Review – Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice



RATING: 3.0 

Publication date April 19, 2016 by Random House 

I’m a fan of retellings of Jane Austen, whether in books of films. Most of Austen’s writing depends on observations social conventions and the class structure of its time,which is tricky to translate to modern-day traditions. 

In Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, the characters lacked the subtlety of Austen’s versions of romance in this modern retelling.  Instead of the expected good – natured, and warm characters, we’re given two-dimensional, cold and unlikable ones. Where are Austen’s signature kind and charming characters? My biggest gripe is Sittenfeld’s attempt to mix the old world way of speaking with modern-day talk.

Jane Austen Goes Hollywood
Image by © Theo Westenberger/Corbis

“Uncertainly, Jane said, Mom, you haven’t been reading my texts, have you?” Merrily,    Lydia said, “she doesn’t know how to!”… Mrs. Bennett appeared uncontrite**. Jane furrowed her eyebrow, which for her reflected genuine pique.”

The stilted dialog was a chore to read, as the author tried to blend the speaking mannerisms of the old and the new. Plus, this book needs a good editor. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice is a light-hearted, modern-day retelling of a Jane Austen novel. I don’t think many die-hard Austen fans would enjoy this book.

* This book was provided to me from NetGalley by Random House in exchange for an honest review.

** Uncontrite is not a word.




Review: Wannabe Porn Money & Mummy



This is Lauren Barnard’s third chick-lit book in her series, involving the adventures of Poppy and Jazz. I love Laura’s writing because she captures genuine emotions without sounding corny or over-the top.

The story revolves around two best friends, Poppy and Jazz, who find themselves in silly “I Love Lucy” type of situations. Poppy is an anxious, empathetic woman,  and typically has too many people rely on her, while she deals with her own struggle of trying to become pregnant. Poppy is imperfect and vulnerable – like a real life women.

Jazz is a care-free, generous, headstrong woman. Unfortunately, due to her strong will, she often finds herself in  difficult situations. Many of us can relate to the family members mentioned in her story. Every family has these type of relatives: the embarrassing one, the bossy one, the Too Much Information one and the “know it all” relative.

This is a light, funny book which I highly recommend for chick-lit lovers or anyone in need of  a good laugh.



A copy of the book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Book Review: The Gossips



The Gossips  highlights the hypocritical, self-righteous small town mindset behind the polite facade of a close community.  The Gossips is a perceptive and engaging look at small town life, where the main source of entertainment is gossip, which rotates between bribery, real or imagined affairs, drunks, rape, incest, and (clutching my pearls!) the embarrassment of unwed mothers. Initially, the story line and vivid character descriptions drew me in…until half way through, I couldn’t wait until the book was over. Waugh describes gossipy, nosy people in such an accurate way,  she exhausted me. Waugh’s writing is excellent, but it wasn’t enjoyable to read about gossipy small town folks. I’d read another one of her books, but only if the story line is more pleasant.

A copy of the book was provided to me from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Eeny Meeny – 5 Stars


Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge is a British suspense/thriller novel. It is the first book in DI Helen Grace Thriller series. DI Helen Grace is youngest female to be promoted to Detective Inspector in her department. She is a submissive in a paid S&M arrangement, which adds vulnerability to her uptight personality. This aspect of her personality was difficult to reconcile until you learn more about her rough childhood.

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is faced with solving a series of kidnapping/abduction murders. Amy Anderson and Sam Fisher were kidnapped then held hostage. Their kidnappers drop them into a remote area and their chances of escape are dim. The kidnappers only give them a cell phone and a gun.  Their only option for survival is if one of them dies. DI Helen Grace isn’t convinced this is a plausible story until two other people are kidnapped in a similar way.  

Eeny Meeny keeps you riveted until the end.  There is violence, sex, and foul language and the book will keep you guessing with all of the twists and turns. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. Highly recommended for fans of Brit thrillers and suspense novels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Wreck and Order



Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore is about Elsie, a twenty-something who wants to change her life, but must first deal with her inner problems. Courtesy of her father, he gives her money to flit around the world, from Paris to Sri Lanka and New York City. I struggled to continue reading because of her angst, constant careless sex and extended periods of navel-gazing.

