BOOK REVIEW: Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York by Daniel S. Levy

55332359Title: Manhattan Phoenix; The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York

Author: Daniel S. Levy

Book Length (Audiobook) 18 hours and 51 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: March 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a freezing December night almost two centuries ago, a fire erupted in lower Manhattan. The city’s inhabitants, though accustomed to blazes in a town with so many wooden structures, a spotty water supply, and a decentralized fire department, looked on in horror at the scale of this one. Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York, wrote in his diary how the progress of the flames, like flashes of lightning, communicated in every direction, and a few minutes sufficed to level the lofty edifices on every side. By the time the fire was extinguished, a huge swath of land had been transformed from a thriving business center into the Burnt District, an area roughly the same size as was devastated during the September 11th attack. In the end, nearly 700 buildings were destroyed. So vast was the conflagration that it was immediately and henceforth known as the Great Fire of 1835.

Manhattan Phoenix reveals how New York emerged from the disaster to become a global powerhouse merely a quarter of a century later. Daniel S. Levy’s book charts the city’s almost miraculous growth during the early 19th century by focusing on the topics that shaped its destiny, starting with fire but
including water, land, disease, culture, and politics, interweaving the lives of New Yorkers who took part in its transformation. Some are well-known, including the land baron John Jacob Astor. Others less so, as with the Bowery Theatre impresario Thomas Hamblin and the African-American restaurateur Thomas Downing. The book celebrates Fire Chief James Gulick, who battled the Great Fire, examines the designs of the architect Alexander Jackson Davis who built marble palaces for the rich, follows the abolitionist Arthur Tappan, chronicles the career of the merchant Alexander Stewart, and reveals how the engineer John Bloomfield Jervis succeeded in bringing clean water into homes. The city’s resurrection likewise owed much to such visionaries as Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park, creating the refuge that it remains to this day.

Manhattan Phoenix offers the story of a city rising from the ashes to fulfill its destiny to grow into one of the world’s greatest metropolises–and in no small part due to catastrophe. It is, in other words, a New York story.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Although the book was extensively researched and informative, I found the subject matter to be a little dry and at times found myself wandering off into other thoughts which is why I can only give this book 3 stars. I think that this was also because the audiobook narrator was a little monotone. I had to increase the speed of the reading to 1.25x the normal speed so as to get rid of the monotone issue.

I lived in Manhattan for about 10 years, so it was interesting to learn about its past. As I mentioned above, the author seems to have done extensive research on this subject and gives a lot of information about the past of the City. I was immensely impressed — I imagine it took a lot of work to get this book compiled in the cohesive manner in which it is presented.

On the other hand, this is not the typical nonfiction book that I read (I’m more interested in natural disasters, science topics such as viruses and genetics, women’s issues, etc) — I was expecting this book to be more about the fire of 1835 (which is why I had picked it up), but instead it was 90% about the growth of Manhattan which came after the fire.

That being said, I think that this book would be great for history buffs who also have a love for the City.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Still Life by Louise Penny

338691Title: Still Life

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours and 54 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: March 20, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 21, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

My Review: This is the first book in a series of books about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This book takes place in French Canada, in the small village of Three Pines. It was interesting to read a book about this location, as I don’t really know much about it. I generally liked the character of Gamache (although in one review I read it was pointed out that he spends a lot of time in cafes, eating pastries, or discussing them — I hadn’t thought of this while reading, but with hindsight this is so true!)

The murderer was not obvious, or at least not to me, so this kept me guessing the whole book. The clues were not so obvious that a monkey could figure it out (no disparagement to monkeys meant of course), and the discovery of the said clues were organic (following the pace and plot of the book), rather than forced. In other words, I could see that this investigation would actually unfold as it did in real life, with one piece building upon the previous.

The one thing that I did not like was the portrayal of the only female officer — she was portrayed as an arrogant upstart who thought the whole world was out to get her, that life was unfair, that Gamache was unfair etc. Basically, she was depicted as a whiny little fly, who only messed up the investigation but never furthered it. Way to throw your fellow woman under the bus, Louise Penny!

Other than that it was an entertaining read and one that I would definitely recommend.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora

42360844Title: The Paper Wasp

Author: Lauren Acampora

Book Length: 289 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller

Read Start Date: March 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 20, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An electrifying debut novel from the acclaimed author of The Wonder GardenThe Paper Wasp is a riveting knife-edge story of two women’s dark friendship of twisted ambition set against the backdrop of contemporary Hollywood. In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.

