Audio Book Review: Not So Pure And Simple by Lamar Giles, Narrated by Korey Jackson

Book: Not So Pure And Simple by Lamar Giles, Narrated by Korey Jackson

Published January 2020 by Quill Tree Books|Length: 11 hours

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles delivers his first contemporary YA—an eye-opening novel that spotlights societal pressures, confronts toxic masculinity, and asks the question: What does it mean to be a “real man”?

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed himself up for a Purity Pledge. His best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe anyone is worth this long of a long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl.

And that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word, but with other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move now. However, with all his plotting and scheming, Del never really stops to think: What does Kiera want? No matter, though—once he gets the girl, he’s sure all will sort itself out. Right?

I really liked Not So Pure And Simple!  I liked Del, though he has a lot to learn.  But I really enjoyed his story, and seeing him change and grow.

Del has a lot to learn.  He’s not forgiving of Kiera, when he’s being pretty dishonest himself, holding her to a completely different standard.  I felt like he had her on a pedestal, and that came crashing down.  I felt like he never took the time to get to know her as a person, and that he was into the illusion of her but not her as a person.  It sucks when your crush doesn’t respond the way you want them to or doesn’t feel the same way.  I get why he was angry and frustrated and everything else.  But Kiera is a real person with real feelings- and was definitely not the person Del thought she was.

Was Del frustrating at times?  Absolutely!  He wouldn’t leave her alone, had this odd obsession with her and jumped through all kinds of hoops when he could have been more straightforward.  There were times when I felt like Del was that guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I was a little frustrated by the couple of times we see male characters not seeing women as people until they learned a female they were close to was hurt by a guy.  It’s sad that’s what it took for what that to happen, but hopefully, it was a wake-up call to be better and to treat all women better.

I really think Del started to learn from it, and I hope he continues to learn AND listen to the women in his life.  Hopefully, he’ll have more conversations with his sister and Cheyanne, and they’ll continue to be honest and call him if they think he needs it.  I like that toxic masculinity came up, and that we need to recognize it in ourselves and others, and speak up when we see it in others.

One thing that was interesting in the book was how sex education in Del’s school was very much influenced by the pastor.  It was frustrating, because not everyone has parents who will talk about reproduction, sex and birth control with them- it seemed like the healthy living class was the only way for some of these kids to get any information about their bodies.  And even then, they directed their questions to Jameer so Del could ask the questions in class.

I was really surprised that there was a flyer on the door, and that nothing seemed to go home to the parents, because Del’s parents were definitely surprised that the class wasn’t a thing anymore.  It’s sad, because the kids suffer and the parents know nothing about what’s going on.  I feel like that’s something the school should have told them, but that’s just me.  You really see what happens when sex ed isn’t a priority, and I feel like it would have been good for these kids.

It really is a good read, and one I think we should all read.  As a woman, I’m not at all surprised by what a lot of the girls experienced, and maybe, just maybe, seeing things through Del’s eyes will be good for at least some of the people picking this book up.

I also thought Korey Jackson was a great narrator.  I feel like I always say that, and that I always say that the narrator brought the characters to life.  But it really is true most of the time, and it is the case for this book.  I don’t know that I’ll be seeking out other books narrated by Jackson, but I wouldn’t mind listening to another book narrated by him.

4 stars.  I really liked this book, and I’m definitely going to take a look at Giles’ other books because of how he handled some of the more serious issues in this book.

Book Review: A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Book: A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Published June 2020 by Balzer + Bray|480 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic…requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

I liked A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin!  It took me a while to get through it, and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, but I’m still glad I read it.

I liked that Malik cared so much about his sisters.  They are really important to him, and he just wants things to be better for both his family and himself.  I’m not sure how I feel about Karina but I felt for her.  I can understand why she’d want to resurrect her mother- she just didn’t feel ready to step into her mother’s shoes.  It couldn’t have been easy, having to be the heir after the death of her sister, and the unexpected death of her mother.

