Sunday, December 27, 2015

"The Passenger" by Lisa Lutz

I think the best way to start this review is with the description I read on Netgalley

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

After reading that I had to read this book. Luckily, Netgalley and publishers Simon & Schuster allowed me an ebook of Lisa Lutz's "The Passenger" to read and give my honest review. After adding it to my Goodreads shelves, I skimmed down and saw that the first 3-5 reviews were all 3 stars. I didn't read the reviews, just glanced at the ratings. It had me worried. I have to say, I think they were wrong!

I LOVED this book! It was everything I look for in a thriller. There was instant conflict and mystery which sucked me in immediately. Lutz's writing is impeccable and she crafted this story beautifully. 

Before starting this book I knew the main character had a past she was running from and although it starts out with the missing detail of "why" she was on the run to begin with I didn't feel the overwhelming need to know that part of the story to enjoy the entire read.

 There is so much happening along the way- each new identity Tanya takes over brings up a whole new set of challenges. Each new "person" she becomes presents a way of life that was so different than the last. The way she has to learn to adapt was so interesting to read and try to figure out what her next move would be.

The ending was unexpected. A true suprise, yet perfectly fitting. I truly had no idea where Lutz was going to take this story. There were so many elements along the journey and they all came together in a perfect way. I think I experienced every emotion during this read. Fear, sadness, sympathy, anger, happiness, and loneliness are all elements that Lutz writes into this whirlwind journey.

I don't want to give away too much of this book. You should plan on reading it when it is released on March 1, 2016. You will not be disappointed. If you love thrillers with a strong, quick-thinking, razor-sharp female main character, then you will gobble this book up.

This is one of my favorite books I have read this year! 5 stars all the way! 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Emma Donoghue's "Room"

I know, I know. I'm late to this party. My excuse is that when this book was released, I was super pregnant and then we were busy with a newborn who had a lot of medical issues that lead to a diagnosis of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. I was in a daze. I actually didn't even know this book existed until I saw the movie trailer this year. 

For those of you who have also been living under a rock (like me), here is the premise of "Room" by Emma Donoghue:

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. 

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

This book is inspired by the true story of Elisabeth Fritzl, an Australian woman who was imprisoned in her father's basement for twenty years, during which time he repeatedly assaulted and raped her. She had one miscarriage and seven children by him, some of who were also imprisoned with her until they were rescued. The fact that this is based off a horrific true crime should have held my attention captive. It should have been an emotional read. I should have felt helpless along with the character, angry at the captor, and sad about the circumstances. However, the entire book was a huge struggle for me. It is a dark story. An uncomfortable story. But I was just annoyed throughout the entire thing. 

I guess I will just jump into it- I hated this book. The only reason I gave it two stars instead of just one was because it was (slightly) interesting during a few chapters. I think the issue I had was the delivery. This book is told from the perspective of 5 year old Jack. He has never been outside the room. He is also annoying. He makes everyday, intimate objects seem like a person. "Dresser, Cup, Table..." the way he talks is completely unbelievable.  As a mother of 3 boys I have to say that none of them have very talked like this. If they had I would have been quick to correct them, which his mother does but he just doesn't learn, I guess. I mean, I get that he has had no physical contact with the outside world, but he has a tv. 

The first half of the book is repetitive. They're stuck in a room. Day to day life in a room isn't that interesting. When told from a 5 year old's perspective it's even more boring. Then you get to the part where they escape. Oh sorry, spoiler alert- they escape. This part was unbelievable also. Once you get past the escape the story is basically over. If you want more excitement or plot twists then you're in for dissapointment. Just end the book there. You really won't be missing anything. Donoghue put the climax in the middle of the book. The second half consists of Jack being integrated into society, which is just like it sounds. Him learning how to behave around others. There is nothing to drive the book to the end. Just resolution and no conflict. 

I will admit that the escape and rescue did have me enthralled and entertained. Though unbelievable, it was exciting to read. These couple chapters don't make up for the rest of the book's blandness. Unbelievable characters and an unisteresting plot make this a dud for me.I feel I could have liked the book better had it been a short story and was told from the mother's perspective. 

There it is. My review. I know that a lot of readers don't agree with me. That is the whole beauty of reading- everyone reads the same book differently! Everyone interprets a book in their own way. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"F*ck Feelings: One Shrink's Practical Advice..."

I mean, really, the title says it all. I listened to the audio version of Michael Bennett, M.D. & Sarah Bennett's book F*ck Feelings and while it was funny, down to earth and entertaining, I don't think anyone should take this too seriously as a self help book. 