The writing is excellent, but it’s not enough to keep the reader interested if the story is depressing and disturbing. When good things come her way, she dismisses them and throws away the opportunity. Her low self-esteem contributes to her self-sabotage behavior by having sex with abusive strangers. The story is told in a flight of ideas style of prose that captures Elsie’s confused state of mind. When her problems become too hard to handle emotionally, she travels to a different country, in hopes that the new setting will solve her problems. Her problems follow her wherever she lands since it’s easier to change her outside life rather than her inner life. I couldn’t connect to Elsie because of her angst and self-sabotage behavior. Plus, her “job” consisted of the translation of a vintage book from French to English, which leads her nowhere. Elsie will not change until she works on her inner problems.

Despite beautiful writing, the story depressed me. Elsie is a self-centered hopeless woman who won’t change her life for the better because it takes courage and strength to change your inner self. The only takeaway from this book is to change your inner problems first, instead of physically running away from them in hopes that will solve your problems.


I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: My Name is Lucy Barton



If you’ve ever been hospitalized, in between the routine tests and  x-rays, there are long periods of time spent alone. Free from the responsibilities of your life, long stretches of time will be spent not only healing physically but emotionally as well. This is the case in Elizabeth Strout’s latest book, My Name is Lucy Barton. Lucy Barton is a tender-hearted writer, who reflects on her own dysfunctional family, and tries to find her own story.
Set in the 1980’s, she spends nine weeks in the hospital after complications from an appendectomy. Lucy weaves her story back and forth between today and her childhood memories of poverty and mistreatment. 
During her illness, her mother, who she hadn’t seen in many years, visits her for five days in the hospital. The sole presence of her mother triggers Lucy’s childhood memories of her life in rural Illinois and her dysfunctional family. We learn about Lucy’s life story through short small life events. As Lucy’s mother rambles on about bad marriages, she is oblivious and unable to give Lucy what she craves the most – the demonstration of her love. As an adult, Lucy looks back with a fresh perspective and shares her life story in a simple manner. I felt an emotional connection with Lucy’s compassionate storytelling.
Although it’s a story of a woman’s ordinary life, Elizabeth Strout reveals the universal lesson about the human condition, that teaches us how to learn from our mistakes and live a better life. Highly recommended for those who enjoy women’s literature, relationships between mothers and daughters and skilled writing.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: American Housewife

RATING:  3.5
American Housewife is a collection of twelve short stories which focus on
the lives of modern American housewives, based in New York City or the South. The dark humor stories range from laugh out loud funny to snarky and twisted satire. Some of my favorites were “Hello! Welcome to Book Club,” and “How To Be A Patron of the Arts.” Helen Ellis is a talented writer, but I didn’t feel a connection to the jaded, social-climbing women in her stories.
I recommend this book for those who enjoy offbeat, social parody stories.
I received a copy of the book from the Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 


Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue



The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel refer to the uber wealthy women of 1950s New York, who glide with ease through their world of fashion, lunch, and parties. Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Harriman dominated the New York society columns and the high-fashion magazine spreads. These gorgeous  women were groomed from birth to achieve their main goal in life: to marry a powerful, wealthy man. Their main role as a wife ensured that their husband’s lives were comfortable and effortless.

In exchange for marrying wealthy men, the Swans had everything materialistically but lacked something money could never buy: a man willing to entertain them and more important, give them his full attention. Enter Truman Capote, a rising literary star, with his animated bitchy wit endeared him to them. They took him under their wing, invited him to their exclusive parties, showered him with expensive gifts and vacations. Their husbands were unintimidated by their wive’s relationship with Capote. A harmless flamboyant gay man couldn’t cause any problems, or could he?

A special connection developed between Babe Paley and Truman Capote. Both of them had emotionally distant mothers and never felt they were good enough. Babe strived to be perfect in every way for her husband Bill, the founder of  CBS.  She imposed unrealistic restrictions on herself over her looks and life. Yet when she spent time with Truman, she could relax and be herself.

After Capote’s achieved literary acclaim with “In Cold Blood”,  he struggled for years to create another book. In desperation, he wrote a short story for Esquire magazine, titled La Cote Basque 1965. The Swans found their personal stories, including their secret affairs and deepest secrets, announced to the entire world. Naturally, Capote’s contact with the Swans were severed. Truman’s repeated phone call attempts were never returned. After continuous calls, the maids finally told him outright to stop calling. Even his closest friend, Babe Paley, who was dying of lung cancer, refused to speak to him. The exciting social life he worked for years to achieve were taken away in a matter of days.