Things are not what they seem, and Karina learns a lot about what’s really go on, and what’s holding her country together.  Things go very, very wrong, of course, and things are going to change pretty drastically.  But I think they’ll get there.  It makes you wonder what’s going to happen next, with everything that happened in this book.  There were some twists and turns along the way, and those things make me curious about what Karina is really up against, and how it’s going to work out.

There are a lot of different connections in this book- I didn’t see all of them right away, but looking back, they did make sense, and it was something that made me sad for Karina.  It really affected and changed things for her, and to find out who did it and why…it had to have been a shock to be betrayed like that.  I’m kind of wondering what I’d pick up on if I did a re-read of this book but maybe before the next book comes out, I’ll do a re-read.

This was another book I struggled to get through, and this was a book where I found myself reading a few chapters at a time.  I had a really hard time focusing on this book.  It is what it is, and that’s just how it worked out, because I did want to like this book more.  Still, the world is interesting, and like I said before, you can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next.

Something about it made me think of Children Of Blood And Bone- I’m not sure what it is, but I think, if you really liked that book, you’ll like this one.  They do go pretty well together!  I don’t know if it’s the setting or the magic, or what, but it’s a pretty good read-alike for that book.

3 stars.  I liked A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin, but I struggled to get through it.  Still, I liked the world and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Book: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Published August 2020 by Amulet Books|368 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Raybearer #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Raybearer was a book I was really excited about, but it ended up being just okay for me.

I struggled with this book- I’d read a few chapters at a time, and then have to put it down.  I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood for this book, or if maybe I needed to listen to it on audio, or what was going on, because I really wanted to like it more than I actually did.

I love the idea of the book, though.  I mean, a council of 11, who help the prince rule the land, and have this magical bond?  It’s pretty cool.  And the fact that they can get sick if they’re too far apart?  That’s really different, but also interesting.  I mean, it forces them to not go running off to do their own thing, and make sure they’re close to the Crown Prince.  The fact that they’re all chosen is children is interesting too.  It’s one way to ensure the council is loyal to the prince.  Easier to form a bond if they’re all children.  It’s a little horrifying, in all honesty, especially given what happens throughout the book, and the task Tarisai is given.

And what we learn about Raybearers makes it a little more horrifying and scary.  It’s amazing what information rulers do (and do not) want out there and how different things could be if that knowledge was known.

I did feel for Tarisai, though.  Things were not easy for her- with her childhood, and everything she learns about her family.  I felt for her, trying to find her own path while also wanting to protect Dayo, and carrying out the task the Lady gave her.  She just wanted to belong, which makes so much sense considering how she grew up.  She wants love and family and friends and people who care about her.  Being part of the council offers her that chance.  We grow up with her, though it felt like we missed quite a few years.

The setting is amazing!  In particular, the sounds described in this book made the book come alive.  And even now, there are things described in the book that I can still picture.  Still, there are a lot of people and places and other bits of information that I had a hard time keeping track of.

I did get through the last few chapters pretty fast- that was when I got really into the book, and I’m a little sad it took me so long to get into this book, especially because of the things I did like.

2 stars.  I really wanted to like this book more, but it ended up being just okay for me.  I’m still looking forward to reading the next book in this series, because I want to know what happens.  Even though it wasn’t for me, I still think it’s worth checking out.

Audio Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer, Narrated by Reba Buhr

Book: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer, Narrated by Reba Buhr

Published September 2020 by HarperAudio|Run Time: 8 hours, 48 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Crownchasers #1

Genre: YA

A deadly race across 1,001 planets will determine more than just the fate of the empire. This explosive first book in a duology jam-packed with tension and thrills is perfect for fans of ‘The Hunger Games, ‘Aurora Rising’, and ‘Three Dark Crowns’.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy, even leaving behind the Kingship and her uncle, the emperor, for a life of exploring.

