Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Good, the Bad, and the Orange

A Higher Loyalty by James Comeyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

35108805He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. — Thomas Jefferson

For someone who is not big on the memoir genre, I never expected to be this moved by one, nor to be here giving out a five-star rating to one. But we live in strange times, don’t we?

We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.

Let’s be honest, most of us are reading this book for the juicy bits about Trump and Hillary, but that comes later. Before that, we learn all about Comey’s childhood and the work that eventually led him to become director of the FBI. Usually, this is the part where I find my eyes glazing over sentences, bored if I were being honest, but not so with this book. It all adds dimension and color to Comey as an individual and the decisions he would come to later in life. Plus, talk about an interesting pastthe Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, Rudy Giuliani in his earlier years, and the Ramsey Rapist all make an appearance. Notably is his experience with bullies and the obvious connection to some people he has to deal with down the line. In contrast, he also discusses individuals who inspired him and showed him how true leadership behaves. I really enjoyed how Comey wrapped this discussion of leadership into his memoir.

Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

And then we get to the good, or rather, terrible stuff of Hillary and the whole email fiasco. By experiencing it in Comey’s shoes and knowing the past he was coming from, I was able to gain a whole new perspective on this moment in our nation’s history. I think it’s dangerous territory when we play judge and jury and pass judgments in ways we have no authority or expertise over. This book is important for everyone to read because it helps us avoid that line of thinking and helps us become more empathetic, focusing instead on why people may have behaved in the way they did. For someone who originally experienced a lot of anger over the way this investigation was handled, I feel much more at peace about it.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh a matter.

And then Trump comes into the picture, and it’s like you can hear The Imperial March slowly rise in volume. Much like the Hillary drama, readers get fresh insight into this weird, creepy dance Trump and Comey had all before he got fired in such an unceremonious way. In all seriousness, I experienced a lot of emotions at this point in the bookthere was anger, fear, and at some points, tears. The radical shift in the way not just Obama but also Bush ran the White House…man, I mourned the loss of that all over again. I knew it was coming, but these chapters felt like the valley of despair. How on earth did we as a country get here? How on earth were we going to get out?

Without all those things—without kindness to leaven toughness, without a balance of confidence and humility, without empathy, and without respect for truth—there is little chance President Trump can attract and keep the kind of people around him that every president needs to make wise decisions. That makes me sad for him, but it makes me worry for our country. 

Even in the midst of all this, A Higher Loyalty ends on a very optimistic note. I was surprised to find myself, after all that came before, feeling both inspired and a little optimistic myself. I read the epilogue twice to remind myself that, though we are in the eye of the storm, all storms pass over. It’s true that this review is a far more personal/emotional one than most others, but I think it’s because this is that kind of book, and I think that shows its effectiveness in presenting its message. It inspires you to reach that higher loyalty and demonstrates what true ethical leadership can be. I hope that readers from both sides of the aisle will reach for this book, and will come out on the other side fighting for the values that make this country great.

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Text Me, K? :)

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
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emergency contactAnother incredible diverse read for the win!!! This book is why representation matters so much in literature, especially today. This was another 2018 release that I was so excited for, so went ahead and got it right away thanks to Amazon!!

In this story, we follow dual-perspectives between Penny and Sam who find themselves swapping numbers thanks to an unfortunately, awkward incident. As their story progresses, they continue their relationship via their phones leading to a deeply intimate relationship with very limited IRL interactions.

First off, I really appreciated the age range of the characters in this book. Penny is in her freshman year of college and Sam is just a couple of years older. We do not typically see a lot of YA contemporaries of characters at this age or in this phase of life, which is refreshing and fun to read. It’s a different take on a contemporary, allowing the topics explored to be a bit riskier and darker which they were and I loved it!!!

Like I said, this contemporary is not your average sunny coming-of-age story, it was grittier, hard-hitting, darker and raw which made the story feel that much more real. But what I appreciated about this book was that the gritty, raw details weren’t the main parts of the story, but that they were layered within the story just like they are in real life. We are not defined by the bad things, they are parts of our bigger story and that is how this story was written about both of our characters.

And last but not least, Penny is our lead Korean-American woman who is not only a refreshing lead character but is also a different representation of Korean/Asian-American women that we typically see in literature. As an own-voices novel, I loved seeing a different take on Penny’s character and the different ways in which Korean-American women can be seen in literature. I definitely saw myself more in Penny’s character than I ever have in books and so for that, I am incredibly grateful to Mary H.K. Choi.

All in all, this was a great read. It was fun, heart-warming and a definite journey for myself and all the characters involved. This was a great new contemporary and I cannot wait to see more books from Mary H.K. Choi!!

