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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

...And Never Let Her Go

Ann Rule's ...And Never Let Her Go is Anne Rule at her absolute finest. Let's just get to it, shall we?

Thomas Capano is quite the ladies man. The Delaware lawyer is a powerful man who eats at all the finest restaurants, buys the best for his four daughters, and can't handle not running the lives of his mistresses. He is untouchable in many ways until the day Anne Marie Fahey goes missing. The beautiful young woman, twenty years Tom's junior and a valued employee of the governor, has had a hardscrabble life--and Tom preyed upon that. What happened to Anne Marie? Did she run away--or did something more sinister happen to her the night she tried to break up with Tom Capano for good?

This novel was almost-700 pages of goodness. No really. I love Ann Rule. There is not a single true-crime writer out there that is as scrupulous in her research, meticulous in her writing, and as dedicated to justice as Rule. I watched an episode of Behind Mansion Walls (yes, sometimes I watch super junk TV) that featured this story and after reading this book, so much was missing that told a far more sinister and creepy story. Down to the last detail, Rule gives us the whole story with sympathy for those who deserve it and scorn for those who don't.

Ok, now the story. I loved Anne Marie and I felt she was my friend by the time I got halfway though this book and she disappeared. I wanted her to confide in me so I could tell her that Tom was using her insecurities to keep her around. I would tell her to knock off the emails and that he was using them to stay close. I would tell her that under no circumstances should she agree to see him and that she should just tell him to go away. She obviously wouldn't listen to me, because in order for this book to happen she had to make those choices. Off she goes to dinner with Tom Capano and there she goes, disappearing. DAMNIT, ANNE MARIE.

This book is an actual page-turner. I had a hard time sleeping because I wanted to know what was going to happen. The amazing part of this is that I knew what was going to happen because you can find it on the internet because it's a true story. And I still wanted to finish the book at a break-neck speed. What does that tell you about the book? Or possibly what a great storyteller Ann Rule is? Probably that both are great. Get the book.

Hard copy for purchase below. Purchase it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Rosie Effect: A Novel

Oh my goodness, do you remember how much I loved Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project? Well hold on to your hats, because here is the next chapter in the story.

Rosie and Don have been married for ten months, and they find themselves in New York City while Rosie finishes her PhD and begins medical school while Don serves as a visiting professor. Their lives are in for a change, though--Rosie gets herself pregnant. Don isn't quite sure what to do, as he has never contemplated raising a small human before. As he goes about doing his research, his inept human communication skills find a way to create a wedge between him and his perfect woman, and when his best friend suddenly shows up from Australia, all hell breaks loose. Can Don save his marriage, his child, and prove he is worthy of fatherhood?

I love Don Tillman. I do. I will read any of his stories as long as Simsion wants to write them. He is such an honest and straightforward character, that anything having to do with his life is one part hilarious and two parts misanthropy. He honestly does his best, and even when he and Rosie are on the outs I only want them to be together. I realize that Rosie's hormones were out of control, but Don is just to Don and he only knows how to be him. Affable, ridiculous, straightforward Don.

I found myself guffawing aloud during many parts of this book. I saw the arrest coming (which one, is really the question!), but the thing about Don Tillman is you can see it coming and he can't. That's what makes it so entertaining and also so face-palming at the same time. He is so genuinely earnest in everything he does that it just makes me want to reach through the pages and give him a big hug and thank him for trying.

I couldn't recommend this pair of books more highly. It's not at all a wonder why the original was so successful, and I do hope that this sequel finds just as much success. It's rare that a follow up is just as entertaining and lovable as the original, and Simsion has achieved this by leaps and bounds. I hope there's a third coming in a reasonable amount of time, because I can't wait to watch Don raise his child and see all if the insanity that comes with it.

For purchase below.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Last Magazine: A Novel

The Last Magazine, by Michael Hastings, caught my attention when I heard that Mr. Hastings, a prolific journalist, sadly passed away before the publication of his first and only novel.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, genocide is ruling the Middle East, and all the managing editors at The Magazine want from their ace correspondent are stories on mobile phone markets. What was once the most influential source of news for the nation has now resorted to stories that please the masses. Michael Hastings, a young intern at the magazine, wants to be a star journalist, but he must choose between the reporter who will stop at nothing to reveal the truth and the editors of The Magazine that could break Hastings into the field.

We all remember what it's like to be an intern. You had that one co-worker you looked up to every day, wanting to emulate. You loved your place of business and wanted to be there early and stay late and work there forever. You were smitten. No one could do ill. (Then you started actually working and were all like, What the hell was I thinking?) Young Michael Hastings is just like that. You can feel his love of the publication, his admiration for everyone there, forgetting that everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time. I will talk about all the things I loved about this book, but really, it was the harking back to my intern days that really held on to me throughout this book.

I also loved the honest-to-goodness snark of this novel. It was no-holds-barred, flat out, in your face honesty told with sardonic wit. Michael Hastings wrote about a fictional character named Michael Hastings that is in no way shape or form supposed to be him, because of course he would never spill the secrets of his own journalistic past (wink, wink). It is so very meta and worth the time spent reading it. I love an insider's look at just about every industry, because after we step aside and move away from the glamor and the glitz of journalism's heyday, the truth is that behind the business there are people. People who make decisions that are maybe not the best for everyone involved, but at the end of the day, we all have to make the decisions that we feel are best for ourselves, our jobs, and our employees. Regardless of the cost.

Cheers, eh?

For purchase below.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If I Stay

Of course I finally got around to picking up one of the hottest YA novels of all time, just as the movie is released. This is Gayle Forman's If I Stay

Mia and her family are in a car accident one morning. As she stands outside of the car feeling perfectly fine, she sees herself in the twisted wreckage--and realizes that her spirit is outside of her body. She watches herself being taken to the hospital, clinging to life. As her grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and loved ones shuffle in and out of the ICU, she overhears a nurse tell one of them that it is up to Mia whether she goes or she stays. That is a lot for a young girl who will suffer so greatly if she stays, yet will break the hearts of those she loves if she goes.

Welp, I would venture to say that the hype surrounding this book is well deserved. I got a wee bit choked up at the end. I mean, it was emotional, guys! There is also a good bit I'm not telling you in the synopsis, as it is vital to the story and even though you find it out early on, giving it away would take away the impact.

