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Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeleine Henry (Atria Books)

January 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Let’s talk about a crazy coincidence?  I am writing to you in the middle of a global pandemic and you actually know what I am talking about.  Covid-19 for me and Spanish flu for you. Wow…who would have thought.  Remember the busyness of everyday life?  School, work, deadlines, hanging with friends and family (geez…even War for you).  The everyday grind has drastically changed, but I got to relive the feeling of being overcommitted and overworked in Madeleine Henry’s book, Breathe In, Cash Out. As I go through my days (Groundhog Day Style), it was refreshing to get a glimpse into the world of ruthless banking on Wall Street (boy I miss NYC), while also getting my zen on with some much needed yoga. Henry delivered a soul searching story that not only enlightened me with wisdom and laughter, but seriously charmed the pants off of me.  Let’s take a look, shall we.

Allegra Cobb… a self taught yogi and one time American Yoga National Competition Champion, is also a straight A Princeton grad who works as an analyst at a cut throat, top tiered bank on good old Wall Street. Now that was a mouthful. Biding time until her year end bonus comes in (should be a juicy one), Allegra is seriously contemplating leaving her financially secure job to follow her dreams  of becoming a yoga teacher.  While she struggles with disappointing her father and battles her innermost demons, she meets up with the ultimate yoga guru (and her yoga idol), Skylar, for some realignment in her life.  Skylar has a very successful yoga career and is a superstar on instagram.  Allegra desperately begins following her advice on how to integrate more mindfulness and yoga into her life in order to discover her true and authentic self.  The more she works with Skylar though, the more she begins to realize that working over a 100 hours a week in a grueling banking job, which basically strips you of your soul, may not be all that different from Skylar’s world of shiny leggings, seven chakras and photo perfect poses for instagram.  And of course, just to add a splash of sparkle to her conscience examining days, a bit of romance is lingering in the background.  Time is ticking on her mental well being and Allegra needs to figure out which path she should travel next.  

Breathe in, Cash Out was a breath of fresh air. It was the perfect distraction to my stay at home days filled with work, Zooms and teenage boys surrounding my every move.  I love books (fiction or nonfiction) where someone is pondering a major life change.  Even though Allegra’s story is a work of fiction, it still dazzled me and all my dreams.  But self exploration aside, Henry’s book is down right hysterical. As I revisited my own days of working a gazillion hours a week and took a hard look at the current state of my downward facing dog (not that pretty these days), I found myself doubled over with laughter.  And of course, one of my favorite parts of Henry’s story was the wee bit of romance that kept my heart fluttering.  It did not overpower the story one bit, but was equivalent to a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of a fabulous cappuccino……the perfect touch!.  

Allegra is a character you want to root for because guess what…there is a bit of her in all of us.  During these strange days of more time with our thoughts than ever, it is impossible not to engage in a tad of introspection. Whether switching jobs or shifting our mindsets, change is not always a bad thing and Henry’s main girl is a gentle reminder of that.  But of course every leading lady needs a gaggle of characters around her to add some more shine to her story.   Mark (Allegra’s boss who she accidentally sleeps with 😮), and Tripp, Chole and Puja who sit in close proximity to her everyday, were an absolute delightful addition to Henry’s story.  And of course the lovely Skylar…the spice to this wicked fun tale.  I always say that a touch of spice is always quite nice…am I right???

I hope you enjoy this easy breezy and quite frankly, humorous read.  It sure added a twinkle and some much needed stretching to my day!

Until next time my friend!

Namaste!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Madeleine Henry has a new book coming out on February 9, 2021 called The Love Proof!  I am reading it now and will be telling you all about it very soon. In the meantime, give it a quick pre-order ❤️❤️❤️.

P.P.S. I alternated between reading Breathe In, Cash Out and listening to it on audio. Both were equally wonderful.

Click on the book pic below to purchase!

Breathe in, Cash Out

Fly Me To The Moon

Book Recommendation

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker (Atria Books)

January 10, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Between the fishing, hunting and the massive overdose of nature, I would imagine Alaska would not only have been the ultimate adventure land for you, but probably the star of a short story or novel.  Though I have never been myself, it is on my wicked long bucket list of places to go.  Let’s face it, for those of us in the lower 48, there is something captivating about this off the grid state where the wilderness is your backyard and mother nature rules the roost. In the meantime, I love reading books while I relax in my cozy chair (during a pandemic) with this majestic state as the backdrop. K.A. Tucker’s, The Simple Wild fulfilled my Alaskan dreams.  Not only did I get to experience Alaska’s beauty between the pages of her book, but I got to meet some pretty wonderful characters along the way. Let’s take a look, shall we!

