Book Review – The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the story of a single mom of two who finally catches a break when her ex-husband returns for a summer with the kids. Off to New York City for a convention, Amy reconnects with an old friend, meets new people, lets loose and learns a lot about herself and what she wants in life.

So, I had a baby, hence the Kindle purchase, because I am now a middle of the night reader in addition to a day time reader, because who needs sleep? One of the most exciting things I’ve found since being a Kindle owner/user is Amazon’s daily deals for e-Books. I pretty much check them every day. And then as a Prime member, I will choose no-rush shipping to get my digital rewards, and between my rewards and the daily deals, I’m getting free e-Books!

Book 41:
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
by Kelly Harms

Genre:
Chick Lit, Contemporary

Published:
May 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the story of a single mom of two who finally catches a break when her ex-husband returns for a summer with the kids. Off to New York City for a convention, Amy reconnects with an old friend, meets new people, lets loose and learns a lot about herself and what she wants in life.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Some people have to practice forgiveness and will never be naturals. They’ll either do the work and get awesome at it but always have to think it over—or never do the work and die with a sack of hurts the size of an elephant.”

– Kelly Harms, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
328

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Sure, I was half asleep while reading most of this book, but I also found myself continuing to read at 2:00/3:00 in the morning even after my kiddo was done eating, so… the book was good. However, had I sat down and read this during the day, I think I would have found that I didn’t love, love, love it. It was perfect for a pick-it-up-and-read-a-bit situation. It’s light-hearted. The story flowed easily. But mostly, I thought the story was really cute – a feel good read with likable characters the author sets you up to love. Cute doesn’t make me love a book, but sometimes cute is good, too.

Book Review – Three Women

Three Women explores the sex lives of three real women based on nearly a decade of reporting. Lina, Sloane and Maggie are human. They have desires. And they all face non-traditional sexual circumstances in attempts to accommodate their desires.

Our October book club book was once a Book of the Month option. I did not choose it for my BOTM, but I did win it at an event at my local library, so I do happen to own it, though I will not be keeping it for various reasons as described below…

Book 40:
Three Women
by Lisa Taddeo

Genre:
Nonfiction, Feminism

Published:
July 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Three Women explores the sex lives of three real women based on nearly a decade of reporting. Lina, Sloane and Maggie are human. They have desires. And they all face non-traditional sexual circumstances in attempts to accommodate their desires.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We don’t remember what we want to remember. We remember what we can’t forget.”

– Lisa Taddeo, Three Women

Awards (based upon my brief research):
#1 New York Times Bestseller

Pages:
304

My Overall Rating:
2 – For me, Maggie’s story was the redemptive quality in this book. While Lina’s and Sloane’s stories often seemed pornographic, Maggie’s gave insight to the mistreatment of women in the sexual context. A teenager wrapped up in a student/teacher relationship, whether she was “asking for it” or not, I think it was wrong of the teacher to pursue anything with his student.

And then the book as a whole… I had to remind myself time and time again that these were true stories. It read like an emotionless novel. The flow made sense, but there was no heart in it. I understand the book was report based, but I think Taddeo should have considered adding some depth to make the reader feel… something… anything.

All this being said, though I always try to come at books with an open mind, I will not be keeping this book. It’s not a book I can have on my shelves with kids around. It’s not a book I would ever reread or recommend to a friend. If it weren’t for book club, I most likely would not have finished this book after chapter two.

Book Review – Wild Game

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me is Adrienne Brodeur’s true story of the night her mother woke her up to tell her that a man – one who wasn’t her husband – had kissed her and the events that unfold thereafter. Adrienne was 14 when her mom did this, but it set the trajectory for an unusual mother/daughter relationship for the rest of their lives.

If you read my reviews, you know I love memoirs. My September Book of the Month choice was a no-brainer. One, it’s a memoir. And two, it sounded so intriguing. I had to read it.

Book 39:
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
by Adrienne Brodeur

Genre:
Memoir, Autobiography, Nonfiction

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me is Adrienne Brodeur’s true story of the night her mother woke her up to tell her that a man – one who wasn’t her husband – had kissed her and the events that unfold thereafter. Adrienne was 14 when her mom did this, but it set the trajectory for an unusual mother/daughter relationship for the rest of their lives.

