Tuesday, June 19, 2018

*Review* This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Genre: Memoir
Published: May 1, 2017
Pages: 256

The Oscar-nominated Precious star and Empire actress delivers a much-awaited memoir—wise, complex, smart, funny—a version of the American experience different from anything we’ve read

Gabourey Sidibe—“Gabby” to her legion of fans—skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels’s acclaimed movie Precious. In This is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story in a voice as fresh and challenging as many of the unique characters she’s played onscreen. With full-throttle honesty, Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the engrossing, inspiring story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional (of course!) rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom's apartment.”  

Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, depression, celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight (“If I could just get the world to see me the way I see myself,” she writes, “would my body still be a thing you walked away thinking about?”). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face takes its place and fills a void on the shelf of writers from Mindy Kaling to David Sedaris to Lena Dunham.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book, because like I've said before, I like making celebrities tell me their own stories with their actual voices, and I have yet to feel like splurging for the audio of a celebrity memoir was a waste. This book was no exception. 

I listened to this audiobook while making a solo trip from my parents house to Colorado Springs to visit my husband and see the house we were hoping to buy (we did, we bought it, we closed on it at the end of February), and I'm glad I did because some of the topics discussed are things I would not have wanted my children around to hear at their current ages. Not that they really pay much attention to my audiobooks in the first place, but when Gabourey starts talking about her work as a phone sex operator (a hilarious bit in the book by the way), I would have had to start listening to something else just to be on the safe side. 

I mentioned in my initial Goodreads review of the book that I think Gabourey would be an amazing BFF. After listening to her book, I just can't imagine not having a blast spending time with her. She just seems like the kind of person who uses humor to deal with pretty much everything and I tend to try to do the same, so we'd basically be a match made in heaven. 

The part of her story that I found most fascinating was everything that led up to her being cast as Precious, her breakout role. The path to that movie's production was long and somewhat convoluted, but apparently it was just waiting for Gabourey to be ready to play the lead. 

Overall I give This is Just My Face 4.999 stars. - Katie 

Gabourey Sidibe is an award-winning actress who is best known for the title role of Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. She has since starred as Queenie in FX’s American Horror Story: Coven and Denise in Difficult People, and can currently be seen as Becky on Fox’s smash-hit sensation Empire. Sidibe recently made her directorial debut with the short film, The Tale of Four. This Is Just My Face is her first book. She was born in Brooklyn and raised in Harlem, New York.

Monday, June 18, 2018

*Top Ten Tuesday* Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Joood - Hooligan of Platypire reviews bossed me into doing this, so I guess this is a thing I do now. 

This weeks theme is books to read at the beach (or pool). Now, I don't live anywhere near a beach, and my children do not know how to swim yet, so you won't find me reading by a pool any time soon, so I figured I'd take this opportunity to feature some books that will transport me to the beach.

White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes

One to See Me by Alicia Maxwell

Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan

Miramar Bay by Davis Bunn

The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Nothing by Linda Naseem

A Season of You by Emma Douglas

So there you go. Ten books I can read to transport me to the beach any time I want. Who needs teleportation when you have books? 

Are there any books you'll be reading at the beach or by the pool this summer? - Katie 

*If you're stopping by from the linkup, please be sure to drop a link to your post in the comments below so I can stop by and see your list.*

*Deja Revu* 18 June 2018

Déjà Revu is a weekly review round-up that is open to all book review blogs.
Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic
Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic
Science Fiction

*Review* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Genre: Science Fiction
Published: October 12, 1979
Pages: 208

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

I first read this book back in 1999 when my uncle gave me a copy after I rolled a minivan to give me something to do while I was stuck in the hospital unable to see the TV (because I'd broken my nose and couldn't wear my glasses). I remembered being thoroughly amused by much of the absurdity included in the book, so when I saw it as one of the free audiobooks from Audiofile Sync's summer reading program for teens, I was quite excited. And I finally got around to listening to it back in December while I was busy cleaning house in preparation of moving back to the states. I'm pretty sure it gave me just as many laughs the second time around. 

If you're not familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at this point, I have to assume that you just absolutely don't like science fiction, and possibly comedy as well. If you're hesitant to grab your towel and stick out your thumb to go on this journey because you don't like hard science fiction, I assure you, it's not that, at least not by today's standards. And if you've been avoiding the book because the absurd just doesn't appeal to you, well, you definitely keep doing you, boo. Not reading this book is almost certainly for the best in your case. If neither of those things applies to you, and you still haven't read the book (or at least seen the movie), I kind of have to wonder why.

