The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

I would have a totally awesome quote inserted right here. Except for the fact that Kelly ‘the book pusher’ and Mitchell may really share parts of my brain. I checked and she had already stolen them. I’ll let her slide since she threatened me bodily harm if I didn’t hurry up and read this one. Because it’s just pure goodness. (Don’t read this ‘head in the oven’ book and look at us weird. We were already weird to start with.)

This book starts off with fifteen year old Lane after her mother’s suicide. She lives with the neighbor drag queen for a minute before the state steps in and tells her she must have a legal place to go. And guess what? Her long lost grandparents not only will take her. They want her.
So off she goes to rural Kansas and her new home.

Roanoke.

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She is greeted by her cousin Allegra, who has lived with the grandparents since birth. When he mom took off right after her birth. She learns that Roanoke girls either run or they die.
That sounds like the perfect type of girls doesn’t it?
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Gran is there also. She is one of those perfect types that would die if her hair wasn’t in place.
Then the grandfather. Who is described as handsome but I think he is majorly creepy as heck. *shudders*
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I can’t tell you much more because that would make me a spoilery butthole. Just know that this book is family drama times infinity.
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I’m gonna go take a bleach shower now.

Booksource: I received a copy from Netgalley and Crown books. In exchange for review. But really because I have no shame in my begging for a book like this.

Imperial Valley by Johnny Shaw

Imperial Valley by Johnny Shaw

Getting a new Johnny Shaw book always puts me in a really good mood.
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Especially if it’s one featuring two of my all time favorite characters. Jimmy and Bobby. Those two pretty much guarantee a good time.

They haven’t changed much…
I had always tried to do the right thing, even when I seemed to consistently make things worse. Now it was time to do the wrong thing. I hoped that worked out better.

Jimmy starts off the book by finally marrying Angie. You think things would be calm now that he has settled down and they are in the middle of newlywed bliss. You’d have the wrong book if that was your plan.
Drug lord Tomas comes calling for the after wedding with a present for Jimmy. Some cash, a pre-paid trip and he has found Jimmy’s adopted son’s true grandfather. They just have to go to Mexico to find him.

That works out pretty much as expected after Bobby and his girlfriend shows up. These two guys attract trouble like no one else. One thing about it though, they are ALWAYS there for each other. No matter how stupid the other may be.
It’s hard to review this one without going spoilery and it’s way too much fun to get spoiled on one of these books. Just know that Bobby is his usual self…full of helpful tips.
“You have no idea how hard it is to find good muscle.”
“Have you tried Craigslist?” Bobby said. “Look in the ‘Hoods and Flunkies’ category.”

Then throw in all Jimmy’s buddies, Snout, Buck-Buck, Mr. Morales, Tomas and a few new wonderful characters that also fit into Bobby’s motto of..“I’ve been waiting my whole life for a fight like this. Finally. It’s finally time to fuck some fuckers the fuck up.”

These are the guys I’d want as friends if the crap hit the fan.

I’d bring plenty of beer so calm down.
(P.S. You can read these as stand alone’s but honestly you would miss the backstory. Go read them all.)

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.

The Weight of This World by David Joy

The Weight of This World by David    Joy

David Joy’s debut book Where All Light Tends to Go kinda left something wanting for me, but dang, he stepped it up in this one. *4.5 stars*

This book opens with young Aiden McCall’s parents dying violently before his eyes. He ends up in a group home and runs away. He takes to the woods and is found by his friend Thad. Thad tells him to come live with him now, his mom won’t care since she and his step-father have given him a trailer on their land to keep him out of their hair.

That sets up the boys friendship. They stick together no matter what. Even after Thad comes home from being deployed in Afghanistan a changed person. They never really stand a chance in life, both of the boys are known screw-ups in the mountain town they live in. Thad’s red hair lies to the tale that his mom told him about his dad being a Native American. But there is that red-headed deacon at the church that gives his mom the eye during church.
Thad’s mom April now lives up in the house by herself, wishing for a way out of the mountains that she feels trapped in. She put up with a husband that beat the crap out of her because she felt she needed the help he provided, she also never really loved her son Thad. She and Aiden are now sleeping together.
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Sounds like a crazy train already doesn’t it? But wait, it gets soooo much worse.

