Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Book Review: The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn


Goodreads Overview:

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams...

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...

Jacque's Review:

This is the second book in the Bridgerton series and focuses on Daphne's oldest brother Anthony. He is best friends with Daphne's husband Simon. If you read the first book in the series, you are well aware of both of their reputations. Simon had no intention of getting married until he found himself in a compromising situation. Ultimately, it worked out for the best because Daphne and Simon are perfect together. They made a few appearances in this novel, and I enjoyed seeing how married life is treating them since the conclusion of The Duke and I.

Anthony is only settling down because he believes it is his duty as the Viscount to produce an heir. He isn't looking for love, but someone who will fit the role of the Viscountess and produce children. He has every intention of continuing his rakish behavior until he falls in love with Kate, the sister of the woman he originally planned on marrying. 

The banter between Anthony and Kate was absolutely hilarious throughout this book. They are like oil and vinegar and appear to detest each other, but Anthony needs her approval if he intends to marry Edwina. They get thrown into a variety of situations that eventually change their perceptions of each other. She sees his love and devotion to his family and realizes there is more to him than she originally thought. He is, however, very up front with her about not wanting a love match, which complicates things for quite a while considering his undeniable attraction to her. 
There are some MAJOR differences between the book and this season of the Netflix series. I prefer the book version, but I can see why they may have wanted to alter some things for television purposes. After reading the book, I was actually lukewarm on most of the changes Netflix made. When I heard Julia Quinn speak at an author event recently, she said she pretty much gave Netflix free rein when it came to the script. The one scene she insisted that they keep from this book was the croquet match, which I totally agree with. That was one of my favorite scenes from the book and series. 

Overall, I am loving this series. The characters are so unique, and you HAVE to love Lady Whistledown and her publications. We as readers/viewers now know who Whistledown is, but the other characters are still trying to figure it out. Hopefully it stays that way because I really enjoy her witty take on society's elite. The next book focuses on Benedict and sounds like a take on the Cinderella story. I'm not sure how I feel about mixing a retelling into this story, but only time will tell. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Book Review: Pieces Of Blue by Holly Goldberg Sloan


What good was thinking the future only held cloudy skies? Wasn’t the reality that pieces of blue were always there, waiting to break through?

When Paul Hill drowns in a surfing accident, his broken-hearted wife, Lindsey, and their three children are left in huge financial trouble. Once Paul’s life insurance finally comes through, Lindsey impulsively uses the money to buy a charmingly ramshackle motel in Hawai’i, hoping for a fresh start. Teenage Olivia quickly develops a crush on a handsome but monosyllabic skateboarder. Twelve-year-old Carlos reinvents himself as a popular kid named Carl. And Sena, the youngest, will do whatever it takes to protect her beloved motel chickens.

But while the kids adjust, Lindsey is flailing, trying to pretend she knows how to bring a motel―and herself―back to life. Then a handsome stranger rolls into the motel parking lot, and she’s surprised to feel a long-dormant part of herself stirring. She accepts his offer to help, unaware that he may have secrets of his own. And all the while, out in the Pacific, the trade winds are fiercely blowing.

Funny and tender, full of twists and turns and heart, Pieces of Blue is a portrait of an irresistible family learning to start over.


Every year I look forward to the month of May, it is the time that I begin searching for my summer beach reads. I have a soft spot for any book that takes place in a tropical or beach setting, I think mostly because I am stuck in the middle of nowhere, landlocked from the beautiful ocean. They are my escape when I am stuck inside trying to stay cool, while it is 100 degrees outside combined with about 90 percent humidity. Stepping outside here is like stepping into Dante's 9th circle of hell- because of course since that is where the worst of the sinners go, it's got to be hella hot right?

Thanks to MacMillan Audio I was able to get my hands on an early listen of Holly Goldberg Sloane's new novel Pieces of Blue, and it was the perfect way to kick off my summer of beach reads.

