Book Review: Laura and Emma

Laura & EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a weird book. I didn’t hate it. I liked reading about the relationship between Laura and Emma but it felt like there wasn’t really a point. And then it just ended. Still, I laughed in some places and was interested in the characters.

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My 10 Favorite Books of 2017


I tried really hard but didn’t quite read 80 books this year. Still, at the Goodreads challenge, I had only challenged myself to read 50 books so it was a good reading year. Since I’m of the opinion that life is too short to read bad books, most of the books I read this year were really great. I did read two that I didn’t care too much for. Why I completed them, I’m not sure. It’s not how I usually do things. The second half of one of them made up for the first half so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Anyway, I’ve challenged myself to read 82 books for 2018 and I’m currently in the middle of two really good ones. But let’s get to the ones I loved last year.

10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

l didn’t plan to read this book. I didn’t even know about it when I saw it on the front shelf at the library. What drew me? The green cover, green evening gown. I loved this book, though! The story is about an old world Hollywood icon who has decided, at the age of 79, to tell her life story and reveal the love of her life.

She contacts a relatively junior journalist and tells her if she will help her tell her story, she can publish the book upon her death and keep the proceeds. A highly unusual opportunity because Monique, the journalist, couldn’t understand why she would choose her for this role. 

The story is entertaining with unexpected twists and turns. I promise you won’t be able to put it down!

9. The Tumbling Turner Sisters – Juliette Fay

This is a historical novel that takes place in the days of Vaudeville. After their dad loses his job, the mom decides that the four Turner sisters should form a tumbling act and take it on the road. The book is full of great characters and a good storyline as the sisters go from town to town to perform their act. It’s another of those books you don’t want to end. 

8. We Were The Lucky Ones – Georgia Hunter

Oh, such an awesome book. It’s no secret that I love to read books about Holocaust survivors. The strength of the people involved is miraculous and they are heroes in my eyes. This book involves a Polish family with four adult children. Based on a real family, their story is incredible. They were flung far and wide during the war but, in the end, they all survived. Truly amazing!

7. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles

I’m always looking for book recommendations and this one came to me from the Expat Book Club on Instagram. I’m not quite sure how I found them but I’m glad I read this book! So good. The prologue takes place in 1966 at a photo exhibit where Katey recognizes Tinker, a man she met 20 years previous. The book is her story with that man. Such delicious writing made me feel like I was in the moment with the characters. Wonderful book!

6. Class Mom – Laurie Gelman

Oh, how I laughed! This book is about a year in the life of a kindergarten mom. The difference is, Jen is an older mom. Her two older kids are in college and her son is just starting school. You all know “those” parents, right? Well, Jen is NOT having it. She takes over as class mom and the results are absolutely hilarious. You will laugh out loud!

5. The Windfall – Diksha Basu

The Jha’s are moving up in the world after Mr. Jha sells his website for big money. He’s decided that they need to move from the neighborhood they’ve always lived in to a better one with wealthier neighbors. As they move, he feels the need to compete with the neighbor regarding which one is wealthier, Meanwhile, Mrs. Jha is having a hard time in her new life. She misses her old neighborhood and friends. Their son, Rupack, is in America studying and trying to figure out his life. He’s in love with an American girl but feels his parents won’t accept her. He gets tossed out of school and comes back to India to live. This is a cute story that’s fun to read.

4. Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan

This is the third in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and I have loved them all. I was excited to read this book and get lost in this zany world again. In this installment, the matriarch Su Yi, is on her deathbed. The family flies in from all over the world to take care of her but really all they are thinking about is how they will spend her money when they are named the heir. 

3. When Dimple Met Rishi- Sandhya Menon

I read a fair amount of YA and this was my favorite for the year. Dimple is going off to college as is Rishi. They are Indian teens and their parents have arranged for them to be married. Rishi’s parents tell him (the obedient eldest son) and he sets out to meet the girl who will, one day become his wife. Dimple’s parents don’t tell her as she is a bit of a rebel. When she finds out what Rishi plans and her parents have done, she tries not to like him. Rishi then tries not to like her, either, but they are drawn to each other. Loved it!