I am not sure I have a ton to say about this book. It kept me entertained, had lots of potty-mouthed humor, and was a no-nonsense guide to solving "problems" in your life. I will warn readers- if you are thinking of reading this as a serious self-help book, just don't. Sure it's written my a doctor, but adding in his daughter who is a comedic writer just makes this a long SNL sketch. 

The entire book can pretty much be summed up like this: Life sucks. Not everything can be fair and equal. Some things you just can't change. You can't control everything. Learn to live with problems and issues that can't be changed. Of course, the humor of how all this is said is hilarious when you add constant cuss words. 

This book was amusing but repetitive. After the first couple chapters you can pretty much get the gist of what they are trying to tell the reader. It could have been a lot shorter, and if not for the comedy aspect I would have stopped reading a quarter of the way through. 

A 3 star read for me. Mainly because of the title and all the crude humor and profanity.

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"The Guest Room:A Novel" by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest Room is the first book I have read by author Chris Bohjalian. Since finishing this book and browsing several author pages I have found several of his books I want to read. He has a wonderful way of writing that I really enjoyed. I am so glad I requested his latest novel, it is truly an engrossing, relevant story.

When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.

In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

This novel takes a very hard look at sex trafficking. The story is told from different points of view and really shows the reader the impact this horrific trade has on the lives of anyone who comes in contact with it. 

I was hooked from the first few pages of reading. Bohjalian did a superior job of story building. Once the murder happens you can't help but keep turning pages to find out what will happen and where the story will go.

This book is highly relevant, yet widely unknown in our modern times.  It starts out with an innocent bachelor party and takes it to the darkest scenario possible. So unbelievable yet at the same time completely possible.  The different perspectives are so well developed and engrossing, showing different sides of the same horrible situation and I feel that Bohjalian did an exceptional, straight forward job showing all sides of the sex traffic trade. He (Bohjalian) does not preach or tell his point of view on the topic and leaves the reader to make their own judgments and determinations.

With a plot like this it is easy to predict that the situation won't end well in one way or another. When I started reading I could clearly see that this wasn't going to be an all-around happy ending for all the characters involved. Alexandria, one of the strippers/sex slaves was the character I was rooting for. I wanted it to all work out for her. For her to find her freedom with a happy ending. Richard, the bachelor party host and family man, I was back and forth on liking. At times I sympathized with him and at other times I hated him. I also liked how his wife and daughter were also key characters, having to deal with the consequences of Richard's decision. 

There are so many morals to think over in this story. It shows how a seaming harmless situation can turn disastrous and life changing in an instant. How the aftermath can effect more than just those directly involved. It is a story of sex trafficking, murder, marital distress, violence, blackmail, and over all scandal. It is everything you want in an adult fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense book. Yet the author tells it in such a believable tale that it made me realize this isn't a far-off myth. This could happen to anyone, anywhere. 

The ending wasn't quite what I was expecting, or even one that I "liked". However, I think the author did a wonderful job ending it like he did. It made me ponder and wonder about the book long after I had read the last word. 

The Guest Room is due to be released on January 5, 2016. Go ahead and preorder it now. It doesn't disappoint! A 5 star read for me!

Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for allowing me the ARC in exchange for honest review. 

Happy Reading! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shadows Of Angels Spotlight & Blog Tour!

 This tour is presented by Cedar Fort Publications.

Looking for a new dark fantasy series to read? L.G Rollins just released Shadows of Angels, the first book in the series! 

About the book:
 After the forest dwellers destroy her home and kill her father, Aerbrin sets off on a journey to find the truth about her people, her kingdom, and the mysterious Zaad stone that contains a power she never imagined. Magic and mystery join forces in this intriguing fantasy world. Full of shifting alliances and twists you won't see coming, it's a can't-miss read.

This is definitely on my "read soon" list! You can pick it up on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or directly from Cedar Fort Publishing. Click here to add it to your Goodreads list!

Here's a little excerpt to get you even more excited:

 Shadows of Angels, by L. G. Rollins
"Stay calm, her father’s words echoed in her head. When you find yourself in danger, above all, stay calm. Aerbrin took a deep, steady breath and leaned down, reaching for her bow. one of the Forest Dwellers charged. It collided with her and knocked her to the floor. Raising a knotted fist, he bashed her head.
Sparks exploded across her vision. She tried to raise an arm, tried to call out. Her body wouldn’t respond. The Forest Dwellers grunted again. The creature above her raised its fist again. She looked up. This was the end, she knew. When these monsters attacked, they killed everything. Animals, plants, and particularly humans. No one survived.
Closing her eyes, Aerbrin forced her body to relax. This time, there was no pain."

