5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction

Review | We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation

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We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Michael Garcia
Mariner Books, 2021
Non-Fiction
288 pages
5/5 Stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Mariner Books for the Advanced Copy! We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation was released in August, 2021.

Trigger Warnings: Ableism, Autism Parenting, Mentions of Autism Speaks and other similar charities looking to “cure” autism.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Autistic person and journalist Eric Garcia brings an insider’s perspective and a reporter’s eye to show that autism is a vital part of his community’s humanity, not a disease that needs to be cured. 

Review:

When I first saw that this book was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. As someone who is also Neurodivergent (and follows a lot of Autistic content creators across several platforms), I have been very interested in the conversation surround Autism and Autistic people.

I am so grateful that I received the ARC, because this book was fantastic. It was educational, informative, and also gave me a lot to think about in regards to my own neurodivergency and internalized ableism.

The big takeaway I got from this book is that their is a lack of resources for Autistic people, and that lack of resources is harming not only Autistic people, but everyone. Autistic people need support just like everyone else, and the lack of that is hurting Autistic people, creating a stigma against Autism, creating stereotypes about Autistic people, and denying society of the gifts and talents that each Autistic person has to give the world.

Perfect for people who know (or don’t know and are just finding out!) that you don’t support Autism Speaks, and get weird vibes from the stereotypical “Autism Mom”.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Heartbreak for Hire

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Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
Gallery Books, 2021
Romance
320 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Misogyny/sexism, emotional and verbal abuse, toxic relationship with parent.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

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To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

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But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

Review:

Okay, I absolutely LOVED this book. It pretty much opened with a spicy AF scene between our love interests (Brinkley and Mark… hot damn), and then evolves into an enemies to lovers story.

Like are you kidding me??? Can a romance book get anymore perfect???

Oh, yeah. Mark is a dang professor.

I enjoyed Brinkley’s hijinks as a professional heartbreaker. Homegirl makes bank to take down icky men? I know exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Mark was an absolute sweetheart, the spice had me fanning myself (good thing I was reading in the pool, TBH.), and honestly, the sexual tension between Mark and Brinkley when they were enemies was just… wow. I have never wanted two characters to bang more than the two of them.

That might be a lie, I want all my romance characters to bang.

Perfect for readers who can’t get enough spice or enemies to lovers in their romance books.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
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5 Stars · Book Reviews · fantasy

Review | Ella Enchanted

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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Scholastic Books, 1998
Fantasy
232 pages
5/5 Stars

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Katie's iPhone, showing the audiobook of "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine is on a blue background and surrounded by a variety of items - including a purple candle, a bamboo plant, and a Belle (Disney Princess from "Beauty and the Beast") bookmark.

GoodReads Synopsis

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

Gail Carson Levine’s examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.

Review

Once upon a time, a little girl read this book, and it enchanted her, and she knew that one day, she would write books that enchanted others, too.

Fast forward almost twenty years, she hasn’t written any books (yet), but she did decide to re-read this book that had inspired her dreams all those years ago.

Anyway, the girl is me, if ya’ll didn’t figure it out.

Ella Enchanted was one of my all time favorite books as a kiddo, and when I first downloaded Libby through my library, the audiobook was one of the first books I borrowed. I listened to it while I waited for my first COVID vaccine (get vaccinated!) and ya’ll, even as an adult, this book is magical.

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And as an adult, the magic is difference. Ella’s curse to always be obedient no longer is just what it appears to be on the surface. As an adult, you realize that this curse doesn’t just exist in children’s literature. Women, even today, have always been born with the expectation to be obedient.

The book was so much more profound with this realization. The one thing I didn’t really love about the book was the ending. It still gave me the impression that a woman needs a man, and for a fairytale that screams ‘girl power!’, I thought it could be better. It wasn’t just that she ended up with Prince Char (which, I definitely don’t blame her for. He was one of my very first fictional boyfriends.), but rather how much weight Char’s existence had on her finally being freed from the curse.

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But besides that, this book was such a fun throwback, and re-reading it was a great way to care for my inner child.

Perfect for readers who never outgrew their princess phase.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Avon, 2019
Romance
373 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: PTSD, Chronic illness, Aftermath of abusive relationship (Talia Hibbert does include a content warning at the beginning of her books, bless her.)

GoodReads Synopsis

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

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But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Review

I actually read this book for the first time in August or September of 2020, but I wasn’t regularly blogging then. Since it was immediately one of my favorite reads and I had a lot of thoughts on it, I decided to re-read it so I could give you an up-to-date review with my thoughts. It was also one of the first romance books I read that made me think, “Wait… I really like this genre….” I always kind of read and viewed romance books as cheap entertainment before that, which I now realize is an opinion based on my own internalized misogyny.

The re-read was worth it, and the book still lives up to the hype in my opinion. The romance is just as sweet and heartwarming the second time. The sex scenes are still as steamy the second read, but a little less shocking (not a bad thing.). Red and Chloe were just as amazing the second read, and now that I own all of the Brown sister books (I haven’t read the last one yet!), I paid more attention whenever Dani and Eve were featured.