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Quick Takes: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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11387515Looks like I’m continuing my tradition of reading books after the hype has passed! What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? It really is one of those books that should be required reading, for children and adults alike. It is an uplifting story that makes you smile and believe the world can be a better place–who doesn’t need that?? All the characters in it were quite wonderful, and I enjoyed the narration from different viewpoints. Even with six narrators, the POV didn’t jump around too much, and I really think it added to the characters and the story as a whole. It’s a tale that’s full of both humor and wisdom, and the message comes across wonderfully without turning cheesy and cliché. It shows why we should choose kindness, to go out of your way to make someone else’s day a little brighter, and in turn not only help them but also ourselves. I can’t think of many other books that portray this so comprehensively, and for that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

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Series Review: “Study” Trilogy

Magic Study (#2) by Maria V. Snyder
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Fire Study (#3) by Maria V. Snyder
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I have been on a journey, much like Yelena in this trilogy and I have come out victorious! 🙂 I have been very curious about this trilogy for quite some time now and I finally just set out to satisfy the curiosity. I have already written a review about the first book in this trilogy, “Poison Study”, so check it out! In short, I found the first book in this trilogy to be quite addictive, dark, full of political intrigue and a lot of great potential about a fantastic magic system. I did find that a lot of this continued into the second book with one major issue that I’ll discuss further in the spoiler section, however I found that the third book slowed quite a bit for me which super bummed me out. I am surprised that these are marketed as YA books, and I think these could’ve done so much better marketed as Adult Fantasy books.

The things that I liked most about the series, as a whole, was the evolution of our protagonist, Yelena. Yelena definitely grew into her abilities, albeit quite slowly which was slightly frustrating at times. The other thing that I very much enjoyed about the rest of the series was the introduction of complex side characters and a dark political story line which I am always a fan of. I did feel a little let down by the final book as the first two were definitely highly addictive and fast-based, and then the third book weirdly slowed down to a point that I found it become a chore to finish. Le sigh…

If I’m understanding the series correctly, there is a spin-off trilogy that comes next which is based off of a side character from these books. I am definitely intrigued as I really liked this side character and I will probably pick them up sometime in the near future.

Now I only have a few spoiler-y things to discuss, so if you haven’t read this, stop now! 🙂 Overall, if you want a politically-based and dark fantasy trilogy, I definitely recommend trying this out!

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Quick Takes: Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
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23602562This was a bittersweet little tale of two old widowers find each other at a time when loneliness lingers in the nights. I enjoyed this first foray into Haruf’s fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and think I may pick up some of his other books when I get the chance. I definitely appreciated this sweet little book as a short break from the hefty Les Mis. Haruf has that sparse, Hemingway style of prose, though, and unfortunately that doesn’t always work with me. I feel like the tale moves too quickly, and I’m not able to sit with the emotions as long as I’d like. Maybe I’ll just have to practice slowing down my reading pace. I also just found out Netflix came out with a movie about this book last year, so I may have to check that out!

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Quick Takes: The Humans

The Humans by Matt Haig (3.5)
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16130537Some parts of this book were definitely a four, others a three, so I’m settling at a 3.5! The Humans is about an alien that comes to Earth in order to complete a somewhat heartless mission but ends up falling in love with the human race instead. The beginning of this book was quite hilarious as he acclimated to what life on Earth was all about, but it started to drag a little bit. The rest of the book settles into more of a heartwarming tale of becoming part of this family of his.

Although I thought it was a good story with a lot of clever observations on the human condition, the novelty of the story started to wear away and parts of it did start to drag. I also felt at times that I was being hit over the head with all those clever observations. It seemed like Haig was trying to cram all the ones he thought up into these pages without realizing that fewer well-placed ones could have a much more significant effect on the reader. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I not come off a five-star book that also had similar themes. Still, a fun quick read!

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Mini Series Review: Shades of Magic

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (#2)
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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (#3)
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I read the first book in the Shades of Magic trilogy last July and definitely enjoyed it. I knew that I wanted to finish reading this trilogy – I just never got around to it. This past holiday when my fiance and I went used bookstore exploring, I found two hardcover editions of both A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light for half their original prices, so I knew I couldn’t resist picking them up!

Rachel has also done a series review and I remember she very much enjoyed this series, as well and I definitely have to agree! After reading her Monsters of Verity duology also last year and then this, this has firmly established with me that 1) Victoria Schwab can do absolutely no wrong and 2) Victoria Schwab is hands-down one of my new favorite authors!! 🙂

Spoilers to come!! 

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