begins with the Iceman and though, through his perspective, we know who the other people in the ring are, we don’t ever know who the Iceman is and what his true identity is until nearly the end when things take off with insane speed and this time, Lucas may end up in more danger than he’s ever been so far, and that’s including his two encounters with a serial killer that has a thing for poking out eyes as his signature.

I thought this was a pretty good read. It started somewhere medium paced with Davenport and his team just finding clues only to meet with wall after walls as their leads either turn up empty or evidence and clues unusable due to damage. Things eventually work out and I kind of liked how it ended (minus the several terrible deaths). Another wonderful and gripping thriller. I can’t wait for the next Davenport adventure.

Book Review: Silent Prey by John Sandford

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!

It’s been a long week, especially Tuesday!
But, we’re nearing the weekend and that’s always a cause for celebration.
For this week’s review, I’ll be talking about Silent Prey by John Sandford!

Book Title: Silent Prey
Series: Prey/Lucas Davenport Series Book # 4
Author: John Sandford
Length: 338 Pages (Paperback)
Published: 1 March 1993
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Dr. Mike Bekker, a psychotic pathologist, is back on the streets, doing what he does best-murdering one helpless victim after another. Lucas Davenport knows he should have killed Bekker when he had the chance. Now he has a second opportunity and the time to hesitate is through. 

***Spoilers for the previous book: Eyes of Prey
Usually each Prey or Virgil Flowers book can be read as a standalone (for certain with Virgil’s stories, now that I’m through with all current publications on that end, but I’m not sure with the further Davenport ones) with the only thing you miss being maybe references and character development through the series, but Silent Prey is different. There are things here that are major spoilers for the previous book, Eyes of Prey, especially the ending of that last book.

After about 16 Sandford books, split between the Virgil Flowers and the Lucas Davenport/Prey series, I think I’ve finally come across one that was lukewarm for me. It’s not quite as interesting as the first few in the Prey series and I think part of that comes down to how there’s a repeating antagonist, Bekker. Yep. Nuttier than a squirrel’s pre-hiberation meal, after his capture in Eyes of Prey, Bekker manages to escape and hides away in NYC where he continues to kill for his sick and twisted “research.” Serial killers will be serial killers and with his obsession with eyes being a signature of his, it’s not hard to track him down. Except, he’s a little different here. A genius will remain a genius, but while Silent Prey Bekker is just as smart, frustratingly elusive, and dangerous as Eyes of Prey Bekker, this Bekker continues the inevitable downward spiral that the previous Bekker started. Drugs. Don’t do them, kids.

He missed it. He didn’t miss the police department, with its meetings and its brutal politics. Just the hunt. And the pressure.

In this fourth installation of the series, Davenport is back at it again, but he’s no longer a cop. Instead, he’s loaning his skills and talents over in New York and helping the NYPD with tracking down Bekker, the serial killer having taken refuge in NYC, and people are getting pretty desperate with bringing him in, or down. The body count is starting to ramp up, the media chewing people up, and they need to put a stop to this ASAP! As if Davenport needs to be told twice. His vengeance against Bekker is personal. Somewhere in between this whole interstate insanity with the “Damn, should’ve killed him back when you got the chance, and now he’s here causing this mess” NYPD has a problem of their own with a vigilante taking people down; professional hits too clean for just a normal crime. They dub him, “Robin Hood” with just about as little detail as you can spare for leads. Something is fishy, and too many people seem to be hiding things to trust the police to handle this case.

Bekker is the most interesting person here. His gruesome crimes have moved states, but he’s still him and his obsession (and profound fear) of eyes remains the same. The only difference is, he’s so far gone with drugs that it’s like two different people. I thought he was downright nuts in Eyes of Prey already, but you haven’t seen him here. Completely desperate for escape and staying out of prison (where he would have no access to drugs) and still obsessively researching eyes and death, he’s nothing but a lunatic here. In Eyes of Prey he was the head of operations on a two-man team, the brains and the beauty to the “beast” (his acquaintance). Now, he’s flying solo, not trusting even his own shadow and unable to survive seconds without his drugs, and he’s got quite the rainbow running through his veins. At this point, even if he’s taken in, alive, he wouldn’t be going back to prison.

Bekker could count the drops, each and every one, as the shower played off his body. The ecstasy did that: two tiny pills. Gave him the power to imagine and count, to multiply outrageous feelings by ineffable emotions and come up with numbers . . .

The writing is something I’ve always loved in Sandford’s books. It’s wonderfully thrilling, but kept simple and to the point. You can occasionally find the most beautiful sentences with his prose. There’s no need for strings of text to describe the emotions just one of his sentences can provide. Here, though, the writing felt a little different from the previous book and I just can’t seem to place a finger on it. Now that Davenport’s no longer a cop, his old buddies and even street connections are gone. There are a few mentions here and there, not to mention him being in a different state, but the difference in writing and tone could be just the overhaul of characters and background support. It could also be character growth (Poor Davenport’s gone through the wringer in the last four books!) and development, or even just the new setting (NYC vs Minnesota).

Silent Prey is also quite dialogue heavy. However, I have no complaints on this end. Sandford’s characters, dialogues, and character interactions are my favorite and, for me, there’s no such thing as “too much dialogue” if it comes from him. Still, there’s way more of back and forth dialogue in this one book than I’ve ever seen before…in the 16 Sandford books I’ve read so far!

