Sunday, January 7, 2018

"A Mother's Reckoning" by Sue Klebold

Genre: Memoir
Format: E-Book
Publication: February 2016
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

My Thoughts: This is a tough review to write. There's so much I want to say and touch on, but I'm not sure how to put it in a way that someone could understand my feelings without reading the book themselves.

I've always been interested in the Columbine Shooting. It was the first major news event that I can remember seeing, and the first one that actually mattered to me since I was just starting middle school. The news coverage on it was extensive causing the boys who did it to become legends in a way. Off and on I've ran across articles on the shooting throughout the years, but it wasn't until I read Dave Cullen's novel Columbine (original review found here), that I really had some inkling of what happened. What's more, it made me question everything I thought I knew about the murderers and how the media portrayed them- they were goths, they were loners, they were bullied, etc. When the truth is so much more complex than that. After reading Dave's novel and the journal entries the boys wrote, I quickly came to the realization that Dylan Kelbold was not who the media portrayed him to be and that he had a mental illness. That may have been obvious to everyone else, and to a degree I knew that before I read Dave's book... but I don't think I realized that when you stripped away all the other possible "reasons" the boys did what they did you're left with the fact that Dylan was mentally sick.

This is where Sue's book picks up. I feel like this book was her way of saying "Here's what kind of parent I was. I was just like you. I did everything I was supposed to do and I still missed the signs." And I believe her. Sue's book isn't just about her relationship with Dylan, his life or the shooting. It goes deeper than that. It's an in depth look into life after someone you love commits suicide. Of course, in Sue's case it's much worse than that since Dylan's was a murder/suicide.

I was left with so much respect for Sue Klebold after reading this. The way she wrote this book, as a mother who loved her son but also as an apology to all of his victims... it was simply heartbreaking to be put in her shoes. But as I said before, this isn't just about Dylan. This book serves as a reminder to parents everywhere that this can happen to you. The Klebolds were a normal family. The signs of Dylan's depression (when they were there) were subtle and nothing you wouldn't chalk up to being a teenager. It was truly eye opening and it definitely changed some of my views on how I will be parenting my own daughter when she gets to be older.

The bottom line is, I would recommend this book to every parent. I would also recommend that you read Columbine first as it goes into much more detail as to what happened and gives a broader understanding of the event.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey

Genre: Nonfiction/ Autobiography
Format: Kindle
Publication: April 2011
Cover Rating: 2/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

My Thoughts: Let me start off by saying I'm not some huge Tina Fey fan. I liked her on SNL and of course Mean Girls is a national treasure, but other than that I haven't really followed anything that she's done. I've never watched 30 Rock or really any other movie that she's been in. But I was in the mood to read some nonfiction and after reading "A Note From the Author" at the beginning of this book and really laughing out loud I decided to give it a shot.

I'm not really sure what I was expecting from Bossypants. Humor obviously, but I also expected something with more substance than what I got. The book IS funny. I laughed out loud so many times while reading it that my husband had to come in and ask me what I was giggling about. But the parts in between the funny bits? It wasn't really anything interesting or that I cared to know about. Maybe if I was some superfan of hers I would have enjoyed it more, but to me it was just kind of... meh. If Tina fey made one of those bathroom joke books, I'd read it because I do think she is funny. Or maybe if she even wrote a fiction novel (since she was the screen writer for Mean Girls). But in all honesty, this was just boring.

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hello 2018!

So for the past few years I have done a New Year's post. It's nice to look back on the previous year to see what I've accomplished and the goals I want to make for the new year.

Resolutions Completed in 2017:
1. Read 35 Books. 
I actually kicked butt in this one and ended up reading 58 books! Just a few of my favorites:

2. I came off my blood pressure medicine!
Okay, this one was really hard and a little tricky. In fact, I JUST came off of it last week. Turns out my blood pressure issue was more of an anxiety issue. So once I got the proper care and started taking an anti-anxiety medicine, I no longer needed the blood pressure medicine. The moral here is always take care of your mental health!

3. I went on vacation!
 Zack and I never really took any vacations alone. We always went with my family. Well, I'm happy to say this year that we went on our very first family vacation to Gatlinburg! It was really amazing- secluded up in a cabin with a hot tub overlooking beautiful mountain scenery. I loved it!

