Interview with the Robot by Lee Bacon

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 1/31/20-2/3/20

How I Found It: Audible

This book marks off the “A Book Narrated by a Child” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

Hey everyone! Today’s book is one of the Audible Originals selections from January 2020. In this story, a 12-year-old girl is caught stealing from a store in NYC. Told through the meetings between her and her social worker, we follow the story of how a she is a robot and how she got to New York.

This book is designed for children ages 10+, so the book is not a difficult listen. However, the cool part about being designed for children is that this whole audiobook is a production. There were multiple voice actors, music, and overall sound effects that made the story come to life.

I love that audiobooks are being designed for the younger generation. The more opportunities are available to encourage young people to read, the better are chances are for literacy and future book authors.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 1/6/20-1/10/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Recognizing that I have listened for about 20 hours a week, I figured I could knock this book off my TBR pile. All I really knew going into this book was that it was going to be long and probably not the type of book I would choose for myself. I was extremely surprised by the content within the book, and while I probably will never pick it up for myself again, here are my thoughts:

Set in France during World War II, Varian Fry is working with the US government to get artists out of Europe and into a safer country. he ends up running into his former lover, Elliot Grant, and is requested to get Tobias Katznelson, son of Grant’s current lover Gregor, safe passage to the US. Following the course of a few months, we watch as Varian goes through 70 million complications while also falling in love over again with Grant.

I feel like I probably didn’t explain this well, but how else do you explain 550 pages? There is both so much that happened and also not that much, which shows just how futile it felt to get these extraordinary people into safety.

A lot of this book is about the relationship between Grant and Varian, which is cool because homosexuality was so taboo at this point of history. My biggest issue is that so much of the relationship took away from the story of the book. There needed to be a balance that wasn’t there, and so I understand why some people were upset by this. It almost felt like this book didn’t know what it wanted to be the focus so it made EVERYTHING the focus.

According to the author’s note, Varian Fry was a real man who saved many artists out of France. According to an interaction with a man named Hessel, the author developed a homosexual tendency for Varian. There was no Elliot Grant in history. Many of the key players in this book are of the author’s inventions, but that does not take away from the lives that he saved. While I knew that there was a movement to save artists in World War II, especially because Nazi Germany was attempting to destroy art, I never had a name to associate with it.

This is a really deep read that requires a lot of focus and patience. There are phrases in French (and potentially other languages too) and it can be very dense at times. But at the end of the day, it is a read that is impactful, and I hope that you take the time to read about this interesting history. Since this is the format, I guess I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Kind Chemist Wife by Sarah Bigham

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 3/6/20-3/7/20

How I Found It: Facebook

This book marks off the “A Book With 5 or Less Reviews on Goodreads” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

So I’ll be honest, this is probably going to be really biased. The author is the wife of a kind chemist, A.K.A. the best professor I have ever had. I have only met Sarah twice, and only talked to her the one time. I know about her struggles with chronic illness as my friendship with my professor has evolved. As someone who reads book as a very time-intensive hobby, I immediately jumped on the purchase train, figuring that I would put out the review as quickly as I could.

Sarah has a serious of chronic conditions which essentially says that it hurts to move, and sometimes when she is completely still. Using a series of 7,000,000 medical professions (slight exaggeration), Sarah is trying to just get by. Through stories of her time as an educator and as a patient, Sarah explores her life using humor and empathy to give a slight insight into her life.

I truly loved the writing style in this book, and I read through it really quickly. Though I got through it fast, it is super memorable and her story has been bouncing around in my head all day. Some of the stories seem repetitive, but that is because they are a collection of essays posted in different journals. It is weird to know about her life and then connecting it to the stories in the book, so I’m not sure I can play a non-biased reviewer on whether you can come into this book and understand her situation, but I don’t think that my insight gives me an unfair advantage as a reader. I do think that I can’t give an unbiased star rating, but screw it, here are my 5 stars, so go out and get this book!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Sisters by Dervla McTieran

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 1/24/20

How I Found It: Audible

Set in Ireland, a woman gets left with a case that she has to defend. The case revolves around a murder, and the only evidence is 2 witness statements. When she believes the case is fragile at best, she asks for her sisters opinion. Soon, the two sisters begin solving the case and save a man’s life.

