14 September 2020

The Guest List - Book Review


The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley
Publication date: March 19, 2020
Pages: 319 pages
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Rating: 3/5 stars ☆☆☆
Strengths: Interesting plot, satisfying ending
Weaknesses: Implausible - too many coincidences

The creepy vibe in this one was excellent. I wanted to vacation on a haunted, gloomy, dangerous island too!! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's talk about what was happening.

The bride (a successful magazine publisher) gets an awesome deal on a destination wedding intended to launch an island resort off the coast of Ireland to popularity. This seems like the right way to get a great deal (for the engaged couple and their guests), and great publicity for the resort (since the groom is also a local celebrity - star of his own show about wilderness survival). 

The perspective of how the story is told starts jumping back and forth. The night of the ceremony, something bad goes down in a brutal storm just outside the tents where everyone is celebrating. But this is juxtoposed against the build up to the wedding, and the quirks each of the characters involved seem to have.

The groom's party is some of his old private school friends. They're decidedly not nice guys. And they haven't changed over time, since they apparently were not nice to the guy who is a member of the bridal party. They're jerks, and they seem to bring out the worst in each other and those around them.

The bride may be a bit shallow, but her heart is good, and she really just wants things to be perfect for her big day. If only she had surrounded herself with good people to start with.

Anyway, someone ends up dead. By the end of the book, it's pretty clear that the corpse deserved what they got, from several different directions. So who really did the killing? It's worth reading the book to find out. I'd give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It was fun to read and the vibe was super-creepy.

11 September 2020

Five Things for Friday / Book Beginnings on Friday / #Friday56

Switching my order around this week. Ima kick off with my five things (about our district's remote learning), and then discuss my Book Beginnings and #Friday56 after that. Enjoy! 

1.  I've seen plenty of posts and such discussing remote learning schedules, so I'm sharing ours today.

My son is in third grade. This is the really nice schedule his teacher posted for us last night, so we're all on the same page today. All scheduled times are the START of a lesson on zoom. They never run all the way til the next meeting. And only the specials (in this case, PE) are separate zoom meetings. Once his morning meeting starts, we don't have any more logging in - she puts the kids in the 'waiting room' when she's done, until the next subject starts. After teaching the lesson, the kids go to SeeSaw (another site) to complete their assignment. Oh, I believe they'll add on Science OR Social Studies after their social/emotional time in the next week or so.

2.  My daughter is in eighth grade this year, and (luckily for me!) very independent. She's been taking care of her own school stuff. She has three subjects on Monday and Thursday, and the other three subjects on Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday is office hours for staff, but no 'regular' classes meet (this applies to my son too). While my daughter's overall start time and end time fall within my son's schedule (so it looks like her day is shorter), her lectures are usually at least an hour long. The schedule also writes in time for 'asynchronous learning.' She told me that that's her independent work.

3.  Given all that, I am SO GRATEFUL that my kids are learning, thriving and even enjoying school so far this year. My third-grader watches the clock like a hawk to make sure he's back at his desk with his headphones on in time for his next class. The kids agreed with each other that when they're in a zoom meeting, they close their door so there's less distractions and noise (their rooms are next to each other). 

4.  And on the other side, I would be willing to give a kidney ..okay, maybe just my spleen.. to have faster, more reliable internet. I think we've been lucky so far this week that hubby has had to go to offices to work. I don't know how well our household service will handle everyone online on separate devices at once. I'm sure we'll have to find out before too long.

5.  You know I try to end on a happy note! This week we made tie-dye shirts with Mimi on Monday, and then later in the week I received my new Plum Paper Planner, and my VOTE necklace. 

Ugh - tried very hard to get that picture up a bit, and then add a caption, but the new Blogger tool is less than user-friendly :( That's my selfie with no makeup, my new shirt, and my new necklace.  

Having stuff to look forward is so important when the scenery seldom changes, amiright? Hope your week has had more good than bad.


08 September 2020

Show Us Your Books - August 2020


When it rains it pours! Yes, we are having precipitation here, but I'm referring more to LIFE! 

I meant to set up most of this post over the weekend, knowing that Tuesday would sneak up on my after the holiday weekend. Yeah - the whole weekend snuck away from me! Hahaha.... So here I am, trying to supervise the first day of 'remote instruction' for my 3rd grader and 8th grader, and put together this post of the books I read in August. What an adventure! Luckily my 8th grader is very smart and very independent. I assume she's still in her room-turned-office doing her thing. The whole elementary school, on the other hand, is struggling. Lots of families are having issues with the technology that was issued (i.e. laptops aren't accessing the sites we need). It does indeed take a village this year, and our village is apparently really fast typists on Facebook. Once one person (granted, usually the same person) finds their way through, the rest of us are quick to try and duplicate their results. So far, so good? Only got to tears (my student, not me...yet) once so far, thinking he was missing a class. Finally made it, and he's headed into his next class now. Wish us luck!

