Audiobook Review: Sadie

Sadie by Coutrney Summers

Narrated by Dan Bittner, Fred Berman, Gabra Zackman, & Rebecca Soler
Genres: Young Adult, Suspense
Maturity Level: 5 (Content Warning, Sexual Abuse)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.


This is a truly outstanding, difficult, and important book for teens. However, I didn’t connect with it as much as many other people did, in part due to the writing, and in part due to the narration.

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Review: After the Fire

After the Fire by Will Hill

Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating:
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Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire. 


If you’re into psychological thrillers and young adult novels, After the Fire definitely does the job. It was fun, moderately exciting, and mysterious enough. But it wasn’t as well executed as the best of the genre.

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Review: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

Series: Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation
Genre: Mystery
Maturity Level: 4

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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs…


Well this book was adorable. If you like cozy mysteries you have to give this one a read. It’s a nice blend of the grumpy retired man you come to expect from this type of novel with the exoticism of modern Mumbai.

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Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction

A fight to the death!

Or at least a fight over my tbr…

I got in a conversation with my brother in law this weekend about literary fiction. I made a joke about the Academy Awards that he didn’t find funny, because he thinks I shouldn’t criticize a bunch of movies I haven’t seen. Which is totally valid, but it was a joke. Whatever. The point was, I haven’t seen (or even heard of) a single Best Picture nominee. Mostly this is because I just don’t see that many movies anymore. I’m busy, they’re expensive, and I’m not a man so I can’t just dump my children on my partner for nine hours every week. BUT! That’s not all there is to it.

I started talking to him about how when I go to the movies, since I go so rarely, I just want to have fun. That’s why most of the movies I see are either action or comedy. Occasionally I’ll watch an uplifting drama. (Watched Blinded by the Light last night and LOVED IT.) And while I’m sure the films nominated for best picture are brilliant, they aren’t what you might call feel-good films. They tend to be heavier, darker, sadder. Sometimes they have hopeful endings, but it’s not the same as watching, say, When Harry Met Sally.

Which got me to thinking. It’s really the same thing when I read.

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Calendar Girls November: Strangest Book You’ve Ever Read

Is it November already? Where did October go? Alternatively, when will winter break be here? November always seems to get stuck in the middle, doesn’t it? Poor November, no love.

Not this month! Guys, I am SO PSYCHED that we are finally having a Stranger Things theme, and that we’re talking about weird books. I don’t know which direction all y’all are going to take this, with weird books you loved or weird books you hated, but I freaking love unusual books. More than I love reading them, I love talking about unusual books. The weirder a book is, the more there is to discuss! Am I right?!

I’ve been soul-searching all month trying to decide how I wanted to interpret this prompt. Because I’ve read some oddball books. Yet some of the strangest have become very mainstream, like American Gods or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. On the other hand, some of my favorites that are “strange” in a nobody-else-in-the-world-has-read-this-book way are actual fairly normal books. Mrs. Queen Takes the Train comes to mind. I also love odd-ball books that aren’t weird per se, but fit a really niche genre, like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter or Hope Never Dies.

But when I look at the books on my bookshelf, two stand out as being particularly strange. The first, Wicked, I didn’t want to write about because *whispers* I don’t actually like it. But the second … man, buckle up. Because this book is WEIRD.

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Review: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Genres: Middle-Grade, Novel in Verse
Maturity Level: 3+
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Rating:
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Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.


This might be the most upsetting book I have ever read. If animal cruelty is a big deal to you, this book is no walk in the park. I was sobbing in the first twenty pages, and that’s before the baby orphaned elephant was even introduced. But the ending was so triumphant, so wonderful, I sobbed my eyes out some more.

Guys, what an AMAZING book.

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Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Ali Waxman

Genre: Chick Lit
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating:
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The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Nina was the most intensely relatable protagonist of all time. It was literally like reading a book about myself. The things she said, thought, and did were all so ME. I especially loved her snarky responses and conversation. Abbi Waxman just gets me, and I need to make friends with her NOW please. Although, thankfully, I don’t have anxiety as bad as Nina does.

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Review: Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Genres: Women’s Lit; Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

“Young Jane Young’s” heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss – who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married – and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut shamed and considered a blight on politics in general. How does one go on after this?

In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was and is and must decide whether she can still respect her.


I expected to really like this book, but I was surprised by how much fun I had reading it! It’s a captivating story, well-written, a quick read, and a great reading experience.

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Review: When You Read This

When You Read This by Mary Adkins

Genres: Chick Lit, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss. 


What I loved about this book is that it is just regular people living regular lives. There’s no catch or hook or surprise murder mystery or magic to make this book more interesting. It is literally just people talking to each other. YES.

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Review: An American Marraige

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Genre: Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel. 


Wow. What a beautiful book. The writing was so lush, and lovely, and lyrical. I was expecting this to be a powerful book, but I was completely taken by surprise by how incredible the writing was.

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