Calla Fletcher was born in Alaska to Wren and Susan Fletcher.  After two years of living with a small child in Alaska, Susan couldn’t take it anymore.  With her husband gone all the time as an Alaskan Pilot (he owned his own charter plane company) and his priority remaining in the sky instead of with his family, Susan moved to Toronto with Calla to start again.  Fast forward 24 years and Calla is now 26, running a lifestyle blog with her friend in Canada.  Through the years she has had minimal contact with her father making him pretty much a complete stranger.  One night a friend of her father’s in Alaska calls alerting Calla that he is sick and may not have much time left.  Calla doesn’t take the decision to go see her father lightly, but in the end books a week long trip to see him one last time.  Her instagram loving days and fashion flare are rudely interrupted when the Alaskan elements do not mix well with her platform sandals and connecting to the internet is virtually impossible. Not to mention the rude Alaskan pilot who flies her alone on the last leg of her trip in a puddle jumper of a plane. Let me backup for one quick moment.  The pilot she meets is named Jonah and he works for her father.  He is a rugged, badass Alaskan pilot who gets a high from flying in the most dangerous conditions (Think Tom Cruise with a beard and a baseball cap flying around mountains and glaciers… Top Gun style).. Did I mention….drop dead, flannel wearing gorgeous.  Sorry, I digress.   As Calla gets settled in her Dad’s house and works on getting to know the man that is her biological father, she slowly discovers the complexities of his life.  While she detests living in close proximity to Jonah, their rocky start relationship begins to bloom into something very unexpected.  The more time Calla spends in Alaska with her Dad and his right hand man, Jonah, the more she realizes how difficult it is going to be to go back to Toronto.  The clock is ticking on not only her plane ticket back home, but on her father’s life.

Let me just say this…I LOVED THIS BOOK!  Tucker did a beautiful job creating an Alaskan atmosphere that I could experience through words from the comfort of my own home (with high speed internet).  I am a huge fan of the enemies to lovers trope and Calla and Jonah’s ever evolving relationship took the prize for me.  The banter between them was sharp and hysterical.  And while yes, there was a burning romance slowly developing throughout the story that I so deeply desired, there was also so much more.  Tucker knows how to tap into relationships with her writing.  Whether it’s Calla and her father, Calla and Jonah, or even Calla’s mom and her new husband, the emotional baggage is heavy and runs deep with this crew of characters.  This book definitely stayed with me until the very end.  I found myself constantly dreaming of Calla and Jonah!  Sorry… that is a flat out lie.  I really only dreamed of Jonah.  There!  I said it!  Moving on now.  So here is the scoop…when The Simple Wild ended, I yearned for more.  And guess what??? There is a sequel called Wild at Heart that I can’t wait to dive into.

That’s all I’ve got for today my friend!

Until next time…

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  I am secretly hoping that you have not read this book yet because if not, I am officially the last person on earth to have read it.  Talk about late to the party!  Gotta love these backlist beauties!

Kelly’s Top 10 Books Of 2020

January 4, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy New Year!  We made it to 2021!  Let‘s face it, 2020 was an absolute doozy!  I personally had a difficult time focusing on reading and was in a perpetual state of ruffled feathers.  This year, quality over quantity was the name of the game and I found myself way more picky with my book selections.  If a book didn’t reel me in from page one or work with whatever my current mood was on that day (or hour 😂😂), I tossed it.  Definitely a bit harsh for me, but I truly needed books that distracted me from my distractions and took me somewhere outside of my quarantined mind.  Here are my Top 10 Books Of 2020 in random order!  Whether I laughed out loud or was completely moved, each one of these books spoke to me in a unique way! Click on the book pictures for their full synopsis or to purchase from your local bookstore.   Here we go….

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (Flatiron) ~ This book was sooooo good! I could not put this down.  I listened to this on audio and the narration was incredible.  This was the ultimate suspense/thriller.  Click here to read my past review.

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (Delacorte Press) ~ Can you say,  juicy tale?  I really enjoyed this behind the scene look at what it takes to get into college and how far families will go to ensure their kids receive the creme de la creme education. Buxbaum explored issues of wealth, race, white privilege and more in her latest book. Though this is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the recent admission scandal this past year. I love how the teenager’s point of view is so prevalent in this story. Admission is an eye-opening read that will have you glued to your seat. It is the perfect book club pick. Discussions galore will come out of it.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press) ~ This book was hands down, the equivalent to a perfect cup of tea!  I am a huge Glennon fan and her book was the breath of fresh air I needed this year.  Click here to read my past review.  

Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing) ~ Such a fun read.  Though Matthew’s life is most definitely different than mine, I strangely found comfort and could even relate to some of his words. I love how green lights, yellow lights, and even red lights are all opportunities to halt what you are doing or move ahead.  It is like the universe is talking to us.  Maybe some things do happen for a reason. Nevertheless, I got quite a few laughs from this charmer. Wait until you read about all of his “dreams”!!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (William Morrow)~ Why all the fuss about this book???? In short, it is the story of a fifteen year old girl and her relationship with her 42 year old HIgh School teacher. It is a book that shines light on things that are strenuous to acknowledge. It is a book that is easier to just not read. It is a book that had my mind twisted every which way. It is a book that never left me, even when my reading time was through. It is a book that made me feel terribly uncomfortable yet completely captivated. It is a book that made my stomach turn and my mind wander. It is a book filled with power. It is a book that is so beautifully written, my heart ached. 

