Blog Posts by Sltader

Posted by Sltader on 07/18/17
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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid features alternating timelines as an aging starlet, Evelyn Hugo, participates in a journalism interview about her life story. Lucky for us, her answers take on a life of their own, allowing readers to be sucked back in time to an era of glamour, strategy, and secrecy. Jenkins Reid’s writes a fascinating story that is easy to forget that it is fiction. It feels like an actual memoir. Evelyn's character shares perspectives on equality issues, relationships, the spectrum of sexuality, the cost and consequences of success, and taking ownership of (and responsibility for) one's life. It is also, about how times have changed, and although opportunities of significance are becoming more and more accessible to women these days, sometimes we are the ones who continue to stand in our own way.

Evelyn is a highly complex woman.  She is bold, undaunted, fierce, unapologetic and surprisingly tender and vulnerable as well. She was so well crafted that I felt like I was getting the inside scoop on a Hollywood icon’s life even though she is a fictional character. The story is glamorous, scandalous and filled with juicy gossip, yet it was also touching. It really reads like the epic saga of one woman’s life and I enjoyed every mesmerizing page of this book. I recommend The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as the perfect vacation or beach read!
Posted by Sltader on 06/07/17
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Jenni L. Walsh’s book, Becoming Bonnie, is a fast-paced, exciting, and touching story of Bonnie before Clyde, showing the reader who she was as a girl and explaining how she transformed into the infamous gun-slinging, bank-robbing woman we all know. The story takes us back to the mid-to-late 1920s to a dusty town on the outskirts of Dallas where people worked hard but did not always have much, prohibition was in full force and the worst, longest and deepest economic depression was just about to hit.  A fun look at the Roaring Twenties complete with speakeasies, market crashes, and dance marathons. This story is filled with unusual characters from Bonnie's wild friend Blanche, to Roy (a man who goes through his own surprising transformation), to even Big Bertha, the car that totes them from one adventure to the next.

Even though I knew the story of Bonnie & Clyde, I loved hearing it told in the fantastic new voice that Jenni Walsh brings to the table. A charismatic, fun and engaging debut. I am already desperate for the sequel, which unfortunately does not come out until 2018!
Posted by Sltader on 03/27/17
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It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany packs a lot of emotional impact into a relatively short read. The story centers around two best friends, Tyler and Amber, who have helped each other through rough times in their lives. You meet them as teenagers dealing with issues like body images, eating disorders, anxiety, broken families and strained relationships, and unrequited love. The story is told from both perspectives so you see the characters grow up and their friendship expand over the years, as they get older. Then one horrible night in their twenties, something happens that changes not only their relationship but also their lives forever.

For me, this book read as a very real story. The blurry details, the guilt, and the emotions -- the reader feels all these things from both characters. Unfortunately, this story happens all over the world and is often never reported nor discussed. The topic of consent is one every parent must discuss with both their daughters and their sons. This novel vividly highlights the strength it takes to move beyond an assault. The pages Hatvany wrote capture the emotional toll that rape takes on an individual, their family, and sometimes their assailant.

Hatvany describes what it is like to be on both sides of the date rate spectrum, and her story drives home why it is so important to have conversations with both our sons and daughters. Every high school and college student should read this book to see how one very serious act could ruin the lives of both involved.
Posted by Sltader on 01/27/17
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Graham Moore's page-turning legal thriller, The Last Days of Night, takes us back to the Golden Age of New York City.
In the late 19th century, as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse began wiring America for electricity, the titans locked horns over which electrical standard would prevail—Westinghouse’s AC (alternating current) or Edison’s DC (direct current)—in a struggle that came to be known as the “War of the Currents.”

Moore tells the story from the point of view of Paul Cravath, the young attorney charged with defending Westinghouse against a potentially devastating one billion dollar patent lawsuit brought by Edison. The key to winning, Cravath decides, is to get Nikola Tesla—the quirky and elusive inventor —to invent a better lightbulb. This plan is met with many obstacles.

A devastating lab fire! An inexplicable disappearance! A beautiful diva with a mysterious past! An attempted murder! An electrocuted dog! This story has it all! The novel’s action takes place against a backdrop rich with period detail.

As Cravath embarks on his long-shot representation of Westinghouse, he begins to rub noses with the elite of New York society, including Edison’s investor J.P. Morgan and popular singer Agnes Huntington (who later becomes Cravath’s love interest). Everyone has his or her own agenda and no one can be trusted.  Cravath needs to figure out what motivates each player and how to be the best at a game he does not fully understand.

