Monday, January 31, 2022

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines


Goodreads Overview:

Ashton is getting tired of being good, of impressing her parents and playing ideal girlfriend to Sawyer Vincent. Sawyer is perfect, a regular Prince Charming, but when he leaves town for the summer, it’s his cousin Beau who catches Ashton’s eye. Beau is the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, and even though he’s dangerous, Ashton is drawn to him.

Beau loves his cousin like a brother, so the last thing he wants to do is make a move on Sawyer’s girl. Ashton is off-limits, absolutely. That’s why he does his best to keep his distance, even though he’s been in love with her forever. When Ashton wants to rekindle their childhood friendship in Sawyer’s absence, Beau knows he should say no.

Ashton and Beau don’t want to hurt Sawyer. But the more they try to stay away from each other, the more intense their urges become. It’s getting way too hard to resist....


One of my fellow Book Nerds recommended this book when we were at a convention several years ago. The author was there signing free copies, so I picked one up. I never got around to reading it, so I finally downloaded the audiobook from the library when I was looking for something to listen to.  

Ashton, Sawyer and Beau were best friends growing up, but when Sawyer and Ashton began dating, her relationship with Beau became strained. They were both secretly drawn to each other, but Ashton felt like she had to choose the boy her parents and everyone else approved of. Sawyer is a star athlete from a wealthy family and can provide the type of lifestyle everyone expects her to have. Secretly she is pretending to be someone she isn't just to live up to Sawyer's and everyone else's expectations.

When Sawyer is gone for the summer, Ashton uses the time to rekindle her friendship with Beau. She remembers all of the great times they had growing up and how easy it was to just be herself around him. While people in town think of him as a bad boy because of his parents reputations, there is much more to him than meets the eye. 

Overall, I enjoyed the premise, but felt like the story was forced. The preacher's daughter, bad boy, perfect boyfriend labels were thrown at you every other page. Everything seemed to be exaggerated to play into this narrative including the country bumpkin dialog that was forced on Beau's character. I haven't read any of Abbi Glines's other books, so I don't know if this is a one off that I just didn't connect with, or if her writing style just isn't for me. The book has almost 4 stars of Goodreads, but I only gave it 2 stars. I finished the book, but if someone asks me for book recommendations, this will not be on the list.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali


Goodreads Overview:

marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


This book has been on my TBR list since August 2019. I'm not sure if it ever would have made it to the top of the list if it weren't for the A to Z challenge. I was scrolling through my Goodreads TBR list looking for a book with a Z in the title and BAM, there were Adam and Zayneb. 

This was such an inspiring and thought provoking novel that I really learned a lot from. I did not know much about Muslim beliefs and customs prior to reading this book, but I was very much aware of the discrimination that is often placed upon them due to stereotypes in this country. This book gives a first hand account of how discrimination can impact someone's daily life. Zayneb was a good student with a nice group of friends, but one teacher's hatred for Muslims made her life a living hell. She  became very angry and began acting out. When she goes to live with her Aunt over spring break she encounters discrimination again at the gym her Aunt goes to. Zayneb likes to swim, but another patron and the manager did not approve of her culturally compliant swimwear and gave her a hard time. Her Aunt was a great influence and taught her how to channel her anger to make positive changes.  

Adam is also Muslim, but growing up in a country where he was not a minority, he often did not see things in the same light as Zayneb. He was dealing with his own issues related to his MS diagnosis and how the disease was affecting his body. He didn't know how to tell his father and sister about his diagnosis and was focusing all of his effort on his art as a way of avoiding reality and coping.

Through a fluke meeting at the airport and a shared appreciation for a Marvels and Oddities journal, it would appear that these two were destined to be together. Even when they went their separate ways their lives continued to cross paths. While neither could fully appreciate the challenges the other was going through, they were a great support system for each other and you couldn't help but root for them. 

