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Ryan DeJonghe - The Avid Reader

I didn't always read, but that changed in June of 2013. I dropped the unnecessary stuff and picked up the awesome stuff--like reading! I started posting my reviews on Amazon and within a few months rose to the top 0.1% of reviewers. My reviews then went to Goodreads, and now my blog (http://ryandejonghe.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Ryan_Reads). If you are reading this, why not leave a comment or send me a note? I love talking to other folks about books and my reviews. Publishers and authors, feel free to drop me a note if you want me to review your book. I usually stick to mainstream publishing, but I'll consider anything. If I review your book, I’ll give you a fair and thorough review and let you know when the review goes live. You can reach me at dejonghes@gmail.com. Happy Reading!
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

I hated this book when I first finished it. I thought: unresolved. But then… As I’m typing this, I’m listening to Liszt’s Le Mal du Pays: also known as his Years of Pilgrimage. It’s coming from my phone that now has Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas as a ringtone (if you read this, you’ll know why). As I look back, I’ve also spent considerable time pondering the goings of people, back and forth. And then there is the whole color and name aspect. Maybe I love this novel after all.


Haruki Murakami's novel features two of the S words found in many of the Japanese writings I’ve seen: suicide and sex. But it also has another important S word: spirit. Yes, many may see this book as depressing because undecided—colorless—Tsukuru Tazaki ponders suicide for six months. He sits there, unmotivated, unmoved. Yes, many may be offended at Tazaki’s lurid sexual dreams and fantasies. However, as I let this novel sink into my soul of understanding, I can see that it is more than these things: a deeper meaning. Add to this the important facets of friendship, colors, music, art, name meanings, and—train stations. The novel opens, closes, and is built around the moving trains.


I haven’t yet decided what it all means to me. Maybe it’s melancholy. Maybe it is being satisfied with our own places in life, not yearning to achieve more at the sacrifice of others, and being comfortable in our own skin. Each of us has a designation; we all complete a perfect circle. Some of us hurt. Some of us are distracted. It all goes back and forth until the last train heads out and fades away into the night sky.


No, I don’t hate this novel. I love it very much.


Thank you to my friends at Knopf for sending this to me electronically for review. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time to come.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner - Judy Melinek, T.J. Mitchell

Be careful what you ask for. A few weeks ago I reviewed Andrew Meredith’s THE REMOVERS. In it, I asked for “more dead bodies.” I even taunted them in my blog post with GIF images of bloody cadavers and an exploding whale. Well, Scribner listened and delivered.


Let’s set this up a bit more: on one side, a medically trained examiner who uses all the precise and exact terms of the body’s innards; combined with (married to) Harvard English major—you know, to make sure the wording is…just right. Yeah. You see where this is going? Then, take this dynamic duo to New York City. You know those one-in-a-million stories? Well, as the authors cleverly point out, New York City has 8 million people.


This husband and wife duo corresponded and plotted this book a lot through e-mail. Some of that behind the scene’s stuff has been captured for our extended-gory interest. The husband’s blog has a great sample of one such exchange (grocery shopping & dead bodies…whatever works): http://tjmitchell.blogspot.com/2012/05/raspberry.html


WARNING! Thought I’d put this in all caps to get your attention. Just to be sure: WARNING! If you have any medical history whatsoever, be cautious about reading this book. If you drink, eat, or walk on the sidewalk, or breath, be cautious about reading this book. You think deaths are quick and painless? You might not want to read this book. (But really, if you are like me, I know you’ll still want to—sicko!)


If you google my name and the words “cardiac arrest”, you’ll see why I was a bit squeamish when the authors talk about a heart busting through one of the body’s cavity walls. I have friends with epilepsy, and the authors kindly point out how it kills. You like to drink? Yeah, Mr. Budweiser and his friends are big time killers. I was surprised about the lack of fatal car accidents in The Big Apple, but there’s still plenty of others ways to get squashed. You’ll see.