I really enjoyed the change of scenery, but I could be biased here because it takes place in a city I’m very familiar with. It’s fun to be able to recognize streets and neighborhoods as you come across them in the book, especially if it comes from the eyes of someone not from NYC. Davenport did originally feel like a bit of a misfit, a square squeezing through a round hole, this middle-of-nowhere hick from Minnesota lost in the big cities. People underestimated him until they realize he’s got the skills to back up all the stories. As much as I really missed Sloan and Del, it was fun to see him with this new band of characters, even if it’s temporary. The way the cops do things in NYC and even their criminals, compared to those in Minnesota, are so different, and I think even Davenport was overwhelmed at this change.

“The main thing is, there’s an infinite number of assholes. You never know where the shit is coming from. You can’t get an edge on anything. You can’t know about the place. Here, if somebody hijacks a goddamn Best Buy truck and takes off fifty Sonys, we got an idea where they’re going. Out there . . . Shit, you could make a list of suspects longer than your dick, and that’d only be the guys that you personally know might handle it. And then there are probably a hundred times that many guys that you don’t know. I mean, a list longer than my dick.”

Overall, this was a good book. I didn’t like (but didn’t dislike) that there was a repeating antagonist, but Bekker has spiraled so far into the depths of hell that he’s practically a different person and this did help slightly. His signatures have changed (just a bit), but he’s mad and nuttier than ever now. The side plot, of the Robin Hood case, felt like it was just there as a background thing to keep the story fresh. I did not care for it in the slightest, though the ending and how things connected and linked up did give me a jolt of joy. I do looove my twists and turns!

Book Review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! Allergies are getting the better of me this morning, but I’m hyped because there’s going to be a Nintendo Treehouse Live Presentation in a few hours! I’ve never played Splatoon, but I am very excited for Harvestella (though I’m a little surprised at this random appearance in the direct). Only 67 more days until November! My wallet is ready!!

(No, not really)💸

This week’s review is for The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci! Exciting, riveting and gripping. An unputdownable book!

Book Title: The 6:20 Man
Author: David Baldacci
Length: 417 Pages
Published: 12 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Mystery > Crime, Contemporary, Action

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

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

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.

I’ve never read a David Baldacci book before, despite seeming them everywhere, and I can see why he’s so popular! Right off the bat, his writing has me amazed, the characters intriguing, and the first chapter had me already hooked! The mystery behind the guilt the fuels our protagonist’s every day struggle to work in a place that makes him loath his life had me fully invested in his life in just the first 5 pages.

The book is 84 chapters long, but at only 417 pages long, this means that each chapter is relatively short. Most are less than 10 pages, and some are less than 5. I love books that break things into tiny little chapters because I feel like I’m flying through the book, especially whenever chapters end on a cliffhanger. Besides the formatting, the pacing and the prose itself was wonderfully done. It’s fast and every time I open the book, I find myself lost in the story; there’s never a not exciting moment.

Our protagonist here is Travis Devine. From the very start of the book, we know that Devine had been a ranger before he randomly just left the services. But “leave and never look back” was not something he did. Devine left due to the guilt of having gotten away with a crime that he has not ever forgiven himself for and so, he punishes himself by getting up at 4 in the morning to work out before begrudgingly heading off on the 6:20 train to work in a place that he hates with a passion, grinding away with all of the other “burners” making money for people who don’t need more money. If he hates his life, good. It’s working.

The train started to fill, station after station, with the young gladiators in their suits and skirts, their laptops and clouds fired up and gestating future wealth for those with already too much of it. Later, the train climbed the little knoll, slowed, and then stopped, like a thirsty animal does at creekside for a drink.

I liked Devine. He’s smart, careful, stoic, analytical and observant. The first few chapters, I had thought he was going to be some one-worded or short sentenced, near silent protagonist, kind of character. He kind of does. He speaks in ways that feel like an interrogation and when he’s done with you, he leaves. There’s no need to rile people up more than needed and generally gives people more chances than they deserve (such as the time he beat up a few dudes, who followed him, after giving them MULTIPLE warnings, before asking a woman to call the ambulance rather than leave them in the alley). He’s intimidating and looking to punish himself for his past crimes, but, as another character points out, he’s kinder than he lets on and deeply cares about those close to him.

Devine thinks things through and often has some plan to get out of trouble, but if he didn’t have one, he’d be quick on his feet to think one up just as well. If that didn’t work, his ranger training never left him, and he’s able to get himself out of a tough situation, though he’s no invincible man and doesn’t always walk out without some injury.

When he does find himself cornered with no way out, he has people looking out for him, including some badass female characters. Devine lives with three other roommates, a woman who is studying to be a lawyer, Helen Speers, another the CEO of her own online dating company named Hummingbird, Jill Tapshaw, and then there’s Will Valentine, the hacker from Russia. All brilliant people with their own important roles in this book. They all assist him in some way, or another, as Devine investigates the murder of a woman he’s once dated, Sara Ewes. Then, there’s Montgomery, a very important character who sells herself short in being just a trophy girlfriend when she’s anything but; accompanying Devine even when she’s probably terrified for her life. She strikes me the most and is probably my favorite character, having helped Devine on so many levels.

The plot was fantastic; I could barely put the book down. When I was reading, I found myself flying through the book, and the short chapters aren’t the only reasons why, either. The plot and story, the interesting characters and dialogue, the mystery and suspense behind all of the crimes, the need to find out how things all tie up in the end, the adrenaline rushes, the plot twists, the writing in general, all of it made for a wonderful and explosive read.