Favorite Quote(s):

“You have no idea how much you can learn about yourself by plunging into someone else’s life.”

– Adrienne Brodeur, Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
256

My Overall Rating:
5 – Let me begin with a disclaimer – I read this book the week I had a baby. Emotions were high. However, I absolutely loved the transparency of Brodeur and the way she shared her story. I laughed, I cried, I related and I loved it.

For a memoir, the story largely flowed in chronological order, touching on each major event or milestone. That made it very easy to want to read more and more. And then there is the topic. Mother/daughter relationships are so hard. There were elements of the relationship explored in this memoir that I could definitely relate to and many I could not even believe, but it was beautiful to read this story and think, “I’m not alone,” or, “There is always someone who has it better/worse.”

I cannot even imagine going through what Brodeur went through, but I am so grateful she chose to share her story. As the mother of a daughter, I constantly wonder if/when I will cross the line and how that will affect our relationship going forward. It was so interesting to read about the events that unfolded after that moment in Adrienne’s life.

I think this is a must read for moms – especially moms of daughters!

Book Review – Color Me In

Color Me In is the multi-racial story of Nevaeh Levitz in some of the most formative times of her life. Nevaeh is half black, half Jewish and white-presenting. Not only does she struggle to identify a culture that is true to who she is, she struggles to understand who she is in general. And then her parents split, taking their respective cultures and separating them once again, causing Nevaeh to discover, grapple with, and lean into the cultures that make her uniquely Nevaeh Levitz.

I have seriously been craving a solid Young Adult read, and I had high hopes for this one. I skipped the August Book of the Month options and nabbed this “add-on” as a stand-alone instead, hoping it would satisfy my craving. I think I got half way there…

Book 38:
Color Me In
by Natasha Diaz

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary, Debut

Published:
August 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Color Me In is the multi-racial story of Nevaeh Levitz in some of the most formative times of her life. Nevaeh is half black, half Jewish and white-presenting. Not only does she struggle to identify a culture that is true to who she is, she struggles to understand who she is in general. And then her parents split, taking their respective cultures and separating them once again, causing Nevaeh to discover, grapple with, and lean into the cultures that make her uniquely Nevaeh Levitz.

Favorite Quote(s):

“If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that you only receive what you are open to, and you are only open to what you believe you deserve.”

– Natasha Diaz, Color Me In

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
384

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Quick and easy, this book was definitely Young Adult. However, in ways it was almost too comparable to The Hate U Give, which took away from the overall excitement I had about this book going into it. The main character faces clashing cultures. White-presenting, she’s privileged, but she’s technically black, a people group who are not often considered to be privileged. The culture clash is intriguing – it’s something I cannot relate to, and I really appreciate Diaz diving into this story to give some perspective.

However, I would have liked for the overall story to have a greater plot. There didn’t seem to be any one event that was the height of all the action. And then my biggest pet peeve, Nevaeh reads her mom’s journal, and apparently her mom wrote in her journal as if she were writing a novel. I don’t think people actually do that…

All that being said, I am always a fan of reading books to gain perspective on the situations of others unlike me, so I can’t say this was a waste of time in any way. I was just hoping for more from it.

Book Review – Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek is about a group of people who find themselves tangled up in what appears to be a murder mystery. United by their common usage of the Miracle Submarine, a hyperbaric chamber of a treatment facility, this particular treatment group is forever tied when tragedy ensues. An explosion happens mid-treatment, killing two people and injuring others. The fire appears to have been intentional, but who could have done it? Who had the motive? Who had the supplies and knowledge to make it happen? It’s a story that keeps both the reader and the characters guessing as more and more information is revealed.

The September book club pick was one I had trouble getting my hands on and needed to make a quick turnaround on it. I eventually got an audio copy as well as a hard copy and worked my way through this one using a mix of both – I would not advise this approach.

