3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · LGBTQIA+ Books · non fiction · religion

New Release | She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams

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She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams 

Published: November 8, 2018

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press

Pages: 200

Genres: non fiction, LGBTQIA+, religion

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: modern day religion, real trans people’s stories, church and the LGBTQIA+

Foodie Vibes: sensible healthy meal to fuel your mind and body

 

Synopsis:

Jonathan S. Williams was three months into pastoring a new, evangelical church plant when his father confessed a secret: he was transgender. His father, Paul, a prominent evangelical pastor, soon became Paula, and Jonathan’s life and ministry went into a tailspin. Feeling betrayed by his mentor and confidante and scared that his church would lose funding and support if Paula’s secret was exposed, Jonathan sunk into depression and alcoholism.

She’s My Dad explores Jonathan’s long and winding journey toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance of his father as well as his church’s journey to become one of the few fully LGBTQ-inclusive, evangelical churches in America. Jonathan and Paula offer insight and encouragement for those with transgender family members, empathizing with the feelings of loss and trauma and understanding that even being LGBTQ-affirming doesn’t mean the transition of a family member will be easy. Jonathan writes of his family’s continuing evolution, the meaning of remaining loyal to one’s father even when she is no longer a man, the ongoing theological evolution surrounding transgender rights and advocacy in the church, and the unflinching self-scrutiny of a pastor who lost his God only to find God again in his father’s transition.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

She’s My Dad tells the story of Jonathan’s Dad transitioning to her true self, Paula. The book is honest about the challenges, learning process and love that goes into having a family member transition. The process is made even more complex, because Paula is a pastor in the Evangelical church. 

I liked that the chapters alternated perspectives between Jonathan and Paula, allowing the reader to better understand the story from all perspectives. I didn’t realize the focus in religion would be so great. I’m not religious, but I learned a lot about churches excluding or choosing to include LGBTQIA+ people. I think the book could be very helpful and validating for people who are religious and identify as LGBTQIA+. 

While it was hard to hear Jonathan’s struggles about his dad transitioning, it was honest. For awhile he didn’t seem very kind to Paula, which bothered me. I think a lot of people can relate to the loss and confusion they may also feel. I feel like the book focused on the church a lot, and maybe would have been more well rounded by including a wider variety of experiences. 

Overall, an honest, educational and heartfelt book about Jonathan and his dad, Paula’s story. 

  • In the book, Jonathan refers to Paula as his dad, so to my knowledge I’m not misgendering anyone. But if I’m wrong, please correct me.

 

Answer me this:

How can churches work to better serve their LGBTQIA+ congregation?

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · coming of age · Literary Fiction · mental health · Young Adult

Drowning In Light by Anna Benoit

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Drowning in Light by Anna Benoit

Published: August 5, 2017

Publisher: Self Published

Pages: 350

Genres: young adult, coming of age, literary fiction, mental health

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: flawed characters, books about drug abuse

Foodie Vibes: meals you don’t finish, more alcohol and pills can you can comprehend 

 

Synopsis: 

It all started with a single pain pill.

Up until that pill, high school junior Matt Davidson had it all—or, at least, everyone thought he had it all. A star athlete from a good family, no one suspected the trouble lurking beneath Matt’s carefully constructed façade. And Matt was just fine with that. Because if anyone could hear the dark thoughts that cluttered his mind, they’d know what a selfish, miserable mess he really was.

Matt thinks he can stop. He knows he can stop. And he will, just not yet. Because nothing but the pills can give him a break from his thoughts. Nothing else makes him invincible. Nothing else halts the sinking spiral of his depression.

Nothing… until he meets Amy, a mysterious and beautiful classmate who sparks a passion in him he’s never felt before. As their relationship progresses, Matt knows he can’t have them both. But he also knows he needs his pills. And when he’s finally forced to choose, the decision isn’t as easy as he’d hoped.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley and Anna Benoit for an ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Drowning in Light tells the story of Matt, a guy in high school. On the outside he seems to have to all. But if you look closer, his dad’s abusive and has alcohol problems of his own. His mom means well, but doesn’t realize the extent of her son’s problems. She’s content to let things go and believe it will all work out in the end. Matt struggles with drug abuse that has him in a downward spiral. He’s miserable, not coping well, and really doesn’t have a handle on anything anymore. 

The book is not your typical manic pixie dream girl type story. It’s real, raw and complex. His friend/girlfriend doesn’t magically make things better. She tries to help, but has her own baggage to deal with so it’s not a perfect recovery story by any means. I like that it’s a fairly realistic story of drug abuse. I don’t have personal experience with drug abuse, so maybe I’m way off base here. 

