First line: “Well, shit. How y’all doing?”
Summary: Leslie Jordan has spent years acting in shows like Will and Grace, The Help and now is on Call Me Kat. Even with his long list of acting credits he never dreamed of the fame he would get from joining Instagram. During the start of the pandemic he was “hunkered down” with his family in the South. In order to keep himself entertained he made little videos that he shared with all his new friends on Instagram. He became an overnight success! In this collection of stories from his life we get a look into his life before and during the pandemic.
My Thoughts: I love Leslie Jordan. He first caught my attention as Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace. Every episode he appeared in, he stole the show. His lines and persona were perfect for such a fun and quirky show. When I saw he was on Instagram at the start of the pandemic I immediately started following him. He made me laugh a lot, which was much needed during the spring of 2020. I have re-watched many of his shenanigans and stories several times because they are so lighthearted.
Reading this book was just like when I read a David Sedaris book. I can hear the author telling their story in their voice while I read. I laughed and learned a lot about this man who has done a lot in the years of his career. I would highly recommend this for its uplifting and charming stories about a small gay man who lives his life with a smile on his face.
FYI: Short little book with lots of heart.
First line: She first spotted him at Bobbie’s Coffee Shop on Twenty-Second Street.
Summary: Just days before her wedding to millionaire, Bruce Lamb, the one night stand from her bachelorette weekend shows up trying to convince her to not go through with the wedding. She tries to ignore his attempts but then he appears at her wedding too. But she thinks that his stalking is over until he appears at the secluded island on her honeymoon. Does she tell Bruce or try to solve the situation on her own?
My Thoughts: When I looked at the rating for this book I was kind of surprised that it was so low. I found the book to be rather enjoyable with lots of dark and twisted moments. I found it to be more like an eighties horror movie than psychological thriller. And part of that can be found that several reveals were rather predictable. But I had a lot of fun reading it nonetheless.
Even though the island is supposed to be secluded and good for getting away from technology it also seems rather scary. You are secluded. On an island. With little communication. What if something bad happens? Well this book answers that question. And it was thrilling and scary.
FYI: Language, death, infidelity.
First line: Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.
Summary: Nora Seed has decided to die. Everything is falling apart around her. She is single, her cat died, she lost her job, her parents are dead and her brother won’t talk to her. What’s the point anymore? As she dies she finds that there is a library filled with possible other lives that would have existed had she made different choices. The librarian directs her to the books of these alternate lives where she can decide if she would rather live in those instead. Which one will she choose?
“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. At the beginning it can be depressing as Nora keeps having her world fall apart around her. It almost seems like an It’s a Wonderful Life situation. But this is more inventive and adds another dimension to story. Rather than seeing the world without her, it looks at the world if she had made different choices.
I liked how different each life was because of one small choice. It’s the Butterfly Effect. One decision can change so much for you and every person you come into contact with. But we also see that what may appear to be perfect can still have its challenges. Nothing is perfect.
Everyone has things that they regret. I know I do. I wish I had spent a year abroad in college. But if I did that I would never have gotten my dog, Winston. I regret not staying at K-State in order to save money on college but if I hadn’t I would not have traveled around Europe with a group from Tabor College. There is always something that could be different but with every regret there is something good you would lose too.
Even though this sounds like a depressing book, it is really uplifting. It has a great message to anyone who is struggling with life choices and how to make the best of what we are given. Find joy in the small things.
FYI: Trigger warnings: suicide, drug overdose, language.
Summary: Bree Cabbat has the perfect life; a loving husband, beautiful children and a nice home. But one night she sees a witch at her window and the following day her baby son is stolen from her car with a mysterious message containing instructions on how to get her little boy back. As she follows “the mother’s” instructions she finds that there is more to this diabolical plan than she first thought. Racing against the clock Bree tries to find the secrets that could lead them to her son and “the mother”.
My Thoughts: This is my first book my Joshilyn Jackson. I really enjoyed it. It started off with a bang and continued to have the same high drama throughout which can be hard to maintain. As the story progressed I didn’t know how the author was going to continue because the end seemed so imminent but then whole new mystery appeared. As more layers were added the suspense got even higher until the last chapter. I will finally read her other thriller, Never Have I Ever, which I have checked out numerous times but never read yet.