Devine starts off trying to get to the bottom of a single “suicide” only for it to turn all the weird corners and suddenly, he finds himself in deep muck. A deal is proposed in which choice is just an illusion. Declining the deal means his past can get him in a great load of trouble so the only thing left is to agree, accept, and move forward. The more he uncovers things about Sara, the more things begin to surface, and they’re not good things either. Some things, even when discovered, are far too great for a single individual, or even a whole organization, to handle. Because money means power, and power can get you just about anywhere, so long as you don’t step in one of the dozens of minefields.

“But if you have enough money, the laws don’t apply to you.”

The ending was great as well, just short of mind-blowing. I was wrong in so many different ways, and Devine was actually not far off from me either. There’s a whole reveal chapter that ties all of the events together, from the first death to the last. That was the only slightly jarring chapter (I can’t say it was a bad chapter either, especially as my eyes widened, and my jaws dropped at every consecutive sentence that came out of the antagonist’s mouth) as it was essentially a whole confession chapter, on a nearly info dumping level and mostly dialogue. Devine was always so close to the truth, but was never able to finish the puzzle; having laid the connected clues in chunks to the side. The antagonist gave us (and Devine) that connection and closure that ended things neatly, with no pieces left over for us to question and guess on about. The last chapter was bittersweet, but I liked it. I think even Devine felt just a bit lighter as he, once more, rides the 6:20 train.

Book Review: Old Country by Matt & Harrison Query

Happy Thursday everyone!
Last week, I was extremely hyped over the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet & Violet games in November, but in the last few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Square Enix’s debut into the life/farm simulation world with Harvestella, also coming out in November. It’s going to be a hard hitting month on my wallet!

For this week’s review, I’m sharing my thoughts on Old Country by brothers, Matt & Harrison Query!

Book Title: Old Country
Author: Matt Query & Harrison Query
Length: 341 Pages
Published: 26 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Paranormal, Fantasy > Supernatural, Horror, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Adult

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

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

Based on the Reddit sensation, a horror thriller of a young couple who buys the perfect, secluded house—only to discover the terror within.

It’s the house of their dreams. Former marine Harry and his wife, Sasha, have packed up their life and their golden retriever, Dash, and fled the corporate rat race to live off the land in rural Idaho. Their breathtaking new home sits on more than forty acres of meadow, aspen trees, and pine forest in the Teton Valley. Even if their friends and family think it’s a strange choice for an up-and-coming pair of urban professionals, Harry and Sasha couldn’t be happier about the future they’re building, all by their lonesome.

That is, until their nearest neighbors, Dan and Lucy Steiner, come bearing more than housewarming gifts. Dan and Lucy warn Harry and Sasha of a malevolent spirit that lives in the valley, one that with every season will haunt them in fresh, ever-more-diabolical ways. At first, it seems like an old wives’ tale. But when spring arrives, so does the first evil manifestation, challenging everything Harry and Sasha thought they knew about the world.

As each season passes, the spirit grows stronger, the land more sinister, and each encounter more dangerous. Will Harry and Sasha learn the true meaning of a forever home before it’s too late? Haunting and bone-chilling, Old Country is a spellbinding debut in the horror genre.

This book had its ups and downs, and most of the downs revolved around a particular character, but otherwise, it was actually a pretty good read and I enjoyed the general theme and atmosphere as well as intrigued over the different rituals that were needed to appease the spirits in each season. I generally space my books over the course of a single week (two weeks if they are longer fantasies), but I managed to eat through this book to finish it up early. There were moments when I noted that it was kind of slow, and almost felt like the [in-book] days was dragging on and felt repetitive, but it’s followed by moments and chapters that kept me flipping through the pages like a mad woman, eager to see what happens next; cliffhanger chapters that make you gasp and all.

That’s a lot of swear words. It’s amusing.

The second half of the book felt like it had a slightly different writing style than the first half. This was the case in not just the story, but the characters and tone as well. I’m always curious how the writing in books with multiple authors, are split up; whether one person did all the writing and the other added bits in, or they split up sections to each other. The first half was sprinkled with swear words in a way if you were to hand the toppings to a kid and told them they had free rein to the ice cream. Don’t get me wrong! I have nothing against swears, I just happen to take notice of repeating words (there were 71 fucks/’ers/’ing in the first 100 pages alone!). It was amusing, to say the least. The only other thing I noted was, despite there were two POVs (Harry and Sasha), the two seemed to meld into each other. There were times I’d flip back to check on which POV I was reading in.

I mention writing styles because towards the middle, the swearing suddenly dies down by quite a lot. The tone feels different, the characters feel slightly different, and I’m able to start recognizing which chapter is narrated by which person. Rather than having a hard time distinguishing the two from each other, Sasha’s side of the story really felt like Sasha and Harry’s his.

Regardless of how it’s written or split, it’s easy to read and I enjoyed the book thanks to other aspects. The descriptions are fantastic and it doesn’t matter if it’s visual and something the characters see or if it’s physical and something they felt, everything they experienced is right there for you to experience with them, and it’s not pretty.

Seasonal manifestations of a malevolent spirit older than you can imagine!

There are four main characters in this book. There’s Harry (Harold) and Sasha (the two protagonists) and their neighbors, Dan and Lucy, who is this adorable and caring older couple that immediately takes a liking to Harry and Sasha, making sure to provide them with tips and tricks on both this new country lifestyle they’re living (both Harry and Sasha were city folks, so this rural ranch life is new to them) and, most importantly, the rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow.

In this valley, there is a malevolent spirit that manifests itself in different ways across the seasons, with winter being the only time it seems to take a vacation and not bother most of the residents of the town. With each different manifestation, there were rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow in order to not face its wrath.

