Friday, March 17, 2023

Book Review: Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian



This was another one of my son Preston's book selections. He had to read a biography/memoir for his English class. Who else would he select but the greatest of all time in the sport he intends to turn into a lifelong career. He was well aware of Tiger's athletic accomplishments and had heard of some of his scandals, but this book was eye opening for him.

The book starts out with a look at what it was like for a young Tiger Woods. He was smart and did well in school, but he did not have the freedom or opportunity to be a kid. He wanted to play soccer and participate in other school activities, but his father was laser focused on his golf game. From the age of four, his dad was already showing off Tiger's skills and trying to cash in on his son's talent. They did not have the money to join a country club and pay for top notch coaching, but he put in the time and worked harder than anybody else. He was driven and set a goal for himself to be the youngest player to achieve every milestone within the game. He became the youngest winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur, the U.S. Amateur, the Masters, and the youngest to complete the Grand Slam.

We can see what it took for him to reach the pinnacle of success, but we also see the downsides of his fame. He had no privacy and could no longer live a "normal" life. Even people like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth can still live normal lives. For example, on the Netflix series Full Swing we follow Justin Thomas into a drug store when he was under the weather at a tournament. Even with a camera following him, nobody bothered him while he was shopping. Doing something like that was out of the question for Tiger. He was so recognizable and had reached a level of celebrity far beyond the golfing world, that it was next to impossible for him to do anything without drawing a crowd and needing security.

His extreme wealth, connections, and lack of a good role model led Tiger to make some poor decisions. His actions off the golf course destroyed his family and jeopardized everything he worked for his entire life. This book does not hold back when it comes to any of his personal struggles and was very enlightening for Preston. As a student athlete, we place our idols on a pedestal and aspire to be them. In this case, Preston can see that he is human. While he had endless amounts of talents and is undisputedly the greatest of all time, he made mistakes along the way. Hopefully, he has learned from them and is a better person because of it. That is all you can hope for. 

Overall, this was an excellent biography. I felt like it portrayed a very realistic picture of who Tiger is without trying to sugar coat or sensationalize things. It presented the information gathered, good or bad, and let the reader decide how they wanted to process that knowledge. The authors didn't pass judgement and I don't think the reader should either. You never know what someone is going through unless you are in their shoes. While I do not condone some of his actions, I think we can all benefit from his work ethic and dedication. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Chrisopher Murray


Goodreads Overview:

The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.


I was fortunate to see Marie and Victoria speak at the Columbus Metropolitan Library last year. I had heard of The Personal Librarian, but I didn't know anything about the story of  Bell da Costa Greene. It was fascinating to hear how they collaborated and co-wrote this book. Due to their varied personal backgrounds, they were able to bring different perspectives to this racially charged story.

The late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s was a time of racial segregation in the United States. Belle's father was the first black graduate from Harvard and worked as a lawyer and advocate for equal rights. Her mother felt it would be better for her family to pass as white in order for them to have a better life. It was very risky, but Belle was smart and managed to elevate herself to the top of New York's society. As the personal librarian, and ultimately a friend of J.P. Morgan, she had considerable clout when dealing in the art world. She becomes a renowned expert in her field regardless of her gender and racial background. 

This was a fascinating story about a strong, well educated, and savvy woman who was able to overcome what some would have considered insurmountable odds. I found it very educational, entertaining, and worthy of 5 stars on Goodreads. It would be an amazing opportunity to visit the Pierpont Morgan Library, which is now the Morgan Library & Museum. I have visited the New York Public Library, but had no idea this building existed. The building itself is described as a work of art in the book, so I googled some images and was floored. It is stunning! The next time I am in New York, I will make it a point of visiting. My husband is now reading the book and is equally as invested. I will not have any trouble talking him into visiting the Morgan Library.

The following photo of the Morgan Library & Museum is from

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Book Review: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart


Goodreads Overview:

The prequel to We Were Liars takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that will haunt them for decades to come.

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy.
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.

Welcome back to the Sinclair family.
They were always liars.


I LOVED We Were Liars, which I picked up at BEA (Book Expo America) back in 2014. Here is a link to my review.  As soon as I saw this prequel, I had to read it. This time around, we find out what it was like on Beechwood Island for the Sinclair daughters. 

