Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

A heartbreaking love story, set in Kentucky, in the midst of a snowstorm? Yes, please.

The reader is introduced to Eamon Royce, a Louisville cop, and his brother, Dalton, a bike-shop owner. These boys were born six days apart, grew up together, and their mothers had been best friends. When Dalton’s mother passed away, the Royce’s adopt Dalton and treat him like he had always been a part of the family- because he had been.

When Eamon meets Evangeline “Evi”, a ballerina and ballet teacher, he knew it was love at first sight, and that one day they would be married. From there, it’s a blissful whirlwind romance. Eamon knows Evi worries about him while he’s on duty, but she never once asked him to give up the job he loves. Deciding that he’ll do anything to make sure that Evi is always taken care of, he makes a pact with Dalton. Dalton agrees that if something were to ever happen to Eamon, he would take care of Evi.

(Photo: Google Images)

Image result for Louisville Police Dept

While miles apart on a fishing trip, Eamon receives a call from Evi- she’s pregnant, and he’s over the moon, joyous. Dalton can’t be more thrilled for the two of them, and he ups the ante with the pact- he will take care of Evi and this unborn child.

Then, the worst and unexpected happens- Eamon is killed in the line of duty, sixteen days before Evi gives birth to baby Noah. She is distraught, and Dalton knows he has to be strong for her, but he’s also swallowed by grief. Determined to keep his promise, Dalton makes sure that Noah is loved and cared for, as well as Evi. He knows that no matter what, he will never replace the love that Eamon had for these two, but it’s more than the pact keeping him to his promise- it’s the fact that these two are his family. He loves them both. And as time passes and the sharp ache from the loss dulls, Evi and Dalton learn that the two of them have more than kind feelings towards each other. Dalton and Evi end up snowed in together with baby Noah at his grandparents. Now, the two of them have a chance to sort out their tangled feelings of past loves and the future of their relationship.

(Photo: Google Images)

Image result for Whiskey & Ribbons

Cross-Smith has made a gorgeous debut novel with Whiskey and Ribbons, and a new fan out of me. The writing is beautiful, and the word choice shows, rather than tells, the reader how the characters feel. I loved the repetition of certain words and phrases, giving them deeper meaning and allowing the reader to roll them in their mouths or swirl them in their minds. And the development of the characters is wonderful, especially Dalton’s as the man who has always been in the shadow of Eamon’s family.

Overall, it’s an intimate story line full of family, faith, love, duty, and grief. I absolutely recommend you give it a read, but prepare to have your heart broken.

*BREAKING NEWS!*

LEESA CROSS-SMITH SAW MY POST!!! 😱😃🤗

Advertisements

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Sadly, I’ve decided to DNF this one.

I was really, really excited to read Red Clocks. The hype on bookstagram, the amazing reviews, and so many recommendations had me impatiently waiting at #45 on the library waitlist. When I picked it up from the local branch, I felt like I had won the lottery and eagerly sat down to read. Then, things got difficult.

There are four main points of view, written in nondescript third person, about The wife (Susan), the daughter (Mattie), the mender (Gin), and the biographer (Ro). The biographer starts off the story, writing a biography of a female polar explorer named Eivor, while also trying to get pregnant while being a single high school teacher. She is limited on how she can conceive because of government laws and regulations, so she is hoping that despite the negative outlook, her AI (artificial insemination) will succeed. Then we learn about the mender, a woman who lives off the land as much as possible, doting on her animals and living as a hermit who occasionally helps people with their ailments- even if it’s not considered legal. Then there’s Mattie, a high school student who is romantically involved with a guy who isn’t committed to the relationship, and yet still winds up pregnant and not sure what to do about it. Last, there’s Susan, a mom of two who isn’t happy in her marriage, and is desperately trying to get her husband to agree to couple’s therapy.

Each of these woman are subject to the same restrictions newly inflicted by the government, in which abortion is illegal, in vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights to every embryo. It’s not a far-fetched idea this day and age, so Zumas explores what it would be like if women’s rights were no longer theirs.

