Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 1/14/20-1/15/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book Set on an Airplane” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

I remember thinking when I saw the cover that this book was going to be big. But I did not expect for it to blow up as much as it has, including getting featured on Jenna Bush’s book club (and mentioned on the Today Show). To give you some perspective on how into this book I was, I average about 4.5 hours of listening while at work, and yesterday I listened to about 5.5 hours of my 6.5 hour work day. Lots of numbers, but essentially, I listened to this book A LOT. And I couldn’t get enough. This book is totally worth the hype. Okay, sales pitch over, let’s get into the synopsis:

The Adler family is moving to LA from NYC. 15-year-old Jordan and 12-year-old Eddie are just trying to deal with this huge change. For Jordan, that means challenging his parents, including going vegan, refusing the scanner thing at the airport security, and dating the girl at the deli. For Eddie, that means refusing to face the change. The family boards flight 2977 to start their new lives.

Eddie, now known as Edward, wakes up to learn he is the lone survivor of the Flight 2977 crash. At 12-years-old, he has to deal with survivor guilt, grief, PTSD, insomnia and a bunch of other mental health issues. Following his life over the next 3 or so years, we watch Edward grow up and come to terms with his past.

Switching between the passengers on the flight and Edward’s new life post-crash, we watch the plane crash and Edward grow in a beautiful juxtaposition.

I don’t have a lot more I can say. This book is beautiful in its openness. And while I don’t recommend reading this on a plane (for obvious reasons), I do recommend learning about Edward and what he had to overcome.

As for the cultural significance: this story is based off of 2 plane crashes, one of which where the only survivor was a 9-year-old boy. We have this tendency to wonder “what happened to them?” after a tragedy strikes someone, and this story discusses what it’s like to be that person. But even more so, it shows how broken people are when tragedy strikes, and how we need someone, anyone, to be able to show our pain. All I’ll say is read it, love it, enjoy it, and never let it leave you. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I will never not encourage you to read 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 Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 11/20/19-11/24/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

I’ll be honest, I’m not a psychologist. At all. In fact, I got a C in Intro to Psychology when I took it as a freshman in college. To me, psychology is not that interesting in the abstract, but I find particular case studies interesting. For example, the Stanford Prison Experiment (which was created into a movie in 2015) and Pavlov’s experiments have always interested me. This book discusses a study called Being Sane in Insane Places by David Rosenhan. In this study, Rosenhan gets 8 mentally healthy people to go into an insane asylum and initially convince them they are insane, then trying to prove their sanity to get back out. Within this book, we learn about the people that were involved, especially Rosenhan, and how mental health analysis has changed both in connection to this study and as our view of mental health has changed.

Firstly, let’s start with Cahalan. When she was in her twenties, she was hospitalized with symptoms of schizophrenia. While many people with that diagnosis would be stuck in psychiatric wards, her parents fought for another reason. Eventually, a thoughtful doctor found the illness was autoimmune encephalitis, which is when your body attacks the brain. The disease was caught just in time, and Cahalan was able to fully recover. Another woman had the same disease but it was not caught early enough, and now she is forced to live in a hospital for the rest of her life. Since she could have easily been the woman, Cahalan shared her story in a memoir, called Brain on Fire (which has been adapted into a Netflix movie in 2018).

In Rosenhan’s study, 9 people (including Rosenhan himself) went into a mental hospital intake area saying that they heard voices that said something along the lines of “empty”, “thud”, and “hollow”. According to his results, 8 of the pseudopatients were given a schizophrenia diagnosis, with one pseudopatient receiving a manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) diagnosis. Most stays lasted between 10-30 days, while some pseudopatients stayed in hospitals for as long as 3 months (over multiple stays). According to Rosenhan, all pseudopatients left the hospital against medical advice “in remission”. (One of the pseudopatients was not listed in the original study, but rather in a supplemental report. This supplemental report was important because the patient, according to Rosenhan, could not be counted because he lied about other aspects of his life that could result in a mental health disorder.)

When Rosenhan reported the study in 1973, along with Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy, mental health reform came to the US. But this study received A LOT of criticism. One of those problems was the small number of pseudopatients, which causes a lot of extrapolation. Also, Robert Spitzer wrote a response on Rosenhan’s experiment calling it “logic in remission”. He believed that there was misreporting within the study that led to fabricated results.