This book was fascinating. The intricate descriptions of the Swans’ beauty routines, homes, lunches, and gossip were described in exquisite detail by Melanie Benjamin. Although Capote’s alcohol and drug abuse are briefly mentioned, his lack of insight while under the influence of drugs contributed to his decision to write the Esquire article, which ruined his friendship with the Swans.

Highly recommend for fans of Capote and especially for those keen on reading all the gossipy bits of famous people.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth



Frederick Forsyth, author of  several successful spy thrillers, such as The Day of The Jackal and The Odessa File had a feeling of authenticity- simply because his real life was as exciting and filled with danger as the characters in his thrillers.

In his autobiography, The Outsider, Forsyth decides against attending college and sets his sights on joining the Royal Air Force (RAF), a career he dreamed of since he was a young boy where he explored a cockpit of a Spitfire warplane at the base in Kent where his father served during World War II. England was in the midst of fighting World War II, and Frederick was in awe of the uniformed men and yearned to be a pilot. As a teenager, he spent summers in France and Germany quickly picking up French and German. His knack for languages worked in his favor when he wrote for a local paper, leading to a position as a foreign correspondent with Reuters.

Forsyth shares his adventures with as much energy as his legendary thrillers. His knowledge of French allowed him to eavesdrop in cafes in Northern Africa and France in the dangerous years when France was on the verge of a coup d’état to overthrow President Charles de Gaulle. This distressing experience gave him the idea for his first novel, The Day of The Jackal. He created a fictional insider assassin -the Jackal – and learned much later he was closer to the truth of his fictional account than he realized.

He believed that the detachment he developed as a journalist carried over into his writing. His success with his first three books and their adaptation into blockbuster movies led to worldwide fame and wealth. After entrusting all of his savings to an investment firm, the firm collapsed and he lost all of his savings. Although it was a tremendous blow, it strengthened his belief that one shouldn’t trust The Establishment and he continued to write several more successful novels.

The Outsider is an in-depth look at Forsyth’s life. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Forsyth or spy novels.


Book Review: The Debt and The Doormat



If you need a good laugh, check out this book. “The Debt and The Doormat” is British author Laura Barnard’s first book. This light-hearted story of two female roommates book will make you laugh. Poppy and Jazz, the two main characters, are polar opposites.In order for Jazz to pay off her debt, she convinces Poppy to swap houses, since Poppy’s rent is cheaper than Jazz’. Poppy, the typical “doormat” goes along with her unconventional scheme. The typical British humor is very dry and funny and all of the characters are well fleshed out. Poppy’s character is well developed, as the reader sees a change in her at the end of the story. Laura Barnard’s writing is excellent – funny and entertaining. I can’t wait to read the rest of her books. I would highly recommend this book for an entertaining read.

Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street



In the 1920’s, the public wanted mystics, spiritualists and mediums. Harry Houdini, the world’s best magician fed his fans with his unbelievable feats. and his repertoire of his tricks including his “mentalist” ability, causing people to believe he could converse with the dead. Actually, he didn’t do either one. Like all magicians, he performed his magic and tricked audiences by using misdirection and trickery.

Several of Houdini’s fans included famous people – including Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle, the master of British crime fiction, was desperate to believe he could communicate with his dead son. Houdini  and Conan Doyle had their own opinions on the subject and each had their own following of fans.

Houdini was very close to his mother. After his mother passed away, he hoped to communicate with her one last time, even though he knew his performances were strictly a show. He was determined to stop people from using their logical emotions and place them under his “spell”, so he could continue to enjoy his success.

The 1920’s were an age when spiritualism became not only a pseudo-religion but was also considered a science. Prominent institutions such as Harvard University set up a Parapsychology Department. Scientific American,  a well-respected scientific publication even offered a reward for anyone proving they were truly a medium.