In spring, when a light appears in the pond, you must light a fire in your house. If you don’t, you will hear drums outside your house and at that point, you’d better prepare to hunker down and bear the “storm” that follows.

In the summer, a bear will chase a man wearing his birthday suit, both running out of the forest in an almost slow jog. The man will be screaming his head off (as one would expect of a guy being chased by a hungry bear) and you must put a barrier between you and the man, not the bear. There’s no extra special ritual to follow other than to make sure that the man doesn’t get a hold of you. But, to purposefully sit, watch, and not interfere with a man being torn apart is definitely hard to watch.

The autumn one (which I thought was the creepiest) involves waking up to a scarecrow standing somewhere on your property, and you must burn it before sundown of the same day. There will be short bursts where the scarecrow will come alive and beg for its life, but, like the screaming crying man, you must ignore its pleas.

“‘How the hell is it standing like that?…It looks like it’s gotta have a frame or something to hold it up.’

That was, indeed, perhaps the most abnormal characteristic of the scarecrow. Its weird, lumpy feet were barely touching the ground, yet it stood upright, healthy posture and all.'”

The manifestation and rituals themselves were probably the most exciting part of the book. Knowing that each season will be worse than the last, you start to wonder what will happen next. The first season is the easiest, the second was kind of scary, so by the time you’re mid-book, it’s already a gripping tale because what is the last hurrah before the spirit, apparently, takes a break until spring?

I hated Harry from the beginning to almost the end.

Where I had the most problem were the characters, or rather, the one character of Harry (Harold). He and his wife, Sasha, are the two prospective in this book, and I actually kind of liked Sasha. She felt a bit flat and almost boring, though this begins to improve towards the end when Harry is nearly emotional incapacitated due to consequences of his own actions, and she starts to take charge of the situation for him. However, from the start, she was immensely more careful regarding the spirit. Of course, the disbelief was still there, but at the back of her mind, the spirit always lingered. She would ask Harry to at least humor Dan and Lucy and maybe entertain the idea of “but what if it’s real?” She always played it somewhat safe and this made me like her so much more than Harry.

Harry though, was nothing more than this stereotypical angry frat boy jock from the movies that somehow is always alive and kicking. Maybe a bit bruised up and scared, but still very much breathing. He’s so angry, can be mean, gives no chances to people, has no patience to speak of, doesn’t trust anyone, so reckless, and there are even times when he’s pretty childish. Because of this, he ends up putting multiple people in danger, including Sasha, the one person that he goes on and on about protecting.

From the start, Dan and Lucy try to talk to them about these rituals and what needs to be done each season to ward off harm. I get it. I really do. Imagine moving from the big cities to this rural countryside and your only neighbors, who, at first appeared to be this sweet old couple, turns out to be loons telling you about some crazy spirit of the valley. Of course there would some doubts that will surface! But, before they can even finish their next sentences, Harry has already unceremoniously booted them from his land.

At least, until the first signs of the spirit (light in the pond) begins to manifest themselves and suddenly things are starting to feel very scary and very real. There are still doubts and even when the town sheriff drops by to warn him that they’d better follow the rituals, thus confirming the spirit’s presence. From there, Harry turns his anger from disbelief into bullying the spirit. There are times when he mocks and taunts the spirit, and he doesn’t do it just once, but twice! The first time he taunts the spirit, he immediately knows he messed up big time…he could feel it…and then he does it again.

He kind of grows towards the end and learns from his mistakes. It’s hard not to when the consequences slap you in the face like a truck on fire. The part where a character rips into him and tells him he’s gone and messed up hard with disastrous results to follow was the single most satisfying moment of the book. Dan and Lucy, as well as Sasha and Dash (their golden retriever) are honestly the only reason he’s alive when he should’ve been dead ten times over.

Overall

The mood was creepy and kind of somber; so many bad things have happened in this valley and land in the past that the residents almost seem to just accept their shitty haunted life as normal. When it comes to acres upon acres of ranch land in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and you have like…one pair of neighbors that stops by? It’s creepy and feels so isolated! There are more people towards the end (like…two extra) and there was one sheriff towards the beginning, but that’s about it. In that general area? It’s Dan, Lucy, Sasha, Harry, and their dog (and their farm animals). You get this vibe where, you know you need to take care of each other because were anything to happen, things get really lonely really fast.

The spirit manifestation changing between the seasons and the rituals you have to perform were scary and interesting to read. The descriptions of the spirits and its wrath is bone-chilling. There’s a bit of mystery too, Dan and Lucy having their own secrets to hide. This secret and the history of the property is unknown to Harry and Sasha, so throughout the book, you get to have your own wild guesses about it until eventually things are revealed.

I kind of wish there was more lore regarding the spirit, but overall, it was a good book. I enjoyed some of the characters and certainly enjoyed the atmosphere around the settling as well as the different manifestations across the seasons. It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be (I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror) so even the scare level was perfect for me.

Book Review: The Noise by James Patterson & J.D. Barker

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
Happy Thursday! I have a lot of cleaning to do in anticipation of a family gathering next week, so I know what I have to look forward to this weekend.

Yesterday was Pokémon Presents, and I haven’t played the series since [the original] Pokémon Pearl (though I did play the remake version recently). None of the new games have appealed to me except this latest Scarlet & Violet that’s coming out in November. There’s not a single word, or even a string of words, that I can use to show my excitement. I’m practically vibrating!