When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

The Paper Wasp is a thrilling, unexpected journey into the psyche and imagination of a woman determined to fulfill her destiny from one of our most unique and incisive writers

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review in 2019. I am only getting to this book now, in 2022. I am somewhat addicted to books, so made the mistake of requesting too many books from Netgalley, all of which I did not get to. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I took a break from reviewing and therefore did not read any books from Netgalley. I am trying to rectify that now.

I am sorry that I didn’t read this book earlier, and I think that the Goodreads review of 3.32 as of the writing of this review does not give the book justice. The book is written in the 1st person, but is told as though it is a conversation or a letter to another person. The narrator is looking back at the past from her position in the future.

So for example: “The airplane seat beside me was unoccupied, so I was able to spread the drawings out on my lap. All at once you were there with me, resplendent on the sofa in your starry dress, the fiery wave of hair over your shoulder. Your eyes were the green of a forgotten lake, your sweet mouth quirked and curved.”

This writing style was okay, but not my favorite. Although it was interesting to see a character (e.g. Elise) wholly from the subjective perspective of someone else (Abby), I have never read a book written quite like this before and it took some getting used to. Additionally, it kind of led me astray, because you are only getting to see the inner working of the mind in so far as the narrator (Abby) wants you to — this led to a wholly unexpected twist at the end, which I did not see coming at all.

That being said, as you can tell from the above quote the author gives great descriptions, which I really liked.

SPOILER ALERT: I get into the plot here so don’t read on if you intend to read this book, which I highly recommend.

So at the beginning of the book, Abby seems obsessed with Elise, a childhood friend turned famous actor, even going so far as to keep clippings of Elise from magazines and the like. Abby and Elise haven’t been in contact for a while, but reconnect at the High School reunion, where Elise gives Abby her phone number. Abby, taking it upon herself, just shows up at Elise’s house in California, where after a moment of trepidation, Elise invites her in — and then to stay long term, first as a guest and then as Elise’s personal assistant.

This arrangement struck me as a little weird — but ok, maybe Elise is the whimsical Hollywood type who just does weird things. Would a normal person just invite someone they haven’t seen in a decade to stay long term? Abby seemed lonely in her old life, so she agrees. As the story goes on, we see that Elise is kind of a train wreck, and into herself. Eventually Abby starts to feel used and devalued, so she ups and leaves (after spilling all Elise’s secrets to the press) just when Elise needs her most (Elise is pregnant), Abby ignores Elise and basically runs away to pursue her own art.

There was also a backstory involving a cultish movie director, Perrin. Elise and Abby were obsessed with him as kids — Elise wants to star in one of his movies, and Abby wants Perrin to use her drawings as a basis for one of the movie plots. There is a place called the Rhizome where actors / artists go to hone their talents, get spa treatments, have dream therapy sessions, etc.

The falling out of the two came as a direct result of the Rhizome, wherein Elise wanted to restrict Abby’s access (after paying for several treatments for Abby as a gift), and Abby took this to mean that Elise did not want Abby to advance in her own career and that Elise was just a self centered ass. This led to the one side falling out of the friends (Abby just ghosted Elise and Elise was desperately trying to get in touch with Abby).

All of the above I can believe and seems pretty consistent…but then Abby goes and kidnaps Elise’s baby and moves to Europe to live with Perrin on his compound. Up to this point, Abby was the sympathetic character — all of a sudden she is the villain, having stolen the child because she believed that she could raise the baby better than Elise. I had always had the impression of Abby as the quiet mouse who didn’t think very much of herself–all of a sudden she thinks she can parent better than Elise? Granted Elise is more or less and alcoholic at this stage, but that doesn’t mean she deserved for her baby to be kidnapped, and it doesn’t mean that Abby is all of a sudden stable. I don’t know, I have very mixed emotions about this turn of events.

Anyway, I finished the book a few days ago and am still thinking about it, so that must say something, right?