Here’s the funny thing: amidst talking of death, decay, rot, and stench, you’ll find moments of tenderness and life appreciation. Between Dr. Judy Melinek talking to the deceased’s families, or her post-work conversations with husband T.J. Mitchell, there is plenty to be sentimental about. And then there’s 9/11. Beside the serious issues, you’ll also find a LOT of humor. I’m still laughing about how many folks walk around us with piercings hidden in their knickers: you’d be surprised.


Yes, I asked for more dead bodies. Instead of 10, I got over 200. I was scared, mortified, and shocked—and loved every minute of it. I could not put this book down. It was informative, very well written, and oddly satisfying. If you have any interest in this topic (and we know you do) then this will be an excellent book to pursue. (Just don’t read it before bedtime or meals…bad idea.)


Thanks Scribner for providing this electronically for review. You answered the call and I had a hell of a time.

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut - Hannah Hart

If you are looking for a serious, step-by-step cookbook: turn around now. If you are looking for light-hearted fun, lots of joking around, and insights on friendship: buy this book now.

For the uninitiated, Hannah Hart began her rise to kitchen stardom with the famously slurred words, “Hello, welcome to my drunk kitchen.” We learned—while things were being dropped, burnt, and forgotten—how to make grilled cheese. But not just grilled cheese: grilled cheese with humor, fun, and entertainment. Here’s that video:

Since then, Hannah has attracted millions of viewers, partnered with drunk celebrities, and raised money for charity. Now she has a book.

The question is, does the same fun cross over into book form? Yes! A thousand times yes. The book has lots of off-shoot narratives written by Hannah about the joys of friendship and having fun, all organized in neat categories around her food creations. There are tons and tons of full-color pictures with it all, plus cute comedic drawings and quotes. Every idea is followed by one of Hannah’s Life Lessons.

For instance, one “recipe” in this book is Hannah’s Pizzadilla. Ingredients are: tortillas, marinara sauce, cheese, and “tissues for everyone who starts to cry tears of joy when you bring this out to serve.” The instructions basically say “cook until edible” in the oven, and there are five pictures of Hannah cooking this stove-top. You’ll get the idea of how it blends together, and maybe you’ll try it, maybe you’ll come up with something different, but ultimately you’ll laugh and enjoy the experience. (Hint: this is a great book to flip through with a friend next to you.)

Sometimes Hannah advocates getting frozen snacks from Trader Joe’s, sometimes you won’t even know what she’s mixing together (such as the one where she’s supposedly ‘high’), and other times it is pretty cut and dry with what you have on hand. Every list of ingredients starts with Words of Wisdom and a suggested opening cocktail.

Here’s a quote from Hannah, “Pro Tip: To learn more about things, read books or use the Internet.” Okay, maybe you had to be there. Okay, maybe I should start a thing where I review books while drunk. Or not. We’ll see.

Here’s a quote she included from someone famous, “Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.” G.K. Chesterton said that in Heretics.

Bottom line: go into this having fun. You may learn some handy kitchen ideas (I sure did..yum, yum!), but you’ll definitely walk away smiling.

By the way, thanks !t books for sending this to me for review. The book is GORGEOUS: hard bound, lots and lots of colors and pictures. This is something to experience with others. Oh, and this will be the last book printed under the name !t books: they’re now going to be called Dey Street Book.

The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents - Ronald Kessler

This book is so, so good. Not only does it offer the sordid and egregious details of some of our recent presidents, but it shows the tender moments, too. Author Ronald Kessler knows his stuff! In this, THE FIRST FAMILY DETAIL, he blends all his research and interviews together to make an interesting, page-turning book. I could NOT put it down!


What kept me pulled into this book was Kessler’s gradual introduction into another world. Chapter-by-chapter he would present new terms (such as “the beast”, “the jackal”, and all the presidents’ code names: Timberwolf, Eagle, Searchlight, Passkey, Renegade, etc.) and he would describe security protocol (how many people are required to travel internationally, the fade-away tape used in processions, the actual protocol for “the football”, etc.).


