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Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Goodreads Summary: 
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?
In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro's best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or "mender," who brings all their fates together when she's arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

My Review:
Ever since I read The Handmaid's Tale years ago I've been drawn to dystopian feminist novels. The recent political climate and the Hulu series of The Handmaid's Tale has lead to more novels in the genre. When I first saw Red Clocks was releasing I reached out to the publisher to get an advanced reading copy. Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed--I was depressed. The storyline wasn't dystopian, it was too realistic. I appreciated the attempt but this was a story of what's already happening.  

Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Release Date: January 9, 2018 from Soho Press

Goodreads Summary: 

Bombay, 1921: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father's law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women's rights.

Mistry Law is handling the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen goes through the papers, she notices something strange: all three have signed over their inheritance to a charity. What will they live on if they forefeit what their husband left them? Perveen is suspicious.

The Farid widows live in purdah: strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate and realizes her instincts about the will were correct when tensions escalate to murder. It's her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that nobody is in further danger.

My Review:
Let me start with a little backstory. In my intense planning for Book Expo (ahem...awesome blog post here), I found The Widows of Malabar Hill during my research and then reached out to the author with an email. After finding out when and where she was signing, I was first in line and when she signed my copy she was so sweet and lovely. I brought many, many books home from Book Expo (check it out here) but some didn't make the cut and some didn't make it in the reading schedule for months. The Widows of Malabar Hill fell into the later category. When I finally read it, I kissed my copy when I finished. (Yes, sometimes I kiss or hug my books when I finish them...if they're lucky) While all my book buddies have been falling in love with crime stories and mysteries over the last few years, I was like *meh*. I didn't know it, but it was Perveen Mistry who I'd been waiting for! And her parents! And her BFF Alice! I am recommending this book to all of those mystery lover bookish friends (I really couldn't figure out who the murderer was until the very end!) and to my American reader friends who are looking for a diverse read (set in Bombay/Calcutta, Indian female lawyer, and blending of multiple religions).  I loved learning about another country's laws and customs (traditional and modern) and learning more about a fascinating culture which is often exoticized. The Widows of Malabar Hill is my first "must-read" for 2018! Do yourself a favor and grab this up immediately! Then send me a line to tell me how much you loved it, too! I am over here just tap dancing and twiddling my thumbs....anxiously anticipating the next installment in the Perveen Mistry mystery series! 

4 Mini Reviews: The End We Start From; The Doll's Alphabet; The Floating World; and Heather, The Totality

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter released May 18, 2017 from Picador 
I hunted this book down at Book Expo this summer and may have squealed when I finally figured out where the publisher's booth was and the wonderful representative pulled a copy from a bottom drawer like a rabbit out of a hat. Imagine giving birth to your first child while everything you know is wiped out--navigating motherhood while you navigate an entirely new landscape. This slim novel poetically glides through the life of a small family following a massive flood. Categorically a dystopian novel, but an achingly beautiful read.

The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova released October 10, 2017 from Coffee House Press
I reached out to the publisher to obtain a copy of this release and read it shortly after I received it, but have been delayed in reviewing it. This collection of short stories gave me nightmares when I first read it. Not gory, bloody stuff or the "someone's chasing you" types, but dark, unsettling visions. I had to stop reading this book before bed but I absolutely didn't stop reading it. A combination of Kafka, Atwood, and Tim Burton; the stories in The Doll's Alphabet are woven to present a singular edgy collection that lies just on the "weird" side of horror. *Disclaimer: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review*

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst released October 17, 2017 from Algonquin 
Travel to the heart and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with one of New Orleans oldest families, the Boisdorés. One daughter refuses to leave the city and her parents evacuate without her, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events. Another daughter returns to a post-Katrina New Orleans from New York City to find devastation everywhere: her parents' marriage crumbling, her sister's sanity slipping, and the citizens of the city displaced and scattered. I couldn't believe this was a debut novel. The slow personal burn of this fictional family gave me another look at an event I was previously only able to process from graphic news footage. *Disclaimer: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review* 

Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner released November 1, 2017 from Little, Brown, and Company
I tried hunting this down at Book Expo but had no luck. I later received a copy from a Bookstagram buddy (@lovethybook) during a book swap. I wanted to read it because I was interested to see what sort of short story Weiner would write. It was uncomfortable and creepy. Imagine a SVU episode titled "Testosterone, Misogyny, and the Male Gaze". If that sounds like something you'd like--read this. Otherwise, take a pass.