I can't imagine having to choose to go or to stay. Mia goes through the whole rundown of her life--the good times with her parents and little brother, Teddy; learning to play the cello and discover she was quite good at it; meeting and falling in love with her boyfriend, Adam; what the future may hold. There is no right choice for Mia, and that is where the crux of the story lies. She will face immense pain, both physical and emotional, if she stays. She can't do it just for those she loves--she also has to do it for herself. It is a huge decision, and the book is written so that I understood what was at stake. Forman has a great hand for telling the story from a young woman's point of view while not being at all pedantic. The wistfulness of Mia's predicament and the love so many have for her comes across so clearly.

All in all, I am happy I picked up this book and lost myself in it for a couple of days. It was worth my emotional energy and took me outside of myself for a bit. I look forward to passing it on to a few younger readers in my life.

For purchase below.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Perfect Mother: A Novel

I love true crime, and so a book even remotely based off of a true crime story grips me. This is Nina Darnton's The Perfect Mother

Emma has it all--the best education, a loving family, and a privileged life in small-town Connecticut. Jennifer, her mother, lives through her daughter, and when she receives a middle-of-the-night phone call that her daughter is in trouble while studying abroad in Spain, she runs to prove her innocence. Only nothing is really as it seems; Emma, her perfect, smart, lovely daughter, is accused of murder. Is it even possible that she could be involved, or is at she says--the murdered by was trying to rape her and a stranger burst in and stabbed him?

So this is very loosely based in the Amanda Knox genre of "lovely co-ed studies abroad and gets mixed up in murder and she may not be innocent" genre. I initially picked it up because I find the premise really interesting, and I was rewarded with a novel that looked at things from a different perspective. This is Jennifer's book. It's about the mother of co-ed and not the co-ed, which is what sets this book apart in the genre. What is Jennifer to do? She is one of those women who has given up everything for her children--career, friends, and even her own identity--and she is facing the ultimate in blows.

Now for what drove me to give this book three stars on Goodreads. By a third of the way through this book, I despised Jennifer. Not as in "the character was so well written I hated her and couldn't get enough." No, it was that I hate whiny women who live in a woe-is-me world and choose to be willfully naive, which is how I read Jennifer by that point. There were other places in the book as it went on that the feeling lessened, but overall I had had enough of the protesting mother insisting that her precious baby had to be innocent. Now, let's be clear--the title of the book is The Perfect Mother, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the character is based in what we as a society views as a perfect mother, but I would have liked to see more of a character arc of her realizing that her daughter is not innocent, not in the least. Even as we find out more and more about what a heinous person Emma is, her mother keeps insisting that she is an angel. Not seeking out the good or learning to accept it, mind you--willful denial. That's what drove me bonkers, and frankly, it made Jennifer into a two-dimensional character.

The story as a whole, though, was interesting, and I hung on until the end in order to find out if the truth was ever revealed. It was, and it was exactly what I thought it would be. It's just disappointing that I didn't get more from Jennifer. I really liked the husband, Mark, and the secondary characters as well. (Frankly, including the paparazzi.)

For purchase below.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rhymes and Doodles from a Wind-Up Toy

Children's Book Week is coming to a close! Time flies, you guys. I am ending this week with a book I picked up at Book Expo America thinking it would be perfect for the smallest humans in my life. This is Martha Sears West's Rhymes and Doodles from a Wind-Up Toy.

Filled with poems that tell stories and others that just play with words, this children's book is for the lover of words. The illustrations are charming and lovely, and the layout is just so nice. I would absolutely purchase this book for any one of my sweet and pregnant friends (because there are a lot of them!), and I plan on doing just that for an upcoming shower.

It's not secret that I love words, and I love playing with words. This was a delightful addition to my children's book bookshelf.

For purchase below. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life

Well, today I thought I would focus on the original. I had not read the first book in the Captain No Beard series, so I picked it up for Children's Book Week. This is Carole P. Roman's Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life.

Captain No Beard is off! He sets sail on his brand new ship with his first mate Hallie and the other ruffians he surrounds himself with. Soon on their journey they find themselves in the middle of a storm, and thankfully they all make it through--before finding themselves a mermaid! But can they find the treasure they seek?

I am so glad I went back to the original. I found out why Captain No Beard named his ship The Flying Dragon (it sounded scary), that he doesn't really know what he's doing (what does "shiver me timbers" mean?), and that being a captain is hard work. They are a motley crew for sure, but they are a cute one. They dream big, and they win big, and I think it is a lovely and fun story for the kids in my life. The ending is particularly surprising, a bit unexpected while still being right on point, and I loved it

For purchase below. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in...Norway, Russia, and South Korea

It's back to my absolute favorites by Carole P. Roman! 

Today we start with Norway, which I think just has the absolute cutest Norwegians on the cover, don't you? I mean, look at the boots with the fur on that little girl. I LOVE BOOTS ON CHILDREN. 

So, prior to reading this book I had no idea that the coolest place on earth is in Norway, called the Kirkenes Snowhotel. It's completly made out of snow and ice, and you can see the norther lights from there. I want to go right now. 

I would also like to point out that Norway really likes parades, and I really like parades, so clearly this is the place for me. 

I must admit that I don't know a whole lot about South Korea, so it was super cool to get my hands on this book and learn more. 

Well, that's only partially true. I love Korean barbeque, which was discussed in this book. In fact, I just had bulgogi with kimchi last weekend and it was to die for. I was in stitches seeing it referenced here in Roman's book. I was surprised to see how similar our restaurants here in New York City are to what I saw in Roman's illustration. How delightful!

Finally, we end with Russia. LOOK AT THE FUR HAT ON THE KIDS! As much as I don't adore freezing hold weather, I do appreciate a good hat. Now, that's not enough to get me to move to Russia because it's monster cold there, but it sure is cute on the kiddos. 

Believe it or not, the other day I was debating with someone whether or not Russia was considered Asia or Europe. Believe it or not, this book settled it. Russia is in Northern Eurasia. Not confusing at all, Russia

One thing I would like to do one day is visit the Red Square. A good, long page of Roman's book is dedicated to it, and it looks positively lovely and someplace I would like to see one day. 