However, it was very frustrating at times to read about all of his mistakes and refusal for help. I felt very annoyed towards Matt at times. Also his lifestyle wasn’t that enjoyable to read about. Duh, it’s drug abuse, doing whatever you need to score more pills, and lying to everyone. But I guess I was hoping for more positivity at some point. I was also so frustrated with the adults in his life. Nobody was taking responsibility for making sure Matt got the help he so desperately needed. 

All in all, a realistic portrayal of drug abuse that made for a frustrating read. A good book that doesn’t gloss of the difficult parts of mental illness and drug abuse. 

 

Are you a fan of books with flawed characters? 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Medical · memoir · non fiction

Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

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Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

Published: June 6, 2018

Publisher: River Grove Books

Pages: 202

Genres: non fiction, memoir, medical

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: using faith to get through a difficult time, heartfelt stories, inspiring reads

Foodie Vibes: healthy foods that protect your heart

 

Synopsis:

Ed Innerarity was a regular guy: He liked to fly fish, ride his bike, and laugh with his family, and he attended church every Sunday. He also had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy and needed a new heart. Ed refused to even consider a heart transplant until his doctor gave him two options: Get a heart transplant or check in to a hospice care facility. He didn’t want to die.

Dispatches from the Heart is a compilation of emails from friends, family, and the authors themselves describing Ed’s journey through the heart transplant process. Full of compelling, inspiring, and often witty insights into this life-changing event, Ed and Paige share the challenges and triumphs they both faced before, during, and after Ed’s life-saving surgery.

This book is a tribute to those who helped make a second chance at life possible, an invitation into the intimate inner dialogue of a family ever changed, and a beacon of hope for those who may be part of a similar journey.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, the author and publisher for the ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

Dispatches from the Heart is the life journey of Ed, who needs and ends up receiving a heart transplant in his 60s. The touching insightful memoir highlights the importance of healthy life choices. Even if they can’t prevent illness, they can help the person live their best life during the struggles and potentially slow the progression of the health issue. Ed has cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition in which the heart gets weaker and less efficient over time. Due to his family history he got tested and knew he would eventually succumb to the same disease his mother passed away from. 

The book is a unique look into the journey a lot of families go through. Knowing you need an organ transplant, but not knowing if you will get one. His story is told through different forms: passages from him and his wife looking back, emails from him or his wife, email responses from loved ones, photos, song suggestions, and occasionally short descriptions of the medical terminology. It gives an authentic look what the family was going through during this difficult time. The family looks towards their faith a lot during this challenging time, as they do throughout the rest of life as well. 

I liked that he highlights the important of pre-hab while on the waiting list for a cardiac transplant. It shows the importance of strengthening your body before the transplant, so you can have the best chance for a good outcome. 

While the outlook is extremely positive, it may be difficult for people who are struggling with the transplant process, because they may not see themselves in his process. While he struggled, as well as his family, it wasn’t shown that much. That’s fine. Completely his choice what he shares, but it could alienate some people who are struggling to deal with and relate. 

Overall, an enlightening, inspiring book that shows Ed’s journey in the organ transplant process. A great read for someone who may know someone going through something similar and wants to know more about it. 

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christmas · contemporary romance · Holidays · romance

Release Day | Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

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Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

Published: October 9, 2018

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 320

Genres: romance, contemporary romance, holiday, Christmas

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: lots and lots of dogs, feel good but slightly grumpy holiday reads, ridiculous holiday sweaters

Foodie Vibes: eggnog because what else?

 

Synopsis:

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and–adding insult to (literal) injury–her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there’s only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she’ll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez’s doggy day care center. And if she’s not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know…

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin’s house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him?

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie’s life has never felt so out of control–but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love…

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Natalie Cox for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

What’s not to like about lots of dogs, their cute antics, and a very attractive local vet, while you’re on vacation for the holidays? Except the fact that the vacation is being forced to care for your cousin’s dog kenneling business when you have no idea how to care for a dog, much less 7 of them including a very pregnant pooch. And that you’re forced to live here for the time being, because your apartment is completely uninhabitable at the moment. Needless to say Charlie isn’t in the mood for Christmas this year. 

So it’s your typical Hallmark over the top sappy holiday romance. In theory I liked that the characters and circumstances were more relatable. But in reality it became a bit annoying hearing the complaining after awhile. The cute antics and faux pas didn’t last long. I think my biggest issue is that I didn’t really connect with the main character. I was hoping for more of an escapism type holiday book, not a problem filled reality of the typical holidays. 

Over time the characters did grow on me. Also the last 50 pages almost completely made up for the negatives. I can’t say what happens, but it’s so cute and fun. 

Overall, a mix Christmas stocking of a book. A realistic version of the holidays that to which many people can probably relate. 