So since I'm assuming you're already familiar with the book (or movie) if you're reading this review, I'm just going to talk about the narration. The book is narrated by Stephen Fry, who also plays the narrator and the guide in the 2005 movie. I think the only thing that would have made the narration for the audiobook better is if it were done by Alan Rickman (who plays the voice of Marvin the depressed robot in the film), and that's just because I love his dry sarcasm (which is what made him the perfect voice to Marvin). I was able to listen to the book at 1.5 speed easily without it seeming too fast for the narration.

So if you're like me and have been wanting to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy again but just don't have the time because new books, I would definitely recommend the audio which you can listen to while commuting or doing housework like I did. I give the book 4.978 gargle blasting stars. - Katie

Douglas Noël Adams was an English author, comic radio dramatist, and musician. He is best known as the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Hitchhiker's began on radio, and developed into a "trilogy" of five books (which sold more than fifteen million copies during his lifetime) as well as a television series, a comic book series, a computer game, and a feature film that was completed after Adams' death. The series has also been adapted for live theatre using various scripts; the earliest such productions used material newly written by Adams. He was known to some fans as Bop Ad (after his illegible signature), or by his initials "DNA".

In addition to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote or co-wrote three stories of the science fiction television series Doctor Who and served as Script Editor during the seventeenth season. His other written works include the Dirk Gently novels, and he co-wrote two Liff books and Last Chance to See, itself based on a radio series. Adams also originated the idea for the computer game Starship Titanic, which was produced by a company that Adams co-founded, and adapted into a novel by Terry Jones. A posthumous collection of essays and other material, including an incomplete novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

His fans and friends also knew Adams as an environmental activist and a lover of fast cars, cameras, the Macintosh computer, and other "techno gizmos". 

Toward the end of his life he was a sought-after lecturer on topics including technology and the environment.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

*Review* Devoted by Ginna Moran

Genre: YA/Paranormal
Published: March 13, 2018
Pages: 312

Even the most righteous angels fall. 

Born from magic and demon blood, seventeen-year-old Faith Blackwell’s purpose in life is to be the mortal vessel that links her demonic father to humanity. Her existence enables her father to work alongside the angelic army to protect the balance between Heaven and Hell on Earth. But Faith wants nothing to do with demonic affairs. She has her soul set on an eternity in good grace, despite her father’s disapproval. 

Afraid her father will sway her soul toward Hell, the angelic army assigns Faith a guardian angel. If only the handsome angel didn’t bring out her devilish side. She can’t stop what he does to her humanity, though she knows nothing can come from her attraction to her guardian. Because angels, especially Demon Watchers, are off limits. 

When people go missing, Faith’s father is accused of mortal misconduct by the angelic army. Faith refuses to accept her father’s fate and faces divine intervention at the hands of her angel. She finds herself in the middle of an eternal feud that jeopardizes her soul. If Faith can’t stop the angelic army from opening a portal to Hell to send her father back, power will shift away from Heaven, forcing Faith to descend as a full-blooded demon—a fate worse than losing her mortal life.

I was hired to proofread this book. The only aspects of the story that I influenced were the spelling and grammar. If you feel that my connection to the book makes my review untrustworthy, so be it, but this is my honest review. 

I was so excited when Ms. Moran finally sent me this book. I basically begged her to write Faith's story after reading the Demon Within series. It was definitely worth the wait, although I still wish that I'd had it like immediately. Mostly, though, I needed to know just why Faith would be so loyal to Raphael, her demon father.

When it comes to writing demons and their spawn, Ms. Moran excels at making them sympathetic characters. I constantly found myself questioning my morals because the actions of the "good guys" just didn't seem so good. I even started to wonder if I should really be rooting for the "bad guys" to come out on top here. In addition to that, I so wanted Faith to give in to her devilish instincts and corrupt her demon watcher.

Although this book doesn't give us Faith's whole backstory, it does make her actions in the Demon Within series a lot more understandable. But don't think that means you have to read that series first (I do recommend reading it, but I don't think it's required to feel caught up on events in this story). Ms. Moran does a pretty good job of including the major highlights from the previous series so that you understand where things stand in this book and why.

