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Thursday, December 31, 2015

American Sniper | Chris Kyle

“Great way to fight a war - be prepared to defend yourself for winning.” 

Genre: Autobiography/War.
Number of Pages: 528.
Perspective: Alternating First.
Location: Texas and Iraq.

American Sniper is the story of the Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his many deployments during the War on Terror. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This is not my kind of book. I am ignorant about the military and the inner workings of war. Long action and fight sequences are boring to me -- but I have to give this book the credit it deserves. It is extremely well written and a compelling story. I actually saw this movie earlier this year, and it was one of the few war movies that I really enjoyed. My husband and I listened to this book together on a road trip for the holidays and he loved this book. He appreciated all the details in this book and was completely enthralled. I spaced out a few times [ehem—fell asleep a few times], but I still listened to enough of the story to understand the basics. It’s very long book and very detailed, so prepare yourself for that. Some of it also starts to feel repetitive. I’m glad that he included his trainings and the times between deployments, not just the actual war. For the first time, I am glad that I listened to this rather than read this, because it probably would have taken me forever to get through if I was reading it on my own. 

In audiobooks, sometimes the way a book is written doesn’t sound as nice when it is read aloud. This book was made for an audiobook. It sounded very natural and I felt like I was listening to a war veteran tell stories, rather than read a book. I appreciated that the book also gave the wife’s perspective, but those parts were also read by the same man, so sometimes I would forget when it was supposed to be her speaking [his female voice was just his normal voice at twice the speed]. 

I have some issues with some of the things he said/did throughout the book, but I will keep my opinion of those things to myself. I am glad he told his story and I feel like I know a little bit more about the military world now [though I still claim ignorance]. RIP Chris Kyle. 

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“But real life doesn't travel in a perfect straight line; it doesn't necessarily have that 'all lived happily ever after' bit. You have to work on where you're going.”  

4/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Never Never #1 | Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

“I want to tell him that what he did was nice, but nice is such a silly word for kindness. Anyone could pretend to be nice. What Silas did was innate. Boldfaced kindness.” 

Genre: Young Adult Romance.
Number of Pages: 159.
Perspective: Alternating First.
Location: New Orleans.

Never Never follows Silas and Charlie, a teenage couple that wake up one day and can’t remember anything about their lives. As they put together the pieces they start to realize that maybe they were hiding a lot of horrible secrets, and it's better to forget. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Well, I wanted quick read, and I definitely got that. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I usually HATE series. Especially with big cliffhangers. I don’t want to have to be committed to 3+ books to get a complete story. But typically after each book in a series, you feel some sort of resolution, even though there is a larger story that continues through all of the books. Nope, not this time. This was a really amazing book and I was powering through it. Then…it ends. It's like they took a novel, sliced it in thirds, and decided to space the release of all three parts over the course of a year to drive the readers insane. It's like starting to read a novel, losing it for a year, then picking up the book to finish when you don’t really care or remember what happened anymore. If it was a novel, it was going great and I would have given the book 5 stars, but because I feel it is incomplete, I can only give it 4 stars. The same thing happened when I read The Fixer.

I don’t really want to say much else about this book since I don’t want to give away any spoilers—plus I don’t know what happens. I guess I am off to read part #2 and (im)patiently wait for #3 to come out next month. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“The more she likes me, the more closed off she becomes. The more sarcasm she inflicts on me. Vulnerability makes her feel weak.”  

4/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o


*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but it did not impact my review in any way.*




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Orange is the New Black | Piper Kerman

“I knew that I would have to be brave. Not foolhardy, not in love with risk and danger, not making ridiculous exhibitions of myself to prove that I wasn't terrified--really genuinely brave.”

Genre: Memoir/Crime
Number of Pages: 298.
Perspective: First.
Location: Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury, Connecticut.

