BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility by C.W. Allen

60716812._SY475_Title: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility

Author: C.W. Allen

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s  Middle Grade

Read Start Date: September 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 11, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.

When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?

Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As with the first book in this series, The Secret Benefits of Being Invisible is absolutely delightful! How often as adults to we ignore children simply because they are children? I think we often forget how even young children are capable of so much! Tuesday and Zed are no exception — they manage to save the day in spite of “only” being children, and because of their “invisibility” in the eyes of adults, they are able to take down the bad guys.

This book was much more focused on the politics of Falinnheim, rather than action, so it was a little slower for me than the first book — but then again, I am an adult and not the intended audience of this book. The message of this book is wonderful — even children can be heroes. 

I think that this is a great book for young children (and it’s fun for adults as well) and I would highly recommend it. 

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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.

Other Books in this Series

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.

When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.

Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

See my review of Relatively Normal Secrets here.

Goodreads Monday September 5, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past Week:

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 35% up from 21%

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Kindle book approximately 57% up from 46%.

Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey by Jenna Zark

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

Progress: 62 pages out of 212

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Progress: 18 pages out of 254

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The next electrifying novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo behind The Wife Between Us.

Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger. 

Progress: Audiofile 1 of 10

Next Up:

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Number of Pages: 301

Goodreads Summary:

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive.

Goodreads Monday August 29, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past Week:

Forest Gump by Winston Groom

Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, herculean, and surprisingly savvy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon — as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell — and you’ve got to read it to believe it…

You can find my review of this book here.

Black Snow by James M. Scott

Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

You can find my review of this book here.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My review of this book is pending.

Dead As a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My review of this book is pending.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I haven’t even picked up this book in the last week.

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Kindle book approximately 46%.

I was really bad about reading this book this week.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Progress: 128 out of 377 pages.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

Progress: Audiofile 9 of 9

Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey by Jenna Zark

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

Progress: 62 pages out of 212

To Read List:

Title: 2032: The Year A.I. Runs for President

Author: Keir Newton

Number of Pages: Unknown

Goodreads’ Summary: One Nation Under AI? It promises to save the country from catastrophe. It is unbiased, incorruptible and has the brainpower of a million minds. But who is really pulling its strings?

The year is 2032, and an audacious project out of Silicon Valley promises to cure the world’s ills: an AI candidate for president. As the brainchild of eccentric billionaire Jamin Lake, Algo is heralded as an efficient, rational, and seemingly incorruptible leader – and in a nation of seemingly endless crisis and division, the only thing that could save us.

Isaac Raff returns to a failing San Francisco to meet Algo. He doesn’t trust a word his old friend Jamin says. As the disillusioned pioneer behind Algo’s groundbreaking technology, Isaac knows how powerful – and how dangerous – putting an AI in charge of the country could be. And despite his initial curiosity, he soon begins to discover a much darker side to his old friend’s utopian promises…

With only days to go before the election and Algo on the cusp of a historic victory, Isaac will be forced to grapple with impossible questions of technology, money and power. Is Algo than a digital trojan horse destined to fulfil Jamin Lake’s latest fantasies for ultimate power? Would the country really be better run by an AI built in Silicon Valley’s image? And is Algo really only a collection of algo-rithms, or could it be something more?

2032 is a gripping speculative thriller that explores powerful themes of technology and Big Tech’s influence on our society. 2032 is an unforgettable story of what might be Artificial intelligence’s ultimate project: deciding the fate of all of us.

BOOK REVIEW: Relatively Normal Secrets by C.W. Allen

60191693._SY475_Title: Relatively Normal Secrets

Author: C.W. Allen

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 11 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s  Middle Grade

Read Start Date: August 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 19, 2022

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.

When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.

Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is absolutely delightful! It is fun, cute, and creative and reminds me a lot of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (without all the Christian undertones). I could imagine when my baby is old enough (she is only 1 year now) listening to this book in the car on a trip. I think that she would find it very interesting and engaging — there is a lot of action, riddles (that are easy for adults but maybe for challenging for young children), and a happy ending.

The book ends on sort of a cliff hanger, so I wonder if there will be a second book. I’ll be watching and waiting with fingers crossed!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: King of the World by Matt Waters

59088468Title: King of the World

Author: Matt Waters

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 12 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: July 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Persian Empire was the world’s first hyperpower, with territory stretching from Central Asia to Northeastern Africa and from Southeastern Europe to the Indus Valley. It was the dominant geopolitical force from the later sixth century to its conquest by Alexander in the 330s BCE. Much of the empire’s territory was conquered by its founder, Cyrus the Great, who reigned from 559-530 BCE. Cyrus became a legend in his own lifetime, and his career inspired keen interest from Persia’s unruly neighbors to the west, the ancient Greeks. The idealized portrait of Cyrus by the Greek Xenophon had a profound impact on ancient, medieval, and early modern debates about rulership.

