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)

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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)

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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.




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!

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!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

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.

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

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 Lisa Wingate
  4. F*ck Him! Nice Girls Always Finish Single by Brian Nox
  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!


The Barefoot Summer by Carolyn Brown

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One man, three wives, and a murder. Kate has been married to Conrad Steele for fourteen years, twelve of them unhappily. Jamie has been married to him for seven years, and had her daughter Gracie. Amanda married him seven months ago, and is expecting his baby. All of them share the same anniversary, December 30th, just seven years apart, and yet they didn’t know about each other until Conrad’s funeral. Determined to get to the bottom of the murder is Waylon, a good looking investigator who was trying to give up his career to work on his family farm. Unfortunately, his plans get interrupted as he tries to figure out who killed Conrad.

Kate, Jamie, and Amanda all flock to the cabin that Conrad honeymooned them in, each one trying to stake a claim on the place. Kate believes as the first wife, it’s hers. Jamie wants it to pass down to Gracie, Conrad’s eldest child. Amanda claims it as hers, as the last wife, believing that there must be divorce paperwork somewhere with Kate and Jamie’s names on them. As they each get used to each other existing, not just in the same living space but as actual wives conned by the same husband, they start to look into the mystery of Conrad’s death.

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

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Kate does a lot of investigating, and finds some interesting information buried in the back of a drawer in the cabin. Documents stashed by the previous wife showed that the wife learned what kind of man Conrad was after they were married, and witness from the neighbors certainly pegged his character. Yet, there is something about Waylon that makes Kate hesitate to confide her investigative work to him.

Kate, Jamie, and Amanda eventually find themselves enjoying each other’s company and the surrounding little town of Bootleg, and each can easily find reason to stay. As they spend the summer together, they each find out what they really want out of their lives, despite awaiting their names to be cleared, and they learn that though their marriages were a sham, they were still family in a way.

This is the first I’ve read from Carolyn Brown, and I enjoyed reading about the conned women and their mysterious murdered ex. I thought the author pulled things together well, and though the pace was slow and redundant at times, there was great dialogue and character personality to shine through and keep moving the story along. It was easy to be the reader observing these women as each chapter clearly showed who’s point of view was in focus, and there was some great foreshadowing and symbolism when it came to footwear, which I found very clever. If you need a light summer read, I’d definitely check it out!




Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Today’s review lends courtesy to the Not Your Momma’s Book Club, as it was the group’s book pick for the month. I thought it sounded like an interesting historical fiction novel, which you all know I love, so I was pretty excited to read it. The only problem was, it’s such a recent release that I ended up being like, 62nd on the hold list at my library, and I don’t like paying for new books when I don’t know if I’ll like the author or the book for sure. So I thought, well maybe an e-book or Audible had a cheaper copy. Negative on the e-book, but lo and behold, I hadn’t signed up for the free 30-day trial of Audible (this is not a promo)! So, I did that and downloaded Before We Were Yours, my first Audible download. It took me a little to get used to the narrator’s voices, but once I got into the story, I couldn’t stop listening.

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

The book alternates between Memphis, TN in the 1930’s and present time in Aiken, SC between characters Rill and Avery.

In the 1930’s, Rill Foss is twelve-year old girl, who lives in a shanty boat, the Arcadia, on the Mississippi river with her parents, Queenie and Brownie, and her four younger siblings- Camilla, Fern, Lark, and Gabian. They live a simple life on the river, and evoke the magic of nature, love, and music within the family. One stormy night, her mother goes into labor, and Rill stays nearby with Brownie and the midwife, witnessing her mother struggle to deliver twins. It’s a difficult birth, and even the midwife insists on getting her to a hospital before mother and babies lose their lives. Torn about leaving the children and going out into the storm with Queenie in such a state, but finding no alternative, Brownie leaves Rill in charge of her young siblings. Shortly there after, the local police raid the river town of the local children and bring the children to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, deeming them orphans and falsifying paperwork and information. Desperately, Rill tries to keep her siblings together but it’s a futile challenge. The woman who runs the home is a child trafficker- kidnapping, scamming, scheming, blackmailing, and brokering these children to wealthy upper-class and high profile couples. Though the children know the truth, they are beaten, punished, and threatened into submission, or if they continue to deny their “new identities”, they suspiciously die or disappear, never to be heard from again. Rill knows that she has to get back to the Arcadia with her siblings, no matter what the sacrifice.