It is set in Hawaii where Lindsey and her three children move after a tragic surfing accident results in her husband's death. Lindsey takes the life insurance money and buys a ramshackle motel on the island of Ohau, and attempts to start their life over. I loved the setting, I use to live in the area that the book takes place in, in fact, Sloane even mentions one of my favorite casual eating establishments Giovanni's ( IYKYK ), so reading it was like taking a trip back to my old stomping grounds, thus making the book so much more enjoyable to me.

As far as the characters in the book, I liked them all, but the stand-out characters to me were her three children, Olivia ( 14 ) Carlos ( 12 ), and Sena ( 7 ). They each had such strong personalities, and they added a great deal of depth to the story.

Lyndsey was a great mom to the children, ad she worked hard on trying to make their new life as normal as possible, even with the enormous amount of changes that were taking place in their lives, she was a real trooper with all her responsibilities.

Also, there was Chris, a visitor from the Mainland, he and his wife had often come to Ohau and spent time at the motel before she had passed on. He takes on some handyman duties that need to be done around the place to pay for his room there, and of course, he comes with a complicated past and secrets.

This was a quick read, a great story about repairing your life after tragedy and learning your inner strengths. It was a great family saga, which I have always been drawn to. But also, the descriptions of the lush island were so visible they also became a bit of a character in the story, and they put you right in the middle of the area. Sloane even put in several twists that kept the story from feeling dry and kept the story moving along. All in all, it was not a bad choice for my first beach read of the season.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Goodreads Overview:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

Jacque's Review:

This is another book that I decided to read because of all of the hype from Reese's book club. This one did not disappoint. I gave it a solid 5 stars and even watched the movie shortly after I finished reading the book. I felt like Hollywood did a decent job of bringing this book to life without deviating too far from the original story line, but the book is definitely better. Don't take the easy way out and just watch the movie in this case.

Kya lived with her Mom, Dad, and four siblings in the marsh area of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Her father is a drunk and was often abusive. They do not have any money and live in a shack, so one by one her family leaves to make a better life for themselves somewhere else. Kya is eventually left to fend for herself and lives off the land with some help form Jumpin' and Mabel. They are an African American couple that runs the store where she buys gas for her boat and what food and supplies she can afford. 

She bonds with Tate, a local boy who teaches her how to read. They both love the marsh and its creatures, but he eventually has to leave for college. She is once again left all alone in a town where she is laughed at and ridiculed. Instead of offering a young girl who is obviously in need of help a lifeline, the town turned their backs on her. Surprisingly she becomes friends with Chase Andrews, who was the star quarterback and comes from a relatively wealthy family. When he is found dead, the town immediately believes the marsh girl has to be guilty. 

A large portion of the book centers around the murder investigation and trial. It was a captivating story that had a very surprising conclusion. Discrimination and segregation were prevalent at this time in the south and it could be seen in all aspects of this book. Kya's ability to overcome what most would have considered to be insurmountable odds was remarkable. I couldn't help but root for her to come out on top, even if I wasn't sure if she was guilty or not. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

BLOG TOUR: An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves


I'm so happy to be a part of the official blog tour for this delightful book! It's been a while since I've done a blog tour and I've forgotten how much fun they are. Today, I'm going to share a review. First things first, here is the summary:

Book Summary
When Thalia, Kalliope, and Charis set off to Regency London for their first Season, they each have clear goals—few of which include matrimony. Thalia means to make her mark among the intelligentsia and publish her poetry, Charis hopes to earn her place among the scientific elite, and Kalliope aims to take the fashionable ton by storm. But this Season, it doesn't take long for things to fall apart. Kalli finds herself embroiled in scandal and reliant upon an arranged marriage to redeem her reputation, Thalia's dreams of publication are threatened by her attraction to a charming rake, and Charis finds herself an unexpected social hit—and the source of a family scandal that her heart might not survive. Can this roller-coaster Season find its happily ever after?

Flo's Review
I'm going to be honest -- historical fiction is not really my jam. Usually. So it's pretty crazy that this is the second Regency romance I've read this year, and the second one that I've loved.

The book started off a little slow for me. With 3 POVs, I found it hard to keep track of which girl was which (like, "Thalia, that's right, she's the poet) and travel to then the first few weeks in London were pretty rushed.

