The Luxe by Anna Godbersen


The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Publisher/Year:ย Harper Collins/Alloy Entertainment, 2007
Format:ย Hardcover




Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.

Irresistible boys wish sly smiles and dangerous intentions.

White lies, dark secret, and scandalous hookups.

This is Manhattan, 1899….

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan’s social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City’s elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone–from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud–threatens Elizabeth’s and Diana’s golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city’s gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan’s most celebrated daughter disappear…

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.

What I thought

This book was like a young adult Downton Abbey, set in New York City. Full of secrets, scandals, and betrayals, this book is definitely for you if you like reading about drama.

A little more on the slow-moving side, I nevertheless found this to be very addictive. In fact, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of book #2! Even though the plot took a while to get where it was going, it never felt clunky. I was too invested in the characters (who I thought were all very well down) & I wanted to see if any of them would get their happily-ever-afters.

The historical fiction aspect was not the strongest, however I never had difficulty picturing what time period I was reading about. I generally prefer a bit more description when it comes to historical fiction, but then again, the focus of the story was definitely the characters.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. I really loved following this set of characters, even the naughty ones, and I can’t wait to see what happens to them in the next book!

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher/Year:ย Simon Pulse, 2015
Format:ย Hardcover






Etta is tired of dealing with all the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere–until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

What I thought

Oh my goodness–I LOVED this book. I truly think that Etta has worked her way into my heart–she has definitely made her way onto my list of all-time favorite characters.

More than anything else about this book, I loved Etta’s story. She was so real & flawed & genuine. I can’t speak for how well her story represents black bisexual teenage girls, but as for her “not otherwise specified” eating disorder…it was spot on. Without getting into too much personal detail, let me simply say this: there were a few times I had to put this book down so that I could weep because here Etta was, putting into words some of my own thoughts & feelings that, at one time, I wasn’t even aware I was having.

That’s not to say that this is one of those “sad” books, but rather that it’s just a book that has a lot of feeling. I laughed with Etta, cried with Etta, commiserated with Etta, became annoyed with Etta, and ultimately, cheered for Etta. Being a teenager isย hard & it’s confusing, and Etta’s story perfectly encapsulated that. Her voice was so strong & unique (& SO Etta), that it really is hard to imagine her as a fictional character.

This book is so underrated, it’s unfair. This has become one of my favorite reads of 2017. If you’re looking for a diverse book that shows how rough being a teenager can be, this is your book. And more importantly, if you are looking for a genuine story about a girl who decides to defy the labels that are trying to box her in, you have to give this book a try.

Ford County by John Grisham

Ford County by John Grisham Publisher/Year:ย Doubleday, 2009 Format:ย Hardcover Pages: 308 Rating:ย ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 1/2 Goodreads   Synopsis In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel,ย A Time to Kill. Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road […]


Ford County by John Grisham
Publisher/Year:ย Doubleday, 2009
Format:ย Hardcover
Pages: 308
Rating:ย ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 1/2



In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel,ย A Time to Kill.

Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road trip through the Mississippi Delta to visit the youngest Graney brother, Raymond, who’s been locked away on death row for eleven years. It could well be their last visit.

Mack Stafford, a hard-drinking and low-grossing run-of-the-mill divorce lawyer, gets a miracle phone call with a completely unexpected offer to settle some old, forgotten cases for more money than he has ever seen. Mack is suddenly bored with the law, fed up with his wife and his life, and makes drastic plans to finally escape.

Quiet, dull Sidney, a data collector for an insurance company, perfects his blackjack skills in hopes of bringing down the casino empire of Clanton’s most ambitious hustler, Bobby Carl Leach, who, among other crimes, has stolen Sidney’s wife.

Three good ol’ boys from rural Ford County begin a journey to the big city of Memphis to give blood to a grievously injured friend. However, they are unable to drive past a beer store as the trip takes longer and longer. The journey comes to an abrupt end when they make a fateful stop at a Memphis strip club.

The Quiet Haven Retirement Home is the final stop for the elderly of Clanton. It’s a sad, languid place with little controversy, until Gilbert arrives. Posing as a low-paid bedpan boy, he is in reality a brilliant stalker with an uncanny ability to sniff out the assets of those “seniors” he professes to love.

One of the hazards of litigating against people in a small town is that one day, long after the trial, you will probably come face-to-face with someone you’ve beaten in a lawsuit. Lawyer Stanley Wade bumps into an old adversary, a man with a long memory, and the encounter becomes a violent ordeal.

Clanton is rocked with the rumor that the gay son of a prominent family has finally come home, to die. Of AIDS. Fear permeates the town as gossip runs unabated. But in Lowtown, the colored section of Clanton, the young man finds a soul mate in his final days.

Featuring a cast of characters you’ll never forget, these stories bring Ford County to vivid and colorful life. Often hilarious, frequently moving, and always entertaining, this collection makes it abundantly clear why John Grisham is our most popular storyteller.

What I thought

Although it seems like an odd place to start, this was my first real read of John Grisham’s work (I read Skipping Christmas years ago). I will definitely be reading more, although I won’t lie, I’m kind of disappointed to hear that this is out of the norm for his writing.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this collection. I’m a very big fan of Southern lit, and I felt that Grisham truly portrayed the Deep South with genuine authenticity. The reason why I’d give this collection 3.5 stars is because while I did like the first 3 stories, I really loved the last 4. The unevenness is what kept this from being a solid 4 star for me.

