Posted in Reviews

Review: Closer to Okay by Amy Watson

Closer to Okay by Amy Watson

Recommended: sure
for a self-recovery story, for self-love and romantic love, for descriptions that make even a non-coffee-drinker want to try a cup, for folks unfamiliar with mental illnesses and psychiatric help

Also FYI: I got this book from Aardvark Book Club, and I’ve been really loving their selections! They’ve only been up a few months, but if you’re looking for a new book subscription club, try this one out! I’ve passed on almost every Book of the Month club month this year, but Aardvark has had multiple each month I’ve been interested in and their model is very similar.

Summary

Kyle Davies is doing fine. She has her routine, after all, ingrained in her from years of working as a baker: wake up, make breakfast, prep the dough, make lunch, work the dough, make dinner, bake dessert, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a good routine. Comforting. Almost enough to help her forget the scars on her wrist, still healing from when she slit it a few weeks ago; that she lost her job at the bakery when she checked herself in as an inpatient at Hope House; then signed away all decisions about her life, medical care, and wellbeing to Dr. Booth (who may or may not be a hack). So, yeah, Kyle’s doing just fine.

Except that a new item’s been added to her daily to-do list recently: stare out her window at the coffee shop (named, well…The Coffee Shop) across the street, and its hot owner, Jackson. It’s healthy to have eye candy when you’re locked in the psych ward, right? Something low risk to keep yourself distracted. So when Dr. Booth allows Kyle to leave the facility–two hours a day to go wherever she wants–she decides to up the stakes a little more. Why not visit? Why not see what Jackson’s like in person?

Turns out that Jackson’s a jerk with a heart of gold, a deadly combination that Kyle finds herself drawn to more than she should be. (Aren’t we all?) At a time when Dr. Booth delivers near-constant warnings about the dangers of romantic entanglements, Kyle is pulled further and further into Jackson’s orbit. At first, the feeling of being truly taken care of is bliss, like floating on a wave. But at a time when Kyle is barely managing her own problems, she finds herself suddenly thrown into the deep end of someone else’s. Dr. Booth may have been right after all: falling in love may be the thing that sends Kyle into a backslide she might never be able to crawl out of. Is Jackson too much for her to handle? Does love come at the cost of sanity?

Thoughts

Yes, I liked this one! I think it’s a story that’s not often told, one from the perspective of a person in a mental ward assistive living facility. And if I’m wrong about that, please let me know, because I would love to read more books like it! I’ve never had the experience myself, but have had friends who have, and reading this felt like getting to know some of what they might have experienced a little better (especially for those friends who prefer not to reflect on those times). And besides that, it was just a heartwarming and occasionally painful story. Much like life.

In short, this is a book about relationships with the self, romantic partners, friends, enemies, and the ways one person can shift between several of those categories — or fit into several all at once.

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Review: Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo

Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo


Recommended: meh
For lots of Nigerian culture, for a class divide romance, for kind of frustrating characters

Summary

Star-crossed lovers get a second chance at romance when they’re reunited at a wedding in Nigeria, in a heartfelt novel from the acclaimed author of The Sweetest Remedy.

Dunni hasn’t seen her high school boyfriend, Obinna, since she left Nigeria to attend college in America. Before their devastating separation, they vowed to find their way back to each other one day.

Twelve years later, and their vow is a thing of the past. Dunni works as a geneticist in Seattle and is engaged to a man she doesn’t love but one her parents approve of. Her future is laid out for her, and everything is going according to plan until she returns to Nigeria for a friend’s wedding and runs into Obinna. The shy, awkward boy she loved as a teenager is now a sophisticated, confident man. Things have changed, but there’s still an undeniable connection between them.

As they rediscover each other, their days filled with desire and passion, Dunni is reminded of the beautiful future she once planned with Obinna. But when devastating secrets are revealed and the reckless actions of their past bring new challenges, she’s left questioning everything, including if the love that consumed her as a teenager is still worth holding on to.

Thoughts


Alright, here are my issues with it in a nutshell:

First and foremost, SHE IS ENGAGED FROM THE START. I hate that. I hate that she cheats and is like “oh I feel so guilty but also so in love with this guy that I’m going to do it anyway.” I’m not arguing that this isn’t a valid story to be told, or one that doesn’t or shouldn’t happen. I just hated reading about it because I can’t root for a cheater. She was doomed for me from the start.

