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Book Review: The Gifted School

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The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger– Smart and juicy, a compulsively readable novel about a previously happy group of friends and parents that is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in the community

This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege.

Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published: July 2, 2019

Acquired: Public library e-book

Series: N/A

My Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book! Having kids in an academically rigorous school, I really identified with the characters and it made the story very real for me. The plot revolves mainly around 4 families and their desperate need to get their children into the new “Gifted” School. The characters were very real, very well developed, and their stories were all intertwined. The story flowed very well and showed the perspective from all the main characters, which was really imperative to the helping the reader identify with and understand the motives they each had. I really liked that the kids had a voice- reading their perspectives was absolutely one of my favorite things about this book. There are secrets that get revealed- in both small and big ways. There is envy, anger, and a little bit of crazy going on in this community. Mix all those things up and you get one heck of an explosive story! 



New Releases This Week {10.15.19}

These are the new releases for the week of October 15 that I’m adding to my wish lists.

Weight Expectations by M.E. Carter– Rian Thompson thought she joined the gym to get healthy. Little did she know she was about to add hundred and ninety pounds of swoonworthy abdominal muscles and arrogance to her life. Every day in Rians’s life follows a predictable pattern, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s got a nice job, a nice place to live, and a nice family – even if they are a little wedding-zilla-ish at the moment. She doesn’t need anything spectacular to be happy. She just needs to get healthy – mentally, physically. . . and maybe spiritually if that happens. But she’ll settle for two out of three until her sister finally gets hitched. Carlos Davies thought his life was perfect. Little did he know it was about to be turned upside down by a woman who is not his type. In Carlos’s mind, his life is damn near perfect. He’s got a great job, a great place to live, and a great stash of pick up lines that always work. It has occurred to him that maybe no one actually takes him all that seriously. But with these bulging biceps and thick, dark hair, does that even matter since he’s never sleeping alone?

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout– Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace. 

Dear Girls by Ali Wong– In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she 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. 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 singles 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 disgusting) for all.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman– Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again. If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves. Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?



Book Review: Lost You

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Lost You by Haylen Beck– Libby needs a break. Three years ago her husband split, leaving her to raise their infant son Ethan alone as she struggled to launch her writing career. Now for the first time in years, things are looking up. She’s just sold her first novel, and she and Ethan are going on a much-needed vacation. Everything seems to be going their way, so why can’t she stop looking over her shoulder or panicking every time Ethan wanders out of view? Is it because of what happened when Ethan was born? Except Libby’s never told anyone the full story of what happened, and there’s no way anyone could find her and Ethan at a faraway resort . . . right?

But three days into their vacation, Libby’s fears prove justified. In a moment of inattention, Ethan wanders into an elevator before Libby can reach him. When the elevator stops and the doors open, Ethan is gone. Hotel security scours the building and finds no trace of him, but when CCTV footage is found of an adult finding the child wandering alone and leading him away by the hand, the police are called in. The search intensifies, a lost child case turning into a possible abduction. Hours later, a child is seen with a woman stepping through an emergency exit. Libby and the police track the woman down and corner her, but she refuses to release Ethan. Asked who she is, the woman replies:

“I’m his mother.”

Genre: Contemporary Thriller

Published: August 6, 2019

Acquired: Public library e-book

Series: N/A

My Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts: I had no idea what to think about this book. I went into it fairly blind because I hate spoilers so I spent the first couple of chapters a little lost and trying to figure out where it was all going. But it was worth sticking with the book! I don’t want to give anything away so it’s hard to review this book- everything feels like a spoiler! I will say that the pacing of the story is great, the characters are engaging, and I liked the ending! The author did a good job of giving the readers both of the women’s thoughts and stories which made the book even more engaging because I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for- honestly I think both Libby and Anna were a bit nuts. This is definitely a book about the dark side of surrogacy and what can happen when emotions derail and sanity becomes unstable! I would have liked to have more of the husband’s story- I think his perspective would have added a lot more to the story. But as it is, I definitely recommend it!