I gave it a solid 5 stars and immediately read the companion short story, The Eid Gift, which takes place shortly before the epilogue in this book. It was a quick read and really filled in the gaps, so I would highly recommend reading that as well. It is a free download that was linked to The Eid Gift's page on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Review: The Guilty by James Patterson


Goodreads Overview:

Tonight, Osmond Box, the reclusive yet wildly successful writer/director known for his completely surprising Broadway plays is debuting his seventh and most highly anticipated production of his career.

'THE GUILTY'. Nothing is known as the story, the setting, the premise, or even the actors involved. The first people to discover the truth will be the lucky ones sitting in those seats opening night. Phones are collected; doors are locked. The rest of the world eagerly awaits the first reviews....

Two hours later, when the doors are finally allowed to open, half of the audience will be applauding wildly. The other half will be fleeing the theater in mortal terror. Has Osmond Box done it again? Or has he done something far, far worse?


This is a free Audible original murder mystery that is short and sweet at about 3 hours and 20 minutes long. I enjoyed the fact that there was a full cast of characters, which made it feel like I was listening to a live production vs. reading a book.

I never could tell if they were acting or improvising as the story went along. The actors all insist the story is unscripted and they are getting sucked into participating in something they did not sign up for. How all of the characters are connected, and why Box summoned them for this monumental occasion, is as much of a mystery as the murder itself.  I enjoyed listening to the police interrogations and felt like I was part of the actual investigation. 

This was a very unique way of telling a story and something that I think would appeal to reluctant readers. I haven't experienced anything like this before and would definitely be interested in future full cast productions. While I wouldn't sign up for Audible just for this book, it was worth the time invested if you are already a member. 

I was reluctant to sign up for Audible for a long time and did two separate free trials just to get the free credits to buy a book my son needed for school. The fact that he prefers to listen while following along with the text is what finally sold me. My husband, son, and I all share one account and we use at least half of our credits on books he needs for school that are not available in audio from the library. With three people using the account ,we definitely get our money's worth. If it were just me, I would stick with the library since I am fine with any format and don't usually care if I have to wait. My TBR list is filled with books that have been out for quite some time, so there is always something available when I am looking. My son needing specific books in less than a week, in both audio and print, made Audible a no brainer for us. The app tracks your listening time and we average at least 40 hours per month. That is equal to 35 cents an hour and you get to keep the audiobooks you purchase, even if you cancel your subscription. That is a pretty inexpensive way to encourage my son to read more. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


Goodreads Overview:

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. 


Several of Larson's books have been recommended to me over the years. I was going to start with Dead Wake, which is about the sinking of the Lusitania, but my brother has read both and said to start with The Devil in the White City.

This is a true story that is so unbelievable that you would think it was a James Patterson murder mystery. I was not aware of any of the events that surrounded the Chicago World's Fair, so this was a complete shock to me. The fact that they had to pull off such an enormous construction project in such a short period of time would be dauting enough. Add in the poor soil, wind, and the Chicago winters and most people would have chalked it up as impossible. Through sheer determination, they were able to achieve and even exceed expectations.

I found the storyline regarding the construction and the fair to be enlightening, but at times it was a bit much. The detailed descriptions of the landscape, types of plants, architecture, etc. could have been streamlined to make it a more entertaining read. The chapters about Dr. Holmes, on the other hand, kept the pages turning. The man was supposedly handsome, charming, and everyone was drawn to him like a magnet. He was a smooth talker and conned his way into or out of just about any situation. The elaborate scheme he developed to lure in and murder his victims is unimaginable. If he simply weren't so greedy, he could have gotten away with everything. 

I ended up giving this book 3 stars simply because it dragged at times. I have heard that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are working to turn this book into a Hulu series. It has been discussed for quite some time, with a number of potential actors linked to the project. I think it would be a FANTASTIC movie or series, but I'm sure it will be very costly to make, which is probably why it has been kept on the back burner for so long. Replicating all of the buildings for the fair will not be an easy task, but it will be dazzling to see if it is eventually brought to life.  In this case, I think the movie has potential to be even better than the book.