► On that note…View spoilers
    When she breaks it off with Christopher and tells him “Actually you DON’T love me” I find that really fucking annoying. Like, bitch, don’t tell me what I feel! But you know, on his behalf. So then to just have him meekly be like, yeah I guess you’re right, no hard feelings, have a nice life and essentially just give her Z E R O ramifications for what she did was extra frustrating. And WHY THE FUCK DOESN’T OBINNA CARE EITHER?? I mean sure he’s so in love and all that but damn she’s totally using him here. Ugh.

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Review: Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

Recommended: ABSOLUTELY
For perspectives not often allowed. Could probably do this with later high school students who can be more balanced and open-minded in discussions

Summary

Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it.

In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.

Thoughts

This was truly an eye opener of a book. It tracks the author’s research into her family to try to determine how involved with the Nazis they were, if at all, during the genocide and war. She deals with a lot of guilt as a German, and especially with her ignorance or how deep that guilt should run. If her grandfather was a party leader, an officer, or just one of the crowd – what would be worse? How does she make reparations for it? She struggles so much with feeling like her family and her heritage make her live her life as an apology. German pride to her seems not just distasteful, but hateful.

My perspective comes from my childhood and life in the United States, but I can say for sure here that we hear lots and lots about World War 2 growing up. Rightfully so, too, as the Haulocaust is… unfathomable, truly. So many lives lost, and so much hatred and pain and resounding consequences across the world. BUT — a lot of those lives were also German lives, lives of citizens just trying to survive. And because they are German, the sense is that they are not allowed to be pitied or empathized with. The idea is that every single German knew what was happening, what would happen — and those who didn’t try to stop it deserved every moment of pain that came their way.

That’s pretty narrow, though. This story present so much of that conflict, of wanting to feel empathy, pride, heritage, while also trying to balance the knowledge of the wrongs that were done. In her own family perhaps, but also by her hometown, by her home country.

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Review: Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

Recommended: sure
Do you like Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes? for a linear timeline of his jokes through decades, sourced from routines, tv shows, and never-performed material, for jokes that read almost like a story with a very natural flow and connections between them

Summary

Since his first performance at the legendary New York nightclub “Catch a Rising Star” as a twenty-one-year-old college student in fall of 1975, Jerry Seinfeld has written his own material and saved everything. “Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old school accordion folders,” Seinfeld writes. “So I have everything I thought was worth saving from forty-five years of hacking away at this for all I was worth.”

For this book, Jerry Seinfeld has selected his favorite material, organized decade by decade. In page after hilarious page, one brilliantly crafted observation after another, readers will witness the evolution of one of the great comedians of our time and gain new insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.

Thoughts

I went through a phase in The Covid Times of watching Seinfeld for what was my first time, barring miscellaneous episodes I saw pieces of over the years at a hotel or flipping through channels. There’s a segment in each show with a bit of Jerry doing a standup routine on a topic that usually relates in some way to the plot of that episode. In this book, I recognized some of those little segments that I had heard in the show. There is definitely material that you may have heard or read elsewhere included in this, because it’s a pretty comprehensive collection of it all. If you’re an avid Jerry Seinfeld person, this book will have some new stuff, and a lot of familiar stuff.

The organization of this made it a lot easier to read it straight through. It’s set up with jokes from each decade of his career, and this contextualizes a lot of it in ways that makes it helpful to remember. Some thoughts I had while reading this:
“Oh, this was before the internet.”
“Oh right, misogyny wasn’t seen as so socially problematic.”
“Oh, yup, 9/11 definitely changed some things.”

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ARC Review: Never Ever Getting Back Together

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales


Recommended: sure
for a cute reality-show-esque love story, for vengeance satisfactory, for characters who make bad choices often but you can love them anyway

WARNING: you probably will have the T. Swift song stuck in your head every time you pick up this book. Recommend reading in one sitting to minimize earworms. 😅

Summary

It’s been two years since Maya’s ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.

Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.

When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes— to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.

Thoughts

People say it’s not about the journey, but the destination. In the case of this book, the destination is also incredibly satisfying. What I’m saying is I really liked the ending. This story is based on vengeance, and vengeance comes up constantly as it’s the main focus for one of the MCs (at least one!). That comes with all the drama required of sacrifices made to pursue vengeance and questioning what truly matters in life. In this case, I enjoyed the way each character came to their final decisions, and the “results” of it all in terms of the show.

