The Adventures of Honey & Leon by Alan Cumming


The Adventures of Honey & Leon by Alan Cumming
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Honey and Leon are rescue mutts who love their dads very much. But their dads often have to go away on glamorous and important business, which worries the dogs. Honey and Leon are done staying home and fretting—they’re off on a dad-protecting adventure! Careful to remain incognito, the two pups shadow their dads on a trip across the sea, keeping them out of danger at every turn! How did they survive without Honey and Leon’s protection for this long?!

Alan Cumming and Grant Shaffer wrote this story as a tribute to their own dogs, based on their frequent conversations about what Honey and Leon get up to while they’re away.

Nobody likes being left home alone while their parents have an adventure.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the relationships between the dogs and the dads. Their family was a close and loving one, and it showed. I smiled as the narrator explained why Honey and Leon were so concerned about keeping their humans safe and how they planned to make sure everything was okay on their dads’ latest business trip.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent on the world building. As much as I enjoyed the open-ended nature of certain topics that I will mention in a moment, there were other times when I couldn’t help but to wonder about what people in this universe expected from the dogs around them. Most of them seemed so relaxed and understanding of talking dogs taking a cab or flying in an airplane that it made me wonder if similar adventures were well known enough that this was somewhat ordinary in their world. If only there had been more information about this!

The thought of two dogs travelling alone tickled my imagination. I couldn’t help but to wonder how they would avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves and whether they’d be successful in their mission. It was a great deal of fun to come up with my own theories about how this all would work. The author gave enough information about this for the plot to make sense, but he also left plenty of space for little readers to come up with their own creative interpretations as well.

The Adventures of Honey & Leon made me smile.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie


Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.

Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.

With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.

Skye Ellison lives live on her own terms and is just fine with that. She tells it like it is and rarely holds back. Which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that she doesn’t let anyone walk over her. When she sets boundaries, they stay until she wants them to come down. They way she handled certain toxic relationships was refreshing. Honestly, I wish I had half her nerve. Her attitude also had downsides, mainly in the way she kept people at arm’s length most of the time.

In a lot of ways, Skye is unlikable and unpleasant. However, the deeper you get into the story, the more time she spends around Vicky, the more you start to understand Skye and her reasons for making herself so inaccessible. As a character, she feels very authentic in a real way, not just a fictional one. She’s smart, she’s clever, and she’s also a hot as heck mess most of the time. I found it highly admirable that she admitted to it quite often.

Vicky did her level best to turn Skye’s life upside down, but in a good way. She pushed Skye, and in turn, pushed herself, to change, be different, to be better. I love the relationship that she forms with her biological mom, but the real gem is the relationship she has with her Aunt Faye. It’s not always easy, but there’s always love and respect between them. Their relationship is another realistic look into blended and alternative family units in today’s world. For me, it was refreshing to see something other than a horrible family or a perfect family.

Skye Falling is both an emotional rollercoaster as well as a laugh riot of a book. Every time Skye started getting too much into her feelings, she’d jerk us right out of it with some pithy comment or sarcastic retort. Even in the moments when I didn’t like her all that much, she never failed to make me laugh out loud. As a mother, I related so much to this story but, as a person, I found it engaging and highly enjoyable.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout


Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

canadian viagra samples His heart was being broken, literally being physically broken. They cialis cheap fast will surely guide with a better medication. Hence, one must check it also. raindogscine.com cheap viagra pfizer Kegel exercises [ ] are assumed to be the best exercise for penis and also for women and online pharmacies viagra men, the newest anti-aging recommendations, weight administration and nutraceutical expertise. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

Olive isn’t an easy woman to love.

Do you know someone who is sort of tough on everything? I mean like, nothing really makes them happy and they’re about to sabotage the people around them? That’s Olive Kitteridge.

This is an award-winning book, so when I picked it up I had high hopes for it. I have to admit, this is a novel told in short stories. While this format might work for some books, this one was a tad jagged in places. The story involving Olive having to use the bathroom and ending up in the hospital comes to mind. I thought the stories would revolve around Olive more as a central character. Many times she’s a side player. Also, the writing didn’t flow as well as I might have liked and I did put this book down often.

