Review: November Road by Lou Berney

Everyone loves a good JFK story.

There are always two camps: the JFK fan club and the JFK conspiracy club. I don’t know many people that do not, at least a little bit, fall into the first category.

Stephen Colbert, post-2016 Presidential election, remarked that his mother, a life-long Republican, did vote Democrat in 1960 for Kennedy: “She only voted for one Democrat in her entire life and that was Kennedy, because—spoiler alert—we’re Catholic” (Showtime). Kennedy clearly related to many, and he cross boundaries built over religious, civil, and racial divides.

Which means it’s a damn fine way to market a book, and that brings us to Lou Berney’s November Road.

With a narrative heightened by scandal and historical suspense, Berney takes readers cross-country to find out who killed Kennedy and perhaps show readers just how intricate his death may have been.

For more on November Road, published by William Morrow in October of 2018, continue.

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Reviews: “And Now We Have Everything” & “Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give”

Sometimes you just have to say “Cut the bull crap. Give me a real book.” Sometimes this “you” is me, staring into a Barnes & Noble shelf (literal or virtual) and begging the world for Real Talk.

Usually no one stares.

Enter: Meghan O’Connell and Ada Calhoun. O’Connell’s And Now We have Everything came to me on purpose; I requested an ARC from NetGalley in early spring and simply didn’t have time for it until now. Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give entered into my life fortuitously (my favorite!) via an in-town Little Free Library.

Both books are honest reflections on some of the truest forms of life—relationships, marriages, baby lust, baby making. Sometimes Real Talk, however, can be more than one bargain’s for.

For more on O’Connell (published April 2018) and Calhoun’s (published May 2017) books, please continue. 

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Review: Upcoming Children’s​ Fiction

I don’t know about you, but I’ve caught myself reading absolutely nothing in the children’s literature genre. I realize that my son is now in middle school, so I don’t have picture book reading time any longer; yet, I can still read all of the awesome new publications for young ones and then buy them for my friends. 🙂 Yay, literary capitalism.

NetGalley helped support my new venture. (If you’re not on NetGalley, seriously–what ARE you doing?) All of the following books allowed my viewing of an ARC via Kindle.

Please continue reading for my reviews on the following three books:

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Review: The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

F363687D-6554-4F66-9A4C-483F7D733A8CFollowing much the same style as Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, and Noah Hawley, Soule keeps readers flipping pages and searching for answers long after they (or maybe just me) should go to sleep.

Based on the premise that a man, struggling musician Will Dando, receives 108 future predictions—some mundane and some world-altering—The Oracle is created. After receiving the predictions and realizing they’re true, they actually happen, Will sets up the Site to share the predictions with the world.

And they all happen. Each one. The hows and the whys are not always clear to Will, but as the event prediction dates come closer he starts to see the puzzle pieces morph into place.

For more on The Oracle Year, published in April 2018 by Harper Perennial, continue.

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Upcoming: Unbound Book Festival

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 11.15.16 AM
Photo from Unbound Book Festival’s homepage

Winter months are harsh. In the Midwest, this winter we’ve had ample time to ponder our thoughts, twiddle our thumbs, and read copious tomes of literature while ice pinged and frosted our windows.

We haven’t, however, had as much time to share great works with one another.

Enter: Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

While searching for book readings for a favorite author — Melissa Febos — a friend and I came across this event which takes place in late April. There are many other authors whom we’re also excited to see, including:

… and many more! These are merely the ones that I’m excited about… be sure to check their list here.

Unbound’s website describes the event as one which “aims to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives.”

Awesome! Where do I sign up?

And, still: “We believe that life should be a conversation, and so every event at Unbound will be wildly interactive.  There’ll be no boring monologues here.  Guest authors will be interviewed by other guest authors.  There will be Q and A sessions – [attendees will] be able to post questions in advance for individual authors on the website – panels, and multiple chances to meet and speak with your literary heroes.  We have all manner of unusual events planned.  Our festival will be innovative, different, stimulating and – above all – fun.”

What?! I get to participate and not just sit?! Shut up and take my money!

But wait…. IT’S FREE.

Yes, the entire event, which runs April 20th through April 22nd, is completely free. The festival works to “raise funds and awareness to improve literacy standards throughout the State of Missouri… [as it] has one of the lowest literacy rates in the United States, for both children and adults.”

So, they’re bringing some of my favorite authors to the Midwest, I get to actively participate, it costs me nothing, and it is meant to raise awareness and money for literacy?

Yep. Cashing in all the checks for this one.