But then it hit its stride.

I was so sad for Kalli! I think, with her big heart, she was my favorite character. Even though the outcome of two of the storylines was pretty evident, it was still a fun journey to get there. The third one actually surprised me! I think there could have been some more clues and some more buildup to it so that it didn't seem to be a sudden thing at the end. I also wished that the sisters, who have a falling out pretty early in the book, resolved their right more quickly.

By the end of the book, I literally could not put it down. Did I stay up past my bedtime because I legit could not stop reading? I sure did! Do I have regrets? Well, 10:30 a.m. lull at work Flo did, but current Flo who is remembering how much fun she had with this book does not. I love, love, love it when a book is unputdownable and I'm so happy that was the case here.

I also really enjoy that in a world of duologies, trilogies, and series that this was a standalone. That being said, if Rosalyn wanted to revisit the world -- say, some of Thalia's and Kalli's younger sisters Seasons, with these three making cameos, I would 100% read it.

In conclusion, this book is a fun escape that kept me wanting to turn pages. Recommended!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads Overview:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Jacque's Review:

The Delaware, Ohio Library hosted Neal Shusterman for an author event at one of the local schools. I hadn't read any of his books, but I had heard of him and even had Scythe on my TBR list. I finished reading it a couple of days before the event, so I at least had a clue about some of his writing. He told several stories about the inspiration for his books, which I found fascinating. He worked as a summer camp counselor when he was younger and told stories to keep the kids entertained and in line. He was one of the favorite counselors and the kids couldn't wait to hear his stories each night. He translated that experience into a career writing for middle grade and young adults. In fact, he told stories for the majority of the presentation and the audience was hooked. I added several of his books to my TBR list as he was talking about them. 


The futuristic society in Scythe has conquered death and aging. Citizens can "turn the corner" when they start to look too old and want a more youthful appearance. Of course, people probably don't want to go back to their awkward teenage years, so they return to maybe their 20's or 30's. You could theoretically have generations of family members who all look the same age. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes have a quota of people they have to kill or "glean" each year. There are rules to prevent Scythes from discriminating and there are even ways to grant and receive immunity. On the surface, it all seems to make sense until a group of Scythes band together and start abusing their power. They turn gleanings into major events and start gaining power from the fear they are spreading.

Citra and Rowan are both apprentices under Scythe Faraday. He has been doing the job for a very long time and is compassionate when it comes to his work. We quickly learn at the first of the tri-annual conclaves that there is friction within the scythedom. Not everyone wants to live by the rules that have been set, so they use Faraday's having two apprentices as a way to manipulate the group. They decide to split them up under different trainers and put them head-to-head with the winner having to glean the loser. 

Throughout the rest of the book, we get to see how the different factions operate. Rowen is training under Scythe Goddard, who is part of the group that is conducting the mass killings. Citra trains under Scythe Curie, who is more in line with Scythe Faraday's way of operating. Their training styles are completely different from that point forward and the stark differences between the factions becomes very clear. There is a surprising twist shortly before the final conclave that really brings everything full circle. What is in store for Citra, Rowan, and the future of the scythedom is left hanging in the balance at the end of this book. I purchased a copy of Thunderhead, the second book in the series, at the event and plan on reading it sometime this summer. This was an exceptionally good start to the series and I can't wait to find out what will happen next.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin


Goodreads Overview:

In this exhilarating novel, two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Jacque's Review:

I had an opportunity to see Gabrielle Zevin speak at an author event hosted by Columbus Metropolitan Library several years ago. So, when Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was selected as one of the Books on Tap book club selections, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It is a book club that meets at a local brewery, but this is the first time they have selected a book I was interested in.

Sam and Sadie meet at a Children's hospital when Sam and Sadie's sister are both there for an extended period. Sam was involved in a car accident and needed numerous surgeries on his foot while Sadie's sister was being treated for cancer. The two connect over video games and become close friends until Sam discovers a secret she has been hiding.