Cahalan got Rosenhan’s notes from his time on Being Sane in Insane Places after his strokes. Using these notes and his friends from that time period, Cahalan tried to piece together who the pseudopatients were hoping to find out more information about Rosenhan’s study. What she found questions the entire validity of the study, with many of the pseudopatients being impossible to track down, or the ones that can be found giving different testimonies than reported.

I found the book a little repetitive, but I think the amount of research that went into the book is INSANE. I think that there are a lot of things that don’t add up, and sadly, we can’t ask Rosenhan about them. I think that he was a man that wanted to prove his point, and gain notoriety along the way, even if he has to cut corners to get there. But obviously my opinion is slightly biased because I have just listened to 11 hours of one side. So let me know what you guys think and if you think Rosenhan’s study was valid or not.

In terms of rating, I would probably give this one 4.5 out of 5. While completely out of my usual, I did listen to it whenever I had a chance to, which means it is pretty good. There were a few things that bothered me, but otherwise I thought it was easy for someone who didn’t know anything about the study (like me) to be able to read and understand this book.

(P.S. I totally think that a movie called Being Sane in Insane Places needs to happen)

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!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 12/5/19-12/6/19

How I Found It: Amazon/ Book of the Month

In a moment of feeling cooler than I really am, I am happy to report that I had bought this book back in May, almost 6 months BEFORE BOTM decided to make this book one of its suggestions. At that point, I was just picking random books on Amazon whose cover I was attracted to (and if you have never done that then you are lying to yourself), and all those books ended up getting lost in all the other books on my Kindle app. But as soon as BOTM announced it, I hopped right on that bandwagon. Thankfully, the universe was on my side, and this book got chosen right away by the lucky wheel app. As fate would have it, I put the other book I was reading on the back burner so I could continue to cry and laugh throughout this one.

Alright, so we follow Alex, the First Son of the United States (FSOTUS) and future politician, as he attends the Royal Wedding. Upon seeing his arch enemy, Henry, aka the Prince of Wales, they get into a heated debate that leads to the two of them falling into the wedding cake. In an effort to get a more positive image, they are forced to become best friends to the media.

As the become fake friends, their real friendship begins to take off as well. Soon, they begin talking to each other all the time, often with insults, but at least it is talking. And then one faithful New Years Eve party (and a chasten kiss) changed everything. Soon they are actively taking each other’s pants off at any moment they can get. But being the FSOTUS (dumbest acronym) and the Prince of Wales does not a public relationship make, so they have to figure out how much they mean to each other before announcing to the world their feelings.

But also, people suck. That’s the story. People suck, but only cruddy people. The rest are pretty cool. And also, love your friends and family regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or any other bs label that people develop phobias of.

Okay, ignoring the negative comments about society, I really enjoyed this book! And I mean, there is a lot more that happens, but that’s the basic backbone. While at one point I was concerned that this was some surprise smut, it is just a normal book with a lot of sex but many of those details left out. And while I wouldn’t necessary recommend it to my grandmother (because in my mind she is celibate), I would totally recommend it to any of my friends (well, not “any”. Yay for racism and homophobia in America, amirite?) because it is genuinely just fun to read. I would ultimately give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and a little magic well wish that this become a limited series on Netflix (but not movie, because if we are getting Henry, I want all the Henry).

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!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 11/5/19-11/7/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Quick warning to my father and grandmother who may or may not end up reading this post: Please wait until the next one for my big comeback.

Why hello surprise smut. Look, I am on the #stopsmutshaming bandwagon (P.S. make that a shirt please 🙂 ), but man, this book took a turn. It seems that I always go into books lately without any expectations and zero research, and if this book isn’t the prime example, then I don’t know what is. You can tell by the cover that this is a romance, and I immediately figured it was designed for the young adult age group (heads up, don’t give this to anyone who can’t attend a R rated movie by themselves, and maybe even older. It gets REAL graphic REAL quick), but… uh… I was wrong. Nothing like listening to a very intense sex scene while at work, am I right? (sadly that’s true, but I am committed to getting posts out, so worth it?)