Today’s post is this week’s book review and today, I’ll be featuring The Noise by James Patterson & J.D. Barker.

Book Title: The Noise
Authors: James Patterson & J.D. Barker
Edition: Kindle & Audiobook (Libby/Library Copies)
Length: 422 Pages / 11 hours and 48 minutes
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Horror

A mysterious explosion kills thousands in the Pacific Northwest—and only two young girls survive. The newest in psychological suspense from the mind of James Patterson.
Two sisters have always stood together. Now, they’re the only ones left.

In the shadow of Mount Hood, sixteen-year-old Tennant is checking rabbit traps with her eight-year-old sister Sophie when the girls are suddenly overcome by a strange vibration rising out of the forest, building in intensity until it sounds like a deafening crescendo of screams. From out of nowhere, their father sweeps them up and drops them through a trapdoor into a storm cellar. But the sound only gets worse…

James Patterson’s astounding imagination has made him “a legendary novelist” (CNN). Now from its darkest corners comes The Noise, a thriller that takes hold of the emotions, defies the senses, and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.

The stink of death in the air came in ebbs and flows, and as they followed Holt across what was once the village center, it grew worse. She couldn’t help but think about what Fravel had said. Was it physically possible for a human body to disintegrate from pressure?

I can picture it all.

I’ve only ever read one or two other of James Patterson’s books, but that’s pretty few in numbers and J.D. Barker is an author that’s new to me, completely! Still, I really enjoyed this book for many things, including the writing. Whenever I see that chapters will reach up to the hundred some-odd mark, I know I’m in for tiny chapters, and man were they TINY chapters. If you toggled the font size and font and read on an iPad, some chapters were small enough to be displayed on a single page! I actually ended up really liking this kind of form splitting because everything’s bite sized and the pacing isn’t affected by it. Sometimes, we leave on some insane cliffhangers that make you want to keep reading on and on and this was how The Noise had me feeling. Trying to eat three slices of chocolate cake can be too much, but have you ever stopped at just a single Reese’s cup? As someone who likes to stop my daily readings at the full chapter mark, it really helps that the chapters are small.

The writing was also vivid and detailed. Every emotion and horror that our characters felt and saw was fully displayed in my mind. The ear-splitting noise, the feeling of running out of time and unease through most of the book, the sit of people whom are not exactly dead, the absolute chaos and madness that happens around you such as what must’ve been the most horrific image of hundreds of thousands of unfeeling human running at breakneck speed, the sights of people running even though they may be missing limbs, the dripping of the blood down ears, eyes, and noses. It’s all so clear and the book makes for some scary nightmarish fuel if nothing else.

I had borrowed both the audiobook and kindle versions of this book and both were fantastic versions of The Noise. The narrator, Amanda Dolan, I thought did a terrific job with reading the passages and the dialogue. Especially whenever a possessed person begins to speak and she dicates this in the form of gritty and demonic speech, the first time I saw her move from a normal person to a “possessed” (I’m calling it possessed, though it’s definitely something else) was bone-chilling and to be a loved one of that “possessed” individual must be so unnerving; those drawn out sentences and that unnatural voice, it’s quite scary to listen to and I did read off the Kindle version more often than the audio version, from the few moments I did listen to Amanda, I felt myself lost even deeper into the already abyssal attraction this book puts out.

Unforgettable cast of characters.

Each of the chapters follows a particular character’s POV. From the start, there are a lot of people that will be getting introduced aside from the two main prospective of Tennant and Dr. Martha Chan. Having gathered a team of specialists and experts, outside of the military (Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fraser), there’re other scientists such as Sanford Harbin (climatologist), Russel Fravel (astrophysicist), Brennan Hauff (planetary biologist), Brian Tomes (geologist), and Joy Reiber (Dept of Agriculture). There’s also a separate doctor in camp along with Keenen Holt from the State Department.

You get to know certain people quickly, their personalities and presence are strong, but some of the scientists more so than the others and even then, the smaller side characters may occasionally get their own chapters as well and from their few minutes worth of cameo, there’s a lot to learn behind the scenes of what goes on.

I liked the split between everyone’s personal and professional investment into the strange and bizarre case/”infection” that affects the population. For example, the book begins from Tennant’s perspective and through her eyes, we watch the annihilation of her entire village. Her home, neighbors, maybe even family, trampled and gone. There’s so much emotion in the beginning because all is lost and for Tennant, the only thing left is her sister, who is no longer herself and very ill.

From the scientists and military’s perspective, with the exception of a handful of people that are very sympathetic to the sisters and their case, much of the base treats this anomaly in a cold, scientific, and professional way. While a couple of the “kidnapped” scientists have some emotional connection to the two sisters (they have kids of their own, etc.) there are some really unsettling moments where “It’s two girls vs the death of hundreds of thousands” and treat the two like guinea pigs.

The three main prospective in this book are Fraser, Martha, and Tennant. Martha is the medical doctor of the team and she, having kids of her own, is immediately protective of Tennant and her sister, Sophie, making sure that no harm would come their way while trying to help stave off the “infection” from both herself and those around her as the team attempts to wrap their mind around this anomaly. Fraser commands the ground team and his side of the story has my adrenaline pumping most of the time, especially anytime he needs to go front line in order to deal with the “infected” people or gather data that the scientists themselves cannot do. Tennant is the first character we really meet, and she’s here for her sister (but also, being a survivor of an anomaly that nobody can understand) she’s not exactly free to leave either. All three sides are fantastic to follow, and no matter where I turn, there’s adrenaline and fear. Of the three main prospective though, I think Fraser and Martha’s would be my favorite, though this may be due to them having more screen time than Tennant and Sophie.