They go their separate ways and eventually reconnect when they bump into each other in a subway station clear across the country. Sam is attending Harvard and Sadie is at MIT. They decide to design a video game together and their lives are an instant success. Sam's friend Marx runs the business side of things while Sam and Sadie design the games. Their "office" quickly moves from Marx's apartment near Boston to an office building in sunny southern California with a full team of employees. 

Sam and Sadie clearly love each other, but the strong competition between them prevents them from ever becoming more than friends. They have periods when they will not even talk to each other, but the minute the other person needs them, they are the first to step up and help. There were quite a few unexpected twists and turns woven into this story, which really kept the pages turning. I do not want to give anything away, so I will simply leave it at that.

I enjoy playing video games on occasion, but you certainly do not need to be a gamer to enjoy this story. It won the Goodreads choice award for best fiction in 2022 and the movie rights have been picked up by Paramount Pictures. It is a story of love, friendship, overcoming disabilities and loss, and even explores topics of ethnic and religious diversity. I really enjoyed Zevin's writing style and look forward to seeing how Hollywood brings this story to life on the big screen. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Review: Twelve Hours in Manhattan by Mean Gabriel


Two worlds. One heart. Twelve hours.

Bianca Maria Curtis is at the brink of losing it all when she meets Eric at a bar in Manhattan. Eric, as it turns out, is the famous Korean drama celebrity Park Hyun Min, and he’s in town for one night to escape the pressures of fame. From walking along Fifth Avenue to eating ice cream at Serendipity to sharing tender moments on top of the Empire State building, sparks fly as Bianca and Eric spend twelve magical hours far away from their respective lives. In that time, they talk about the big stuff: love, life, and happiness, and the freedom they both seek to fully exist and not merely survive.

But real life is more than just a few exhilarating stolen moments in time.

As the clock strikes the twelfth hour, Bianca returns back to the life she detests to face a tragedy that will test her strength and resolve—and the only thing she has to keep going is the memory of a man she loves in secret from a world away.

Twelve Hours in Manhattan promises to be the perfect love story for anyone who enjoys kdramas but unfortunately, it falls short, a few times, feeling much more like a fanfic you might come across online instead. 

Honestly, I wanted to like this book. I enjoy kdramas and love that more books are starting to feature more material that showcases them! Unfortunately, this felt more like someone just decided to write something they thought would be liked because it was “in.” 

I’m an avid fan and reader of fan fiction so it’s not necessarily a negative to be compared to it, I’ve read some amazing fanfics, but this felt more on the side of messy, disorganized, and kind of forced. 

Plots kept piling up in the story that just didn’t need to be there, almost as if they needed to be thrown in to reach a certain word count. 

Beyond the story itself, the characters lacked as well. Sometimes I can read a story and think, “I don’t like this plot but I love this character,” but I never once felt that way with Bianca. 

Bianca just wasn’t likable. Everyone who watches Kdramas knows that the main character is always kind of frustrating and you’re wondering HOW are they the “IT girl” in the story but eventually, they have redeeming qualities and you fall in love with them, swearing to protect them always. Never happened with Bianca for me. The only thing that Bianca left me with was exhaustion. She cries about everything and anything. There were times I couldn’t even remember what it was she was crying about because I was just so tired of her. 

Eric was a perfect cookie-cutter kdrama boy but much like Bianca missed the mark because there wasn’t much substance to him. 

Honestly, the secondary characters were more of a fresh breath of air, which is common in kdramas but even there, there wasn’t enough. 

The book itself is a fine read, especially if maybe you are a bit younger and don’t need more from a book. This story could have made a fine one-shot on a fanfic site or even a hilarious social on Twitter but it just did not need to be an almost 300-page book. 


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Book Review: The Inheritance Games Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Goodreads Overview:

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why -- or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch -- and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.