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Review: June, Reimagined by Rebekah Crane

June, Reimagined by Rebekah Crane

Recommended: noooo
Hateable characters, rampant sexism, lust-not-love, conflict would be 100% solved by talking to each other at any point, and a dead brother is used as a convenient but insignificant plot point. Lots of possessive male bullshit in this one. Lots of the female MC thinking “I’m just being oversensitive, too emotional” and that never being resolved into her saying “hey fuck those guys, I’m entitled to my feelings and also they’re being total assholes and trying to control me and my body!”

Summary

June Merriweather is on the run—from her own life. Her brother is dead, her parents are liars, and her college major is a joke. Apart from her best friend, Matt, June is desperate for reinvention. And a one-way ticket out of Cincinnati to the Scottish Highlands is a good place to start.

With a backpack, an urn, and a secret, June begins again. She snags a job at a café and finds lodging at a quaint inn with a quirky cast of housemates. The only problem: the inn’s infuriatingly perceptive (and sexy) owner, Lennox. He’s suspicious of June. After all, no one comes to Scotland in the winter unless they’re running from something. From rocky start to sizzling temptation, June’s new world is exhilarating…and one detour away from disaster.

With her past and her future both vying for attention, June can’t begin to picture where her reimagined life is headed next. And falling in love with the last person she expected is only the beginning.

Thoughts

Here are all the reasons I would have DNFd this book at 20% if it hadn’t been a review copy. Note: lots of swearing follows.

1. I hated all the characters, except Hamish. June is 20 or 21 and this is billed as an adult novel, but BOY does she act like a child. She’s petty and stubborn and reactive and judgmental. I really really did not like her from early on, and honestly I didn’t care for her by the end, either. Lennox doesn’t really have a personality, either. The side character who is a writer conveniently spells out all the events of the book in a sort of meta way, and I found that really dull. The best friend, Matt? He was SO annoying! He seems like a total prat, and at the big climax all I could feel was a mild spite because he was such a douche in my eyes. What a possessive, entitled asshole. And Angus. Angus will get an entire bullet point of his own later on here. 😐

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Review: The Quarter Mage by Angelina J Steffort

The Quarter Mage by Angelina J. Steffort


Recommended: Yes!
For a magical adventure, for a familiar story structure, for some interesting magical creations and rules, for VENGEANCE, and for family

Summary

Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

WHEN DESTINY FAILS YOU, WHO WILL YOU BECOME?

A forgotten princess. A cruel realm. A Mage who might be her salvation.

Sanja is a princess on the run. And when she flees her father’s court to escape an arranged marriage to a tyrant, the one thing she doesn’t expect, is to be killed for her throne.

But magic that shouldn’t exist in her kingdom saves her, and Sanja is thrust into the daunting fairylands where, as a human, she’s prey…

Fighting to survive, Sanja signs herself into the service of the most powerful Mages in the fairylands, determined to master the magic to save her kingdom—and finds herself stuck with a brooding Mage with a knack for keeping secrets.

As Sanja’s feelings for Tristan turn from dread to attraction, she learns that she isn’t the only thing the fairies are after. And Sanja must risk her life and her heart, or she will lose both him and her kingdom forever.


Dive into Angelina J. Steffort’s latest heart-wrenching upper YA fantasy romance and find out what makes the world of The Quarter Mage so special.

Thoughts

Y’all, we’ve been sleeping on this book. Let me start this review by saying I’m already anticipating the second book which is out early 2023 (but not early enough for me with the ending of this!). It was a good find from BookBub and I’m so pleased with it!


Okay, praise sung, now to acknowledge that as much as I enjoyed this book, it really didn’t blow me away or anything with it’s originality or style. There are a lot of scenes and plot structure points that felt very reminiscent of other books (especially Sarah J Maas’ titles). Part of that is because it’s fairly common fae-and-magic plot lines in general for the genre, and part of it did feel a little more directly inspired by specific books. The thing is, I didn’t really care. Even though I wasn’t stunned at the direction of the plot, I was fully hooked in for the ride and cheering the characters on.

