Monday, August 31, 2020

{Read-a-thon & Read-a-long} #FrightFall

The #FrightFall Read-a-thon is hosted by Michelle over at Seasons of Reading and is officially part of her Something Wicked Fall event every September and October on her horror blog, Castle Macabre. The genres being focused on for the read-a-thon are gothic stories for September and horror stories for October. If you want to participate, you can sign up here.

As you can see in the image above, Michelle is also hosting a read-a-long on her Castle Macabre blog for The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Discussion posts will be put up every Sunday. The reading schedule begins tomorrow, September 1st. You can click here to view the reading schedule and additional information about the read-a-long.

If you're planning on joining the fun, let me know!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

{Book Review} Lake People by Abi Maxwell


This was another Dollar General purchase. The cover is simple so that's not what drew me to this book. I kind of picked it up on a whim and decided to read its summary to see if I'd be interested in it. The summary, posted below, sounded intriguing and I genuinely anticipated a wonderful saga-esque story about Alice and where she came from.

From Goodreads:

"A haunting, luminous debut novel set in a small New Hampshire town: the story of the crisscrossing of lives, within and without family, and of one woman, given up for adoption as a baby, searching for the truth about her life.

As an infant, Alice Thorton was discovered in Kettleborough, New Hampshire, in a boathouse by the lake; adopted by a young, childless couple; raised with no knowledge of the women who came before her: Eleonora, who brought her family to Bear Island, the nearly uninhabitable scrap of land in Kettleborough’s lake; Signe, the maiden aunt who nearly drowned in the lake, ashamed of her heart; Sophie, the grandmother who turned a blind eye to her unwanted granddaughter. Alice grows up aching for an acceptance she can’t quite imagine, trying to find it first with an older man, then with one who can’t love her back, and finally in the love she feels for one she has never met. And all the while she feels a mysterious pull to the lake. As Alice edges ever closer to her past,Lake Peoplebeautifully evokes the interweaving of family history and individual fate, and the intangible connections we feel to the place where we were born."

I'm sorry to say, this book was a disappointment. It wasn't necessarily the story itself but the way it was written. I know each author has their own unique writing style and that's a great thing. You don't want to read different authors and have them all read the same - that'd be boring. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Abi Maxwell's writing style.

All of the characters were ... destitute. That's the best word I can think of and I don't mean it financially. They were emotionally destitute. It's like all of them were mad, or depressed, or abusive, or willing to be somebody's emotional whipping post. There was very little hope or joy in this book. I do expect a certain level of problems or despair in a novel, especially when a character is trying to find herself and where she's from, but this was excessive.

While reading Lake People, there's one thought that kept running through my mind: "This is the weirdest book I've ever read." I'm sorry, Ms. Maxwell, but I'm giving your book 2 stars and that's only because, at the very end of the book, Alice found a bit of the happiness she was searching for. Thank goodness I only paid $1 for this book.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

{TV Series Review} Parks and Recreation


So, like many of you, I was looking for a show to binge-watch on Netflix. I decided to give Parks and Recreation (aka Parks and Rec) a chance. Before I get into my thoughts, let me give you some deets about the show ... just in case you're interested.

According to Wikipedia

Genre: Sitcom, Mockumentary, and Political Satire

Created by: Greg Daniels and Michael Schur

Run Time: April 2009 until February 2015

Starred: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, Rob Lowe, Aubrey Plaza, and more

Okay, let's talk. 

The show centered around the Parks and Recreation department of fictional town Pawnee, Indiana. The vibe of the show reminded me of The Office with the characters talking to someone off camera during the course of the day. I half expected the series finale to reveal that a documentary was being recorded to preserve some history of Pawnee ... sounds like something Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) would've been excited to make happen. Speaking of Leslie, I sometimes found her to be a little too much. She couldn't accept when people didn't see things her way and practically bullied them until they conceded. I wanted to slap her. On the other hand, she remembered everyone's birthdays, cheered their accomplishments, and celebrated with everyone's successes. THAT Leslie Knope I could've been friends with.

My two favorite characters on the show, hands down, were April Ludgate (played by Aubrey Plaza) and Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman). April had RBF to the max, she didn't like showing or receiving affection, and she leaned towards the dark side. I related to her in so many ways. Ron Swanson was SERIOUS about maintaining his privacy. He was a meat-eater and loved breakfast food. I related to him, too. I love, and am drawn to, people with a dry sense of humor. April and Ron had that. It was amazing and I loved it.

It was weird to see Chris Pratt in Parks and Rec and try to reconcile that with his role as Peter Quill, the Star-Lord and a Guardian of the Galaxy. It's like I was watching a totally different person ... and I was there for it. The differences in Chris for each of those roles just goes to show how great of an actor he is and how committed he is in portraying whatever character he's currently acting.

