Dominicana

Author: Angie Cruz

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick

Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.

I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.

1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.

2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂

3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.

4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!

5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.

6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.

At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.

Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

We Love Anderson Cooper

Author: R.L. Maizes

Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books  

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU and then I bought a final copy at my local Indie 🙂

Key Words: short stories, outsider POV, Jewish Lit, Magical Realism

My Rating: 4

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My Thoughts:

I loved this debut collection so much! As someone who has always felt like a bit of an outsider, and as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, these stories particularly resonated with me, made me feel seen and had a lasting effect of, “Huh. Life can be pretty great as an outsider and actually, when you think about it-there are a lot of us walking around as outsiders and that means I’m never really alone” and that feels good.

First, this collection had me thinking long and hard about the idea of being a part of the “other.” In this collection, these characters are treated as outsiders because of how they look, their sexual orientation, religious affiliation or race. As I read this collection, I kept thinking about how it felt fitting to read a book geared toward this topic with today’s political climate.  There seems to be a huge backwards jump to this sort of segregation mindset where the idea of the ‘us versus them’ is running rampant from the person on top and then trickling on down. I should probably say, it’s always been a part of our narrative (unfortunately) but now, it seems like there is this sense of permission happening and I can’t think of anything scarier. I’m not going to beat around the bush here-our political climate, and hence the nation in general, feels vulnerable and on the brink of disaster and I think those of us that have always felt like outsiders are feeling that awareness even more. Families are being separated and put into cages, Black and Brown people are being discriminated against and killed and it feels like no one is doing anything about it. Rights are being taken away from women, queer folx are being discriminated against and the government is tolerating it, and at times, initiating it. Outsiders are being put at risk and it’s truly terrifying to me. On the plus side, we’re seeing a battle cry rising from so many of us and again-just like in this book, it makes me feel less alone. There’s a whole, beautiful group of us ready to stand up for, and with, the ‘outsider’ and it’s truly the rainbow after (in this case, during) the storm. R.L. Maizes puts all of those thoughts and real-life scenarios, into enjoyable, relatable and amazing fiction and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Second, each short story has it’s own life and personality, but they are all funny, moving, thought-provoking and full of empathy. Truly, each story is full of this and that seems like a huge feat. I think some people tend to shy away from reading short stories because they can feel choppy or just as you start to get into the story, it ends-but that isn’t the case here! Each story provides a unique plot and story, but the themes are the same and it makes for a beautiful flow.

Third, people always ask me what my favorite stories in a collection are and although that can sometimes be hard to say, and it’s particularly hard in this case because I truly enjoyed all of the stories, I REALLY loved Tattoo, We Love Anderson Cooper and Couch. Seriously though-I thoroughly enjoyed them all…but this third point is for all of you who like itemization 😉

Lastly, I was lucky enough to hear R.L. Maizes speak at my local bookstore last week here in Colorado and I was completely enamored by her backstory, her motivation to write, how she writes and the path she took to get to where she is today. What she has to say carries a lot of merit and depth and I’m excited to see what else she has to offer us! And BONUS, she signed a book deal at the same time as this short story collection, so her book will be coming out in the near future. Woohoo!!  Here is a great write up from NPR too about this book! It’s a great review!

As always, find me over on Instagram at bookishfolk and let’s chat books!

bookishfolk…read instead.

The Whisper Man

Author: Alex North

Published: August 20, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books  

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!

Key Words: thriller, father/son relationship, serial killer

My Rating: 4

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My Thoughts:

If you’re like me and the Summer/early Fall is for psychological thrillers full of creepy feels…then The Whisper Man is coming out just in time! I don’t read a ton of thrillers, but I LOVE to pick up a good one, during the longer daytime hours ;), and get totally engrossed, flipping through the pages as fast as I can, until A. I finish, or B. I hear a noise somewhere in the house and I literally cannot deal with reading it anymore. God forbid the sun has gone down and I’m still engrossed lol. That happened a few times with this one (as you might be able to tell, I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to thrillers…but listen to this and you might see why I may never read a thriller at night again)!! One evening I got sucked in and was reading The Whisper Man long into the night, completely creeped out with the idea of a serial killer whispering outside of a child’s bedrooms to lure them outside the safety of their home. WHAT?! My wife was sound asleep-never helpful when reading a creepy book :/ I finally exhausted myself and fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up to my dog growling (she NEVER does that) and I heard  a little girl sing-songy whispering in another room in my house. I nearly sh*t my pants. I’m not kidding. I’ll get to the point because I’m starting to sweat just thinking about this-after some investigation where I turned every light on in the house, had my phone dialed up to 91 and ready to hit the other 1 at a moments notice, and forcing my dog to come with me even though she was all of a sudden terrified to move from the bed (side note: wife is still sound asleep), I realized what was going on and sighed a sigh of relief like I’ve never sighed before. The publisher included a card introducing the book to us that when opened, it was a little girls voice whispering the catchphrase of the book. The card must have gotten cracked open and low and behold, it was what I was hearing. I’m not even kidding. Lord have mercy. So that’s how creepy I found this book and also…why I will forever read thrillers in the daytime or with every light in the house on (but then I can’t see out the windows so, Oyyyyye). But I digress…

This was a creepy, heart-pounding, unsettling and well-paced read that is full of character development, family dynamics, imagination and quite detailed, beautiful writing. I don’t want to give too much of the plot or my thoughts away because I think going in relatively blind is always more fun with thrillers, but just know The Whisper Man is sure to keep you up long into the night flipping pages, ferociously trying to find out what is going on. It’s a page-turner that is sure to give you all those creepy vibes and BONUS! I just read that it’s been snapped up by the same production company that created various Marvel films and Arrested Development. So read the book before movie comes out and let’s all be completely creeped out together!!