Listening to the audio book I was a little annoyed at the readers voice. It was rather whiny but that could be because of the playback on the app. I liked the reader’s interpretation of “the mother’s” voice. It was witchy and creepy. And you need to stay focused while listening or you may miss something.
FYI: Great thriller!
Later by Stephen King
First line: I don’t like to start with an apology – there’s probably even a rule against it, like never ending a sentence with a preposition – but after reading over the thirty pages I’ve written so far, I feel like I have to.
Summary: Jamie Conklin was born with a gift. But not a gift he wants. He can see and talk to dead people. Only his mom and he know of this gift until she tells her friend, an NYPD detective, who then uses this information to help find a killer. Through his involvement in the case, he gets more than he expected.
My Thoughts: I loved this book! Think The Sixth Sense meets crime drama with a Stephen King twist. It is King at his best. He can fit such a great story into 250 pages. I was a little nervous starting this since I loved so many of this older books that it’s scary to start a new one, hoping that it lives up to its predecessors. Starting out I wasn’t sure where the story was going to take us. And that was perfect. I did not find it predictable or cliché. I enjoyed all the characters especially the professor who is like a father figure to Jamie.
I liked how King laid out his story. It starts with Jamie as a young boy, then as he grows up but he flashes farther forward and back to help explain events in Jaime’s life. Plus the layout also gives the reader the meaning behind the title. I knew that there was going to be a big showdown at the end which was just as great as the rest of the book. But King threw in one final twist that I did predict even though it seemed a little farfetched when I guessed it. But as I read it, I yelled out, “I knew it!” All around a fun, quick and spooky little book to read over the weekend.
FYI: Language, death, ghosts, murder and drug use.
First line: Interview with Mrs. Sophie Hocking conducted by Ambrose Logan, U.S. Marshal
Summary: When Sophie Whalen, a young Irish immigrant, answers a personal ad for a wife and mother to an man in San Francisco she sees this as an opportunity for a better life. She leaves her life in tenements of New York City for a man she has never met. Upon arrival she finds her new husband to be distant but she immediately falls in love with her step-daughter, Kat.
However, on a fateful evening a woman shows up on her doorstep with a story that throws her world into chaos. As these women decide what to do with their new information, tragedy strikes in the form of the largest natural disasters in California history. They must survive the earthquake, its aftermath and the secret that they now hold.
My Thoughts: Susan Meissner is a wonderful writer. She brings to life stories of remarkable women. I can always tell she does lots of research and builds intricate lives for her characters. I enjoyed the story, the history and the ending. It was a wonderful twisting plot with little surprises.
I was not too familiar with the events of the San Francisco earthquake. This was one of the main reasons I picked to read this book. It gave me a little bit more insight into what it must have been like. Having now experienced minor earthquakes here in Kansas, I cannot imagine having to live through one such as this.
And as always there is a little twist at the end which just makes the book that much better.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Marie Benedict.
First line: Today is the Ritual of Purity.
Summary: The Ritual of Purity is the day that young girls enter womanhood. Deka has always been different from the others in her tribe but she hopes that the ritual will redeem her in their eyes. But on the day, her blood runs gold rather than red, marking her as impure. She is imprisoned by the village elders.
After weeks of torture, a strange woman arrives and takes her to join a group of girls just like Deka. She learns that she is alaki, near immortal with special gifts. The girls are trained to fight and kill Deathshrieks, a creature that attacks and kills the people of Otera. As she trains she finds friendships but also starts to question everything that she grew up learning.
My Thoughts: The cover immediately caught my attention. It is stunning. Gorgeous colors that bring to life the West African feel of the story. The magic system, the different characters and the creatures were all wonderfully done. Even though many of the themes were typical of the young adult fantasy novel the details made it different. I was intrigued by the way Deka could heal, her powers and her backstory (once we learn more about it at the end).
