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Nothing better than a good book...

If it's good, I'll read it! Instagram:  @crystenasbooks

Currently reading

Behold the Dreamers
Imbolo Mbue
Progress: 12 %
Challenge Participant Professional Reader 80%

the family next door

The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

Author: Sally Hepworth

Rating: 4 stars


Good writing and a nice twist elevate this book from this is just a Hallmark-movie-of-the-week in print status. Not that I dislike Hallmark movies. I've been known to binge watch with mom on snow days.


How well do you know your neighbors? In this story, there is more than meets the eye to all our characters. It was fun putting the pieces together and trying to figure out what was going on in this little suburban neighborhood. I thought I had it a couple of times in the beginning but was wrong.  Finally, by page 172  I had figured out the big twist. BUT I thought- If Hepworth is going there, that's a nifty twist.  I'm on board. Let's ride this train. 


Well done.


Definitely recommend. 

Sale on Tayari Jones' Books

Leaving Atlanta - Tayari Jones The Untelling - Tayari Jones An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

On Kindle, Tayari Jones' novels  Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling are both $1.99 USD today.  I don't know how long the sale lasts.


The writing in An American Marriage was so strong I bought them immediately and look forward to reading them in the weeks to come. 


Wanted to let you know in case you were interested. 

Can't Help Myself

Can't Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist - Meredith Goldstein

Our author upon seeing her ex after a brutal breakup:


He wore his eveyday khakis and button-down suit shirt and chatted with coworkers with an easy smile on his face. I'd hide behind the cafeteria plants thinking, "How dare he. How dare he eat."


I laughed out loud reading this, thinking of my own irrational responses to heartache.


I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.  


Meredith Goldstein has an advice column called Love Letters for The Boston Globe. This book recounts how it began and includes some of those letters and their responses.  That alone made for good reading.  Who hasn't been in love or struggled in a relationship?  Who hasn't experienced unrequited love and/or had problems letting go and moving on?  Reading other peoples experiences lets us see that, for the most part, we aren't crazy- we are human. 


This book also includes anecdotes from Ms. Goldstein's love life as well as how the column helped her when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. I didn't always agree with Ms. Goldstein's advice - but she was open and honest and ... human. This book had a lot of humor in it. I also cried at parts. It's not often a book makes me run such an emotional gamut. 


Overall I definitely recommend. 


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

I Know How You Feel

I Know How You Feel - F Diane Barth

Author: F. Diane Barth

Rating: 4 stars


I enjoyed this book. It's worth a read.


This book is written by a psychotherapist who specializes in women's relationships.  It delves into all the nuances of female relationships. I liked how it brought out that some women feel if they don't have that close we -share -everything-and-talk-everyday kind of relationship, one that is often idealized in movies and TV, there is something wrong or they did something wrong and they don't have real friendships. I've felt that way at times.


What I really enjoyed was the format. Ms. Barth gets in there at the beginning of the chapter and raises a premise. She states studies in succinct fashion and then exits the book for a bit and allows women to speak. The chapters are filled with women's life experiences and stories in their own words. I really enjoyed the parts about how women handle competition in life - over men, in the workplace, in social circles. And again the one on how relationships change as you age or make transitions in life. Each section has a what you can do section designed to help you better support and overcome obstacles in your friendships - or know when to let go while still learning from the experience.


I would love to see this book done in a book club.  The premises, observations and life experiences make for great conversation. 

Reading progress update: I've read 13%.

I Know How You Feel - F Diane Barth

This book, written by a psychotherapist that specializes in women's relationships, really delves into the complexities of female friendships. It is hitting me all over with the feels, got me saying "Amen"s and the "You speak truth"s. 


I feel like I have been waiting for this book. You watch TV and they paint this picture of these "ride or die" relationships that withstand Armageddon. I have those friends - don't get me wrong - but they are the exception and not the rule. It's so much more complex than that. I've lost longtime friends-  some became toxic, some we expected too much of each other, some we just grew apart.


Mmmm.  Such a good read. 

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Author: Celeste Ng

Rating: 5 stars


This is a great book. 


There isn't much to say about it besides it's a book focused mainly on the character development of two families living in a small suburban town. There's a fire and a custody battle but the star of this book is the great writing and the way it just sucked you in and made you care about these people. I missed them instantly when I turned the last page. I still want more.


I will read Ng's other book without question. This was excellent. 

