The Checklist Book by Alexandra Franzen

Photo provided by agency
  • Published: January 14, 2020 by Mango
  • Genre: Self-Help
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • Rating: 3 stars

Simplicity at its best: The checklist is one of the world’s oldest―and most effective―productivity systems. If anything, author and entrepreneur Alexandra Franzen shares, it is just as valuable now as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. Writing out a simple checklist allows us to tangibly plan our day and set in stone what we want to accomplish.

Cut out unnecessary noise: There are countless apps and organizational systems out there to help us straighten out our lives, but often they only add to the madness. Trying to keep up leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed. Learn how to choose your highest priorities, set realistic goals, celebrate tiny wins, and feel calmer every day with the magic of checklists.

Be realistic about the time in a day: By physically writing down our tasks on a single piece of paper, we force ourselves to limit how much we can do in a day. Too often, we cram our day with tasks and chores and leave almost no space for self-care or time with loved ones. We end up disappointed in our inability to complete our never-ending to-do list. Checklists help you plan your day in a more gentle, realistic way. You accomplish what needs to be done―and enjoy things you want to be doing, too.

Self-Help is not a genre in which I have read many books, but I pleasantly enjoyed Franzen’s The Checklist Book! Personally, I’ve never really created checklists for my daily routine; however, I was a strong believer in keeping up with a student planner during my school years!

In this book, I felt like the author did a wonderful job at explaining the importance of a checklist and I discovered that there are several different types of lists; I had only known of the standard one where you check off items you have completed for the day/towards your goal.

I can safely say that everyone will walk away with something from this read! I walked away with so much knowledge about lists and the tools to successfully create ones that will not be setting myself up for failure. Even if you currently use checklists, I still encourage you to pick this one up because there is tons of useful information that can further boost your own lists.

*I’d like to thank Nicole Pyles and Women on Writing for allowing me to participate in this tour.

To Catch A Rat by S. J. Grey

View on Amazon
  • Published: March 30, 2020 by Acelette Press
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 342
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

She said she was being spied on. No one believed her. Now, she’s dead.

Emma’s best friend Joss had a wild story to tell. She’d been hacked. She was being watched. She was in danger. No one believed her. Not even Emma.

Now she’s dead. The police write it off as accidental death, but Emma’s not so sure.

The more she learns, the deeper she’s drawn into a web of deceit and dark motives. Turns out Joss’s brother developed a revolutionary dark web application, one that people will kill to get their hands on. He’s now in jail on a dodgy manslaughter charge. And then there’s Emma’s boyfriend, who she discovers is lying about his identity.

Now Emma’s the one in danger, and she’s not sure who will believe her or who she can trust. Joss’s murder was only the start.

I must say that this was my first read by Grey, but it will not be my last! I devoured this title and truly believe this is a psychological thriller at its finest! The author included just the right measure of the following elements: mistrust, paranoia, and predation to keep readers turning the pages.

Emma seems to have it all: a well-paying occupation, a close knit group of family and friends, and a perfect boyfriend. However, a friend from the past showing up on her doorstep shortly before she is murdered brings that image crumbling down. Her career becomes in jeopardy, her loved ones are faced with choosing sides, and her “perfect” boyfriend doesn’t seem to be as he has always appeared to be.

It doesn’t take long for Emma to start doing her own investigation into her friend’s strange death; it also doesn’t help reduce the amount of paranoia that she begins to experience on a daily basis. She starts to believe that maybe her friend had been telling the truth when she claimed to be getting spied on, but if that was true who was the culprit?

Her interest in gaining justice for her friend leads Emma and her loved ones into some dangerous waters. It also allows for an old family friend to step in and help make things right once and for all, but even he has a shady history; can this person be trusted in a situation like this?

This title is non-stop action, which is what I enjoy in thrillers! You will want to add this book to your TBR; if you happen to be a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read this title for free!

