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Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, June 26, 2015

The King of Torts: A Novel

This summer at the beach, I went through my usual slew of John Grisham's novels, including The King of Torts. As it goes.

Clay is barely eking out a living at the public defender's office in D.C. One normal afternoon he finds himself having to take on another case simply by his being present in court--only this one is interesting. A young man murdered a boy he knew for no reason other than "just because." Clay is approached by a drug company who is responsible for the murder, and suddenly Clay finds himself with his own law firm, flush with cash, and newly crowned the King of Torts. The only problem with this is that the bigger you are, the harder you fall. Watch out, Clay.

For me, a family vacation to Watercolor, Florida is not complete unless I read at a minimum one John Grisham book. I picked this one up at a book sale somewhere and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love when Grisham is at his best--weaving a good tale, creating a main character I love to hate but still want the best for, and throwing in some twists and turns for zest. This novel was all of the above.

Clay was a character that I wanted to root for and I did, even when he was making the world's dumbest decisions. And trust me, they were really dumb decisions. But they were his to make, and his to live with. (I know Clay is a fictional character, but come on--this is my blog and I choose to see them as living beings because I can, darn it.) He was throwing money away, left and right, and I wanted to scream at him to SAVE IT. But hey, I am a PhD student who wants to buy a house, so take that with a grain of salt. The story kept me turning the pages while relaxing in the pool, and when I had to put it down, I found myself coming back every time. Because Grisham gets me every time

So there you have it. Classic Grisham, classic story, the usual suspects. I loved it.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife

I also have a fascination with this topic, which made me finally buck up and queue up at the library for Lisa Miller's facinating Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife.

What does Heaven look like? Will there be angels singing, will there be gates, or will it be full of virgins? Will be it be in the sky, or will it be in another dimension? From ancient times to present day, many incarnations of this place have dominated with no one really knowing what it looks like or where it is. Pop culture has depicted it, religions have promoted their ideal picture, and literature of all sorts vividly describe it. Either way, the enduring fascination is that we all want some answer as to where we are going when we leave earth.

I believe that Heaven will be an all-inclusive in a Caribbean-like setting. Just so we are clear.

I put this book in my library queue quite some time ago and have always passed by it when deciding what to read next. For those of us who had existential crises in our mid-twenties about what is the purpose of life and what happens when we die (that's most of us, right?), this would seem to be the book to allay fears as to what the answers to those questions may be. It's not entirely, but the book was a comfort in that the understanding of what happens when we go is so varied and so colorful and worth exploring. So yeah, I not only enjoyed the book, but I felt edified in the beliefs of other religions (albeit mostly monotheistic ones) that I may have understood peripherally but can't say that I took the time to know in-depth prior to this point in time.

You would know by now that I am a literary junkie, so I found Miller's approach of looking at references to Heaven in many places including pop culture to be an inviting and attractive one. I found Miller's writing to be accessible and journalistic in the sense that you don't need an advanced degree to read it but you will walk away with information in your brain you didn't know before. I appreciate her even-handedness toward religion and her willingness to be objective in her presentation of the work. It made this book very readable and well worth my bedtime reading.

Hard copy for purchase below.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

I have always been obsessed with all things CIA, so I picked up Kai Bird's The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames for a little clandestine operation fix this past weekend. 

April 18, 1983. The American Embassy in Beirut is bombed. 63 people lost their lives, Americans and Lebanese alike. This was a turning point in Middle East and American relations, and this was a catalyst in events to come. Robert Ames, who lost his life that day, was arguably one of the greatest CIA agents in existence. This narrative chronicles his life and his work in the Middle East, and it is a celebration of a brand of spying that changed the way good spy work was done.

This was one hell of a book. I was really blown away by the incredibly accounting of a life well lived and tragically lost. Bird knew the Ames's as a child, and he brought a gravitas to the story that lent respectfulness and awe to a man who took his job seriously and loved every minute of it. Bird also did a wonderful job of emphasizing the effect the work had on the Ames family. His children did not know what he did, but his wife Yvonne was a CIA wife until the end. Her willingness to share a bit of Bob for the world was really incredible and made this book even better than it would have been without her input.

It is incredible how in retrospect the history of Hezbollah, Palestinian-Israeli relations, and how these have come to effect America fall into place. There was so much history that I wasn't aware of, and there were power players that I may have heard in passing but wasn't aware of exactly how involved they were or what role they played. This book is also an incredible piece of historical non-fiction, and it's worth reading just to get a sense of how we ended up where we are today in our Middle East relations. 

For purchase below. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Argonauts

At Book Expo this year, I stopped by Graywolf Press to see what they had coming available because I really love Graywolf Press. They produce a ton that fascinates me, and Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts was strongly recommended. I read it immediately and couldn't believe my eyes. 

Maggie fell in love with artist Harry, her fluidly gendered partner, and became a stepmom to her young son. She later gives birth to their son together, and in time they learn how to become a family. This first-person memoir follows Maggie through falling in love with Harry, establishing a relationship and a family, and having a child one one's own, and it combines her memory with theory on gender, sexuality, motherhood, and love.