This book is definitely worth checking out.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Witness to Roswell, 75th Anniversary Edition: Unmasking the Government’s Biggest Cover-up by Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt

58958031Title: Witness to Roswell, 75th Anniversary Edition: Unmasking the Government’s Biggest Cover-up

Author: Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction

Read Start Date: March 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 20, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: This classic in the field of UFOology is filled with hard-hitting eyewitness testimony of one of the most important events of all time: the actual recovery of a UFO outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. For more than 70 years, government authorities have led us to believe the wreckage was merely a very conventional weather balloon—but the witnesses who were there continue to tell a different story.

Witness to Roswell once again provides a “can’t put down” written account of what really transpired in Roswell decades ago. It pries loose the truth the government doesn’t want us to know including the revelations of Walter Haut. This edition includes: A growing litany of deathbed confessions describing the “little people” recovered at the crash site. The most comprehensive time line of events ever published on this seminal event. The identity of the Boeing engineer called in to examine the exotic wreckage from the crash. What really took place at the Roswell base hospital and what nurse actually ordered the children’s caskets. The story of the soldier who wore gloves at the dinner table after guarding the “bodies.”

Clearly, the implications of this information are foreboding. One need only look at the fact that officials now have four explanations for this historic event—but to which one do all the witnesses testify on their deathbeds?

Witness to Roswell once again demonstrates to the world that no statute of limitation applies to the truth: We are not alone.

This anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the authors and additional material

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I normally include more genre designations then just one, but this book does not have a genre category listed in Goodreads yet, and was listed as both nonfiction and “religion/spirituality” on Netgalley. To be honest, I am really confused as to how a book about aliens is “religious” or “spiritual”, so I think this is a wrong classification. I am tempted to categorize this more as “science fiction”, except this is a nonfiction book. Oh well.

My favorite show growing up was, hands down, The X-files. I own all original 9 seasons on DVD, and have probably watched them dozens of times. Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I saw this audiobook on Netgalley. This book did not disappoint.

While the telling is a little dry and repetitive (the same story was repeated several times from different sources), the substance of the information is very intriguing. If the authors have documented evidence, as they claim, to support the stories / information stated in this book, then a person would seem to be hard pressed not to believe that aliens crashed at Roswell in 1947. None of the information was really new to me, but it was interesting to hear it in a nonfiction context. Most of my exposure to aliens have been through the fiction media (although the fiction seems pretty close to the nonfiction).

While the authors claim to have evidence (as stated above) I do not have access to this purported evidence, so I cannot really do anything other than chose to take the authors at their word, or not. This book has left me with intriguing questions, and even started a discussion between my boyfriend and I as to whether this was real or BS (my boyfriend leaning more to the skeptical side).

To say that this book is thought provoking is putting it mildly. Are we alone? Are we being visited by beings from another world? I personally am not sure.

I would definitely recommend this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel by Josh Reynolds

57694631Title: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel

Author: Josh Reynolds

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: March 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Hordes of zombies threaten to wipe out all of mankind in this first action-horror novel set in the exciting (yet horrifying) world of the Zombicide games.

The zombie apocalypse has driven humanity up into the Adirondacks. Enter Westlake, hardened career criminal on the path of “the Villa”, a legendary mafia hideout where he can escape the devastation. When he’s ambushed by the undead, an old FBI “friend” and his squad of survivors rescue him… and then force him to reveal his secrets. The jokey myth of the Villa suddenly becomes salvation for the settlements scattered around Saranc Lake. Reluctantly, Westlake is saddled with an oddball team to navigate mine fields, trip wires, and flesh-eating zombies at every turn to find their safe haven. Shame there’s already someone living there…

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. While I liked this book, I didn’t find it to be anything special. I am currently in the process of watching The Walking Dead for the first time, and this book reminded me a lot of that, i.e., the world is at an end, there are lots of zombies around, and the survivors are trying to find a safe place to live. That is, in a nutshell, what this book is about. Last Resort even uses the term “walkers” just like in The Walking Dead.

I have never heard of the game that this book is based upon, so maybe for fans of the game this book would rate higher than 3 stars. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a fun read, but it’s par for the zombie course. That being said, if you like other zombie stuff (books, movies, shows), then you won’t be disappointed.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning

58661569Title: The Shadow Glass

Author: Josh Winning

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours and 16 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: March 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 13, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible — the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book because it was likened to stories such as The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth, all stories which I remember fondly from my childhood. From the very beginning of this book, I was enthralled. Jack Corman, son of film maker and creator of the Shadow Glass cult film Bob Corman, is desperate for money and intends to sell Dune, one of the puppets from the film. But when he arrives at his father’s home to collect the puppet after Bob Corman’s death, Jack finds more than what he bargained for. The puppets are alive! The world that his father created is real and it is in danger, and only Jack can save it.