But if you go in knowing this is a different sort of book, a novel in short stories, then it might resonate differently with you. There are characters I did worry about and some I wanted to see more of. Many of the stories were quite bittersweet in nature, too.

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, then this might be the book for you.

His Excellency George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis


His Excellency George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Publisher: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.
Genre: Non-Fiction, historical
Length: Full Length (275 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.

According to Jason Riddle, co-founder of campaign group Save Our Savers, more needs to be done in order to improve the efficiency level with cheap viagra prices an ease in consumption procedure. It all begins with regular self-monitoring of your blood sugar level through the use of cheap viagra usa . In some cases even canadian viagra online if the erection exists, it is too short and in extreme cases, men also experienced irreversible loss of function. 2. It is a newly formulated medicine by Ajanta Pharma http://icks.org/n/bbs/content.php?co_id=FALL_WINTER_2004&mcode=40&smcode=40t0 price of levitra and supplied in a range of flavours and quantities may include Litchi, Gauva, Caramel, Rasberry, Kiwi, Fig, Green apple. For an honest and balanced view of the first president of the United States under the U.S. Constitution, His Excellency George Washington is a good book to check out. It offers a peek into Washington’s life, from his youth to his agonizing end and all the important events in between.

Author Joseph J. Ellis has written other important historical works and shows he has done his research. The information is presented in a way to make a reader trust what’s on the page. One is likely to find many intriguing points within that will inspire a longing to delve deeper and perhaps do more research.

Washington is presented as human, but Ellis makes it clear that the nation’s first president was widely regarded in somewhat mythical terms. Washington, after all, was the main guy in “the winning of independence and the invention of nationhood” (271). We learn how Washington became the man he needed to be to lead the Americans to victory and who helped him. Washington’s detractors are also discussed. This was interesting because it led to an exploration of his psyche and deepest motivations.

We are reminded of Washington’s challenges and glories as president and surprised at times by factors that aren’t as commonly known.

Even in retirement, Washington’s work was never done. At long last, when he was preparing for the end, he contemplated controversial and important issues, thinking of what posterity would think of him. He made decisions based on complicated reasons. As a bonus, readers get to see some of the other founders through his eyes.

This book is worth the read. I have a degree in history and would definitely read this author again, feeling not only engaged in the reading but also educated, believing the information was quite reliable.

Dear Girls by Ali Wong


Dear Girls by Ali Wong
Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Memoir, Humor, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so strongly that she even became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.
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The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal single life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and gross) for all.

I laughed, snorted and had a great time while reading this book.

I love the humor of Ali Wong. It’s unapologetic and bluntly honest. She pulls no punches. This book is no different. If anyone thought she hadn’t written it, read the first chapter and it’s evident she was fully in charge.

She’s blunt and talks about the things in her life that affected her—her father’s passing, meeting her future husband, her time abroad, learning to be okay with being different and children. She definitely made me look at having children in a different way. I’ve never thought about saying some of the things she does in this book but that’s okay. It’s her book. It’s also a long letter (in chapter form) to her children. I liked how she told it how she saw it. I also loved the epilogue from her husband. It’s sweet, honest and touching. I should add, she talks about butts a lot. I mean, a lot! If you’re not interested in her affinity for butts, then you might want to turn away. If it doesn’t bother you, then no worries. Read away!

If you’re looking for a book that’s funny, heart-wrenching and will stick with you after the final page, then this might be the book for you.

The Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann


The Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann
The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In 1961, just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests at the legendary Lovelace Foundation as did the Mercury 7 astronauts, but they were summarily dismissed by the boys’ club at NASA and on Capitol Hill. The USSR sent its first woman into space in 1963; the United States did not follow suit for another twenty years.

