Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Lies My Liberal Teacher Told Me

Lies My Liberal Teacher Told Me by Wilfred Reilly
6/11/24; 272 pages
Broadside Books

Lies My Liberal Teacher Told Me: Debunking the False Narratives Defining America's School Curricula by Wilfred Reilly is a very highly recommended examination of ten falsehoods that are being perpetrated in many school curricula today. The false assertions from American history books are all taken on using an empirical analysis of the data that exposes the truth about some of America's most controversial topics.He uses critical thinking skills along with facts and data from a vast amount of research, all annotated with additional notes afterward, rather than relying on feelings and myths.

Dr. Wilfred Reilly is a Associate professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Southern Illinois University and a J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. The ten lies he takes on are: slavery was unique to America; the 'Red Scare' caught no communists; Native Americans were all peaceful; hippies, the sexual revolution, and the Vietnam War; lynchings and slaves as three-fifths a person; European colonialism was a bad thing; using nukes to end WWII was bad; white flight is racist; the 'Southern Strategy'; and the continuing oppression narrative (CON).

This is an excellent, well-written and well-researched exploration of the topics that certainly exposes the lies being presented as facts in American academia and education. It will most certainly create controversy and hurt feelings for those who won't actually read the book and critically review the research presented. Logic, using the Socratic method, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, used to be a course taken by most college students but is seemingly lacking today. As someone who went through the public school system and college many years ago, was in the education field, reads all the time, and investigates everything before jumping in with an opinion, Dr. Reilly's analysis is both thorough and refreshing.
Thanks to Broadside Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dad Camp

Dad Camp by Evan S. Porter
6/11/24; 368 pages
Dutton 

Dad Camp by Evan S. Porter is a heartwarming, sweet, funny, light family drama. It is highly recommended.

With his daughter Avery turning 11, John feels her pulling away as she enters her preteen years so he decides to sign them up for a "father-daughter week" at a summer camp. He doesn't tell her about it until the last minute, which only results in her pulling away from him more. Avery has been the focus of John's life since she was born and the two have always spent a great deal of time together. John doesn't want to lose his daughter and feels the camp can strengthen their bond again. Once they arrive that camp is less than John thought it would be. It's run-down, the director doesn't like him, the other dads all seem very different, and the activities aren't what he thought they'd be. 

What follows is a light drama. It is emotional, funny, and, entertaining. It can be predictable at times but it does succeed in entertaining you with a few light-dramatic events along the way. The plot is pretty simple, which also makes this a comfortable read. While Johns actions are not always entirely logical, that he has good intentions is never in doubt. The characters are all caricatures of different types of fathers and daughters, although the focus of the novel is really the fathers.

This is an appealing novel to read when you simply want to be entertained. The plot doesn't require a lot of analysis or contemplation. There are no shocking twists or heart-stopping action. It is a sweet story about a father struggling with his little girl growing up. Both father and daughter have lessons to learn about being honest with each other and really sharing what is on their minds. Thanks to Dutton for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Things I Need You to Know

Things I Need You to Know by Mark Lamprell
6/4/24; 352 pages
Text Publishing Company

Things I Need You to Know by Mark Lamprell is a highly recommended novel dealing with a dysfunctional family as they grieve that turns into a psychological thriller. This is a novel that you must read to the end in order to fully appreciate the writing.

Birdie McBride and her five daughters are mourning the loss of her husband and their father. Ned was a devoted husband and wonderful stay-at-home father, allowing Birdie to pursue her legal career. Then Ned dies and leaves them all grieving and their lives upended. Birdie struggles with being a mother, working, and grieving, which leaves her relying on her oldest daughter, Charlotte, 16. Ned left behind a document for Birdie titled  "Things I Need You To Know." It is a guide to everything from household maintenance to each daughter’s emotional landscape.

Complicating the grieving process is Birdie's diva mother, singer Dawn Featherstone who must always be the center of attention. Ned's best friend, physician Marcello Architto, who is also trying to help Birdie, presents another complication as there is a long history between them.