 

Question: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Essays · memoir · mental health · non fiction

ARC Book Review | Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

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Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

Published: September 18, 2018 

Publisher: ECW Press

Pages: 240 

Genres: non fiction, memoir, essays

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: relatable tell it like it is memoirs, people in their 20s and 30s who don’t have it all together but feel like they should 

Foodie Vibes: wine, noodles with butter because it’s cheap and helps numb out life

 

Synopsis:

From the author of the popular newsletter That’s What She SaidNobody Cares is a frank, funny personal essay collection about work, failure, feminism, and the messy business of being alive in your twenties and thirties.

As she shares her hard-won insights from screwing up, growing up, and trying to find her own path, Anne T. Donahue’s debut book offers all the honesty, laughs, and reassurance of a late-night phone call with your best friend. Whether she’s giving a signature pep talk, railing against summer, or describing her own mental health struggles, Anne reminds us that failure is normal, saying to no to things is liberating, and that we’re all a bunch of beautiful disasters — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, ECW Press and Anne T. Donahue for an ARC ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

My rating is actually 3.5 stars, but since there aren’t half stars I always round up.

Nobody Cares is funny, poignant, relatable and ridiculous in all the best ways. Through the author’s essays we experience her highs and lows, struggles and life lessons learned. She’s like the older sister/friend with the cautionary life tales to help you feel less alone and avoid her mistakes. Number 1 being figure out your stuff, be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to seek therapy. It will save you a lot of difficulty and heartache along the years.

I really liked her honesty. She says the things that people often sugar coat, without going out of her way to be edgy and dramatic. Her story is so dang (damn? I still feel bad about swearing in reviews, like I’m going to get in trouble for doing so) relatable. The life lessons that she passes on to the reader are validating.

However, some of the stories bounce around a bit so there’s an adjustment when reading. Also, it became redundant reading about her making the same mistakes multiple times. While it’s authentic to her and life in general, I felt frustrated after awhile.

Overall, an incredibly relatable and funny memoir of essays. I think the tone of the book is best summer up by this quote.

“In our small section of the galaxy, many of us are dealing with things that aren’t ours enough to talk about, but are still ours enough that we have to deal with them.” Bam! That’s so it.

 

What advice would you give your 20 something year old self?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christian · Christian fiction · mystery · romance · suspense · Uncategorized

ARC Review | A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

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A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

Published: September 18, 2018

Publisher: Revell

Pages: 336

Genres: suspense, mystery, Christian fiction, romance

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: conspiracy theories, books that cut close to reality and freak you out too

Foodie Vibes: coffee, coffee, coffee to keep yourself awake & reading so you can’ quickly find out what happens

 

Synopsis:

Psychologist Grace Callahan has no idea that she has a secret–one worth killing for. But when she finds out one of her clients has been murdered, she quickly realizes that the computer security specialist wasn’t simply suffering from paranoia.

Detective Nate Quinn has just been cleared for active duty after a bombing killed eighteen people, including his partner, and left him dealing with PTSD. His first case back on the job involves the murder of Stephen Shaw, and his only lead turns out to be an old friend, Grace Callahan–and her life is in grave danger. Someone believes Shaw gave his psychologist information before he died. Information they are willing to kill for.

With her signature pulse-pounding suspense, Lisa Harris takes readers deep into the heart of fear in this race against the clock.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Revell and Lisa Harris for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Another good novel from Lisa Harris. Not my all time favorite from her, but still a good solid suspenseful mystery. It was nice to get back into the world of police detectives solving mysteries in Christian fiction.

I enjoyed the world of conspiracy theories with good reason. The book was so psychologically terrifying. The fact that these things could happen in real life is so scary. Hackers attacking the power grid and leaving our country without power for months. The impact it could have on our country and so many people is terrifying. Such an interesting premise! There was a lot of action, physical and mental, that kept me reading, reading, reading to find out what happens.

Despite all the action that I loved, I didn’t really like that the murder mystery involved a psychiatric patient in any way. In this case, the patient wasn’t a suspect (not a spoiler), but there is so much stigma and stereotypes that I’m wary of books that even associate therapy, mental health, etc. with anything negative. Also a key to solving a major part of the mystery was overlooked until much later. If I were there, I would have found the object right away by doing a simple but thorough search. If the characters stopped to think for 2 seconds the detective and psychology would have found it. So frustrating!

Overall, a compelling mystery that unfortunately had a few nuances that bothered me. Loved the conspiracy theory ascent though.

