Book Review: After The Eclipse by Sarah Perry


It’s about halfway through February and I finished another book. I was on a bit of a lag coming out of January but I’m hoping I’ll pick back up. After The Eclipse was my Book of the Month choice for October of 2017. The reason why I hadn’t read it yet was not because of how behind I am on my TBR list (for once), it’s because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read it yet. This story is a memoir written by a woman whose mother was murdered when she was twelve years old and the following years of finding justice and peace with herself. I was very intrigued by this book but the firsthand account of a daughter losing her mother suddenly hit very close to home for me.

I finally decided to read this book and from page one, I was captivated. Perry wastes no time describing the night that her mother was stabbed to death while she was just a couple feet away, in her own room. It is heart wrenching, raw, and brutal – but above all else, it feels so real. Not only does your heart break for Sarah but you literally feel like you are sitting on the bed next to her listening to the screams.

This memoir jumps back before Crystal Perry was killed and jumps forward to the hours, days, weeks, months and years after the murder. Sarah shares a special bond with her young, beautiful, and single mother. As an adult she can see the strengths and faults that her mother possessed and it is so refreshing to see such a complete portrait of a strong but also damaged human.

The plot loosely surrounds the search for Crystal Perry’s murderer. It takes over 10 years to catch the man that stabbed Crystal Perry more than 50 times. We see Sarah grow up and grapple with abandonment  from her remaining family and reckon with the guilt she feels from the that night and finally achieve justice.

Despite the mystery of who killed Crystal Perry – I think the real heart of this memoir is the grief and guilt that Sarah had to spend the rest of her life working through. She exhibited such strength and resilience through the toughest situation imaginable and she did it alone, she didn’t have the love and support she needed to get through such a traumatic experience. My heart broke for her but at the same time I was in awe of her strength and commitment to finding justice for her mother.

This is probably the best memoir that I have ever read. Perry has a beautiful narrative style and captivates the reader from the first page to the last. While the subject matter is sad, it also provides hope that out of the worst possible situations – not all is lost.


Book Review: Single State of Mind

If you know me, you know that The Bachelor is my guilty pleasure/obsession. I’ve watched it since it began in 2002 and I’m an avid live tweeter of the franchise every Monday night. I usually don’t let my trashy TV leak into my reading but there is something endearing about Andi Dorfman.

Andi first appeared on Juan Pablo’s season of The Bachelor. She made it to the final 3 and shocked everyone when she dumped Juan Pablo after a night in the fantasy suite. Her boldness worked in her favor as Juan Pablo easily became one of the most hated bachelors of the franchise. Andi took the role as the new Bachelorette the next season. She picked former minor league baseball player, Josh Murray. After about a year they broke off their engagement.

Andi wrote her first memoir, It’s Not Okay, derailing her breakup. I read that one because I shamelessly wanted the dirt on their breakup. She definitely delivered and spilled a ton of tea. The book became a New York Times Bestseller and was popular enough to get a second book deal.

At first I wasn’t interested in this book because I knew Andi had moved on from the franchise so much less dirt would be included at least from The Bachelor. But I listened to an interview with her on a podcast and I got sucked in. As I said before, Andi is endearing.

I read her first book, I listened this one on audio which I think made a positive difference. She reads it herself and she does a great job of keeping my interest. Single State of Mind is all about Andi’s move to New York and her dating escapades.

There are some very funny and relatable parts to the book – from the difficulty of finding an affordable apartment to attending weddings without a date to being set up with the worst guys. The story feels like a modern version of Sex and the City. Andi has a dry sense of humor that reads well and her writing has vastly improved from her first book.

The glaring issue with this book is a lack of self awareness. Andi tried to relate to the reader but flaunts her privilege all over this book. She talks about the difficultly in finding an apartment she can afford but also goes on a long rant about how she won’t live anywhere but the West Side. She gets free tickets to the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and makes it to Fashion Week.