Overall I give Devoted 4.569 stars. - Katie 

Ginna Moran is the author of an array of both paranormal and contemporary young adult novels including the Demon Within, Falling into Fame, and Spark of Life series. 

She started writing poetry as a teenager in a spiral notebook that she still has tucked away on her desk today. Her love of writing grew after she graduated high school and she completed her first unpublished manuscript at age eighteen.

When she realized her love of writing was her life’s passion, she studied literature at Mira Costa College in Northern San Diego. Besides writing young adult novels, she was senior editor, content manager, and image coordinator for Crescent House Publishing Inc. for four years.

Aside from Ginna’s professional life, she enjoys binge watching television shows, playing pretend with her daughter, and cuddling with her dogs. Some of her favorite things include chocolate, anything that glitters, cheesy jokes, and organizing her bookshelf.

Ginna is currently hard at work on her next novel.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

*Review* Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: October 3, 2017
Pages: 448

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. I did so at 1.5 speed and had no issue with that feeling too fast. It's been a few months since I finished this book (about six if we're being completely honest here) so I don't remember exactly what I thought of the narration, but it must not have been too bad at the very least, because I would have remembered that. That means that the opposite gendered voices didn't come off as absurd caricatures to my ears at the very least. 

I "read" this book for my book club back in Germany, but we never got around to discussing it. That was pretty much okay with me though, because I'm really not sure what we would have really discussed aside from gender roles in the '40s or something. I suppose it's possible that some of the other ladies in my book club may have come up with more to talk about, but to my mind, this is not an obvious book club pick. 

I did find Anna's perseverance in getting a job as a diver to be quite inspiring. She fought hard to even be given the chance to try out for the position and continued to fight hard even after she got it, because she had to (women's roles in the '40s mind you). And then the intrigue surrounding her father's activities and exactly what happened to him when she was a child had me a little bit interested as well. 

Overall, I give Manhattan Beach 3.9758 stars. - Katie 

Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago, where her paternal grandfather was a police commander and bodyguard for President Truman during his visits to that city. She was raised in San Francisco and studied at the University of Pennsylvania and St. John’s College, Cambridge, in England. In those student years she did a lot of traveling, often with a backpack: China, the former USSR, Japan, much of Europe, and those travels became the basis for her first novel, The Invisible Circus, and her story collection, Emerald City. She came to New York in 1987 and worked an array of wacky jobs while learning to write: catering at the World Trade Center; joining the word processing pool at a midtown law firm; serving as the private secretary for the Countess of Romanones, an OSS spy-turned-Spanish countess (by marriage), who wrote a series of bestsellers about her spying experiences and famous friends.

Egan has published short stories in many magazines, including The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta and McSweeney's. Her first novel, The Invisible Circus, came out in 1995 and was released as a movie starring Cameron Diaz in 2001. Her second novel, Look at Me, was a National Book Award Finalist in 2001, and her third, The Keep, was a national bestseller. Also a journalist, Egan has written many cover stories for the New York Times Magazine on topics ranging from young fashion models to the secret online lives of closeted gay teens. Her 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and her 2008 story on bipolar children won an Outstanding Media Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.

*Stacking the Shelves* 16 June 2018

(Titles link to Amazon via Amazon Affiliate links)

Stacking The Shelves is a feature/weekly meme created by Tynga’s Reviews in which you share the books you are adding to your shelves, both physical and virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical stores or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Now, I already have a monthly post I do featuring the books I get in the mail (and it's a lot because I have a serious Goodreads First Reads giveaway addiction), and I'm posting my monthly Read-A-Thon posts again too, which covers the books I receive through Netgalley. And since I am currently technically a displaced person (all my things are packed up on a boat and I don't have a home to call my own at the moment), I'm not currently buying any physical books. So my STS post will feature all the books I've been one-clicking on Amazon. 

On that note, here are the books I picked up this week. All Goodreads First Reads ebook wins unless otherwise specified.