*I received a copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Dali Summer by T.J. Brown

View on Amazon
  • Published: May 5, 2020 by Tule Publishing
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 344
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

Her wild and vivid visions inspire an icon…

Nothing is more important to prim, colorblind Dolors Posa than family and living down the shame of her illegitimate birth, but when the sudden onset of fantastical visions threaten her sterling reputation, she must search for answers before the inhabitants of the tiny village of Cadaqués brand her as demente— crazy like her mother. In a quest to stop her hallucinations, she befriends a beautiful, intoxicating fortune teller and her handsome anarchist brother, as well as becoming a reluctant muse for thirteen-year-old Salvador Dali. In a summer that changes everything, Dolors must choose between her family’s reputation and a life filled with adventure, friendship, rapturous color and the possibility of love.

Set against the political upheaval of 1917 Spain, Dali Summer captures the fierce spirit of Catalonia, the generosity and stubbornness of its people and the blossoming promise of a woman who thought life was bland and empty and had long ago passed her by.

I happened to finish this title in one sitting; it has been so long since I have read a historical fiction novel that captivated me like this one managed to do. The author provides an interesting array of characters, risky situations, and lots of love that will provide readers of all ages an enjoyable reading experience.

Dolors is a young woman who is colorblind and has been since she was six years old; she doesn’t have any close pals other than her brother Bernat, who has gained his mother’s concern due to still being unwed. The duo shortly cross paths with a fortune-teller named Lidia and her brother Xavi and establish a friendship with the pair despite their mother’s disapproval.

With the increasing amount of time spent with Lidia and her brother, Dolors and Bernat find themselves in some uncertain situations. Bernat seems to be falling in love with the fortune-teller, but are the feelings to be returned? Xavi seems to have affection towards Dolors, but will the woman who has never been in love find herself falling for the beau Lidia has forbidden her to fall for?

Love is constantly in the air during this novel; whether is love to be gained or love lost, Brown will keep you on your toes and constantly flipping through the pages to discover what is awaiting you next!

*I’d like to thank Trish Collins and TLC Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour and giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Well behaved women rarely make history. Teri Brown lived that quote way before she ever even heard it. The two things she is most proud of, (besides her children), is that she jumped out of an airplane once and she beat the original Legend of Zelda video game. She is a novel writer, head banger, pet keeper, math hater, cocktail drinker, booty shaker, book reader, city slicker, food fixer, French kisser, rule breaker, wine sipper and word scribbler. She loves her husband, kitties and chocolate.

The Dead Don’t Sleep by Steven Max Russo

View on Amazon
  • Published: November 18, 2019 by Down & Out Books
  • Genres: Crime, Suspense, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 292
  • Rating: 3 stars

Frank Thompson, a recent widower and aging Vietnam veteran is down from Maine visiting his nephew, Bill, and his family in New Jersey.

While at a trap range, he and his nephew have a chance encounter with a strange man who claims to remember Frank from the war.

That night, the windows in Bill’s home are shattered along with the quiet peaceful lives the two men had been living.

Three veterans from a special combat unit directed by the CIA during the Vietnam War have gathered to discuss what they are going to do about a man they claim killed one of their own over forty years ago.

Jasper, Birdie and Pogo were part of a team that called themselves the National League All Stars. They were a squad of psychopathic killers trained by Special Forces to cause death and mayhem during the war. Now, they have banded together to hunt down and kill the professional soldier who led them all those years ago.

Drawing on his military training and a resurgent bloodlust from his tortured past, Frank prepares for a final, violent reckoning that will bring him full circle with the war that never left him.

This book’s synopsis does a good job of summarizing the entirety of this novel, so I will spare you all my usual recapping storyline paragraphs. I found this title to be a quick, engaging read; Frank’s character is struggling to overcome the events of his military background and adjust to a life of solitude after his wife’s recent death. The author does a wonderful job at gauging Frank’s reactions to certain events based on the emotions of a man in his position.