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(Photo Credit: Google Images)

In present day Aiken, Avery Stafford is a poised, educated, ambitious and savvy lawyer, raised in a political family and groomed to follow in her senator father’s footsteps. Her parents and her have a complicated relationship, as they are more traditional, having expected her to go to college and get a “MRS. degree” and settle down, like her sisters. Avery is engaged, but she’s comfortable with her fiancé, and they aren’t in a rush to the altar. However, when her father’s health starts to decline from cancer, she’s under a lot of pressure to start making decisions- about her wedding and her career path. She decided to spend some time away from her life in Washington, DC to help with her father’s platform appearances in Aiken, and the discussion about nursing home care comes up. While visiting a local home, she meets a woman named May Weathers, who happens to know Avery’s grandmother, Judy. Finding this odd, since her grandmother’s altzhiemer’s has catastrophically impacted her social outings and Avery had never heard of May before, she visits Judy, only to find more questions than answers. She knows there is a secret in her grandmother’s past, and becomes obsessed with finding out the truth. Time is of the essence, and she needs to find answers before her grandmother’s secret is lost in the past.

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I finished the audiobook a few days prior to writing the review, because I needed some time to digest this one. The things that Rill and her siblings went through are absolutely horrendous to me, and it made me ill to know that though this story is a work of fiction, it’s based off the true accounts of survivors that were adopted out by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It’s a heavy subject to handle, and the novel is haunting. Wingate’s story, right down to the last page of her author’s note, had me in an emotional choke hold. There were moments when I know I made audible gasps, clenched my fists, and released sighs of relief. The suspense of the story lines are wagered just so, revealing everything piece by piece until things come full circle in the end.

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(Photo Credit: Google Images)

The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer

Bookstagram has been opened my eyes to a lot of great authors and books, and most surprisingly, poetry. I used to dabble in poetry when I was in elementary school, but it was mostly forced by my ‘gifted and talented’ teachers, and the subject always steered towards horses, haha. I loved writing, but poetry didn’t stick. I also wasn’t a huge fan of reading poetry- probably the serious lack of equine-themed work, LOL- and so I’ve seriously lagged in my education. Scrolling through booksta one day, I saw Trista Mateer’s images, quotes and captions from The Dogs I Have Kissed. I had to follow her, and every quote just seemed so emotional and relatable. I figured, since I was already hooked, I needed the book.

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(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Finally getting around to it, The Dogs I Have Kissed is a provocative, hard hitting, heart wrenching series of poems that I think, if not all, at least one of which people could relate to. Topics include parental abandonment, sexuality, exes and past relationships, and religion, each with twists, innuendo, and potency.

Bite is the first section, and it delivers exactly that. I found it interesting that many of the poems have a mention of mouths in there, conveying seduction and blunt language, though this does continue on into other sections- just less often. The next section, titled Growl, has a collection of gritty poems that seem to reveal a little more about Mateer- not that she seems to be hiding much, as she doesn’t seem to hold back the details. The third section, Roll Over, shares a few more reflective pieces and ends with a long poem that really sums up the the relationships discussed throughout the poems in the book- with no tidy ends, but at least a sense of understanding of where the poet stood by the end. Also, I love how the dog theme flows throughout- the titles of each section, the main title, the references within the poems.

Most of the poems are relatively short, with only a handful spanning over two pages. Obviously, reading poems is relatively fast paced just because of their length, but Mateer still makes the short ones pack a punch. They create a strong impact, full of emotion and clearly getting across certain imagery. For example, titled 4/23:

“I don’t know how to exist properly

in the same space as someone

I don’t love anymore.” – Trista Mateer

It’s only three lines, but it’s one powerful statement. Yet all the poems have this conversational, confession-like quality to them as well. I think that’s what has drawn me to them- that they are content similar to what I’ve either discussed with friends, or thought myself, or in some cases, haven’t even thought to contemplate. They’re blunt and honest. I don’t do favorites, but I really loved Improper Emergency Procedure, and the series of Texts I Shouldn’t Have Sent to My Ex.

Overall, I highly recommend buying yourself a copy. You’ll want to read her work over and over again, so it’s definitely worth adding to your personal collection. I hope my review has done justice for a beautiful collection!