New Releases This Week {10.8.19}

These are the new releases for the week of October 8 that I’m adding to my wish lists.

Getting Played by Emma Chase– Dean Walker is all about keeping life simple. He’s effortlessly talented and intelligent—spending his summers playing drums in the local band and the rest of the year teaching high school in the same Jersey town where he grew up. He likes his love life simple too, enjoying the commitment-free hook-ups his good looks and sexy charm have always made oh so easy. Then he meets Lainey Burrows. And his simple, easy life gets turned upside down. One wild one-night stand was all it was ever supposed to be, so Lainey is shocked when she discovers that her sizzling summer fling is also her son’s new math teacher. But that’s nothing compared to the most unexpected twist of all—their hot hook-up left Lainey knocked up, and now they’re about to become parents. Together.

Daddy Dilemma by Avery Flynn– One night and my life completely jumped the tracks. Actually, a pack of expired condoms did that –– the rest of the night was pretty amazing. Open bar at a friend’s wedding. Bad dancing all around. Stupid trivia bets with my fellow Ice Knights hockey teammates. And Tess Gardner. The factoid-blurting, fandom-T-shirt-wearing, no-I-don’t-want-a-relationship-with-you woman makes me forget for one night that I’m a man with a routine, and my future all mapped out. Still, it sucked she left our room without giving me her number. Fast forward to when she tracks me down and tells me I’m going to be a daddy. Jaw meet floor. Now I’ve insisted that she and our little peach pit move in with me after her apartment floods. She agrees as long as there’s no funny business, no shotgun weddings, and no more nights spent naked together. Sounds easy enough. I was prepared for the late night runs for more pickles and peanut butter but I wasn’t prepared for Tess. She’s like a glitter rainbow sparkling in the middle of my all-neutrals house, messing up my rigid schedule and turning my world upside down. What the hell do we do next?

Child’s Play by Danielle Steel– A senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm, Kate Morgan couldn’t be prouder of her three grown children. Tamara, Anthony, and Claire all went to great schools, chose wonderful career paths, and would have made their father proud. A single mother for years after the death of her husband, Kate keeps a tight rein on her family, her career, and even her own emotions, never once asking herself if she truly knows her children . . . or if her hopes for them are the right ones, and what they want. She is about to find out. During one hectic summer in Manhattan, Kate’s world turns upside down. One child has been keeping an astonishing secret while another confesses to an equally shocking truth. A wonderful match and picture-book wedding are traded for a relationship that shakes her to her core. A totally inappropriate love affair and an out-of-wedlock baby complete the chaos. Challenged as a mother and as a successful independent woman herself, Kate struggles to keep up with a dizzying and escalating chain of events, and begins to realize that she has a part to play in the chaos. Because Kate too has kept secrets from her children. Sometimes the surprising choices our children make are the right ones . . . better than what we wanted for them. More often than not, parenting is about letting go of our dreams and embracing theirs.

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson– Zahra Gaines is missing. After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie’s best friend–the only person who ever really understood her–and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her. Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie’s return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie’s every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever…As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend’s new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what Zahra experienced in the days before her disappearance–one that might be better off buried.

Faker by Sarah Smith– Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self. One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real.



Book Review: Things You Save In A Fire

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Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center– Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Published: August 13, 2019

Acquired: Public library E-book

Series: N/A

My Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: This book had layers and depth that I wasn’t expecting. I was anticipating an easy, light, fluffy beach read. That’s not at all what I got. And I loved it. I had a hard time connecting to Cassie as a main character in the beginning. I thought she was hard-headed, closed off, and too distant to be a good main character. I was so wrong. Once I understood why she was that way and the things that she had experienced in her life I was completely sucked into her story. I began to admire her stoic strong shell and how she conducted herself. The story really took off for me once she began working at her new fire house. I could feel the emotions that she kept buried from her new co-workers. I was so pleased with the number of funny moments that happened in this book. I think that’s what made this a 5 star read for me- the contrast between the serious and the funny. Without the moments of humor, this book would have been way too heavy. I highly recommend this one!