It sounds absolutely absorbing, but I have had the hardest time getting to 100 out of the 351 pages in this book. The formatting is strange to me, and though the language itself is blunt and beautiful, the formatting is rather abstract. I thought because the points of view were separated, I wouldn’t have a hard time keeping the characters and their storylines straight, but somewhere around page 50, when additional sub-characters are being added and discussed, I started to lose focus. Sometimes, when this happens, I can speed-read through a few pages and get to another part that brings everything back into focus. It’s a trick I’ve used to keep me from getting bogged in subtext. However, it didn’t work for me this time, because there is so much going on with these characters. It’s like the action is fast-paced but the writing is slow. It’s also categorized as sci-fi, and though I have loved realistic dystopian novels, there’s something that my brain just isn’t absorbing here.

Either way, I’m extremely frustrated. I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to be the mind-blowing feminist novel experience that everyone else seems to gather from it. However, I just can’t seem to get through it. So, I’m going to have to table this one, and hope that if I come back to it, I’ll be able to get through the whole thing.

Please forgive me, Leni Zumas & fans. I wish I was as intellectually ready for this book as you all!

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

I have had this on my TBR for a while, and I decided to listen to the audiobook version, downloaded from my local library on OverDrive. I absolutely ADORED the read, and can’t wait to recommend it to everyone!

Image result for the sun is also a star

The novel is about two high school teens who each have their own cultural and family problems, which oddly bring them together in a series of interesting ways.

Daniel is a seventeen year old senior who would like to be a poet someday, but the pressure from his very traditional Korean family has him on the straight and narrow path to a Yale medical degree to become a doctor. He’s always done what was expected of him, and living in his golden-child brother’s shadow, he’s been eager to please. But now, his older brother has messed things up, and Daniel has a chance to be the pride of the family- the thing is, he’s just not sure that’s what he wants anymore. Daring to let the universe take control, he sets out for his Yale-alumni interview hours early, looking for a sign. On a New York City street, he sees Natasha.

Natasha is a no-nonsense, scientifically driven daughter of Jamaican illegal immigrants. She’s been living in New York since she was young, and America has become her home, but as she’s just about to graduate, her family is told they are being deported that night. Natasha doesn’t want to leave her friends, her home, her life behind, so she seeks a lawyer’s help. On the way to the appointment with the lawyer, she is almost hit by a BMW, but is hauled out of the way by a good looking Korean guy who has been trying to get her attention since she went into her favorite record store. He saved her life, and more than that, he’s declaring it fate, that they’re meant to be together. She resists, but he’s persistent and there’s something about him… but she doesn’t believe in love, not like that anyway. Besides, it’s almost certain she’ll never see him after today. She lets him walk with her to the lawyers, and by the end of the walk, she’s already sure she doesn’t want to say goodbye.

In between the two main characters relaying their love story, The Universe pipes up, cleverly giving the reader (listener) background information on the characters and their histories. This adds a depth to the story while still maintaining the very short, one day timeline of the novel.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/bd/ce/43/bdce4389563159a14359f44abc77f531.jpg

Adorable fan art found on Pinterest.com

As Daniel and Natasha grow closer and closer throughout the day, I couldn’t help but get the warm-fuzzies for their tragic love story. I wanted them to have a happy ending, and despite their differences, they seemed like they would make an adorable couple! I loved their chemistry, sense of humor, and their honest internal commentaries (sooo relatable). Yoon’s writing had me hooked from the beginning, and I felt the characters come to life through the narration from Bahni Turpin, Raymond Lee, and Dominic Hoffman. The themes of love, fate, and science were also connected throughout, making this easy to read YA novel a lot deeper than I expected, in a very good way. We all know how complicated love can be even when everything goes ‘right’, so Yoon’s take on love when complicated by culture, family, age, and everything going ‘wrong’ is a compelling twist on the teen love story trope.

I absolutely recommend everyone read The Sun Is Also A Star, and if you can get the audiobook version, I’d say it adds an even better element to the experience. Definitely worth purchasing as well, because I can easily see a reread of this in the future! Oh, and there is also a film adaption in the making, and I can’t wait for it to come to fruition!