The Witch of Lime Street,  Margery, claimed she could communicate with the dead, and bring back the spirit of her deceased brother, Howard. Through endless séances , Howard continued to “materialize” and perform the “tricks” the researchers had contrived to prove he was real. One the tricks involved Mary exuding  ectoplasm – a supernatural viscous substance which appears to exude from Mary’s body during a spiritualistic trance, demonstrating the manifestation of spirits.coming out of her vagina.

Mr. Jaher’s book is well researched and gives the reader an in-depth look into the spiritualism craze that swept the world during the early 20th century. In the end, he discusses Margery’s final séances but doesn’t offer any final conclusions, allowing the reader to make his own decision.

The book was interesting,  yet lengthy and repetitive at times. Margery’s “performances” and the research around them went on for years, often several times a week. Mr. Jaher recounted as many of them as he could. I enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book, but the middle part could have been trimmed significantly if Mr. Jaher only included those séances where something new happened.  I recommend this book for Houdini fans and those interested in 1920’s mysticism.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Kiss Me When I’m Dead





If you’re a fan of pulp noir fiction, you’ll love this thriller. Set in modern London, Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a detective novel narrated by the main protagonist, Daniel Beckett. He’s a womanizing, witty private detective with an air of mystery and street savvy that hints to a darker, immoral past. The narration is written in a stream of consciousness style, similar to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective fiction. In between searching for clues, he hooks up with many dangerous women. The continuous action captivated me to read “just one more chapter”…. yet I read it beyond the next chapter, until the end. There are some (non-gratuitous) sex scenes throughout the book, but it was presented in a tasteful manner

This tightly written, suspenseful novel with sharp dialogue and an unexpected ending is highly recommended for lovers of pulp fiction detective stories.


Book Review: Fighting For Devlin



Fighting for Devlin is Jessica Lemon’s first appearance into the world of New Adult fiction. Thankfully, it’s far from the standard college campus NA love story, it’s much more of a real life scenario. Rena, a waitress who is a good girl with a wild side, falls for her boss, Devlin, a wealthy restaurant owner, who inherited the restaurant from his family, along with inheriting his father’s involvement with illegal activities.

Although there is plenty of physical chemistry, I wanted to see a deeper emotional relationship and more fleshed out character development. Yet, it’s a fun quick read I couldn’t put down. I’d recommend it for those who like the “good girl goes for bad boy” trope. I’m looking forward to her next book. Hopefully, Lemmon will add a bit more depth to her characters, which is why I deducted one star. Overall, Fighting For Devlin is a fun, romantic novel which will entice you to read more. Best of all, Lemmon gives the reader a complete ending but leaves it opened up enough for her next book.

Review: French Illusions – 4 stars



Linda Kovic-Skow’s dream is to become an international stewardess. Yet, one of the requirements of this job is that she must be bi-lingual – fluent English and at least one another language – preferably Spanish, French or German. Linda is determined to learn French and concocts a plan to make it happen. She applies for a job as an Au-Pair in France and learn French along the way. She lies on her application by stating she speaks French. She is hired and doesn’t reveal she isn’t fluent in French until she meets her future employers in person. Her future employers are a wealthy French family who live in a castle in the Loire Valley and aren’t amused to discover she isn’t fluent in French. Since no other Au-Pairs are available, they decide to let her stay, only if she attends French language courses in nearby Tours.

The story was interesting up until the end, when it ended abruptly,leaving many questions about her love interests. In order to find out what happens next,  you need to buy her next book. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in book publishing lately. The author should resolve the end of story, but leave some parts unresolved for a future book, not end the book in the middle of the ending.  I deducted one star for this reason. Overall, French Illusions: My Story as an Au-Pair in the Loire Valley is an entertaining book.

A Story For Halloween: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe


Turn off all your lights, and read this famous horror story by candlelight to get yourself into the Halloween mood.  Happy Halloween everyone!

” True! Nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded; with what caution, with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh, so gently! And then when I had made an opening sufficient for my head I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea, and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, “Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no! it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vain. All in vain, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little— a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily—until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.

And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to thefloor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.

I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not evenhis—could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no bloodspot whatever. I had been too wary for that.