Q & A with Amy Lyle, Author of The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures

Amy Lyle is an actor, screenwriter and author. Her first book, released in May, The Amy Binegar - Kimmes - Lyle Book of Failures is a top 10 ebook. (Click *here* to check out my full review and *here* for my blog post). I caught up with Amy in between missing her flight to Boston and trying to find Rolaids in an airport shop.

Me: You are currently stranded. 
Amy: Temporarily, I read my flight number incorrectly and waited at the wrong gate. Another flight goes out in an hour. 
Me: A story for your next book.
Amy: Of course!

Me: What compelled you to write a book that has often, cringe-worthy moments about failures including an issue with IBS? 
Amy: 1. I was marketing a screenplay and an entertainment attorney told me I had to “Get on the map.” he suggested I write a blog or book. The first thought that popped into my head was “I have had a lot of failures...” 2. IBS is real and everybody poops, let’s just admit that.

Me: In the book you seem like you struggle raising four teenagers. 
Amy: Yes.
Me: Are people relating to that part of the book? 
Amy: Yes. Most of the feedback I get from readers is that they struggle with raising kids too. I love that people are open and honest with what’s really going on in their homes.

Me: You are forty-six, mid-life. You write about fighting the aging process, why not grow old gracefully? 
Amy: Really?
Me: Yes.
Amy: I like the idea of growing old gracefully, I just do not care for the look of myself growing old gracefully. I’m not going down without a fight.
Me: You are fighting it? 
Amy: I’m not winning, but I am fighting. I asked Andrea Ferenchik, the photographer to photoshop my butt on the back cover. No one wants to look at my real butt cheek, trust me.

Me: What has been the biggest failure of launching the book?
Amy: I invested a huge amount of time and money into a book launch party. I wanted everyone to buy the book on Amazon at the event to kick off sales. The venue had poor internet connectivity and I did not sell any books.
Me: Not even one? 
Amy: Maybe three. However, the next day I sold 500, so it worked out.
Me: Your book launch was interesting, you gave away 200 prizes including vaginal rejuvenation surgery and a Cool Sculpting fat reduction treatment- how did that come about? 
Amy: A friend, Dr. Myla Bennett, was the emcee at the event and I asked her if she could provide a prize, such as hydrator cream sets or free Botox. She’s a genius at branding and thought we should go big or go home. The prizes generated a lot of buzz, giving us both exposure.

Me: You’ve been on Atlanta and Co (an Atlanta morning television show) as a regular guest. How did you get that gig or any of your other gigs? 
Amy: For Atlanta and Company, GPB and Points North Magazine, I called the producer or the editor and pitched that they could do a lot with an author that has a book about failures. Other press has been gained by my friend and P/R guru Becky Robinson of Chatterhouse Communications. Both Becky and I always include pictures that Andrea Ferenchik took to promote the book, they are ridiculous and funny, people notice them and what to know what’s going on. The fan series for example:

Me: What’s your advice for surviving failure? 
Amy: Share it. Even the most horrific failures (I have been fortunate so far to avoid anything really catastrophic) will teach you something or give comfort to another person. I was raised in a “Do not air your dirty laundry” house but telling someone you have failed often lifts the burden. Plus, I’m very suspicious and you should be too of anyone that never disclosing any of their shortcomings. They can not be trusted.

Me: What’s your next project? 
Amy: Getting my screenplay, #fakemom sold to Judd Apatow.