I'm linking up with Life According to Steph and Jana Says for the Show Us Your Books link up again this month. My book titles link to Goodreads, and all of my full reviews are posted on either my blog (SweetlyBSquared.com) or Books I Think You Should Read. Thanks to the publishers and/or Netgalley for any books I received for free - this never influences my reviews.

Finished Reading:

My One True North by Milly Johnson - Laurie and Peter end up in a loosely structured grief group together. They immediately 'click' and feel comfortable with each other, until they start learning more about each others' background. The story is really about their lives mostly after their losses (with a little more info as they learn some intresting details about the loved ones they lost). It was beautifully told and touching, and I gave it 5/5 stars in my full review on Books I Think You Should Read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A House is a Body by Shruti Swamy - This collection of short stories was great! The author's colorful descriptions brought her Indian heritage and her time in India to life. I gave it 4/5 stars in my full review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Journalist: Life and Loss in America's Secret War by Lucy Rose Fischer, Jerry A. Rose - I really enjoyed this non-fiction account of Jerry Rose's six years in and around Viet Nam as a teacher and then reporter. His sister did a wonderful job writing the book after researching through his correspondence and interviewing those who knew him during this time. The book reads as an exciting story and an important retelling of a period of history I haven't read much about before. This was definitely a book deserving of my 4/5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Crave (Crave #1) by Tracy Wolff - Vampires, and dragons, and witches - oh, my! While this one was originally discusses as being sort of a similar knock-off to a very popular vampire series, I enjoyed it. I was especially amused when one of the main characters presented another main character with a copy of the book it may bear some similarity to. Anyway, this story is about a girl whose parents die and she goes to an Alaskan boarding school run by her uncle to live there and room with her cousin. She starts figuring out quickly that there may be something a little different about the teen residents. This was a fun YA read and I gave it 3.5/5 stars in my full review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Station Eleven by Emily S. John Mandel - I finally borrowed this one from my local library, as I'd heard it mentioned and figured I needed to read it - I love speculative fiction. This book checks in on a few groups of people and how they're existing after a plague wipes out most of the population of the U.S. Most of the story takes place 20 years after the plague, and most of it is in/around what is currently Michigan. Check out my full 4/5 star review on my blog here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Jackal (Black Daggar Brotherhood: Prison Camp #1; Black Daggar Legacy #5) by J.R. Ward - Nyx breaks into the famous glymera's prison (after accidentally getting a clue to its secret location) with the intention of finally breaking her sister out, after 50 years. She stumbles into The Jackal almost immediately on her arrival. He's been imprisoned for more than a century. Oh, yeah - they're all vampires, which gives them really long life spans, and some teleporting abilities, but no other powers that are displayed in this book. I was worried about this one both because it's number 5 in one series (but the first in another) and because it opened with a pretty sizable glossary. Luckily all the characters were well-introduced, and the words in the glossary weren't really used. I enjoyed this book and gave it 4/5 stars in my full review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters - Violet and James are a love match early in the first season in which she is presented. But a drama we don't initially know about leaves them not speaking to each other for years, starting shortly after they're married. When he has an accident, she is angy to have gotten halfway to his side before finding out he's fine. She decides to fake her own health crises to inspire his devotion again. I gave it 3/5 stars when I reviewed it for Books I Think You Should Read. ⭐⭐⭐