Carrie Sinclair has a history of addiction and has seen ghosts since she was a teenager. Now she sees the ghost of her dead son Johnny, who asks her for stories about her youth. She begins telling him about her seventeenth summer on the island, which was filled with secrets, love, and lies.

Carrie was never the beautiful one in the family. All of the Sinclairs have a certain look and strong jaw line, but she does not fit the mold. She discovers a hidden family secret that only fuels her insecurities. Her father talks her into having an extensive surgery to correct her jaw line, which is when she became addicted to codeine. It is now the summer after the youngest Sinclair daughter, Rosemary, drowned while swimming alone on the island. Carrie wants to keep her memory alive, but her mother has closed off Rosemary's room and boxed up all of her things. Whenever she brings up Rosemary her sisters, Penny and Bess, tell her it is time to move on. With nobody to turn to and gripped by addiction, her mind's way of coping is to bring Rosemary back as a ghost. She sees Rosemary on Beechwood Island and the girls carry on like they used to. They begin helping each other cope with the situation, but clearly Carrie is in need of help.

That year, her father's brother comes to stay with them on the island and brings his son Tomkin, daughter Yardley, Yardley's boyfriend George, and two of George's friends. This is the first time they have had boys their age on the island and Carrie becomes interested in one of the friends, Lawrence Pfefferman "Pfeff". Pfeff comes on a little strong, but also was a wandering eye and really can't be trusted. There is a big event that takes place, which is where the lies start to pile up. After everything we learned in We Were Liars and now this book, they truly are a Family of Liars. 

This wasn't quite the 5-star book that We Were Liars was, but it was still a solid 4-stars and an excellent addition to the series. I would highly recommend both of these books to any YA fan.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner


Goodreads Overview:

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?


This was my son's assigned summer reading before his senior year of high school. There is a positive message about not texting and driving, which all teenagers can benefit from. On the other hand, this was a rather depressing book. Carver, who is going into his senior year, loses his three best friends in a car accident and has nobody to turn to for help. He begins having panic attacks due to the guilt and stress, so his sister suggests he talk to a psychiatrist. Dr. Mendez is instrumental in this story and is one of the few people who can truly relate to Carver's feelings. He encourages him to tell him stories, which should be easy for a writer, but is not in this case. He eventually opens up and learns how to "reframe his perception of events", which is another important message in this story. There is always more than one way to look at an event. 

The Goodbye Days start when Blake's grandmother asks Carver to spend one last day sharing memories and doing all of Blake's favorite things with her. Carver eventually goes through with it and does feel better after the fact. The families of the other two victims ask him to do the same thing for them, but he is concerned about their motives. Those days do not go as smoothly as they did with Blake's grandma, but ultimately, they are therapeutic for him.

For me, this was a 3-star book. It had some nice messages, but it isn't something I would have selected for Preston. I can understand why the school system chose it, but it certainly isn't going to turn a reluctant reader into a book nerd. My son has enjoyed books like I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak and Freckled by Toby Neal. Those books have powerful messages and were able to hold his interest. In this case, I had to get the audiobook and force him to listen while we drove to a couple of his golf tournaments. He doesn't really enjoy reading, so a book with a character his age who lost all of his friends was going to be a challenge for him to complete. Hopefully he learned something from it and will think twice before texting and driving.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Book Review: Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen



Counterfeit was Reese Witherspoon's book club selection for June 22, so I had to pick it up when I saw it prominently displayed on the "staff picks" shelf at the library. Ava is a smart and successful attorney who is married to a prominent doctor. When she decides to stay at home with her first child, her life starts to unravel. Their finances are stretched without the second income and Ava is at her wits end with her son Henri's behavior. She relies heavily on a nanny for support and tries desperately to get her son into a top tier pre-school to help him adjust, but that requires money. When her old college roommate, Winnie, reappears out of nowhere and offers her an opportunity to make some quick cash, she is conflicted. She has always been a strait-laced law-abiding citizen and couldn't possibly consider such a scheme, but this could be her way out of this mess.

Winnie was born in China and only attended Stanford for a short period of time before she was forced to leave due to an SAT cheating scandal. She was very quiet, had a strong accent, and was far from a fashion icon. She desperately wanted to fit in and achieve the American dream, but Stanford wasn't going to be her ticket to success. She returns to China and eventually starts a counterfeit handbag business with near perfect replicas. When she returns to the United States and bumps into Ava, she is hardly recognizable. She is dressed to the nines, has lost her accent, and appears to have everything Ava has ever dreamed of. 