But when her dying uncle announces a crownchase – a search for the royal seal hidden in the empire that will determine the next ruler – Alyssa is thrust into her greatest, most dangerous adventure yet.

I really liked Crownchasers!  It was really interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

This is a story that’s pretty familiar- a race across the galaxy to see who will rule the empire.  Still, it’s in space!  We get to see the galaxy and the people living in it!  There’s a lot of adventure and outrunning the past!  It was exciting and I always wanted to know what happened next.

I also liked seeing Alyssa’s memories, and they were pretty important in how we see the present, and the other people involved in the crownchase.  I get why she doesn’t want to be empress, but at the end of the book, I felt like that might be in her future.  It might not be, but with everything that happened at the end of the book, I feel like it’s an option for her.

So, for the life of me, I cannot remember what happened to her parents that she had to live with her uncle.  I believe they died, but obviously, any details that might have been mentioned did not stick with me.  Her mom did come up a little bit, and it seems like her mom wanted to change things, but we don’t get a lot of detail.  And I’m really curious about her dad, because I feel like we don’t hear about him at all.  I really shouldn’t assume he was around, because maybe he wasn’t, and that is perfectly fine.  I’m just really curious, that’s all.

I just want to know what’s going on!  Who are the cloaked people, and what are they up to?  What on earth do they really want?  I hope we find out in the next book, because otherwise, what’s the point in bringing them up?  Anyway, they are very suspicious, clearly up to no good, and I want to know why.

I liked Alyssa.  She certainly likes to run into danger and has no sense of self-preservation.  She also wants to do her own thing, even though being her uncle’s heir would make a lot of sense.  It makes me wonder if he knew that she wouldn’t want to be forced into it, and I doubt he could have known everything that would end up happening during the chase.

It seemed to me that she was only involved in the chase because of her connection to the former emperor, but I can’t help but wonder if he thought that maybe she want it, but had to choose that role on her own.  Or not, and it’s just protocol or whatever that she’s involved.  She clearly didn’t want it, considering she makes an alliance with one of her competitors, but I am looking forward to see if that changes, and it does (or doesn’t) change.

I also liked Hell Monkey, and I’m glad he’s sticking around.  I’m glad Alyssa has someone she can trust and rely on, because it seems like the number of people she cares about is shrinking really fast.  She can’t do this alone, and she’s going to need all the help she can get.  I don’t know if things will become more romantic between them- it would be weird, because I didn’t particularly notice or care about a romance for Alyssa, much less with Hell Monkey.

I don’t know that I’m necessarily hoping they’ll get together, because Alyssa has a lot going on.  I honestly like them as friends, and I think they have a pretty good working relationship.  I’m really glad they made it through the book relatively unscathed, though it didn’t always look that way.

This was a book that I was glad I did on audio.  I don’t know if I would have gotten through it had I read it in print, but I enjoyed listening to it.  Buhr did a great job narrating and I hope she’ll narrate the next book.  I mean, she probably will because series usually stick with the same narrator, but still.  I enjoyed her narration.

4 stars.  I really liked Crownchasers, and I really, really hope some of my questions from this book get answered in the book.

Book Review: Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Book: Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Published November 2020 by Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

I really liked Rent A Boyfriend!  I really liked Chloe and Drew, and I really felt for both of them.

As much as I liked this book, and (some of) the characters, I found that I was angry at Chloe’s parents for most of the book.  I know they want to make sure she’s okay and taken care of and happy, especially in the wake of her dad’s illness.  She’s more than capable of taking care of herself, and she doesn’t need a guy to take care of her.  Of course, love’s important, but it’s sad they’re pushing her to someone she doesn’t want and who is pretty terrible person.  I’m angry that they didn’t tell her why they were pushing so hard for her to get married, I’m angry that her virginity was a selling point, and that not being a virgin would ruin her, and I’m angry that she had to rent a boyfriend so they’d leave her alone, only for them to still push her towards Hongbo.