L. G. Rollins grew up in a far off land fighting dragons, stealing talismans, and traveling with dwarfs and elves. She is especially skilled at bribing giants with sweets. Currently, her husband and four kids live in Utah so that is where she spends most of her time. She may, or may not, have a Zaad Stone. To learn more about L. G. Rollins and her books visit Shadows of Angels comes out December 8th and is the beginning of the Zaad Stone trilogy. Laura Rollins is an avid dessert creator, fiction writer, and probably Lucille Ball's biggest fan ever. She homeschools her four young children and finds the kitchen a perfect place to teach them math - 1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup equals a full cup - science - add the lemon juice to the sugar because the acid is necessary for the sugar to melt - and, of course, manners - please don't grab the beater from your brother, I'll get you a spoon of cookie dough instead. While Laura enjoys all forms of cooking, baking, and any other culinary expression known to man, her heart always leads her back to deserts, treats and the sweet things on the table. Visit her website at

Like I said, this is definitely on my must read soon list! I have been crazy busy and wasn't able to read and review this prior to the blog tour. However, there are plenty of bloggers who have finished it and are raving about it! Check out the Official Cedar Fort Blog Tour Page to see the full tour schedule and find links to other bloggers and reviews! 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Blood, Ink & Fire" by Ashley Mansour

Where to start with Ashley Mansour's debut book Blood, Ink & Fire ? I guess I should ease you in with the summary taken from Amazon:

Imagine a world without books... In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not cannot exist. But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her. Noelle s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world s last hope of bringing them back. Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?

To be honest, when browsing Netgalley I expected the book to be amazing! I had very high expectations because I loved the premise. Being a book lover I have never in my life imagined a world without reading (because that would be a fucking nightmare-duh!). I also love a good sci-fi, futuristic, dystopian young adult book. I will start with what I loved.

The author does a great job at describing the world that Noelle lives in. Mansour's writing throughout the book is solid. I had no problem imagining this futuristic setting. The characters are very likable and it was easy to ease in to (I didn't get mass confusion by being introduced to a lot of characters all at once). There are also tons of book quotes throughout the story (who doesn't like that). 

Then, we come to what I didn't like about this book. It's a long book, but the important and most interesting scenes seemed so rushed. It left me wondering if I'd skipped a page or two. Then the parts I thought were unimportant and boring dragged on forever! I skimmed entire paragraphs to get back to the "meat" of the story. I honestly would have probably stopped reading if it weren't a Netgalley book that I felt obligated to finish and review.

I also just couldn't wrap my head around the two main characters. At times they just didn't make sense. Noelle is supposed to be be a leader, but she was so child-like in her thoughts and actions. I couldn't fully picture her as a heroine and leader. She had inconsistent traits that left me confused. Ledger, I just didn't know. No character development at all. I felt I needed much more information about him.

The overall book is your typical YA dystopian novel. Not a bad debut, but in no way was this a great debut. The negatives outweighed the positives for me. I think it was a great premise that was poorly executed. It just somehow fell flat.  

This is a 3 star book for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Upturn Publishing for allowing me to read for free and give my honest review!
Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Secrets Of A Charmed Life" by Susan Meissner

Do you remember the last phenomenal book you read? The feeling of being so overjoyed your read such an amazing story, then the feeling of sadness once it ended, and then feeling despair, sure that you will never again read another book that compares to its greatness? That's how I felt when Susan Meissner's "Secrets Of A Charmed Life" ended.  

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

I won't tell you much of the story. I wouldn't want to deprive you of the vast array of feelings brought on while reading this novel. Every emotion from happiness, fear, sadness, anger, love, loss and anxiety is felt throughout this story. Meissner did a wonderful job writing. I was surprised to look up from reading and see that I was in my 2015 living room in Kansas, USA and not in 1940s war-torn England. 

Historical Fiction has become one of my favorite genres as of late. I loved that Meissner seamlessly combined a modern day narrative with historical memories and storytelling. There is a simplicity to the writing, yet the story is deeply dimensional. Meissner transports the reader to a time and place that I, as an American born in the 80s, never even imagined but could see every little detail. It is a true glimpse of a war and the effects of the devastation it brought to all who lived it.