To be honest, it’s a little hard to write a review about this book. I really liked it, but can’t place my finger exactly on what about it I liked (other than just everything!).

I was invested in the story. I was sad when characters died. I WANTED Iri to be saved. I was rooting for the evil puppets to get what was coming to them. This book made me feel so many things…much more than I was initially expecting.

I was never bored reading this book; it is action packed from beginning to end. The characters are also great, from the Shadow Glass fanboys to the Kettu puppets. Winning really captures the truth of these characters. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I felt like I knew the characters, like nothing about them was fake. Fanboys really would help in the quest to save Iri. A warrior Kettu really would call Jack a a manchild. I don’t know…I just really liked it.

The narrator’s voice makes the book all the better; it was a pleasure to listen to.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are into 80s nostalgia.

P.S.: I listed this as “science fiction” because that is how it is tagged on Netgalley, but honestly, I don’t see it. I didn’t see anything particularly “science” about this work of fiction. Fantasy seems to be the appropriate tag here.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

20170404._SX318_SY475_Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours and 41 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: March 7, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

My Review: Although another book about a plague, it was far enough removed from COVID, that I wasn’t turned off. This book was published in 2014, but in 2022 was listed as one of the most popular books at the library, which is why I checked out an audiobook copy. I think the recent popularity of the book is due to the release of the limited television series on HBO Max. Unfortunately, in Austria I do not have access to this channel, so I am a little disappointed that I won’t be able to watch it.

One of the opening scenes in the book, a group of people gather at a bar. The author informs us that within three weeks, all of them would be dead. Not from COVID, or even a corona virus, but from a deadly strain of the flu. I loved the foreshadowing in this sentence.

This book reminded me a little bit of Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (you can see my review of Cloud Cuckoo Land here), in that a book–in this case a graphic novel written and illustrated by Miranda, the first wife of the famous Hollywood actor referenced above–connects the stories of several of the main characters.

In general I liked the story, the writing was great, and the overall premise was intriguing. However, the reason why I couldn’t give it 5 stars, was that it fell flat for me in several places. For example, I would have liked more background into the prophet and his community. Secondly, the book takes places almost 15 years after the plague wiped everyone out, but it still felt like the plague had just happened. There are huge unexplained gaps between pre-plague and 15 years on in the stories of the characters. What happened in the middle? Why was civilization still fractured? Was no one left alive that could figure out how to turn the power back on?

Additionally, we the readers know the connection between the characters, but the characters themselves seem to have missed it, which was a little disappointing.

In any event, all in all its a great book and I would recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW:Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion by Belinda Recio

36249732._SX318_Title: Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bear That Count, Goats that Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion

Author: Belinda Recio

Book Length (Audiobook): 4 hours and 41 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Science

Read Start Date: March 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: As Charles Darwin suggested more than a century ago, the differences between animals and humans are “of degree and not of kind.” Not long ago, ethologists denied that animals had emotions or true intelligence. Now, we know that rats laugh when tickled, magpies mourn as they cover the departed with greenery, female whales travel thousands of miles for annual reunions with their gal pals, seals navigate by the stars, bears hum when happy, and crows slide down snowy rooftops for fun.

In engaging text, photographs, and infographics, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds showcases fascinating and heart-warming examples of animal emotion and cognition that will foster wonder and empathy. Learn about an orangutan who does “macramé,” monkeys that understand the concept of money, and rats that choose friendship over food. Even language, math, and logic are no longer exclusive to humans. Prairie dogs have their own complex vocabularies to describe human intruders, parrots name their chicks, sea lions appear capable of deductive thinking akin to a ten-year-old child’s, and bears, lemurs, parrots, and other animals demonstrate numerical cognition.

In a world where a growing body of scientific research is closing the gap between the human and non-human, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds invites us to change the way we view animals, the world, and our place in it.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The summary from Goodreads does a really good job of setting forth the subject matter of this book, so I won’t repeat it.

I really liked this book because it is fun, interesting, and light. With the world embroiled in the war in Ukraine, this book was exactly what I needed to forget, at least for a little while, that the world can be a cruel place.