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct;—it continued and became more distinct. I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling, but it continued and gained definitiveness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; but I talked more fluently and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Whywould they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. O God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!—and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder!louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Source: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe – Berfrois

Review: Yes, My Accent Is Real



Right from the outset, Kunal Nayyar aka “Raj” from the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, lets us know Yes, My Accent Is Real, isn’t exactly a memoir. It’s more of an entertaining collection of the mishaps, adventures and friendships of his life. Told with a sense of self-deprecating humor, fond memories are shared from his Indian childhood and his Oregon college years,  before his success as an actor. He writes about his extravagant seven-day Indian wedding to the former Miss India. His personal essays of his youth gives us insight to his feelings of awkwardness.  

“The truth is I wasn’t great at understanding sarcasm, which seemed to be the root of all their jokes, so I just ended up laughing constantly at things I had no idea about… . because I was not standing directly in front of them or in the circle of people surrounding them, I now realize I just looked like the guy who enjoyed laughing at walls.”

Nearly everyone can relate to his awkward teenage moments, which makes this book so down to earth. This is an sincere collection of stories, where Kunal isn’t afraid to show his own flaws. The book is a quick, enjoyable read.

I received a ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL OP’s Guide to Surviving Dangerous and Not So Dangerous Situations



Release date: October 16, 2015

100 DEADLY SKILLS by Clint Emerson, Ret. Navy SEAL contains many techniques used by The SEALS which can be applied for civilian use. The techniques are presented in a simple manner, making it easy to understand.  One page describes a brief explanation of a particular skill, followed by a page of step-by-step graphic presentation. The intent of his book is to teach survival skills, so you have the power of knowledge to effectively counter the methods of sinister people. Emerson refers to the use of these skills typical of the “Violent Nomad.”

The most useful information are the skills needed to solve most common inconvenient scenarios. Some of these skills include what to do if you’re locked out of your house or hotel, how to hide items in your hotel room or how to defeat a padlock. Most everything in the non-life threatening section is based on common-sense and a bit of MacGyver ingenuity.

MacGyver, source:
MacGyver, source:

I deducted two stars because because the book goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first half of the book, Emerson describes basic emergency survival skills, such as how to create an everyday kit, how to conceal escape tools, how to pick locks and how to construct a rectal concealment. I think the how-to on rectal concealment would be more appropriate in the life-threatening scenarios section. In the second half of the book, he describes life threatening scenarios, such as how to evade a kidnapper, how to steal a plane or rappel down the side of a building. I think the book should have focused on either basic or worse case survival skills, not both. It was overall a useful informational book, good for survivalists and wanna-be spies.

I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Walk Through Fire – Motorcycle Gang Romance


RATING: 4  STARS            

Publisher: Forever – Grand Central  

For ages 18 y.o +

Release Date: October 27, 2015

Walk Through Fire is the fourth book in The Chaos Series by Kristen Ashley. Motorcycle gang romance novels are not my genre of choice, but I gave this book a chance. Chaos is the Motorcycle Club where the main character, Millie, returns to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend, High. At first, High is a complete jerk when he first sees her. She walked out on High when he was in love with her twenty years ago, without explanation. Now,  Millie is ready to explain herself.

The first half of the book is intense with plenty of tension. Raw, painful feelings are exposed. Millie and High’s desire is palpable when they lash out at each other. Both of them have a lot of hot angry sex, before we understand why Millie left. What is her secret and why did she leave High years ago?

The pace of the first half of the book finds Millie and High sorting out their pain and dealing with a love that never died. The second half focuses on their rebuilding a life together. Kristen Ashley captured the biker dialogue pretty well. Throughout the entire book, I  envisioned Sam Elliot as High,  with his deep, booming voice.

Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film
Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film “Mask.” Source:

I’d highly recommend this entertaining, emotional book. Walk Through Fire is easy to read as  a stand alone book, even though this is the fourth one in the Chaos Series. Now, I need to read the entire series from the beginning, since I enjoyed it so much.

ARC courtesy of publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: She’s Not Herself



She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness is Linda A. Shapiro’s memoir of growing up with a mother who suffered from severe depression or bipolar disorder. Growing up in a wealthy family, as a first generation Jew in New York, her father is oblivious of the emotional damage Linda and her brother suffers on a daily basis. Her father’s explanation for her mother’s erratic behavior is that “She’s having one of those days.”  She delves into the devastating effects her mother’s illness had upon her own self-image and self-worth. Over time, Linda overcame her problems and marries, has children and becomes a successful Psychologist.