This story is told in perspectives of 3 characters starting with a present day conversation, leading to a reminiscence of the past, then told through the perspective of past journal entries, and ending once again in present day. The center of this story revolves around events leading up to, during, and after The London Blitz. 

The theme throughout this book is choices. The choices we make can effect others around us, but when life altering events happen because of a choice, is the person who made it solely to blame? This book has vivid character development and luscious scenery descriptions. It was easy to get lost in the story.

Though I loved the book overall, the ending seemed rushed. Like stated before, the last part is told through the perspective of past journal entries. It sort of made me feel detached from the story. Like I was no longer a part of the story, but a person peaking in. Not a huge issue, but I definitely noticed the small disengagement I had despite the fact I wanted to find out what happens. 

All in all, this was a wonderful story saturated with a time in history that fascinates me. A 5 star read for me! I hope you like it too! 

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Almost Interesting: The Memoir" by David Spade

I am a total Saturday Night Live fan, so I was very excited to learn that David Spade was writing a memoir. After seeing him promote his book a couple times on morning news shows, I was even more excited to hear that he, himself, would be the narrator for the audio version. "Almost Interesting:The Memoir" is David Spade's retelling of his early life,his time on SNL, and the friendships he made with other SNL cast members.

This memoir starts at the beginning. Spade explains his life as a child. From his father leaving, growing up poor but not realizing how poor they are, being bullied at school for being so small and short, life with his stepfather, and even his quest for girls. Of course, it's all told in his sarcastic, smart-ass, no nonsense tone of voice which makes it even more hilarious. I really do feel like autobiographies and memoirs should always be listened to if the audio version is by the subject themselves. It just adds so much more to the experience. 

We are then told about his early days of trying to break into the comedy scene. He tells of his time on SNL and how he watched his friends rise to stardom while feeling like he wasn't getting the same caliber of recognition.  We do hear stories about Chris Farley and his movie making time during Tommy Boy. Spade always seems honest and willing to address most rumors. 

Then the story kind of fizzles out. He doesn't really get into his years after SNL on sitcoms, which was surprising since he confessed that sitcoms were his goal when first getting into comedy. The book ends with the infamous "Skippy Attack", but has absolutely no mention of the last 15 years of his life.

I would have loved to hear about why he chose to leave SNL, his struggles landing roles on sitcoms, and of course what he has been up to since 2000. This book was interesting... almost interesting. Funny stories about the past but I wish he also talked about his present life.

I give 4 stars for the first 2/3 of the book and 2 stars for the last 1/3, which I will average to a 3 star rating.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sara Raasch's "Ice Like Fire"

I am not sure that I actually enjoyed this book or if I just raced to finish it because I loved the first book of this series.

 Sara Raasch's Ice Like Fire is the second book in the Snow Like Ashes series. This second book is slow. Very slow. Nothing even remotely exciting happens until the very end. The story was constantly moving and hinting towards something- a major achievement, a battle, or even an unforeseen plot twist- but for the majority I was just being strung along. I kept reading, in hopes of some excitement and thinking I would soon get there, but then I was left hanging and having to wait for book 3 to be published.

The first problem I had was the crazy amount of character names thrown out at me from the start. It has been a year since the first book, and now I am expected to remember every side character and their purpose? Really? To add insult to injury I was also supposed to remember every place previously mentioned in this vast magical empire as well. I just felt confused. I had remembered main characters and the gist of the previous book, but this was a bit much.From the get-go this book was a mess. I spent a lot of the beginning of the book going to Book Series Recap so I wasn't lost.

This book is told in first person narrative, switching back and forth between Meira and Mathers' points of view.  I am not sure why Raasch chose this path because both characters are pretty much obsessing, pondering and wallowing about the same issues. It is non-stop repetitive emotions and sorrows. Constant self pity and being anxious about what to do next for the Kingdom of Winter, but doing nothing to move forward. Like I said, very little actually happens.

The entire time I read Ice Like Fire I was thinking how disappointed I was, primarily because I absolutely LOVED Snow Like Ashes. Perhaps Raasch just used Book 2 as a set-up for an epic ending in Book 3? Whatever the plans, this book seems like just a filler. Something the overall story probably could have done without. 

The characters weren't one bit likable in this story. What happened to strong-headed, kick-ass, willing-to-do-anything, fearless Meira? All she did was whine, complain, and wallow in her own self pity. Obsessing over and over again about what to do, but taking no action in actually getting it done. It's like her character development took a giant step backwards. They rest of the characters were so boring they aren't even worth mentioning. 