Wild story gets wilder and the ending was insane.

A mysterious anomaly happens in the mountainside that decimates an entire town of villagers, survivalists that have lived off the grids just fine until this event essentially wipes the citizens off the map. Having torn the village apart, people, animal, houses and even water wells crumbled to ruin, leaving only a straight path, much like a tornado, in its wake, the story begins with two young girls, the only survivors. When help and the military finally arrive, there’s nothing left of the place. Even the people are gone! The team of scientists and the soldiers that go to survey and learn about the damage are completely stumped.

As the story progresses, things become more desperate and time is ticking. Things go by so fast with not a single soul knowing what exactly is happening. Martha and her team, and the readers, are kept guessing at what this anomaly really is the entire way through, up until near the end when everything comes crashing down and boy does that truck hit hard. Before that, we never know what it is that causes all the strange events. Is it a secret and devastating new weapon created by enemies of the US? Is it an actual infection with zombies and all? What about alien life finally comes to Earth and this is part of it? This plot is one of the best I’ve read in a while and I really enjoyed it. If you know me, I enjoy my guess work through mystery books, and this anomaly really hits the mark.

The ending though, was so far out and insane that I took a breather after finishing the book, my mind tingling in trying to process that actual cause behind the infections and events. It left me with quite a bit of questions, and wasn’t particularly satisfying when you understand what it implies.

Overall

All in all, this was a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the pacing, loved the short chapters, loved the writing and narrator. I enjoyed the characters in this book (there are a few people I loathed) both the major and minor characters and the story was pretty interesting and intriguing. When it comes down to things that can be affected by infections (mind, organs, etc.), noise and the auditory scenes was not what I expected. There’s no great big monster out there, just humans (not even zombies) that run forever like a mindless army of ants or cattle in a stampede. It kept me reading and going, that’s for sure. The book was equally as amusing and exciting as it was disturbing, especially towards the end when everyone felt so powerless against the deadline.

Fantastic read, I’d say, it might even be one that I may pick up once more and reread in the future, and that’s from someone who generally doesn’t reread books.

Book Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver


Book Title:
I Wish You All The Best
Author: Mason Deaver
Edition: Physical Copy > Paperback
Length: 336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Young Adult/YA

CW/TW: Verbal Abuse, Transphobia, Homophobia, Anxiety, Depression, Detailed Scenes of Anxiety. Detailed Scenes of Depressive Episodes, Body Dysmorphia, Underage Drinking and Alcohol, Being Kicked Out of House, Therapy, Misgendering, Slut-Shaming, Physical Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Panic Attacks

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I only cried like 12 times, it’s fine.

I’ve read a few other LGBT books before, but this is the first time I read one about a non-binary character, and I learned a lot from reading this. Ben is a high school senior who has been struggling to find the right time to come out to their parents, the fear was making them sick with worry and now felt like the only moment left; they can’t bear to wait any longer. Eventually they do have a conversation with their parents, around New Year’s Eve, and it ends in them being kicked out of the house; no shoes and into the freezing thirty degrees night. Nowhere to go, they make their way to a pay phone and calls their sister, Hannah, whom they haven’t seen in a decade after she left the house immediately after graduation. Horrified and furious, at her parents, she takes Ben in to live with her and her husband, Thomas, where Ben begins their life again; new school, new clothes, new home, and new friends.

Simple, easy-to-read writing. Book gone in record time.

I inhaled this book in about a day and half. I think I could have finished it in a single sitting if I didn’t start so late at night on the first day. Wonderfully written with easy to understand prose, I was able to fly by the pages with not much problem. Having just finished a few fantasy books this year, you don’t know how much I’ve missed contemporary sentences that you don’t have to read three times to understand a scene or figure out the magic system. Just plain, to the point, passages. Along with a few text message exchanges and Facebook messages, this book makes for a nice epistolary novel as well, with its bit of mix media thrown in (and I always appreciate any novel with those!).

The book’s writing was fantastic, to the point where I could feel Ben’s emotions and feelings right through the pages. The fear of their first night out of the house, in the freezing cold with no shoes and only wet socks, sitting all alone in a pharmacy and waiting for Hannah. They have nothing on them besides their clothes and socks; no cell, no jacket, nothing. Alone and cold, fearful and so hurt by people they thought they could trust while waiting for a sister they haven’t seen in a literal decade, one whom they have to debate on whether to come out to, because this is probably their last chance. Who else is going to take them in if this too blows up? I was able to feel their every sadness, whenever they felt trapped, doubt, anger, cold, like a burden, angry, disappointed. That first panic attack was enough to steal your breath away as they hide in fear.

Friends that I would love to have around me.

The characters were wonderful and so colorful. I really enjoyed all of them, and there were plenty of characters. There’s Hannah and her husband, Thomas (who happens to be Ben’s chemistry teacher in their new school). There’s the other adults like Mrs. Liu, the art teacher, whom Ben becomes very close to and their therapist, Dr. Taylor, who helps Ben through their recent trauma. Of course, there’s Ben’s new friends, Sophie, Meleika, and the ever charming Nathan. Through the internet, they also have a friend named Mariam, a non-binary Muslim immigrant, a vlogger, and Ben’s mentor of sorts; They have been Ben’s biggest support in the past few years.