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare (Dutton)~ I do not think this book has a star rating less than 5+.  Adunni absolutely stole my heart.  I rooted for her with all my heart and soul throughout her journey.  Dare’s book was powerful and complete perfection! If you have not read this yet, make it happen ASAP.  You will have no regrets.  

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)~  I am so glad I squeezed this book in before 2020 ended.  WOW……this was awesome! Robberies, car chases, drugs and family drama….this book was a 100 mph ride that kept my beating heart in business.  Cosby’s writing was colorful, sharp and seriously captivating.  Enjoy this high speed read!!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez (Forever Publishing)~ Oh La La.  Sloan and Jason…need I say more.  This was the super fun and steamy read I needed this 2020. I loved Jimenez’s last book The Friend Zone, and her follow up was equally as fabulous!  Be prepared to swoon.  Consider yourself warned!

Master Class by Christina Dalcher (Berkley) ~ I am obsessed with this book. Dalcher’s contemporary dystopian tale incorporates contentious issues from the past and present into a fictional world where the unimaginable may not be far from the truth. This was a 5 star read for me.  Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood will be all over this one.  Click here for my past review.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry (Simon &Schuster) ~ Take it from me, The Roxy Letters is the PERFECT book to slip in your bag when heading to the beach (or pool, or lake, or front porch).  With so many uncertainties in the world, why not escape for a few hours with some much needed laughter and a story that just makes you feel great.  I spent so much of my time reading this book giggling, while my cheeks turned uber pink.  With a heart of gold and a thirst for all things good, Roxy is one to root for. Click here for my past review.

Well my friend, that is a wrap!  Look out for all my bookish love coming your way this 2021.  Until next time…

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Click here to read my last post in December.  If you love a good domestic suspense novel, I have got you covered.  

All Aboard

Confessions On The 7:45

Confessions On The 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Park Row Books)

December 14, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Have you ever wanted to vent your inner most thoughts to a complete stranger?  Marital problems (sorry, I know you had a few), work issues, family, etc.  I mean, it’s kind of like unloading the contents of your brain onto a therapist, except free of charge.  And let’s face it, some people just have that “I will listen to you free of judgement, please come talk to me” kind of look.  Am I right?  I would imagine that most random conversations with strangers are harmless and simply part of being human.  But what if you were unaware that a stranger you just chatted up a storm with knows EVERYTHING about you?   Hmmmmmm!  I do believe we have a story here.  Confessions On The 7:45 by Lisa Unger begins with a nanny-cam gone wild, a train ride home from work, and all the dirty little secrets that were shared.  Lets see what happens when the train pulls into the station, shall we.  

“But when she did miss the train that night-she didn’t even bother trying to get to the station-it created a space that hadn’t been there before.  Just a little over two hours between the 5:40, which she normally took, and the 7:45, which she intended to catch after finishing up a few things at the office.  In that gap, she could feel herself expand.  She wasn’t working.  She wasn’t mothering.  She just was.  She could think.  And truth be told, Selena did have some things she needed to think about.  These things were a white noise in the back of her mind.”

Selina’s day doesn’t exactly end on a high note.  After she misses her train home from work, she kills some time at the office until the next train arrives.  As she scrolls around her computer, she decides to check out the nanny cameras in her house, including the one she secretly moved to her boys’ playroom.   When she turns it on she is greeted with live footage of her husband all up “and in” I might add, the nanny’s business.  Can Selina’s day get any worse?  Cheating is nothing new for her.  She has fallen victim to her husband’s indiscretions once before, but this time….it really hits a nerve.  She makes her 7:45 train and begins talking with a woman named Martha sitting next to her.  Martha senses Selina’s bad day and the two begin to talk.  It was effortless sharing with one another.  Martha revealed that she was having an affair with her boss, while Selina hinted at her husband’s infidelities.  The ladies part ways after they arrive at their respective destinations and Selina heads home to her beloved sons and pig of a husband.  The next morning though, Selina’s nanny doesn’t show up for work.  She is eventually reported missing and presumed murdered.  Did her husband kill the nanny?  Do the police know about the nanny cameras?  And why does Martha suddenly call to hang out when they never even exchanged phone numbers???  EEK….I wish I could tell you more, but the rest is up to you to discover.