Don't get me wrong, the last 25% of this book was interesting, however it was too little too late. By the time I reached the exciting part of this journey I had no more patience. Just when it starts getting good (the last 10%) we are left in a cliffhanger. Overall it lacks the magical, fantastically entertaining action that Snow Like Ashes was all about. This book was nothing but a drawn out, painful read to set us up for Book 3. Classic "middle book syndrome". It did not justify the empty feeling I felt while reading the majority of it. I hope the third book doesn't leave me this disappointed

I hate to be such a downer. This series started off so wonderful that it pains me to write this review. I look forward to the last book. I give Ice Like Fire a 2.5 star rating.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Leah Remini's "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology"

Less than 24 hours. That is how long it took me to finish Leah Remini's book Troublemaker. I chose listen to the audio book for various reasons and I am so glad I chose the audio route. It is actually read by Leah Remini herself! Every smart-ass comment, every bitchy tone of voice, every angry accusation she makes, all of it is wholly felt when you listen to this book read by the author that wrote it. I can't imagine experiencing this book any other way. 

I am not what I would describe as a Leah Remini "fan". I mean, sure, I remember watching her on Saved By The Bell and a few other parts she had in various movies. I have honestly never watched an entire episode of The King of Queens or Dancing With The Stars. I will occasionally stop flipping through channels and watch her TLC show Its All Relative because I do find her funny, outgoing, beautiful, and a little bit crazy. 

I will admit that I am a tad bit obsessed with all the Scientology books and documentaries that have been published and aired recently. My liking of Remini along with my fascination of all things related to cults made this book a must read (or listen) for me.

This is the 3rd book I have read from an ex-member of the Church of Scientology. A few days ago I wrote my book review of Jenna Miscavige Hill's book Beyond Belief and you can read my post about it here. 

Remini's book is is a no nonsense, no bullshit, no excuse account of her life, both as a child and adult, in the world of Scientology. She describes how she was brought into the cult, what she had to endure as a child and teenager in the Sea Org, and her life as a married woman & mother as a church member. She was a woman who devoted her entire life to the belief system that Scientology and Dianetics founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote in all of his books. 

The way she tells her life story is such an honest, hilarious and shocking story that I was immediately sucked in. The entire book is not about blaming the church, but rather she explains (in her no-holds-barred attitude) why she made the life choices she made. She goes into exquisite detail on the reasons behind her departure from the church. She even lets readers know her emotions and feelings throughout the different times of her life. She explains what her mindset was that made her both stay and ultimately decide to leave.

Although she claims that she no longer believes in the entire cult, she is very detailed in stating why she left. Greedy, money-hungry, and abusive (both verbally and physically) higher ups in the church made her start to question her beliefs. She claims that thier actions and behavior no longer aligned with the teachings of L.R.H.. It is something I could relate to, since I spent the first 17 years of my life deeply involved in a non-denominational Christian megachurch. It made me realize that organized religion can quickly turn into a horrific, overpowering nightmare in a person's life. It doesn't matter if a person believes in God, Allah, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or Thetans, any church has the power to ruin lives and families if the people in charge are corrupt. 

I do feel like Remini gave a truthful account in this memoir. She doesn't hold back. She tells it like it is. She doesn't play the victim but rather fully confesses to the awful things she has done and takes full accountability for the bad decisions she has made. 

In the final chapters of the book she explains how she has moved on with her life. It is still a hard road for her. Finding out everything you have ever believed in is a lie can be jaw dropping to anyone (think Neo in The Matrix movies). I could relate because there was a period of shock and awe I went through after leaving my church. She is thankful that her family has left the church also and they are all together to support each other after the horrific experience of breaking from the church.

This is a great read for those who are interested in Scientology. If you haven't previously read or learned the basics of Scientology beliefs, you might be a bit lost, as Remini explains the very basics. I would suggest Going Clear or Beyond Belief be read before diving into this book since those two books give much more detail into the church. Still, this is a 5-star read for me! 

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommended by Katarina Bivald

Sometimes you just need to take a break from the thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction books to just read a cozy, feel-good book. That is exactly what my plan was when I requested Katrina Bivald's The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommended: A Novel from Netgalley

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor -- not much else to do in a small town that's almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she'd start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together – and change everything.
There's a book for every person ... and a person for every book.

Sara is a spinster bookworm. She has taken a chance, shaken up her normal, mundane routine and all she has ever known to travel abroad to the United States. She arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden in hopes of meeting her pen pal and book exchanging friend. However, when she arrives she is shocked and confused to find out that her "friend" (she has only written and never actually met her) has passed away. Residents of Broken Wheel immediately take in Sara and try to make her at-home. 