4. I learned to let go of the Mom Guilt (mostly).
Leaving River with anyone caused me a serious plague of Mom Guilt. I couldn't enjoy my time out alone at all. I believe a good chunk of this was my anxiety pre-medicated self, but it also just comes with being a mom. Over the past year I learned to let River embrace spending time with other family members, and to seriously cherish that rare alone time I got. 

5. Find a new hobby that I love.
I have always wanted to learn how to crochet, and this year I planted my butt in front of my laptop and watched a hundred videos on how to crochet! I'm far from an expert, but I know enough to make some pretty rad blankets, scarfs, and hats!

6. Took a vacation alone with my mom and daughter.
This wasn't a resolution I had made, but it was something I never would have thought I could have done before. This probably isn't a big deal to most people, but this was a huge deal for me. My mother and I haven't spent any extended amount of time like this together in over ten years. I'm not going to get into why, but it was a really great, healing trip for me. I rented a cabin in a small town in my state and we were completely surrounded by woods and a hot tub to relax in. It was a really memorable trip for us and I hope we can experience it again this year. Also, I'm not a huge fan of driving, so the fact that I drove the entire trip having no idea where I was going was a huge deal for me.

2018 Reading Challenge:
Besides my Goodreads Challenge, I came across this wonderful reading challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy
1. My Goodreads Goal is to read 75 Books, but honestly I've learned quality > quantity so I'm not really going to sweat it if I don't make that.
2. Read a Classic
3. Read a Recommendation by Someone With Great Taste
4. Read a Book in Translation
5. Read a Book Nominated for a 2018 Award
6. Read a Poetry, Play, or Essay Collection.
7. Read A Book You Can Read in a Day.
8. Read A Book That’s More Than 500 pages.
9. Read A Book By A Favorite Author.
10. Read A Banned Book.
11. Read a Memoir or Biography
12. Read a Book by an Author of Different Race, Religion, or Ethnicity.

2018 Resolutions:
1. Lose 50 Pounds.
2. Be Kinder.
3. Make Date Night a Priority.
4. Pay Off All Credit Cards.
5. Potty Train River.
6. Cook One Exotic Meal at Least Once A Month.
7. Come Off Anxiety Medication (as long as it's safe!)
8. Cross Off Something On My Bucket List

"Starlight Nights" by Stacey Kade

Series: 738 Days #2
Genre: New Adult
Publication: January 9, 2018
Format: Kindle
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: At twenty-three, Calista Beckett is trying to overcome her early fame and fortune. The former savior of the world on Starlight is now a freshman at college--miles away from L.A. and her former existence. She sees it as her start to a new life, a normal life, one where she won't make the same mistakes she made before--a brush with heroin addiction and losing her freedom to her controlling mother, thanks to a court order.

Eric Stone played her older brother, Byron, on Starlight. But she's been in love with him pretty much since they kissed--her first kiss--while auditioning. When Eric shows up on campus out of the blue asking her to return to California for a role, Calista's struck immediately by two things: first, in spite of everything that's happened, she still feels something dangerous for him, and second, she's absolutely determined not to let him ruin her life again.

Only Eric's not giving up so easily.

My Thoughts: Let me just say, I love Stacey Kade! She's such an awesome author and if you're not reading her books or following her on social media you are missing out big time.

So basically, I have been waiting very impatiently on this novel for over a year! Stalking facebook posts, twitter, netgalley, etc. I fell head over heels for the first book, 738 Days (review found here), and from there I was seriously jonesing for more. So you can imagine how THRILLED I was when I opened my e-mail and found out I had received one of the ARC's! I may or may not have squealed and jumped up and down in delight.

I'm just going to be honest with you guys, I went into this book with really high hopes, and I was NOT disappointed! I was always curious about what went on with Calista and Eric and how they were turning out. What I really loved about this book is how flawed these characters are (especially Eric), and yet you can't help falling for them and rooting for them. You get angry at them and then you find yourself rooting for them.  Just like in the first novel, you get quickly sucked into this story and you are left turning the pages late into the night to find out what is going to happen between these people who really need each other. For me, friends to lovers is kind of hit or miss genre. It doesn't always feel real, but Stacey nailed it. The chemistry between Calista & Eric was electric and I loved their story!