 

 

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Way back in February, my KY bestie sent me this text:

img_7264-1.jpg

She raved about the funny, honest, and conversationally modern writing, and how spot on the author’s advice was. So, I decided that I should give it a read, too. Instead of waiting for the hardcopy, I decided to listen via audiobook, and I’m glad I did. It was like listening to one of your friends give you a reality check, encouragement and advice, and a plan of action all at once. Sincero actually narrates her own book, so you get the full effect of her own words as well. There’s 27 chapters and 256 pages, but the audio is just under 6 hours long, so it’s pretty quick-paced. I felt that because of the modern conversational language Sincero used, it was easy to follow along with her advice and the support behind it. I didn’t get lost in any new-age speak or bogged down in the science and research data.

Sincero explains from the beginning how our ego effects us as humans, and how to essentially deny the ego and take action to achieve happiness- mostly by changing our thought process. (Can you tell I’ve been trying to expand my understanding of what’s going on in my head?!) Summarized, Sincero wants us to:

  • Love ourselves as we are- meaning accepting that you are human, not a perfect robot.

“Your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be…”

“Imagine what our world would be like if everyone loved themselves so much that they weren’t threatened by other people’s opinions or skin colors or sexual preferences or talents or education or possessions or lack of possessions or religious beliefs or customs or their general tendency to just be whoever the hell they are.”

  • Stop worrying about what other people think.

“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it…”

“Do not waste your precious time giving one single crap about what anybody else thinks of you.”

  • Follow your intuition, do what makes you happy and do it NOW.  Don’t wait for the timing to be “right”.

“Deciding means jumping in all the way, doing whatever it takes, and going after your dreams with the tenacity of a dateless cheerleader a week before prom night.”

  • Have a little faith- however you define it- and think positively.

“Positive thinking is key. Our thoughts are the most powerful tools we’ve got. Through our thoughts we create our realities.”

  • Don’t give excuses.

We put so much energy into coming up with excuses why we can’t be, do, or have the things we want, and designing the perfect distractions to keep us from our dreams—imagine how far we’d get if we just shut up and used all that energy to go for it instead?”

I could go on and on with the quotes, trust me. Sincero is completely chock full of these gems, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her. If you are into self-help books, need a pep talk, want to learn more about yourself, or need a little motivation to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, You Are a Badass is the book for you- no matter what format.

Image result for You are a badass

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

This audiobook came highly recommended to me by my book club buddy, Megan! She was cracking up at the humor of the novel and shared a segment during a past meeting, and she has great taste in reads so I decided to check it out. She also mentioned it was a recommendation by Reese Witherspoon’s book club, Hello Sunshine. Sold!

The novel introduces us to Nikki, a 20-something Sikh woman who has gone against her traditional Indian upbringing. She’s a law school drop out, tending bar in London, and single despite her family’s urging to find a husband. She’s not sure what she wants out of life, but after her father suddenly passes away, she decides to take a second job to help her support her widowed mother. While checking out a local community board, she finds an advert looking for someone to teach an English creative writing class to local Punjabi widows.

The widows aren’t exactly what Nikki expects. They’re not all little old grannies, only one knows how to actually read and write in English, and though they are modest, traditional women, they are eager to explore a more modern expression of their bedroom experiences and fantasies. As a joke, Nikki had bought a racy book of erotica for her more conservative sister, and the widows found it in the stack of writing workbooks meant for the class. After Nikki confronts her class about the misunderstanding, the widows convince Nikki that those stories are the kind they wish to learn to write. In an effort to liberate these women from their repressed expression, she agrees, thinking that maybe this is how she can be reconnected with her community while still maintaining her modern views.

Then, we learn about the Brotherhood, a group of extremely conservative Sikhs who keep a watchful eye on the morals of the community. Anyone who seems to disrespect (whether they meant to or not) their religion and community becomes a target of extreme punishment. Nikki and her class, who have now formed a strong bond, have to be extremely careful not to let the secret slip about the content of their writing, least the Brotherhood find out.

Meanwhile, there is also a parallel story about one of the widow’s daughter, Maya, who died in a suspicious manner, as well as a mysterious man whom Nikki becomes romantically involved with. As the ending draws near, the story lines come crashing together like waves, and I was completely drawn in.

I  loved the audiobook narrator, Meera Syal. Her voice is like butter, and yet the changes in her tone for dialogue and breaks in the story were easy to understand and made it easy to focus on the tale. I also think listening to the audiobook certainly helped with understanding certain cultural words that I probably would have stumbled over if I was reading. I liked being able to hear the pronunciation.