Confessions On The 7:45 was filled with instant drama. Once Selina missed her train and the nanny-cam started rolling, I was in!! Unger’s book is filled with incredibly flawed characters with hidden pasts and secrets oozing out of their pores.  The pacing was perfect, the plot was well developed and the suspense was on point. The storylines hop around a bit in the book, but Unger did a fantastic job knitting it all together.  Cheating husbands with a dash of mysterious strangers and a splash of deception make a toxic cocktail.  Throw in a few dead bodies, a couple of con artists and twists to catch you off guard, and Confessions On The 7:45 is your next stiff drink.  Bottoms up!

I hope you enjoy this thrilling ride…choo choo!!!!

Until Next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Lisa Unger is the author of 19 books and counting.  Be sure to check her out RIGHT HERE!

Click on the book pic below to purchase.

The Jury Has Spoken

Savage Row by Britney King

Savage Row by Britney King

December 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Can you believe that it is ALREADY December? Between work, inconsistent school schedules for the kids, holiday shopping and the pandemic we are STILL IN, finding time to read can be a real struggle.  There is nothing worse than starting a book and only being able to read a page or two each night before sleep robs you of your last quiet moments of the day.  Today my friend, I have a book that will make it impossible to fall asleep after just a few pages.  This book has built in momentum, pages that practically turn themselves and a riveting storyline with an ending to please.  Britney King’s latest psychological thriller, Savage Row, is out now!  It’s time for your bedtime story!

“I remembered how he had looked from the jury box, like a cornered animal.  Vicious, glowering, savage.  And powerful.  The way he’d scan the courtroom, challenging anyone who dared meet his eye.  The way he looked at people was unnerving, as though it would be his greatest privilege to snuff them out, to annihilate them.”

Many years ago, Amy Stone was a juror on Jack Mooney’s trial (an undomesticated criminal), putting him behind bars for a very long time.  At the end of the trial, Amy went on with life with her husband Greg, their two daughters and working as a realtor.  Life was normal (ok, somewhat normal) until one day Mooney showed up at one of Amy’s house showings.  Mooney was released from jail after a decade of prison life and is seeking revenge on Amy for being one of the people in favor of his imprisonment.  After they reunite briefly, Mooney begins stalking Amy and her family.  Because he wasn’t doing anything obvious, the police were of no assistance.   As the stalkings increased and became more dangerous to her family, Amy and her husband took matters into their own hands to keep their family safe and get rid of Mooney once and for all.  Things get more complicated than they realize and unpleasant things begin to happen. Will they be able to keep their family safe and get rid of Mooney once and for all?  This my friend, is probably every juror’s worst nightmare…am I right?

So here is the scoop.  Savage Row is the ultimate page turning psychological thriller.  Your nights of falling asleep while reading end here. King is the queen of putting the pedal to the medal and hooking her readers in from the start. Her characters once again are complex and made me question everything about them (can you say trust issues?).  There was a touch of something devilish in each and every one of them that added to the suspense of the story.  King served me a plethora of twists, turns and mind messing characters all on a gorgeous silver platter.   I will say that I found Savage Row to be less graphic than some of her previous books.  This did not compromise the story one bit and is merely a side note for those who have read some of her previous work.  At the end of the day though, I am an ending girl. Guess what?????  King nailed it.

Happy Reading!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Be sure to check out Britney King and all of her work by clicking here.

Click on the book pic below to purchase!

Bits & Pieces

Pretending book cover

Pretending by Holly Bourne (Mira Books)

November 30, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am excited to tell you that I just read my very first Holly Bourne novel and I can’t stop thinking about it.   Bourne’s latest novel, Pretending, blew me away.  She tapped into all of my emotions in one swoop.   What I thought was going to be a light and fluffy experience, turned out to be an emotionally raw and engaging read with quite a few laughs on the side.  Let’s take a deeper look into this novel, shall we!

Before I dive into telling you about this book, I need to let you know from the start that Pretending includes rape, sexual assault and recovery.  There is no avoiding it or skipping past it in this novel.  If this subject matter is triggering or one that you are uncomfortable reading about, please gently put this book aside.  

April is single and in her early thirties.  As much as she wants to find Mr. Right and settle down, there is one thing getting in her way…SHE HATES MEN!  She makes it very clear how awful they are from the start.  Her angry tone towards the male population may seem over the top at first glance, but you will quickly learn its origin given her traumatic past.  Being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend took away a part of April she can never get back.  Men want carefree women with no worries.  Women who ooze body confidence like no other.  Women who care, but not too much.  Women who are secure in who they are.  Women who are interesting and want to go to cool places… like Africa.  Women who effortlessly look fabulous all the time.  You get the idea.  The problem is that April is none of these things.  The potential to be that “type” of woman was stolen, along with a part of her soul by a man.  Who on earth wants to date damaged goods?  Baggage is only sexy at the airport on the way to a romantic destination with your lover…am I right?  April can’t get past that fact that once a man sees her for who she really is, they will no doubt run the other way.  