Orange is the New Black follows Piper in her 15 months in a low-security women’s prison for a drug crime committed 10 years prior. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Full disclosure, I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to the audiobook. I’m not an auditory learner, so listening to a book is tricky for me, therefore I have to stick to books I am familiar with or nonfiction books [that way I don’t miss an important scene if I zone out for a minute]. I was shocked when I learned that this book was only 298 pages. The audiobook felt SO long. I get that it’s probably a challenging job to be an audiobook reader, but the accents of the inmates were HORRENDOUS and terribly stereotypical. Besides long car rides, I am definitely sticking to reading books on my own. 

I am in love with the show Orange is the New Black, so I was excited to read the origins and see how much truth there was to it. I was actually surprised with how many of the characters were based on real people. But most of the events in the show are dramatically changed to make characters more dynamic and interesting. There are a lot of storylines and characters in the show, which is probably the only reason I could even attempt to keep track of them in the book. She bounces around from character to character without a whole lot of depth. She spent over a year with these people, and yet she doesn’t show a whole lot of understanding of who they are as people. 

My main frustration with this book is that it all sounded really whiny. Here’s this white upper middle class [read: privileged] woman who ends up with a short sentence in a low-security prison with a lot more freedom than you would expect for a prisoner. I loved the part when she went to a stricter prison, so she could appreciate how nice the other prison was. I understand that the prison system needs a revamp, but it is a prison. Don’t commit crimes for the sake of “adventure” and then complain about how horrible prison is while you watch movies every weekend and get shipped tons of packages from friends and family every day. I would have much rather learned more about the prisoners that don’t have an unlimited commissary fund or visitors all the time. She could have taken this opportunity to give a voice to the prisoners that don’t have the abilities to write a book or the access to resources to publish a book. [Side note: I felt like Piper kept wording things in a way to make her sound more intelligent, but I think it made her sound condescending]. 

Overall, this book is interesting and gives readers a good look into the realities of a low-security women’s prison. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Do you have to find the evil in yourself in order to truly recognize it in the world?”

3/5 Stars

*****


o Amber Gregg o

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

From Idea to Published Book

This is a guest post by Brian Laslow.

So, you have a great idea for a book. Maybe you think it’s such a great idea that you’ll just write it, spend a little money to get it self-published, and people are sure to buy it. That was me a year or so ago, talk about naïve. I learned what really had to be done to properly publish a book as I went along and got lucky by connecting with an editor that wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth. Hopefully, this little bit of what I learned will help others bring their great idea to fruition.  

One of the first things I learned was to just write it and worry about it being perfect later. This is actually advice that I’ve read a few times recently, but I figured it out with my wife’s help early on in the process. If you wait until every word is perfect, you’ll never actually finish writing the book. That’s not to say someone shouldn’t read it along the way to make sure your idea is actually something that others also think is great. In my case, I also needed to know that my writing was worthy of a published work having never done it before, at least for a fictional story.   

The next recommendation is that unless you’re just an amazing wordsmith who already knows about novel formatting, hire a professional editor. My manuscript didn’t look like a professional writer’s work when it went into the editorial process, but it sure did when it came out. Copy editing will be needed almost for sure, and maybe some degree of line editing as well as in my case. The same can be said for the cover and interior designs, hire a professional, it makes a big difference in quality.

If you’re thinking that the cost is adding up, you’re right. The reality is that you have to spend money to make money. If you’re writing just for self-edification then this doesn’t apply, but if you actually want to sell some books then everything should be done to make it the best it can be. The good news is anyone can get competitive pricing from very good editors and designers familiar with your genre of book by searching through Facebook groups or doing a simple Google search. I was amazed at how easy it was to find excellent professionals.  

There’s one thing I did wrong that is important to be done right. A social media campaign needs to be started and maintained months before the book is published. This includes Facebook, Twitter, a website, and whatever other social media can be kept up with. Do the research to see which are best for your application. I didn’t start until just before my book was published and I’m playing catch up. If you’re already social media savvy, you’re ahead of the game. I was not. 