2. When We Were Worthy – Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

In July, this was my favorite book of the year. Taking place in a small town where football rules, the story outlines the lives of four women after the death of three high school cheerleaders. One of the girls feels she should have been in the car with them except she was doing something terrible at the time. One is the mom of the boy who was driving the car that hit the girls. One is the mom of one of the girls. One is a high school substitute teacher who is targeted by the football players and loses her family because of it. This is such a good book I didn’t want to go to sleep until I had finished it.

And, finally. Drumroll, please…

My favorite book of the year was the last book I read in the year!

1. The Alice Network – Kate Quinn

    This story takes place after World War II when Charlie is trying to find out what happened to her cousin, Rose. She is given a slip of paper with a woman’s name and address in London. Eve is a grizzled ex-spy and meets Charlie at the door drunk and with a Luger. I couldn’t figure out how the paths of these two very different women would ever converge but they do.  The two form an unlikely duo and create a seriously readable story you will not want to end.  

So there they are! Ten really excellent stories that are more than worth your reading time. If you want to know everything else I’ve read, feel free to visit my Goodreads page.

What was your favorite book from 2017? I’m always looking for suggestions and I get them in the strangest places, sometimes. For instance, I have a reading list given to one of the characters in Kevin Kwan’s first book, Crazy Rich Asians. Even though they were given to a fictional character in novel, the books are real and the ones I’ve read were really good!

Book Review: The Middle Ground

The Middle GroundThe Middle Ground by Zoe Whittall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick, easy read. The story was interesting, if a little unbelievable.

However, Missy loses her job, comes home to find her husband cheating on her with the neighbor, and is part of a robbery at a diner so who knows how you’d act under similar circumstances.

If you need a light read, this would be a good one.

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Around Accra: Coco Lounge

My birthday was October 4 and David’s was November 4. Since we weren’t together for either one of them, we decided we’d celebrate both birthdays together on December 4. As I cruised around the internet and Trip Advisor, I decided that Coco Lounge looked like a good place to go.

our-birthday-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

We arrived right on time even though I’m pretty sure the last kilometer of the drive took us 25 minutes. The traffic in Accra is unlike any I’ve ever seen before and 6:00 p.m. is a pretty busy time of day.

menu-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

We decided to order a cocktail and some chips while we decided on what to eat. David decided on a Heineken, the only beer they have on draft. I looked at the wine selection and was going to go with a glass of red wine until David discovered they have Beefeater Gin. Well! Since that’s my favorite, I ordered a dry Beefeater Martini up with olives.

drinks-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

This part of our visit, the martini part, was the only part of our visit that was less than perfect. We saw they had drawn his beer but it appeared that they were stumped on how to make the martini. David said that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high since they seemed to be having trouble. Our server finally delivered David’s beer and a perfect Beefeater martini for me. It was really good!

We ordered a second round of drinks while placing our dinner order. The second martini was not good. I’m not sure what was wrong with it but my guess is that they didn’t use the right gin. I took it back and she came back with a second martini. It wasn’t quite as good as the first but it was Beefeater and it was good. 

For dinner, David ordered spicy beef and rice stir fry which came in a bowl. It looked good and he confirmed that it was very good. I decided on the Coco Burger with additional cheese. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m on the endless search for the best burger in the world and a burger will be my first choice at any restaurant that serves one. This burger was delish! The cheese that was added was a nice thick chunk of cheddar. The fries were also good and I’m pretty picky about my fries. 

burger-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

We decided we’d split a piece of cake and the cake on the dessert menu was one of the big factors in my selection of this restaurant since we were celebrating birthdays. The three choices of cake (banana, sticky toffee, and raspberry vanilla) didn’t compare to the idea of a brownie with ice cream on top which is what we ended up with along with coffee. It was a very satisfying end to our meal!

brownie-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

coffee-coco-lounge-accra-ghana
We got really good service and I love the decor and the vibe at Coco Lounge. I was also able to make my reservation via Facebook messenger before I ever even left Oklahoma! We will for sure return to try more of the menu items and help them to perfect their dry Beefeater martini. 😉

decor-coco-lounge-accra-ghana

It was a great place to celebrate our birthdays!