So, I’m just going to give some short wrap-up thought on the stories:

– “Blood Drive” – I thought this one was darkly hilarious. I mean, I felt like I was reading something off a darker version of the Dukes of Hazzard, it had so much slapstick humor at times. I will say, I wasn’t expecting such a gritty ending.

– “Fetching Raymond” – This was definitely moving–between an elderly mother’s unconditional love for her youngest son on death row and his brothers’ almost stoic detachment.

– “Fish Files” – What I liked about this one was that you almost can’t help but root for this lawyer, even though he’s actively swindling money.

– “Casino” – I don’t know why, but I really love reading stories about people figuring out how to win big at blackjack. I have never gambled & have NO clue how in the hell to play blackjack. But this story was highly entertaining to me.

– “Michael’s Room” – I LOVED this story. It was my second favorite of the collection. A lawyer actually REALLY having to see the consequences of a lawsuit he won for a client. Violent, but also heartbreaking & eye-opening.

– “Quiet Haven” – I absolutely love unreliable narrators, and that’s all I’m gonna say about this one. Really enjoyed it, expertly done.

– “Funny Boy” – Oh, my heart. This was, by far, my favorite story of the collection. The ending had me tearing up. (The last line of Adrian’s letter to Emporia KILLED me.) This story made my heart physically ache, it moved me that much. It blew me away–I was not expecting that from John Grisham.

Overall, this collection is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are in the mood for authentic, gritty Southern lit.

I also want to leave the link for Part 1 of a short 4-part series of videos that John Grisham did where he just kinda talks about this collection of stories and about his inspiration for writing them. It was very interesting (if you’re into that sort of thing), so here’s the link for Part 1:

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Publisher/Year:ย W. W. Norton & Company, 1962
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 123
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ



These letters are timeless. Rilke said himself that much of his creative expression went into his correspondence, and here he touches upon subjects and ideas we recognize as characteristic in his poetry. Like so many of his letters, these are addressed to a correspondent he had never seen. Drawn by some sympathetic note in one or another of his poems, some unlooked-for response to what was in their own minds, young people were wont to write him their problems and ask his advice. In this case of the Young Poet the replies form a compact group of ten letters in which every young artist and many another young person will find understanding and good counsel. Those who already know the acutely sensitive observer ofย The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and the whimsical inventor of theย Stories of God will find here a Rilke clear-sighted, constructive, and eminently positive in his attitude toward life and art.

Biographical notes at the end of the volume give an account of the poet’s own life at the time which will be of interest to all readers of Rilke.

What I thought

I don’t want to go into too much detail about this little book because I feel like the advice & inspiration within is best experienced firsthand.

So, just a couple things:

– I’ve never read any of Rilke’s poetry, but now, having read this, I need to fix that.

– I added so many quotes from this–if this was my copy, it would be riddled with highlights & underlines.

– Rilke is a fascinating person. I was glad to have the background info on Rilke, as it gave good context to the letters. I also have to say, I think these letters are perfectly demonstrative of Rilke’s personality & outlook of many things. As corny as it sounds, I just thought it was a really great thing for him to do–to respond to & form a friendship/mentorship with young Mr. Kappus.

– I do have to note that I don’t think I read the best translation of this (M. D. Herter Norton, 1962). Some of the sentiments were lost on me, I think, due to this.

Overall, even though this little book was something different than my usual reading choices, I thoroughly enjoyed it & it sparked an interest in Rilke’s poetry.

World War Z by Max Brooks


World War Z by Max Brooks
Publisher/Year:ย Broadway Paperbacks, 2007
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 342



We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand,ย World War Z is the only record of the plague years.

What I thought

Let me begin by saying that, as I read, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of fiction. And if that isn’t enough to make you want to read this, then I think you & I are done here.

I do need to back up a few steps here & go over a few of the things I wasn’t crazy about. First of all, this is absolutely not a book with any form of character development. When the subtitle says “an oral history,” that’s what it literally means. This interview format is not one I’m used to, but it did lend itself to making this read like non-fiction–really engaging non-fiction. There were some interviews I really enjoyed & others not so much, but I feel like that goes without saying. The only other thing that I didn’t really care for with the interview format was that, depending on who he was talking to, some of the interviews went into WAY too much detail about politics or weaponry, but that’s just me.

Another thing that’s worth noting before starting this is that this book is literally NOTHING like the movie, which is good because the movie was awful. FAST zombies? No, thanks.

Where this book shines is that it is a highly intelligent, highly plausible take on what would probably happen in the event of a zombie outbreak. It’s very evident that Max Brooks did his research, particularly in regards to global politics & human nature. I also want to note, there were some pretty gruesome scenes (which I was all about), but this wasn’t scary, at least to me. Unnerving maybe, but not scary.

Overall, if you’re into this sort of thing, the believability alone is worth checking out, but to the casual zombie/horror fan, be aware of the non-traditional (and at times, detail heavy) format. Definitely recommend!