“I want to have someone in my life who completely and utterly knows me, and has earned the knowing of me by their unwavering willingness to stick around while I slowly reveal it all.  It only grows with time and commitment and dedication, and that only comes with someone deciding you are worth the investment to become knowable.  Someone who believes the bits they will learn about you will make them love you only more, not less.”

On a quest for revenge on her ex and on all men who walk the earth, April decides to test her theory out on a dating website.  Instead of being April (her true authentic self), she pretends to be Gretel, a fictional version of herself that encompasses all things that she believes men “want” in a woman. The plot thickens when she starts dating Joshua.  Being “Gretel” seems to be working.  Joshua is smitten with her.  However, as the weeks go by, the real April starts creeping in and Gretel becomes more exhausting to manage. Ultra cool Gretel is difficult to keep up with when flashbacks from April’s past make unexpected appearances while with Joshua.  Her feelings for Joshua become muddy while overseeing Gretel and April’s emotions simultaneously.  Will Joshua see through the lies and discover the “real” woman he is dating?

Pretending worked for me on so many levels.  What I absolutely loved about this book is Bourne’s writing style.  April’s journey toward healing and recovery was written with not only the greatest sensitivity to a difficult subject matter, but with a dark comedic vibe that had me laughing out loud.  Because her private thoughts and vulnerability are fully exposed between the pages of this book, it was easy for me to connect with April.  I personally enjoy getting into a character’s head space while reading.  It is the complexity of their innermost thoughts that oftentimes drive the story forward.   There were definitely times in the book where I wanted to shake what I thought was “sense” into April.  I may have even tried to push her into therapy to process her trauma if I could. However, this is April’s story, and as it unfolds, I quickly realized that what may seem like a traditional and more straightforward approach to healing, may not be her direct path.  “Pretending” to be someone else with an innocent man to seek answers you so desperately need may not sit well with the moralists out there (fair point).  But sometimes storytelling is what we need to truly digest the magnitude of awful things in life.  It also introduces the reader to Joshua, who I really want everyone to meet. Joshua, Joshua, Joshua!!!!

Pretending was the perfect afternoon read.  I am not going to lie, at first I thought the combination of rom-com with the sexual assault component was strange.  It felt weird, even slightly inappropriate to be chuckling and swooning over a gorgeous guy on one page and absolutely horrified and distressed on the next page.  It worked though.  Bourne weaved together an entertaining read about romance, love and self discovery while tackling the issue of sexual assault and recovery with thoughtfulness and grace.  I loved April and her journey and my feelings for Joshua…well lets just say, you will find out soon enough!!!! 

Much love and reading to you!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Thank you to Mira Books for the advance reader copy of Pretending and for having me on this amazing Blog tour. Pretending is out NOW!!!!!

Click the book pic to purchase from your local bookstore.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Amanda Benwell graphic

Amanda Benwell
Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest writer Amanda Benwell graphic

October 28, 2020

Dear Book Worms,

Happy Wednesday! I am thrilled to share with you that Amanda Benwell is on the blog today writing to Mr. Hemingway about one of her favorite books of all time. Amanda is the creator of the wonderful Bookstagram account, @lilacsandliterature where she highlights her love of reading and all the books you can possibly imagine. If you need a book recommendation, Amanda will steer you in the right direction. If you don’t believe me, ask one of the 9,000+ followers she has. Amanda is the real deal!

Amanda is a born and raised Mainer, and shares a home with her husband of twelve years and their three sons (see why I like her)! When she is not spending time with all of the men in her life or quietly reading, she enjoys anything and everything true crime: podcasts, documentaries, etc. as well as bad reality TV and cooking! She lives for the nostalgia of growing up a 90s kid and is a huge fan of 70s soft rock, country music and CHRISTMAS! Amanda shared with me that she could never live without caffeine, comfy blankets, sarcasm and pasta! This my friends… is someone I can trust!

Though Amanda and I both live in Maine, we have never met in person (unless you count ZOOM). Did I mention that Maine is a really big state with slow moving “highways” and country roads? The minimum time it takes to get anywhere feels like 25 minutes, and Amanda and I live miles away from one another. I look forward to enjoying a cup of coffee or fabulous cocktail with this Bookstagram Treasure one of these days. I hope you enjoy her letter to the big guy and check out all of her bookish love over on instagram.

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. The book Amanda eagerly chose to share today started from one small article in the New York Times in 1959 and resulted in an Edgar Award in1966 for best fact-crime novel and a Pulitzer Prize nomination that same year, not to mention multiple film adaptations as well (hmmm…have you guessed yet?)