Occasionally the writing is dense, yet it’s an insightful, heart-wrenching memoir of growing up with a mentally ill mother.

I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: This is Your Life, Harriet Chance – 5 STARS



Jonathan Evison drew me into his bittersweet novel, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance,  right away with his unusual protagonist, Harriet Chance, who reflects about the trivial and highlights of her life which didn’t turn out according to her plans. As a widow of two years , still exhausted after caring for Bernard, her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, she discovers he entered a drawing for an Alaskan cruise – and won. She uses this opportunity to scatter his ashes, with dreams of moving on into her twilight years. Harriet believes Bernard visits her frequently and speaks with him,  as if he were still alive. These conversations reflect the highs and lows of her life, alternating between sweet and  sad.  During the cruise, a lifetime of deception is revealed to her.

The narration jumps from Harriet at age nineteen, then to Harriet at age sixty. The out-of-order narration style often distracts in most stories,  but Evison’s choice of this narration complements the ups and downs of Harriet’s life. Harriet is endearing, but not without faults of her own. Sometimes she is the victim and other times the perpetrator of wrongs done to others. Above all,  Harriet is human, and Evison captures the joys and regrets of a twentieth century woman’s life.

This is a charming novel about soldiering on through disappointment, when your dreams don’t work out as you had hoped, and how love can both surprise and injure us. .Highly recommend.

Review: Fashion Is Spinach

FashionSpinachFASHION IS SPINACH   By Elizabeth Hawes


Elizabeth Hawes gives the reader an insider’s look at the fashion industry from the 1920’s through 1970’s. After graduating from Vassar College and Parsons School of Design, she worked in a Paris fashion copy house, and wrote about fashion for The New Yorker. In 1928, the public’s interest in French fashion began to fade, so she opened her design house, Hawes Inc., which originally made expensive custom designs for affluent women. The outspoken and independent Hawes criticized the New York Fashion industry for creating poorly made, expensive clothing and marketing them as trendy. Designers couldn’t complain about the Fashion industry, for fear of losing business. Yet, Hawes had the luxury to be outspoken, as she came from a wealthy family. She worked with retailers to produce and sell well made, affordable clothes. Hawes believed in designing classic, well made clothes, instead of caving into designing the latest fashion trends. Although the book was written seventy years ago, the fashion industry operates the same way today, by continuing to lure the public with the latest “must have” fashions every season.

A copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: The Good Shufu





The Good Shufu is Tracy Slater’s memoir about the early years of her relationship and marriage to a Japanese man. Slater is a highly educated Feminist scholar from Boston who traveled to Japan to teach ESL to Japanese businessmen, and finds herself falling in love with one of her students. The Good Shufu was advertised as how an American writer and academic adapted to the male dominated Japanese culture. However, it focused more on Slater’s relationship challenges, her role as a “shufu’ (housewife), and dealing with her infertility. Although it was interesting in parts, I expected to learn more about her adaptation to Japanese culture rather than her relationship struggles.   

An advance copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Book Review: Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson




Shirley Jackson is best known for her classic short story, The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House.  Let Me Tell You is a collection of Jackson’s unpublished short stories and essays on writing gathered by her family. Twenty-two short stories involve the sinister, secret underside of suburban life, which she experienced herself. Along with being a successful writer, she was also a housewife.

Many of her short stories were semi-auto biographical.  Shirley Jackson was an accomplished writer married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a professor and book critic.”A Garland of Garlands” is about a woman complaining about her difficulty being married to an unappreciative book critic.  In other stories, we can feel her resentment of the housewife role in “Here I Am, Washing  Dishes Again”, “Still Life With Teapot and Students” and “Company For Dinner.” I especially enjoyed “Mrs. Spencer and The Oberons”, Root of Evil” and her personal essays at the end.

Let Me Tell You is an entertaining selection of her writing. If you’ve never read any of her novels, I’d suggest reading her novels first, which show her mastery of psychological horror. Highly recommended for those who enjoy psychological horror or Twilight Zone – like stories.