Research should also be done to determine how you will publish and distribute your book.  Options include Amazon, hybrid publishers who will design, print and distribute for a fee, or printing only services where you’re responsible for distribution. There are pros and cons to all of these options and what is best for you may depend on how much time you have to spend, your target market, and your own personality. No matter what is chosen, please remember what may be the most important thing thatI learned: You are responsible for marketing your book, always!

Hopefully, I can have the knowledge to write another article in the near future with helpful tips on marketing. My journey has just begun on that front. My wish is that at least one small nugget of what I’ve written here will help someone understand what it takes and goes for it. 


Brian Laslow is the author of The Marijuana Project: a novel about medicine and morality. He has over 25 years of experience in the security field and holds multiple certifications. Since 2001, he has been an independent security consultant providing risk assessment, system design, project management, and ongoing security management services for a wide range of commercial, industrial, and government clients. The Marijuana Project is his debut novel.  
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Russia is Still a Good Source for Thriller Writers

This is a guest post by George Eccles.

The end of the Cold War seemed to throw many thriller writers into a state of panic. For forty years they found a perfect setting for stories of espionage and treachery, not to mention world domination, nuclear holocausts and even the end of the world. Suddenly, with glasnost and perestroika, the Soviet Union disintegrated and Russia ceased to be 'the enemy'. Thriller writers searched around for an alternative background for their plots: some ventured into the world of drug wars and cartels; others explored the possibilities of the Middle East; others delved into terrorism on their own doorstep. Only a few ventured back into Russia.

A key problem was that, while Russia remained closed to the West, it was easy enough to base a novel there because no one was in any position to judge the validity of the scene settings or the operations of the KGB (as it was in those days) or even the way of life. With the opening up of the country, suddenly there were pictures all over the internet, thousands flocked to Russia as tourists or to work, newspapers and dissidents started carrying stories about 'real Russia'. All this made Russia far more treacherous ground for writers unless they really knew what they were talking about.

However, for those well versed in Russia, the region remained a great background for a thriller. Let me outline why:

Back in 2000, Putin assumed the Presidency and has never gone away. An ex-FSB (formerly KGB) officer, he has proved to be a mercurial and confrontational figure – intolerant of his critics, regularly at odds with the West, often economic with the truth, and intent on recovering elements of Russia’ former empire. From the time he assumed power, he has waged a running battle with the oligarchs, whom he views as having got their hands on chunks of Russia's natural resources 'for a song'. Where the opportunity has presented itself, he has appropriated their enterprises back into State control – often with, in the Godfather’s immortal words, an offer the oligarch couldn't refuse, other times simple sequestration dressed up as a penalty for so-called criminal activity. (This was the basis of my first thriller, The Oligarch.) For the most part the oligarchs have managed to hang on to their massive wealth, a situation Putin has reluctantly accepted in return for their total loyalty. Nevertheless, no oligarch can feel really safe: an ill-judged remark could at any time lead to trumped up tax charges and the loss of their assets. Is it any wonder that so many of them have transferred the wealth and abode overseas?

It is not just their own 'businessmen' the Russian hierarchy views with suspicion. Despite public pronouncements, they resent large Western businesses whom they tend to regard as creaming off the country's wealth. Once they’ve creamed off the benefits of the Western expertise they need, the Russians regularly turn against their Western partners, often with (at least implied) Presidential backing. There are numerous examples of this in the oil sector: just look at the battles Shell had over its interests in Sakhalin a few years ago, or BP's well-publicized and ongoing battle at TNK-BP. But it is not just in the oil sector. When I was in Moscow, the Western founders and operators of its first large chain of supermarkets were forced to 'do a runner' back to their home country one Friday night after they had been warned off. 

