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Review: The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I received no additional compensation. 

On Sophie Bloom's 42nd birthday she not only finds out that her husband has been cheating on her but that he is the top cheater in their town. She then runs to France to comfort her teenage daughter, who is experiencing her own heartbreak. In a whirlwind of actions, "chance" meetings, and moments of epiphany, Sophie "must decide what is broken forever...and what it means to be truly unbreakable."

Author Lisa Barr can definitely create delicious settings. From Sophie's upscale home and neighborhood to Paris to the artist enclave of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, each mental picture I created was dreamily sigh-worthy (comparable to Under the Tuscan Sun). Barr also hit the nail on the head describing Sophie's internal struggle to put her needs before those of her daughter and husband after so many selfless years. I loved how Sophie embraced life, art, love, and sex but I did have a problem at the end of the book and with one of the characters. (SEE BELOW for spoilers)

On a side note, let me talk about this cover. I think it is what truly drew me in and made me decide to read this book. I want to be this woman: stylishly dressed with a perfect red lip, enjoying a pastry and coffee in a cafĂ©. Instead, I'm in my sweaty workout clothes after walking at the park, my hair's a mess, and I'm eating my regular daily breakfast in my dream kitchen...so, a very close second. I'll take it! 

***SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this section if you do not want to know some story "spoilers"!***

Problem #1: Sophie and Gabe's daughter, Ava. After her pregnancy scare she doesn't seem to mature one bit! She is still a whiny brat..there I said it!

Problem #2: Why in the world did Sophie sleep with Gabe again at the end? She just had lots of mind-blowing sex in Europe and now she sleeps with her sleazeball cheating husband as some sort of closure? Nope! I hated that twist. 

Review: How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review]

Happy Pub Day to How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper and Happy Back from the Brink of Death Day to my basil plant!

I read this heartbreaking, sweet, and funny novel on Saturday and really liked it. Dark humor at its best...

Andrew works with death for a living. Searching for people’s next of kin and attending the funerals if they don’t have anyone, he is desperate to avoid the same fate for himself. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home to help wash the day’s cares away. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe. Andrew didn’t mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he’s become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his trains and Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when Peggy, a new coworker, breezes into his life, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn’t notice the wall he’s been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down. Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he has forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

As for my basil plant...we shall see!

Review: Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl

Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Genetic engineering isn't some far-off fantasy. It's arriving faster than most of us understand or are prepared for."

Wow! I loved this book. I picked it up and put it down several times to read other books but I kept coming back to it because every single chapter, page, and concept was absolutely fascinating. Jamie Metzl details a broad range of topics that arise when biology and technology intersect, such as:

· personalized/precision medicine
· stem cells
· exponential generational increases in IQ
· CRISPR sequences
· gene therapies
· transhumanism
· GMOs

He also posits both sides of the myriad ethical, religious, moral, and political issues that have come about now that our DNA is as "hackable as our information technology" and points out that by "retooling our own genetic code, the choices we make today will be the difference between realizing breathtaking advances in human well-being and descending into a dangerous and potentially deadly genetic arms race."

I found myself daydreaming about so many currently unthinkable scenarios (good and bad) to come, which genetic manipulations will be embraced and which will be the dividing issues, and how each scientific achievement builds on the ones before it. For example, IVF was once an impossible sounding concept but now it is a fairly common occurrence. So many possibilities....

Review:: The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language by Peter Martin

The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language by Peter Martin
(releases 5/28/19 from Princeton University Press)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. 

I have always considered a dictionary to be an informative collection of words, a writing companion, and a seemingly endless source of ideas—not necessarily a controversial publication. The Dictionary Wars taught me that I was oh so wrong. The historical conflicts surrounding American dictionaries were intense! As a new republic America’s first lexicographers, Noah Webster and Joseph Emerson Worcester, wanted an American dictionary that would rival Samuel Johnson's 1755 British Dictionary of the English Language, but they each had their own ideas about what that dictionary would entail. Webster believed an American dictionary “ought to be informed by the nation's republican principles.” Worcester, however, “thought that such language reforms were reckless and went too far.” After Webster’s death, the Merriam brothers acquired Webster’s publishing rights and launched another language war. With libel suits and fraud claims galore, The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language is a word nerd’s dream.

Also included in my pic is my new favorite lunch/dinner for one: Rice Cake Bruschetta

Review of The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (releasing May 21, 2019 from Harper)
I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I received no additional compensation. 

Dubbed the Mulatta Murderess in the London papers, Frannie Langton stands accused of murdering her employer, scientist George Benham, and his wife Marguerite, but she cannot remember the events of the evening. While Frannie awaits her trial she recalls her childhood on a Jamaican sugar plantation, her apprenticeship to her master/father, and her travels to London.

What began as a slave narrative of plantation injustices and abuses became the story of a smart and educated woman forced to perform scientific experiments on others while being a subject herself before she is given to another scientist to watch over (and report back to him about) his wife.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a mix of science, slavery, and societal expectations with a sweet thread of a love story woven in. I definitely recommend this one!

Read an excerpt of the book HERE

Review of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (@aaknopf)

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (5/7/19 from Knopf)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I struggled with this book for about 2 weeks, picking it up and putting it down. I wanted to read about Harper Lee, the true-crime book she was working on after To Kill a Mockingbird, her friendship with Truman Capote, and how her book was going to compare with Capote’s In Cold Blood. However, the book is divided into 3 sections (“The Reverend”, “The Lawyer”, and “The Writer”) meaning I waded through 2/3 of the book (and massive amounts of information concerning Alabama politics, the complicated family tree of a serial killer, and the origins of life insurance) before I got to read about Lee. I now understand why the author laid it out in such a way, but reading this book I felt like I took some winding country road and was lost a couple of times along the way. I would recommend this to Harper Lee fans with a bit of a disclaimer to read the table of contents before diving into your reading to be prepared for the story’s trajectory.

Back Cover:
Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier.

I loved this debut of short stories: Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang

Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang (releasing 5/14/19 from @hogarthbooks)
**I was given an advanced copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**

In twelve stunning stories of love, family, and identity, Xuan Juliana Wang’s debut collection captures the unheard voices of an emerging generation. Wang’s unforgettable characters – with their unusual careers, unconventional sex lives and fantastical technologies – share the bold hope that, no matter where they’ve come from, their lives too can be extraordinary.

My review
Let me cut to the chase...I've added Wang to my "auto-buy" authors list. If this is her debut, I can only imagine what else is to come...and I'm excited for it! Her ability to create layers of depth in each short story and characters who are complex, ambitious, and achingly unsure of themselves had me tearing through this entire collection in a single morning.