There was a little bit of a language barrier at some points, but that is more an issue with being American and dumb. Also, murder in an Irish accent is the cutest thing I have ever heard. It kinda sounds like when a villain is trying to be really villain-y.

The story was okay, though a little difficult to get into, especially because they don’t really explain what is going on in the beginning. You have to take a little bit of a leap of faith, but the story is very compact and good.

For anyone who likes mystery/thriller type stories but also don’t have a lot of time, this is kinda the best of both worlds. I would give this 5 out of 5 stars, and it is in a series, but I’m not sure if and when it will be on the blog.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 12/30/19-12/31/19

How I Found It: Once Upon a Book Club, Book of the Month

Hey guys! If this is your first time on this blog, I am obsessed with books. And I also have zero self control, because obviously. Since I knew that I had this box at home, and also trying to do the noble thing and clean the house and definitely not for selfish reasons, I am going to be opening and reviewing this box!

Page 25

Okay, here’s the thing. I am never going to do anything with this rabbit’s foot thingy. I don’t want it, and I am super grossed out by it. I had a pretty big feeling when I was listening that I was going to be getting this, but this thing freaks me out.

Page 102

Not sure if this is supposed to be a universal passport holder or if it is meant to hold a notebook, or what, but I’m still not sure if I am going to keep this. It is extremely nice quality, just not something I can see myself using.

Page 110

Okay, so this is where I got after my 8 hour work day. There is a lot I don’t understand about this book, but I will try and explain as much as I can. So there’s this girl, Libby, who finds out that she was the baby that was left after a suicide pact. She gets her parent’s house as she comes of age, and she is trying to process what happened. When she was at the house, she heard something that sounded like a cough coming from upstairs, but I don’t remember much coming from that yet. Also, there’s this lady, Lucy, who has 2 kids and a dog, that is stuck in France, but I think that she was there when the suicide pact happened. My guess is that she was the daughter of the parents who died (aka Libby’s sister), but I am completely speculating at this point. And we follow Henry, Libby’s older brother, during the events for the family leading up to the suicide pact.

Page 179

We all know by now that there is one gift in every OUABC box that is just a piece of paper or something that came right off the printer. This is that gift for this box, so moving on!

Page 265

Yooooooooooo! This is soooo nice! I am probably going to start using this wallet! I have nothing more to say, this is one of the coolest things I have gotten in these boxes!

Page 268

Another successful day at work and this is where we are at! Firstly, one of the things I dislike about the audiobook is that it doesn’t give you the time of Henry’s story so it’s hard to get a sense of time in his sections.

As for the story: Okay, there is a lot I didn’t talk about in the first section because I didn’t think it would be relevant but now it is. Okay, so originally in the house, the Lamb family was made up of Henry Sr., Martina, Henry Jr. and his sister, whose name I can’t remember being given, but I am not sure on that. When the family starts to run low on money, Martina allows Birdie and her partner, Justin, to come live in the house. Eventually, she also allows David and Sally Thomsen and their two children, Phineas and Clemency.

Over time, Henry Sr. began to lose control of the house after a stroke leaves him debilitated. David soon begins to take over the house routines, including switching everyone to a vegan diet and taking away all their liberties. Phineas begins to rebel against his father, often taking Henry Jr. down with him.

Libby seeks help from Miller Roe, the journalist that wrote about her family’s history. They end up finding out who produced the cough upstairs, Phineas. And then they get stuck in his Airbnb and get drugged in the process? IDK man, that got weird fast.

Oh, and Lucy! She ended up killing a man to get her and her kids to the house in Chelsea. We know she spent a lot of time there, but not much else.

Final Thoughts

Once I sat down and wrote down what I knew from listening all day, I realized that I had a pretty good idea about how it would end. It truly is just about putting all the pieces together, and more importantly, realizing that what you have is pieces. There were obviously things that surprised me, but if you pay attention and realize the significance of all the details, you can easily figure it more or less out.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, and if I wasn’t pushing myself to read this one, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. But I do think that it is purely because of my preferences and not because the book isn’t good. I will go ahead and say that this book is a 4 out of 5 stars, plus or minus half a star depending on how you enjoy the writing style.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 2/18/20-2/21/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This was a wild card for me. I have statistically not enjoyed fantasy novels, but there is so much humor in this book that it doesn’t feel like a normal fantasy novel. I had to catch myself for a minute because I was going to say it was different than any other novel in the genre, but the humor aspect is very similar to Ninth House. Along with that book, I will happily be reading the sequel to these novels whenever they come out!