___________________________

Dear Mr. H.,

Fall is here in Maine and as a lifelong resident I can easily say this is my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing, the weather is much cooler, the sky turns darker earlier, and there is nothing that says “reading time” to me more than a blanket and a cup of tea. In case you were wondering, decaf chai spice is my go to right now. And as I contemplated what book I would want to chat with you about, it really wasn’t very difficult to choose. When I was a high school student (I won’t date myself but it was roughly two decades ago – keep this between us?) I read a book that would forever change me. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood shocked me and instantly made me a fanatic of all things true crime – documentaries, books, tv specials – you name it and I devoured it. And even now, in the age of podcasts and Netflix where true crime is a thriving brand, I’m still taken back to years ago when I first read the story of the Clutter family from Holcomb, Kansas.

I am by definition, not a re-reader. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have read a book more than once. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Part of it is because there are so many good books out there that I hesitate to choose something I’ve already read over the adventure of a new story. I am also a staunch anti-synopsis/spoiler reader which means I do not read the synopsis of a book before I dive in, as I do not even want the generic plot revealed. This is for a few reasons – I read many thrillers where there is often a “twist” in the book and even reading a synopsis has me guessing it all the way through and can easily ruin the excitement for myself. But there are a few books I’ve read over the course of my life as a reader – and one could argue I’ve been a reader since birth as books have always been my escape – that have been so powerful that I would read all over again. And this brings me to this amazing book. 

A note to readers: In Cold Blood is not for the faint of heart and deals with four savage murders so please continue reading with caution. 

In 1959 in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas lived four members of the Clutter Family – Herb, the patriarch, Bonnie, the timid “afflicted” mother, Kenyon, the high school son, and the teenage sweetheart Nancy, who was the town’s pride and joy. One Sunday morning, Nancy’s friend arrives at the Clutter’s house and finds it silent which is highly unusual. What follows is the discovery that the entire family has been murdered – and worst of all there is no apparent motive or any suspects to name. The Clutter family was widely known, very well liked, and not an overly wealthy family, although they did just fine on their sprawling ranch. But it doesn’t appear much was stolen from the house, and everyone knew Mr. Clutter never carried cash, choosing to pay for everything by check. So what happened here? Why did this horrific crime – shotgun blasts in close range to the entire family – happen? Was it personal? But why?

Capote’s writing is unlike anything that came before or after, and broke the true crime genre wide open. He interviewed absolutely everyone he could – from friends and family of the Clutters to people who knew the eventual suspects – and who of course turned out to be the perpetrators. But the most important aspect of the novel is not how much time and research was spent on the information, but how it was presented. In Cold Blood reads like a titillating crime novel, fictional in its appearance, but every word of it true. Capote was able to put you inside the Clutter home on the night of November 15, 1959 with the wind whistling across the plains and the silence of the country roads. You can taste the fear of the family, the shock and terror as they realize this isn’t your run of the mill robbery and that evilhad entered their home. 

As the entire town scrambles to understand this horrific crime, Capote not only takes us through the journey of law enforcement, but also takes us along for a ride with the two men who committed the crime. We learn everything about them, including their childhoods, what they ate after the brutal murders, and everything in between. It is an unprecedented look at both the victims and perpetrators that was unheard of at the time. No one writes with such amazing detail as Capote. He captured the emotions of all those around, not only the family, but the murderers as well. 

I cannot recommend this book enough, even for those who would not consider themselves interested in the true crime genre. This was written well before “click-bait” and the obsession with serial killers and every sensationalized detail. Capote wrote the truth, and it was more chilling than any horror movie or fictional verse. He also takes an approach to the death penalty that has much validity in the conversation even now. 

So here we are, Mr. H. I hope you take my suggestion into consideration and pour yourself a cup of chai, wrap up in a nice cozy blanket and meet the Clutter family with me. Herb, Bonnie, Kenyon, and Nancy will stay with you. And you might just meet your new obsession: true crime and the desire to understand the darkest parts of humanity. It’s been 20 years and I’m still in deep.

Your true crime bookworm friend,

Amanda

P.S. Click on the book pic below to purchase!

Book cover of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

To Be Seen Is To Be Loved

What Kind of Woman cover

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer (Harper Perennial)

What Kind of Woman cover

October 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I retired early to bed last night. I am not going to lie, the weight of life and the world around me felt extra heavy for some reason (2020 can do that to you). I not only found solace in my bed with my flannel sheets wrapped around me but in a very special book that will forever be in arm’s reach. Kate Baer’s debut poetry book, What Kind of Woman has a permanent place on my nightstand.  Like so many of you reading this, I too am a wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, and then some.  It takes a lot not to topple over from the number of hats I wear in a single day.  The joy and responsibility of being a woman are in fact, my true love.   It is also one that keeps me up late into the night with worry, uncertainty, guilt, and wonder.  I found much comfort in Kate Baer’s words. Her poems made me realize that I am not alone with these ginormous feelings.   Her words are the late-night company we all need from time to time.  An absolute gift for the soul.  Enjoy!