I do want to say this book has WAY steamier sex scenes than I’d thought before reading it. I always read sexy scenes in secret and felt ashamed of it. Yay purity culture (Maybe I’ll talk more on that later.)! I remember reading it at the hotel with my mom and clutching my metaphorical pearls at the explicit language and imagery in the sex scenes. That’s something I liked a little better during my re-read, I was a little less scandalized.

This is also probably one of my most recommended books. I feel like I recommend it to almost everybody. I have a friend who has almost identical taste in books as me (Hi, Michelle!) and I think I’ve recommended it to her like five times?!

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Perfect for lonely hearts after a year of quarantine and readers who wish Mr. Darcy was real.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction · Reading

Review | Wordslut

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Wordslut by Amanda Montell
Harper Wave, 2019
Non-Fiction
304 pages
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

The word “bitch” conjures many images for many people but is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean a female canine, bitch didn’t refer to gender at all—it originated as a gender-neutral word meaning genitalia. A perfectly innocuous word devolving into a female insult is the case for tons more terms, including hussy, which simply meant “housewife,” or slut, which meant “untidy” and was also used to describe men. These words are just a few among history’s many English slurs hurled at women. 

Amanda Montell, feminist linguist and staff features editor at online beauty and health magazine Byrdie.com, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women form gaining equality. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women use the word “like” as a filler? Or why certain gender neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or even how linguists have historically discussed women’s speech patterns? Wordslut is no stuffy academic study; Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound.

Review:

I have no idea how I found this book, but I am so glad that I did.

A really big part of my personality are the facts that I’m a raging feminist, and also that I majored in English in college. This book perfectly married two of my maybe four personality traits.

Montell uses humor to explain the history of the English language and the patriarchal background behind many of the words we use.

One of the most interesting parts for me was when she debunked myths behind women’s speech patterns. Different speech patterns that are commonly used by women are often looked at as being ‘unprofessional’, but Montell explains why this isn’t necessarily true. It reminded me of the time a former coworker told me that she didn’t get a promotion because our male manager told her she used the word ‘like’ too much. I now know that using ‘like’ a lot in speech has nothing to do with the speaker’s intelligence, or ability to communicate effectively, and more to do with what exactly they are trying to communicate.

Another part I loved was the part about the history of swearing. I swear like a pirate. My favorite word starts with an ‘f’ and has four letters, and I use it more than is socially appropriate. I also really don’t care. It’s the only word that can properly express my excitement, frustration, sadness, etc. Thank God for the ‘f’ word.

But. Did you know. There is a HUGE difference behind why women swear and why men swear? For men, it’s a normal part of speech, and is rarely given a second thought. When women swear, they are doing so to express a personality, their individuality, humor, and/or a negotiation of their femininity.

I could honestly go on forever about this book. It was so interesting, and I learned so much. I guess I have to put every feminist book about language on my waiting list at the library.

Perfect for Feminist Word Nerds and Washed Up English Majors.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction · politics · Reading

Review | Where the Light Enters

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden
Flatiron Books, 2019
Non-Fiction
210 pages
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis

An intimate look at the love that built the Biden family and the delicate balancing act of the woman at its center.

“How did you get this number?” Those were the first words Jill Biden spoke to U.S. senator Joe Biden when he called her out of the blue to ask her on a date.

Growing up, Jill had wanted two things: a marriage like her parents’ – strong, loving, and full of laughter – and a career. An early heartbreak had left her uncertain about love, until she met Joe. But as they grew closer, Jill faced difficult questions: How would politics shape her family and professional life? And was she ready to become a mother to Joe’s two young sons?

She soon found herself falling in love with her three “boys,” learning to balance life as a mother, wife, educator, and political spouse. Through the challenges of public scrutiny, complicated family dynamics, and personal losses, she grew alongside her family, and she extended the family circle at every turn: with her students, military families, friends and staff at the White House, and more.

This is the story of how Jill built a family – and a life – of her own. From the pranks she played to keep everyone laughing to the traditions she formed that would carry them through tragedy, hers is the spirited journey of a woman embracing many roles.

‘WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS’ is a candid, heartwarming glimpse into the creation of a beloved American family, and the life of a woman at its center.

Review:

I got this book a few weeks ago when Audible was having a 2-for-1 sale on select books. I voted for Biden, though I’m not his biggest fan (Being on TikTok over the summer pretty much turned me into a complete Leftist.) and I didn’t know anything about Jill Biden besides that she’s a teacher. And what that one scene of Leslie and Ben going to the White House to play Charades with Joe and Jill showed in Parks and Rec.

So, all I knew about Jill Biden was that she was a teacher, and that she thought Leslie Knope was too competitive.

Jill is an extraordinary woman. Her story follows her from her family background and childhood to her rebellious teenaged years (which to her time as the Second Lady of the United States being a rebellious teenager (which was my favorite thing, honestly) to the Second Lady (This was written before the 2020 election!) of the United States. It shows how she and Joe met (which might be my all-time favorite meet-cute, oh my God.) and how she became a mother to his sons (Fun fact, Joe proposed FIVE times before Jill agreed to marry him.)