Order a copy of The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures *here* and be sure to grab some for anyone on your holiday shopping list who loves a laugh! 

DNF:: Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy

Released October 10, 2017 from Hachette

In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

My Review: This book is heavily historic. While I thought I would enjoy reading about these women, I kept zoning out and skimming due to all the military details. 

Review: Mad by Chloe Esposito

MAD by Chloe Esposito
Released: June 13, 2017 from Dutton

In this compulsively readable debut, set between London and Sicily over one blood-drenched week in the dead of summer, an identical twin reveals the crazy lies and twists she'll go through to not only steal her sister's perfect life, but to keep on living it.
Alvie Knightly is a trainwreck: aimless, haphazard, and pretty much constantly drunk. Alvie's existence is made even more futile in contrast to that of her identical and perfect twin sister, Beth. Alvie lives on social media, eats kebabs for breakfast, and gets stopped at security when the sex toy in her carry-on starts buzzing. Beth is married to a hot, rich Italian, dotes on her beautiful baby boy, and has always been their mother's favorite. The twins' days of having anything in common besides their looks are long gone. 
When Beth sends Alvie a first-class plane ticket to visit her in Italy, Alvie is reluctant to go. But when she gets fired from the job she hates and her flatmates kick her out on the streets, a luxury villa in glitzy Taormina suddenly sounds more appealing. Beth asks Alvie to swap places with her for just a few hours so she can go out unnoticed by her husband. Alvie jumps at the chance to take over her sister's life--if only temporarily. But when the night ends with Beth dead at the bottom of the pool, Alvie realizes that this is her chance to change her life. 
Alvie quickly discovers that living Beth's life is harder than she thought. What was her sister hiding from her husband? And why did Beth invite her to Italy at all? As Alvie digs deeper, she uncovers Mafia connections, secret lovers, attractive hitmen, and one extremely corrupt priest, all of whom are starting to catch on to her charade. Now Alvie has to rely on all the skills that made her unemployable--a turned-to-11 sex drive, a love of guns, lying to her mother--if she wants to keep her million-dollar prize. She is uncensored, unhinged, and unforgettable.

My Review:
I am a sucker for any book about twins. I thought it would be funny to see how one twin pretended to be the other when I read the summary for this novel. While this wasn't quite the funny read I was expecting it was packed full of crazy adventures, "accidental" murders, drugs, and tons of sex!

Review: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

THE RULES OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman
Releasing October 10, 2017 from Simon & Schuster 

Find your magic.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

My review: 
This was my #1 book I wanted to grab at Book Expo. I was so excited to read it, but was also nervous. I find Alice Hoffman's works to be hit or miss with me. I either love them (The Dovekeepers, The Marriage of Opposites, The Museum of Extraordinary Things) or I'm let down (Faithful). Plus, while I've watched Practical Magic eleventy thousand times, I've never read it! This prequel to Practical Magic was like ordering a meal off a menu that sounds so scrumptious you moan at the description and then when you actually taste it you are transported to another world. The Rules of Magic was utter perfection. It was everything I wanted and more. A total 5 star read for me. 

Foodie Friday Feature + Giveaway: The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

Releasing: October 10, 2017 from Lake Union

Last year, The Promise Kitchen by Peggy Lampman was one of my Foodie Friday features. This year she's back with The Welcome Home Diner.

Goodreads Description: 
Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision. Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts. As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Sounds good, right? Plus, just like The Promise Kitchen, this novel ends with a handful of delicious recipes. Want to get your hands on a copy? I'm giving away 2 copies right here! Enter now: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Full of dualities, The Gypsy Moth Summer, is a novel bursting from the pages, just like the gypsy moths in the story. Both sides of an island point fingers at the other, while big issues like privilege, race, and cancer are woven into every islander's life. Fierro builds up the tension and integrates the metaphor of transformation into every chapter. I would describe The Gypsy Moth Summer as West Side Story meets Mean Girls meets Erin Brokovich.