King of the World provides an authoritative and accessible account of Cyrus the Great’s life, career, and legacy. While Greek sources remain central to any narrative about Cyrus, a wealth of primary evidence is found in the ancient Near East, including documentary, archaeological, art historical,
and biblical material. Matt Waters draws from all of these sources while consistently contextualizing them in order to provide a cohesive understanding of Cyrus the Great. This overview addresses issues of interpretation and reconciles limited material, while the narrative keeps Cyrus the Great’s
compelling career at the forefront. Cyrus’ legacy is enormous and not fully appreciated– King of the World takes readers on a journey that reveals his powerful impact and preserves his story for future generations.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read the description about the book, it sounded really interesting to me, as I generally like reading about the history of the Middle East region. I had never heard of Cyrus the Great before, so I was interested to read about his life and legacy. The first part of the book was a little tedious, with a lot of references to dates and people, which I found to be overwhelming. I couldn’t keep straight who everyone was, how they related to Cyrus, etc. I think that part of the problem was that I was listening to an audiobook rather than print version. It might have been easier to follow in black and white, especially because in print version you can go back and look at it again, take notes, etc.

When the book shifted into actual stories about Cyrus, it got better. If I remember correctly, the book mentions that the author has spent a lot of time compiling and researching the subject matter of this book, and it really shows. I think that the author was enthusiastic to put all his knowledge down on the page, but that in some aspects this came off less like storytelling and more like a university class history lesson. Not that there is anything wrong with a history lesson per se, but when reading books, I like to have a feel more of being told a story. This is why I couldn’t give more than 3 stars, as this book dragged for me in some places.

That being said, I think that anyone who is interested in the ancient history of the region will enjoy this book for the wealth of knowledge that it imparts. It was definitely very educational.

Lastly, with respect to the audiobook version I have two comments to make. While I enjoyed the lyrical voice of the narrator, there was a lot of references to illustrations, maps, pictures, etc. which obviously cannot be seen while listening to the audiobook. Therefore, it might be nice to read the paper or ebook version in order to get the benefit of this aspect of the book as well.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System by M. Chris Fabricant

59427482Title: Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

Author: M. Chris Fabricant

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, Science, Politics, Social Justice

Read Start Date: April 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An insider’s journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role junk science plays in maintaining the status quo.

From CSI to Forensic Files to the celebrated reputation of the FBI crime lab, “forensic scientists” have long been mythologized in American popular culture as infallible crime solvers. Judges and juries put their faith in “expert witnesses” and innocent people have been executed as a result. Innocent people are on death row today, condemned by junk science.

In 2012, the Innocence Project began searching for prisoners convicted by junk science, and three men, each convicted of capital murder, became M. Chris Fabricant’s clients. Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System chronicles the fights to overturn their wrongful convictions and to end the use of the “science” that destroyed their lives. Weaving together courtroom battles from Mississippi to Texas to New York City, Fabricant takes the reader on a journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role forensic science plays in maintaining the status quo.

At turns gripping, enraging, and moving, Junk Science is a meticulously researched insider’s perspective of the American criminal justice system. Previously untold stories of wrongful executions, corrupt prosecutors, and quackery masquerading as science animate Fabricant’s astonishing true-crime narrative. The book also features a full-color photo insert that illustrates the junk science explored by the author.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is really interesting and informative and tells several stories of innocent men convicted using “junk science” e.g. bite mark evidence. It is such a travesty of justice for innocent men to sit in prison for decades, or even be executed, because of “evidence” that isn’t even valid, while the real guilty party is allowed to live their life a free man.

The author is an innocent project attorney who works to get justice for these unfortunate men sitting in prison after being wrongfully convicted. The first person narrative of the author brings a personal perspective to the cases which are being analyzed in the book, and you can really sense the author is incensed over the injustice.

The book seems to also be well researched (in addition to maybe being first hand knowledge of the facts) and it is well written. I was engaged the entire way through, even though the overall message was somehow redundant — i.e., that junk science is garbage.