Right… the story. Totally need to talk about the story. So there’s this girl named, you guessed it, Chloe Brown. Okay, so Chloe has fibromyalgia which causes her to be in a constant state of pain. She has flare ups that cause her to be extremely exhausted, have rough headaches, and bouts of insomnia. When she almost gets hit by a drunk driver, Chloe realized that she hasn’t experienced much of life, which leads to the “Get a Life” list. Included on that list includes doing something bad, camping, traveling the world with only a carry-on, and meaningless sex. (You see where this is going, right?)

Okay, so the leading man is Redford (Red) Morgan, who is trying to rebuild love for painting after an abusive relationship (Trigger Warning: this book does not focus on his abuse, but it is present. There is only 1 particular scene that I can remember where they focused on the actual abuse, and even then, I did not find it too deep. But the story does address the trauma of being abused, specifically with trust. If these things are/can be triggering for you, I recommend you sit this one out). He works as the superintendent of an apartment complex, the same one that Chloe just moved into. He had been attracted to Chloe from the moment he met her, but was turned off by her aggressive and snooty behavior.

Chloe caught Red painting (without a shirt on, might I add) and subsequently tried to ignore him. But when Chloe sees an innocent cat stuck in a tree, she figures she has to save it. But then she freezes. Red finds her in the tree and helps her down. Which leads to a more graphic than needed wet dream. Buckle in folks, because it gets intense from here. They end up reaching an agreement where she would work on a website to display his new artwork and he would help her with her list. But quickly Chloe realizes that she likes the ideas on her list but not the actual activity, at least until Red sexes her up the whole time.

Okay, so for the sake of having a chance of getting a job whenever I may need it, I will not be discussing the smut aspect of this book (but do know that I wrote about 3 paragraphs of smut opinions before realizing that I sound like a crazy lady), I will share some opinions about “romance”. I am pretty sure that I wrote a let’s talk about the romance genre (and I’m just lazy enough to not look it up within the next 2 months), but why is it that EVERY romance is about two people who seemingly don’t belong together, they get together, they have a fight that causes them to walk away from each other, and then wouldn’t you know, they loved each other all along and they live happily ever after? I had higher expectations for this book, but spoiler, it’s the same storyline we have all read. So why is that? Based on my very limited English education, my guess is that we expect a book to have a climax/conflict. Without it, we feel cheated (which I get). I just wish that wasn’t such a cliché. It is no fun reading a book when you already have a grasp of how things are going to work out.

As for the book itself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing style was extremely easy to read and the characters were unique. I did think that the amount of sex scenes were a little too much (especially with the amount of detail within them), but I can understand why a lot of people would like this book. I would ultimately give this book 3.75 out of 5 stars (there were a lot of smut related points that I had to take off for opinions that got deleted off this post).

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 Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/9/19-10/17/19

Set in the time of the Underground Railroad in the US, Hiram Walker was born out of rape to a slave mother. His father was his master. He grew up on the property, and was gifted with an eidetic memory. As he grew, he began to develop feelings for his brother’s slave woman, Sophia. He was the person forced to drive her to his estate and back, but he also kept up a relationship with her outside of that. One night, they decided to run for freedom and they were caught.

Hiram was sent to a prison where he was starved and tasked. He was put in a death pit where he was allowed to get out and try to run, giving the white trappers a chance to catch and torture him every time he did so. One of those runs, he was able to escape to the Underground.

While in the Underground, Hiram worked often with Harriet Tubman as a forger to provide passes for the slaves they set to free. He creates passes to get his fellow conductor’s family out of Alabama. His mentor goes to get the family and he dies after capture. Hiram takes this personally, so he works on getting Sophia and the woman who raised him, Thena. He is forced to go back and work for his father, where he plots his plan for conduction.

While this book has Oprah’s seal of approval, I struggled to get through this one. I am unsure if it is because I don’t feel connected to the culture, or if it is because I am easily bored by historical fiction, but I had to go back and recheck sections because I had gaps in my memory. The hardest part for me is that I don’t know how I would change anything about the book. It is very good for what it is, I just did not keep interest as well as other books. I would ultimately give this book 4 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!

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 9/11/19-9/16/19

Trigger Warning: this book discusses war, suicide, and molestation. If either of these are triggers, read at your own discretion.

Quick fun fact: When I was in college, I had a roommate who was from Vietnam. She told me the story of her first American history class that discussed the Vietnam War and how she thought they were lying. Turns out, while America was extremely concerned about communism, the soldiers of Vietnam were only concerned about keeping their farmland. Everytime I read or watch something about the Vietnam War, I always remember that the 2 sides were fighting for completely different things, and that we should think about that in our own lives.