Aaslo is a forester in the land of Aldrea. He grew up with his “brother in all things”, Matthias, who is the prophetic savior of the world. But when Matthias is killed, Aaslo decides to taken on Matthias’ mission to save the world. In order to prove to the king that the savior is dead, Aaslo had to carry his head to the palace. Upon entering the city, he meets two thieves named Peck and Mory, who become part of his gang of misfits. The king essentially said he wouldn’t touch the situation with a 10-foot-pole, causing Aaslo to seek help from someone else. Trying to find the next place of support, Aaslo meets Teza, a healer.

Intermingled with Aaslo’s story is the story of Myropa. She is a reaper, meaning she takes the souls of dead people and returns them into the Sea of Transcendence, and that she is associated with the gods. She begins to follow Aaslo in order to report back to the gods as to what is going on in the savior pathway. She gives us insight into how the gods are manipulating the world in order to fulfill the prophecy.

I love the humor in this book. I would say that this is a fantasy comedy (or comedy fantasy, however you want to phrase it) in that both parts feel equally identifying for this novel. I do think that for people who are head over heels in love with fantasy novels, this book might not be as good, but it allows people who aren’t as interested in fantasy to explore a new genre.

As for the fantasy element, I personally liked that we got a look in on the gods. I did think the whole adventure-esque story was extremely confusing and felt more like a means of connecting fantasy elements than because she was telling a real story. Some of the mage stuff was a little confusing (which if you have a print copy of the book, there are indexes to provide context), but I really enjoyed the audiobook of this novel.

I was extremely nervous as I was approaching the end because I wasn’t sure how this was going to end. I have said time and again that if you are going to write a series, each book should have an actual ending and not just a complete cliffhanger. I think that this book does have somewhat of a resolution, but obviously it sets up for another novel, so there is a cliffhanger ending. I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, but I think that value can change depending on how the series ends.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 2/3/20-2/4/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

A young girl on the fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum has an adoration for vikings. She believes that in order for her to be a viking, she needs a fair maiden, to get money for her hoard, to love and maintain her tribe, and listen to the wise man (aka her therapist). Throughout this book, we watch as our viking, Zelda, goes on her quest to become legendary.

Zelda’s brother, Gert, is trying to supply a life for his sister. Many people say that she couldn’t become independent, and he has continued to work and go to school, both things that many people say he couldn’t do either. He finds himself asking for help from a drug dealer, which then puts him in the position of working for him.

This book is an interesting discussion about what is capable of a person, and how mental/ development health issues don’t necessary impede your ability to become independent, and how determination and hard work are the main factors. It reminds me a lot of The Reckless Oath We Made, which I also highly recommend you read.

The main character has some mental retardation, so the majority of the book sounds stilted. I don’t think that it is too bad, especially when you are physically reading it instead of having it read to you. There are moments that seem real awkward, especially when she plans losing her virginity to her boyfriend. There are many times I wish I could walk through the book and help her understand situations, but as the book continues, we see how more educated about the world she becomes. I think that this book will be a book that people will remember for a while, and I hope you all will read it! I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

How I Read It: Audiobook/Ebook

Dates Read: 2/26/20-2/28/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “NY Times Best Seller” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

Trigger warning: This book follows migrants traveling through Mexico to get to the United States. There is strong political talk, discussions of cartels/gangs, corruption, rape, assault, and extreme levels of murder. Be warned, this is a hard book to read, but also an important book to read. Read at your own discretion.

Look, you have to read this because it has Oprah’s stamp of approval. And as someone who was raised watching Drake and Josh, you must always respect Oprah! But seriously, Oprah picks books that have cultural significance upon a major historical moment (i.e. The Water Dancer about the underground railroad or The Poisonwood Bible about the Congo post-colonization), and this book is no exception.

In Tolupeca, Mexico, Lydia and her son, Luca, survive a mass shooting that led to the death of 16 family members. Believing that this was the work of the head of the cartel, Lydia takes Luca so that they can immigrate to the United States of America. We follow the two migrants as they move up Mexico, and we track what occurs for illegal immigrants to get to the US.