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

Author: Gail Honeyman

Rating: 5 stars


Eleanor Oliphant is a woman who walks to the beat of her own drum and has no social skills whatsoever. She is rude and thinks the problem is with everyone else. This book, with each page, unravels what makes Eleanor tick. You become attached to Eleanor as you learn more about why she is the way she is. By the end of the book, you are rooting for her.  This book made me laugh out loud more times than I could count. It also broke my heart and made me cry. I loved Eleanor and watching her struggle to make connections with others and overcome her loneliness made this book a great read. Supposedly Reese Witherspoon is going to make the movie of this book. I cannot wait.


Wholeheartedly recommend. 

An American Marriage

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

Author:  Tayari Jones

Rating:  4 stars


This is a complicated book.


I mean that as a compliment.


Let me start with the book blurb. In short, it says it's about an innocent man who is incarcerated and what it does to his marriage. The blurb out there makes no mention of the fact he is African American.  I struggled with this because the fact that he is changes the story. It does. And paints it in a shade that made me want to read it. Was it done to appeal to a broader audience? Was it because the problems at their heart are universal if someone is falsely accused? To the last question, the book does not read that way. Such as when the wife, who is named Celestial (yes, seriously) expresses how she feared that the justice system would rob her of the men in her life, whether they were guilty or not simply because they were black. There were such moments like that, bringing this book to life and telling you  what it is like to walk in my shoes as an African American woman with two brothers who yes,  have gotten pulled over for DWB and a father who taught them to memorize their license numbers and their social security numbers and to keep. their. hands. in. sight. at all times. 


Then after finishing this book, my feelings got even more tangled. Yes, this book is about how Roy and Celestial's marriage take a hit from him being wrongfully imprisoned. But it pulls no punches, we get a picture of these two before he is arrested. Roy is misogynistic and plays fast and loose with the idea of commitment in his marriage. Celestial comes off as self-absorbed - just gonna be straight here, I didn't care for her -  and is uncomfortably close to a male childhood friend. You see trouble on the horizon from the word GO. There is an argument to be made that the strains on their marriage would have happened without his incarceration and that their separation only amplified their problems. You could say that. But he was falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and they were robbed of the time and space to figure it all out. What ifs. If onlys. 


This book is about how such a situation has a devastating effect on not just the person but their loved ones, there is irreparable harm done. A timeline that is altered and irretrievably lost. I appreciated a quote that is used in the book to the effect of 'Nothing happens only to you, not just to you.'


I don't even know if this is a real review. It's more of a collection of my rambling thoughts on the book. To sum up I will say this  -  a book that makes you walk in the shoes of others albeit fictional, and makes you think about what's going on around you can't be a bad read. Job well done. 


Yeah, I recommend it.




Reading progress update: I've read 26%.

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

"Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience."



This. This truth hit such a nerve I said "Amen" out loud at my work desk.


There's a lot to say about this book- it's excellent so far btw - an intimate look at what happens to a young African -American couple's marriage when the husband is falsely accused and then incarcerated. 


I have so many emotions I need to find words to fit them. I'll save them for the review.

February 2018 Recap

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) - Holly Black

The month of February was a drastic improvement over January.


I enjoyed most everything I read!!! The above books are my 5-star reads.  I had four! If I had to pick a standout it would have to be Wolf Hollow.  Amazing book - go read it!  It's bound to be a classic in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird. 


All together I read 13 books- closing out with the five-star read of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This book was flooding my Bookstagram feed with great reviews and I will add mine to the mix - it's amazing. I do recommend it.


I read:


5 Middle-Grade books (4 of which were part of my Newberry Medal project) 

1 Young Adult

2 English Mysteries

1 Historical Fiction

2 Contemporary Literature

2 Non -fiction Books ( 2 books about diabetes to help my parents)


Nice. I like diversity.


Onward to March! Happy reading!



Reading progress update: I've read 327 out of 327 pages.

— feeling amazing
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

What a book to close out February!


Excellent. Just excellent.


Excuse me while I go wipe these tears and blow my nose. 

My Dead Parents: A Memoir

My Dead Parents: A Memoir - Anya Yurchyshyn

...but my parents had secrets, and I didn't know everything about the world we shared. We were operating with different maps. Mine had blank spaces, entire continents I'd never heard of.



This book. Wow.