It also makes me sad that this is something she needs to worry about and deal with.  She eventually tells her parents about Drew, and while it makes things really difficult between them, they do come around.  I understand why she feels like two different people and being ourselves around family can be really hard.  Especially with her parents, but she figure out what she wants and becomes honest about it, even though it’s really hard and it gets complicated along the way.

I like her and Drew together.  I loved their random conversations, and their text messages, and they’re just really cute together.  Meeting each other ended up being a really good thing for both of them.  It’s a really cute romance while also dealing with some pretty serious things.  There was a really good balance between everything.  If you like the fake relationship turning into a real one trope, this is a great book for you!

I’m glad we got to see his POV, because I really liked seeing how he saw things.  Don’t get me wrong, we spend plenty of time with Chloe, and I’m glad we do, but it was also nice to get a different take on things, and see how he saw her.  Also, I’m sad for Drew.  Chloe has her own issues to deal with, but so does Drew.  And it just made me sad that his parents cut him off just because he’s an artist, and wants to pursue that.  Also, the comparison to someone he didn’t know made me sad for him as well.

I totally want to use sleep loose from now on, by the way.  It’s totally random, but true!

I really liked Chloe, and I can relate to how insecure she is.  It’s no wonder she is, with all the things she’s heard over the years.  Words have more of an impact than people think, and though people might not mean to be hurtful or think they’re actually helping, it doesn’t mean that words don’t hurt, and that we don’t internalize it and start to believe it.  I think it’s part of why I was so angry on her behalf.  I really do hope that things get better between Chloe and her parents, and that they (but especially her mom) are more accepting of her.

4 stars.  I really liked Rent A Boyfriend.  I was angry and sad but also happy and this is a cute romance with some seriousness as well.  I’m glad I picked this book up!

Book Review: The First 7 by Laura Pohl

Book: The First 7 by Laura Pohl

Published March 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Last 8 #2

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

The thrilling conclusion to The Last 8 duology that follows the Last Teenagers on Earth as they head home to a now-hostile planet.

Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really liked The First 7, and thought it was much better than the first book!  It’s a great sequel, and I’m glad I read it.

I liked the first book, enough to pick up the sequel.  This book picks up several months after the last book, and we see our young survivors travelling across space.  Because of Andy, they get this warning that they are not safe anywhere, and find themselves back on earth because of a distress signal.  Earth is not the same place it was when they left it.

It turns out that they were gone for years, instead of months, so clearly, time moved differently for them than it did in space.  That part got my interest, and I wanted to know more about that.  They have more pressing things to deal with, like the fact that there are survivors hidden in the mountains, crystals everywhere, and Andy not being the same Universal that she was in the first book.  Once they land on Earth, and come across the crystals, she changes drastically, but in the end, she’s the same Andy that we knew from The Last 8 and the beginning of this book.

It turns out that Andy is not the last Universal, and there was a time when I thought it was Violet.  It’s not, but the thought crossed my mind, considering what Andy did to bring Violet back from the dead.  I actually wish we saw more of Andy.  This is Clover’s story, through and through, but that’s not going to stop me from wanting more with Andy.

Speaking of Clover, I really liked her.  She’s still struggling, which is understandable.  She’s been through a lot, and there are some surprises for her in this book.  I wasn’t expecting one particular surprise, but I’m glad she’s not alone.  She never was, of course, and she has some great friends.  But this surprise…I think it will be good for her.  It won’t bring back her grandparents, Adam or Noah but I think, in time, she’ll open up and start to heal.  That’s what I hope happens for her.  This book doesn’t shy away from her struggles, and I love that there’s a content warning at the beginning of the book and some resources at the end of the book.

I’m just glad they were able to go back to earth, and that they were able to make sure things were okay.  Not everyone wanted to come back, of course, but I think, in the end, they were glad they did.  Space isn’t for everyone, but this book really shows that earth, and the life that inhabits it are strong and refuse to die in the face of really terrible aliens with crystals that could change the planet and destroy everything on it.