 

Are you more of a murder mystery, psychological thriller or horror novel reading? Tell me why in the comments 

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Young Adult

ARC Book Review | The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

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The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas 

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 31, 2018

Pages: 384

Genres: young adult, contemporary, mystery, thriller

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: dark young adult novels

Read with food: iced frap at Starbucks ~ so many clandestine meetings happened there

 

Synopsis: 

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for an ARC copy of the book. As always, an honest review.

My rating is actually 3.5 stars, but since there aren’t half stars I always round up.

The Cheerleaders is a fun, yet dark young adult novel that captivated me from beginning to end. In the span of a few weeks, 5 girls from the local high school cheerleading team were dead. Murders, accidents, suicides, but is that what really happened?

The book quickly drew me in and held my attention throughout. I absolutely flew through this quick read. Definitely something you could read and still comprehend while tired or in a noisy place. I also enjoyed that the narrator is one of the dead girls’ younger sisters. Monica and her friend Ginny were likable and smart, making the story work well. I find that if I don’t connect with the main characters or at least understand their motives, I rarely enjoy the book. Not an issue at all in The Cheerleaders.

However the plot trope of teenagers trying to solve a crime that the police can’t or got wrong has been done a lot. It’s easy to overlook in this book, but it’s worth noting. Also, every characters has a distinct role in solving the mystery. Which in theory sounds great, but left me feeling as if certain characters were just being used for what they could bring to the solving the mystery, instead of actual relationships or character development.

Overall, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas is worth a read in my opinion. Fun, serious, with a mystery that will keep you turning the pages. Perfect for those hot summer days when you want to escape into a book for awhile.

 

Who is looking forward to reading the book?

 

Random question of the post: 

What’s your favorite color? 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Chick Lit · contemporary fiction · fiction · Uncategorized · Women's Fiction

Book Review: The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

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The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Published by Penguin Adult HC/TR on June 14, 2012

Pages: 432

Genres: contemporary fiction, chick lit, fiction

Recommend to fans of: Liane Moriarty, chick lit

Read with food: chocolates ~ lots of them in assorted flavors

 

Synopsis: 

From the author of critically acclaimed What Alice Forgot comes a wonderfully fun, insightful novel about the crazy things we do for love.

Ellen O’Farrell is a bit unusual. She’s a hypnotherapist. She’s never met her father. And she can’t seem to keep a relationship going (okay, that’s more normal that we want to admit). When Ellen meets Patrick, she’s hopeful nevertheless. But when he says he needs to tell her something, she fears the worst. However, when Patrick reveals that his ex-girlfriend is stalking him, Ellen thinks, Is that all? Actually, that’s kind of neat. She’s more intrigued than frightened. What makes a supposedly smart, professional woman behave this way? She’d love to meet her. What she doesn’t know is that she already has.

Review:

After reading some of Liane Moriarty’s other best selling novels such as Big Little Lies and the Husband’s Secret, I was expecting another phenomenal read. However, I was a bit disappointed.

Ellen and Patrick are a couple. Patrick used to go out with Saskia, and now Saskia is stalking Patrick. Ellen is a hypnotist, who has a client named Deborah. Deborah and Saskia are the same person. The premise was intriguing enough to make me read the book and keep me interested overall. There were parts of the story that slowed for a bit and became almost boring, but then something dramatic would happen to make me forget all about it. 

For a book about a stalker, it was not scary or what I would consider a psychological thriller. Saskia just seemed sad and a bit pathetic. As with all of Liane Moriarty’s books, the focus is on the romantic and family relationships. I’m glad I read The Hypnotist’s Love Story, but if you’re new to Liane Moriarty’s books, might I suggest starting with a different one?

 

For fans of Liane Moriarty:

What’s your favorite book of hers?

 

3.5 Star Books · Audiobooks · Book Reviews · humor · memoir

Book Review: Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

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Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

Published by Ballantine Books on November 29, 2016

Pages: 209

Genres: memoir, humor

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: Gilmore Girls, memoirs with life lessons

Read with food: coffee, duh! Because . . . Lorelai in Gilmore Girls

 

Synopsis:

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

Review:

Everyone has been saying how amazing and hilarious Talking As Fast As I Can, is. I found it good, but not as great as all the hype.

Maybe it’s because while I enjoyed the TV show Gilmore Girls, I was not a super fan. So the behind the scenes look at the show wasn’t that interesting to me. The writing is also amusing, but not over the top hilarious.

The memoir does contain a lot of life advice that makes me think. I appreciated that. Lauren Graham talks about enjoying life as it’s currently happening, instead of spending all your time online. I found this especially poignant as I was outside enjoying the spring flowers and listening to this audiobook.

A bit underwhelming, but overall an enjoyable read.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks … especially memoirs read by the authors. #love 

 

Any recommendations for me?

 

What are your favorite memoirs?