THE PARTY by Robyn Harding
A sweet sixteen sleepover birthday party of 5 girls sounds innocent enough but the evening goes off the rails. One accident ripples out to affect everyone at the party and their parents, with far reaching repercussions. Stephen King isn't really my type of horror story, but holy shit this book was!

In mommy world there are always divisions: working moms vs. stay at home moms, breastfeeding vs. bottle, etc, etc, into infinity etc. The main character in this novel is a barely showering, unorganized, messy mom who wins a better mommy boot camp contest put on by a Pinterest perfect and fabulously famous mom. This was a fun read with some truly LOL and "been there" moments, but was also full of cringe-worthy situations and a fairly predictable outcome.

Review:: The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids--and the Kids We Have

THE GENE MACHINE: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids--and the Kids We Have by Bonnie Rochman
Released: February 28, 2017 from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Goodreads Summary:

A sharp-eyed guide to the promise and peril of having children in an age of genetic tests and interventions. Is DNA testing a triumph of modern medicine or a Pandora’s box of possibilities? Is screening for disease in an embryo a humane form of family planning or a slippery slope toward eugenics? And, more practically, how do we navigate the dizzying and expanding array of tests available, with more appearing every day? In The Gene Machine, the award-winning journalist Bonnie Rochman addresses these questions and more, guiding us through the new frontiers of gene technology and how it has forever changed medicine, bioethics, and the factors that shape a family. Rochman takes an authoritative look at the latest hot-button issues in the world of pre- and postnatal testing and tells the stories of women and men struggling to understand the variety of tests and grappling with their results—revelations that are sometimes joyous, sometimes heartbreaking, and often profound. Propelled by human narratives and meticulously reported, The Gene Machine introduces us to scientists working to unlock the secrets of the human genome; gene counselors and spiritual advisers helping parents manage this complex new reality; and, of course, parents themselves, including the author, who glimpse the genetic futures of their children. The Gene Machine is both a scientific road map and a meditation on our power to shape the future, one that gets to the very core of what it means to be human.

My review: 
This book popped onto my radar at the end of last year but since it is not the type of book I usually review, I was unable to access an early copy. Then I saw that Bonnie Rochman was going to be at Decatur Book Festival so I checked to see if my library had a copy. My plan was to read the book before attending her session, but at the last minute I was unable to attend the festival due to a killer migraine. I was still so fascinated by this topic that I moved the book up in my reading list (that's pretty major for me). I really loved how the book was divided into 8 chapters that showcased the multiple options and futures for testing our genes. I studied genetics in college and was briefly considering a career in the field. This book really lit that long dormant fire and I am looking to move more of my reading into the subject (another major move for me). 

Quick Biology 101 refresher: Each cell in our body has 23 pairs of chromosomes and an estimated 19,000 genes. Our complete set of genetic material (in every cell) is a genome. 

"As technology has evolved, the price to sequence a human genome has dropped precipitously, plummeting from $17.5 million in January 2005 to $47,000 in January 2010 to the relatively paltry sum of just under $4,000 in January 2015." 
(p 193)

While $4,000 isn't pocket change, some insurance companies pay the cost when other testing options for a disease or health problem have been exhausted. It is also easy to see that the price will likely drop further in years to come and make sequencing your genome accessible to more and more people. But even as it becomes possible, deciphering the massive amount of data will require additional work from scientists and geneticists. Which brings up the questions of how much information doctors feel should be revealed to each person; when it should be revealed; and the division of information between parents, children, and additional family members.  

As this technology evolves and there is more access to genomic databases and massive amounts of information, an exponential number of new questions arise and Rochman does a perfect job of highlighting both sides of dozens of situations. The concept of choosing optimum embryos was once a futuristic, mind blowing concept. Now, IVF is a relatively common term and procedure. As the science evolves, new questions and arguments will arise and it is essential to be educated on a topic before planting your flag in the ground and not budging. For that reason, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in researching the science behind, and the future prospects of, our genes. Rochman covers topics ranging from BRCA1, selective abortions, Down Syndrome, gene silencing, patient rights, parents' rights, sequencing newborns, and so many more.  