The KGB might have gone, but the FSB remains. What is the difference? To be honest, not much. Many former KGB employees have gone into 'private security' which is far more lucrative but requires much the same skills. They have been replaced by a younger group of thugs, some more computer literate than before, others just the same old hard men. Their activities have not changed: in the interests of State security, they bug the offices of suspected dissidents, drag people off in the night to be questioned, place spies in the West (remember the glamorous Anna Chapman episode?), and arrest (and assassinate) outspoken journalists. 

Geographically, too, Russia lends itself to thrillers. The country is about 10,000 kilometers wide and spans nine time zones. Much of the business wealth is on the Western side of the country, but most of its natural resources lie in Siberia. A large proportion of the towns in Siberia started life as gulags, and many of those who live there now are descended from former prisoners - and often share their ancestor's criminal tendencies. Siberia itself is a vast area. The cities are in many cases cut off from each other: if you are lucky there might be a rail link, mostly you have to fly in or out. The extremes of weather conditions make transport, communications, and visibility often difficult and sometimes impossible. In Soviet times, many Siberian towns (for example, those manufacturing weapons) were 'secret towns': these did not appear on any map and required special KGB-issued passes for a visit. Perhaps there are still secret towns to inspire the thriller writer - who knows?

As if all the above were not sufficiently fertile ground for thriller writers, the events of the past two years have brought Russia firmly back into the forefront of the public’s consciousness. During this relatively short period, Russia has occupied Crimea and stimulated civil war in Eastern Ukraine; Russian-backed separatists shot down a Dutch airline; the West imposed sanctions; Russia threatened to choke Europe’s gas supply in retaliation; the oil price collapsed, plunging the company into a recession; global security plunged with the rise of ISIS; and Russia intervened to support Assad in Syria. Any one of these could be the source of a thriller – taken together, they’re manna from heaven.




George Eccles, writing as G W Eccles, graduated from the London School of Economics with a law degree and subsequently became a partner in one of the major international financial advisory firms. In 1994, George left London to move to Russia and Central Asia during the tumultuous period that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. His work involved extensive travel throughout Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - often to places with restricted access to foreigners. During his time there, he advised a number of real-life oligarchs how best to take advantage of the opportunities that became available as regulation crumbled and government became increasingly corrupt. Against this background, while his novels are fiction, many of the anecdotes and scenes are inspired by actual events. His first thriller: The Oligarch, was awarded a Silver Medal both at the Global E-book Awards 2013 and at the Independent Publishers Book Awards 2013, as well as being selected as IPPY Book of the Day. George is married and now lives with his wife in a hilltop village not far from Cannes in the South of France.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweet Dreams | Joan Monk Potter


Genre:  Romance.
Number of Pages: 322.
Perspective: Alternating.
Location: St. Louis, MO.

Sweet Dreams follows the romance of two coworkers, a nurse and a nurse anesthetist. Their budding romance is complicated by past baggage, two trouble-some teens, a death trial, and two very large dogs. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This is not your typical hot romance novel…it is more real. Painfully real. The main love interests are dysfunctional at best. Grace is missing a breast (due to breast cancer) and Dakota suffers from ED. I guess not all romances can be perfect…perhaps this will make some people feel better about their own relationships. It can help people see that not everything is perfect as most romance novels make things seem. 

My main issue with this book is that it was advertised as “fun” and “humorous”. Even some of the reviews say that. I did not think that anything in this book was either of those things. The main characters dealt with crisis after crisis and they fought most of the book. Sex was the only time they really seemed to be happy. I wished that there was one or two fewer crises. It made the ending seem to happy and perfect considering how negative most of the events were throughout the book. 

This is a really random thought, but for some reason, I kept comparing this book in my mind to the show Dexter [they are nothing like one another], perhaps because I just started watching it. Some of the events paralleled [like how someone involved in a case tries to console the family of the victim when they shouldn’t be talking to them at all], so I think that made my mind twist this book in some weird ways. 

The book was an easy read and it was entertaining. And I learned a few things about the medical world. But it fell flat for me. It wasn’t a terrible book and it wasn’t that good either. I just feel like this is a book that I will forget about quickly. 