I am by no means an avid reader of poetry.  I never know what to read or who to read and quite honestly…most poems intimidate me.  Baer’s book of poems came to me at the most perfect time.  If all goes well, you could say I am wrapping up the first half of my life and the third quarter is about to kick off.  I am blessed to have loving parents, two incredible sisters, a dynamite husband, fabulous friends and three sons who completely rock my world.  I was stunned at how much Baer’s poem’s resonated with me on so many levels.  As a woman, I felt seen.  I felt heard.  I felt understood.  Damn…that felt good.  I can say with confidence that I identified with so much of what she wrote.  Her simple words delivered razor sharp prose that delighted me, haunted me and left me yearning for more.  

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the luscious poems included in this book. 

Twenties 

“Once I kissed a girl in Jerusalem, all legs and cherry lips.  I did not take her number.  I did not know how much I’d long to hold her in my arms again.”

Robyn Hood

“Imagine if we took back our diets, our grand delusions, the time spent thinking about the curve of our form.”

Things No One Says To Me

“You make it look easy

You don’t look like you just had a baby

Motherhood looks good on you”

Deleted Sentences 

“Dear husband. Dear Lover.  Dear lover of my heart.  No, I do not want to attend the barbecue scheduled cruelly over naptime.  I do not want to go to the recital either.  Can you tell your sister that too?  In the morning I saw you dancing with our daughter and for a moment I almost cried.  I hate when people say I almost cried.  Why even mention it at all?”

Childhood

“I do not remember being born

or how I knew my mother’s face.

Only that we woke to the sound 

of pots banging against the stove,

knowing she would be downstairs.”

Things My Girlfriends Teach Me

“Drink more water.  Fold your sweaters. This is the time to buy a hat.  When life throws you a bag of sorrow, hold out your hands.”

Marriage Tales

After arguments they speak only through emails. Dear Wife, I’m sorry I insulted the ravioli and Dear Husband, I’m sorry you did not write down the appointment we spoke of on Tuesday.”

Are you tempted now to read this powerful book of poetry?  I can assure you that this is a book to keep, treasure and revisit always.  There is reflection and discovery in Baer’s words that tugged on my heart strings.  Put your worries aside if you have felt discouraged by poetry in the past.  Baer’s Poetry is undemanding to read.  The accessibility of her words will grace you with a familiarity you so longed for.  Baer’s small but mighty book is one I will be gifting to all the special women in my life.  It is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Kate Baer’s book comes out November 10, 2020

Pre-order this gem below from your local bookseller ASAP.

Click on the book pic below to purchase.

What Kind of Woman Book Cover

Guest Writer

Holly Berfield Guest Writer Graphic

Holly Berfield
Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest Writer Holly Berfield Graphic

October 23, 2020

Dear Book Friends,

I have such a mouthwatering treat for you this Friday. Today’s Guest Writer is the ever so talented Holly Berfield, creator of the Blog, BookCookLook and Instagram account @bookcooklook. Who doesn’t love a fabulous book paired with something absolutely scrumptious to eat. BookCookLook features book reviews and delicious food inspired by the story. How perfect is that! If you have never visited Holly’s Blog or Instagram account…now is the time. Detailed book reviews, delectable food pairings and drool worthy photos will have you hooked in no time.

Holly is a photographer of families and food, and was formerly a lawyer and marketing exec until her love for her camera made it feel impossible to do anything else! She is married to her college sweetheart, and lives in New York with her husband, two boys and mini Australian labradoodle puppy. When she’s not behind the camera, you can find her in the kitchen baking something new (lately challah!), traveling to new adventuresome locations (less of this lately …) or between the pages of a great novel (lots of this)! Her favorite books of 2020 so far have been This Tender Land, The Book of Longings, Here For It and The Girl With The Louding Voice.

I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. It’s a tasty one!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Did you ever finish reading a book, then hold it close in farewell before selecting a perfect spot on the bookshelf, to be reminded of it always? This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger was one of those books for me. It was one of my first quarantine purchases, made on a quick curbside trip to a semi-closed local bookshop, in a gloved and masked exchange with the owner. I just knew from the first chapter it would be special. In fact, it reminds me a lot of your Nick Adams stories. Your other works garner so much attention but the Nick Adams stories stayed with me, especially the power of nature to heal emotional wounds. This magnificent novel centers on the Depression-era journey of four orphans on the run from violence and despair at a tyrannical boarding school. Their makeshift family with nothing but a canoe winds its way down a river in Minnesota, and as their adventures along the way bring them closer together, others threaten to tear them apart. The narrator, Odie O’Banion, tells this coming of age story with a beauty that is immersive, and the descriptions of the setting fairly shimmer off the pages. It feels like a new American classic, filled with characters who shape the course of the orphans’ odyssey. The story is gently paced, but also filled with suspense as these young vagabonds avoid the pursuit of their would-be captors. With its transporting, captivating writing, and moving depiction of adventure and human connection, this book was an unforgettably perfect “mood read” for hunkering down at home.