If you are a fan of thrillers, a fan of books with military references/plots, or just a fan of books that you can knockout in a day or two then you will want to add this one to your TBR! I am sure you will be pleased by this decision.

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Seduced Into Darkness by Carrie T. Ishee

Trigger Warning: This novel contains the following content that may be sensitive for some readers: attempts of suicide, drug use, emotional abuse, inappropriate relationship with person of authority, and manipulation.

View on Amazon
  • Publication date: August 1, 2020 by Terra Nova Books
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 286
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

This poignant memoir chronicles the traumatic psychological abduction and sexual exploitation of depressed college student Carrie Tansey at the hands of her psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Romano―thirty-one years her senior. For three years, their secret “affair” was carefully calculated and controlled by Romano, as Carrie’s mental and emotional health continued to deteriorate, bringing her closer and closer to the edge.

Their dual-relationship―clinical and clandestine―finally came to light when Carrie’s suicide attempts landed her in a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Gradually, she began to reclaim her power, reported Romano to the state licensing board, successfully sued him for malpractice, and testified before the state legislature to help pass a law aimed at curbing such abuses.

As Carrie tells her tale, it is a journey paralleling that of the mythical archetype Persephone, the naive innocent who was abducted into darkness, reemerged and regenerated herself, then fearlessly returned to the prison she had fled, this time to help free others. Today, Carrie Ishee is a widely respected art therapist and life coach as well as a teacher specializing in the issues of ethics and boundaries for mental health professionals.

For those of you who follow my blog, you are probably aware of the fact that memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read and review. With that being addressed, I was excited to be included in the tour for Ishee’s novel; this memoir is different from any other memoir I have read!

Throughout the novel, Ishee shares her own personal experience of being in an intimate relationship with her psychiatrist; as she documents the progression of their relationship from professional to unethical, the author draws on comparisons from the Greek mythology of Persephone. For those unfamiliar with the story, no worries as the author includes parts of the story prior to sharing her own personal connection to the tidbits shared.

Carrie is a twenty-one year old college student struggling with an immense amount of anxiety and depression when she is introduced to Dr. Tony Romano. The author’s only goal is to pinpoint what is causing her mental health issues to spiral out of control and for her mental health professional to be able to provide an effective method of treatment. To her relief, Dr. Romano does not think she requires medication. He suggests three years of psychotherapy and for her to take a break from her graduate studies despite the fact that she is only six months away from completion. Desperate for any possibility of feeling normal again, Carrie and her family are in support of Romano’s treatment plan.

Isolated from her friends, Dr. Romano gradually begins isolating Carrie from her parents as they begin to suggest that some of his activities with their daughter is overstepping boundaries. Ishee begins lying to her parents about her whereabouts, so that she is able to spend time alone with Dr. Romano who she now only calls by his first name: Tony. It is on these secret escapades that her psychiatrist begins supplying her with marijuana, coaxing her into nude photoshoots, and more. Carrie feels like these events are wrong, but through the manipulation of Tony she believes he has her best interest at heart.

This cycle continues on for a couple of years before the author is able to truly acknowledge her personal experience with Romano. When she “graduates” Tony’s course of counseling, she begins seeing a new therapist; it is during this time that she begins to understand how unethical her relationship with her former doctor was. She begins to slowly open up to her new counselor and finds the courage to seek justice for his wrongdoings.

I was able to binge this story in one sitting, it was that good! I personally feel like those individuals on the opposite end of a situation like this could view the author’s actions as unimaginable and as a position they would never wind up in, but Carrie is able to bring awareness to her readers that it is possible; like her, she had no intentions of falling for her mental health professional. However, over time the psychiatrist was able to use her weaknesses against her and would find that it would be years for her to process this experience for what it truly was.

This novel is empowering and eye-opening. If you enjoy memoirs, stories of female empowerment, or just wanting a new unique read then I encourage you to consider this one when it hits shelves!

