2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Tina has read 4 books toward her goal of 30 books.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

REVIEW for Lush By Kerry Cohen

Thank you to the wonderful people at SourceBooks for giving me an electronic copy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:               LUSH

AUTHOR:          Kerry Cohen

GENRE:             Memoir/non fiction

RATING:            5 Stars

How much do I love Kerry Cohen.  Since Loose Girl, I have read every book she has written and while they have not all been excellent, I have enjoyed them.

Lush....Lush stands out for me, as much as Loose Girl.  Cohen's strength is to write her story - her truth.  This book is both a memoir and an inspiration.  Cohen delves back into her addiction to love (and men) while showing us (and herself) the similarities between addictions - cross addicting to booze.

Interestingly, Cohen did not start drinking until middle age and she analyses this aspect, which confuses her in the beginning, only to realize that, in some way or another, she and many other people cross addict all the time.  

If you insult easily don't read this book. Cohen doesn't mince words and doesn't put herself up on a pedestal.

My personal interest, in this book, peeked when she looks at addiction and gives us her view of what an addict is and what addiction is.  Many of what she said touched a nerve and I found myself nodding.  While she and I don't share the same addiction, Cohen touches on how all addictions (be it to booze, men, drugs, gambling, food) can cause misery.

I don't agree with Cohen's view on AA, but I do admire her for doing so much research and trying to think outside the box.  

What a great, great, sad story this is.  I hope Cohen writes a lot more about her life.  I would be right in line to buy the books.

The only negative I will give this book is that at one point, Cohen says she wishes she had an eating disorder (or words to that effect).  Kerry.......believe me, you don't wish that. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

REVIEW for Happily Ever Esther by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter

Thank you to the people at Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this electronic book to read and review.

TITLE:                         Happily Ever Esther

AUTHORS:                 Steve Jenkins and Derek Walters and Caprice Craine with a cool forward
                                     by Alan Cumming

GENRE:                      Memoir


Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.  No, its not a thriller, but it is an honest and frank inside look at one of social media's biggest stars (and pink beauty) Esther the Wonder Pig.  With over 1.3 million followers, there is little doubt that Esther is loved and the message that comes through loud and clear from Esther's celebrity (and her two dads) is that love comes in every shape and size. 

In fact, this is the central message in all of Esther's various platforms, be it book or internet (Facebook page).  She has launched a movement to gently engaged people in looking at their eating habits and even their lifestyles, encouraging everyone to see animals as more than a convenience to humans.

Having said all of this, Happily Ever Esther is the continuing story from the first book, where dads and Esther write about their settling into their new home, which is also a Sanctuary for abused or abandoned farm animals.

Told by one of the dads - Steve - this is a surprisingly honest look at their life, which was completely turned around when they met Esther as a piglet and decided they were never going to let her go.  Throughout the book, Steve details the very ups and downs of their decision to put their old lives behind them and embark on creating a comfortable and happy life for animals that are at their sanctuary.

Steve makes it clear that the learning curve was high and that both he and Derek questioned their decisions at times, feeling overwhelmed and trying to find their way in this new challenge.

Also present are funny stories about Esther and sanctuary life.  We get more of a backstory on some of the animals at the farm, but we also discover that, at times, sweet Esther can be a challenge, especially when she wants to be the boss.  Its hard to re conciliate the sweet Esther we regularly see on FB to the one who throws occasional tantrums, especially when is facing her "teen" years.

Told always with a loving voice, Steve comes clean with a lot of things and honestly, he gave answers to some of the questions that I have had for several months.

No matter what is happening, Steve and Derek and their love for Esther and all the animals at the farm is obvious.  

Thank you to these two wonderful people who put the needs of Esther and her friends before their own.

Wonderful, wonderful read that makes me tear up (something I rarely do when reading a book).  I want to hug both of them for being their true selves and to Esther who is capturing the world one heart at a time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

REVIEW for The Universe is Expanding and so Am I by Carolyn Mackler

TITLE:              The Universe is Expanding and so Am I

AUTHOR:          Carolyn Mackler

GENRE:            YA

RATING:            3 stars

I love Mackler's books and have, in fact, reread several of them. While they are YA, I have always found them to be well written, as well as contain messages that are important social themes.

Which is why I am so upset at this book. I really, really disliked the main character and while this is not a deal breaker for me if I like the plot, it wasn't the case here. Virginia was written basically as a helpless and hapless YA. I cannot tell you how many times the story contained the words "and Virginia could not speak" "and Virginia was rooted to her spot and could not move". Yep, the main character is so weak, that I found myself getting more and more incensed as I kept reading.

I mean I get it - not everyone can speak their mind and be pro-active, but wow! Virginia doesn't have a backbone AT ALL and can't even move when she sees several police officers at her front door. "I know I should move, but I am rooted here".