I just love these books, which you have seen before. (Here, here, and here.) I am also loving watching these books evolve and visit more and more countries. A dear friend of mine has requested Saudi Arabia where she currently lives and teaches. Any other suggestions, folks?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Captain No Beard Stories: The Treasure of Snake Island and Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience

We continue on with children's book week with more Carole P. Roman. I'm a fan, and I intend to make you one, too. Along with her If You Were Me and Live In... series, she also has a series featuring Captain No Beard. He's a young lad who happens to be captain of his own band of ruffians made up of a monkey, a lion, a parrot,  a girl, and a frog among others. Their boat is called The Flying Dragon, and they always get into a spot of trouble like all small humans. These books are positively delightful, and worth getting for your own small human.

The Treasure of Snake Island finds the crew in the midst of an awful storm. When they reach land and find the treasure chest they are searching for, they find it is full of the best treasure they could ever ask for.

Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience is an exploration of (you guessed it!) patience. Pepper is new to The Flying Dragon crew and gets very frustrated very easily. Unfortunately, this manifests itself in temper tantrums. Hallie, Captain No Beard's first mate, has to explain to Pepper that there are better ways to handle the situation. Everyone learns to have just a little more patience.

I am just going to list all of the things I love about these books. The illustrations. The length. The moral of the story. Using pirates to explain these moral lessons and having the crew be made up of fun animals who talk and are anthropomorphic in their own right. The bright colors and the clearly printed words. I love these books for the small humans in my life, and I am actually going to give these two to a specific one I have in mind. 

For purchase below. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Carol Roman's If You Were Me and Lived In... Turkey, India, and France

It's children's book week again on the blog! Always one of my favorite weeks of the year. We are spending a lot of time with some of my favorite authors this week, too. 

I have gushed about Carol Roman's books before here and here, but they really truly are some of my most favorite. Every time a new one comes out I have to get it. I was beyond thrilled to get a package with some new, amazing countries included.

{Squee!}

Today I chose to do Turkey and India together because they are both in Western Asia, and I thew in France because France goes with everything. Right? 

The first country today is Turkey, which is a dream destination for me. It turns out even I am learning a ton from these books. I didn't know the capital of Turkey--it turns out it is Ankara--and I didn't know that Istanbul, which is the second largest city in the world, actually sits on two continents (Asia and Europe). I have only passed through the airport in Istanbul, so I now I need to hurry back. And take this book.

Then there is India. Can I talk for a minute about how much I love these book covers also? I really love the representation of the two children dressed in clothing traditional to their country with the country they are representing highlighted.

Back to India. I did know it was the second most populated country in the world, but I did not know that the capital, New Delhi, was built on the site of seven ancient cities. Go Carol Roman for that awesome fact! I knew that cricket was a big game in India, but I didn't know about the celebration of Holi.

Then there was France. I was just there this summer on a wine tour, so I am a bit partial.

There was a good bit I knew in this book having been there and all, but it was so nice to read about and feel like I was there again. Paying in Euros for my bread in the boulangerie, ordering crepes, visiting the Eiffel Tower, celebrating Bastille Day--it's all what makes France the lovely country that it is. (Also the food and the wine. Did you know Milka sells chocolate bars specifically for making a chocolate sandwich on a baguette? That's what I call amazing.)

What I love about these books in general is that they give forth such basic information in a fascinating way. There is information on school (ecole in France!), on traditional names for both boys and girls (Ismet for girls in Turkey!), and transportation information (rickshaw taxis in India!). There is a pronunciation page in the back of each book that spells things out phonetically for older children and parents. The illustrations--oh, the illustrations! I love these books, and will have more countries coming for you later this week.

All for purchase below. Great holiday gifts!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Rookie Bookie: A Novel for Middle Grades

A good middle-grade book is sometimes all you need for nice fall day reading outdoors, know what I'm sayin'? This is The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz.

Mitch has always been a bit of an outcast. He was at his last school in California and he is now in his new school in the Midwest. He knows that he annoys people, but he really does know a lot! When he decides to set up a gambling ring in his middle school with his best friend (whom he would like you to know very emphatically that he does not have a crush on her even though she is really super cool [and pretty]), he becomes popular. But how fleeting fame can be--mess with the wrong person and you will get burned.

I found this book to be positively lovely and engaging. Giggles came from my gut repeatedly because this story was clever and the writing was engaging, and I found myself completely relating to Mitch feeling like an outcast and wanting to fit in so badly and his desire to use his smarts because really, who doesn't at 11 years old? We have all been there. Unless you are 11 years old yourself--why are you reading this blog?

It taught some great lessons, all the way from how gambling works (you don't think it's charity, right?) to marketing your art work, from how to get along with others to how to find the good in people you may overlook every day. The lesson of how to apply what you know in a constructive manner is probably one of the most important lessons from this book, as Mitch had to do when his gambling ring was busted (no, not a spoiler--you knew this would happen, people!) and he became Mr. Not-So-Popular again. Lessons to be learned, folks. Get this book for your middle grade reader. I am really looking forward to passing it on to a few I know.

Hard copy below:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Song for Issy Bradley: A Novel

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray hooked me with the promise of Mormons, and kept me around with a glorious tale of a family in crisis.

Issy Bradley has only just started school, and the day she dies is her brother's birthday. Her family, devout Mormons, struggles with her death in different ways. Her older sister, Zippy, begins to run the household while her oldest brother, Alma, rebels against his faith. Jacob, the closest to her in age, believes she will be resurrected just as Issy's goldfish was. Her father, Ian, remains steadfast and truth-seeking as he serves others. Her mother, Claire, is the most devastated of all. She seeks solace in her faith yet can't find it (either solace or her faith). 

This book was devastatingly lovely. It was one of those stories that is not chock full of action or crazy happenings, but instead relies on the human emotions and relations that make up our every day. Watching a family that desires to be faithful and wants to believe that they will see their beloved Issy for eternity made their struggle honest and real. It didn't matter whether or not it's true, but it's the grounding of their faith and desperate clinging to it, or running away from it, that makes this family one to understand. 