Thad and Aiden are bored and tired of stealing copper out of foreclosed houses. When they show up at the dope man’s house and stuff and thangs happen, they end up with a ton of dope and cash.

Do they do something smart with the money/drugs? Umm the answer to that would be…. no.

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Then the real fun begins, once the two go on a drug filled binge things start to spiral. They end up with two girls. It ends badly.

Then stuff really starts getting bad.
At about 56% into the book I had to take a break.
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Then I picked the sucker back up. Because no matter how dark (AND THIS FUCKER IS DARK) this book got I couldn’t look away. I at times hated these characters. That’s understandable with them. I mean, most of the time they are drugged out of their minds with not much care as to what kind of crap they stir up. Then stinking David Joy did something with this book that completely took me by surprise. He made me actually really sort of care about these messed up losers.

Then he tore my heart into little pieces and laughed.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

For all the horror of the official reports she and Albrecht had seen, with their language of “extermination” and “elimination,” they could not come close to conjuring this. How could they? There was no point of reference. Later, such footage would come to be so familiar it became unseen-a kind of placeholder for human evil. The first black-and-white glimpse of barbed wire, dirt, and nakedness cautioned viewers,look away. But in this moment, in the first unveiling, it was nothing she or anyone else had ever seen. And it was impossible to look away. She looked and trembled in her seat.

I’ve always heard it discussed on just how could the German people all condone what was going on in their country under Hitler’s reign. This book takes you there. And sadly I’m probably not going to be able to convey how powerful the book is.

It starts in a Bavarian castle at a party.
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Marianne and her husband Albrecht are hosting, news comes to them of destruction taking place that will later be known asKristallnacht. Marianne is not a woman that lets things go on around her without knowing what is going on, so she enters a room where her husband, her best friend Connie and others are talking about how scared they are of what is becoming of their country. They don’t agree with Hitler’s politics. Connie (who Marianne is secretly in love with) introduces later his new fiance. A poor girl named Benita. He makes Marianne promise to him to always look after his wife and son should something happen to him.

Things do happen. Connie and Albrecht join in on a plot to assassinate Hitler and it fails. They are put to death and Benita is thrown into prison, even though she was totally clueless.

Marianne fights to find their child and get Benita back so that she can fulfill her promise.

They make their way across a war torn Germany back to the castle, which is now crumbling. Along the way they pick up Ania and her two sons.
There is a whole lot of secrets bound by these women in that castle. They know that the world around them is deeply changed forever but so have they.

This book isn’t a pretty picture of anything. It tells how each of these women faced what they were challenged with wide open eyes.
She felt the pulse of the lives lived inside the mean little houses she passed: selfish or generous, kind or unkind, ugly or tolerable, almost all of them sad. And she saw the histories of the people passing by like x-rays stamped on their faces-ugly, mutinous tracings of dark and light: a woman who ratted out a neighbor, a man who had shot children, a soldier who had held his dying friend in his arms. Yet here they were, carrying groceries, holding children’s hands, turning their collars up against the wind. As if their moments of truth-the decisions by which they would be judged and would judge themselves-hadn’t already come and passed What a sham this new German present was! An irrelevant time-a mad scramble to cast votes after the verdict had already been reached.

Some of this sounds so familiar to me. They say history repeats itself. I hope this time in history stays never repeated forever. Not forgotten though, educate yourself. Step back from your hate (even though you don’t see it as hate) and educate yourselves. You would hope that with all the ways to learn that are available today that people would.
But….
On the news and my stupid Facebook feed though you would wonder. I see hate from BOTH sides. No one will admit that they have the wrong viewpoint. They become keyboard commandos for their cause and never see that they might just be preaching some of that hate that they so strongly oppose. What they are saying is right and nothing else will do.

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Booksource: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and then promptly lost it. I’m glad I found it again.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

A dark as night apocalyptic novel? That’s actually good? All the stars going up.

She wakes up in the hospital after being sick to realize that they are no people around. Just some dead bodies and the remembrances of a sickness that was rampant. Mostly all the women were dying and the babies and children were all gone.