Book 37:
Miracle Creek
by Angie Kim

Genre:
Mystery, Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller

Published:
April 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Miracle Creek is about a group of people who find themselves tangled up in what appears to be a murder mystery. United by their common usage of the Miracle Submarine, a hyperbaric chamber of a treatment facility, this particular treatment group is forever tied when tragedy ensues. An explosion happens mid-treatment, killing two people and injuring others. The fire appears to have been intentional, but who could have done it? Who had the motive? Who had the supplies and knowledge to make it happen? It’s a story that keeps both the reader and the characters guessing as more and more information is revealed.

Favorite Quote(s):

“That was the thing about lies: they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick to your story.”

– Angie Kim, Miracle Creek

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
355

My Overall Rating:
3 – I will admit, this particular genre does not typically appeal to me. I went in assuming I would not love it. I read it quickly due to my book club meeting date, which helped me like it better, but my 3 is a reflection of what I think I would have given it if I’d taken a full week to read it like usual. Still, I do think it can hold its own. The story was unique. The characters were diverse. The writing was mostly great.

However, there were aspects of the plot that seemed too easy for the reader to figure out. As soon as a major element of a typical mystery was revealed, I had the conclusion nailed down to three possibilities, yet the author continue to spell out five or more possibilities at times, which seemed to be a waste of pages to me.

All-in-all, if this is your genre, you probably can’t go wrong with reading this.

Book Review – A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany is about the friendship between Owen Meany and John Wheelwright after Owen Meany murders John’s mom via an accidental, Little League foul ball at the age of 11. Naturally, their lives are forever changed – John is parentless and Owen believes he is God’s instrument. Together, they navigate some of their most formative years in the wake of this tragedy, maintaining the deepest of friendships.

Someone convinced me to pick up this modern classic because it’s “so highly reviewed”. I started reading it way back during my library’s Book BINGO because it crossed off the “read a book published in the year you were born” square. Weeks and weeks later, here we are.

Book 36:
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving

Genre:
Fiction, Modern Classic, Contemporary Literature

Published:
March 1989

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, A Prayer for Owen Meany is about the friendship between Owen Meany and John Wheelwright after Owen Meany murders John’s mom via an accidental, Little League foul ball at the age of 11. Naturally, their lives are forever changed – John is parentless and Owen believes he is God’s instrument. Together, they navigate some of their most formative years in the wake of this tragedy, maintaining the deepest of friendships.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

– John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
552

My Overall Rating:
2 – It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I was reading a book that was “required reading” for a class. Required reading for work? Sure, I’ve had that, but this one put me right back in high school. It averages 4.23 stars on GoodReads with over 270,000 ratings. How could I dislike it as much as I did?

Here’s my problem: The first 50 pages and the last 50 pages were solid. Everything in between felt slice-of-life-like, and that is just not a style I can get into. To make matters worse, this is a BIG book. This particular edition is 550 pages, but the pages are large and the text is small. I started in mid-July, and had to set it down and read other books while making my way through this one in order to keep myself interested in reading.

I see why it’s a modern classic, I really do. It has definite classic vibes – it hits on religious topics, it takes place in a majorly cultural transformative time (the Vietnam era) and it gives deep, deep insight into the main characters and their stories. Published in the late 1980s, it’s obviously modern. But if I had to read this for school, gag me with a spoon. Even not reading it for school was challenging, but… woof… I made it.

Book Review – The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers

The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor is a look into the life and faith of Fred Rogers. A deeply spiritual man, Mister Rogers preached the gospel, while very infrequently using words to do so. Author, Amy Hollingsworth, had the opportunity to interview Mister Rogers in regards to his unique and gentle approach to evangelism through media. She built a relationship with him that continued on until his death and gleaned, like thousands of people across the nation, spiritual insights that have changed her life which she shares in this book.

Another Amazon Prime Reading freebie, I picked this book because I needed something to share for devotions at work and thought maybe this could work. It did. And I actually really liked the book!