This is historical fiction at its best. The Last Days of Night - with its glowing, burnished book cover- informs, entertains, teaches and leaves a reader with much to consider. Eddie Redmayne has signed on to star as Paul Cravath in the 2018 release of the film adaption of the book. Last Days of Night shines brightly indeed.
Posted by Sltader on 12/20/16
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" If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." - Dr. Martin Luther King

Jodi Picoult’s bold new book, Small Great Things, is my favorite book of 2016. We have a white author bringing to us a story depicting what racism looks like and trying to tell those of us who are not black, what it feels like. But anyone who has read  Jodi Picoult's books knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult to discuss topics.

Ruth Jefferson is a nurse in a New Haven hospital. She’s good at her job, well-liked, a devoted mother. Turk Bauer and his wife Brit are new parents, anxious, tired and full of love for their baby son. They also happen to be White Supremacists and Ruth happens to be Black. Because of skin color, Ruth is deemed unworthy of taking care of their son and they demand she is removed from their case. Instead of standing with their employee, the hospital acquiesces to the demand and Ruth is removed from the case. However, when a simple procedure turns tragic, Ruth is the only nurse in the room. As the Bauer baby goes into distress, Ruth's split-second hesitation results in accusations of both neglect and conspiracy, and Ruth finds herself on trial for murder. When middle-class, white public defender Kennedy McQuarrie takes Ruth’s case, she insists that race never be mentioned in the courtroom as a strategy for success. Both women are forced to tackle a lifetime’s worth of history, prejudice, insults and privilege in order to trust each other in the hopes of victory in court and redemption in life. The author tells this complex story through the alternating views of Ruth, Turk and Kennedy.
This book is not only well written, but insightful and compelling. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.
This book was written at a racially-charged time where discussion is sorely needed.  It should be on everyone’s 2017 book club list. Although Small Great Things is tough to read at times, I think it's an important read and I highly recommend it.
Posted by Sltader on 10/29/16
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A very easy and delicious cookbook for the busy individual!
This is a great slow cooker book. There are 3 'at-a-glance' icons that certainly help meal planning, especially for busy moms! 1. Ready in 4 hours’ meals 2. Five ingredient meals (not including water, salt, pepper and oils) - and lastly 3. Express prep - only take 10 minutes of prep time meals!

There are recipes from effortless appetizers and beverages, to swift sweets. Also, there are directions for no fuss salads and sides, along with a section of quick breads.

Gazing through this cookbook I can see our family grazing on some of their delicious recipes throughout the year – Pepperoni Pizza Soup, Cranberry Mustard Pork Loin, Spicy Hash Brown Supper, Eye-Opening Burritos, Cheesy Tater Tot Dinner, Elvis’ pudding cake, and even Chimichurri Monkey Bread.

Unfortunately, not every recipe has a pictures but most do so that is reassuring when looking at what you created. If you can overlook some typos and you are not a gourmet chef, this cookbook is perfect for meal planning. This ready reference would mostly be appreciated by the busy mom or dad for a quick, tasty meal. Bon Appétit!
Posted by Sltader on 09/28/16
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From the Roaring 20s through the 1960s, there was no address more glamorous than New York’s “women only” Barbizon Hotel.  Nicknamed 'The Dollhouse' by the gentlemen of the time, the Barbizon was a combined charm school and dormitory that would shelter a parade of yet-to-be-discovered damsels—Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen, Sylvia Plath, Ali MacGraw, and many more.

Fiona Davis’s debut novel, The Dollhouse, alternates chapters between 1952 and present day.

New York City, 2016, Rose Lewis is a journalist who is working at a job she doesn't particularly care for. Her relationship status would be considered complicated at best and she's caring for her elderly father. She's living with her divorced boyfriend in a condo in the renovated Barbizon Hotel. It's here where she meets an elderly woman with a veil covering her face. From the doorman, she learns the woman was involved in a mysterious scandal back in the 1950s. The reporter in Rose is intrigued and can't let this go until she finds out every last detail about who the woman is and what happened to cause her to wear a veil.

New York City, 1952, Darby McLaughlin just stepped off the train from Ohio. Enrolled in Katherine Gibbs, Darby plans on making a career as a secretary. She's naive and has low self-esteem. After a run-in with some mean girls on her floor, Darby is ready to scurry back home when she meets Esme, a maid at the hotel. Esme helps Darby start to break out of her shell and explore new things. But Esme has a domineering influence over Darby that starts to take her down a dangerous path and ultimately leads to tragedy.