Yes, there are various messages here about acceptance, rape and sexual assault and about growing up, but all of it gets lost for me, with such a poor central character.

Friday, June 8, 2018

REVIEW for Ride or Die by Wanda Taylor

TITLE:             RIDE OR DIE

AUTHOR:       Wanda Taylor

GENRE:            YA


The Sidestreets series is interesting. YA novels, very short, with a social theme message. Sometimes, they hit the mark and sometimes not so much.

Ride or Die is a good read, although as is the norm, very short. The problem with very short is that it doesn`t set up the characters nor the circumstances properly. Having said that, Ride or Die explores the sex trade without shying away from the truth. 

These stories are always based in Canada and no matter how many of these I read and the fact that I know Canada and the various cities have areas you don`t want to be in, I am always surprised at how dangerous even Canada can be and I think that Taylor gives us a good taste of of dangerous Toronto can be.

The main characters are innocent and not particularly likeable. You don`t really get to understand why they are unhappy, except that they are YA - or maybe that is enough of a reason? Kanika lives with her aunt, but she is always so angry - so when she spots a guy she likes, she basically falls for him and his crap line, hook and sinker, in fact that is one of the scariest things in this book. The main characters seem to not have a brain between them and somehow let themselves fall into a bad crowd without ONE thought along the lines of "hum, maybe I should not do this?". 

Once Kanika ends up a prostitute, she is miserable and hopes to escape, but even then, somehow she does not seem to get that she was plain stupid and that she got herself there. Finally, she tries to escape with mixed results and finds a couple willing to help her get home. Once home, she becomes the same unhappy and miserable girl again and tells her aunt she is moving away - at the age of sixteen.

The end is a bit ridiculous, but the part where she is held captive is quite interesting. Well written and obviously researched, this book is a good read, although the main characters need to get a brain and a clue.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

REVIEW for Lifeline by Abbey Lee Nash

Thank you to the wonderful people at Tiny Fox Press for sending me an electronic copy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:                  Lifeline

AUTHOR:             Abbey Lee Nash

GENRE:                YA

RATING:                4 Stars

I am rating this book 4 stars because it tackles a difficult subject - substance and recovery and does it, for the most part, well.

The first few chapters are extremely well written and the reader jumps right into the action, as we sit with the main character who immediately shows us, via his actions, that he is a full fledged junkie, even if he is a Lacrosse star.

The honest look at addiction and recovery is also well done as we are transported to rehab with Elie..  Once in rehab, Elie must learn to admit that he is a junkie, but also what his triggers are.  One the good side, Elie, while almost completely unlikeable has moments of kindness towards his friends in rehab and this, despite seeing his "perfect" life outside rehab crumble.  

Elie, as I mentioned, is not a particularly likeable character and that's okay, however, he is also, at times, quite a vanilla character - somehow not bad, but not good either, I suppose he represents the average person who has gotten in over their head with drugs.  However, this makes for a bit of a boring story once he enters rehab (and that is pretty early in the story).  I like that he makes some friends, but the whole Libby thing is completely over the top and I could have done without it.  Why the need for "romance" especially since everyone knows that recovery is NOT a place to find your next date.

I definitely liked the earlier part of this book  more than the recovery part, but overall this was written well, paced well and obviously researched well.

A good read.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Book Review for MY DAYS HAPPY AND OTHERWISE by Marion Ross

Thank you to the wonderful people at Kensington Publishing for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                   My Days Happy and Otherwise

AUTHOR:              Marion Ross

GENRE:                 Memoir

RATING:                3 stars

I love reading memoirs written by celebrities.  The thing is....this book is kind of boring.  I think the best way to describe it is to call it vanilla.

Marion Ross has always been someone I enjoy watching on TV and what you see has Mrs. C. pretty well describes her book.  Perky, sweet, innocent and kind.  These are all wonderful qualities, except for the fact that when you are writing a memoir, I think you need to be honest and unless Ross' life has been exceptionally happy, this book is missing some huge chunks of reality.

Interestingly, she agreed to do the book only if each of her Happy Days co-stars would be included.  So, as part of her story, we get interviews with Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, etc describing Marion and how it was to work with her.  For those who bought this book to read all about Happy Days, you will be thrilled to hear that this is pretty much the focus of the book (although, don't expect any "dirt" as there isn't any).

Everyone is so kind and sweet and maybe I am jaded, but really?  

I didn't hate this book in the least, but I didn't love it either.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review for The Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig

Thank you so much to Hachette Canada for sending me a copy of this beautiful book.

TITLE:          The Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig

AUTHORS:   Steven Jenkins, Derek Walter and Caprice Crane

GENRE:         Children's Book


I have been following Esther the Wonder Pig, on her Facebook page for a few months and fell in love with her, her siblings and her two dads.