An Endless Love by Jason R. Hemmings
True Son by J.T. Holden
Surviving Amelia by Naomi Rand
Take Off Your Shoes by Ben Feder
Ordinary Magic by Cameron Powell - I snagged this as a freebie (no longer free). I'm not sure where I saw it advertised though. 
House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty - I snagged this on sale for just 99 cents (no longer on sale) when I saw it as a Kindle Daily Deal because it just sounds really interesting to me. 
Bobby Sterling vs. Truth by Alex Mueller
Serve to Lead: 21st Century Leaders Manual by James Strock
Detours Into the Paranormal by Denver Michaels
Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander
From You to Two: Dr. Ruth's Rules for Real Relationships by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer
Bum Deal by Paul Levine
Pomegranate Juice: Sacrilegious Tales of Dark Abrahamic Humor by Magnus Wilton
Faster by Deana Birch
Ideas, Influence, and Income: Write a Book, Build Your Brand, and Lead Your Industry by Tanya Hall
The Dreadful Senator by Charles Z David
Bigfoot by Dustin Allen and Jaran Nicholls
My Interview with Beethoven by L.A. Hider Jones
Beastiary for Business by Erika Schelby
Hitler's Escape by C.A. Hewitson - I snagged this as a freebie (still free) after getting an email from the author saying it was free. 
Happily Ever Summer by Carly Morgan and RaShelle Workman - I snagged this as a freebie (no longer free) after seeing it shared by the Celebrity Readers (I think...like I'm 99% sure on this one). 
Dirty London by Kelley York - I snagged this as a freebie (still free) after seeing it shared on the Celebrity Readers Facebook page (I know for a fact it was them on this one). 
Dark Pleasures by Aja James
Prison Pyramid by Dax Xenos
Husk by J. Kent Messum
In Search of a Pride by Taryn Jameson and Gabriella Bradley
Missing in Michigan by April A. Taylor
Behind the Stars by Leigh Talbert Moore - I snagged this as a freebie (still free) after seeing it shared somewhere on Facebook, probably by the Celebrity Readers, but maybe not, I'm not sure. Lenore will let me know though. 

So that's all the books I added to my Amazon library this week. What new books have you added to your shelves recently? - Katie 

*If you're stopping by from the linkup, please be sure to drop a link to your post below so I can stop by and see all your new pretties.*

Friday, June 15, 2018

*Review* Back Blast by Mark Greaney

Genre: Thriller
Published: February 16, 2016
Pages: 512

Court Gentry was the CIA’s best agent. Until the day the Agency turned against him and put out a kill on sight order. That’s when the enigmatic international assassin called the Gray Man was born—and Court has been working for himself ever since

Now, Court is back in Washington looking for answers. He’s determined to find out what happened all those years ago that made the Agency turn against him. On his list to interrogate are his former partners and the men who sent him on his last mission. What he doesn’t realize is that the questions that arose from that mission are still reverberating in the U.S. intelligence community, and he’s stumbled onto a secret that powerful people want kept under wraps. And now, they have Court in their crosshairs.

Court Gentry is used to having people on his trail, but this time, it’s on U.S. soil—the last place he wants to be. Now, he’ll have to find the answers to his fate while evading capture…and avoiding death.

I initially received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program, but ultimately ended up purchasing the audiobook and listening to that. This is my honest review. 

I imagine if you're a fan of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne series, this series would be right up your alley. While I've never read those books, I have seen most of the movies (I think) and this felt a lot like them. This isn't a genre I read much at all, and it would probably be safe to say that I don't read the specific sub-genre (political thriller) that this falls into ever. And to come into a series in a genre I barely read at the fifth book? Well, that was clearly a big mistake on my part. I had a hard time getting into the story and my loan through First to Read expired before I was even close to the end of the book. I was actually prepared to call this book a DNF and just be done with it, but then I saw the audiobook on offer during a 2 for 1 credit sale on Audible (I think. It may have been available during a major site sale or as an Audible Daily Deal now that I think about it. In any case, I got it for some sort of sale price). 

The audiobook changed the game for me. I'm guessing it brought it close enough to being like watching a movie for my brain to engage with the characters and the story. With the audio, I eventually found myself lingering over housework so I could listen longer before moving on to another responsibility. I was intrigued by the unknowns in the story, and just like Court, I didn't understand why he'd become a persona non grata with his former employers. And I really wanted to see him prevail and Denny Carmichael get his comeuppance. 

While I will certainly not be reading any of the other books from this series, I just might snag them in audio. Overall I give Back Blast 3.879 stars. - Katie 

Mark Greaney is the #1 NYT bestselling author of TOM CLANCY TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE. He has written or cowritten seven Tom Clancy novels, and is also the bestselling author of the Gray Man series, including GUNMETAL GRAY, BACK BLAST, DEAD EYE, BALLISTIC, ON TARGET, and THE GRAY MAN. 

Mark lives in Memphis, Tennessee