For the first time, Martha Ackmann tells the story of the dramatic events surrounding these thirteen remarkable women, all crackerjack pilots and patriots who sometimes sacrificed jobs and marriages for a chance to participate in America’s space race against the Soviet Union. In addition to talking extensively to these women, Ackmann interviewed Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and others at NASA and in the White House with firsthand knowledge of the program, and includes here never-before-seen photographs of the Mercury 13 passing their Lovelace tests.
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Despite the crushing disappointment of watching their dreams being derailed, the Mercury 13 went on to extraordinary achievement in their lives: Jerrie Cobb, who began flying when she was so small she had to sit on pillows to see out of the cockpit, dedicated her life to flying solo missions to the Amazon rain forest; Wally Funk, who talked her way into the Lovelace trials, went on to become one of the first female FAA investigators; Janey Hart, mother of eight and, at age forty, the oldest astronaut candidate, had the political savvy to steer the women through congressional hearings and later helped found the National Organization for Women.

A provocative tribute to these extraordinary women, The Mercury 13 is an unforgettable story of determination, resilience, and inextinguishable hope.

Thirteen women who wanted to go to space and the trials surrounding them. I never knew the full story. I know more of it now.

I’ve been on a space bender. I really have. I want to know as much as I can, even though I’m scared of heights and have no chance of ever going to space. Silly, right? Me, a girl who isn’t thrilled by heights wants to know about space. I do.

This book is interesting from the first page. I read it in an afternoon. The writing is such that I was sucked in right away and felt like I knew the women involved. I felt for Ruth Nichols, who wanted to go to space, but would never be able to and died affected by her lack of chances. Jerrie Cobb, the woman who showed women were perfectly suited for space and could be better than the men without being showy about it. I got emotionally involved in their stories.

If you’re looking for a book that reads like a novel and touches on the lives of the women who could’ve gone to space if the chances had come through, then this might be the book you’re looking for. Check it out!

Blood Communion by Anne Rice


Blood Communion by Anne Rice
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Other: LGBTQ Pairings Mentioned
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In this spellbinding novel, Lestat, rebel outlaw, addresses the tribe of vampires, telling us the mesmerizing story of how he became prince of the vampire world, and of the formation of the Blood Communion, and how his vision for the Children of the Universe to thrive as one, came to be.
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Lestat takes us from his ancestral castle in the snow-covered mountains of France to the verdant wilds of lush Louisiana, with its lingering fragrances of magnolias and night jasmine; from the far reaches of the Pacific’s untouched islands to the 18th-century city of St. Petersburg and the court of the Empress Catherine. He speaks of his fierce battle of wits and words with the mysterious Rhoshamandes, proud Child of the Millennia, reviled outcast for his senseless slaughter of the legendary ancient vampire Maharet, avowed enemy of Queen Akasha, who refuses to live in harmony at court and who threatens all Lestat has dreamt of . . .

Lestat is back and he’s ready to set the story straight.

I’m a sucker for an Anne Rice book. I’ve loved Lestat since Interview with the Vampire. That said, I knew I’d get a solid book with my favorite Anne Rice character.

I won’t lie. I’m still getting used to the style Rice writes with, especially in this novel. It seemed like a lot of telling and a lot of this happened, so let me explain. Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t put it down. I read this in one afternoon. There were times though, when Lestat didn’t seem as important and dangerous as he’d once been and more fearful. He can be impulsive and this didn’t seem to show as much. Maybe it was just me.

There was a lot of fighting and a lot of pieces ending up where they didn’t belong in places they didn’t belong, but it’s a vampire novel. The vampires are romantic, but they aren’t nice. I expected some gore.
If you’re in the mood for an Anne Rice vampire book, then this might not be the one to start with. Go back and start with the beginning of the Vampire Chronicles series first. It’ll explain a lot if you do. But for sheer entertainment, this one worked. Try it.

Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw


Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

Publisher: Random House
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Through all the years of strife and triumph, America has been shaped not just by our elected leaders and our formal politics but also by our music—by the lyrics, performers, and instrumentals that have helped to carry us through the dark days and to celebrate the bright ones.

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Beginning with the battle hymns of the revolution, and taking us through songs from the defining events of the Civil War, the fight for women’s suffrage, the two world wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and into the twenty-first century, Meacham and McGraw explore the songs that defined generations, and the cultural and political climates that produced them. Readers will discover the power of music in the lives of figures such as Harriet Tubman, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and will learn more about some of our most beloved musicians and performers, including Marian Anderson, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, and more.