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick - When Anna moves to Herron Mills to be a nanny for the summer, she soon hears about her resemblance to a missing girl, Zoe Spanos. She also gets waves of familiarity from the shops and quaint town of Herron Mills. None of this makes sense, as her mother and best friend both deny ever having been there, which means she couldn't have gone there herself either. I personally enjoy mysteries with unreliable narrators, and Anna was definitely unreliable. She was trying to put her drinking and drug-using past behind her, and become an excellent nanny. But doubting her own recollections from her life made that pretty difficult. I gave this book 4/5 stars. It was a great YA mystery, as I stated in my full review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis - Emmie Blue was such an endearing character. She thinks the only solid connection she has in her life is her best friend from when she was 16-yeasr-old. Lucas found her balloon that was released with a note during a horribly tumultous time in her life, when nearly everyone else turned their backs on her. Now 14-years-later, Emmie and Lucas are turning 30, and he's said he has an important question to ask her. Is this it? Are they getting married and she's moving forward with her life plan? Unfortunately, no. But she may have been ignoring all the other people she's important to for too long. I gave this one 4.5/5 stars in my full review here (by the way, the giveaway on this one is good through September 8, 2020!). ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When I Was You by Amber Garza - Since I've already mentioned this month how much I like an unreliable narrator, it will come as no surprise that I really liked this book. Without giving you the spoiler, I especially loved the very end of it. This is the story of two Kelly Medinas. The older Kelly is practically living alone while her husband spends weeks away from home at his college job and her son has left for college. The younger Kelly just moved to town (though she doesn't really say why) with her new baby and no support. The older Kelly is thrilled to have a new purpose - helping her new friend get comfortable in her new community and teaching her to be a better mom. But older Kelly's husband and best friend are warning her to keep her grip on reality, and making the warning sound based on past events. I loved this book (did I mention especially the ending?!?) and gave it 5/5 stars on my blog. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie - After losing her father, Afi and her mother don't have an easy life. When the benevolent Aunty of their community suggests an arranged marriage between her son and Afi, it sounds almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, Afi's new groom, Eli, is in love with another woman. The marriage to Afi was arranged in order to 'lure' him away from the relationship he's already in. And while it is still seen in their culture in Ghana, Afi does not want to be a multiple wife. This story of her adjusting to life in the city on her own, and learning who she is and what she wants, is touching and enjoyable to read. I gave this one 3.5/5 stars in my review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Currently Reading:

I just got Happy Ever After Playlist from the library late last night and couldn't wait to dive in! I also just finished The White Coat Diaries and need to get my review written today. Last but not least, I'm slowly starting Tommy Wallach's Strange Fire since it's a print copy I need to read and review. 

Reading Next:

Feeling a bit overwhelmed to keep planning, but let's pencil in The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike (apparently the second book in a trilogy? Fingers crossed I can get into it without knowing anything about the first book), Interference by Brad Parks, and A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux for the next couple weeks, shall we?

I love your comments! Thanks so much for both taking a look at what I'm reading, and sharing what you'd recommend as well :)

03 September 2020

His Only Wife - Book Review

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
Publication date: September 1, 2020
Pages: 288 pages
Genre: Womens' fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 stars ☆☆☆
Strengths: Sincere voice, intriguing story
Weaknesses: Not much urgency

Afi and her mother struggle a bit after the death of Afi's father. They rely on the kindness of several people in their community, including Afi's uncle, and the community's benevolent 'Aunty.' So when Aunty comes to Afi's mother to suggest an arranged marriage between her son and Afi, Afi's mother really can't refuse. As Afi understands it, she's been chosen by the rest of the family to be Eli's only wife. Eli is supposedly in love with another woman, but she is said to be ugly, rude, and a bad mother. Afi is sent in to woo Eli away from the evil seductress.

Overnight, Afi finds herself, a small-town country girl, trying to fit in with the sophisticated friends of her sister-in-law in Accra. At first she sees many of them as vulgar and larger than life, but soon she begins coming in to her own voice, and recognizing what she wants from her life. 

I loved Afi. Her emotions felt relatable to me, although I've never been anywhere close to Ghana or an arranged marriage. Her determination, her nervousness, her love, her rage, and her resolve were all so real and understandable. Overall, I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy womens' fiction.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for sharing this book with me. Receiving the book for free did not influence my review. 

02 September 2020

When I Was You - Book Review

When I Was You by Amber Garza
Publication date: August 25, 2020
Pages: 368 pages
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 5/5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Plot, THAT ENDING!!
Weaknesses: Could get confusing - best to read it as quickly as possible!

I've found that I really enjoy books with unreliable narrators. This story was definitely that. There's two Kelly Medinas, a fact that fascinates the older of the two, and she feels compelled to help the younger navigate a life that she's sure is just like hers. But we hear, as the older talks to her husband and best friend, that things may not be okay with the older Kelly. There was something super-traumatic in her not-so-long-ago past that leaves those around her doubtful of her ability to evaluate people and situations. We don't know exactly what she's apparently in denial of until much later in the book. 

The younger Kelly Medina and her baby boy definitely seem to need help. She tells the older that she has no support in the area, but never quite says what led her to move to this small town where the older already lived. The older Kelly is so excited to feel useful again, now that she lives alone while her husband works a few towns away and her son isn't living at home since he left for college. And more friends are always a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, there is no way to discuss the last quarter of the book without giving major spoilers. I squealed with delight at the very end of the book, but this may be because I don't mind things a little dark. I can't imagine everyone would be as happy with the ending, but I sure was!

Overall, I'd give this excellent thriller 5 out of 5 stars. The ending was totally unexpected by me, and I'm sure not everyone would be as happy with it, but I'd be willing to read the whole book again if I had time - it was that good.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my electronic copy of this book. Receiving the book for free did not influence my glowing review. 