All the outrageous moments from the back of the book are here: actor Bradley Cooper getting a “free pass” through security, Biden’s $12,406 gulf trips, and Clinton’s current mistress (code named Energizer). There are plenty of other outrageous moments: which presidents slept around, which ones peed in the open in front of press and staff, which ones shunned security.


I appreciated seeing the kind moments, too. Like Barbara Bush ensuring a 40-year-old agent had a hat while on the cold beach. Or, the Obamas serving agents chili during the Super Bowl. It all comes together to paint an interesting, inside-scoop picture of the presidency and their protection.


Kessler doesn’t appear politically aimed in any of this writing. We see both sides of Republicans and Democrats alike. Sure, there may be some noticeable patterns, but both parties have their heroes and their heretics.


No matter how you cut it, this book is a highly entertaining and interesting read.


Thank you to Crown Forum for sending me this book through Blogging for Books for review. 

When the World Was Young: A Novel - Elizabeth Gaffney

Too constructed. That’s what this book is. It took me a while to figure it out, but everything made sense once I read the acknowledgement section: I would like to thank…one long list. No heart, no emotion, no genuine feeling.


This book should have been much better. Let’s take a look at some of the winning elements:


Written well? Yes.

Interesting time period? Yes.

Overcoming prejudices? Yes.

Difficult family decisions/tragedy? Yes.

Consequences of war? Yes.

Deeper, nearly allegorical meaning? Yes (ants).

Emotion? Nope.


This is interesting. Maybe I’m spoiled for having just read Annie Weatherwax’s ALL WE HAD. On one side, you have a seasoned writer, who teaches writing, putting together all the elements of a perfect novel. On the other side, you have an artist. This artist does it all, but has made a career out of making superhero and kids’ comic models. Difference: emotion, depth, and sight.


I want to FEEL something when I read fiction. WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG should have made me feel something from any of these: a love affair, racial tension, nuclear development, women in college. But nothing. It was all cut and dry and calculated.


Thank you to Random House for providing this book electronically for me to review. I love this time period (thumbs up to another recent ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET for the same era), but I like to believe there was something more waiting to be felt.

Big Dreams Take Small Sacrifices - Sourena Vasseghi

This book is so special that I asked for the author Sourena Vasseghi to write a personalized message for my review. Below is that message:


“Every time I wanted to publish my autobiography, there was a nagging voice saying, “Who would want to read an autobiography about a guy in a wheelchair?” One of my unique gifts is being able to articulate what I’ve learned as a disabled man and relate it to business, sports, love, spirituality and success.


“One day I came up with the saying, “Big dreams takes big sacrifices. “ It was so good that I decided that I had to write a book. I started that book in 2010. In the middle of writing that book, I decided that I needed a sabbatical so I put it away. Even though I was on sabbatical, I started writing the second version of my autobiography. One day I was at the gym and it hit me, “Big Dreams” had to be written. I was scheduled to board a plane to Dallas to go to a sponsorship conference. At the conference, someone asked me what my new book was about. I said, “dreams.” Then I said to myself, “Yep, I’m doing this!” I got home and started writing and writing and writing. I decided that instead of “Big Sacrifices” it should be “Small Sacrifices.” The reason being is that I believe in doing the small stuff every single day in order for big dreams to come true.”


Thank you, Sourena.


Now for the review…


At first, I was conflicted with the premise of this book. Lately I’ve been trying to see the purpose of the moment, the value of the journey. I’ve been reading/studying Thích Nhất Hạnh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Echkhart Tolle. But even those great mentors still allow for the practical goal setting of life; all of the business success books I’ve read seem to point to that common denominator. You want to build clients? Set a goal. You want to lose weight? Set a goal. Sourena’s book is more than “it’s a pain”, and more of “let’s do this!” Those are my quotes, but from this book, “Dreams are all about hard work and headaches, but ultimately they’re about building something extraordinary.”