I was very pleased that this book remained solely scientific yet still focused on a variety of ethical and moral implications, all without indulging in the arguments brought forth from religion. While I borrowed this from my local library, I will be purchasing it for my personal library. 

My Q & A with Sue Frederick for Boulder Lifestyle Magazine

My Q & A with Sue Frederick is on page 94 of the September issue of Boulder Lifestyle magazine. Click here or scroll down to read. 

Boulder Author Discusses Her Love of Boulder and Her Spiritual Memoir, Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing

Turning 40, Sue Frederick thought she had lost everything. Widowed, childless, and heartbroken, her escalating sense of failure launched her on a spiritual journey to find what mattered, forge her own unique story, and share her message through her memoir, Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing.
Q: Most of your story takes place in Boulder, Colorado. You describe working at a publishing company in downtown Boulder; hiking in the foothills around town and visiting an ashram just outside of Boulder. Is this a typical Boulder lifestyle?

A: Many people come to Boulder longing for a stimulating career, a healthy outdoor lifestyle, or seeking spiritual nourishment. Boulder offers all of those things. I love my career; I’ve spent 40+ years hiking Boulder foothills and surrounding peaks; and have been deeply nourished by the array of amazing spiritual communities. The Boulder lifestyle nourishes us on every level.

Q: You describe your childhood in the deep South which is very different from the life you describe in Boulder. Were you searching for something when you came to Boulder? Are most people searching for something when they come to Boulder today?

A: I came here on a rock climbing trip in 1977. I was seeking adventure and an outdoor lifestyle but along the way I found so much more. Boulder has a way of pulling us in with its beauty and then turning us upside down until we’ve opened up and transformed in unexpected ways. I’m grateful for every minute I’ve spent in this sacred place; it has pushed me to grow beyond what I ever imagined.

Q: Why did you choose to write such a deeply personal and revealing memoir about such a painful time in your life? Why share that?

A: I wanted to encourage anyone facing heartbreak that they will move forward no matter how impossible it seems today. We’re all the same really; each of us struggling to find our way. The more we share our authentic stories the more we help each other heal and thrive.

“I surrender to this and that; to this world and to the other; to this enormous intangible love here in this room and to the kind you can feel on your skin, against your face, in your bones when someone touches you; I surrender to the happiness of longing.” an excerpt from Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing

Intuitive and author Sue Frederick has been featured on ABC and CNN; in The New York Times, Self, Real Simple, Yoga Journal, Natural Health, Fit Yoga, and Nexus magazines. She is also the author of several highly acclaimed books, including I See Your Dream Job: A Career Intuitive Shows You How To Discover What You Were Put On Earth To Do, Author of Your Divine Lens, Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side, I See Your Dream Job, and I See Your Soul Mate. Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing is now available on Amazon and in select local bookstores including Boulder Bookstore and look for Woman Crawling to the Moon on her Knees in 2018. For more info on Sue, visit SueFrederick.com and careerintuitive.org.

🍁10 September Releases I Can't Wait to Read🍁

Happy September! Here are 10 books releasing this month that I can't wait to dive into, starting this weekend. Now comes the hard part....which should I read 1st? 

🍁The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews (Little, Brown)🍁
🍁Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford (Ballantine)🍁
🍁Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda (Graydon House)🍁
🍁The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones (G.P. Putnam's Sons)🍁
🍁Under A Pole Star by Stef Penney (Quercus)🍁
🍁Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner)🍁
🍁The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)🍁
🍁The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Harper)🍁
🍁Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin)🍁
🍁The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (Ballantine)🍁

Foodie Friday:: Review: THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS by Sophie Chen Keller