Bray treated her characters with such respect, and they came off as so realistically human even when they were doing things that I would consider absurd, such as the fake wedding ceremony for young teen age girls. That may have been my favorite point of the novel, with its biting remarks from one of the sister's about Zippy's mother being a convert and the young minds wrestling with sinning. I remember being similar to Zippy as a young teen, seeing life and religion in black and white, not quite understanding the Adam's of the world, who may not believe and don't want to follow down a prescribed path. It was a beautiful chapter, and the whole book was this way. Moments that push these characters into the realm of what it means to be human, to love and to support and to grieve and to be.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Science Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained

What a week of knowledge, huh? Today I am talking about another book in DK's Big Ideas Simply Explained series, The Science Book. Yes, I'm still in love.

Talk about some big ideas--if you want to know the history of science, this is your gem. Starting with ancient history (the Greeks and other thoughtfuls) and moving into what is dubbed the "Scientific Revolution" (with such luminaries as Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton), any reader can grasp a strong basis for what we understand today. Next up comes 18th and 19th centuries (Ben Franklin and Proust in the former; Doppler, Darwin, Pasteur, and Curie in the latter) followed by the early 20th century (Einstein, Turing, and Oppenheimer). We end with mid-century to present, focusing on such big ideas as put forth by Steven Hawking. It is a sprawling book that illuminates big ideas that drive what we know and understand today, whether you are a scientist or not.

This was the book that first made me fall hard for the series. I picked it up at Book Expo America in May and I went over to the DK booth to absolutely gush about it. Hard science has never really been my thing, mostly because it was always hard for me to wrap my mind around the ideas. I wish I had had a handy guide such as thing while in school (the first time around); I may have been able to get a basic understanding enough to guide me. The first thing I read about was Schrodinger, as his cat paradox is referenced often and I still don't entirely get it. After reading his whole section, I was finally able to understand what is meant when someone references Schrodinger's cat.

I look forward to collecting all of the books in the series (philosophy, economics, politics), as they are amazing reference tools and help those of us who aren't experts in the field grasp on to concepts enough to have slightly intelligent conversations at dinner parties and such. Also, these make superb holiday gifts, which is why I chose to do my posts on them over the holiday week. Pick these up for the budding intellect in your life--they will be happily surprised this holiday season. (They will also be kept busy all day reading!)

For purchase below--just in time for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Heads Up Psychology

Along with Monday's The Psychology Book, I also got my hands on the young people's version of the same, Heads Up Psychology. Talk about WOW.

This book starts off with chapters that explain what psychology is, what psychologists do, and what research methods are. I'm serious. I think that is what grabbed me so much. I spend a good deal of time at the beginning of each semester trying to explain this all to my students, and it is all just right there. It's really an incredible and easy read. This book is written for the non-psychologist, and the clarity and ease of this book is what keeps me from recommending it just to young adults. This book is for everyone to use and understand. 

I also am blown away by the organization of this book, and it is one of the selling points in using it in my educational psychology classes. Each section covers a different field of psychology, all of which inform my own field. It is organized in the most amazing way, and I am going to just keep gushing about it. Social psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, biological psychology--it is all there for the taking with interesting headings that grab even me. Theorists are broken down so that their theories are related to every day life, and the writing is interesting. Even I was riveted, and I already know this stuff. Really. Just madly in love. 

The graphics. OH MY GOODNESS, THE GRAPHICS. They support and explicate the information in the text, and at times the page seems crowded, but overall it's something I can ignore enough to put this book on my required reading list. I want my students, and everyone really, to understand this field and know how to apply this information (which can be, frankly, overwhelming and daunting for the average reader), and this book is what I wish I could have written myself. I. Love. It. 

For purchase for your young one below.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained

I am about to talk to you about one of the greatest series of books I have ever encountered. I came across a book I will review on Friday, The Science Book, at BEA this year, and I fell madly in love with it. It is important to me to find books that are clear, easy to understand, and break down concepts for the everyday reader. I loved that book so much I requested a copy of two more in the series, and this holiday week I am going to gush about them thoroughly. Today is The Psychology Book

I am going to skip my usual recap because this book could be read cover to cover, but it is also an incredible resource for psychology in general. We all know how sensitive I am to psychological content being misrepresented, so I was floored when this book arrived on my doorstep and I cracked it open. I read it with my jaw on the floor--it was gorgeous, first of all, but it was also so clear. Of course it can't encompass every single thing about every single theorist (the book is already a nice size!), and I was impressed at how it took the big ideas and synthesized them for a non-psychologist audience. 

It starts with this philosophical roots of psychology (Kierkegaard, Descartes, G. Stanley Hall, etc.), then moves into Behaviorism, which is both easy and difficult to understand. Thorndike, Pavlov, Skinner, and their ilk are one of the hardest things for me to teach, and I appreciate how this book drilled it down so that the big ideas came out. We then move into psychosexual theories (Freud, Jung, etc.) and then into my love, cognitive psychology, with such luminaries as Bruner, Seligman, and Kahneman. Then follows social psychology (think Asch, Milgram, Zimbardo), which I love but have always needed something that boils it down for increased understanding. We then hit my other love, developmental psych, with Piaget, Vygotsky, Bandura, and Baron-Cohen. We end with psychology of difference. 

I love the broad range of topics that are covered, and I also adore that this book focuses on bringing big ideas from specific psychologists to life. A lot of these ideas are very hard to grasp in full, and this overview is excellent. It's a great resource for my students, and I recommend this book often to students looking for either an additional reference or for more information on topics we cover in class. There is a handy glossary and the table of contents makes the book so easy to use. It looks gorgeous on my shelf and makes an excellent addition to my library. In fact, it's a lot nicer looking than any other psych text I own! I am beyond thrilled with this book, and I could not recommend it more for any reason whatsoever--whether it be general interest or an addition to your library. (In fact, I have already been so vocal about recommending it that my fellow psychologist roommate bought her own copy and was also blown away.)

For purchase below! Get a copy for someone for the upcoming holiday season!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything

I love Barbara Ehrenreich's work, so when I found out she put out a new book, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything, I scooped it up.

As an adult about to submit her papers for archiving at a university library, Barbara reviews her journal that she kept as an adolescent. It records a series of mystical experiences that happened to the young atheist, forcing her to examine whether there was something wrong with her or if a higher power was affecting her. The journey leads her to push through discoveries in many areas of her life--a journey of self-discovery, intellectual ability, and personal determination.