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 3/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o


*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but it did not impact my review in any way.*


Friday, December 18, 2015

Q & A with Author Heather Vogel Frederick


Hi Heather, thanks for joining me! I know you have been super busy! What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My ambitions are simple: I hope I’m writing (and publishing) stories for many years to come. And I hope readers continue to love my stories. What more could a writer wish for?

Which writers inspire you?

Good ones!  I have old favorites I return to again and again for inspiration — E. B. White and Jane Austen are both touchstones for me — as well as new writers I come across (Jacqueline Winspear!), and my writer friends. If you haven’t read Susan Hill Long’s Whistle in the Dark, what are you waiting for?

Oh, I will add those to my To-Read list now! Give us an insight into how you create your main characters.

My main characters usually start with the barest glimmer. Sometimes it’s a name, sometimes it’s just a vague outline  — Emma Hawthorne in The Mother-Daughter Book Club, for instance, started out life as nothing more then “the librarian’s daughter.” Sometimes I have a flash of insight into a character, as with Truly Lovejoy in Absolutely Truly. whom I knew from the start would be a very tall middle child, struggling with both of those things.

How do you pick names for your characters?

I’ve been keeping a notebook of names since I was in college — which was a LONG time ago, I might add!  I jot down interesting names that I read, hear, or just dream up. I also look at baby name books and lists, and I used to check the telephone book (back when there were still such creatures), and I’ve even poached a name or two from gravestones…

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on revisions for Yours Truly, another Pumpkin Falls mystery. 

Awesome! I can't wait until that one comes out! What draws you to writing children's stories?

Good question. I’ve always loved reading children’s literature, so there’s that factor. But it’s more than that. I wrote for adults for decades as a journalist, and I still write for adults in my day job as head of research & publications for a museum. When I sit down to write fiction, however, the voice that comes out is usually about 12. 

How much research do you do before writing a book?

It depends on the book. Historical fiction requires a great deal more than, say, a Mother-Daughter Book Club novel. I spent over two years researching my first book, The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, which is set in 1835 aboard a Nantucket whaling ship. There was a lot I needed to learn about life in the 19th century, and about the whaling industry. Most of my other books only require light research — maybe a month or two.

Why did you pick the town Pumpkin Falls for Absolutely Truly?

I wanted to set a story in the kind of small New England town that I grew up in. I have a special place in my heart for small towns, and the quirky characters that often inhabit them.

Why did you pick Charlotte’s Web to be the book that goes missing?

It’s one of my favorite novels. In fact, I think it’s pretty much a perfect novel. I re-read it every year, and every year I learn something new. I think of it as taking a writing class with Mr. White.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I’ve recently experimented with this, as up until now I just flew by the seat of my pants. I’m finding it's actually helpful to set a goal and then work toward achieving it. I shoot for 1,000 words minimum, on the days that I write (I don’t write every day).

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m pretty much a pantster — as opposed to a plotter. I love the surprise of just sitting down and telling myself a story. That being said, at some point I do have to noodle around with a bit of a loose map of where things are going.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Writing. OK, I’m being sassy. But seriously, the just sitting down and DOING it is always the hardest thing. Life holds so many distractions, many of them quite delightful. Writing takes a great deal of discipline.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Generally about a year. Sometimes I’m a little faster, and sometimes, for example if I’m writing historical fiction, I’m a little slower.

What book/s are you reading at present?

Dead Wake by Eric Larsen. It’s about the sinking of the Lusitania. I LOVE non-fiction!

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Marketing is a total mystery to me. At the end of the day, it really boils down to writing the best book you possibly can. 

That's great advice! How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Through my website and my blog, both of which can be found at www.heathervogelfrederick.com  Oh, and if you read the Author’s Notes at the back of many of my books, you’ll find tidbits about me in all of them...