The idea here is that without striving, we can be caught in mediocrity, pawning off responsibilities, caught in distractions and excuses. Looking at the author’s life, which there is plenty to sample from in this book, he had ample opportunity to wallow or hold back. Instead, he took the moment-by-moment processes to affect change. As he writes, “moments lead to habits, and habits lead to living the life you have.”


Another part of this book I like are the Reflections pages. I see this practiced more in religious-themed readings versus secular (though I think more secular books need to add this paused-time to reflect). These pages have spaces and lines to write responses to author-offered guided reflections. By the time you finish this book, you will see what you consider a sacrifice as a tool well worth the end, life-lasting result.


In summary, this book may not follow my recent philosophies of living at peace with every moment, but I see the value of Sourena’s offering. Having him write this book made it more hero-like and relatable.


Thanks to those that reached out to me and sent me this book to review.

All We Had: A Novel - Annie Weatherwax

“We went from zero to sixty in no time. I was out of school and she was out of work. We had no place to be and not a thing to lose.”


And so begins this amazing book by Annie Weatherwax. Some of my previous reviews focused on the art of a story—Annie is the artist and shares this story as only an artist could. (Check out her video on YouTube, called ALL WE HAD, and features her art carrier and its translation into writing a book.)



This book is wonderful, but don’t expect butterflies, kittens, and rainbows. Though at times, the language goes from “Life is [s-]” to the beautiful observations like “Life, it turned out, could open up and offer peace and space for friends.” And that’s what makes this book so precious: observations. Artists see the world in their own unique vision. They see deeper than color and size: artists see the world for what it is. Annie, as that artist, shares this vision. We are a part of the world. We’ve lived it, we relate, we feel.


“Snap, snap, snap” “clip, clip, clip” Weatherwax’s inclusion of sounds, brings this world even more alive. “There were so many things to be sorry for. But this was how we lived—with pain and foul smells.” As a reader, you feel the pain of infliction, but you also cherish the bond of mother and daughter. Whether they are taking sponge baths in gas-station sinks, or sh—ing in a field, or just singing a song in the car together: you are present.


So many good characters. The mother and daughter are part of a world of interesting and fascinating people. The old couple next door: ““It looked easier for them to dance together than it was for either one to walk alone.” Peter Pam; the boyfriends; the co-workers. It all signals Weatherwax’s reality and touch.


In this book, Weatherwax, through her characters, states if only one book could be given to alien visitors, it would be TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Another bonus point for Weatherwax.


Thanks Scribner for sharing this wonderful book with me to review.


I leave with one final quote, taken about halfway through this touching adventure:


“Superheroes, I realized don’t fly or look like Jesus. They drive used Fords like my mother’s and they take their kids with them no matter where they go.”

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Became the Last Country on Earth to Keep Its Feet - John Marciano

Holy Cow! This book is actually interesting. I grabbed this book, having a mild curiosity in wanting to find out why us Americans measure in feet, travel in miles, and weigh in pounds, versus seemingly the rest of the world, but what I got was so much more!


Seriously, I’m not just blowing this out of proportion. (Sorry for the bad pun, but get it? Proportion? Ok, never mind.) The author starts talking about recent presidents and Dan Rather and then pulls some mind tricks. He breaks the chapters up by fractions, such as 2/16 being one eighth, and then talks about Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams, and how the decimal system came about. Then he talks about money. We all are interested in money, right? And he goes on and on.


What I’m saying is this book is much more than inches versus centimeters or ounces versus cups, this is about math and human interest and history. Many things I have never heard of or learned before, such as France’s fascination with Franklin, and how he played it up when he went there.


Kudos to John Bemelmans Marciano, he just made learning entertaining; that’s awesome.


Oh, and speaking of that French connection with Franklin, the author also penned the children’s favorite MADELINE books. So, yeah, he’s good stuff.


Thanks Bloomsbury for providing this electronically for review; this book rocks.

Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill, Revised and Updated Edition: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence - Dave Grossman, Gloria Degaetano

According to this book, since Adam Lanza shot 26 children on December 14, 2012 there have been 44 school shootings. “One factor every one of them had in common was an obsession with media violence.” “Never in human history was there a multiple homicide committed by a juvenile against people in his or own school until 1975.”


Allow me to offer a case study: me. Last year I stopped playing video games, mainly to focus more on my parental responsibilities. As I look back on myself, and as others have voluntarily told me, my demeanor is calmer, more relaxed, and friendly. I recently witnessed to someone, “I’ve never had a calm, relaxed game of Call of Duty online.” Thrown controllers, fowl words spoken, fits of rage were all inevitable. Yes, I enjoyed violent movies, too. It all blended together. My appetite was insatiable. Today, though, none of that really appeals to me.


If these games affected me as an adult, how much more so would a child be affected? Yet, it is not uncommon for an 8-year-old to play a game that rewards extreme torture, killing, and prostitution. And, as this illustrates through studies, most parents do not consider a video game’s rating prior to purchase.


“Well over 1,000 studies…point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.” Though the studies are clear, the authors also point out that the conscious mind thinks evidence leads to belief, but in reality the unconscious mind actually believes first and seeks supportive evidence. You’ll hear gamers and violent movie lovers justify and try to disprove the already conclusive evidence. One study, done in 2010, reviewed 130,295 participants; it concluded “violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior.”


As the authors write, “It’s certainly not normal for so many kids to want to kill, harm, bully, or hurt others as they do today.” Violent media and violent video games are proven to lead to: 1. Increased aggression, 2. Increased fear, 3.                Desensitization to real-life and screen violence, and 4. Increased appetite for violence.


If you are a parent or guardian, please read this book. The authors also include many resources on how to prevent or filter violent content from getting to your vulnerable children. Together, we can turn the tide and make this world a more peaceful place.


Thank you to Harmony and Crown for sending this book to me for review.

The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See - Max Bazerman

This book is more about learning by example versus instruction. Author Max Bazerman shares stories, many of which he has personal involvement with, all about the power of noticing. Much of this likens to Malcom Gladwell’s method of sharing examples to illustrate the main theme, but without the same thought provoking or story telling ability. In other words, instead of offering bullet-pointed steps to practice the power of noticing, Bazerman gives detailed examples of recent news-headlined events and how noticing could have prevented catastrophe, both bodily and financial. These examples seem more rote than congruent.


Even in the final chapter “Developing the Capacity to Notice”, Bazerman is light on instruction or application and instead re-emphasizes his take on business methodology. I think this is what drove me to a lesser-starred review: I expected more “how to” versus the author’s autobiography and thoughts on the current and recent business world. To some, though, this will still be a worthwhile investment (as the author states) compared to the cost to take one of his college courses.


This book seems perfect for executives looking to learn from example and develop a bravado for asking out-of-bounds questions. Both safety and financial success depend on going against the group mentality and seeking the obscure, almost hidden details. Don’t be afraid to look, explore, and ask.


Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing an electronic version of this book for me to review.

Admissions Essay Boot Camp: How to Write Your Way into the Elite College of Your Dreams - Ashley Wellington

If you, or someone you know, is applying to college: read this book! Ashley Wellington is a pro and offers a ton of advice at a fraction of the cost you’d find through a paid service.


My takeaway is Wellington’s attempt to find the applicants voice, making them stand-out, while not crossing boundaries of acceptability. In other words, being unique, but not offensive or errant. Every chapter walks through the creative process, developing a strong response to the typical essay question. Wellington includes many essay’s she has personally coached through the process, highlighting what works, what is risky, and what doesn’t work.


There are essay samples, but not as many as I would have expected. Mainly what you’ll find are outlines of strategy followed by Wellington’s estimated reactions, both positive and negative.


You may be tempted to overthink the essay, binding you in the writing process, but Wellington tries to minimalize that with her experienced guidelines. For instance, there is a whole chapter providing a list of acceptable contractions, as well as instances when to use them (such as letter count limits).