I really do adore Ehrenreich and her work as a journalist; I think she is one of the most deep-cutting and insightful writers I have found who doesn't hold back. If you haven't yet read Nickled and Dimed, run and read that then come back here and finish this post. It will stun the pants off of you while making you a little bit of a better person for understanding some harsh realities behind our minimum wage culture from someone who voluntarily lived it. That, however, is not this book, which is a tour de force in and of itself. Ehrenreich turns her critical eye inward to explore her experience and to view it from sharp hindsight.

This is classic Ehrenreich: intelligent and penetrating while never being pedantic or assuming she can't trust her audience. She is on a literary journey that she kindly shares with us, her readers. She lays her experience bare on the table and examines it critically in order to get a good grip on what happened. Hindsight is 20/20 as we all know, but there are sometimes occurrences that can't be explained to easily. They require more insight and responsibility, and this treatise is one of those. It was also incredible to watch Ehrenreich explore her identity through her childhood and her college years; as we move through early adulthood in this book we get a strong sense of who Barbara is and what drove her life choices.

This is a memoir of sorts, but a very specific kind. It is one that asks you as the reader to examine what it is you believe, and to reconcile it with her experiences in order to find a deeper meaning. That, my friends, is why I will always pick up a Barbara Ehrenreich book. She makes me smarter by her thoughtfulness and her literary care.

Hard copy for purchase below:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Am Pilgrim: A Novel

I have some insanely crazy news--this here marks 500 posts. You read that number right. Isn't that crazy? I owe a big thank you to all of you, my readers, who come back again and again. I considered doing a "Best Of" post today, but instead I decided to do my thing and give you a book post. The book I have chosen, which I read this summer and have been sitting on the review, is the best I have ever read. Hands down. I was about a third of the way through when I announced to my family (we were on vacation): This is the best book I have ever read. Needless to say, the other two-thirds just confirmed it. Ladies and jellybeans--Sassy Peach Reads' 500th post. xx

One of the hottest books earlier this summer was Terry Hayes's I Am Pilgrim. Seriously. At BEA I asked around for the best book to grab, and it was consistently this one. I happened to miss the signing. I died a little inside. Then I just happened to be by the publisher's booth as they were giving out the last few copies. I grabbed one like a starving child eyeing a peanut butter sandwich.

He has been all over the world and solved crimes you never knew happened. He wrote the book on forensics--literally. He is the world's best trained operative, and he has no name. In fact, he doesn't even exist. That is, until he becomes code name Pilgrim and is sent by the President of the United States to figure out how to stop the greatest threat to American existence, a plot decades in the making. While he is at it, he should also solve the murder of a young woman found in a seedy, downtown NYC hotel room with no face, no fingerprints, and no name--all points taken from his book. How it all comes together will be enough to make you want to join the CIA yourself.

Yeah, it sounds like a super complicated plot, and it most definitely is. Only I didn't care when I was reading it. I was so face-planted in the book that I would have followed it anywhere. I was on vacation with my family and I ignored movies playing in the background and my mother talking to me. None of that mattered. I only wanted to find out where this was going next. I have also never been so patient with a book. This was one where I just had a gut feeling it was going to be spectacular based on the first few chapters. Hayes had my hook, line, and sinker with the opening chapter, the murder of the young woman in NYC so bizarre it was real.

The truth is that Hayes had me the whole time. He created compelling characters that were human and superhuman all at the same time; while in reality they may not have been super realistic, they come up off the page as fully-formed and ready to rumble. This book would make one hell of a miniseries, but I hope that no one is going to turn it in to a movie, because there is so much nuance and detail that it is mind-blowing. My mom peeked over my shoulder in the car (because yes, I read this book everywhere!) during one particularly gruesome scene and now all she can talk about it the-book-about-that-scene. (I won't actually say what it is because it is so shocking that it would absolutely ruin that small section--and I want nothing ruined for you about this book.) I was entranced by Pilgrim, obsessed with the Saracen, and I was only able to put this book down because I knew I was in it for the long haul.

This book is absolutely brilliant. Beyond amazing. This is the book that I will read again because I want to learn something new about it. The story was spellbinding, and the way that Hayes was able to weave together two such disparate plots, and then bring them back together again, was mesmerizing. This book took me all over the world, and I made Pilgrim's decisions with him and cheered when he had good luck. I would recommend this book over and over and over again with no qualms about my unabashed love for it. Hayes is incredible, and I anxiously await his next novel.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The New "I Do": Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels

I have always gone back and forth on wanting to get married, and that's one of the reasons I choose singledom. This is repeated in the book, but my thing has always been that I wouldn't mind getting married, I just don't want to be anyone's wife. So I was quick to grab up Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson's The New "I Do": Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels.

Does traditional marriage make sense today? The part where two people fall in love and commit their lives to each other and sign a license to be wed and promise 'til death do us part in front of family and friends. What if we took marriage and turned it into what we want it to look like? This means that if we view parenting as the most important part of our lives, why don't we find marriages that support co-parenting? If we want a long-term companion, why wouldn't we seek that out instead of searching for passion? If we want to marry someone whom we love but aren't attracted to, why wouldn't we have an open marriage? These and other questions lay the foundation for closely examining what marriage is, and what it should look like as the 21st century barrels forward.

It took me a bit to buy into the argument, but as soon as the authors made it clear that marriage is a contract that is submitted to the government, they had me. This is always how I have seen marriage--it's a long-term contract that can be broken at any time. Friends have gotten on me about having divorce in mind when I marry, and my counter arguments have always run along the lines of: I'm not sure long-term monogamy is a thing for every person (or even most people); like it or not, divorce is a reality for half of the people who enter into it; and I wouldn't want to marry anyone I couldn't be divorced from. What I mean by that last statement is, I wouldn't want to be with someone whom I believed would go through the process being overwhelmingly douchey. Hence, when I pick a mate, I will pick someone who can fight fair.

(As you can guess, this will be a bit more of a reflective post than most.)

I have been very lucky, being in my early 30's, to have watched my friends get married and make their marriages work--or not. I have been able to sit back with my glass(es) of wine and indulge in a fantasy of what I want and what I don't. Now, this being said, I prefer to remain single, hence why I have effectively stopped dating and am getting a PhD. I still saw myself stuck prominently in the middle of this book--after everything I have seen, I realize how little I believe in love as we know it--the tingly butterflies, knots in the stomach, crazy passion that comes with the first couple of years in a relationship. As you can see, that clearly hasn't worked me. Hell, the last "relationship" I had (and I use that term loosely) ended because I was sure he was cheating on me--which he was, but he was also cheating with me, on his fiance. [You read that right the first time. It appears that even smart, savvy women can have the wool pulled over their eyes and, admittedly, ignore the glaring red, glowing signs.]