I really enjoyed Jennifer Lynn Barnes's The Naturals series, and this sounded like another sure winner to me. I was correct. Who wouldn't love the Hawthorne brothers? They are all very different from each other, but they are all uniquely appealing. Add in a mansion and family filled with secrets and puzzles and the pages wouldn't stop turning. I read the first book while I was on a ski trip and wanted nothing more than to hole up in the evenings to see what would happen next. I am not usually one to read through an entire series back-to-back, but that is what I did in this case.  I don't think I have done that since I discovered the Twilight series back in 2010. As soon as I finished each book, I requested the next one from the library.  

I am now anxiously awaiting The Brothers Hawthorne, which is scheduled to be released this October. The one loose thread remaining after the original trilogy is Grayson Hawthorne. He was such a lovable character who was ready to take the world by storm until he was passed over by his grandfather in his will. That combined with a dark event that happened prior to the start of the book left him "broken". I really hope he can finally find his happily ever after.

The Final Gambit was filled with HUGE family secrets that I never saw coming. Some things seemed a little far-fetched, but in the end, everything came together nicely. I can't say I would have done what Avery did at the end of this book, but it does make sense given Tobias Hawthorne's original intention in his prior will. I'm just glad she didn't go to his extreme. 

This was another highly entertaining YA series that should appeal to both boys and girls. I struggle trying to find books I think my son will like, but both The Naturals and Inheritance Games series fit the bill. All of the puzzles and mysteries definitely outweigh the romance elements, which he usually loses interest in quickly.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Book Review: Outlawed by Anna North


Goodreads Overview:

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada's life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she's willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

Jacque's Review:

This was another Reese's Book Club selection, so I decided to read it. I'm not usually a fan of westerns, but this sounded interesting. While I liked the concept, it was a VERY slow read for me. I kept plugging away thinking there would be an EPIC conclusion that I couldn't miss, but that wasn't the case. In retrospect, I should have pulled the plug and given this a DNF.

The book is set in a time when the belief in witchcraft was prevalent. If someone isn't able to have a child, the woman was to blame. If something happened during childbirth or there was an unexplained plague, it must be the result of witchcraft. That is what this story centers around. There is a community of women who were chased out of town because they were unable to conceive a child or were accused of being witches and are now living as outlaws in a remote camp. They pass themselves off as men and steal when they have to for survival. The law is after them because of their illegal activities, but much like Billy the Kid, the stories about them are legendary. 

I usually like the books Reese selects, so I think this was just a genre that doesn't appeal to me. It has over a 3.5 rating on Goodreads and 52% of the almost 61,000 reviewers have given it 4 and 5 stars. Clearly others are enjoying it, but this one wasn't my cup of tea.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Goodreads Overview:

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

Jacque's Review:

This was another one of Preston's assigned readings for English class, which we both really enjoyed. I think Preston liked it because Ed was very relatable. He spoke and acted like a normal boy his age. He doesn't know what he wants to do and lacks ambition. He has all the potential in the world, but doesn't see how he can get out of the rut he is in. He also lacks self-esteem and confidence due to the poor parenting he received. His father was a drunk and passed away prior to the start of the book. His mother is constantly criticizing him and refers to him as "Dickhead Ed." Can you imagine why he feels the way he does and simply wants to fly under the radar?

Just when he thinks he is destined to live a life of mediocrity, the unthinkable happens. He is in the lobby of a bank when a robbery takes place. He instantly becomes a hero when he helps apprehend the thief. Shortly after that event, he receives the first playing card in the mail. He has to decipher the meaning and carry out the messages the sender has planned out for him. Some of them are very pleasant while others are more dangerous. With each message he delivers, you can see him changing. He begins to see that his life isn't predetermined. Fate vs. free will is a big component of this story. Nobody can change the cards they are dealt, but they can determine how to play them and impact the outcome. 

As part of the numerous assignments for this unit, Preston had to listen to a Ted Talk given by Zusak. I listened to it as well and found it to be very inspiring. He talks about how "every success he has had came wrapped in a gift box of failure." He also stated, "failure has given him a greater motivation to succeed the next time. It has given him the power to imagine his way around problems, and the courage to follow his own vision." You can see many of these elements and ideas in this book. Ed's ultimate success was not served to him on a silver platter but was built upon a lifetime of failures.