Book Review: Sadia

SadiaSadia by Colleen Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. It presents social issues that teens can learn from.

Sadia is a Muslim girl who wears hijab and loves to play basketball. She is accepted by her peers at school and makes the co-ed basketball team. It’s when they get to the tournament that problems arise with other teams not accepting her different style of uniform. Still, Sadia doesn’t want to remove her hijab for this because she feels deeply connected to her reasons for wearing it in the first place.

Sadia’s friend, Nazreen, has begun removing her hijab (un-jabbing) at school along with changing her more modest clothing to clothing that’s more trendy. Although Sadia doesn’t agree with Nazreen’s choice, she wants to remain friends and keeps her opinion to herself. When the first challenges come with Sadia’s hijab coming undone while playing, Nazreen (who is an aspiring fashion designer) designs her a sleek uniform that will allow Sadia to remain covered but also give her more freedom of movement.

I liked this book a lot. I loved the character of Sadia. She was committed and very sure of herself. I loved how her team stood up for her and how the story ended up.

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Book Review: This Love Story Will Self Destruct

This Love Story Will Self-DestructThis Love Story Will Self-Destruct by Leslie Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This wasn’t my favorite book to read. The beginning is kind of jumbled up but when I got about halfway, I wanted to see what was going to happen.

One of my first problems with the book is that Eve told her boyfriend at the beginning of the book that her mother died when she was 10. The book is broken up into timeframes and in one of the flashbacks to when she was younger, she kept growing older and older and her mother was still alive. For some reason, that was sitting in the back of my head as I read.

The two characters, Eve and Ben, are very different and ultimately end up together and it works as it so often does in real life. They knew each other throughout college but only peripherally as they went to the same parties and hung around with the same people.

This story is about how two unlikely mates find each other. I’m glad I finished the book so I could see Eve and Ben end up together.

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Book Review: Surprise Me!

Surprise MeSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book to read and review. I love Sophie Kinsella’s books and couldn’t wait to read this one.

In this book, Sylvie and Dan have been happily married for 10 years, have twin daughters, and are living a good life. They visit the doctor for their annual physicals and he tells them they will live a long time, they’re both so healthy. When they figure out they will be married for 68 more years, it throws them into a tailspin because it seems like forever and how on earth will they manage?

At first, they try to surprise each other to keep things interesting but ultimately this doesn’t work out and over the course of the story, Sylvie realizes that she just needs to keep being fascinated with Dan as she sees something new about him daily.

I loved Sylvie. She reminds me of the zany Becky Bloomfield of the Shopaholic series. I loved watching her shed her Princess Sylvie, daddy’s little girl persona and become her own woman, too.

This is a really fun book. I loved it and highly recommend it!

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Book Review: Where the Wild Coffee Grows

Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your CupWhere the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup by Jeff Koehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a self-proclaimed coffee achiever, I really enjoyed this book. I loved reading the history and culture of coffee. I found the book to be a little slow moving at times but, still, very interesting and worth the read. An ode to my favorite beverage. Well done!

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Book Review: A Little Bit of Grace

A Little Bit of GraceA Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Phoebe Fox’s books and I was really excited to read her latest.

The story started out slowly but then it kicked in and I loved it! Grace is an attorney in partnership with her ex-husband and lifelong friend. When Brian brings home a pregnant girlfriend, Grace loses it as she hasn’t been able to get past her failed marriage.

About that time she receives a postcard in the mail addressed to her recently passed mother signed “M”. Almost without thinking, Grace is on s plane to Florida to stay with her aunt Millie, a relative she never even knew existed.

This book has colorful characters and a great storyline and I remain one of Phoebe Fox’s biggest fans.

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Book Review: Surviving the Angel of Death

Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in AuschwitzSurviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a short but powerful book. Written by one of the twins who survived Auschwitz’s Angel of Death, Josef Mengele, Eva and her sister Miriam were 10 years old when they landed at the concentration camp.

Although the story is horrible, I’m glad it was told. History that’s forgotten is history that can be repeated and the horrors of Nazi concentration camps should never be repeated.

I was so impressed that the author was able to forgive the people who harmed her in order to heal her soul. That must have been so very hard. I highly recommend this book.

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