Readers quickly discover that the story is being told by Ava to a detective, so things must not have gone as planned. Will Ava sell Winnie out to protect herself? Will she take responsibility for her role in this scheme? You will want to read to find out. This is a very humorous story that kept me engaged from start to finish. I am not interested in expensive purses, but I was intrigued by the counterfeit industry and how someone could pull off such a scheme. I felt for the characters and the circumstances they were in that led them down this path. Even though they were clearly doing something that was illegal, I was rooting for them to come out on top.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Book Review: Just One Year by Gayle Forman


Goodreads Overview:

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. 

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.


I was very late to the party when I finally got around to reading Just One Day. It received a ton of hype, and I could definitely see why when I finally read it. Willem and "Lulu" are fantastic. I loved their whirlwind romance and could not wait to see what happened from Willem's perspective. Just One Year tells everything they went through the year after their fairytale day in Paris. While everyone keeps telling Allyson to forget about him, because he was nothing more than a player who took advantage of her, she can't help but wonder what really happened. 

Neither of them exchanged information, so when they got separated, they had no way of contacting each other. They are now an ocean apart trying to piece together the bits of information they did share. She scours the internet and tries contacting his acting company, but to no avail. She eventually decides to get a job and save up enough money for a trip back to Paris to see if she can find any clues. It really is a needle in a haystack plan, but she can't move on with her life without trying. Willem is equally as resourceful. He is a traveler at heart and sets off on his own search, which is equally as fruitless. Just when things appear hopeless, fate steps in once again. 

I was SHOCKED by how this book ended. It was very abrupt with no real conclusion. Readers were left completely hanging in the balance. I don't know if it was known at the time that a novella was being released seven months later, but that is what happened. Was the novella released because readers were outraged or was the short story always part of the plan? I don't know the answer to that question, but I would have been furious if I read this when it was released and had no clue what happened after the last page of this book. As it was, I immediately downloaded the Just One Night eBook and read it that same evening. Why this was split into a book and a short story is beyond me. The ending was perfect, so be sure to have a copy of Just One Night on hand when you finish Just One Year.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Book Review: Torpedoed by Deborah Heiligman


Goodreads Overview:

A true account of the attack and sinking of the passenger ship SS City of Benares, which was evacuating children from England during WWII.
Amid the constant rain of German bombs and the escalating violence of World War II, British parents by the thousands chose to send their children out of the country: the wealthy, independently; the poor, through a government relocation program called CORB. In September 1940, passenger liner SS City of Benares set sail for Canada with one hundred children on board.

When the war ships escorting the City of Benares departed, a German submarine torpedoed what became known as the Children's Ship. Out of tragedy, ordinary people became heroes. This is their story.


My son is not a fan of fiction, so he selected this as one of his choice books for English class. I was familiar with the story of the Lusitania, which was a British passenger ship that was sunk by a German torpedo during WW1. This story is even more heart wrenching because a large number of the passengers on the City of Benares were children trying to get out of England during WWII. Families thought they were doing what was best for their children by sending them Canada, which was not being impacted by the war, but they ultimately would have been safer staying at home. 

Throughout the book we are introduced to several of the children, chaperones, staff on the Benares and the rescue ships, and even some of the German soldiers who were responsible for the attack. Much like watching the Titanic movie, the reader becomes attached to some of the children as they take in the luxurious surroundings and endless amounts of food, which was far from what they were used to in their war-torn country. We learn some of their personal backgrounds and expect the main characters to be rescued and live happily ever after. In some cases that happens, but in many cases it does not. The narrator gives detailed accounts of what it was like throughout the entire ordeal from the perspective of the participants, so the reader feels like they are part of the story.

What is different about this book is that it is NOT historical fiction. It is based upon letters, current interviews of survivors, recordings of interviews with survivors, information found in the war museum, etc. It provides a glimpse into the lives of the people who were involved in this horrific event and what they were thinking and feeling at the time. While it is appropriate for middle school readers, my son's high school English teacher recommended it. I found it to be very educational and something that should appeal to readers of all ages.