So it was really wonderful to read a book that gave me options, but most of all, that I found a chapter (and a marriage) I can relate to--the Companionship Marriage. I have always said that I am pragmatic about marriage, and that all in all, it is a contract you sign and submit to the government for advantages in return. That being said, I view marriage as much more about long-term commitment and an agreement that we are going to swim forward together--which may mean one may move ahead of the other at times, but ultimately, we will arrive at the same destination. I have said many times, jokingly of course (but maybe not), that I am looking for the person I hate the least. Because if I can find someone I like hanging out with as much as I like being alone, it might be worth it.

I also would absolutely, positively consider the Living Alone Together marriage. The most successful relationships I have had have been long-distance for a significant period of time. This kind of relationship works best for super busy, incredibly independent people. (I don't know anyone like that who writes for this blog.) I agree with several people interviewed for that chapter that if you aren't dealing with the day-to-day of taking the trash out, making the bed, ordering light bulbs, etc., then you can focus on the enjoyment of being together. I have found that has been very true for my life. Perhaps I can find me a nice Californian tech-magnate who can afford to fly back and forth on a weekly basis? Any takers?

All of this to say that I found the book to be more insightful than I was expecting, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, married or not. I appreciate that it gives the reader permission to have exactly the kind of relationship they want, whether or not that be actual marriage or some variation on a theme. Why shouldn't we be allowed to make our lives what we want?

For purchase below.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bellweather Rhapsody: A Novel

I can't quite remember who recommended Kate Racculia's Bellweather Rhapsody to me, but I sure am glad whomever it is did. 

It's all-state time for the talented music students in the northeast. Everyone gathers at the Bellweather, an old estate hotel off the beaten path. It was once glorious and is now what we would call "shabby chic." The weekend is off to a rough start and only gets rougher when one prodigy goes missing, another is dead-set on finding her, and a witness to a murder/suicide in the hotel fifteen years prior somehow ends up tangled in the mix. It only gets better when a snowstorm traps everyone.

This book was positively lovely and I had such a deep and fun time with it. I absolutely loved the prologue, as it grabbed me immediately and made me buy in and hang around. I love an intriguing murder/suicide to kick off a book. It's true.

I particularly thought that the characters made this book what it was. Remember being a band geek? I do. I played French horn like a rock star...you know, if rock stars had French horns in their bands. Whatevs. It was so much fun to read about those yearly band geek get-togethers where everyone is the best in their school, then comes together to battle it out. Only this story was so much more. Rabbit and Alice, twins who are both selected for the honor of attending, couldn't be more different. Rabbit is shy and studious and ready to come out of the closet, while his sister is loud and dramatic and going to be a star. Alice befriends Jill, a flute prodigy, who ends up disappearing from the very same room the murder/suicide occurred in fifteen years earlier. Then the young girl who witnessed that tragedy shows up as a super messed up adult and teams up with Alice to find the truth of Jill's possible suicide/murder/kidnapping/disappearance. Sound crazy? It's way more fun than crazy.

All in all, I found the story to be twisty without being twisted, and the characters to be eccentric while still being honest. I wanted to punch Violet Fabian in the face for being so obnoxious to everyone she comes across, including her own daughter Jill, and I wanted to watch Natalie and Fisher drive off into the sunset. No idea what I'm talking about? Then go get the book, silly.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Forgetting to be Afraid: A Memoir

I find Wendy Davis to be fascinating. I watched with utter and complete fascination when she filibustered, and I was watching the Texas gubernatorial race closely. Therefore, I requested to review Forgetting to be Afraid as soon as it was available. And here we are.

You may best know Wendy Davis from that fateful day in 2013 when she filibustered the Texas congress to stop a vote on an abortion bill that would effectively outlaw the procedure in the state of Texas. Regardless of how you feel about this bill, Davis's story starts long before that day and is the story of a woman fighting to be the best she could be. From a young doomed marriage that produced her beloved oldest daughter to graduating from Harvard Law School, Davis has never stopped pushing to do what she believes in.

This was an incredibly fascinating memoir, a lot of which surprised me. Usually memoirs get bogged down in the details of life as a child, which is not something I am terribly interested in, but Davis kept those chapters short and sweet to get to the meat of the middle of the book, which was her struggle to go back to junior college and then on to a four-year university. It was the moment she realized that she could be a lawyer, not just a paralegal, that was the turning point in her life. I have an immense amount of respect for a woman who, in her mid-20's and a single mother, was willing to say to herself that she could go to school for another seven years if she put her mind to it. That's a huge commitment, and a scary one. It's that kind of grit that made her the woman she is today.

Following her second marriage to the father of her youngest daughter, Davis spends a short amount of time on the two children she lost due to genetic health issues, both of whom she and her husband wanted to desperately. Her experience in having to choose to stop the suffering of her unborn children is very moving and one that I hope to never have myself. It's a moving point in the book, and while Davis does not spend a great deal of time in those moments, they are enough to know the great effect these had on her future political career.

The book then takes us through her initial run for city council through her time in the Texas legislature, and then into her historic filibuster that moved me. Leaving aside the reasons for the filibuster as to keep politics out of this, I admire a person who is so adamant in her convictions to serve his or her constituents. It's a passion that I find missing in many areas of politics, so to turn on the live stream of that June evening, I was moved to tears to watch something so profound happening. Fighting for the rights of others, no matter what side you are on, is a right and a privilege, and having the opportunity to hear about Davis's thoughts on that day from her own perspective was worth reading the book.

 Hard copy for purchase below.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Year After Henry: A Novel

I thoroughly enjoyed Cathie Pelletier's first book, so I jumped on the opportunity to read her latest, A Year After Henry.

Henry died unexpectedly early one morning at the age of 41. He left behind a wife who was about to leave him after finding out about his affair with the local bartender; an older brother who always lived in Henry's shadow and still does, even a year after his death; a former mistress who moved on long before Henry died; a son who is struggling with who he is in the midst of all the emotional turmoil; and a small town who loved the larger-than-life man. As the one year anniversary approaches that will see a memorial service for Henry, everyone deals with grief in their own idiosyncratic ways.