There's a lot that can be said about Parks and Rec. I don't want to make this post too long so I'll just say this ... Despite a few annoyances, I enjoyed the show. The short episodes made it easily binge-worthy. Parks and Rec was funny, smart, sweet, corny, weird, quirky, annoying, loud, quiet, smooth ... everything you'd ever want in a show. I now understand the hype. Great job, Greg and Michael.

Friday, August 28, 2020

{Review} IN AN INSTANT by Suzanne Redfearn


I bought this book for my Kindle on a whim while I was sitting at work on my lunch break bored because I had forgotten my physical book that I was currently reading. The first thing that caught my attention was the cover. One, because I thought it gorgeous. Two, because I MISS THE SNOW (insert ugly crying here ... okay, not really). Once my eye was caught, I read the summary and became even more intrigued.

In an Instant is written from the perspective of a dead girl. Beautiful cover, grotesque plot? Nope, not in the least.

Finn is one of three daughters, and one of four children, to Jack and Ann. She has a best friend, Mo, and, when we meet Finn, she is currently at a bridal shop not being the most attentive maid of honor for her sister, Aubrey. Leaving the bridal shop, Aunt Karen (who really isn't an aunt, but Finn's mom's best friend) talks Finn into driving her mom's brand new car home from the shop. Ann, Finn's mom, is not keen on the idea because, HELLOOOO ... Brand. New. Car. 

Well, Aunt Karen succeeds in talking Finn into driving home. On the way, Finn gets into an accident ... nothing major, but there is damage to the front end. Ann, after checking on all parties involved, drives the rest of the way home. To say she's pissed is an understatement. Add that to the marital problems her and Jack are having and she's just a big ole ray of sunshine. So, what's a family to do?


Jack decides that a trip to the ole family cabin a few hours away for a few days would be good for everyone. He, Ann, Finn, Aubrey, Chloe (the third sister/daughter), Vance (Chloe's boyfriend), Oz (the son), Bingo (the dog), Mo, Aunt Karen, Uncle Bob, and Natalie (Karen and Bob's daughter and an annoyance to Finn and Mo) all load up in one vehicle and head out to the cabin. At the cabin, everyone quickly unloads the van and gets ready to head to a local diner. Finn sits up front while Jack drives. Not to long after they leave, they come across a guy stuck on the side of the road. They offer to give him a ride to town since there's no cell service where he's stuck at. He accepts and climbs in the back with everyone else. Once they're on their way again, a buck runs out in front of them causing Jack to swerve, miss the deer, hit the old guardrail, and go over the side of the mountain. Thus, the death of Finn.

This may sound like the end of the story, but it's not. Finn is tied to the earthly realm while her family continues living the next few months or so without her. They struggle with their grief, with living, with finding purpose after the accident. Finn witnesses it all and is unable to help.

Will she ever leave earth and head towards her final destination? Will her family survive their heartbreak and learn to live again?

In an Instant is a quick read, even though there are over 90 chapters. Fortunately, they're not long and the premise of the story is interesting enough to keep you reading. It also made me wonder if people's spirits really do linger after death. It's interesting to think about.

Overall, I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars for its originality with a few plot issues (nothing major, just a couple things that made me question their validity).

Thursday, August 27, 2020

{Review} NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD by Leah Hager Cohen


I found this book in a Dollar General. When you're holding the book in your hands, the cover looks as if you could tear away the rest of the painting and reveal the stark white cover with its black-printed words. It's so realistic I had to pick it up and read the summary. I was sold. I bought it.

That was about 2 years ago. I've finally read the book and, before I tell you my thoughts, let me give you a bit of background.

Fred and Ava were raised by two parents who were VERY unconventional. They, Fred and Ava, could be considered home-schooled although it seemed to be more of a moral and social experiment where their father is concerned. Fred and Ava were never disciplined. Instead, if they had tantrums or fits of anger, they were closely studied and asked questions about how they felt, why they did what they did, and so on. Being raised like that can make one feel as if they're more knowledgeable and socially/morally aware than others in mainstream society or it can make one feel like an outsider, an outcast, not as good as those in mainstream society. Either way, it's a very extreme environment to raise children. There's really no middle ground, no gray areas.

Fred was the youngest. He also had issues that wouldn't allow him to behave as others. It was never defined in the book, because that would go against their father's theories of raising children, but it sounded as if Fred had some form of autism. He would go off on his own and stay outside for a day or two. He eventually tried to live a "normal" life by getting jobs, finding places to live, etc. but he was never really accepted by most people because they didn't understand him.