Things I Need You to Know is a novel of a family in crisis. The narrative deals with grief and asks how a working mother can keep her family together after her stay-at-home husband dies and leaves them all floundering. Beyond that it also deals with love and trust. Birdie knew Ned loved her but she wasn't sure she totally loved him until he was gone.

Birdie is a fully realized character and all her flaws are on full display as she works through her grief and the narrative shows flashbacks from her life. She didn't always make smart decisions. She is in crisis now and looking back at poor choices she has made while realizing her flaws. In the end she uses her strengths to save her family.

There is a huge, shocking twist/revelation toward the end of the plot that changes everything, even the tone of the novel. Well played, Mark Lamprell. Your excellent writing pulled this up from an average novel to something much better. Thanks to Text Publishing for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Forgotten on Sunday

Forgotten on Sunday by Valérie Perrin
Hildegarde Serle (Translator)
6/4/24; 304 pages
Europa Editions

Forgotten on Sunday by Valérie Perrinis a highly recommended story which follows an unlikely friendship, the consequences of undeclared love, and healing the wounds of a broken past. This was Perrin's highly regarded 2015 debut novel and has been translated into English by Hildegarde Serle for the first time.

Justine Neige, 21, is a nursing assistant at the Hydrangeas, a retirement home in the small French town of Milly. As she cares for the residents, she also listens to their stories and often works unpaid overtime to assist them. She is particularly drawn to Hélène Hel, 96, who gradually reveals the story of her life and the tragedy of her lover’s disappearance during WWII. Justine carefully writes down Hélène's story in a blue notebook, which she has promised to give to her grandson, Roman. Justine also tells Hélène about her life.

In her personal life, Justine and her cousin Jules live with her grandparents after the death of both of their parents (their fathers were twins) in a car crash. Justine was 5, Jules 2, when this happened. Her grandmother is suicidal. Her grandfather is taciturn. Now, beyond work, Justine enjoys dancing and frequently spending the night with a man whose name she doesn't bother to learn.

There are mysteries taking place too. An anonymous person is calling the relatives of unvisited nursing home residents, those "forgotten on Sunday," and claiming to be representing the Hydrangeas. The caller is falsely informing them that their relatives living there have died. The police, such as they are in the small town, are investigating. While talking to the police, Justine learns that there were some suspicions behind the death of her and Jules parents.

This is a poetically written, sensitive, elegant, melancholy novel. The narrative moves between the present day events in Justine's life and the past, mainly the story of Hélène. In both timelines secrets, trauma, love (undeclared, and forbidden), revenge, attraction, and friendships are explored. The relationship between Justine and Hélène is essential to the story. Thanks to Europa Editions for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Number Three

Number Three by Mary W. Mahoney
6/1/23;  258 pages
M.W. Mahoney Publishing
Three, Two, One Murder Series #1

Number Three by Mary W. Mahoney is a recommended light murder mystery/courtroom drama. This reads like a cozy mystery. In the opening readers learn that Laurel Morrow has been indicted for murdering her husband Bob. What follows is, first, the story about all the events before the indictment as told by Laurel to a reporter she knew from high school, Catherine (Cat) Carroll. The second part part of the novel follows the trial from Cat's point-of-view. The Epilogue is told through a third point-of-view.

Laurel tells Cat that at Bob's insistence, he, Laurel, and their three young sons move from Boston to the wealthy, exclusive suburban community of Northington, an area they can barely afford. Their marriage is already in trouble and Laurel feels constantly under pressure to keep Bob calm so he doesn't explode and yell at her. The rural setting and snobbish demeanor of the local women where acceptance is based on status enforces an isolation on the family. Their older neighbor, Pearl, is very welcoming and helps Laurel out when she can. She greets them when they move in and immediately helps with protection against mosquitos. The situation is intolerable for Laurel, but she feels trapped.

The plot will hold your attention and the short novel moves along at an even pace to the epilogue. Part two through Cat's point-of-view not only follows the trial but focuses on her attraction to Jack Heggerty, another journalist following the trial, along with her other issues. The final denouement wasn't that shocking to me as it was an obvious answer to the question who-dun-it. 