 Released August 8, 2017 from G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publicist's Summary:
Silent and sharp twelve-year-old Walter Lavender Jr., his mother Lucy, and their Golden Retriever Milton have made a home for themselves brimming with love in their West Village bakery, The Lavenders. Brought to life by a mysterious and magical Book that was gifted to Lucy after she rescued a stranger from the cold, The Lavender’s handcrafted desserts dance across the counters warming the hearts and bodies of all who enter. Despite its powers the Book cannot fix the communication disorder that renders Walter Jr. nearly speechless, but without words he learns to listen and notice, discovering he has a knack for finding lost things. Walter will need all the skills he possesses when one day the magical Book disappears from the shop, taking with it the magic that enchanted the desserts. Walter and Milton set out on a journey across, above, and below Manhattan to follow the glimmering traces of The Book, racing to restore magic to The Lavenders before they are evicted by their greedy landlord. Through Walter’s eyes readers return to the magical world we each inhabited as children where every person you meet is just a potential friend to be made and any problem can be solved with hope, persistence, and a magical dessert. This is a timeless story about friendship and family that shows everything and everyone can be found if you take the time to truly see what—and who—is around you.

My Review: 
After receiving the pitch for THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS, I responded with "Baking and magic realism? Yes, please!" The delicious treats that Walter's mother bakes and sells to delighted children dance, move, and act out their own stories due to the magic book in their shop. When the source of the shop's magic goes missing (is stolen?) Walter sets out to find it. Walter's journey is so heart-warming while Milton's loyalty and devotion make him more than a boy's buddy, he was a fully formed character himself. While Walter has difficulty speaking, he can zero in on details and connect to people in individual ways that they each appreciate. Through his determination to find the book, Walter also finds out a lot about humanity and himself. Sophie Chen Keller's debut transported me to the streets of New York (where I visited for the first time at the beginning of this summer and already long to return to). While this story is certainly sweet in more ways than one, it is not overly done. Definitely read this book if you loved THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, or you simply need to read a truly feel good book. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

YOUNG JANE YOUNG by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin | Release Date: August 22, 2017 |  320 pages 

I (and almost all of my bookish buds) loved Zevin's previous release, THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY. YOUNG JANE YOUNG is labeled as "another perfect fable for our times--a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes."

Florida Congressional intern Aviva Grossman has an affair with her boss and then blogs about it. While the Congressman's reputation is unfazed, Aviva's name becomes a punchline and her career is derailed. Changing her name and starting a new life, she puts her past behind her. But in the age of Google, does the past ever stay in the past?

After an affair, young Aviva's hopes for a political future are crushed while the congressman she was involved with continues to find success. This frustrating double standard leads Aviva to begin a new life as Jane Young, an event planner. YOUNG JANE YOUNG begins just before Jane/Aviva's affair and picks up again several years later. Told from the point of view of Jane/Aviva, her mother, and her daughter, Zevin gives these women smart, hilarious, and witty dialogue as well as several other strong female characters (the congressman's wife, her mother's best friend).  Zevin also played with style and format in this novel and I loved it! Adding the modern epistolary form of emails and a Choose Your Own Adventure section (when I read about this section in the publicist's pitch I thought "How in the world is she gonna do that?" and when you see how, you will crack up! After loving THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY so much I was worried that YOUNG JANE YOUNG would not stand up to my high expectations. I was so pleased to be proven wrong! 

Buy your copy today on Amazon or your favorite bookstore today! 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

STAY WITH ME by Ayobami Adebayo
Knopf | Release Date: August 22, 2017 | 288 pages 

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

My Review: 
I received this at Book Expo this year and while I wasn't initially drawn to the summary, I grabbed it because it was chosen as one of the Adult Editors "Buzz Books". Somehow, Stay With Me managed to be the book I chose to read on the airplane coming home from NYC. By the time I departed the plane, I was already hooked and telling my friend Alison about it. By the time I finished it, I had text her and 2 other friends about it and then mailed it to my sister. If you're looking to expand your reading (diversity, culture, geography, history) then grab this up. But most importantly, if you are interested in the topics of identity, motherhood, and feminism; you absolutely can't miss Stay With Me. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

4 Netgalley Mini Reviews

Sometimes my Netgalley shelf gets out of control (ok, it's usually overflowing). Instead of doing longer reviews on these releases I thought I'd just do some mini reviews. I've been cleaning up my backlist and have not been requesting via Netgalley for a couple months so I could get it down to manageable again. I now have my shelf down to 9! I don't remember when I've had it that low! I know I'll be loading it up again soon, especially since I got my new Paperwhite (which I love)! How's everyone else's Netgalley shelf and TBR looking?