While I do enjoy the characters, I do feel like a few characters lacked a solid background, some just needing a little more screen time. We don’t know much about Sophie or Meleika. These are two people who become so important to Ben that the end of senior year becomes hard to imagine. Nathan is Ben’s love interest here and the person they hang with the most (how could you not hang with Nathan the sunflower-soul, golden retriever in a human body?) so we get to know more about him than many of the other characters and I feel like, screen time wise, even Mariam was more fleshed out than poor Sophie and Meleika. I did, however sparsely they were presented, felt myself attached to this small band of friends. Personality wise, I feel like they’re alright. I imagine loud, happy, and always inclusive of their quiet buddy, Ben, in their activities; friends that I would love to have around me.

It’s a lot to go through during your last half of your final year in high school…

Plot wise, I enjoyed it as well. Ben is struggling to understand, and put to words, not just the trauma of the night that they were kicked out, but their other emotions and feelings as well. They also struggle to see, initially refusing to see Dr. Taylor, because it would mean they would have to come out to another person when they aren’t ready yet. You have to remember, the first and last time they came out (other than to Mariam) ended disastrously! Through this book, Ben also learns to open up to others and makes friends by joining them at lunch, going to parties, texting people that isn’t just Mariam through the internet. Along with all this, they also have to come to terms with their feelings towards Hannah, one that is mostly grateful and loving but also betrayed and resentful of being abandoned by their sibling, leaving them to fend for themselves in a home with parents like theirs. All of this during his last few months of high school. It’s a lot to go through.

The romance and Ben’s crushing on Nathan was kind of cute. It’s a HEA book, and you kind of get the feeling just from reading the blurb. There’s plenty of powerful and heavy topics that this book tackles such as identity and orientation, body dysmorphia, the fear of coming out, making friends in a new place (especially so late into high school), being kicked out of the house, complicated family histories, child abuse, anxiety and depression, and much more. It’s heartfelt and the emotions just seep through the pages. There will be plenty of times you cry and then a few times you find yourself smiling for Ben (or because Nathan’s there, and he’s a good boy that makes everyone smile). The book also contrasts Ben’s god awful parents with some amazing adults (and friends!) that they can put their trust into, which is fantastic considering how much of that trust he’s lost in others since that awful night.

All in all

Overall, a lovely and cute read. I enjoyed the discussions and portrayals about mental health and mental illness. I thought the relationships in this book were cute, but also complex between certain characters, and the story was wonderful to read through, especially with Ben being surrounded by actual loving and accepting people. Plus, the cover is so cute (It may or may not have been the extra deciding factor that landed it in my basket)!

Book Review: Ten Tomatoes That Changed The World by William Alexander

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s review day and for today, I have something special!

Nonfiction, in itself, is already a genre that I don’t read too often, having only started to really enjoy and crave them in the last few months; mostly sticking to autobiographies, travel, and animal related books like memoirs of someone’s beloved pet. Even amongst nonfiction, and the smaller subgenres I’d mentioned just now, this is a rarity, but I really enjoyed my book and hope that my review reflects the same.

Book Title: Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World: A History
Author: William Alexander
Length: 320 Pages
Published: June 7th, 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Nonfiction, History > Microhistory, Science, Food and Drink, Nature

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

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author’s Page: >LINK<

New York Times bestselling author William Alexander takes readers on the surprisingly twisty journey of the beloved tomato in this fascinating and erudite microhistory.

The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Lost in the dustbin of history for centuries, accused of being vile and poisonous, subjected to being picked hard-green and gassed, even used as a projectile, the poor tomato has become the avatar for our disaffection with industrial foods — while becoming the most popular vegetable in America (and, in fact, the world). Each summer, tomato festivals crop up across the country; the Heinz ketchup bottle, instantly recognizable, has earned a spot in the Smithsonian; and now the tomato is redefining the very nature of farming, moving from fields into climate-controlled mega-greenhouses the size of New England villages. 

Supported by meticulous research and told in a lively, accessible voice, Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World seamlessly weaves travel, history, humor, and a little adventure (and misadventure) to follow the tomato’s trail through history. A fascinating story complete with heroes, con artists, conquistadors, and—no surprise—the Mafia, this book is a mouth-watering, informative, and entertaining guide to the food that has captured our hearts for generations.

Here’s a little note to summarize my enjoyment of the book: Let’s just say, my mum is mighty happy that I’m done reading this little guy. She’s tired of me opening my mouth just to have the word tomato tumble out. (Listen…I just went through a crazy pasta journey, another of a tomato paste journey, and another about pizza…I have to share it with someone before I explode!)

In Ten Tomatoes That Changed The World: A History by William Alexander, we have ten chapters that revolve around the lovely little fruit/veggie. And yes, there is in fact a little section in there that even goes into explaining why many people consider this (botanically speaking) fruit, a veggie, and it goes all the way up into the Supreme Courts! This comes after a story (though there’s skepticism around it) of an American who stood on the steps of a Salem, New Jersey county courthouse and downed an entire bucket of tomatoes, to the gasping and fainting crowds below, during a time when most people still considered it an unsafe fruit, to prove that not only was the tomato safe to eat, but it was indeed very very delicious! (You, sir, are my hero).

The book starts with where the tomato originated from. A native plant to South America, the Aztecs had already been using it in their cooking and have been cultivating the plant for a long time, until the Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortés, captured the city of Tenochtitlan, came across the fruit, brought it back to Europe where it was then introduced to Italy and the other European countries. Another section, that follows, includes the etymology of the word tomato as well as a why its scientific name is Solanum lycopersicum. It also begins with how most people in Europe would eye this new fruit as dangerous (for many good reasons) and how it did not begin as an edible plant, but more of a decorative and ornamental one! From there, it really has had quite the journey from people being weary of it to happily putting them on their dinner plate. Oh, how its publicity has changed since then!