Book 35:
The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor
by Amy Hollingsworth

Genre:
Nonfiction, Biography, Christian

Published:
September 2007

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor is a look into the life and faith of Fred Rogers. A deeply spiritual man, Mister Rogers preached the gospel, while very infrequently using words to do so. Author, Amy Hollingsworth, had the opportunity to interview Mister Rogers in regards to his unique and gentle approach to evangelism through media. She built a relationship with him that continued on until his death and gleaned, like thousands of people across the nation, spiritual insights that have changed her life which she shares in this book.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Fred’s intention was never to impose his beliefs on his viewers. Instead, he wanted to create an atmosphere, one that would allow viewers to feel safe and accepted.”

– Amy Hollingsworth, The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
183

My Overall Rating:
4 – I think this book should be required reading for anyone raising young children. The world needs more people like Mister Rogers. As a child watching his show, I never noticed the spiritual undertones. Returning to his work at this age, I just want so badly for my children to grow into the kind of people Mister Rogers was trying to help create. Hollingsworth uncovered the motivation behind his method, and it is just beautiful. How can one man live his life so completely dedicated to doing the Lord’s work literally every waking hour? And where are those people today? And is it ok if my child only watches TV shows from the 80s and 90s?

Book Review – The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything is the story of Ezra Faulkner’s rise and fall in high school. The tennis team star and anticipated homecoming king sat at THE cafeteria table. He was invited to all of the coolest parties. He dated the coolest girl. He had the coolest friends. And then he didn’t. Then his girlfriend cheated on him, a car accident shattered his leg, and he fell in love with the offbeat new girl, Cassidy Thorpe. Was his life, as he knew it, ending? Or was this the beginning of everything?

Another Amazon Prime Reading freebie, I chose this book because I’ve read the author before, I was in the mood for a young adult read and, well, the cover just looked really cool. I’ve still been plugging along on my big, adult-like book that’s taking me forever to get through, but this Kindle is just pulling me away from that book and putting hundreds of others too easily at my fingertips!

Book 34:
The Beginning of Everything
by Robyn Schneider

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary

Published:
August 2013

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Beginning of Everything is the story of Ezra Faulkner’s rise and fall in high school. The tennis team star and anticipated homecoming king sat at THE cafeteria table. He was invited to all of the coolest parties. He dated the coolest girl. He had the coolest friends. And then he didn’t. Then his girlfriend cheated on him, a car accident shattered his leg, and he fell in love with the offbeat new girl, Cassidy Thorpe. Was his life, as he knew it, ending? Or was this the beginning of everything?

Favorite Quote(s):

“I still think that everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst—the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere—it’s what comes after that determines the result.”

– Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2014)
Lincoln Award Nominee (2015)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2013)

Pages:
357

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I genuinely feel bad not giving this book a 4, BUT… I gave another of Robyn Schneider’s books, Extraordinary Means, 4 stars, and I have to say I would recommend that one higher than this one. Both were solid reads – great young adult novels, quick and heartfelt. I cried at least once while reading both.

Now let me talk about high school. It’s that four year span where everything matters but nothing actually matters… unless you make it matter. Ezra does this. Mature for his age, he steps out of his popularity and leans into who he truly wants to be. He was prompted, of course, by his circumstances, but I loved the believability of his journey and how even he questioned himself as antagonist or protagonist.

In many ways, I felt like Robyn was telling the story of my high school days, which made this book so fun to read.

So I guess I will sum up this review with these words: great, quick, heartfelt, believable, relatable. But you will still be pulled in quickly and shocked as events unfold. I should probably just bump this up to a 4…

Book Review – Cozy Minimalist Home

Cozy Minimalist Home is a self-help guide to gaining more style in your home with less stuff. Smith takes the reader, step-by-step, through the process of designing and/or re-designing a room to make it functional, purposeful and cozy.

Friends, I made a real leap into questionable territory – I bought a Kindle. Among the many benefits owning a Kindle boasts, I’ve got some additional reasoning for taking said leap, and I think I’m going to like it. However, I have to note that I will always be a true, hold-it-in-your-hands, turn-your-own-pages book lover. I even like the smell of books. And I hate that my toddler looks at my Kindle and thinks it’s my phone.

So my first Kindle read, and my 33rd book of the year, was one I got for free because of my Amazon Prime membership (something I love about owning a Kindle… eek!).