Writers in general will find some useful advice; essay writers will find this a “must have”.


Thanks to Ten Speed Press and Crown Publishing for sending this to me for review.

Unwind!: 7 Principles for a Stress-Free Life - Max Lucado, Sam Bracken, Daniel G. Amen, Wayne Shepherd

UNWIND! is what you get when you combine the principles of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 habits with that of mindfulness and stress reduction. Sound good? It is!


Authors Michael Olpin and Sam Bracken combine their expertise to craft a quick-read book that gets you into the balance of stress and tranquility. As the opening states, a little stress is healthy, but too much can be catastrophic. The authors use Covey’s already established habits and offer—get ready for it—paradigms! (You thought you were done hearing that ‘p’ word, didn’t you?)


Before launching into their 7 paradigms, the authors do speak to the power of mindfulness, which I love. I am surprised, though, that the authors didn’t really speak to the power of sleep, which Arianna Huffington used to combine with mindfulness and meditation in her book THRIVE.


The author’s 7 paradigms are:

1)      Reactive to Proactive

2)      Unmotivated to Inspired

3)      Pressures to Priorities

4)      Hassle to Harmony

5)      Anxiety to Empathy

6)      Defensive to Diverse

7)      Tense to Tranquil


I can testify to the power of each shift of the mind; these things WILL make you less stressed and more capable. The benefits are more than just health. You’ll actually find yourself getting more things done, and get those things done in a more organized, more thought out, better way.


The authors claim that many other books pick apart the “limbs” while this book strikes at the “root” of stress. I’m not so sure those others books don’t accomplish the same. Yes, many “self-help” books may skirt around the issues, but if you’ve already been reading about mindfulness or have been faithfully following Covey’s 7 habits, you may already be ahead of the game.


I would recommend this book to anyone looking to find that balance in life and find the tranquility they desire.


Thanks to Grand Harbor Press and Amazon Publishing for sending me this book for review.

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It - Gabriel Wyner

In high school I ripped my French book in half. Well, I tried to. The pages came out easily, but the hardbound cover was near impossible. I sure tried, though. If you are like me, you can probably relate to the feeling of that “wall” in learning a foreign language. For me, it was right around conjugating time, and it wasn’t pretty.


FLUENT FOREVER is all about making learning foreign languages fun, easy, and—hopefully—permanent. Some of the first things author Gabriel Wyner promotes are never to translate foreign words and to throw out (actually he says burn) books with English-y pronunciation guides (e.g. bawn-JURE).


Wyner encourages fun, laziness, and multi-sensory involvement. He lists a TON of free resources online to build your learning repertoire. He talks about using spaced repetition systems (SRSs) and the IPA (international phonetic alphabet). And you know what? It all makes a ton of sense. Wyner explores scientific studies and shows case-by-case examples of why his methods work. His life is proof, as he can speak six languages fluently, having learned them all in a few years’ time.


A lot of these free resources have been catalogued on Wyner’s site Fluent-Forever.com.


Here’s what Wyner never mentions: Duolingo. Maybe he’s never heard of it, but at the beginning of 2014, it won a best educational start-up award and had 25 million users. It was also named as app of the year by Apple (the first ever educational app with that award). According to one study, users of Duolingo learned the equivalent of a 130 hour first-year college semester course in a foreign language in just 34 hours. Best of all: it’s free. As a Duolingo user, many of the things Wyner promotes fall into line with its offerings. I’d be curious what he thinks.


Overall, Wyner offers a great way to break down the language barrier. His methods are sound, quick to get into, and fun. If you are struggling to learn a language or want to start, this is a great resource.


Thanks to the folks at Harmony and Crown for sending this book to me for review.

Inamorata - Megan Chance

This book is just as gorgeous as its cover. It reminds me of the recent book THE QUICK, taking me into beautiful European history whilst dipping me into the supernatural. More books need to be like this. Author Megan Chance blends it well together, offering magnificent results.