Davis illuminates past and present New York City, taking readers all over the city from Brooklyn to Harlem, eating at 50’s cafes, listening to jazz musician greats in nightclubs, and creating a mystery and love story all in one. I was intrigued by the twists and turns of the mystery, but I most enjoyed the history of the building and time period.
Posted by Sltader on 08/30/16
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“All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.”

The book It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover, for me at least, reminded me how easy it is in life to point a finger. To judge someone or a situation you are on the outside of. So easy to say, “If that was me, I wouldn’t have done that.” But this story shows us that sometimes certain situations aren’t that easy to walk away from and become even messier when emotions and love are involved.
It Ends With Us follows one girl, Lily, from childhood through adulthood. It shows how her childhood made her into the woman she is today. It shows how despite everything you can be brave and strong, you can do better, be better and rise above. You can be the change you want to see in the world. Even when you feel powerless your decisions can change other’s lives. This book is about personal growth and self respect, and it embodied those themes beautifully.
This unbelievably complex, astonishingly real, and heart wrenching novel left me completely speechless.  As cliché as it sounds, it is truly one of those stories that will surely stay with me for a very, very long time.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot or characters. I read this not knowing a thing on either, and was shocked to see how it unfolded. And even though I won’t elaborate on any details and in turn my review is very brief, I really think those who go in blind will appreciate the story and the insanely strong emotion behind it that much more.
Go in with an open mind.

Go in with an open heart. But be warned this story will probably break it.

Posted by Sltader on 07/26/16
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We all have secrets…

How well do you know your neighbors? Or rather, how well do you know your girlfriends?

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen takes place in the perfect-seeming neighborhood of Newport Cove, and centers on a group of friends who seem to have it all: Kellie Scott, a former cheerleader who married her high school boyfriend - a football player, of course; her best friend Susan Barrett, who runs a very successful business coordinating services for the elderly; Gigi Kennedy, whose husband Joe is running for Congress in the Democratic primary; and the new neighbor Tessa Campbell, whose kids are just the right ages to be friends with the kids of the other mothers.

In a culture where it's common to see women tearing one another down over the pettiest things (she really needs to lose a few pounds; her boobs must be fake; she's likely a gold digger and that's why she's married to him), it was nice to read a novel about four women--all mothers--who had their own personal struggles but had the support of one another to get them through the rough patches that life lobbed at them.
Every story was interesting enough to stand on its own, but Sarah Pekkanen held them all together with impeccable pacing, character-development and plot. I related to all of the women in some way.

I used to watch a TV show that some people may remember called Desperate Housewives - and if you do remember it, you’ll know what I mean when I say that The Perfect Neighbors exudes Desperate Housewives vibes.
The Perfect Neighbors makes for an excellent poolside or summer read. A quick page-turner with an ending that ties everything up together nicely. This book is wrought with emotion and most importantly, female characters who care to lift one another up. Women's fiction at its best.
Chic Lit, Fiction
Posted by Sltader on 06/28/16
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Seven. Seventeen. And five.

This is how Aubrey Hamilton separates the most important years of her life. The seven years before she met Joshua Hamilton, the seventeen years they were together and the five years since his disappearance from her life.

Over a bachelor/bachelorette party weekend, her husband, Josh, disappears.

After a frantic search, blood is discovered all over Josh and Aubrey's house and the cops decide on foul play. Aubrey is ultimately tried for his death, but found innocent. We pick up the story right as the State of Tennessee has declared Josh legally dead, even though his body has never been found. Aubrey thinks she can finally move on, put the questions and grief behind her and start anew. But the appearance of a mysterious man who reminds Aubrey of her dead husband, and the upcoming legal battle she's in for with her mother-in-law over Josh's massive life insurance policy, mean that Aubrey is very far from putting the past behind her.

If you are looking for a book with lots of twists and turns that continually keeps you guessing you will find it in No One Knows by J.T. Ellison.  It was one of those "one more chapter" books as I like to call them. You know...the ones where you promise yourself just one more chapter before putting it down and before you know it you are on the last page.

No One Knows is a thought-provoking thriller with a multi-layered plot, intriguing characters and numerous surprises. Similar to Gillian Flynn’s book Gone Girl, this book will have you shaking your head at its shocking ending.
Fiction, Suspense
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