Personally, I have learned a lot about El Chapo thanks to my Netflix account. From everything I have learned about him, he was highly respected by his community for his philanthropy, but he also killed a lot of people, including innocents. And I never could understand why anyone could support him, until I realized that he is just as human as the rest of us, even if we say without ever being in the situations he was in that we would never have made those decisions. But this book kinda raises a good point: we are so obsessed with these powerful bad men that we forget about the people they killed, tortured, maimed, or threatened. And those people deserve our respect more than the people who are oppressing them. So this book is for the unsung heros who had to be heros for themselves.

I was born an American citizen, as were my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, so on and so forth. I never once had to question whether I could apply for college, get a job, or could live in my childhood home without repercussions. And there is a lot of ignorance that comes from never feeling unsure about my security, it was always something I just expected. I never really felt unsafe by my living conditions. But there are people who are afraid to walk out their door everyday because someone may be there with a gun, or that someone will track them to the ends of the Earth. And with all of that being said, I need to get hit on the top of the head with some truth in order for me to get out of this ignorance, which this book is determined to do. I am grateful to at least have some idea of what it is like, but of course I also wish it wasn’t true.

From the first moment I started listening to this book, I was all in. There was never a moment where I wasn’t trying to process more of this story (and the two sleepless nights fueled by nightmares are a testament to how hard I was trying to process what happened), and I was constantly trying to keep reading to find out what happens. The writing style is crazy good and it’s definitely worth taking the time to read. I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars (although I probably will never pick it up and reread it).

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Holdout by Graham Moore

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 2/24/20-2/25/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book With a Red Spine” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

I cannot express to you the level of hype I am currently feeling. I definitely screamed many times in my car (not at my place of work because I have a little shred of dignity) and made a lot of weird krumping-styled arm movements followed by a weird “oooh” sound. Here’s the thing: I grew up reading Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha Christie. I have read a lot of thriller books, and very few have so unapologetically had my full attention for hours on end, especially just listening to it. And this book ticked everything on my list. So here’s why you should read it:

Mya Seales is a successful defense attorney in Los Angeles, California, United States of America. But her past catches up to her when her fellow juror from a former murder trial, Rick, comes and invites her to a reunion of the jurors. But the reunion doesn’t go as planned when Rick is found dead in her hotel room. Soon Mya finds herself the prime suspect in a murder trial, with an eerie deja vu of the former trial. Alternating between the former trial and her investigation into Rick’s murder, we follow what really happened between all these jurors and how hard it is to find the truth when everyone needs to protect themselves.

Moore finds a way to give us a snapshot of the mindset of each of the jurors as they went through the trial, and how their connections are pieced together. This book is so intricate in its connections but also easy to follow as a reader. As we dive deeper into this world, you can’t help but want to know more, and soon you are so hooked that you don’t even notice the passage of time around you.

And while I am talking about a lot of really amazing things that this book does, I do think that there were a few easter eggs that were a little too easy to piece together. And while I can’t really tell you what they were because I’m trying not to give away any bigger part of the story, I will say that I still felt like I had a big eureka moment when I figured out a little bit before the book revealed bits of the ending.

Also, speaking of things being easy to piece together, I had a pretty good suspicion of who was Rick’s murderer for the majority of the book. There were certain things that gave me a gut reaction, and honestly I don’t even know what some of those things were, but I had a specific killer in mind. But that may be more of a personal feeling than a universal one. I would personally give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I would totally pick this book up again and reread it one day!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 11/13/19-11/19/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

When this book was first listed, I wasn’t interested. I ultimately didn’t choose it that month, and put it in the Audible backburner. I am trying to be more lenient about what I read/ listen to, so I started using a decision wheel app to pick my next listen/read, and this just happened to be the one that was picked. Surprisingly, I was entranced as I got into this book, and soon it became something I listened to around the house, when I wasn’t actively reading it of course. When it comes to writing a review, I fully recognize how difficult it would be to do this without introducing all the key characters, so here goes nothing!