She ventures home shell shocked and is almost raped in her bed. She discovers that there are a few men still alive but the rules have changed.
She poses as a man because those are her best chances of making it anywhere without being made into a captive.

When the sirens quit, the rules gave out. Some people had been waiting their whole lives to live lawlessly, and they were the first to take to the streets. Some people knew what would happen; they knew better than to open their doors when they heard cries of help. Other’s didn’t. What disease cannot do, people accomplish with astonishing ease.

This book takes on this type of story differently than I’ve seen it done. It seems like by reading the blurb and a few of the reviews that you are getting a story that’s been told before but not that I’ve read. The unnamed woman sets out on her journey and I became entranced by it. I usually gripe and whine about not knowing all the tidbits..like what the disease actually was and what caused it. But not this time. It is done

PERFECTLY. The author does take the time to wrap up the stories of the characters she introduces. (Even when you wished she hadn’t…dark stuff)
Then genders are blinded when the world is thrown to shit.
Women are basically trade items at times and then ‘hive’ masters the next.

This is a whole new set of worms.
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Read this book.

(It looks like it might be a series but fear not my fellow series haters..this is a full meal on it’s own.)

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Welcome to the internet in the year 2016. Where a simple book blurb broke the internet for a few days. A teenage girl who was rescued from her house because her weight kept her a prisoner. Then through in a statement about how she is returning to high school aka..the real world after being homeschooled.
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I KNOW!! Let’s all run and one star and bash the book.

Not.

And all you guys thought I was the biggest bully on here didn’t you?

Because I had (for once) stopped to think about what the book meant..and it made me drool all over myself.
I didn’t jump on the bandwagon. I wanted the book even more.
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Because I’ve been a bit on the fat side many times in my life. I lose some weight and then I gain some weight. Big dang deal. (I can say that now-I couldn’t when I was this character’s age.) I home-school my kid. AND YES sometimes we talk about him joining the ‘real world’ again. Does that mean he is socially awkward? Hell no.

This book is something that if I had it in high-school I would have highlighted ever stinking line of it. It would have became my Shelby bible of how to deal with all the assholes that dwell in high-school. (and real life)

These characters:
Libby Stout, she is the girl that was taken from her house. By a crane. Because her mom had died suddenly and she could not cope. Food became her crutch, her dad didn’t know how to deal with it and tried..he did try. But when someone is bent on self destruction-sometimes that path can’t be detoured. She does finally reach that point (when the crane is brought out) that her dad knows that help is needed. He wants to save his daughter. He gets her help.
Then comes to the point in the story where she is going back to school. She has lost some weight, she is still overweight by public opinion. BUT this girl totally knows who she is.

For example..on the first day back at school.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey.”
“Is it true fat girls give better blow jobs?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never gotten a blow job from a fat girl.”.

Jack Masselin: This kid hides the fact that he recognizes no one’s face. Not even his own family. He once screamed that his mom was kidnapping him because she had gotten a haircut and he didn’t have the familiar markers to place her in his mind.
He plays the cool guy at school but he lives in fear that someone will discover his secret.

Then they end up in group counseling together. This is not a boy rescue the fat girl story. This is a story of two people realizing who exactly they are..and owning it.
People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they’re just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don’t realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they’re shitty because they’re afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it’s like self-defensive shittiness.

Books like this are exactly why I read young adult.

Jennifer Nevin, I hope you pat yourself on the back. And the haters?
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Booksource: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for review.

Best of My 2016 Books

I feel like I had an off year of reading. I changed jobs, went through a book slump and then Goodreads started completely losing my interest. First world problems for sure.

I still managed to read 176 books. Boring statistic thingie inserted here:

Seventeen of them rating five stars, 62 of them four stars, 65 of the books rating 3 stars, 27 two stars and only six 1 star books. I may have lost my bully touch. Maybe it’s the resolution I made to not DNF a book all of 2016? Who knows. I made that goal. Yay me.

Enough rambling. On to the books!

Best Non-Fiction

I had a tie in this category. They both are two of the best I’ve read.