Outside a good load of tomato facts, there are other pieces of history that are either crucial because of or to tomatoes that are also present in this book. Sometimes a chapter is revolved completely around it, such as my favorite chapter of the history of Heinz and his rollercoaster of trial and errors with ketchup, how he struggled and worked hard to keep on top of a battle with making sure his ketchup were as preservatives free as possible.

There are also chapters that revolved around machinery for tomato farms, as well as a small history behind canneries. There’s the story of the birth of Campbell’s Tomato soup, another of a soap opera life for an important man, the beginnings of pizza and spaghetti, and even how tomatoes have gone from grandma’s delicious garden tomatoes to the now bland and tasteless versions you may see in your fast food orders.

This book really goes into detail through it all, and not once was I bored. The beginning was interesting, the history of pasta, ketchup, and pizza was interesting, and even the genetics chapters were interesting. You would’ve never caught me paying half as much attention in actual history or science class as I did with this book. William Alexander has a lovely writing voice and I really enjoyed this book. I may never look at a tomato the same way again. It’s just so special and the plant, as a specie, has been through so much experience and changes through history, it’s remarkable, and the book was a fascinating read. I would recommend this book if you enjoy the history of food, love science (botany, agriculture and horticulture especially), and microhistory (a subgenre that I haven’t even heard of until now!).

Book Review: The Sun Dog by Stephen King

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
Today’s post, a review for my very first Stephen King book, The Sun Dog!

Let me first say that I’m NOT a horror fan in the slightest because I’m a mega chicken who jumps at her laundry hamper that strangely looks like a looming ghost in the dead of night. I’ve only recently started to get into horror and only because of Youtubers and their ghostly podcasts or gaming streams. I figured, it can’t be that bad. You can’t get a jump scare with words…can you?

Title: The Sun Dog
Author: Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Length: 193 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Novella, Horror, Fantasy > Paranormal, Fantasy > Supernatural
Rating:⭐⭐⭐💫

The dog is loose again. It is not sleeping. It is not lazy. It’s coming for you.

Kevin Delavan wants only one thing for his fifteenth birthday: a Polaroid Sun 660. There’s something wrong with his gift, though. No matter where Kevin Delevan aims the camera, it produces a photograph of an enormous, vicious dog. In each successive picture, the menacing creature draws nearer to the flat surface of the Polaroid film as if it intends to break through. When old Pop Merrill, the town’s sharpest trader, gets wind of this phenomenon, he envisions a way to profit from it. But the Sun Dog, a beast that shouldn’t exist at all, turns out to be a very dangerous investment.

This is my first Stephen King book. His world and list of works is so immense that I didn’t know where to start, but this (and Insomnia) were my two latest Barnes and Nobles purchases and I figured, if I’m going to start, I might as well go through the smaller book first.

And gee, his writing style sure is lengthy. It’s at times unnecessarily extensive. The last time I felt this way was back in high school when my whole class was complaining about a book because the author had taken a million years to describe a single landscape; the story’s going nowhere at this rate. Here, the first time Kevin meets Pop Merrill had spanned too long for my taste. Then, there was the scene where Pop had gone to buy film at the local drug store, an exchange that should have been a page and half or two at best but lasted ten pages instead. There were moments where a character’s thoughts were several paragraphs or pages long and occasionally sprinkled with thoughts inside thoughts.

Other than being a tedious read at times, the writing and prose was really lovely. I first picked up on it when I read “divorced from circumstances” and thought, “That’s one pretty and fancy sentence there.” I liked it and though, in the end, it wasn’t the scariest of stories, there was always this ominous sense of dread and lingering doom hanging in the air. The good side of the excessive descriptions and thoughts was that there’s no shortage of fuel for imagination here. Pop walks into the drug store and you’ll see exactly what he sees, aisle by aisle, down to the hanging displays. The smoking breath of the demon dog, the far away voices, seeing the hallucinations from Pop’s eyes, all of it.

Excessive? Yes. Vivid? Oh yes.
Could be shortened? Yeah, I’d say so.

In terms of scary stories, I wasn’t particularly scared, but there were a few shivers. Looking back, with whom the camera targeted, I get a slight sense of relief [that it wasn’t me, because let me tell you, instant cameras were always on my wishlist up until now]. It’s scary, the way Goosebumps gave me goosebumps as a kid. I swear there was a haunted camera story then too. King did a fantastic job in making the reader see what needed to be seen, especially Pop’s hallucinations or the nightmares that plagued Kevin. It felt like, despite the safety of being behind the ink and pages, it was me holding that devil camera through Kevin or Pop.

The ending was a nice set-up and we leave on a scary note, but I was a little confused on why things happened and the ending only left me with more questions. However, given the paranormal circumstances, I guess there’s never a solid reason to who gets haunted and who doesn’t.

Final Verdict: It was a good scary book and did its job in making me creeped out. Heck, I left the book on the kitchen table rather than bring it back into my room the first few nights. As the inevitable impossible became reality, materializing before the characters’ very eyes, somehow, having a solid entity made the book many times less scary towards the end. I liked the concept of the story and was one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place, but the middle dragged and it REALLY dragged. If The Sun Dog was a painting, you’d see the fine details down to the very wisps of hair curling at the edges of a person’s face or the wrinkles on their face. It could be shorter, but if you needed a positive take-away from the excessive descriptions, at least you always got a vivid picture.