I also want everyone to be okay.  I’ve already talked about how I want Clover to be okay, and I want that for everyone else too.  They deserve after thinking they were the only ones left on earth, and what they had to do to save it.  I’m sure they’ll settle into a slightly more normal life.  As normal as it can be on a planet that survived an alien invasion, and I hope they are able to find other survivors.  This little pocket of survivors can’t be the only ones left, and I hope, over time, earth is at least a semblance of the place they knew before everything happened.

4 stars.  I really liked The First 7, and it’s a great sequel.  I kind of want another book, just to see how things turn out for everyone, but I also think it ended on a really good note, so I’m also okay with it ending how it did.

Audio Book Review: Shift by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck

Book: Shift by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck

Published March 2010 by Harlequin Books|Run Time: 11 hours, 3 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Shifters #5

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Being the first female werecat enforcer isn’t easy. Scars accumulate, but I’m stronger in so many ways.

As for my personal life? It’s complicated. Choices worth making always are. Ever since my brother’s death and my father’s impeachment, it’s all I can do to prevent more blood from spilling. Now our Pride is under attack by a flight of vicious thunderbirds. And making peace with our new enemies may be the only way to get the best of our old foe.

With the body count rising and treachery everywhere, my instincts tell me to look before I leap. But sometimes a leap of faith is the only real option…

It’s about time I continued this series!  I really enjoyed Shift, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

I was surprised by how easy it was for me to slip back in Faythe’s world.  It’s been a while since I’ve read the books before this one, so I was a little worried I’d have a hard time getting back into this series.  And that I wouldn’t remember much of anything from the events of the previous books.  But that wasn’t a problem at all!  We got the basics throughout the book, as it came up, and I was glad to see what was going on with Faythe.

There’s a new threat, in the form of thunderbirds, and I was glad to learn more about other shifters in her world.  I mean, there was no way that only werecats existed, and I knew there had to be other shapeshifters out there.  The series isn’t really about that, of course, though I’m glad we were introduced new enemies.  There’s always something that’s gone wrong in Faythe’s world, and they never seem to get a break or time to breathe.  It’s been one crisis after another, and there’s more to come.

It looks like they’re headed for all-out war, and it’s not going to be pretty.  I really hope we don’t lose anyone else, but I feel like that’s a strong possibility.  There’s no way they make it out unscathed in that.

But back to this book.  The thunderbirds are an interesting group, and while it’s not surprising they like wide, open spaces, I was still slightly surprised that they don’t like the woods, even in human form.  Staying out of the forest is generally a good idea, because there’s a lot of really terrible stuff that can happen there.  But it makes sense that werecats and thunderbirds don’t really cross paths.

I’m glad Faythe was able to get the evidence she needed to make sure her pride stayed safe from the thunderbirds.  Their punishment was a little scary, but to each their own.  I wouldn’t want to cross them or get on their bad side, that’s for sure.

Though she’s no longer fighting the thunderbirds, she has some things she needs to deal with in her personal life.  Mainly, things got really weird with Jace and Mark, and even though I know things will work out, it’s not going to be easy.  It complicates things, not just for them, but for the pride as well, and there’s no way that Jace and Mark can work together as long as Faythe is around.  Honestly, I’m not sure they could work together even if she weren’t around, but it made things a lot more complicated, that’s for sure.

As usual, Jennifer Van Dyck did a great job at narrating, and I particularly liked how she gave voice to the thunderbirds.  They had a completely different voice than Faythe and the other characters, and it was super easy to tell the difference between the thunderbirds and everyone else.  Honestly, their voice really fit them, and there is something birdlike about their voice.

4 stars.  I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Faythe and her family.  I really hope they get the happy ending they deserve.

Book Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Book: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Published January 2021 by St. Martin’s Press|304 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Mystery/Suspense

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

I really liked The Wife Upstairs!  I’ve really enjoyed her YA books, and I knew I had to read this one!