Set in the summer of 1969 (I know, it’s a shocker), this book follows the Nichols/Foley/ Levin family as they try to cope and understand the new realities they are faced with in their summer house in Nantucket. The head of the family, Exalta, is the mother of Kate, the mother of 4. Kate has an alcohol problem, especially with the notification of her son, Tiger, being selected for the draft. Her oldest daughter, Blair, is pregnant with twins, and Blair suspects that her husband, Angus, is cheating on her. Her second youngest daughter, Kirby, is a feminist who chose to spend her summer working in a hotel on Martha’s Vineyard. Finally, the youngest daughter, Jessie, is stuck on Nantucket with her family, forced to take tennis lessons, and harboring a secret sticky finger habit.

Over the course of the summer, the family is trying to process every new turn in their lives, mixed in with the moon landing, the war, and Teddy Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident.

I am not someone who especially appreciates historical fiction. Almost all the historical fiction I have read has either been through BOTM, OUABC, or school. It has never been something that I go for in a bookstore, and I am always hesitant when I pick one up. This was the best happy medium because I have already read a book by Elin Hilderbrand (Winter in Paradise), and I liked her writing style. This book kept that writing style so I didn’t feel like I was reading “historical fiction”.

There is a lot of jumping around, and sometimes she repeats herself over and over again (pet peeve of mine), but at the end of the day, it was an enjoyable experience. For that reason, I will give this book 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!

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 6/30/19-9/10/19

Ji Lin is trying to make money to recover her mother’s debts. She works at a dance hall, where she meets a salesman. After an incident, she ends up accidentally stealing a glass jar containing a blacken finger. This finger be;onged to a Doctor MacFarland, whom Ren used to work for. Ren was tasked with the recovery of the finger after the doctor died. Ji Lin, using her literary-gained detective skills, begins the long journey of where the finger originated. Using the help of her stepbrother, Shin, she uncovers dark secrets of the people in the hospital. With a look-in at interconnecting stories, the power of connection, and the insane things people do for money, this story is both beautiful and intricate.

I had moments as I was listening to this book when I was super into it. I would try to find time to listen to this book so I could learn my next clue in the story. On the other hand, there were days where I wouldn’t even bother because my interest had completely waned. I thought the relationship that Ji Lin landed herself in was extremely gimmicky and not important for the story. Also, there is this night tiger, right? But then NOBODY talks about it by the end of the story. Like what the heck? What happened to this tiger? I feel slightly cheated on that front. I ultimately would give this book 2 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!

Recursion by Blake Crouch

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 8/28/19-8/29/19

I have no idea how I can explain this book to anyone. It is extremely convoluted, but I am going to try my best:

This woman named Helena wanted to come up with a way to give her mother with Alzheimer’s her memories back. She comes up with a “memory chair” which is a way to record memories and then you can give the memories back. A man named Marcus Slade offers a lab on an oil rig to explore this research farther. He figures out that if you die when you are given the memory, then your conscious will go back to the moment of that memory. If you are confused, welcome to this book.

There’s this dude, Barry, right? He is a NYPD cop who tries to talk a woman off a ledge. She claims to have FMS, or false memory syndrome, where she has a bunch of memories of a past life. Barry goes to see the man she claims is her husband, and he finds himself at a hotel in New York. He gets captured and forced into a chair where he has to talk about the day his daughter died. He then goes back in time to that memory and relives his life.

When that conscious thread comes to an end, tragedy strikes, and he finds himself in the company of Helena. When their paths cross, love and ideas flow readily. But when they are forced to figure out how to close the loops made by the chair, they have to continue to research and find ways to solve how they can save all of humanity before time gets them.

Okay, so that is the best I got, but this book is A LOT better than my explanation. About an hour into this book, I was sure that I wouldn’t like it, but the farther into it I got, the harder it was for me to stop listening to it. I had zero intentions of reading the ending of this book tonight, but I did anyway partly because I have no self-control and partly because I really wanted to know what happens.