Simon & Schuster | Released: August 9, 2016 | 227 pages

Summary: When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else. Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.

My Review: Lots of witty one-liners, great come-backs, and outlandishly hilarious answers to the Mommy Club questionnaire. Also, liked the food angle, with turning her friends crazy stories into recipes. Cute, quick read.

FAITHFUL by Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster | Released: November 1, 2016 | Audio CD

Netgalley DescriptionGrowing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

My Review: I am drawn to Alice Hoffman novels and have loved listening to them on CD (The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things) but I felt the same about Faithful as I did about The Marriage of Opposites...it was ok, but not great. I really want magic realism when read Hoffman, and always feel a bit let down when I don't get any. I'm looking forward to diving into The Rules of Magic soon. I did love the choice of Amber Tamblyn as the narrator though.

FLÂNEUSE by Lauren Elkin
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux | 2015 | 336 pages

Netgalley Description: A flâneuse is, in Lauren Elkin’s words, “a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting,” Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1960s New York. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between singular women and their cities as a way to map her own life—a journey that begins in New York and takes us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo, and London—including the paths beaten by such flâneuses as the cross-dressing, nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the journalist Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film women’s sometimes liberating, sometimes fraught relationship to the metropolis.

My Review:
I loved this book, but beware that it isn't an "easy" read. The information compiled in Flâneuse is dissertation-level. I read this as an e-book but would like to have a physical copy for future reference. Women walking freely through cities have not always been social acceptable. Elkin delves into the obvious and more complex aspects of the gender divide of what now may be seen as a simple stroll. 

BLIND SPOT by Teju Cole
Faber Faber | Released: July 4, 2017 | 352 pages (e-book)

Netgalley Description: The award-winning author of Open City and photography critic for The New York Times Magazine combines two of his great passions in this innovative synthesis of words and images. The shadow of a tree in upstate New York. A hotel room in Switzerland. A young stranger in the Congo. In Blind Spot, readers follow Teju Cole’s inimitable musings into the visual realm as he refines the voice and intellectual obsessions that have earned him international acclaim. Through more than 150 photographs—taken in New York, Seoul, London, Lagos, Beirut, Zürich, Selma, and many other destinations—accompanied by surprising, lyrical text, Cole explores how we see the world and demonstrates once again why he’s considered one of the most powerful and original voices in contemporary literature.

My Review:
As with any art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beyond doing a personal analysis of Cole's work, I liked that the artist supplied descriptions of the work. These were pieces of art themselves. Blind Spot was like reading a poetry book with pictures. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Top 10 Thrillers Releasing August 2017

Here are my picks for the top 10 thrillers releasing this month: 

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka 8/1 from Simon & Schuster

Who murdered a high school girl? 

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang 8/1 from Lake Union

Spanish influenza or poison? 

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic 8/1 from Penguin
48-hour competition for a top-secret intelligence position in 2037. 

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt 8/1 by Atlantic Monthly
Retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders.

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose 8/1 from Viking

17-year-old girl goes "underground" after taking the fall for a friend. 

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy 8/1 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
An ancient darkness spreads virally IRL.

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett 8/8 from HQ
Shattering consequences for suburban neighbors

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker 8/8 from St. Martin's
Two sisters disappear but only one returns.

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin 8/15 from St. Martin's
Elite, obstetrician mother witness dark side of her husband's medical center.

Pretty, Nasty, Lovely by Rosalind Noonan 8/29 from Kensington
The dark side of sorority sisterhood. 