This book is uplifting and fascinating. It is a great insight into our animal cousins, who are more intelligent and emotional than we often give them credit for. If you are an animal lover, then this book is definitely for you. If you aren’t an animal lover (yet), then this book is essential for you–hopefully it can change your mind!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Happy Single Mother by Sarah Thompson

cover248440-mediumTitle: Happy Single Mother

Author: Sarah Thompson

Book Length (Audiobook) : 5 hours 22 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting & Families

Read Start Date: March 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 5, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Netgalley and Link to Goodreads: Being a single mother wasn’t always part of the plan. The fear of it kept me and my family in a situation that wasn’t good for any of us. I never thought it could be the life change we all needed. Yes, it can be exhausting, lonely, and financially tough. But it can also be empowering and joyful, in ways you might never have imagined.

At first, I felt like a big failure. And how was I supposed to feed and clothe my children, keep a roof over our heads, and work wearing something other than pajamas, while also remembering to drink a glass of water at least once a week? But as I began to let go of other people’s expectations, I started to enjoy the freedom of being a single parent: I was liberated, empowered and able to be the authentic mother I wanted to be.

In this book, I share my own experience of single motherhood, alongside insights from fellow solo parents, child psychologists and other experts, providing reassurance and tips to help you:

Raise resilient, emotionally intelligent children

Manage your money

Navigate the world of dating

Forge meaningful friendships

Discover the untold joys of the single-mother life

From one single mother to another, this book celebrates solo parenting and tackles the issues that we face daily, offering a fresh perspective and practical advice for anyone who has ever felt the weight of disappointment and guilt at their single parent status, declared themselves a failure or worried about their children’s ‘outcomes.’

I hope reading about my experiences will help you feel excited and proud to be a single mother.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. First off, I just love the color scheme of the cover. This is what initially drew my attention to the book, along with the title. As a new mother myself, I am very interested in reading stories about other mothers’ experiences with raising children. Even though I am not a “single mother”, the lessons / advice in this book is for mothers everywhere, because less face it, in most cases women do the lion’s share of the child rearing and household chores, even when not single.

I really liked how the book is a combination of both facts (it was obvious the author did extensive research) and personal stories. I also really liked how the author narrates the story herself. It added a personal touch, as she was essentially telling her own story.

The author mentioned at the beginning that the book was not only for single mothers, but in general for single parents. However, the book was fact heavy on only single women, and I would have liked to see some statistics on single parenting for same sex couples. The author explains a little bit why she didn’t include more about single dads:

To find the word single father in association with anything bad or even mildly questionable is almost impossible. ‘Single father is applauded for the awesome way he handled his daughter’s first period.’ Heralded one national newspaper in 2019. In the same paper, heartwarming photos show single dads and their children and ‘are single fathers irresistible?’ If this stuff isn’t what the eye roll emoji was made for, I don’t know what is. There is no getting around it. We single mothers occupy our very own Salem shaped hole in society’s heart.”

This rings true for me not only with single dad’s, but dads or men in general. Women are expected to be the main caregivers. So if a man so much as changes a single diaper, he’s up for the father of the year award.

The author also discusses how single mothers are not generally depicted favorably in media, television or movies e.g. why it was that mothers were gaining respect in society, but single mothers were still trapped in the time capsule? I really loved the imagery here when describing the concept of single motherhood: “a crumb that had been missed when feminism wiped the table.”

She goes on to say:

Where were the single mothers in our culture who were just normal and okay with children who were fine? The single women with children I saw all around me at school and at work, all of them literate with no obvious heroin problem? Why were single women characterized by their career success and healthy sexual appetite–we were all still basking in the after glow of Sex in the City–while single women who also happened to have children, were no where to be seen, and if they were, were almost always pariahs?”

I really liked how thought provoking this book was. I had never given it too much thought before–the disparity between single women and single mothers–as if the simple act of having children erased the woman as a person, leaving only behind the identity of “mother”. This book made me angry (at society) and impressed at the tenacity of the author and the other single mother’s who’s stories featured in this book.

This book is not only for mothers or single parents. This book is for EVERYONE! I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Floor by Lee Child

78129._SY475_Title: Killing Floor

Author: Lee Child

Book Length: 474 pages

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Suspense

Read Start Date: January 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

My Review: Okay, so there are spoilers in this review because I’m giving it a 1 star and no one should read this book. I picked up this book because of the movies and the series about Reacher. They are pretty decent, and since books are usually better than the on-screen adaptations, I figured I was in for a good time. Wrong!