Jaswal’s story is both funny, thrilling, entertaining, and downright steamy! I really enjoyed it, and though I’d recommend it, you should be warned that there really are erotic stories included in this book! There’s clever dialogue that takes the “audience rating” down a notch, but the title is not misleading. I’d say it’s definitely not suitable for the youngsters, but certainly a fun read for women.

May Monthly Wrap-Up

This is the first month in a long time that feels like it hasn’t moved at warp speed. The sunshine found it’s way to Kentucky, and the temperatures have stayed at pleasant levels (even the heatwaves were welcome!) I have gotten a lot of reading done this month while exploring new mediums (audio- and e-books) and branching out into poetry.

Wrapping up this month, I knocked the following off my #TBR pile:

  1. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
  2. The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer
  3. Before We Were Yours by
  4. F*ck Him! Nice Girls Always Finish Single by
  5. The Barefoot of Summer by Carolyn Brown
  6. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  7. Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas
  8. For the Broken by Shenaia Lucas

I really enjoyed such a variety in reads this month, and can’t wait to share what’s coming down the pike in June!

Also, I wanted to point out two new additions to the blog this month. I recently got added to Shirley’s Book Blogger List, which currently houses over 200 book-blog site listings! If you are a book blogger who isn’t on the list, help Shirley grow the book-blog community by sending her an email to join the list! Check it out by clicking here, and then click on the image on the page! I also added a page with my book review and request policies, so if you were curious about that, please check it out here!

Along with that info, I wanted to give a huge shout out to all my super awesome readers who helped me reach my goal of 250 blog followers!

Now, instead of #booktags this month, I thought it would be kinda fun to share a few of my favorite photos from my family vacation, since you all heard so much about it the last two months!

Seaside Beach, perfectly calm and with very few people!

Leaving the bay to go deep sea fishing.

My dad and nephew, note my nephew holding onto my dad’s foot so they’d float together.

My nephew and niece at the aquarium.

My dad, nephew, niece, and brother making a massive sandcastle.

My sister, her boyfriend, and my mom celebrating mom’s hole-in-one playing mini-golf!

My sister-in-law and I soaking up the sun in our matching shades.

My littlest niece and her “beach hair don’t care” smile ❤

All in all, May has treated me well, and I hope that you all have enjoyed it too!

 

For the Broken by Shenaia Lucas

Another beautiful collection of poetry! I had seen screenshots and whatnot of Lucas’ poems, and found them touching and relatable, so I thought it best to educate myself by reading the whole collection. And again, because poetry is still difficult for me to review, I’m going to keep this one short.

For the Broken is 113 pages of almost continuous short poems, bleeding from one page to the next. I find this important to note as the other two collections of poetry I’ve recently read and reviewed usually kept to a poem per page, unless the length forced more pages. Therefore, Lucas’s work has this way of flowing from one poem to the next, almost like a stream of thoughts. The titles (or dedication) of the poems are in italics at the end of each, wrapping the one up before it and yet seeming to set the tone for the next. This formatting is really fascinating and clever. To me, without even mentioning the content of the work, these poems by format alone allow for the reader to soak in the works like their own internal dialogue, which I found really soothing and almost prayer-like.

For content, Lucas has broken down her compilation into four sections (I’m sensing this is a common theme among poetry…?), and they are as follows: for the healing; for the loving; for the oppressed; for the broken. In a supportive manner, each stanza gives the reader advice or a thought on the section topic. For the healing has words of encouragement that help heal a broken heart- or sometimes just acknowledging it’s broken existence. This is also similar for the last section. For the loving is about- obviously- love and relationships. I feel the most powerful section is for the oppressed, which really hit full force as Lucas’ calls out the duplicity on the world’s so called equality.  All the poems are relatively short- a few lines each- and yet they still pack a punch.

Overall, I enjoyed reading For the Broken, and it too will be have a hardcopy added to my poetry collection (since I read this via Kindle). In full honesty, though it’s a lovely anthology, I wasn’t as emotionally stirred as I have been by other poetry works, but I think that may be a mood thing. I’ve been feeling exceptionally up with all the sunshine and vacation time I’ve had, so I think my timing of this read was a little off. This may seem obvious from the title, in hindsight, but For the Broken would be the perfect consoling read in a time when you need something to lift you up.