28 August 2020

Five Things for Friday / #Friday56 / Book Beginnings on Fridays


Welcome to Friday! I just woke up today, and the storms were awesome through the night. Bonus - I don't need to use my dribbly hose to water my flowers this morning! 

I'm flipping things around today just to keep it interesting :) If you're here for my Five Things for Friday, scroll on down. 

Today I'm joining Rose City Reader for Book Beginnings on Fridays, and Freda's Voice for #Friday56. The book I'm reading right now is When I Was You by Amber Garza. I should have the review up on my blog for this one early next week. 

From the beginning:

"It was a Monday morning in early October when I first heard about you. I was getting out of the shower when the phone rang. After throwing on a robe and cinching it, I ran into my bedroom, snatching my cell off the nightstand."

And from 56% (thanks to Netgalley for my kindle copy of this book):

"Jealousy struck me, hot and fast like a slap to the face. I was also hit with something else -- reality.

You'd been avoiding me all week because I'd been like Rafael. I'd pushed you too hard. I'd tried to box you in. To control you."

I'm personally just at 5% so far. Rafael is the narrator's husband. The woman she's narrating to (so far) is a younger mother with the same name as the narrator. Sounds like it gets a little crazy, so we'll see what happens!

21 August 2020

Five Things for Friday / Book Beginnings on Friday / #Friday56

Lookout - my rage is getting too big to want to contain. 

If you don't want to deal with my fury, skip to #5 (where I try to shed some of my bitter), or go ahead and scroll down to the book memes, eh?

I started reading Invisible Women last month, but gave up before I finished. 75% of the unpaid labor in the world is done by women. 3/4. But so much of it is not acknowledged because it's 'just' childcare, 'just' housework, 'just' eldercare, 'just' running errands...

But it isn't 'just' feminism that is gathering my rage. It's politics too. Aw, heck. Let's just pour it into five things, shall we?

  1. Wear. A. Mask. I'm in Michigan, so that's the recommendation. I think our governor is great, and has done a lot to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I don't care if you agree with me on that or not, you just need to wear your mask anyway. If everyone had worn a mask back when it was first recommended, we'd be done by now. We'd be heading back to school because the virus would have been snuffed out to a manageable degree. Wear. A. Mask. And if your own health makes a mask impossible, you're probably safer at home anyway. Need me to drop something off for you? Let me know. But stay home, or wear your mask.
  2. Those with opinions on the schools being virtual vs remote vs in-person: Deal with it. Or don't. I was going to head this one off by trying to get the attention of parents first, but a lot of the people bellyaching don't even have school-age kids. So you're just complaining because 'the schools are wasting your tax dollars.' Shut. Up. First of all, teachers have been training literally all summer long so IF we ended up online again, they'd be more prepared. Yeah, everyone saying teachers have 'three months off..' NOT THIS YEAR! By the way, if you're worried about your children falling behind - I get it! But if you're worried, your kids will be fine. True story. Random aside: They do pick up on your moods - tell them that it is going to be okay. Because it is.
  3. Vote. Because I'm looking forward to having a president without pending rape charges. Please help make that happen. And as long as I'm spouting off, don't waste your vote on a third party candidate for president. Really, we need to make lying wrong again, and splitting the opposing votes because you don't like either primary option doesn't help anyone. It hurts.
  4. Here's a nice fringe idea that doesn't apply yet, but definitely comes to mind with the schooling thing. If your kids are sick, keep them home. Not kidding. Being in the school, volunteering or working, I regularly heard from kids who were sick - like, had thrown-up that morning, or looking awful because they had an obvious fever. This is why I'm so grateful we don't have in-person schooling yet. Because some parents will send their kids to school no matter what. Is it because their job is more important than everyone else's health? Is it just because they are so adamant to not stay home with the child they brought into the world? Who knows. But it's got to stop. Sick kids and adults need to stay home. 
  5. So. I feel like a big-ole whiner right now. Let me leave you with some great news (well, for me, anyway). I won our local library's summer reading program GRAND PRIZE!! My grand prize was $100 Amazon gift card! I got another pair of PJ pants (dark blue with dinosaurs), a book of RBG quotes, an RBG Funko-Pop, a 2021 Witches' Calendar, a swim suit for my lil dude, and a couple bottles of my favorite kind of nail polish (a bright yellow, and another top coat). Then I had 34-cents left, so I put it toward our 99-cent rental of the RBG documentary. So, yay me! Finding out just one week before my official lay-off letter is giving me some delivery bright spots when there won't be any more fun-shopping in the immediate future ;)