I loved how this book was written, and since I listened to it on Audible, I got to hear Jill her story herself. I learned so much about her, Joe, and the rest of the Biden family (If a Biden is reading this, please adopt me.). She is down to earth, and takes her jobs as mother, grandmother, teacher, wife, and Second Lady very seriously. But never ever reluctantly. The way that she speaks of the work that she does, and the way she speaks about her family shows how much she loves all of it, despite the difficulties she experiences attimes.

This book is a beautiful story of how The Bidens we see in the White House became a family. It’s a story of loss and grief, of new beginnings, of faith, but mostly of love.

Recommended For: Anyone who voted for Biden and people who love stories of close and loving families.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction

Book Review: “The End of the Affair”

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Audible Audio, 2012 (first published in 1951)
Literary Fiction
Audiobook (6.5 hours listening time)
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Character Illness and Death, Catholicism

GoodReads Synopsis:

Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”, “A Single Man”) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

The End of the Affair, set in London during and just after World War II, is the story of a flourishing love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles. After a violent episode at Maurice’s apartment, Sarah suddenly and without explanation breaks off the affair. This very intimate story about what actually constitutes love is enhanced by Mr. Firth’s narration, who said “this book struck me very, very particularly at the time when I read it and I thought my familiarity with it would give the journey a personal slant.”

Review:

This was at least my third time reading it, the first time being in one of my English classes in college. I own the Audible audiobook that’s narrated by Colin Firth, so that makes it even better!

When I read the book in college, I was a devout Catholic, and I absolutely adored it. It became my favorite book overall, and when I decided to reread it recently, I wondered if it would live up to how I remembered it, even though I’m no longer a devout Catholic.

And ya’ll… it did. Even as a non-practicing Catholic, the book blew me away. The writing is incredible, the characters are all just unlikable enough, but not too unlikable, and the role that Catholicism plays in the story and lives of the main characters is more than just a advertisement for the religion. The story is filled with mess, and stickiness, and love, and hatred, and humanity.

Something that’s kind of cool about me is that I’ve had the same GoodReads account for over ten years, so I could see that my original rating for this book was five stars. I’m happy to report back that over five years after I initially read it… it still gets five stars from me. This book is flawless in my eyes, and further amplified by Colin Firth’s incredible narration.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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5 Stars · Book Reviews · mental health · non-fiction

Book Review: The Power of Vulnerability

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The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
Audible Audio, 2013
Non-Fiction
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis

Is vulnerability the same as weakness? “In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” On The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise – that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.
“The Power of Vulnerability is a very personal project for me,” Brené explains. “This is the first place that all of my work comes together. This audio course draws from all three of my books – it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned over the past twelve years. I’m very excited to weave it all into a truly comprehensive form that shows what these findings and insights can mean in our lives.”

Review:

What is the first thought that comes to you r mind when I say the word “vulnerabilty”? Are you like me in that it makes you uncomfortable and want to cringe a little bit? I think that’s the normal reaction to vulnerability. We live in a society that really encourages us to always keep our guard up and be “okay”.

Something I’ve learned in my mental health journey is how necessary vulnerability is to my healing and wellbeing. To me, vulnerability means being honest and forthcoming not only with those in my support system, but to myself. It means taking a good, hard look at myself and my life and saying “I’m not okay” when I’m not okay.

Funnily enough, Brene Brown and her work have been on my radar for years, but it wasn’t until my therapist recommended I listen to this audiobook after a very emotional session in which I talked about the shame I often experience.

And I’m really glad I decided to check it out! Brown works in academia, but she is masterful at presenting information in a very accessible and relatable way. My therapist and I also agreed that she is very funny. I look forward to (finally) checking out more of her work.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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5 Stars · Book Reviews · Reading · romance

Book Review: “Red, White, & Royal Blue”

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Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019
Romance
448 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Sex, drunkenness, talk of drug addiction

GoodReads Synopsis:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Review:

I’d been hearing about this book for literal years, but I’d always hesitated to read it, because I usually think of my ideal genre as “badass women. That’s it.” I also sort of feel like gay relationships can be idealized and gay characters can easily be caricatures or stereotypes instead of well-rounded characters. So, for a while, I stayed away from it.

And then, I received a copy in the mail as a random act of kindness, started a book club with a few friends from home, and we decided to read it.

And ya’ll… I’m so mad at myself for staying away for so long. The story is heartfelt, the characters are lovable and fully rounded out, the banter is unbeatable, the romance is steamy… and yes, even though the love story didn’t include any badass women, there were still some very badass women featured as characters.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it also felt so good to be represented, not in a tragic, sad coming out story, (I’m looking at you, The Happiest Season.) but in a joyful romantic comedy. I’ve devoured rom-coms since I was a kid, and for the first time, I really saw a LGBTQ+ couple represented. This book felt like a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community.

One of my favorite parts of reading is when you get so engrossed in a book, you really are absorbed into the story. You stay up late reading, when you’re not reading, you can’t stop thinking about the book, you tell everyone to read it, you laugh out loud at the funny parts, cry at the sad parts, etc. That’s how it felt with this book. I was so enamored with everything about it, and it felt like I couldn’t stop singing its praises.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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