I did find that parts seemed rushed. Especially the training at the beginning and the battle at the end. Everything happened so fast with very little build up. Part of me liked not having it drawn out but also it seemed to suddenly be over too. I had to sit and think about the big reveals at the end because there was a lot of information dumped in but once I figured out everything it was a great twist. Even though the book seemed to end without a cliffhanger there are at least 2 more books planned.
FYI: A new young adult book with a strong female lead and feminist ideas. Perfect for fans of The Children of Blood and Bone.
First line: On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, was crowned in Westminster Abbey, along with his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, amidst great splendor and rejoicing.
Summary: In the second installment of Alison Weir’s histories of the queens of England is Queens of the Crusades. It covers Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile spanning their lives over several centuries. These women lived in an age when they were expected to be humble and pious. But the queens of this time held power over their lands and income that drew the ire of their male subjects giving several of them tarnished reputations that Weir tries to dissolve.
My Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about these remarkable women. I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is one of my favorite queens of England. She lived for such a long time and was queen of France and England as well as duchess of Aquitaine. I was very excited to learn more about her daughter-in-law, Berengaria. She is glossed over so much in fiction since she was queen for such a short time and did not do much to gain prominence in England.
I like that Weir takes into account how often names are reused for different people that she tries to vary the spellings in order to keep them straight for the reader. I knew nothing about the queens after Eleanor. The amount of wealth these women had and spent is astounding. I love to see what the conversions are because it is so shocking.
Having visited England several times I have been to some of the places listed such as Westminster Abbey. I knew many of the tombs there but now I will need to find the ones for these medieval queens on my next visit.
FYI: Second installment of a four part series. Part one was Queens of the Conquest.
First line: She’s at Mrs. Ruthie’s house, eating one of Mrs. Ruthie’s peanut butter cookies, staring out Mrs. Ruthie’s living room window and waiting for her parents to come home.
Summary: After the death of her parents, Lo Denham, has spent years trying to find and reconnect with her sister Bea. As Lo was recovering from the accident Bea left and joined The Unity Project. The group preaches love, does charity work and helps out the community. They have slowly been growing but Lo has always been suspicious of them. Then one day a man comes into the office of the magazine she works for. He claims that The Project killed his son. Lo sees this as her chance to expose the group and finally find her sister.
My Thoughts: I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started it. It has dual timelines with different narrators and time periods. It was a little confusing as the story set out and took a little time to get going. But as Lo learns more about The Project the story gets more twisted. Things start to reveal themselves but like most thrillers, not everything you hear and see is true.
Cults are scary things. As I read, I could easily see how people are drawn into them. They are looking for something or someone to guide them. They want a community. Someone to understand them. But then there is always the dark underside. And the author delivered all this.
I had a hard time rating this book. I struggled at the start but enjoyed the ending. It was worth a read and kept me invested until the end.
FYI: Language, abuse and cults.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
First line: Her mother had once told her the only way to truly know someone was to fight them.
Summary: Every seven years the gods of Olympus are made mortal and hunted by the descendants of legendary heroes. It’s called the Agon. During the last Agon, Lore Perseous walked away from the hunt and its world. But when the new Agon begins she is drawn back in by an old friend and the goddess Athena. As she binds herself to the goddess she is pulled back into this world she abandoned with the hopes of avenging the deaths of her family or die trying.
My Thoughts: I’d describe this as Percy Jackson meets The Purge. The gods of Olympus are fighting for their lives for one week every seven years. And if a god is killed by a mortal hunter then the hunter will gain the powers and immortality of that god.
I first started listening to this and had a hard time following everything. There was a lot of information dumped at the beginning describing the event and participants. So I switched to the text format and was completely engrossed after that. Lots of action, mythology and twists.
I enjoyed the characters even though most of them fell into the typical young adult tropes. Lore is the angry, tough girl hero. There is a love interest. Villains. Double crossings. It has it all. But I did not feel like it was a book set into a pattern. The idea was inventive and story was exciting. I did find the middle to be a little stretched and drawn out but it did give information that helped bring about the ending.
FYI: Lots of death and violence.