The Holland-Quinn Family This family is made of Rose, Gareth, and Emma (known as Q). Rose is a neuroscience researcher who is working towards a large grant that could mean working with the National Institute of Health (which for my non-science friends, is a BIG deal). Gareth is an adjunct professor that teaches English. He had a novel that led to poor to mediocre reviews, and much of his earnings are being held until he releases another novel. Rose and Gareth are going through couple’s therapy to try and fix their weakening marriage. Emma Q is an incredibly bright 12 year old who loves to read, specifically young adult novels. She is a natural when it comes to horseback riding, and some may call that talent a “gift”. The focused member of this family is Rose.

The Zellar Family This family is made of Samantha, Kevin, and Emma (known as Z). Samantha was a personal trainer (she may still be a personal trainer, though many of her attributes, along with Kevin are not overtly discussed). Kevin is someone within the financial realm, possibly an investment broker. Emma Z is extremely privileged, and gets many opportunities thanks to her parents’ money and connections. One of these opportunities includes taking a college-level leadership class, which is heavily listed as her “gift”. The focused member of this family is Emma Z.

The Frye Family This family is made of Lauren, Xander, and Tessa. I can’t remember what Lauren does for a living, but I do know that she is a widowed mother of 2. Her daughter, Tessa, is a 16-year-old who is recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction that sent her to rehab. She has a vlog where she posts to her friends from rehab what is going on in her day to day life. Some of those vlogs are highlighted in the book. She has a job at Bloom Again, a consignment store, where she sometimes takes the clothes and modifies them to create something new. These new fashion pieces are considered her “gift”. Xander is a genius little 12-year-old kid. He is interested in chess, and has researched most of the math involved in the game of chess. He is not as verbal as the girls, but his interest in math and science is what considers him “gifted”. The focused member of this family is Xander (and Tessa’s vlog).

The Unsworth-Chaudhury family Firstly, name alone this family oozes class. This family is made of Azra, Beck, Sonja, Charlie, Aiden, and Roy. Azra is the owner of Bloom Again and the mother of twins, Charlie and Aiden. She is on Indian descent and that causes the twins to be made fun of. Beck is the ex-husband of Azra and current husband of Sonja. He is a graphic designer who had a trust fund that has dried up. This has put not only his personal, but also business expenses at risk. Sonja used to be the au pair for the twins, but after an affair, became Beck’s wife. They have a son, Roy together who is a baby throughout the story. Charlie and Aiden are 12-year-old boys with a passion for soccer. As Charlie’s passion dies, Aiden has begun to show exceeding promise on the pitch (which is considered his “gift”). The focused member of this family is Beck.

The Yupanqui family I’m not sure if all of them have the name Yupanqui, but hey, I tried. Silea and her mother Quechua normally clean the Zellar and Holland-Quinn homes. But when Silea is injured, Quechua and Silea’s son, Atik, take over for her. Atik is extremely interested in origami, and he has found ways to create incredible paper creatures, including zoos and architecture. That along with being trilingual is his “gift”. Quechua is extremely suspicious of the new gifted school and is often discouraging.

Okay, so in the city of Crystal, CO, USA, a new public school designed for “gifted students” is opening up, and every child going into the grade 6-12 can take a cognitive proficiency (CogPro) exam to get in. Once the CogPro eliminates the majority of students, each of the selected students will turn in a portfolio to truly assess their “gifts”.

The mothers of these families (Azra, Rose, Samantha, and Lauren) met at a mommy and me swim class when their kids were around 1-year-old. Now they are inseparable, with their children growing up beside each other. But with the new gifted school coming, they are competing with each other for coveted spots, which could just mean admission to the Ivys. Each of the families through the eyes of Rose, Emma Z, Xander, Tessa’s vlog, Beck, and Quechua show their connections as they continue to withstand the pressure of being gifted. But enough pressure, and their bonds could break, with disastrous consequences.

Here’s the thing: A LOT happens. More than a simple post could ever explain. And I don’t want to make a post where I explain all the drama that unfolds without completely explaining the whole story. So, to my fellow readers, pick this one up, you won’t regret it. It is incredibly witty, funny, and important. Look, I’m not a parent (except to a demon child puppy), but I recognize how badly we all want to be number one, and this novel really tells the story of what we are willing to sacrifice to be on top. The commentary on society is insane, and I can’t begin to explain why every single person should read this one. Plus the writing style is so easy to read (but not too easy, so you don’t feel dumb while reading it). I ultimately would give this book a 4.75 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!