Foodie Friday Feature: Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian by Raquel Pelzel

Workman | ISBN: 9780761189930 | Pub Date: October 3, 2017 | 264 pages 

Netgalley Description: 
Sheet Pan Suppers is back! This time, with 100 vegetarian recipes for satisfying, sumptuous full meals—all made on a sheet pan, and all meat-free. It’s the one-pot meal reinvented with a healthy twist, and what is sure to become every busy cook’s new favorite way of getting dinner on the table. There are recipes for complete meals, snacks, brunch, and even dessert, that require nothing more than a sheet pan, your oven, and Raquel Pelzel’s inspired take on satisfying, delectable, vegetarian cooking. Recipes include Orzo with Pan-Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon, and Mozzarella; Loaded Chilaquiles with Baked Eggs; Super Creamy No-Boil Mac and Cheese; and more.

I am not a vegetarian but I do like to make vegetarian meals occasionally. I used to be pretty good about Meatless Mondays but I fell into a rut of cheese pizza or salads. Not very exciting. This cookbook had some easy ideas to inspire me and the photography was mouthwatering. I also thought that this cookbook would make a wonderful gift for a beginning cook because the recipes were pretty straightforward and there are not multiple pots and pans involved. 

My Review of SHADOW OF THE LIONS by Christopher Swann in Perimeter North Lifestyle Magazine

Page Turners for August 2017 for Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine 

I reviewed SHADOW OF THE LIONS by Christopher Swann for the August issue of Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine. Click the link and "flip" to page 34, or I've added the text below for easier reading 👇

Sandy Springs Novelist Draws on Academic Life in Twisty Thriller Debut:
Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Two massive concrete lions have guarded the front entrance to Virginia’s Blackburne School for more than a century. Respected and revered, they symbolize the school’s fiercely held traditions, especially its honor code. After Matthias Glass confesses his honor code violation to his best friend, Fritz Davenport, they briefly argue before Fritz runs into the woods—and vanishes without a trace.

In the decade following Matthias’ graduation from Blackburne, he attends college, grad school, and writes a successful first novel. When he finds himself abandoned by his writing inspiration (and his model girlfriend), he accepts a position at Blackburne teaching English. Upon his return to his alma mater, he becomes consumed with finding out what really happened to his friend all those years ago. While looking for answers, a student death on campus opens his eyes to the dark underbelly of the prestigious boys’ boarding school. Partnering with a local ex-cop to solve the mysteries, Matthias begins to suspect a campus figure may have connections to both the recent student death and Fritz’s disappearance. As he digs deeper, his search turns up much more than he bargained for, including links to the FBI, cyber surveillance, exorbitant bribes, and issues of national security. He also uncovers various Blackburne secrets as well as the dark realities of a powerful Washington, DC, family.

Sandy Springs author, Christopher Swann, creates a complex protagonist and conjures an alluring and ominous prep school setting from his firsthand academic experiences. As the English Department chair of Atlanta’s Holy Innocents' Episcopal School, Swann’s twenty-one years of teaching English are evident in Matthias Glass, a novelist turned English teacher turned amateur detective. Swann also draws on his own four years of high school at Woodberry Forest School, an all male boarding school in Virginia, to transport his readers to the insular community of Blackburne. In true Southern style, Swann also weaves the underlying theme of football into his debut novel. While the unofficial religion of the South offers many metaphors on life, Swann perfectly exemplifies the painfully tenuous transition between adolescence and adulthood with his powerfully detailed descriptions of grueling practices and an intense annual football game against their rival school.

Alternating between Matthias’ student and teacher periods and filled with literary references, Swann’s bildungsroman draws comparisons to beloved boarding school novels The Catcher in the Rye, Dead Poets Society, and A Separate Peace. Like these classics, Shadow of the Lions explores love, loyalty, loss, duty, and betrayal. It exposes burdens of privilege, the desperation to belong, the layered creation of one’s character, and the fact that intense adolescent friendships shape all of our adult lives, for better or worse.