I would highly recommend this book to both teens and adults. Preston and I both gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, which is almost unheard of. This was funny, inspirational, educational, and entertaining, which is rare when it comes to assigned reading for school. If you are a high school English teacher, this is a excellent selection for young adult boys. I do not have any trouble making recommendations for teen girls, but boys are more challenging.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book Review: The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith


It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save, 
seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love—something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They must learn what it means to be a hero before time runs out.


For the most part, I am not a YA reader, more so I am even less of a paranormal/fantasy reader. I don’t mind a story with a dusting of fantasy in my stories, and that is what I happily got with The Other Side Of Infinity. It is true that the main character Decemeber has the ability to ability to see things before they happen, and yes she could change the trajectory of time if she interfered, but the story wasn’t heavy with it, it just felt right in the places it had been placed.

The story was told in the dual POV of December and Nick. Nick is a summer lifeguard at the local pool, he sees one of his teachers drowning, but instead of getting into a saving mode, he freezes. December, who happens to be sunning herself nearby on the side of the pool sees what is happening, jumps in, and saves him knowing she will change what should happen. Once the teacher is safe, she runs away leaving Nick there to take all the credit, even though he tries to tell the people gathered, and the newspaper reporter that it wasn’t him who saved him. They end up together when he margins with December that if he can find her missing mom, she will go to the newspaper and let them know it is her who actually saved the teacher.

The story does focus on December’s abilities, but it also has a heavy focus on friendships, first love, and family relationships. The setting was believable as was Nick and his desire to make things right. I liked December, and for the most part, her character was real, except for the whole ability to see things, I easily overlooked that.

There were times that the story moved a bit slowly and Nick worries excessively over his situation and the secret he held on to. He was vanilla…I don’t think he had done anything wrong in his life, and his secret honestly made me chuckle, but I was a bit of a wild child growing up, and well….

I did keep reading merely for the need to know the outcome of the story. 


I am going to be honest, I am so glad that I hung on and finished because I seemed to be more caught up in the relationship Nick and December had than I thought I was because that ending…. both surprised me and broke me. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Book Review: Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian


Jacque's Review:

This was another one of my son Preston's book selections. He had to read a biography/memoir for his English class. Who else would he select but the greatest of all time in the sport he intends to turn into a lifelong career. He was well aware of Tiger's athletic accomplishments and had heard of some of his scandals, but this book was eye opening for him.

The book starts out with a look at what it was like for a young Tiger Woods. He was smart and did well in school, but he did not have the freedom or opportunity to be a kid. He wanted to play soccer and participate in other school activities, but his father was laser focused on his golf game. From the age of four, his dad was already showing off Tiger's skills and trying to cash in on his son's talent. They did not have the money to join a country club and pay for top notch coaching, but he put in the time and worked harder than anybody else. He was driven and set a goal for himself to be the youngest player to achieve every milestone within the game. He became the youngest winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur, the U.S. Amateur, the Masters, and the youngest to complete the Grand Slam.

We can see what it took for him to reach the pinnacle of success, but we also see the downsides of his fame. He had no privacy and could no longer live a "normal" life. Even people like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth can still live normal lives. For example, on the Netflix series Full Swing we follow Justin Thomas into a drug store when he was under the weather at a tournament. Even with a camera following him, nobody bothered him while he was shopping. Doing something like that was out of the question for Tiger. He was so recognizable and had reached a level of celebrity far beyond the golfing world, that it was next to impossible for him to do anything without drawing a crowd and needing security.

His extreme wealth, connections, and lack of a good role model led Tiger to make some poor decisions. His actions off the golf course destroyed his family and jeopardized everything he worked for his entire life. This book does not hold back when it comes to any of his personal struggles and was very enlightening for Preston. As a student athlete, we place our idols on a pedestal and aspire to be them. In this case, Preston can see that he is human. While he had endless amounts of talents and is undisputedly the greatest of all time, he made mistakes along the way. Hopefully, he has learned from them and is a better person because of it. That is all you can hope for. 