If you like true crime stories, and Netflix shows such as The Staircase, then you will definitely like this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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:Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese by S.J. Peddie

58914879._SY475_Title: Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese

Author: S.J. Peddie

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: March 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 27, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Based on exclusive interviews before his death in 2020 at age 103, SONNY is the first and only authorized biography of legendary mob boss John “Sonny” Franzese, the head of the Columbo crime family and financier of the infamous film Deep Throat. An old school Mafioso, he kept silent on his nine decade career in organized crime, remaining loyal to the Mafia oath throughout 30 years in prison, until he finally agreed to talk to award-winning Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie for this groundbreaking, never-before-revealed account.

John “Sonny” Franzese reportedly committed his first murder at the age of fourteen. As a “made man” for the Colombo crime family, he operated out of his Long Island home specializing in racketeering, fraud, loansharking, and other illicit deeds he would deny to his dying day. His career in organized crime spanned over eight decades–and was sentenced to fifty years in prison for robbery charges. But even behind bars, Sonny Franzese never stopped doing business…

This is the true story of an old-school Mafioso as it’s never been told before. Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie interviewed Franzese in prison–and uncovered a lifetime of shocking secrets from the legend himself:

* How Sonny became friends with celebrities Frank Sinatra Jr., Rocky Graziano, and Sammy Davis Jr.
* Why FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a very personal interest in Sonny.
* How Sonny managed to juggle numerous affairs with women, including a famous model.
* How Sonny spent a third of his life in prison–and still managed to earn untold millions for the mob.
* How Sonny accidentally revealed some of his worst crimes–to a “friend” wearing a wire.

Through it all, Franzese refused to break the Mafia’s code of silence. Authorities believe he may have murdered, or ordered the murders of, forty to fifty people. Yet he earned a grudging respect from law enforcement and an absolute reverence from his fellow gangsters. Eventually he managed to outlive them all–until his death in 2020 of natural causes, a rare event in the Mafia. Thanks to a series of exclusive first-hand interviews with Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie, the astonishing life story of John “Sonny” Franzese can be told in all its bold, brutal, and blood-spattered glory. This is a must-read for anyone fascinated with Mafia history–and a rare look inside a criminal mind that has become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wow what a story! This fascinating read kept me enraptured from beginning to end. I had no idea that there was an OG living until 103 (he died in 2020). Although he led a life of violence and crime (no one knows how many people he killed or ordered to be killed, although its probably a few dozen), John “Sonny” Franzese outlived most of the people in his life – including those who put him away. Despite being violent, Sonny had a very interesting life!

This book reads like it should be fiction, but it’s a true story! Yikes. I felt like I was reading something inspired by The Godfather, although in truth it was probably the other way around.

The way the author wrote this book was fantastic. This guy is a bad guy sometimes almost unabashedly so – I think we can all agree– but on the other hand, he is still a person, and the author gave Sonny a human quality. I even found myself chuckling a few times at what Sonny was saying, and even feeling kind of bad for him. One son (who was not his biologically, but his stepson who he adopted as his own) ran away into witness protection. Another son, a drug addict, snitched. In one poignant scene (paraphrasing), John (the snitch) was called into see the bosses and Sonny tells him – You can go and see them, and they might kill you. You don’t go and see them, they definitely will kill you. That’s how it was in Sonny’s life. You stick to the Mafia code, or they ice you. Sonny, despite his many trials and jail stints never once snitched. It must have felt like the greatest betrayal to have his sons do so.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are into mafia movies.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: Captives by Jarrod Shanahan

60801761._SY475_Title: Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage

Author: Jarrod Shanahan

Audiobook Length: 13 hours

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: May 8, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 12, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Captives combines a thrilling account of Rikers Island’s descent into infamy with a dramatic retelling of the last seventy years of New York politics from the vantage point of the city’s jails. It is a story of a crowded field of contending powers—city bureaucrats and unions, black power activists and guards, crooked cops and elected leaders—struggling for power and influence, a tale culminating in mass incarceration and the triumph of neoliberalism. It is a riveting chronicle of how the Rikers Island of today—and the social order it represents—came to be.

Conjuring sweeping cinematic vistas, Captives records how the tempo of history was set by bloody and bruising clashes between guards and prisoners, between rank-and-filers and union bosses, between reformers and reactionaries, and between police officers and virtually everyone else. Written by a one-time Rikers prisoner, Captives draws on extensive archival research, decades of journalism, interviews, prisoner testimonials, and firsthand experience to deliver an urgent intervention into our national discussion about the future of mass incarceration and the call to abolish prisons. The contentious debate about the future of the Rikers Island penal colony rolls onward, and Captives is a must-read for anyone interested in the island and what it represents.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. In general I am interested in the history and present day situation surrounding prisons, not only regarding the theory behind incarceration, but also the implementation.