Hope to see you all in April!

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Photo from Penguin Books Australia

There are books that must be read despite one’s interests, life situation, or gender.

This is one of those books.

I do not have much to say about this book other than that it holds a power unique to the genre and the time period in which it now exists. It is impossible to say what a reader may find, what connections will spur into his or her own life.

I am not a dramatist; I do not believe in apocalyptic tales of woe. As such, this novel presents not how we will all go out, but rather the tiny ways in which we can (will?) eventually all destroy each other.

The writing is flawless. The nuance, incredible. It haunted me as I read it, and it haunts me after, now, just as strongly.

This book is a must read. So, please, go read it.

*I have not yet watched the Hulu series, but my book version (photo above) included the show’s cover. The 2017 forward by Atwood was also helpful in understanding her motives.

Review: As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 2.51.09 PMIn 2018, I’ve decided to push the boundaries of my typical reading tendencies. I’m inherently drawn to nitty-gritty memoirs about imperfect lives; the deep characterization of contemporary fiction; and the beauty contained in the raw emotion of concise, poignant poetry.

I know this about myself.

And yet, I can’t tell the last time I’ve read a romance novel. It was surely before 2009; I had to have been in high school or college. Historical fiction? It’s been awhile.

Alas, I arrive at As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner, an advanced edition thanks to Book of the Month club. Set in the early 1900’s—including issues from WWI to prohibition—it certainly falls into the category of historical fiction, and there is a smidgen of romance too.

While the tag line inside the dust jacket reads “From the darkest hours rises life in all its glory,” I feel left wanting more glory after finishing up the final chapter.

For more on As Bright As Heaven, due to be published February 6th, 2018, by Berkley Books, please continue.

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Review: The Other Side of Beauty by Leah Darrow

51RJaOGtXnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Darrow is an international religious speaker, and she works to encourage listeners, especially women, to follow a Christian ideal of beauty instead of the version impressed by Western culture.

Leah spoke to my community back in October, and I really enjoyed her humble nature, anecdotal delivery, and overall message. As such, I asked my dad to get me her book for Christmas and I’m happy to say he delivered.

Beauty is a strange concept, and I can tell you that—praise the Lord—I have grown into a type of beauty that I am much more comfortable with than when I was thirteen. The type of beauty I’m concerned with now, however, has very little to do with whether or not I have concealer or a hair straightener and more to do with if I’m doing enough to add goodness to the world. Darrow, it seems, feels the same.

For more on The Other Side of Beauty, published by Nelson Books in November 2017, please continue.

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Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 5.24.01 PMSquinting to see past my steering wheel, I cautiously drove down the icy, winter road toward my parents’ home to pick up my son. Ahead, I could see something in the middle of the street. White, rustling, out of place. It moved enough that I thought perhaps it was an animal. No, not just an animal—a kitten. There was a kitten in the middle of the road. I decided to drive closer to help. (If I’m anything to a kitten it’s Florence Nightingale.)

Yet, as I drove closer, I could see that it wasn’t a kitten at all. It was merely an open napkin, rustling in the wind. My headlights, the wind, and my faulty night vision had me seeing a kitten where there was nothing but a culinary accessory. It didn’t need my help at all. Not that I could tell.


Life often hands us scenarios that are all together different in appearance than actual substance.

Such is also the case with Kristin Kirkland, wife of popular ob-gyn Dr. Paul Kirkland of Yellow Springs, Ohio. After a night with neighborhood wives, drinking wine and christening a new fire pit, Kristin disappears without a trace, her two twins with her.

The other women—as well as Paul—are left to wonder where Kristin went, why she left, and how they were completely unaware just hours before she vanished.

For more on Not That I Could Tell, set to be published by St. Martin’s Press in March of 2018, please continue.

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Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 8.36.46 PM“You fool,” she cried again, and heard the girl whimper. What a fool you are, she thought, fuming. What fools we all are. We girls. Afraid of the wrong things, at the wrong times. Afraid of a burned face, when outside, outside waiting for you are fires you cannot imagine. Men, holding matches up to your gasoline eyes. Flames, flames all around you, licking at your just-born breasts, your just-bled body. And infernos. Infernos as wide as the world. Waiting to impoverish you, make you ash, and even the wind, even the wind. Even the wind, my dear, she thought, watching you burn, wiling it, passing over you, and through you. Scattering you, because you are a girl, and because you are ash.

For more on Girls Burn Brighter, set to be published in March of 2018 by Flatiron Books, please continue.

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