Overall, this was an excellent biography. I felt like it portrayed a very realistic picture of who Tiger is without trying to sugar coat or sensationalize things. It presented the information gathered, good or bad, and let the reader decide how they wanted to process that knowledge. The authors didn't pass judgement and I don't think the reader should either. You never know what someone is going through unless you are in their shoes. While I do not condone some of his actions, I think we can all benefit from his work ethic and dedication. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray


Goodreads Overview:

The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

Jacque's Review:

I was fortunate to see Marie and Victoria speak at the Columbus Metropolitan Library last year. I had heard of The Personal Librarian, but I didn't know anything about the story of  Bell da Costa Greene. It was fascinating to hear how they collaborated and co-wrote this book. Due to their varied personal backgrounds, they were able to bring different perspectives to this racially charged story.

The late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s was a time of racial segregation in the United States. Belle's father was the first black graduate from Harvard and worked as a lawyer and advocate for equal rights. Her mother felt it would be better for her family to pass as white in order for them to have a better life. It was very risky, but Belle was smart and managed to elevate herself to the top of New York's society. As the personal librarian, and ultimately a friend of J.P. Morgan, she had considerable clout when dealing in the art world. She becomes a renowned expert in her field regardless of her gender and racial background. 

This was a fascinating story about a strong, well educated, and savvy woman who was able to overcome what some would have considered insurmountable odds. I found it very educational, entertaining, and worthy of 5 stars on Goodreads. It would be an amazing opportunity to visit the Pierpont Morgan Library, which is now the Morgan Library & Museum. I have visited the New York Public Library, but had no idea this building existed. The building itself is described as a work of art in the book, so I googled some images and was floored. It is stunning! The next time I am in New York, I will make it a point of visiting. My husband is now reading the book and is equally as invested. I will not have any trouble talking him into visiting the Morgan Library.

The following photo of the Morgan Library & Museum is from www.timeout.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Book Review: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart


Goodreads Overview:

The prequel to We Were Liars takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that will haunt them for decades to come.

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy.
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.

Welcome back to the Sinclair family.
They were always liars.

Jacque's Review:

I LOVED We Were Liars, which I picked up at BEA (Book Expo America) back in 2014. Here is a link to my review.  As soon as I saw this prequel, I had to read it. This time around, we find out what it was like on Beechwood Island for the Sinclair daughters. 

Carrie Sinclair has a history of addiction and has seen ghosts since she was a teenager. Now she sees the ghost of her dead son Johnny, who asks her for stories about her youth. She begins telling him about her seventeenth summer on the island, which was filled with secrets, love, and lies.

Carrie was never the beautiful one in the family. All of the Sinclairs have a certain look and strong jaw line, but she does not fit the mold. She discovers a hidden family secret that only fuels her insecurities. Her father talks her into having an extensive surgery to correct her jaw line, which is when she became addicted to codeine. It is now the summer after the youngest Sinclair daughter, Rosemary, drowned while swimming alone on the island. Carrie wants to keep her memory alive, but her mother has closed off Rosemary's room and boxed up all of her things. Whenever she brings up Rosemary her sisters, Penny and Bess, tell her it is time to move on. With nobody to turn to and gripped by addiction, her mind's way of coping is to bring Rosemary back as a ghost. She sees Rosemary on Beechwood Island and the girls carry on like they used to. They begin helping each other cope with the situation, but clearly Carrie is in need of help.

That year, her father's brother comes to stay with them on the island and brings his son Tomkin, daughter Yardley, Yardley's boyfriend George, and two of George's friends. This is the first time they have had boys their age on the island and Carrie becomes interested in one of the friends, Lawrence Pfefferman "Pfeff". Pfeff comes on a little strong, but also was a wandering eye and really can't be trusted. There is a big event that takes place, which is where the lies start to pile up. After everything we learned in We Were Liars and now this book, they truly are a Family of Liars. 

This wasn't quite the 5-star book that We Were Liars was, but it was still a solid 4-stars and an excellent addition to the series. I would highly recommend both of these books to any YA fan.