First of all, the summary from Goodreads is not what the book is about. Reacher convinces the police that he wasn’t the killer in the first part of the book, and then spends the rest of the book investigating the murders alongside the police. It’s totally misleading.

Additional plot points: It turns out that Reacher’s brother Joe (who worked for the treasury department) was investigating the biggest counterfeiting ring in the US and it got him killed. Reacher has to find out the who, the why, and the how, to solve the case.

While the premise sounds ok for an action book, I just couldn’t get into the story. The first main issue with the book is that the prose was terrible. I felt like I was reading a freaking Trump speech. A prime example of this is below:

“We found the right street. Found the right house. Decent Place. Well looked after. Neat and clean. A tiny one-storey. Small yard, small single-car garage. Narrow gate in the wire fence. We went through. Rang the bell. An old woman cracked the door against the chain.”

This is how the WHOLE BOOK IS WRITTEN! It made it really hard to read without wanting to tear my eyes out. Would it kill the guy to use a freaking comma once in a while?

The second and third issue that I had with this book, was that the main character Jack Reacher is completely unlikeable and the premise behind the plot is just ridiculous. Jack Reacher is a highly trained army veteran who got laid off from the army, so he just wanders around the country. In one of the biggest coincidences of all time, he ends up in some small backwater town in Georgia the day his brother (who he hasn’t spoken to in years) is murdered. Seriously? I think the odds of winning the lottery are better.

After being mistakenly arrested for this murder, and killing a few guys in the county lockup, he is removed as a suspect. He then hooks up with the hottest girl in town, Roscoe, who happens to also be a cop.

Their relationship is on the fast track. Then we start to get scenes such as the below:

“So we showered. Put us in a better frame of mind. We soaped up and started fooling around. Ended up making love in the stall with the water beating down on us. Afterwards, I just wanted to curl up in the glow.”

So we go from hardened army veteran willing to kill remorselessly and violently (ok it was in self defense, but still) to snuggle bunny. Is this the author’s way of making the main character balanced or well rounded or something? Guys, he might be a viscous killer, but he also likes to cuddle! He has depth!

And speaking of depth, Reacher doesn’t even know how to do his own laundry…he just throws away his clothes! He’s so cool (not).

“Next stop was the basement. I fiddled around with the furnace until it kicken in. Then I stripped off and shoved all my clothes in Charlie’s electric dryer. Set it on low for an hour. I had no idea what I was doing. In the army, some corporal had done my laundry. Took it away, brought it back clean and  folded. Since then, I always bought cheap stuff and just junked it.”

Even though Reacher has fallen head over heels for Roscoe, in the last chapter of the book, after a night of talking (so he’s a snuggle bunny AND a good listener…), we get this. I have to say, I thought: “WTF?” Reaches waxes eloquent about this woman for the whole book and then after a night of talking is like, oh well. What happened to the snuggle bunny? What happened to the sensitive guy he was supposed to be? Doesn’t he care at all?

“It didn’t work out for Roscoe and me. It never really stood a chance. There were too many problems.”

The main problem? Apparently Roscoe doesn’t like that Reacher is capable of remorselessly and viscously killing like 10 people. Makes her a little uncomfortable. I wonder why. What annoys me a little bit, is that the reader is supposed to think that this guy is cool or a major badass or something. He just comes across as a little bit of a psycho. This book is written in the first person, so these thoughts are HIS thoughts, what REACHER is thinking. It’s not the narrator giving us a blow by blow of what is happening. So like, when the book is describing how he has to saw the knife into the guys neck to kill him, this is what REACHER is thinking about as he’s doing it.

“Hauled his head back. Cut his throat. You don’t do it with one elegant swipe. Not like in the movies. No knife is sharp enough for that. There’s all kinds of touch gristle in the human throat. You have to saw back and forth with a lot of strength. Takes a while. But it works. It works well. By the time you’ve sawed back to the bone, the guy is dead. This guy was no exception.”

Serial killer much? Would have been fine just to stop at “cut his throat.”

And all these problems made it really hard to get into the story, let alone enjoy it. It wasn’t even that the background story was so interesting either. Sigh.

Would I recommend this book? No. Do yourself a favor and just watch the movie instead.