*I’d like to thank Nicole Pyles from WOW, Women On Writing, for reaching out to me to participate in this blog tour. I was also provided a free copy of the book in exchange for posting my honest review.

Rose Petals by Sara McCoy

Purchase here
  • Published: April 27, 2019 by ShootingStar Publishing
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 98
  • Rating: 3 stars

This transparent collection of poetry explores themes of grief and loss, the beauty of nature, self compassion, and the power of returning to your true self. With sensitivity and compassion, the author dares to express the heart’s deepest desire for relationship and love.

McCoy’s literary piece is broken into three categories: the loss, the longing, and the return. In each of these categories, there are numerous corresponding poems. As I was reading, I found myself connected to quite a few of the author’s poems and thought I’d share bits of each with you.

my grandma doesn’t remember my name

her memory unravels a little each year

like a faded tapestry

slowly fraying and coming undone at the seams

a poem titled “memories.”

This poem resonated with me because I have personally lost two grandparents who battled with Alzheimer’s disease.

autumn is a gentle friend

taking you by the hand to mend

your sorrows with a peaceful walk

through golden leaves with beauty dressed

and shows your heart the way to the rest

a poem titled “seasons.”

Autumn is my favorite season and reading the author’s portrayal for this particular season connected with me. It’s the time of change and can be difficult to do, but with change comes amazing opportunities.

when blended and swirled together

we create an entirely new shade

light and dark, strong and subtle

we are one, and yet entirely separate

a poem titled “two colors, one palette.”

It is always suggested to find a partner who shares your same interests as to avoid potential conflicts, but I have never been that type of girl. I’m a strong believer in opposites attract and this poem sums up how those relationships can work out for the better.

McCoy’s poetic piece is a quick read that readers everywhere will want to check out. If you end up loving this particular title, then you may want to look into other writings of hers from her website.

*I was given a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Daughters of the Steppes by Brooks Carver

  • Published by Prairie Sky Press
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • Rating: 3 stars

This book conveys the stories of some of the most talented, brave, and resourceful women of their generation, the only female air force to appear in combat. It is told through the journal of a young innocent girl from the Russian Steppes. They battled the deadly German Luftwaffe in the skies over Russia, so join them on their missions by night above the dangerous killing fields of that era. Many of them sacrificed their lives while becoming the highest decorated regiment in the Soviet Union.
They were legends in the making. The many young women who lost their lives during those years left behind a legacy that far outlived them. Even though the Russian officials hid their exploits for many years, the glasnost era of the 1980’s brought their story into the shining light of history. Even in death, the Night Witches skill and bravery immortalized their contribution to victory on the Eastern Front.

I must confess that prior to reading this book, I was unaware of women performing military duties. I had always learned in school history courses of the women being the ones overseeing the home-fronts while their male counterparts were away in combat, so I was surprised to discover there was a navigation school during those days for women! Carver does a magnificent job at exposing this unheard part of women’s history; the author is able to achieve this status by combining retellings from a female navigator’s diary and war photos.

During the introduction, the author addresses the fact that the story is being shared via the diary of a young woman named Mariya, whose diary was discovered by Diederich Brandt who went on to translate it from Russian to English. Brandt’s son falls into possession of this prized treasure after the death of his father and relays its contents to Carver’s readers.

Readers will get to know Mariya as they follow her piloting journey; they will learn about the staggering amount of night missions the regimen participates in, the blossoming friendships among the ladies of the team, and the leading women in this line of work. Along these stories are photos from World War II and helps puts into perspective the events being described.

This is a nonfiction read like no other and those who enjoy this genre will want to pick up this book!

The author runs his own publishing house, which you can find the address for below:

Prairie Sky Press

118 Poplar Street

Canton, IL, 61520

*I was given a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Shortcake by Lucy Watson

View on Goodreads
  • Published: September 19, 2019 by Lucy Watson Books
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 390
  • Rating: 4 stars

Things Emelia Anderson would rather do than share a house with Benjamin Crawford:

1) Get strapped to a chair in a restaurant full of loud-chewers.