For a good part of the book, I kept thinking about how this book was like a modern day Jane Eyre.  Then I realized that it’s a Jane Eyre re-telling.  Honestly, it’s a great take on Jane Eyre- Jane is a dog-walker instead of a governess, and Bea is missing/assumed dead, but not really because she won’t stay buried.

There was a touch of mystery/suspense with what happened to Bea and Blanche.  Was it Tripp?  Was it Eddie?  Or was it someone else?  I won’t reveal that here, but it was interesting to see how everything unravels.

The book is mostly narrated by Jane, but we do have Bea take over narrating every once in a while, plus a few chapters from Eddie’s perspective.  It was good to see Bea, since her memory was everywhere.  She’s not what I expected, and neither was Eddie.  I don’t blame Jane for looking over her shoulder, but it seems like things are pretty good.  Jane didn’t have an easy life, but I’m glad things worked out for her in the end.  I hope she finds some peace and happiness, and that she stops looking over her shoulder, wondering if her past will ever catch up with her.

The setting was creepy, though fitting.  It felt suffocating at times, and of course, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened on the night Bea and Blanche were at the lake.  We find out, of course, and the whole time I was reading this book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.  With a neighborhood full of rich people, with gossipy housewives going to what felt like all the fundraisers and planning committees really worked as the cast of characters in this novel.  Honestly, I don’t blame Jane for wanting to fit in, and find home and friends and people who care about her.  But they don’t really seem like her people, and it seemed like she had to be someone she’s not just to fit in.  Also, I thought it was sad that marrying Eddie was the only way they’d truly accept her.

This is completely random but I couldn’t get no body, no crime by Taylor Swift out of my head.  Seriously, it popped into my head every single time I picked up this book.

If this book had a theme song, that one would be my first choice.

Not that I have another choice, at least one that I can come up with on the spot.  But I’m sure there are other songs that would fit the book really well.  And that cover is amazing!  I don’t know why, but I love it, and somehow, it fits the book as well.  I see it differently now that I’ve actually finished the book but either way, it’s still a great cover!

4 stars.  I really enjoyed this book, and thought the setting was both creepy and suffocating.  The mystery was great, and I like the unraveling mystery of what happened to Bea.

Book Review: No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth To Power And Reclaiming America by Symone D Sanders

Book: No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth To Power And Reclaiming America by Symone D. Sanders

Published May 2020 by Harper|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-fiction/Politics/Memoir

In this rousing call to leadership, the self-described millennial spokesperson for the culture, CNN’s designated “woke AF” former commentator, and the youngest national press secretary in the history of the United States shares her take-no-prisoners approach to life, politics, and career success, and shows a new generation how to be loud and powerful in their own right.

Many people—most notably white older men—may try to stop Symone Sanders from speaking up and out. But Symone will NOT shut up. And neither should you. In this inspiring call-to-action, Symone tells stories from her own life of not-shutting-up alongside loud young revolutionaries who came before her to help you find your authentic voice and use it to your advantage; to fight ideological battles more effectively; and to resist those who try to silence you.

We are all gurus, masterminds, artists, entrepreneurs—we are the change agents we have been waiting for. IT IS US. And the time is RIGHT NOW. I know you’re wondering, “But HOW?” And we don’t have all the answers! Symone is the first to admit we’re all winging it in one way or another. But the point is we’re out there doing it. So get started. Open your mouth and start talking. Loudly.

No You Shut Up goes beyond the surplus of “Vote-Or-Die” books we’ve seen before. Because change doesn’t just happen at the ballot box. We need people fighting oppression, injustice, and inequality—in the workplace, on the cultural battlefield, in government, in every corner of the world. With spirited storytelling filtered through a voice that cannot and will not be ignored, Symone inspires you to start now. You don’t need to have all the answers, or wait your turn to help create the change you want to see. All you need is a new toolbox, an unshakable commitment, and the confidence and guidance to wield those tools effectively. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect with No, You Shut Up, but it ended up being an okay read for me.