Thanks for participating in this interview and good luck in all your future writing!

o Amber Gregg o




Check out my review of Heather's book, Absolutely Truly!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mistakes are Proof That You Are Trying: Coloring Book | Samantha Snyder



Genre: Adult Coloring Book 
Number of Pages: 104

This coloring book is a part of a series of coloring books from the Doodle Art Alley Books. Each book has an inspirational theme with doodles to color in and quotes. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This is actually my first experience coloring an “adult” coloring book. My background is education, so I actually have done a lot of coloring in my adult life, but with children’s coloring books. Coloring is actually very calming. 

I appreciated the quotes, especially since a lot of the quotes in this book were related to education. And the drawings were really cute. But they were pretty simple. It would be good for people who want to finish a whole page in about 20 minutes, but it is not as complex as a lot of the other coloring books on the market — such as all the mandala ones. I don't like coloring in huge chunks of the page with just one color. I wish it was a little more complex, but I do really like the book. I would say middle school to high school would be the perfect age range for these coloring books. [Now I feel like I need to go get more colored pencils.]

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 4/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but it did not impact my review in any way.*

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best Book of 2015!


  
Throughout the year, I have been awarding books with my Best Book Award if they receive a five-star rating from me. In order to receive a five-star rating, they need to be an incredible book that leaves me with nothing bad to say. I have read many outstanding books this year, but a few have stuck in my head and really made a lasting impression. It was hard to pick my favorite book of the year, but here is the winner and a few that almost made the cut. Please comment with your favorite book of 2015! 

Best Book of 2015: 


I’ll Meet You There | Heather Demetrios 


“And maybe some people are like collages - no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.”


I’ll Meet You There is a coming-of-age story featuring the perspectives of two teens trying to get out of their rundown small town: Skylar and Josh. Skylar is a seventeen-year-old with a full scholarship to an art school starting in the fall. She yearns to leave the town that holds her back, but she doesn’t want to leave her alcoholic mother behind with her new scummy boyfriend. Josh, on the other hand, got his chance to leave by joining the Marines, but he was forced to come back after losing his leg in Afghanistan. The only thing these two have in common is that they work at a tiny old motel in town. This creates a relationship between two people who just really need to be understood. For a complete summary, you can go here, then go here to read the first five chapters for free! You can also learn more about Heather Demetrios here.

I loved this book. At first, I thought to myself, “Oh great…this is going to be like every other young adult novel about love and summer.” But it was so much more than that. First of all, I cannot ever begin to imagine what soldiers go through in war. I also can never try to understand how it feels to go back to my hometown after seeing my friends die, suffering from PTSD, and losing a limb. However, I think that Demetrios does an amazing job of giving us little snippets of the struggles that Josh faces on a daily basis. Most of the book is written in Skylar’s voice, but a few little sections give us a glimpse into Josh’s head. I think it was the perfect balance. Skylar also had so many struggles of her own. This was one book where I didn’t know what she would decide doing in the end. I went back and forth on her decisions as she did. 

Let me also say that this novel has romance in it, but it is slow building. I really appreciated that. Most relationships start like that, rather than the whirlwind love-at-first-sight story that so many young adult novels try to push. It just seemed really believable to me. I also really fell in love with all of the characters, flaws and all. I was rooting for all of them…even some of the antagonists. 

My only issue with this book was its frequent use of derogatory language. As the story went on, I began to realize that it was more so about the culture of that small town. It still didn’t make any of that language okay, but it seemed to fit with the ideas and values of the setting. 

I would really recommend this book to anyone. I think women would probably enjoy it more, but some men might appreciate it too. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here


Other Nominees:


Confess | Colleen Hoover


“There are people you meet that you get to know, and then there are people you meet that you already know.”


Confess is about Auburn and Owen. Auburn has a strict plan for her future, but that all changes when she walks into Owen’s art studio. They fall quickly for each other, but they each have their own secrets. It may be in the greater good for them to stay apart rather than expose their secrets. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I hate romance novels, but I loved this book! I think what I hate most about romance novels are the cheesy lines and the too perfect relationships. But Colleen Hoover avoids that. She’s been noted to say that she hates romance novels too, and never imagined that she would write one herself.  