This book is a mix of narrative and letters exchanged between Sara and her (now diseased) friend Amy. Bivald does a phenomenal job describing the town with its quirky, big-hearted,  but opinionated residents. The character descriptions in this book are so vivid that it made me feel like I was a resident of Broken Wheel also. It's so full of charming, lovable characters.

Broken Wheel is a town on it's last leg. It is a town that is holding on to all it has known to save it from dying. The residents have their issues and quirks, but Sara feels she must somehow contribute to this town full of residents who have, for some reason, welcomed her with open arms. They don't allow her to pay for anything. Rent, groceries, etc. are all offered up free of charge. She decides to give back with what she knows best- books! She opens a bookstore of sort.

Sara is on a visa so she is not allowed to make money. She decides to open an exchange bookstore- a library for the town. She is determined to find a book that is a perfect fit for everyone, yet at the same time introduce them to a genre that is a bit out of their comfort zone. She has a huge love of books and her contagious book love spills over to the residents. 

There are a few twists and turns that were surprising and made it easy to keep reading. Any good book needs a bit of mystery, adventure and a plot twist! I don't want to give too much away. If you need a relaxing, easy to follow, feel good, quick read, you need to pick this book up! 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommended is set to be released January 19, 2016. Add it to your TBR list! It's a perfectly cozy winter read! I give it 4 stars!

Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for allowing me this eARC! 

Happy Reading! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology... by Jenna Miscavige Hill

I will admit that I love reading, listening to podcasts (Sword & Scale Podcast episode 50 is an AMAZING recount of Jonestown) and watching shows about cults. I'm not sure what attracts me to them, but perhaps it stems from my own upbringing in a non-denominational Christian megachurch, multiplied by 1000% of course. From the Branch Davidians, to the Manson Family, to Heaven's Gate, and The People's Temple, I just can't get enough. Scientology is my newest cult obsession. 

My obsession with The Church of Scientology started when I watched the HBO documentary "Going Clear". I was immediately intrigued and decided to also read the book of the same name. It is a very good documentary and book and I suggest watching and/or reading it if you are also cult obsessed. This book has been my favorite Scientology book to date. I do have plans to read Leah Remini's new book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology soon. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Church of Scientology and their beliefs you can read this overview.

Jenna Miscavige Hill with co-author Lisa Pulitzer wrote Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. Hill was a 3rd generation Scientologist and is the niece of current Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Her parents were also at one time high ranking church officials before they left the church. In this tell-all memoir she describes her life as a child raised in the highest ranks of the church's ministry called "The Sea Org". 

I like this book because it is a first hand account of this cult with the majority of the story taking place when she was a child. A minor with no say in how she should live her life. This is a disturbing look inside the cult and what it does to children and their families.

Hill's parents joined the Sea Org when she was a toddler. Most of her childhood is absent of both her parents. They left her to fulfill their calling in the church and to be raised by other church members.   Her life on "The Ranch" was day in and day out of doing hard labor with other children of high ranking Scientologists with very little to no knowledge of "the outside world". The whole experience seemed to be children in the middle of nowhere taking care of other children with very little adult supervision.

Despite her horrible and scary childhood, she stays devoted to the church and decides to become a Sea Org member herself. Flip flopping between Church bases in both California and Florida she describes her chilling and, at times, unbelievable climb up the ranks. Living in "dorms" not suitable for even an animal to inhabit, making little to no money to live on, and spending hours on end in sessions to "clear" her- aka brainwash her into their beliefs.

To me the most interesting part of the book was at the end when her and her husband (also a Sea Org member) decide to leave the church. It is amazing the horrific things the church did and said to keep them from talking to both each other and their families. It is chilling the power church officials thought they had over its members.

I highly recommend this book. It is a one of a kind glimpse into the Church of Scientology from a child/teen's point of view. Hill does a wonderful job explaining church beliefs and it really helped me understand the basis of the church's practices. 

Still married to her ex-Scientologist husband and now a mother, Jenna Miscavige Hill  runs a website to help support others who also want to leave the church. You can visit the site and read other ex-member stories about this horrific cult here. 

I "read" this book as an audio book that was narrated by Sandy Rustin. It was engrossing and very easy to follow along. I also checked the physical book out from my library because it included personal pictures. Whichever way you decide to read this book, you won't be disappointed! 

Happy Reading!