This little pig puts a smile on my face every day, so I was thrilled when I saw The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig - a children's book.

This book is so absolutely adorable.  The story of Esther and her experiences (including her two dads, Dolorese and her other siblings) is wonderful, heartwarming, cute, sweet and overall a lovely, lovely book  - perfect for children of ALL ages.

No violence, simply love on each page as Esther and her two dads illustrate through words and cute illustrations how families do come in every shape and size.

Illustrations are right on point and the accompanying story is heartwarming.

This is a perfect book for everyone.

Friday, February 9, 2018

REVIEW for Brave by Rose McGoman

TITLE:                  Brave

AUTHOR:             Rose McGowan

GENRE:                Memoir

RATING:               3 stars

I reeeeallly, realllly wanted to like this book,  because of the importance of the message delivered and also because I love books with "I am woman, hear me roar" type of message.

However, in my opinion, this book should have been called "Rage or pissed off" because that is the entire tone of the book.  It is an incredibly angry-toned book.  Nothing is positive or nice and while I get that this is McGowan's life and she gets to complain about it as much as she wants, it just felt as though I was somehow being yelled at by the book in my hand.

Obviously McGowan had a rough childhood, that is clear.  However, as much as she says that people and specifically men were horrible to her, she also spent all of her time consciously or not putting her life, herself and her soul into their hands.  She simply does not exist as a person outside of being in one precarious experience after another.

Never, does she tell herself "stand up and do for yourself".  Instead, she spends all of her time blaming her parents, hollywood, the variety of men who "take care" of her when she is getting out of her teens.  It gets  a bit old.

I admit that the Hollywood portions were very interesting, but other than that, there was not much here to keep my interest.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

REVIEW for Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Thank you to Dial Press for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:               Surprise Me

AUTHOR:         Sophie Kinsella

GENRE:            Chick Lit

RATING:           2 Stars

What to say about this book?

Despite giving it 2 stars, I can say that there were a few things I did like. I do enjoy the way Kinsella writes as she avoids that trap of giving way too many details, making the story overly boring and long for no reason. She also has a way with dialogue and always infuses some humor in her books.

My problems with this book are twofold - 1) the premise is absolutely ridiculous - so ridiculous that I can't even suspend my disbelief. 68 years together OMG???? because you will live to be super old - yup, pretty silly. 2) I hated the Sylvie and the mother characters so much that I wanted to scream. They both had the mental capacity of 15 year olds and neither had one redeeming feature. Also, Sylvie was soooo whiny and it was constant!

Also, while I realize that characters who cannot speak up for themselves are a great way to propel a story forward, they are also a great way to piss off your readers. Between Dan, Sylvie and her mother - absolutely NONE of them EVER opened their mouths to speak up for themselves nor did they open their mouths to ask basic questions or to share how they felt about anything. The result? a bunch of silly plot lines with weak characters who just let everything go, even if it meant confusion, misunderstandings and pain. I hated that part so much.

Please Sophie Kinsella, can you write a book with humor AND smart characters AND smart plotlines? It seems as though you cannot do all 3 at the same time and that is such a shame.

REVIEW for The Optimistic Food Addiction by Christina Fisanick Greer

TITLE:       The Optimistic Food Addict

AUTHOR:  Christina Fisanick Greer

GENRE:      Memoir/recovery

RATING:     4 Stars 

I always admire someone who shares their story and invites us in to read about it.  It is a tough and brave thing to do.

I have read many, many, recovery books on eating disorders and this book touched me.  The sadness, loss and pain this person experienced in her early life would be enough to send me hiding under something and never come out - which is, of course, how some people with eating disorders deal (or don't deal) with personal trauma.

I have mixed emotions about the content of this book , obviously I am talking about the view points this author has about eating disorders.  She touched on several interesting topics, i.e. are eating disorders an addiction (and a disease) which requires abstinence or are they better treated with intuitive eating.

I have been on both sides of this equation and there are good and bad on each side.  The author does not advocate for one over the other although she does admit to believing she has a disease and that intuitive eating did not work for her - she needed clear abstinence.

While the author says she does not want to be "food obsessed" anymore (something I totally agree with) I question how abstinence does this as it encourages a person to vigilantly avoid sugar, flour, etc.....keeping the focus on the food and feeling defeated if there is a "relapse" back into sugar or flour.....

As the author mentions, eating disorders and binge eating in particular have been around for a long time, but they have just recently been recognized as a medical condition and little is truly known about it.

I am encouraged by the tone of optimism in this memoir and I applaud the author for being happy with who she is, even if she is not a size 6 - to me, this was the golden nugget in this book - discovering that you can be happy even if you struggle - that there is hope.

Well written and candid.
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