There were a few things that I really loved about this book. First of all, I loved that people submitted confessions and they were turned into art. It reminded me of Post Secret and the book Life By Committee. There is something powerful about revealing a secret, even if it is to strangers. The people reading it may connect to the person who shares their secret. I also love that Hoover found a real artist and used his paintings in her book. It is awesome to see different mediums being combined and a collaboration among different professions. 

This story had some good twists that were impactful and believable. I hate when a book throws in a twist just for the hell of it—when the twist is too crazy, the whole believability of the book goes out the window. These twists really do have a purpose and are what strengthen the book—and the final twist actually makes the rest of the book believable for me and justifies most of the main characters’ actions throughout the book. 

I would recommend this book to anyone that loves love and a good story. You don’t have to be a fan of romance novels to love and appreciate this book. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here


A Spool of Blue Thread | Anne Tyler


“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.”


A Spool of Blue Thread is a novel about three generations of one family. They fight, laugh, and cry together, but they embrace the unpredictable journey of life as a family. For a complete summary and to read an excerpt, you can go here.

This book is about nothing, and yet it is about everything. There is a loose plot, but the story bounces through three generations of one family. It’s not a happy book. It’s not a sad book. It’s just real. It is about family, love, and life.

I am always leery of books that are hyped up, but I was drawn into this book from the first page. The characters are all extremely different from one another. Some are stoic, some are quirky, some are dependable, some are flaky—but I grew to love each of them in their own way. Tyler really explores the relationships within a family and how they are ever evolving. She develops her characters beautifully. 

The story moved at a very slow pace, compared to all the popular action-packed novels and TV shows that we have grown accustomed to. That doesn’t really matter, though. She needed that time to make you understand and love this family. I think that everyone will see themselves in at least one of these characters. The characters all just felt very real. Which means that you may love to hate and hate to love some of them (perhaps like you would with your own family). 

I want to find something bad to say about this book, but the only thing I can think of is that two of the daughters were both married to men named Hugh. So that got to be a bit annoying and confusing. 

At first, I really didn’t like how it bounced around in time, but by the end it all made sense. I think it was an intelligent decision by the author to reveal things in the order that she did. If she had gone in chronological order, I don’t think that I would have appreciated the present day family as much. You really have to understand where it all started. 

Immediately after reading this book, I felt at peace and content with the book. I planned on giving this book four out of five stars, but after reflecting on it, I really loved this book. I think it is a book that everyone should take the time to read. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here


The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins


“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” 


The Girl on The Train follows the perspective of three females that are initially only loosely connected. Rachel, an extreme alcoholic, takes the train every day and begins to feel like she personally knows a married couple that she sees as she passes every evening. When that wife, Megan, goes missing, Rachel feels the need to step in and figure out the case herself. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Many people have compared this book to Gone Girl, which is one of my favorite books. But I like these books for different reasons. In general, I would say that if you liked Gone Girl, you would probably like this book and vice versa. However, if you didn’t like Gone Girl, don’t completely discredit this one. While they are both thrillers with dysfunctional female leads, The Girl on The Train is much faster paced and not as horrifyingly disturbing as Gone Girl. 

Many people (including me) hate books where the lead character is unlikeable, but The Girl on The Train is one of those books where you don’t really need to like the main characters. Actually, you will probably hate most of them throughout the whole book. However, by the end, I actually felt some sympathy for all but one of the characters—if you’ve read the book you know who I am talking about, but I won’t spoil it here. 

Like most thrillers, this is not a touchy-feely-feel-good book, and like most thrillers this will have you turning pages and staying up until 2 am and canceling plans just so you can finish it.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone—unless of course you only like light, fluffy books. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here .




o Amber Gregg o