Review: No Cowboy Required by JoAnn Sky

We are introduced to Grace Harper. When gets the news of the death of her father, she finds herself returning to the home she left and never looked back from. Inheriting his farm, she is told she would become guardian to her stepbrother, JJ, who she never met and had autism. That wasn’t her only surprise. 

Little did she know, the guy who pushed her out of his life and heart years ago, is at the center of things stirring up the past and unresolved feelings. Giving herself two weeks to get everything together and get back to her life, nothing seems to working as she hoped. Having to deal with the fact he is only one to help her with JJ, she finds herself struggling to fight the pull that is bringing her back to not only her past but also to a certain someone she is trying to forget.

Overall, this was a good book that went really fast. Personally, I would’ve loved to dive more into certain aspects of the plot. I sort of feel like things just started to get really good, then the book was over. The heart of the characters were there but just wished I could’ve had a little more meat to some of the plot points and backstory. Despite that, it was a good read. 

Review: Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman

Whether you are a fan, it is undeniable that Meryl Streep is one of the best actresses alive. Her dedication to her craft and willingness to take risks are extraordinary. In 2014, it was reported that in the past 12 years, she was thanked more times than God at the Academy Awards. And in 2017, she broke her own Oscar nominations record.

Currently, she has three Oscar wins and 21 nominations.  There is clearly something talent about the New Jersey native. Besides being an uber talent multi-talented actress, Meryl lives a relatively quiet life.

Her Again: Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep explores the life of the actress before famous and also shines a light on who Meryl is when she is not winning multiple awards. Instead of the standard chapter number titles, the book is broken down into the roles that Meryl had to play. It begins with Mary, Meryl’s first name.

In this portion, Meryl is a normal teenager, who is trying to survive high school and dealing with typical teen issues- boys, homecoming. The book ends with Joanna. The name of the character that she played in Kramer vs. Kramer, and the character she ended up winning her first Academy Award for.

I have very little critiques with Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. It was an enjoyable read and kept me entertained. The author provides a contextual view of how she became who she is. The book is not just ridden with quotes from Meryl. In addition to the quotes, the author dives deeper and paints a picture of the environment in which she was in, social circumstances, and also the culture.

After reading, I’ve developed a great appreciation for the actress. I’ve learned several times about the actress that I had not known. For example, that her and Sigourney Weaver were friends in college.  

Although the book does a good job of explaining Meryl’s backstory, there are a few gaps. For example, her marriage to Don Gummer six months after he boyfriend passed from lung cancer. The author does touch on how Meryl and Don met, but he doesn’t touch on the whys. Another issue I’d noticed, is that the book spent a little too much time on other individuals in Meryl’s life. For example, the book made a point to provide a detailed summary about her professional in college. Although, they were prominent in Meryl’s life, their backstory should have been compressed and more time should have been spent on Meryl.

Final Analysis

Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep provides an insight look at one of the most talented actresses alive. Although not perfect, it is a biography that does a fairly decent job at capturing Meryl Streep.

Review: White Bread and Mayonnaise by Lula Phine

Lula Phine takes us back to the old south in “White Bread and Mayonnaise”, a straightforward and spiritual tale. It is the early 1930s when we’re introduced to the central character, no more than a newborn baby, and it will be the new millennium before we have heard the story of his long life. Known simply as “the boy” or “the man” accordingly, he comes of age on his father’s farm before setting off to the Korean War. While there, life and limb are spared but deep emotional wounds are inflicted. The terrors of war haunt him well into adulthood as he struggles to balance the uncertainties of farming, his family, and an increasing dependency on alcohol. Intersecting the man’s story are insightful passages commenting on a simple jar whose contents and many purposes are likened to the human condition.  Mind, body, and spirit are examined against the outward forces of life and we’re shown progression and the connectedness of all things in one’s life.

As its title would suggest, this is a basic read. While peppered with small wisdoms, “White Bread and Mayonnaise” can be as dull as a worn butter knife. Without the benefit of dialogue or character names, it seems a listless recounting of the man’s life, of which we are given only cursory information. There is little sense of scene and those we are shown are increasingly at ends. I struggled to find a consistency between the heartwarming moments among family and the narrative describing the man as an unpredictable and emotionally detached drunkard.