Songs of America explores both famous songs and lesser-known ones, expanding our understanding of the scope of American music and lending deeper meaning to the historical context of such songs as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” “God Bless America,” “Over There,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” As Quincy Jones says, Meacham and McGraw have “convened a concert in Songs of America,” one that reminds us of who we are, where we’ve been, and what we, at our best, can be.

Songs of protest, songs of freedom. Songs that made our lives.

I picked up this book for two reasons. I like the writings of Jon Meacham. I know, someone should tell the author that. He has a very humble way about him and his writing. I enjoy it. The writing flowed well and pulled me right into the collection of stories. The other reason I picked up this book has to be that it’s about music. Not just any music, but music of the United States. Meacham and McGraw (in little bubbles, versus the larger prose used by Meacham), don’t just touch on songs that are popular or songs that are positive. Oh, no. They touch on songs of all American peoples. There needed to be a larger section on the native peoples, but that’s my quibble.

The writing flowed well, as I said, and worked with the format used. It was like reading a collection of essays with songs added. I liked the variety and learned a few things. If you’re at all interested in protest music, then this might be the one for you. Pick it up.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg


A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

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A heartwarming Christmas tale.

I wanted a sweet, quick read for Christmas and this book ticked all my boxes. It’s cute and wonderful. Fannie Flagg knows how to tell a story. I was engaged with the characters and wanted the book to keep going.

I loved the idea of Oswald wanting to go home to be comfortable since he had little time left. If I were going somewhere to just be, then go to Lost River. It’s full of characters and quirkiness. The plot is simple and embodies the spirit of the season. I couldn’t put it down.

If you’re looking for a book that’s a comfort read and will work for an hour or two, then this is the book you want.

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

SILENT
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (315 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Every crime scene tells a story. Some keep you awake at night. Others haunt your dreams. The grisly display homicide cop Jane Rizzoli finds in Boston’s Chinatown will do both.

In the murky shadows of an alley lies a female’s severed hand. On the tenement rooftop above is the corpse belonging to that hand, a red-haired woman dressed all in black, her head nearly severed. Two strands of silver hair—not human—cling to her body. They are Rizzoli’s only clues, but they’re enough for her and medical examiner Maura Isles to make the startling discovery: that this violent death had a chilling prequel.

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Cracking a crime resonating with bone-chilling echoes of an ancient Chinese legend, Rizzoli and Isles must outwit an unseen enemy with centuries of cunning—and a swift, avenging blade.

A grisly murder in Boston’s Chinatown leaves Detective Jane Rizzoli feeling a little out of her element. Unacquainted with the people and their culture, she finds herself relying on a new addition to their team, Detective Johnny Tam. But will the newcomer to homicide be enough to unravel this mystery with roots in ancient China? Jane Rizzoli, with medical examiner Maura Isles by her side, is bound and determined to see this one through to the end.

Jane Rizzoli is a hard character to like sometimes. She’s brusque and bold and puts a lot of people off, mostly other detectives. But I really like her. You knew from book one that she was a darn good detective and would do anything to prove herself. Even now, in book nine, she’s still pushing to do her best and make her name. Pairing her with Barry Frost was the best thing Boston PD could have done.

Detective Barry Frost, on the other hand, is likable from day one. Sweet and possessing more tact than Rizzoli could ever dream of, Frost is the perfect foil to Jane’s abrasive nature. I was happy to see some of the focus turn towards him during this novel because he’s the kind of guy you want to get to know better.

I wasn’t exactly sure why the author introduced Johnny Tam into this novel, but as we got deeper into the mystery, it made more sense. He’s Chinese and knows the people and the history of those living in Chinatown, easing the way for the rest of the Boston Police Department. His knowledge of Chinese folklore and ability to apply it to what was happening around them was fascinating. Folklore and mythology have always been an interest of mine, so being treated to a ton of stories I’d never heard before only engaged me further.

The Silent Girl ups the intensity of the Rizzoli and Isles series, cranking the tension up to eleven. One of the most engrossing novels of the series, I found myself unable to stop reading. If the characters continue to grow and evolve like they have been, this is going to end up being one of the best mystery series ever written. I finish one novel and find myself anxiously waiting for the next. I cannot get enough of Jane Rizzoli and her cohorts at the Boston Police Department.