An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: The Write Crowd



The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship & the Writing Life by Lori A. May

Published December 18th 2014 by Bloomsbury Academic


The Write Crowd is a useful resource for those looking for a place in the writing community, whether at the local or national level. May suggests many tips on how to contribute and connect to the writing community locally, as well as building an online presence. The appendix is especially helpful as it offers a list of literary organizations. I highly recommend this book for writers as a resource to connect to their work to their community.

 A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: Take a Load off, Mona Jamborski



TAKE A LOAD OFF, MONA JAMBORSKI             By Joanna Franklin Bell


It’s pure serendipity I stumbled across this genuine, heart-felt book. Mona is a depressed, morbidly obese recluse until she becomes friends with her food delivery boy, Moises, who recognizes her fears and helps transform her life. Bell’s character driven story draws the reader in right away, with her relatable characters. Written from a first person’s POV, Bell gives you a look behind the emotional dynamics of an obese recluse which may give some insight as to why some people choose this lifestyle.

I became so absorbed in the book, I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended for anyone, especially for those interested how agoraphobia can take over a person’s life.


Review: Eeny Meeny: 5 Stars


Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge is a British suspense/thriller novel. It is the first book in DI Helen Grace Thriller series. DI Helen Grace is youngest female to be promoted to Detective Inspector in her department. She is a submissive in a paid S&M arrangement, which adds vulnerability to her uptight personality. This aspect of her personality was  difficult to reconcile until you learn more about her rough childhood.

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is faced with solving a series of kidnapping/abduction murders. Amy Anderson and Sam Fisher were kidnapped then held hostage. Their kidnappers drop them into a remote area and their chances of escape are dim. The kidnappers only give them a cell phone and a gun.  Their only option for survival is if one of them dies. DI Helen Grace isn’t convinced this is a plausible story until two other people are kidnapped in a similar way.  

Eeny Meeny keeps you riveted until the end.  There is violence, sex, and foul language and the book will keep you guessing with all of the twists and turns. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. Highly recommended for fans of Brit thrillers and suspense novels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Gonzo Girl



GONZO GIRL By Cheryl Della Pietra

Rating: 3 Stars 

Inspired by her time as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant, Gonzo Girl is a fast paced fictional story about Alley, a recent Ivy League graduate with no publishing connections, who jumps at the opportunity to work as the assistant to the famous Walker Reade. After applying for the job, she received a 3 A.M. call from Reade, who asked her to fly out to Colorado for a three-day trial period.

Her unpredictable trial period, includes a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, massive cocaine use and violent outbursts.  Reade invites her to stay for several months at his compound. Month after month, Alley tries to coax another novel out of Walker Reade, but becomes emotionally exhausted and realizes the danger of staying alone in the Colorado Rockies, at the mercy of a drug-addicted writer who may never produce another novel.

Gonzo Girl is a fast paced, soft-hearted fictional portrait of the literary icon. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism or crazy lifestyles.

**The publisher provided me with an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review. **

Exclusive Extract from The Guardian: First Chapter Excerpt of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman


I can’t wait until the entire book is released on July 14h. Here’s an exclusive chapter extract of Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee from The Guardian.


Review: Tales From The Family Crypt – 4 Stars





Every family has some level of dysfunction. In Carroll’s memoir, she recounts the dysfunctional, toxic relationships between her siblings. In the middle of her book, I thought to myself, “It can’t get any worse” – but it did.  As each of her elderly parents or in-laws die, the breakdown of communication between siblings continues to spiral downward.  Carroll presented the difficulties of sibling rivalries, along with the anguish  surrounding the deaths of her parents and in-laws. Many of her relatable stories made me laugh out loud, yet just as many made me shudder.

Under the stress of elders dying, dysfunctional families  become even more verbally and emotionally destructive towards each other. The majority of people don’t even realize their toxic relationship with family members, because their behavior was considered normal and acceptable.  Healthy, open communication is one of the cornerstones of  family dynamics.

I’d  recommend this book because it demonstrates all families grow up with some level of dysfunction, some more than others. I’d especially recommend Tales From The Family Crypt for someone who is dealing with the death of  a close family member, since many underlying resentments begin to surface and it can be exasperating to deal with other family member’s reactions. Hopefully people will recognize dysfunctional family dynamics and correct them, before passing down the dysfunction  to the next generation.