The story structure is a classic one and, if it were to be fleshed out and offer a more dynamic set of characters, has the potential to be notable. However, as it stands, it reads as if we have been given a glimpse into a first draft rather than the finished piece. While suitable for children, English language learners, or parents looking for a read-aloud, a more advanced reader is likely to find it too uninvolved to finish. At the end of the day, it is a clean wholesome account of one man’s struggle back to light and life; a nice simply story. Surely that is what some are looking for, but in this reader’s opinion, “White Bread and Mayonnaise” may just leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Review: Not Every Girl by Jane McGarry

Not Every Girl is a historical fiction story that has odes to Mulan, when Olivia wishes to go to battle even after her father refuses. Using her friend Puck’s armor as a disguise Olivia goes on a mission to escort the King, with one slight hiccup, his handsome son Prince Liam will also be on this mission. Though she is quickly caught by her father and sent back home with Prince Liam as her escort. This leads to a series of events where Olivia must step and and show the power she holds even though she is a woman. Young adult readers who want action, romance, adventure, and a strong female character will certainly enjoy this book!

Review: Magnetic by Carissa Miller

 Buy on  Amazon

Buy on Amazon

MAGNETIC is a powerhouse of a novel from rising author Carissa Miller. With the very attractive title, this book focuses on the pulls in our lives, whether it be family, friends, or things out of our control. When Elle causes her father to be ostracized from a church, they must move to her aunt’s house in Oklahoma. This leads Elle to begin to have trouble with two boys, one being the son of a wealthy man in the town, and falls for Maverick. Their relationship is like a magnet, where there’s strong attraction to this handsome boy, but there’s also repulsion because of some problems that followed Elle to Oklahoma.

Dark secrets from the past never can be buried and, through extreme emotion only Miller could craft, Elle faces her demons that have come to surface: the truth about the death of her mother. Elle faces a challenge many of us face, which is wanting to know the truth and wanting to keep it away. 

This intriguing novel pulls on your heartstrings with the father-daughter relationship along with Elle and Maverick’s relationship. With touching moments like a hospital bed and three kisses, a hard-to-swallow truth pill, and the solving of a mystery that’s plagued a family, this novel brings the forces that makes a family and breaks them. 

Carissa Miller brings a new kind of magnetic to the forefront of modern novels that interweave genres like romance, thriller, and a mystery bigger than the characters in this fantastic work. Miller should be praised for her character development of Elle, Maverick, and even the smaller characters, who all have some force that pulls or pushes in this novel. Intertwined with great characters is a plot worth investing time in, catching small details that lead up to a big finale that’ll leave you wanting more from Carissa Miller. 

Review: Daughter of the Last King by Tracey Warr

Murder, traitors, love, affairs and war. In this historical fiction novel you follow a Welsh Princess who has lost everything, her family, her country, and her freedom. Princess Nest is taken from her kingdom by Normans and must learn their ways in order to be betrothed to whomever the King wishes. Nest never gives up hope that she may be rescued by the Welsh Prince who once was meant to be her husband. As you follow the story of love, loss, and betrayal, you see Nest transform from the Welsh girl she was, into a woman meant for royalty.  This story captures the reader as they want to know what will happen with Princess Nest, with several twists along the way. This story is based on real people and real events that happened in European history. You see the inner workings of the royal court, traitors, affairs, and death. Be aware that the narrator will change at times throughout the story, either through journal entries or letters written. 

Review: Foretold by Laura Spinella

In the second book of the Ghost Gifts series the reader meets Aubrey, twelve years later. Life for Aubrey was changing drastically, as was her gift. When a historical figure warns Aubrey of an explosion about to happen, she learns that her gift might be more than just communicating with the dead. If having ghosts show up to give information about future events was not enough, Aubrey also must face the truths behind her own sons gifts as well. In this story Levi and Aubrey must team up again to solve a John Doe murder, find missing children, and revisit an old angry spirit from their past. Along with this Aubrey must face several ghosts of her own in order to learn the true nature of her father's gift that drove him mad. Those who loved the first instalment will not want to put this one down. From start to finish there are twists and turns that keep readers guessing to the very end. 

Review: No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

In her debut memoir, “No One Tells You This”, Glynnis MacNicol offers an engaging perspective from beyond what seems for everyone to be the enemy line: forty. No one tells you this, but they should, and thank goodness that MacNicol finally has. With a sharp wit and tell-all style similar to the great Nora Ephron, she is sure to win your heart. MacNicol gives an intimate glimpse into the wildly under-represented life of a woman in the throes of middle age without such accessories as a spouse or children.  From the prologue on, she is at once as familiar and relatable as your favorite foul-mouthed gal pal as she takes us through the year following her fortieth birthday. Paralleling her own is the story of her aging mother, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the many others in MacNicol’s life who have grown to become a collective family. “No One Tells You This” is poignant, humorous, eternal: a book to raise a glass to and a  great read for a woman of any age.