I was really blown away by the power in this small book. It's not a lot of pages, but it packs a powerful punch. I was absolutely blown away by how deep Nelson was willing dig in her own life and thoughts and feelings and lie it bare on the page for her readers to digest. It almost felt like she cut open her chest to show us her heart and, in turn, allows us to judge it all for ourselves. Truly incredible. Her mix of theory and quotes with her own life is a researcher's dream (that's me!), and the beauty of her prose mixed with the thoughts of others lent itself to an indulgent and raw portrait of a marriage that is doing what everyone wants it to do -- work.

Nelson is a bit of an inspiration in this piece; I want my writing to lie myself bare the way that hers does. Her words hold so much power -- so much honest and raw power, that it goes beyond sexuality, gender, and relationships. This is about what it means to be human. To not make sense sometimes, to love unconditionally and beyond belief, to question your own thoughts and decisions, to live in denial about who we are and what we want to become. This is one that will stay on my bookshelf, and I will go back to it time and again. 

For purchase below. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 2015 Mini Bloggiesta

It's that time again!

This summer's Mini Bloggiesta is all about playing catch up. Which is funny, because my list is a little on the long side thanks to the Blogger's Conference at Book Expo America this year. 

Here we go, guys. Let's catch up.

I will be using this post to go back and cross off as I go.

To do:
  • Create a Pinterest button
  • Back pin reviews
  • Create a Sassy Peach Tumblr
  • Change Netgalley contact to my SPR email
  • Find a way to cross pollinate content (fellow bloggers, I'm coming for you!)
  • Put my SPR email on my phone 
  • Look at creating a SPR YouTube channel
  • Explore a once-a-month podcast
  • Back post reviews (I believe I have about six of them to catch up on)
  • Apply to a specific advertising company
Other things I'm considering:
  • Create a mailing list
  • Poll readers
  • Possibly look at giveaways
Happy Bloggiesting, fellow bloggers!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Guest Blogger Charlotte: The Dive From Clausen's Pier

I’d never heard of this book before. The Dive From Clausen’s Pier was first published in 2002 making it a bit before my time… Someone recommended it to me so I read some reviews and decided that this time around, instead of heading straight for the newest releases from familiar authors, I’d go back in time a bit in search of a hidden gem.

Well, it’s probably not fair to call Dive a “hidden” gem. The book was on the NY Times Best-Sellers List for a really long time. It was celebrated in the media, sold millions of copies, and eventually received the Kate Chopin literary award. In addition to Dive, Ann Packer also wrote Songs Without Words, which I’ve heard good things about. So, knowing all that, I was really looking forward to diving into this novel (hehe).

The story is about Carrie Bell. She’s a small town girl from the Midwest who has questions about whether or not that’s what she’ll always be. She’s clearly bored and is drifting away from Mike, her boyfriend of eight years. Carrie and Mike are just going through the motions and on the way to dunzo when tragedy strikes. Mike breaks his neck trying to impress Carrie by diving into Clausen’s Pier. He’s in a coma for weeks and will never walk again.

Carrie spends a few chapters basically walking in circles. Naturally, she’s back and forth on what to do next, whether to stay or go. No spoilers here! I will say, however, that the ending is not what you’d expect.

Yes, emotionally this book pulls you in opposite directions. What would you do? This plot is like one of those scenarios where it feels like there’s no right answer and no matter what happens feelings are hurt, lives are shattered. It’s what makes this book so interesting, because you have to look inside yourself to figure out what it is you’d do. It’s revealing, unsettling, and definitely worth reading.

~ Charlotte

For purchase below.

Monday, June 1, 2015

You Belong to Me and Other True Cases: Ann Rule's Crime Files Vol. 2

I wanted to review these crime files in order, but I haven't found Vol. 1 yet. So here we start with Ann Rule's Crime Files: Vol. 2 - You Belong to Me

The title story is about a Florida Highway Patrol officer, his obsessive relationship with his wife, and the woman who suffered in the end. Tim Harris met Sandy when she was still in high school--and he was a police officer. Sandy fought tooth and nail to win him from another woman, but when she did she discovered that when you get what you want, you don't always win. She chooses to leave him after he admits a four-year affair, and he becomes obsessive about winning her love back--even threatening her life in her own home. When Sandy finally takes action, another woman, one neither of them knows, will face the consequences of Tim's wrath and two families will never be the same.

Ah, my beloved Ann Rule. I do have to say, so far out of her case mystery collections, this is one to stay with me the most. The story "Black Christmas," about a mistaken identity and the loss of a family, stayed with me for many days after reading it. Several of the other shorter stories are also worth reading, but it was the title story that was a mind bender. I'm not going to lie--I hesitate to even date after reading her books that's how convincing they are. I mean, the likelihood of me falling for a sociopath is probably pretty high. After all, I have a feeling most of the guys I have dated probably fit into this category (mmm...borderline at the very least).

Look, I read enough true crime I know that nothing should surprise me. But it never fails to blow my mind how absolutely obsessive and insane some people could be. I don't like to read too much ahead, because I don't want to know if the perpetrator knows the victim or not. I have to say that I was surprised in this instance, as I was expecting more of a connection between killer and victim. I won't say much more than that, although you could certainly do a quick Google search and find out exactly what I'm talking about. It was most definitely an interesting read, and I'm glad I picked it up on my most recent day off.

For purchase below.