Ava, being the eldest, always felt protective over Fred, even when she was tired of him. Of course, when she did feel tired of Fred she would then feel guilty for feeling tired of Fred. Once their parents died, Fred went off with a former member of their community and Ava followed her own path. She didn't stay in touch with him as much as she felt she should have but there was always an excuse as to why she couldn't. You know how it goes, right? We make time for what we want and when we don't want to do something, we'll allow the smallest excuse to keep us from doing what we should. That was grown-up Ava.

Enter the present. Fred is in jail for his alleged involvement in the death of a minor. Ava goes to the town where he's in jail to visit with his lawyer. Ava knows people don't understand Fred and how he is so she's trying to make him known to Bayard Charles, Fred's defense attorney.

As the story unfolds, we all learn more about Ava, Fred, Kitty, and their entire world they grew up in. We learn of the circumstances leading up to Fred's arrest. Did he have anything to do with the boy's death? Was it an accident? Was it natural causes?

Even without knowing the author's background, I could tell she is an extremely intelligent woman. The way she wrote her novel reveals that about herself. She made child-Ava sound more intelligent than I've ever known a child to think, reason, speak, and feel. The author used so many words I've never heard or read before that I almost opened a dictionary app on my phone just so I could understand what she was trying to say. I didn't open the dictionary app. I understood the gist of the portion of the story I was reading and that was good enough for me. Thinking about the story in retrospect, it was interesting and uniquely done. Ava, being the narrator, was the most fleshed-out character in the book. I would've liked to have known more about her parents, but that would've made the book longer than I would've wanted to read. I didn't hate the book but I didn't love it either. However, it did make me think. Overall, I'd give No Book but the World three stars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020



So, I do this thing where I don't like to watch or read anything while it's popular with the majority of society. I like to wait until the hype dies down before I take a look at it. I did it with Harry Potter, Sex and the City, and more.

A Kid Like Jake is listed as a 2018 American comedy-drama film. I agree with the drama portion of the description, but I didn't find a lot of comedy in the film. The film was written by Daniel Pearle based on his own 2013 play of the same name.

You can tell from the poster above that there are some pretty popular actors in this film: Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, and a couple more. The basic premise of the movie is a set of parents who try to figure the best, positive, way to help their son come into his own being. He was born a boy but displays effeminate traits. He's turning five and is about to begin school so making sure he has a healthy sense of self is important.

Greg, the father, wants Jake to begin counseling to help him express his feelings and healthy ways of expressing his emerging emotions. Alex, the mom, is pretty blind to the fact that Jake's displaying gender non-conformity behaviors. She thinks her friends and husband are attacking her way of mothering when they're just trying to help her see what's so clearly in front of her. Really, Alex was a little much for me. She was taking the situation personally when she should've been focusing on Jake and trying to discuss with Greg what was best for Jake's well-being.

Overall, the movie wasn't horrible, but I wish it would've focused more on Jake and how he felt. The poor boy barely had any speaking parts. I understand that 4- and 5-year-olds probably aren't very articulate about how they're feeling. I just felt like the movie was more about Jake's parents than about Jake, which left me feeling kind of 'meh' about the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020



First of all, this cover is gor-geous! The cover and the title are the reasons why I bought this book from a Dollar General and added it to my Goodreads TBR list way back in 2017. I have finally gotten around to reading it.

To start, this is a novel based on the life of Robert Luis Stevenson's wife, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, and her marriage to the famous author. When Fanny met Luis, she had just lost her youngest child. Being 10 years Luis' senior, Fanny didn't think of Luis as a viable suitor and was, therefore, attracted to Luis' cousin. Eventually, Luis wins Fanny over, she divorces her husband in San Francisco, Fanny and Luis get married, and end up traveling the world to find a place where Luis can live healthily.

Fanny was too combative and could hold a grudge like nobody's business. There were quite a few times I remember thinking, "Dear Lord, just let it go already!" Luis could be an ass with his brutal honesty and biting wit. They made a strange pair and couple. I didn't get a sense of love or infatuation from either of them.