The author, having spent some time in prison himself, brings a unique perspective to the history of Rikers Island, which probably another author on the same subject would have lacked.

I found the book to be well researched, highly informative, and at times infuriating — the prison policies of the US are just atrocious!

I think that this is an important book as it shows the inequality of a system that was not built for “rehabilitation”, despite everyone’s protestations to the contrary. That most of the prison population is not white, is not an accident and is a symptom of the racism which runs rampant in America.

I highly recommend this book, even for people who are not usually into nonfiction or history books.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard

46040332Title: Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature

Author: Brigit Strawbridge Howard

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 32 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Environment, Autobiography

Read Start Date: May 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 14, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A naturalist’s passionate dive into the world of bees of all stripes–what she has learned about them, and what we can learn from them.

Brigit Strawbridge Howard was shocked the day she realised she knew more about the French Revolution than she did about her native trees. And birds. And wildflowers. And bees. The thought stopped her quite literally in her tracks. But that day was also the start of a journey, one filled with silver birches and hairy-footed flower bees, skylarks, and rosebay willow herb, and the joy that comes with deepening one’s relationship with place. Dancing with Bees is Strawbridge Howard’s charming and eloquent account of a return to noticing, to rediscovering a perspective on the world that had somehow been lost to her for decades and to reconnecting with the natural world. With special care and attention to the plight of pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees, and what we can do to help them, Strawbridge Howard shares fascinating details of the lives of flora and fauna that have filled her days with ever-increasing wonder and delight.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC. Although I am a little scared of being stung by bees, I am also intrigued by them, so I was excited to read this book.

The author certainly knows a lot and is passionate about bees, and nature in general! Her enthusiasm is both inspiring and catching! I already noticed on my walk yesterday, that I could spot that an insect was a hover fly vs. a bee.

Renting an apartment without a garden or balcony, I am now rather sad that I won’t be able to plant any flowers for pollinators, like the author does in her allotment in the UK.

Well written and chalk full of information about bees (I never knew there were so many species!) and plants, this book is definitely worth the read!

My only critique about the audiobook is that I would have liked to be able to see the actual pictures of the bees. I resorted to google — if I had to do it over again, and I had a choice between the audiobook and the written book, the written book would have been my preference.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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 Exit by Max Gladstone

57693437Title: Last Exit

Author: Max Gladstone

Book Length: 21 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT, Horror

Read Start Date: February 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.

Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart. Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US. When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.

Zelda’s getting the band back together—plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before. As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before. But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC. First, I want to talk about the pros.

The cover: wow. I just love it. It’s so eerie and beautiful at the same time.

The writing: Love it. The writing is simply amazing. I loved the style. I loved the way that it made me see the story.

The plot: In general, I was positive about the plot and the execution of the story. The book is heavy on character development and the background of the characters, which I liked. You really get a feeling for who these characters are and how that plays into the story as a whole. That being said, I would have liked to have more background into the alternate worlds, the rot, etc. It felt like that this was the sequel to a book that was never written. What is the rot? Why was it unmaking worlds? I’m still not 100% clear on that.

While trying to save Sal, the characters come across this evil entity, known only as the “cowboy”. He wears a white cowboy hat. Sometimes people were turned into his pawns, signified by their wearing of a  white cowboy hat. Who is this cowboy? What is he supposed to signify? I’m still a little confused about this.

This is were the con for me comes in. This book is LONG: 21 hours of listening time. I found that at least the first 30% of the book was dedicated almost only to character development / backstory, so it dragged a little bit in the beginning. I also found the book confusing at times and had to backtrack and listen again (sometimes 3 times) to what had happened in order to understand what was going on.

I’m not going to blame the author here for this because I am the mother of a 6 month old who I was also taking care of while listening. Was I maybe too distracted for this book? Possibly. Sometimes my baby was crying and I missed a key part and had to rewind. Other times my mind just wandered elsewhere and when it returned, I was totally lost. I will say that this book takes concentration to read and fully understand. I think I just didn’t have the bandwidth to really give this book the justice it deserved because it really is a great story.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you are a fan of the Dark Tower series from Stephen King, you will not be disappointed in this book. However, I would not suggest to multitask when reading, as it takes full concentration. Therefore, I would suggest to read the book rather than listen to it as an audiobook.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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.