Book 33:
Cozy Minimalist Home; More Style, Less Stuff
by Myquillyn Smith

Genre:
Nonfiction, Self Help

Published:
October 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Cozy Minimalist Home is a self-help guide to gaining more style in your home with less stuff. Smith takes the reader, step-by-step, through the process of designing and/or re-designing a room to make it functional, purposeful and cozy.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Many people never know they are allowed to say the have enough. It almost seems un-American.”

– Myquillyn Smith, Cozy Minimalist Home; More Style, Less Stuff

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
220

My Overall Rating:
3 – I really loved the idea of this book. I struggle with home decor – it is not something I would consider myself good at, and my husband often tells me we do not have enough of it because I just haven’t gotten around to decorating in the five years we’ve owned our house. Making my house cozy with a minimalist approach sounded like a great idea!

However, a lot of it Smith’s suggestions seemed elementary and would have been more beneficial if I was just moving in as opposed to just dreaming up a re-decorated space. I gleaned a few takeaways that I’ll consider as I look to my yet-to-be-decorated spaces and/or my why-did-I-decorate-like-this spaces, but as a whole, I think this book is actually for someone who’s, well, worse at decorating than I am.

Smith certainly does decorate beautiful spaces, though!

Book Review – At the Water’s Edge

At the Water’s Edge is the story of three high-society Americans in 1942 who bypass involvement in the war, and set out, instead, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis, Maddie (a husband and wife) and their friend Hank live a frivolous life of fancy clothes, parties, and alcohol. However, when the country faces one of its darkest times and they can’t seem to turn away from their frivolity, Ellis’s free-flow of money stops and he has to prove himself worthy despite his inability to serve his country due to color-blindness.

Tied by marriage, Maddie follows her husband and hank across the ocean to a foreign country where they search, with a child-like vigor, to prove the monster’s existence, hoping this will restore their appearance in their wealthy circle back at home. Meanwhile, Maddie is left each day in their hotel, searching for things of her own – truth, friendship and love amidst the craziness that’s become her life.

Got a rogue post in here, because I think there will be another on Monday as usual – no promises.

Our August Book Club pick did not excite me at all, but I try to be a team player and still read the books when this is the case. I requested it at my library, forgot to pick it up in time, and seriously considered not trying to get it again. But then I snatched it from another local library, and dove in with just enough time before book club rolled around again, but boy, was I surprised by this one…

Book 32:
At the Water’s Edge
by Sara Gruen

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
March 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, At the Water’s Edge is the story of three high-society Americans in 1942 who bypass involvement in the war, and set out, instead, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis, Maddie (a husband and wife) and their friend Hank live a frivolous life of fancy clothes, parties, and alcohol. However, when the country faces one of its darkest times and they can’t seem to turn away from their frivolity, Ellis’s free-flow of money stops and he has to prove himself worthy despite his inability to serve his country due to color-blindness.

Tied by marriage, Maddie follows her husband and hank across the ocean to a foreign country where they search, with a child-like vigor, to prove the monster’s existence, hoping this will restore their appearance in their wealthy circle back at home. Meanwhile, Maddie is left each day in their hotel, searching for things of her own – truth, friendship and love amidst the craziness that’s become her life.

Favorite Quote(s):

“It seems there’s nothing so good or pure it can’t be taken without a moment’s notice. And then in the end, it all gets taken anyway.”

– Sara Gruen, At the Water’s Edge

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2015)

Pages:
348

My Overall Rating:
4 – I can’t deny it’s slow start. Based on the synopsis and the first 50 pages or so, I really thought this book was going to be a maximum of 2 stars. However, the farther I got, the more I enjoyed it. Beyond the mythology of sea monsters and the whimsical title, this book spoke to the heart of finding oneself. Ellis and Hank thought they were finding themselves as they set out on their adventure, but Maddie was doing the cold, hard work of seeing her mistakes, learning her truths, and changing herself for the better.

I absolutely loved Maddie’s character. She was vulnerable, yet strong. She made mistakes, yet sought good. She was willing to be lowly, yet previously accustomed to high society. I wanted all fo the best things for her and was happy to see where she ended up.

Genre-wise, the book vaguely reminded me of All the Light We Cannot See, another book I would highly recommend.