Laurel and Cat are both realistic characters and relatable on some level. I have to admit that I didn't really like either of these characters. They both seemed a bit shallow. Although I felt sympathetic to Laurel's situation feeling trapped and helpless, she also grated on my nerves. She just felt whiny and complaining. Expect mosquitos and bugs in the country or even if you have a yard, it is a fact of life. (And I'm wondering who mowed their lawn.) When you own a house there are always repairs and upkeep which seem to hit all at once. If the wealthy, status conscious women don't want to be your friend, go find the normal people. They probably know better than to attend the school meetings or hang out at the exclusive beach. There is always a job that can be found. It may be in retail and not the high paying job you want, but it would be a way out. There are also places you can go for help and escape the abuse.

I'm an outlier compared to others who have reviewed Number Three so it probably wasn't a good fit for me. Thanks to M.W. Mahoney Publishing for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Ambition Monster: A Memoir

Ambition Monster: A Memoir by Jennifer Romolini
6/4/24; 304 pages
Atria

Ambition Monster: A Memoir by Jennifer Romolini is a recommended memoir for a select group of readers, especially those who are interested in a detailed, very personal autobiography of the early life and the working marathon taken on the road to success by a now burnt-out professional who had to leave their corporate jobs for their health.

The early life of Romolini most certainly impacted her adult life and that trauma had to leave scars that will need to be dealt with eventually. She shares the early memories she has and then goes on to share lots of other memories of working serving jobs, etc. on her way to try and make a living and a name for herself. This track follows her workaholism on her way to having a high-profile job and success. 

As you're reading her life story you instinctively know that something has to break because of the focus of the narrative. Her personal life is not as successful as her work life, even early on when she is doing the working class jobs. The crux of the memoir is sharing all the self-destructive decisions she has made over the years. She is incredibly honest and this can be mind numbing. It will also leave you wanting to talk some sense into her.

Honestly, there were parts where I appreciated her blunt honesty but there were also times I wish she were more focused on the whole rather than the little details. It is also, quite frankly, depressing because she is unhappy much of the time. I kept thinking of the old song admonishing you to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Thanks to Atria for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Don't Ask, Don't Follow

Don't Ask, Don't Follow by Mary Keliikoa
6/4/24; 320 pages
Oceanview Publishing

Don't Ask, Don't Follow by Mary Keliikoa is a highly recommended suspense novel set in Portland, Oregon, that seeks to solve a murder and find a missing person.

Beth Ralston, a paralegal at her father's law firm, has had enough mingling at the office party so she heads back upstairs to her office to rack up more billable hours. She finds Craig Bartell, her boss, has been murdered and she sees a woman who appears to be her sister Lindsay,  fleeing the scene. Beth is unable to catch her sister and, while she waits for the police, she discovers Lindsay left her phone in Beth's bag. The phone had an unsent message on it: "Don’t ask. Don’t follow."

Lindsay is an investigative reporter, so sometimes it is hard to reach her, but she never drops completely out of touch. In an attempt to find Lindsay, Beth begins to look into the material that Lindsay was investigating and trying to expose. It involves large scale corruption, secrets, and betrayal that may involve even her own family.

Beth is a determined, fully realized character who has a strong bond with her older sister that serves her well as she tries to find Lindsay. Since Don't Ask, Don't Follow is told through Beth's first person point-of-view, trusting and believing in her findings is important. 

The information Lindsay was chasing also involved Craig and makes her question not only the information Lindsay was collecting but also their parent's truthfulness.  It is clear as events unfold that someone is follow Beth and means her harm. The detective is also fast on the same trail and keeps encountering Beth while he investigates. 

The plot does seem to slow down in the middle after it initially takes off at a quick pace. There are also a few plot points that require a suspension of disbelief, especially toward the end. The journey to the final denouement is interesting, full of action, and will hold your complete attention. Thanks to Oceanview Publishing for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.