Pelletier has this way of writing her characters as full manifestations of who they are. I read her books and I immediately feel as though I live in small-town New England and know all of my neighbors, all of whom just happen to be written about in this book. It's incredible, really, how deeply I feel I know the characters in her book, and that is a direct result of Pelletier's hand in the work. This being the second book of hers I have indulged in, I feel I can say with certainty that I really, really, really like her.

I have to say that I felt the most connected with Jeannie, Henry's widow in this book. I absolutely loved Henry's brother as well, but it was Jeannie that I felt was the most compelling character in this book. Her simple yet so deeply complicated relationship with her husband was enough to grab me. Jeannie found out about the affair much before Henry's death and was collecting evidence to divorce him in one fell swoop. He died right before she was planning on confronting him. She feels betrayed by his affair yet angry at Henry's seeming indifference to his health before he died. She still loves him, despite the pain and the betrayal, but she would kill him if he were alive now. She cares about Henry's family, but they drive her nuts. Trying to hold together her own immediate family is enough to drive anyone batty, but she does it. Watching Jeannie move through her own grief was beautiful.

Everything else in this novel was really pitch-perfect, and it was well worth the read. It also fit my mood as of late, which is a bit nostalgic and desirous of a simpler life. I could get that in their town. Perhaps I will move there?

Hard copy for purchase below.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We Should All Be Feminists

Just look at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists. It's a title that is basically calling your name. No matter your gender.

Is "feminism" such a nasty word? Should we be afraid to call ourselves feminists? What does it actually mean to be one? It's not exclusively a club for man-hating, cargo-pant-wearing, un-patriotic women. Although they are welcome to be feminists, too. Feminism is about inclusion and being on equal footing with one another--it's about being acknowledged and respected for being a human being. So in that vein, we should all be feminists.

I loved this treatise. This was originally Adichie's TEDx talk on the very same subject, and it is well worth watching and reading. It is an impassioned plea to view feminism as a vital part of being human, and being recognized as a fellow person. One night in Nigeria, she gives a man a tip for helping her park her car. After pulling the money from her purse and handing it the man, he turns to Adichie's male companion and thanks him for the very tip Adichie handed to him. Why? Because of the assumption that her money couldn't possibly be anything other than that of the man she is with. Why didn't her male friend speak up and say that the tip wasn't from him? For reasons such as these, we should all be feminists.

My first thought when reading this was that these are things I have been hearing over and over again as of late; but then it occurred to me that Adichie’s call was aimed at her native Nigeria where the embracing of the concept of feminism is only just beginning. For as much resistance as we see in the United States, being called a feminist, at least for my generation, doesn’t have as much of a sting as it does in Adichie’s home. And to be frank--we can never hear words such as hers too often. For these reasons, we should all be…(let’s say it together!)…feminists.

For purchase below. (It's only 99 cents. It's WORTH IT.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assasins

I love "murder and mayhem," as my mother calls it. [For the record, I now call it that, too.] So obviously I picked up a copy of former CIA spy Robert B. Baer's The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assasins. Obviously.

How does one become the perfect assassin? They follow the 21 laws that have been intricately honed by those you will never see. But what is an assassin, and what makes a man (or woman) one? This is about a game that is played between those who both believe they are right--but only one can come out alive.

Here's the deal--I totally thought this was fiction until about halfway through when I was like, "Hey, Nicole, you know these actual dates and facts are super on point." So I did some poking around and it turns out that Hajj Radwan, the main target in this book, is a real person whom Baer hunted. Mind. Officially. Blown. That being said, I think it speaks to the intrigue of the writing that it came across very much in the vein of a Josh Bazzell or a Matthew Quirk, a piece of fiction with a clear voice that is at times humorous and at others dead serious about staying alive.

This was also an incredibly fascinating take on our recent international history from the point of a government worker who lived and ran his life under the radar. There is so much that we simply can't know from the point of laymen in the United States, and so down the line reading this account made my jaw drop at times.

Since I don't plan on becoming an assassin anytime soon (psychologist works just fine for me, thankyouverymuch), I probably won't follow these laws to the letter. However, there is something to be said for living by these. "Make it count" (Law 2), because you might not get another shot. "Always have a backup for everything" (Law 4), because when something goes wrong you need to be sure you achieve what you set out to do. "Don't shoot everyone in the room" (Law 9), because not everyone deserves it and also, you are an assassin, not a murder. "He who laughs last shoots first," (Law 17), because if you hesitate you might not get it at all. All good lessons for life.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Party Games: A Fear Street Novel

Because Fear Street was a staple of my childhood. Because R. L. Stine changed the game for a lot of us as youth. Because without that man my love of murder and mayhem (and true crime) may not have existed. These are the reasons why I waited in line for so long to meet the man himself and to score an advanced autographed copy of Party Games at BEA last May. Worth. It.

Rachel is just an average girl living in Shadyside, working to help her parents out after her father loses his job. When the handsome Brendan Fear, of the infamous Fear family, invites her to his birthday party on the remote Fear Island, she gets weak in the knees and of course accepts readily. The party starts off great, if you consider the boat pilot hitting his head and drowning "great." The party only goes downhill from there when people start dying in the spooky mansion--meaning they all have a chance of being next.

This book was everything you love about Fear Street. It was delicious and savory, half hilarious reading it from an adult perspective and half indulgent reading it from an adult perspective. I realized while reading it that my mother must have either been off her rocker for letting me read these as a kid (I am talking, like, eight years old!) or else she just really had no clue what they were about. There are actual murders here, guys. The Fear Street series is like that, though. I am thankful my mom was so open to her bookworm daughter's eclectic (and slightly morbid) tastes. (Thanks, Mom. You are the best.)

(Remember the cheerleader series? That was the best.)

As per Stine, there is a bit of a twist about two-thirds of the way through, and the story turns sharply in another direction. It was pretty entertaining for a rainy day in, and I have to say I will not be attending any birthday parties in remote mansions any time soon. I did, however, have a blast dipping back into this series that I loved as a child. I adore how Stine updated his work seamlessly, almost as if no time has passed. He integrates current technology and teen-worldliness that feels natural and not at all as if he is trying to make it current. He also has a knack for current pop culture that is very impressive. The murders are all themed as "party games" from your childhood. Seriously delightful.