It is extremely convoluted and there are A LOT of lines to connect, but it is super creative. I have read books with a similar basis, but this one is completely original in writing style, intensity, and flight path. I wasn’t a huge fan of how he split up the book, and I don’t think that we needed the different “books”, but I did like that it didn’t split up things in chapters the way most books do. It kept the story going better than most novels. That being said, Helena is a queen and we must all bow down to her. I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and would recommend it for anyone interested in sci-fi thriller books.

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 Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 9/21/19-10/3/19

Sorry I’m late guys, but this one is a doozy. So buckle up, it’s a bumpy ride.

Okay, so there’s this girl called Kristine Hartung. A year prior, she disappeared, but her body was never found. She was presumed dead, but her family still held out hope. Her mother is Rosa, the prime minister of Social Affairs, and her father is a lawyer? something like that.

The two investigators we are focused on is Thulin and Hess. Thulin is a single mother who is hoping for promotion, and Hess is trying to prove to Europol that he is still capable as a detective. They get put on the case of a single mother who was slain at a playground. They discover a chestnut man at the scene of the crime. Their investigation leads them to another man, whose wife gets murdered as soon as they meet him. At the scene of that murder, there was another chestnut man. They discover that the connection between them is abuse allegations, and they are subsequently able to handle business to get the children back into safe environments.

So they try to be smart and they figure out who the next victim is going to be. They go through a witness protection protocol to save her, even though she is a crappy mom, but karma ended up catching up to her in the process. Also forgot to mention, the chestnut man is also cutting off their hands and feet, because that’s what you do I guess. So anyway, now Thulin and Hess are trying to figure out what the f is going on and how they can get ahead of this guy.

Now here’s the thing, I am trying to think about what to tell you guys and what not to, but I will say, this book has more twists and turns than… I don’t even know, something with lots of twists and turns. Almost every single detail matters in this book, and I probably came up with 5 different suspects throughout the story. It is long, but once you get into the story, you will get hooked.

Now, I have 1 major concern with this book. Unless I have completely forgotten this part, we got 0 closure with Thulin’s man friend. He was there one second, and completely forgotten about. That completely bothered me and I figured there was a reason why we weren’t focusing on them, but nope, just forgot. But other than that, I think that this book is really good, and I would probably rank it at a 4 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!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 9/17/19-9/26/19

I will be completely upfront in that I totally didn’t see that ending coming! The book is reminiscent of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, with a complete surprise wrap-up of the story.

Set in 1932, Odysseus (Odie) O’Banion is an orphan stuck at the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. This school is intended to be a boarding school for Native American children in an effort to “kill the Indian, save the man”. Odie, along with his brother, Albert, are forced into this school because they were orphaned after the death of their father. There they meet a Sioux boy named Mose, who had his tongue removed when he was a boy, leaving him mute.

The school is extremely cruel in their punishments. One of the punishments forced the boy to stay in the “Quiet Room”, where they are physically abused (and possibly sexually as well), left to sleep on a bale of hay, with the only companion being a rat. Odie became well acquainted with this room because he would not fit the mold expected of him. The other punishment was being forced to work in the fields for the local farmers. That hard work tore up their hands and left the boys exhausted, sometimes also making them miss dinner.

While working in the fields, Mose, Alfred, and Odie meet the Frost family, and specifically little Emmy Frost. When a tornado comes through Minnesota, the Frost family farm is destroyed, leading to the death of all the family members except for little Emmy. The owner of the Lincoln School, Thelma Brickman (aka the Black Witch), adopts Emmy following these events, which concerns Odie and company for her safety.

After a trip to the Quiet Room leads to murder, Odie must leave the school. His brother and Mose decide to go with him, but they refuse to leave without Emmy. They kidnap her and run away with the money and papers in the Brickman safe. They decide to take a canoe down the Gilead River, which feeds into the Mississippi, in order to get to their aunt’s house in St. Louis, MO.

The journey leads to a path of self-discovery, love, family, and faith. Each part of the book is a new interaction which ultimately affects how Odie and the rest of the vagabonds interpret the world around them.

As for my opinions, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. I was incredibly surprised, which might be what was expected, but I kept thinking back to whether we were even given clues, and we really weren’t. It seemed like a huge surprise that come out of nowhere. I would rather we get some stepping stones to the ending rather than just throwing us in there.

I definitely would not have picked this book to read for myself. However, there were sections of this book that kept my interest, but there were also other parts of this book that I just completely lost focus. I ultimately would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I could be persuaded to give it a little more.

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!