2) Parachute into the Australian Outback armed with only a blowdart.

3) Live her best life as an ice road trucker in the Alaskan Tundra.

Benjamin Crawford thinks Emelia conned his dying grandmother into leaving her half of an estate worth millions, so let’s just say he’s not her biggest fan either. Not even close.

Now they have to live together for the next thirty days while renovating the family home. Or the estate will transfer to the one person Ben hates more than Emelia, and she’ll have to move back to the one place she wants to forget more than Ben.

Did I mention Ben look likes man-candy and smells like testosterone? Not that Emelia notices. She spends a lot of time not noticing things about Ben.

Romantic comedies would have to be the category that I least read, let alone review. However, after a fellow bookstagrammer named Angela pushed for the ladies in her book club to read this title I decided I would take the plunge and see if it was worthy of all the hype.

The plot kicks off with Emelia’s patient, Rose, passing away and bringing about the unpleasant welcome of her grandson, Ben. After the funeral, Emelia and Ben are brought together to discuss the terms of his grandmother’s will; as it turns out, she had decided to split her estate between the two! However, this choice comes with its own conditions: they must live in the home together for an entire month AND renovate the house and have it deemed worthy. If the duo fails to achieve both of these, the estate will no longer be theirs.

Will the pair be able to put aside their differences and succeed at maintaining their control of Rose’s estate, or will they fail and lose everything? Readers will want to know what the answer to that question turns out to be and will not want to miss out on the beautiful way the author concludes their story!

*I was given a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

View on Amazon
  • Published: July 11, 2017 by Dutton
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 352
  • Rating: 5 stars

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
 
That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

This is the second novel that I have read by Sager, the first being Lock Every Door. I found myself to be in the minority for that title, but decided to give him another chance and this time around, he did not disappoint! Sager manages to throw all the elements into this thriller: a sole survivor of a massacre, an unexpected visitor, and jaw-dropping reveals!

Quincy and a group of her friends take a vacation to Pine Cottage, a location that is out in the wilderness with spotty cell signal. The group finds themselves throwing a party and inviting a guy named Joe Hannen; a guy that they have only recently been introduced to and who strikes Quincy as odd. Her reasons for being suspicious prove wise when Hannen decides to go on a killing spree later that night and murder all her friends, leaving her wounded but still alive.

Flash forward to ten years later, Quincy refuses to try recalling any memories about that night’s events as she does not want to be associated with the title “Final Girl.” She just wants to live her life outside of the public eye and has succeeded in doing so, but that changes when the first “Final Girl” Lisa is discovered dead from a suspected suicide and Quincy is paid an unexpected visit from the second one, Samantha shortly after. Samantha quickly wears out her welcome, but Quincy finds herself in a position where she is being blackmailed and Samantha is the one calling shots.

Quincy sets out on a mission to uncover some type of dirt in a bid to use against Samantha and remove her from life once and for all, but she ends up uncovering way more than information on her visitor. This thriller had me convinced that I knew the killer’s identity and I felt I was right until the end when things took a turn and left my mind blown!

I highly recommend this thriller for those who enjoyed AHS: 1984, as this read definitely gave me those vibes.

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

View on Amazon
  • Published: November 1, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Edition: Audiobook
  • Time length: 1 hour and 9 minutes
  • Rating: 4 stars

Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.

As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.

Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father – Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say good-bye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear.

Ted, Noah’s father, and his father did not have a close relationship as he was growing up, but he is thankful for the opposite when it comes to the bond between his father and his son, Noah. Backman quickly sweeps readers into the folds of this familial tie and will have them engaged until the very end.

This was my first book by this author and it definitely will not be the last! Do not let the time length of this one fool you; this story packs a lot of heart! The author captures the deterioration involving Alzheimer’s perfectly, which is a disease that hits close to home for me as I have lost two grandparents that battled with this infliction. I highly recommend giving this one a read!