“No One Tells You This” sweeps us up into MacNicol’s ever busy lifestyle (which is anything but that of a dull spinster). We’re taken from the shores of Rockaway Beach to Iceland, to Toronto, to Wyoming and back again, with the Manhattan skyline somehow ever-present through MacNicol’s New Yorker perspective. Throughout chapters that beg to be read, with titles like “Choose your own Rom Com” and “Balls”, Said the Queen”, MacNicol speaks boldly about topics that plague us all.  From not becoming her mother, to the effects of being too plugged-in, to the seemingly unavoidable ticking clock, she reminds us again and again that we aren’t alone.

MacNicol has tested the waters and found that what lies beyond forty is, more than anything, a relief; Life doesn’t end at forty. Brimming with insight, each lesson she learns along the way is rooted in experiences from her diverse past and accompanied by laughable anecdotes. What we see here is the story not of falling in love, but of  learning to love oneself and one’s own life as is: an adventure that everyone should go on at least once.  MacNicol refutes the invisibility that too-often envelopes women in their forties. Against the backdrop of conventionalism and mundanity, she is a shining star and as this memoir will prove, a rising one.

Review: Nicole Kidman: A Kind of Life by James L. Dickerson

Within the last year, Nicole Kidman has become one of my favorite actors of all time. Anyone who knows me, can attest to that statement. And like all subjects that interest me, I began searching for book about her. If I’m being honest, I went in skeptical about this book. It’s an unauthorized biography, and the author doesn’t personally know her. I was just mainly reading it for the entertainment value.

Nicole Kidman: A Kind of Life follows the life of the Academy Award actress starting from when she was just a baby in Australia to her as a successful actor in Hollywood. In summary, it is mainly just a compilation of all of Nicole’s interviews and movie summary. The author spends an unnecessary time explaining several movies that she had acted in, and sometimes including dialogue. I found myself skipping the majority of those sections because it was over excessive.

Like mentioned earlier, I was not reading this book to gain a sense of understanding of Nicole Kidman because I know that I wasn’t going to get that. And the book didn’t offer any astonishing insight either. The structure felt tamed and loose. There was not a lot of details and it moved fairly quickly. The author left out a many defining factors in Kidman’s life. For example, her marriage and divorce to Tom Cruise. It was a media frenzy, and author chose to focus on the highlight. Both parties are private but have made a few news worthy statement about those years, and the author glanced over those statements.

I’m not disappointed that I read Nicole Kidman: A Kind of Life; I’m just a little disappointed it was not as entertaining as I had hoped that it would be.

Review: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I’m so excited to find out that this book is going to be a movie. If you have read the book already, than you know how awesome it’s going to be as a film. If you haven’t, this is going to be one of those that I’m sure will be just as good as the book but make sure you read it first. Bold and adventurous, My Oxford Year was just delicious fun. It had a great plot, sassy characters, witty sarcasm and overall was an enjoyable read.

My favorite character, the star of the book, Mrs. Ella Durran. She was one of the people who had a dream to go to Oxford for what seemed like forever. Lucky for her, she got a Rhodes scholarship and a guarantee to pursue her political ambitions after graduation with the chance of making history. Her transition in the new chapter of her life was going splendid, checking out the sites and taking in what England had to offer. On a recommendation, she decided to grab a bite to eat when almost getting run over by someone, found a local spot only to run right smack into the “posh prat” who she just nearly escaped from. Little did she know, they would be meet again.

When Ella went to her anticipated literature class, disappointed crept in when she found out that the professor that she came there for to learn from wasn’t going to teach, disappointed came over when none other that Jaime Davenport, was going to be the fill in. Not feeling these chain of events, things turned around unexpectedly when a night out brought these two together and they found themselves getting to know more of each other than their poetry. Everything seemed to be going routine until Ella stumped about a secret that has her dealing with making a choice. Should she follow her dream or follow her heart?

Overall, this was a really nice novel. I can’t tell you how funny the humor of the characters were. Perhaps it’s because of the English experience. I find many of the books that centralize in England are so funny. The book was more than just Emma and Jaime’s experience. The other storylines of their friendships, familial relationships and journey through life made such an engaging read. Now I will say that I’m curious because of one line in the Epilogue if that was the finite answer to the question of Ella and Jaime. I really want to know what happened. Ok, so here is another one that I want you to add to your list!