As always, find me over on Instagram and let’s chat books! The Whisper Man comes out on August 20th-don’t miss it for your end of summer/beginning of Fall, perfect, creepy read!

Synopsis:

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

Bookishfolk…read instead.

Ask Again, Yes

Author: Ask Again, Yes

Published: May 28, 2019

Publisher: Scribner

Where I picked up my book:  My Book of the Month Pick

Key Words: family dynamics, tragedy, mental illness, forgiveness

My Rating: 4

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My Thoughts:

I have always loved books that take me on a journey, span a length of time, introduce me to characters that I get to know in-depth and hit all of my emotions. Ask Again, Yes is exactly that.

First, let’s talk about the idea of flawed characters because this book is full of them! I have always thought that there is something really special about a flawed character because we, as humans, are all flawed. It’s in our nature to be flawed, so whenever I’m reading characters that aren’t perfect, don’t say the perfect things, or have some major character flaws, I’m sold.  These characters might think one thing and then do another, or think about someone they love in a negative way. They might actually do something that is hurtful or negative to someone and I’m always like…THANK THE BABY JESUS (not literally, I’m not religious, but you get my point). To me, flawed characters are relatable and I’m always here for them. This book is full of characters that are flawed (or I like to call, human) and I loved every second of it.

Second, the emotional roller coaster that this book takes you on is intense. It was a serious emotional whammy for me that I still might be recovering from, so prepare yourself for that when you pick up this book. You’re bound to laugh, cry, feel happy, feel angry, feel frustrated and at the same time-you’ll forgive, you’ll forget, you’ll love and you’ll hate all in a matter of minutes, or possibly…at the same time. Ultimately, it will make you think about your life and touch you in a way that goes beyond words, at least it did for me. It’s that sort of book-so come prepared.

Third, it had me thinking so much about forgiveness and tragedy, or more specifically, forgiveness within tragedy and this is hard for me. I would say I’m a forgiving person, but I don’t forget. I’m more of a, “you did me wrong and I’ll move on and give you a hug when I see you in person and laugh and hang with you as if it’s old times, but the odds of me calling you to hang out, inviting you to a small party or really thinking of you in a positive way without thinking about the hurt you caused me from here on out are slim to none.” So…I have a lot of work to do with forgiveness as you can see lol. Add tragedy to this and oof. This book walked me through what it takes to be a forgiving person, when forgiveness is necessary to move on with your life and when forgiveness gets in the way. It had me questioning whether it’s better to always forgive and if being a forgiving person always ends up well. I had a lot of feels around this and I’m still struggling a little bit to come up with the right answers to most of these questions. I love a book that does that to me.

All in all, I loved this book. It got me thinking, it gave me one hundred and one emotions and then some, and ultimately…it made me think about my life, forgiveness, how my past affects my present and future and how intense and complicated the idea of family really is. If you like books that span a long length of time, are character driven and full of things that will make you think long after you close the book, this one is for you!

As always, let me know what you thought when you read it and come find me over on Instagram!

bookishfolk…read instead.

A Nearly Normal Life

Author: M.T. Edvardsson

Published: June 25, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books 

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!

Key Words: legal thriller, family dynamics, fast-paced read

My Rating: 3.5

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My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book and it kept me on the edge of my seat for the majority of my reading. Granted, I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so they usually do this to me…but the way this one was set up (split into 3 sections/perspectives-Father, Daughter, Mother) really kept me enthralled. It would be a perfect summer read, beach read, airplane read, or in my case, an up all night, go to the gym just to read, sort of read 🙂

First, it’s a family drama and I really love those. Family dynamics are always interesting to me, but add in a murder and how parents would cope with that, I’m all in! I kept thinking about how my family would cope with something like this and it totally brought a whole different perspective to the book. I was completely wrapped up in thinking about the family dynamics, not only in this plot, but in my own family life as well.

Second, the multiple perspective approach where the novel is broken up into 3 sections and each section tells a different perspective from each family member is fantastic. There are always multiple perspectives to a story and we don’t always get to hear about how others feel, or we are told how others feel from the bias of the narrator. In this story, we are given a first hand look at how each family member deals with the murder as well as it’s aftermath. We see their individual strengths, weaknesses, secrets and truths and it was like reading about a study in human behavior. I was hooked!

Third, it reminded me a bit of Miracle Creek and I really enjoyed that book. With that said, it made me think about what lengths I would go to in order to protect my child or a member of my family. I don’t know if I have an easy answer for that, but this book is sure to make you think about it.

I do have two small things that I didn’t necessarily love about the book that I think are worth mentioning. One, the father (his perspective is the first section) is a pastor and anything religious, even a slight mention of religion, is usually a trigger warning/turn off for me. I found myself feeling kinda weird about his character and the religious talk. There is a lot more to him than just his religion and job, but it was definitely there and a focus of his perspective and wasn’t my favorite. BUT, it does lead to some good questions-do religious leaders hold a moral compass? Should we take religious leaders at face value? ect. so that was something to think about. Second, I kind of guessed the ending-but again, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all, and I’ve read reviews where that was not the case for many people, but just something to keep that in mind!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t necessarily blown away, but I was completely sucked in throughout the entire reading and personally, that is the purpose of a thriller! I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a great, face-paced thriller full of family drama, moral and ethical thinking and decision making in the plot and is told from multiple perspectives. I’ll be thinking about this family for a while.

Summary (via Goodreads):

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life—and one another.

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?

bookishfolk…read instead.