Mean Justice: A Town's Terror, a Prosecutor's Power, a Betrayal of Innocence

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Best Western. That I don’t read a lot of but was going to make sure that this book made my list anyways:

The Thicket

Best book that I loved and most of my friends hated:

The Girls

BestĀ SurpriseĀ of the year..that I never imagined would end up a favorite: That cover makes me cringe.

Nine Minutes (Nine Minutes, #1)

Best Sci-Fi:

Dark Matter

Best Romance: Yes, I eat these books up with a spoon.

(ugly covers are everywhere)

First Star I See Tonight (Chicago Stars, #8)

Best Hick-Lit and Pure Fun:

Savage Reckoning

And I save the best two books of the year for last.

I can’t pick between these two. They are the best of the best. Read them.

The Serpent King

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Warning: This reviews is just mostly gifs.

I probably should have done this before reviewing this book.
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This is more my style though..
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So you now have been warned. Keep reading if you want. If you are a fangirl troll..please know this:
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Because this book was just stupid. FOR ME! Half of GR loves it. More than half actually. Go and love their reviews.
The book is told in choppy little chapters, from multiple points of view. This really could have worked, it’s worked for me before.
There was not enough to make me give two craps about it though.

You have Natasha, she is being deported on the very day that the book takes place. Her family is in America illegally and Daddy got drunk and blabbed their status. Now she is not going to get to use her bought and paid for illegal social security card to get financial aid for college.

You totally lost me there Nicola Yoon.

I don’t want any trolling so before you start, I’m all for immigration and mixed relationships, for anything else this book portrays. BUT don’t just throw in something like that for a main character to be doing and expect me to like it.

Then you have Daniel. Daniel has a sweet poets soul.
He has lots of feelings.

I somewhat liked Daniel better than the rest of these characters.
He falls in love with Natasha about five minutes after he meets her. Because it’s meant to be.

It was meant to be that this book totally lost me.

Booksource: From Publisher in exchange for review.

The French Chef in America by Alex Prud'Homme

Realizing that I had gotten an audio book hurt my heart. (I can’t do them)

I LOVE Julia Child and she is one of my biggest heroines. So I just bought the physical copy of the book to go with it. Yay me!
I love hearing about Julia’s life and her bawdy, wonderful personality. I love this book.

Booksource: I received a copy of the book from Blogging for books in exchange for review.

Red Blooded American Male by Robert Trachtenberg

Red-Blooded American Male by Robert Trachtenberg

My friend Sandra posted a little tease of this book this morning. She posted a pic of Neal Patrick Harris.
Wet.
In a tub.

I realized I had this book and ran to open the sucker so I could READ it. Yes, I read it. I didn’t just look at it “for the pictures.”
Whatever.

Actually, this book is freaking beautiful.
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Not only that…Trachtenberg writes little snippets of stories that go with the photos.
Like this one…
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This was for Rolling Stone’s “Hot” issue. It seemed absurd to do anything where we tried to make Rudd look deliberately “hot.” His ‘hotness’ comes effortlessly. He agreed we should mock the whole notion of “hot.” He agree to get in the bed. He agree the boxers were getting in the way and dropped them. Months later, he sent me a nice note saying friends had seen the photo on the walls of gay bars across America and he couldn’t be more proud.

Mama likey.

Trachtenberg took this one of Nick Offerman and Chelsea Handler:
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They had never met before this photo. I’m still haunted by Offerman’s final words to me before he dropped his pants. “Please. Be gentle with me.”

I want a copy of this book. I don’t give a damn that it is forty frigging dollars. It’s one that must be held in your hands. It’s one that I could completely post every frigging photo and story that goes with it..but that’s spoilery. I’ll behave. I’m writing the name of this book on a slip and putting it in my husband’s wallet right now. I hope it comes wrapped. Because I can tell him it’s educational.

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I can’t find some of the images I wanted to show in this review…so I’m ticked off and I’m going to go look at this book some more.
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Booksource: Netgalley and publisher in exchange for review

PS! I totally just got my greedy little hands on a hardcover of this book. It’s even more beautiful than I imagined.