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ARC Review: Morning Sun in Wuhan by Ying Chang Compestine (11/8/22)

Morning Sun in Wuhan by Ying Chang Compestine
Expected Release Date: November 8, 2022

Recommended: yup!
For a feel-good story set during the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, for a look at what it was like for folks in Wuhan where it originated, for absolutely delicious food (complete with recipes!!)

Summary

Weaving in the tastes and sounds of the historic city, Wuhan’s comforting and distinctive cuisine comes to life as the reader follows 13-year-old Mei who, through her love for cooking, makes a difference in her community. Written by an award-winning author originally from Wuhan.

Grieving the death of her mother and an outcast at school, thirteen-year-old Mei finds solace in cooking and computer games. When her friend’s grandmother falls ill, Mei seeks out her father, a doctor, for help, and discovers the hospital is overcrowded. As the virus spreads, Mei finds herself alone in a locked-down city trying to find a way to help.

Author Ying Chang Compestine draws on her own experiences growing up in Wuhan to illustrate that the darkest times can bring out the best in people, friendship can give one courage in frightening times, and most importantly, young people can make an impact on the world. Readers can follow Mei’s tantalizing recipes and cook them at home. 

Thoughts

I’ve been reading book about Covid-19 since Covid-19 was still locking everyone at home. For me, it’s cathartic in a way to read about so many other people’s experiences of this one global experience. It’s a connection to basically everyone in the world, which I find quite incredible, though of course it’s not the connection I’d have asked for. Point being, while the topic can be difficult because of the recent and ongoing pain around it, I do still love reading about it, and this book is a prime example of why.

Mei is my tiny hero. I aspire to be more like Mei. Though this is a book about Covid-19 and it’s onset, it’s also a book about perseverance and generosity and just being a really decent person. Mei not only steps up to help those around her, but she encourages others to do so as well. Standing up to anyone can be tough, but especially tough when you’re a young teenage girl and you’re standing up to a scared mob of large adult men. What a powerful moment that was, among so many others.

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Review: The Office BFFs by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There by Jenna Fischer

Recommended: yes
for people who like the show The Office (the American version, anyway), for fans of the authors in general, for some insight into the details of the show but also of the people in the show (including those we don’t directly see but who affected it so much!) and a little bit of showbiz side

Summary

Receptionist Pam Beesly and accountant Angela Martin had very little in common when they toiled together at Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. But, in reality, the two bonded in their very first days on set and, over the nine seasons of the series’ run, built a friendship that transcended the show and continues to this day. Sharing everything from what it was like in the early days as the show struggled to gain traction, to walking their first red carpet—plus exclusive stories on the making of milestone episodes and how their lives changed when they became moms—The Office BFFs is full of the same warm and friendly tone Jenna and Angela have brought to their Office Ladies podcast.

Thoughts

I think the obvious point to make about this book is the one I’ll just get out of the way first: yes, it’s got lots of fun and near-deadly anecdotes and insight into the show, the characters, and the people. I like The Office, and I enjoyed this book (plus it made start a new rewatch). For people who LIVE AND LOVE THE OFFICE — yeah, you’ll like this one. But even if you’re a casual viewer, you’ll enjoy it! If you’ve never seen The Office, this book is probably confusing and definitely full of spoilers, but you can still read it if you want! Why not?

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Review: Dune, The Graphic Novel Book 1 by Brian Herbert

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 by Brian Herbert

Recommended: yes!
for a lot of help understanding the story through visuals, for condensing some of the weird longwinded parts in the prose novel, for a simple color palette that conveys so much of the world and characters

Summary

Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic science-fiction masterpiece set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar society, tells the story of Paul Atreides as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism, and politics, Dune is a powerful, fanstastical tale that takes an unprecedented look into our universe, and is transformed by the graphic novel format. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s adaptation retains the integrity of the original novel, and Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín’s magnificent illustrations, along with cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz, bring the book to life for a new generation of readers.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Thoughts

Boy am I impressed with this one! I have a weird relationship with Dune at this point, because I started reading the novel, stalled on it about halfway through before finally allowing myself to give up and admit it wasn’t for me, then I saw the movie, and now I’ve read the graphic novel. So through it all I’ve had a lot of confusion, understanding, disappointment, appreciation, intrigue, and more. I’ve loved it and hated it at various points.

This graphic novel has me firmly on the “loving it” side! Yay!!

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