It’s part memoir, part call-to-action in politics.  I really enjoyed reading about Sanders time in politics, and what it was like to work on Bernie Sander’s campaign, and working as a commentator on CNN.  It was very clear she knew what she wanted, and went for it.  She didn’t have all the answers, but she wants things to change, and she refuses to stay quiet and shut up.  She’s determined, and finds really creative ways to get what she wants.  She doesn’t take no for an answer, she knows how to set boundaries and stick with them, and she asks for what she wants in clear and plain terms.

It’s clear that she believes that we can be better, that who we are is really important, and that we can, and should, have a role in shaping politics and getting involved in things.  Overall, it’s an interesting look at what it’s like to work on a campaign, but I don’t know that I could begin to tell you how to otherwise get involved in politics and change things by something other than voting or working on a campaign.

Personally, I would have liked something a little more concrete than that, but I felt like it was a good look at her own life in politics.  She shared a lot of stories from her own life, and I could tell that she wanted to make a difference and that she knew what she wanted to do.  She got as much experience as she could- she had a lot of internships, worked on different campaigns, and at different organizations, with each one expanding her skill set and getting her closer to what she wanted to do- work in politics.  She didn’t always get the job she wanted, but that didn’t stop her at all, and if anything, she worked harder to get where she wanted to be.

The book felt very conversational, like she was telling me what happened.  It’s a fast read, though I could only manage a chapter or two at a time.  She didn’t get bogged down in details, and it would be easy enough to read in a day or two.

Even though I thought it was okay, I still think it’s worth checking out.  Especially if, after the last four years, you want to be more involved, or want a peek at what it’s like to work in politics, particularly the Democratic party.

2 stars.  This was a book that I thought was okay, but I still liked reading about how Sanders got to where she is today.

Book Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Book: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Published November 2017 by TKA Distribution|372 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Hard Play #1

Genre: Adult Contemporary

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

I liked Cherish Hard, but not as much as her Guild Hunter series or her Psy-Changling series.  I really like those series, and thought I’d give some of her other books a try.  This book seemed like a good starting point, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

I had a hard time with the fact that it takes place in the real world.  New Zealand was a great setting, but after reading two really long series that take place in a more magical/futuristic setting, I had a hard time with present time and real world.  I didn’t feel completely invested in Isa and Sailor’s relationship, though I really felt for Isa and the horrible family she has to deal with.  Honestly, Singh is great at writing horrible parents, but cool siblings and friendships.  But I just wasn’t into the romance in this book, and I’m not sure why.

Sailor was a little too perfect, and somehow managed to have his whole life planned out at the age of 23.  I’m 34, and even now, my life is nowhere close to being planned out the way his life is.  And I get Isa’s insecurities- who wouldn’t be with her mother, and the way she was publicly dumped several years earlier- but there was something a little too sweet and angelic about her.  Something about it seemed off, and they seemed a little more bland than some of the other characters Singh has written.

The book didn’t have a lot of drama, and overall, it was enjoyable.  It didn’t have the drama or tension I was expecting, but then again, I don’t usually read a lot of contemporary romance- historical and paranormal are much more my speed when it comes to romance, so that might be part of why I didn’t love Cherish Hard but still enjoyed it.

It was nice to see a romance where the heroine is older than the hero- it was refreshing to see it, because usually, the guy is older.  I wish we saw this more in romance, but maybe it’s there, and I just haven’t come across one that’s memorable enough to stick with me.  Or come across one at all- either one’s possible.

I don’t know if I’ll keep reading this particular series- I believe the series focuses on a different brother, so I might pick one up.  I also might not pick one up, but I am curious to see if I’ll like any of her contemporaries more.

3 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was enjoyable, and a quick read.  I wasn’t super into the romance, but I did like that Isa was older than Sailor.