Bottom Line: If Stacey Kade writes it, I'm reading it and recommending it!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Friday, November 24, 2017

"There's Someone Inside Your House" by Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA Horror
Publication: September 2017
Format: Hardback
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Love hurts...

Makani Young thought she'd left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She's found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn't far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

My Thoughts: I was so excited when I heard about this book. I loved Stephanie Perkins past books and they're all sitting pretty on my favorites shelf, so the fact that she was combining her talents with one of my favorite genres really thrilled me.

Before starting this one though, I noticed that it didn't exactly have a high GR rating (3.44 at the moment- her other books all average over 4 stars), which made me wonder exactly what the deal was. Well, after reading I can tell you I'm still wondering. Honestly, I really enjoyed this one! It was exactly what it proclaimed itself to be a Teen Slasher novel. I read someone compared it to the classics Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and it definitely has that same campy slasher feel to it. I wasn't expecting some deep complex mystery here. I was expecting some sexy romance, some scary chills, and a quick page turner to get me through Halloween- which is exactly what I got. I'm really glad I bought this one in hardback because I have a feeling it will be one of my go to Halloween reads in the future.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Ten Thousand Skies Above You" by Claudia Gray (Audible Review)

Series: Firebird #2
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Romance
Publication: 2015 Harper Teen
Format: Audible
Narrated: Tavia Gilbert
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents' invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions. 

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared. 

My Thoughts: WHY has it taken me two years to read this?! Oh... yeah, right, I had a baby in 2015. I missed out on a ton of good books that year. But still! Just to do a simple recap, I reread (listened) to the first book in this series (you can find my original review here) last week and finished this book today and I was not disappointed!

First off, let me just say that Tavia Gilbert is the BEST narrator. Ever. You can argue with me, but you'd be wrong. If you listen to audiobooks like I do, you know that a narrator can either make or a break a book that you listen to. Well, Tavia Gilbert does such a phenomenal job in this series I completely forget that I'm listening to only one person (or that I'm actually listening to anyone at all- most of the time I'm too completely absorbed in the story). Basically, she deserves an Oscar.

Moving on... sometimes I'm afraid to read the second book in a series because I'm usually terrified that there is no way it will be as good as the first one. We all know it happens sometimes. But I'm happy to tell you that Ten Thousand Skies Above You held it's on and was just as amazing (if not more so) than the first novel! I don't know how Claudia Gray does it, but she has created this amazing world that should be too complicated for someone to understand (we're talking a gazillion dimensions here), but at no point was I ever confused as to what was going on or felt lost. She covers everything so smoothly it just keeps you turning the pages (or in my case never hitting stop on my phone).

The world(s) building is amazing, the characters unforgettable... literally everything I want and more in a book this series has and that's why it's made its way to my favorites shelf.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"My Life as a White Trash Zombie" by Diana Rowland

Series: White Trash Zombie #1
Genre: Cozy Paranormal Mystery
Publication: July 2011
Format: Audiobook
Narrated: Allison McLemore
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.

Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she's hungriest!

Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.


My Thoughts: White Trash Zombie has been sitting on my Goodreads shelf since 2011 and I could kick myself for not reading (or in this case, listening) to it sooner! I don't know much about this author, but I can tell you right now that she knows how to build a sincere character. I freaking loved Angel! I get so sick of the same old heroine formulas, and it was so refreshing to read about a foul mouthed, kick ass chick like Angel. Of course, you don't go in thinking that. Angel has given up on bettering her life when we first meet her and it isn't until she's turned into a zombie that things start looking up for her. But once she starts trying, you find yourself wanting her to win.

As for the narrator, Allison McLemore, I don't think anyone could have pulled off Angel's voice better. As an Alabama girl, I get offended when I hear the ridiculous southern accents some people try to come up with. But McLemore pulls of Angels voice perfectly and sucks you right into the story. In fact, my ears binged and I listened to it all in one day. The only issue I really had was that the side characters like Marcus, Ed, etc seemed to have a very slow, monotone voice. I could still distinguish who was saying what (which is super important if you're listening to a book), but they didn't have the same life as Angel's voice did. Regardless, I'm super impressed with the narrating.

Bottom Line: I loved this very original and hilarious cozy paranormal mystery and McLemore's voice! Highly recommend. In fact, once I finished it I immediately started on the second one and I have a feeling I'll just go through the series by the end of this week if my wallet will allow me.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars
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