The book was entertaining and an interesting read. Although it's a fictional account of their lives together, this novel is based on facts, real letters, journal entries, etc from both Fanny and Luis. I am glad to have read it once, even if it's just to get it off my TBR list, but I don't foresee my reading it again in the future. I really don't know who I'd want to recommend it to, either, so I guess I'll end this by saying that I'd rate this about 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, August 24, 2020

{Review} THE INSTITUTE by Stephen King


Those that know me personally know that I am a H-U-G-E Stephen King fan. Not because what he writes is scary. What makes me such a fan is how he thinks and how he writes about how he thinks. For example, my all-time favorite book (of King's and in general) is It. People hear that and say, "Ohmygod. How can you read that? Clowns scare me!" Which automatically tells me, they're going based off of the movie and haven't actually read the book. To me, It is about more than just a clown (which isn't really a clown but a shape-shifter based on a child's worst fear). The book It is about a child's imagination and how powerful it can be (good side) and it also deals with a child's fear and how powerful THAT can be (bad side). Then, you bring a group of children together, all with different fears and imaginations, and show how strong their bond can become ... it's a magical, powerful thing. And THOSE elements are what is at the core of the book It. It's not scary at all, it's actually beautiful in it's own way ... and that's why I love King.

But, I'm digressing ...

I was excited when Stephen King came out with some new novels the past year or two. The only one I've gotten so far is The Institute, which is what I should be talking to you about today.

The Institute is a place where children with special powers are gathered. While there, the children are tested to see if their powers can be strengthened or even added to. Those with the strongest powers are taken to a separate area of the Institute and put to work ... or, uh, "work." The Institute is, of course, ran by a secret group of government employees who could care less about the kids.

Luke Ellis is a beyond-brilliant ten-year-old kid and one of the kids picked up and brought to the Institute. He's a different choice as a protagonist which makes this an interesting read. Who would expect a ten-year-old kid to take on a secret government agency? King, that's who.
I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't read this novel yet, but I will tell you that it held my attention. Certain passages made me think of other King works. For example:

 - In the section titled "Maureen and Avery," there's a fight scene in part 12 that makes me think of The Losers fighting Butch Bowers in It.

- Another passage in "Maureen and Avery" part 12 makes me think of the two girls in the hallway of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining ... "Luke looked around. Joe was gone. There were two little blond girls standing where he had been. They were holding hands and wearing identical expressions of dazed terror. Everything about them was identical ..."

- And, then again, in "Maureen and Avery" part 14: "They reminded Luke of twins in some old horror movie." The Shining anyone?

I guess when you've been as prolific a writer as King, you're allowed certain liberties. Regardless of the similarities to earlier works, The Institute is still a testament to King's writing style and way of thinking. While I may not love this novel as much as King's earlier, darker, works, I would still give this 3.5 stars because it's a solid piece of storytelling.

I'll leave you with one final quote from this book and you can interpret it however you need to:

"It came to him, with the force of a revelation, that you had to have been imprisoned to fully understand what freedom was."

Sunday, August 23, 2020



The first time I "met" Elaine was when I watched season 17 of Bravo's Project Runway (a guilty pleasure of mine ever since Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn were hosting). Anyway, as soon as she was introduced and I watched her for an episode or two I was enamored. You ever see someone and think, "I love their spirit, their vibe, just who they are in general?" That was me with Elaine. I didn't know her at all before Project Runway, had never heard her name, but I was intrigued by what I saw ... and then I found out she wrote a book. I had to get it.

Reading More than Enough was like listening to a friend speak her truth while telling you about her life's story. If all non-fiction read like this, I'd read a lot more non-fiction books. I felt so many emotions while reading this book: anger, pride, joy ... and cried tears through most of these. I loved that Elaine's book made me feel so many different emotions and I loved that she opened up to share about her experiences and her journey.

Elaine, girl, I know you don't know me, I know we'll likely never meet, and I also know you'll likely never ever read this review .... BUT ... just know, this white girl has your back. I am so proud of you for accomplishing what you have. Your story is just beginning and I cannot WAIT to see where you go from here. Thank you for being your truly authentic self. *hugs*

Food for Thought (quotes from the book):

"When you occupy space in systems that weren't built for you, your authenticity is your activism."

"In order to change the stories, you must change the storytellers."

Friday, August 21, 2020

Home Again, Home Again


Hi, everyone!!!

Yes, I know ... I'm back again. I tried to create a review blog on Wix. That didn't feel right or work out. I stopped reading and reviewing for the longest time afterward ... like 2 1/2 years. When I got back into reading and was ready to review again, I tried creating a new blog on Blogger under a different name. It didn't feel right. So, my only option? To come back home. To you.

I'm so excited to be back. I decided to make a change this time around. I'll no longer be reviewing indie authors. My apologies to the authors looking to get their name out there, but I've got to draw a line somewhere. My first time here I accepted 97% of the review requests that were sent to me. I became overwhelmed very quickly and, eventually, became burned out ... thus, my sabbatical.

Thankfully, my life is such that I've decided to end my time away and get back into the thick of things. I cannot wait to reconnect with you all. Let's talk about books, movies, life, and everything else we can think of ... I've missed you and I'm glad to be back home. 

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