It's what makes the man a YA list genius.

Can we go ahead and get another installment, please, R. L.? xx, Nicole

Hard copy for purchase below. Or else.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Burned: A Vanessa Pierson Novel

Remember when I was excited to review the first of Valerie Plame's series on a CIA agent? Well, here's part two--Burned

The last time we saw Vanessa Pierson, she was trailing Bhoot, the international terrorist, and she had lost a witness in her pursuit. This time is no different, only the stakes are higher--there is someone after the same thing Bhoot wants. This makes her enemy more like her friend, and as her investigation goes deeper into the underworld of Europe, she soon discovers that there is a mole in her agency. Can Vanessa make it out alive and capture the man she seek so desperately?

Oh, I love a thriller that keeps me at the edge of my seat and takes me out of my life for just a little while. It's no surprise, then, that I sat back and rode the Vanessa Pierson roller coaster for a while and had a great time doing it. Vanessa is still Vanessa, which means she is absolutely brilliant and good what she does which requires a hell of a lot of skill. It also means that she is flawed and messy and like every other human being in her personal life, and it is what makes her real. As much as she wants to be the best at what she does, Bhoot reels her in every time. It's like a bad relationship that she is conditioned to need. Vanessa and her international terrorist.

This second installment of the Vanessa Pierson series is particularly interesting for several reasons. First, I love that it is set in places I have been, and fairly recently, too. While I am a bit unsettled by the idea of a terrorist attack in the heart of Paris, it was a compelling draw into the book. I also loved that Vanessa had to collaborate with the French version of the CIA. It made her more human, having to work with others and at least try to be friendly. I also loved the constant push and pull between Vanessa and her beloved and their third wheel--the CIA. All of which thrown together makes a book that keeps my hands turning pages and my eyes darting across the page.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir

Oh goodness gracious. Talk about a punch in the gut--Charles M. Blow's Fire Shut Up in My Bones.

Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist, is the youngest child of a Louisiana couple who face their own challenges in the world. He is very shy, doesn't fit in, and is incredibly attached to his mother. He is distanced from his gaggle of older brothers--something is very different about him, that he knows from a young age. This all contributes to a dark and startling violation by a trusted family member. This violation will change Charles's life forever, leading him to question his identity, his choices, and his life as a whole.

What an astounding and incredible piece of work. I was floored; I was moved. So much so that I passed my copy on to a friend because this has to be read. More than this, it has to be read with an open heart and a willingness to let Blow into your life. I find that the more I read in general, the more I love genuine Southern literature. It was a joy to be in Blow's world for a while and to allow him to tell me his story--it was an honor that he would trust me, as his reader, to ingest it and all me to wallow in it for a while. 

Blow is, first and foremost, and incredible writer. He has an ease that comes across in his prose that allowed me to sit inside it like a soft, soothing, comfortable egg. His words surrounded me and lived in me, and they were intelligent yet never patronizing. It is clear that he is a writer, and a story teller, and now all I want to do is pick up some of his journalism because I am sure it has to be beyond amazing. 

His story is also lovely and astounding; his childhood is so normal for what it is yet so different from what is to be expected. His desire to pursue a higher education and to be the best that he can be, whether it's through his fraternity or campaigning for a job that does not yet exist, is a lesson to be learned for anyone entering the big bad world at present. His attached relationship with his mother and the distance he experienced between his brothers is so easy to relate to in his tale; being violated by someone he knows and trusts is completely the opposite. Blow tells his tale with such fervor and drive that it's hard not to want to sit and listen to him speak for hours.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Book With No Pictures

At BEA this past year I stood in line to bat my eyelashes at B.J. Novak and pick up his children's book, The Book With No Pictures, much to my absolute delight.

This is a book with no pictures. It has words, though, and ones that you have to say. Because that's what books are--saying words! Even if those words at BLUURF or BLORK. You have to say them even if the book calls you a robot monkey. That's just the deal when you read a book.

I know this book has gotten a lot of good press lately, and it's well-deserved. This is a ridiculously adorable children's book that is fun for adults to read. (Or, at least, it's fun for this adult to read. But I have a low threshold for enjoyment, so keep that in mind.) That is, if you even remotely have a sense of humor, this book will put you on humor high. If you don't have a sense of humor, there is nothing I can do for you, nor can this book do anything to help. I giggled to myself and can absolutely see me reading this to some of the younger crowd in my life. Although let it be known, they aren't allowed to touch my personally autographed copy. For the record.

Hard copy for purchase below. GET THIS ONE!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blogger Girl: A Novel

How meta, isn't it? No, Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr is not about me. It's better than that.

Kim is a legal secretary by day and book blogger by lunch-hour. She deals with her job; she is good at it and loves her boss, but it's not like there is any room for growth. No matter, it gives her the time to work on Purple is the New Black, her beloved blog. As her high school reunion approaches, Kim has to juggle insecurities about her job with running into her high school nemesis who has just so happens to have just published her first novel--and wants Kim to review it. Combine that with her work crush possibly being something more, and Kim's life is on a whirlwind joy ride around New York City.

Such a meta book in so many ways. Kim, or "Kimmie" to her crush, has devoted her blog strictly to chick lit, and lo and behold, this book is squarely in the chick lit category. Which I certainly didn't mind. Chick lit means that the romance angle is kept squarely to a minimum and that it hits on the main character's needs and wants--light and fluffy with a fun story, keeping the crazy dalliances to a minimum while still leaving the reader flush with cotton candy-like happiness. I appreciated how Schorr kept to her word and kept this book exactly that. 

I really enjoyed Kim's relationship with her best friend; it was complicated enough without being life-or-death, and in the end friendship conquers all. I particularly loved the high school reunion scene, but you will have to pick up the book yourself to read it. Speaking of the reunion scene, Schorr did a great job of capturing the awkwardness of seeing these people for the first time in ten years while still being excited to find out where everyone has ended up. Rather than dreading the reunion, Kim and her friends find bright spots to look forward to. 

This was a nice companion to a long week for me; it allowed me to suspend by own world for some time and dive into a lighter and more fun one. Never change, Kimmie--never change.

For purchase below.