First, let’s talk characters. I absolutely love that Megan presents the story from different character perspectives, especially allowing us to see into the perspective of the succubus herself. Her descriptions are marvelous: you can see why all the characters are drawn to Odilé. If you’re like me, you’ll be drawn to her as well. The story of the brother and sister was a perfect tool in developing this story. Plenty of love, intrigue, and mystery to keep it going with vivid detail.


Second, let’s talk setting: 19th Century Venice. Need I say more? While some of it may have been over romanticized (such as the canals smelling attractively fragrant), I can overlook that and allow myself to be submersed into the storyline. It was a lovely blend. I enjoy it when an author recognizes the character detail of location. It really embellishes the story, making it more believable.


Finally, the supernatural. The choice of succubus over vampire worked great. By the description and the OMG-prologue, I thought there’d be more neck biting, but this worked so much better. I want to see more stories like this. Sexy and appealing.


Well done Megan Chance. This was my first book of hers and it won’t be my last. Thank you to the folks at Lake Union Publishing for providing this to me electronically for review.

Dear Daughter: A Novel - Elizabeth  Little

Folks reading my reviews will know I’m not a fan of book blurbs: they usually lead astray and set false expectations. In this case, it’s spot-on. Tana French said of DEAR DAUGHTER, “"This is an all-nighter . . . The best debut mystery I've read in a long time." I would have to agree about it being an all-nighter. I started reading this on break, and had to finish it before night’s end. It is catchy, fun, and highly entertaining.



I liken this book to Part II of GONE GIRL, where the “cool girl” is talking. Here, we witness a pop culture, media child fresh from a case involving her murdered mother. She’s on the run from TMZ and other celebrity bloggers and news media. There’s constantly the question of “did she?” or “didn’t she?” Right up to the end, you just don’t know what to fully expect. Thankfully, although I wasn’t fully satisfied with it, it did have a resolved ending compared to GONE GIRL.



The style is a combination of first person narrative and media clippings, including letters, texts, and web pages. I really enjoyed the blend; it added a certain mystery and realness to it all. Much of the book uses real names of celebrities and news outlets, giving it even more of an authentic feel. You can totally picture our post-teen celeb darlings getting involving in such misfitted adventure.



Overall, this was a fun read that seemed totally plausible. Lots of elements pulled together to give an authentic feel to an adrenaline-fueled mystery. I’m giving a thumbs-up for Elizabeth Little’s debut.



Thanks to the folks at Viking and Penguin Group for providing this book electronically for my review.

Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Richard O'Connor

Author Richard O’Connor just combined two of my favorite books: Daniel Hahneman’s THINKING, FAST AND SLOW and Eckhart Tolle’s THE POWER OF NOW. Not only did he combine them, he did it quite well, making it his own. This was an enjoyable, insightful read that I highly recommend.



Ouch!” That’s the first thing you’ll say. O’Connor lists out the bad habits—one by one. At first, you may not think you are that bad off. Then you flip the page. And another page. He’s got your number. Several of your numbers. Then O’Connor goes into detail of how we minimalize our bad habits, thinking they aren’t that destructive, and then he systematically proves how they are bad. Yeah, “ouch!”



But read on, fellow readers! You wouldn’t be looking at this book if you didn’t want to change. O’Connor doesn’t leave you in the heaps of disappointment; he shows various methods to change. He gives the scientific background of what works and doesn’t work, and then offers exercises to change. My favorite, as alluded to before, is mindfulness techniques and awareness. But this isn’t all breathing and meditating. O’Connor offers plenty of techniques for the “I don’t want this ‘ah-om’ stuff” folks (though the ‘ah-om’ stuff works—trust me…and trust O’Connor). He talks about journaling, and many other hearty techniques that are easy to implement and rid those nasty ol’ habits.



Bottom line: we all do things that we want to change or eliminate. O’Connor blends the best of what is out there and makes it practical, real, and obtainable. This is a great book that’ll give you a better life.



Thanks to Hudson Street Press and Penguin Group for providing this to me electronically for review.