She has privilege and that’s ok but what isn’t is her lack of awareness. She will throw in lines of buying things on clearance and then the next chapter she is rewarding herself with a Cartier watch. She needs her dad to co-sign in her apartment but also takes trips to Seattle, Greece, and Mexico. Her lack of acknowledgement of her financial privilege sticks out and makes her unrelatable to a reader like me.

If you like The Bachelor, this is a fun look at life post-show from the view of a contestant that doesn’t sell tummy tea but don’t set your standards too high.

Book Review: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey


Fifteen days into the new year and I am finished with my second book of 2018! Hopefully I continue this trend throughout the year. I decided to follow up the poetry with a thriller. I received The Dark Lake in my October 2017 Book of the Month box – yes, I am a little behind. I’ve been a member of Book of the Month for two years now and I love it, for $14.99 a month you can pick one of five books selected by judges. The books ship for free and you can add more on for $9.99 each – you can’t find hardback books any cheaper. And they have been including books before their release date so you can read them before anyone else. Ok, no more advertising.

Before I get into the review – mild spoilers so beware. Right now crime thrillers with a female protagonist are trending. The success of stories such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train have brought on a huge wave of similar novels. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you know how I disdain the “next Gone Girl” marketing ploy. As much as I complain, I continue to pick up these books because I love a good thriller – they are quick reads and keep my interest.

The Dark Lake follows small-town Australian detective Gemma Woodstock as she investigates the murder of a young high school teacher with whom she went to high school with. The case garners a lot of attention because of the victim’s age and beauty. The case has a lot of twists and turns and secrets and the more it unravels, the more connected Gemma becomes to the case.

The murder at the center of this novel wasn’t that interesting to me. It felt pretty standard, with the suspects being as expected. The plot felt predictable and I think the final resolution could’ve been a lot more interesting. But, I found Gemma’s character to be very intriguing.

Gemma comes from tragedy. Her mother died suddenly when she was twelve and then her high school boyfriend and first love committed suicide when they were seniors. She has a three-year-old son, an accidental pregnancy that leaves her living unhappily with his father. She also is sleeping with her older and married partner. While none of these things are too interesting on their own, putting them together makes Gemma intriguing. She is honest that she often thinks of how her life would be different if she hadn’t got pregnant and that she doesn’t love her son’s father. She feels no guilt sleeping with her partner and even wants to get caught.

Gemma’s past intertwines with the murder case and we find out that she did some very manipulative things when she was younger that may have set this whole thing in motion. I wish they would’ve explored that more. At the end, I feel like the story lost it’s nerve a bit – too afraid to make Gemma unlikeable. I think they could’ve really ended with a shock factor that would’ve fit the character.

It’s a pretty standard murder mystery – if you want a really great thriller, this isn’t that. But a good character study into an unapologetic disturbed female protagonist – it’s a pretty interesting read.

Book Review: the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

Happy 2018 Friends! It’s January, time to create some new habits and return to some old ones that may have fallen to the wayside in 2017. My reading time has really suffered over the last half of 2017. I’ve been busy, but if I’m honest with myself – a bit too much screen time and not enough page time (I still read physical books – no Kindle for me). But it’s a new year and I am back at it! Hopefully I can get through my enormous backlist pile and slip in some new titles for 2018.

My first read of 2018 came from my best friend, Jamie as a Christmas gift. She gave me the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur. You may have heard of Kaur, she’s the hottest poet right now with the success of her debut work milk and honey in 2014, her sophomore collection was highly anticipated.

I’m not a big poetry person. Prose just seems to speak to me more than poetry ever has been able to. But I was interested in reading Kaur’s work. She has a very minimalist style and tackles political and personal subject matter in her work. After I received the book, I flipped through it, expecting just to read a poem or two, but like a novel – it sucked me in and I finished it in just a few days (and I had to pace myself).

The first thing that drew me in was the structure of the collection. Kaur has the collection broken down into four sections: fall, root, rise, and bloom. These four words signal the theme that will be present in that section, and the four sections collectively tell a story. I loved how she connected a poetry collection to feel like a bigger story surrounding her personal journey.