Mr. Hemingway, I think you’d be so impressed with the author’s note. Krueger kayaked and canoed the same Minnesota waterways that Odie and his companions traveled. Every spot in the book was visited by the author and it shows in his descriptive writing, just as your time in northern Michigan inspired the Nick Adams stories. In my bookcooklook project, I cook something inspired by every book I read. Given the Depression-era timing of the story, there is lots of soup in this book. Lentil, chicken, beef and bean – but at the time of my reading, I was making matzo ball soup for Passover. It occurred to me how fitting this is for This Tender Land, which is all about freedom, family and to a degree, faith. There is a daring escape from bondage, many days and nights wandering in search of freedom, and even a character named Moses. It seemed a perfect, satisfying pairing for a memorable novel like this one.

I hope you love this book as much as I did, Mr. H.

Holly

P.S. Click on my book pic below to purchase.

This Tender Land cover

Photo Credit~Holly Berfield

Guest Writer

Selina A. Guest Writer Graphic

Selina A.
Bookstagram Bonanza

Selina A. Guest Writer Graphic

October 21, 2020

Dear Lovely Readers,

Today is a wonderful day! The Dear Mr. Hemingway Guest Writer is Selina A. I have been chatting with Selina for a few years now. Even though she is literally half a world away, we still have wonderful conversations about books and writing. I adore how we can bounce ideas off of one another even if I am having my evening cocktail while Selina is brewing her morning coffee (the internet is pretty amazing sometimes). This beautiful girl from the “land down under” is the creator of the extremely successful Book Blog, Check Your Shelf and Bookstagram account, @checkyourshelf_. Selina is constantly devouring and reviewing books for her page. Contemporary romance, thrillers, historical fiction, fantasy and YA are all her jam. If you are looking for some new authors to read, Selina has got you covered. Be sure to visit her BLOG to get an inside scoop on some fabulous Australian authors.

Selina lives in beautiful sunny Sydney, Australia with her husband and two young girls. When not reading you can find her baking, going for long walks, recreating TikTok dances (in her head) or obsessing over her growing collection of succulents (which do not want to stay alive). Her usual day job is as a digital marketing manager, so you could say all her time spent online is ‘research’.

I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. I now have ANOTHER book to add to my very own TBR!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. According to Selina, you really need to Check Your Shelf before you Wreck Yourself 😂!

___________________________

Dear Mr Hemingway, 

Do you know what an alphahole is? Well grab a stiff drink and strap yourself in, because you’re about to find out! 

When I think about fall reading I think cozy blankets, a steaming hot mug of tea, some chocolate and…hunky fae, merman, fallen angels and werewolves? 

Sarah J Maas really needs no introduction. Well actually, perhaps you may need one. She’s the queen of young adult fantasy, intricate world building, books that get thicker as the series continues, repetitive uses of the same word (sorry couldn’t resist)  and the writer behind #bookstagram favourite Rhysand from the infamous ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses) series. Sorry, what? Oh, I can explain #bookstagram another time…

Her ACOTAR series was one I picked up last year after I saw rave reviews. And I’m so glad I did! I used to enjoy reading fantasy as a teen, but hadn’t really read a proper series since then. After loving ACOTAR I knew I had to pick up her first adult fantasy offering, House of Earth & Blood…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Ernie (may I call you that?), don’t be fooled by the size of this one! It’s one of those books that make you abandon all your responsibilities (children included), furiously turning the pages, when, before you know it, you’ve finished a whole block of chocolate, the kids are in bed (how did they get there?) and you’re wondering whether you should dye your hair red a la the main character Bryce. There’s a lot of detail in these pages, however in the hands of the skilled Maas, it all comes together as it needs to. 

Bryce and her best friend Danika are living their best lives in the pulsing Crescent City. By day she’s an assistant to a prominent arts dealer. By night, she parties hard with her friends, club and boy hopping like no tomorrow. Until tragedy strikes. 

Becoming quickly embroiled in a mystery that could shake up the very fabric of Crescent City, Bryce teams up with the infamous Umbra Mortis, Hunt Athalar to solve the crime. I really enjoyed the mystery aspect here, and found it a refreshing twist on the usual fantasy set up. 

Speaking of Bryce, can I be her when I grow up? On the surface she’s a bit of a party girl, but she’s multi layered and a total badass pocket rocket too…she may be small but she can definitely hold her own!  Packed with action, intrigue and alphaholes galore, this is one to definitely add to your fall reading list! 

Happy reading! 

Selina 

P.S. alphahole = an alpha male who takes their controlling/ demanding ways a little too far. Get it??

Click on the book pic below to purchase.

Crescent City Book Cover

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