The poems themselves were very minimalist, some only a line or two, but they tackled deep emotion and really affected me as a reader. She discusses heartbreak, grief, rape, immigration, racism, sexism, sex, love, and loss – just to name a few things. This is clearly her story but it is impossible not to relate to her work. I have so many bookmarks, post-its, and business cards stuck in this book to return to my favorite poems.

I am so glad I began 2018 with this book and this collection. I highly recommend the sun and her flowers whether you are a poetry lover or not. I believe there is something in this book for everyone, and my soul feels good for having read it.

Book Review: Welcome Thieves by Scott Beaudoin



After veering way off-track from the Litsy A to Z challenge, I returned to my year-long task with this collection of short stories. Beaudoin is best known for his YA novels, and this is his first venture in adult literature. I honestly used to hate short stories because I never felt like I got enough, I always wanted more plot and more from the characters. I’ve grown to appreciate short stories for their concise snapshots of a character and situation, and I want to read more short stories.

Beaudoin’s collection is funny, dark and very thought provoking. These stories follow mostly young people in what seems to be the present or the near future, there are some references to technology that is a bit more advanced than what we currently have. His characters make questionable (at best) decisions but he makes them unique and endearing so you can’t help but root for them. He brings these great slices of life with really odd and unique characters, usually with bad attitudes but are also hilarious.

It’s hard to be more descriptive without giving storylines away, but please read this book if you like short stories, you’ll enjoy it.


Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance


I spent January 20, aka Inauguration Day, reading this book in hopes it would help me understand how the United States got here. I don’t get into politics really at all on this blog but I’m not ashamed of my views. I am terrified of this administration and I’m already appalled at their actions. During the campaign, I thought that there was no way that Donald Trump would get elected, so I was in shock when he did. I want to try and understand the people who voted for him, the biggest group is the white lower to middle class, which is what this book said it would explore.

I commend Vance’s storytelling, he introduces us to his family and the larger than life character of his maternal grandmother. I enjoyed reading about his childhood and understanding how he got to where he is today. J.D. has graduated from Yale Law School and is a successful lawyer and now author. He lives with his wife in San Francisco. Vance is from Middletown Ohio which is not very far from where I grew up in Cincinnati. He talks about poverty, domestic abuse, drug abuse and alcoholism. He attempts to weave in some social science studies here and there but I don’t think it was frequent enough to achieve what he wanted.

At the book’s core, Vance seemed to preach that he came from poverty but he made it, so everyone else can too. I agree that he overcame so much; poverty, absent father, drug addict mother, poor school system etc. but he also had privileges that he doesn’t acknowledge. He had some great family members who supported him and took him in at important moments in his life. Vance often references “welfare queens” but never explains his judgments.

I liked exploring Vance’s story and I commend him for all that he has overcome but I didn’t think his social commentary had enough facts to back him up and I disagreed with his judgments.


Book Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn


Per usual, I’m super behind on book reviews. January was a fantastic month for reading, I was able get through 8 books this month! Unfortunately, unemployment does help free up reading time, but hey, silver linings. In my January Book of the Month box, there was a bonus book, The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. This is a super short novella by the author of the insanely crazy hit, Gone Girl. I absolutely love Flynn’s writing style and narrative voice so I was very excited to read this.

This story follows an unnamed narrator, a young woman who is a con artist. She also is a sex worker, of sorts, it’s hard to explain. I do have to say, this has one of the funniest first lines that I have ever read. But, be warned, it is very NSFW. The narrator is a fortune teller (think cheaper Miss Cleo) and she gets caught up with a woman who is determined that her house or her stepson is cursed. The narrator sees the potential of a big payday and begins to travel to the house when she starts to see odd things happening and she has to decide what she believes.

True to Flynn form, there is a great twist to this story that will keep you guessing. She brilliantly sucks you into a funny and spooky story in only 60ish pages. If you need a quick read, I recommend this!