From the book blurb, I gathered that this is the memoir of Anya whose father was killed in a car crash and whose mother drank herself to death years later. Anya learns that her father's car crash may not have been an accident and sets out to investigate.  


This memoir is about that. Kinda. The car crash and subsequent investigation she does is an important part of the latter half of the story. The first half of this book is Anya's childhood and teen years. It was troubled and riveting. I could not put it down. Anya pulls you in as she battles her fear of her father's verbal abuse and as she deals with her mother's drinking and inability to protect her.  Anya is no angel through all this, understandably lashing out. But she is humble in that she does not hide her flaws or actions or try to justify them.  


About halfway through the book, Anya begins to learn of her parent's history, their troubled backgrounds and her view of them changes. It's hard to come to the place of understanding and empathy that she reaches and Anya effectively makes you feel her change of emotions. During the course of the book, events are learned that explained her father's actions that you read about in chapters previous. What stood out to me was Anya doesn't say so THIS is why my father acted out. She knows you realized it the second you read it, just as she did when she heard it. Instead, she focuses on the changes it brings about in helping her to understand her parents and her own life choices. 


This book is not for everyone. It is troubling. It does have an instance of animal cruelty - which is as far as I will elaborate. I was horrified over the instance and heartbroken over the reason. 


I gave this book five stars because it was so riveting that you could not look away, yet so honest and stayed with me emotionally.  It really was about a daughter seeking to understand her parents.




I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday Reads 2.23.2018

Legacy of Silence - Belva Plain A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books - Rob Kaplan, Harold Rabinowitz The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher

I'm so happy it's Friday.


These are the books I am working on this weekend. 


Legacy of Silence- I did not want to read this book right now. I picked it up cuz I was stuck in line, only had my phone and randomly pulled it up on the Kindle app to kill a few minutes. I meant to put it down to read something else. But I can't. stop. reading. it. The MC actually annoys the living daylights out of me, but there is such a pull to Belva Plain's narratives that I find myself going back to it again and again. I'm almost halfway through so I'm just gonna commit and finish it. 


The Shell Seekers - I am loving this book. I am at work and realize I left this book on my nightstand and want to kick myself. Argh! #bookproblems


A Passion for Books- Great short stories about reading and all things book related. It's a bibliophile's dream compilation.


Next week I want to get back to my Newberry Medal Project. I have really enjoyed reading some of the winners and the Honor books this past month. There are some real gems. I feel bad I had neglected the genre thinking I would not be able to relate. What started me down this path is a friend of mine I do buddy reads with is on medications for a chronic illness. She loves to read but finds sometimes she needs books that aren't too taxing. She says middle grade fits the bill. Her recommendations have opened my eyes. 


Well, enjoy your weekend and Happy Reading!





Reading progress update: I've read 18%.

A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books - Rob Kaplan, Harold Rabinowitz

Just an enjoyable read. I read this collection of short stories before going to bed and if I awake and can't fall back to sleep. 


Standouts so far?


Pillow Books by Clifton Faidman - an essay about what to read before bed. I loved it. I loved the way Faidman wrote and his turn of phrase. I connected with this story too because I have trouble picking what to read before bed. I will take him up on his suggestion of Anthony Trollope's novels.


Comfort Found in Good Old Books by George Hamlin Fitch- Heartbreaking. :(  Essay about how a man found comfort in literature after the sudden death of this son.



When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead

Author:  Rebecca Stead

Rating:  4 stars


***Newberry Medal Winner 2010***


This book was so good!


I'm trying to figure out how to describe it without giving the twists away. Hmmm... 


I'm going to stick with the blurb: 


"By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: 

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. 
I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late."


Miranda is a great young heroine. She is making her way through adolescence and that uncomfortable time when being friends with boys changes and you realize your parents aren't perfect.  As I was reading and picked up on the science fiction angle I thought - this book is a genuinely good middle-grade novel, there's no need for the all this. But I stand corrected. I loved it. I loved how all the threads came together at the end.


I liked how unique and quirky all the characters were! Even now I'm a little down the book is over. 


Definitely recommend. 

Kissed a Sad Goodbye

Kissed A Sad Goodbye - Deborah Crombie

Author: Deborah Crombie

Series: Kincaid and James #6

Rating: 3 stars


A decent installment. Solid writing.


After the great character development and momentum of the last book, this one was disappointing. Not much happened to move the characters' story forward. I don't know if that's to allow us to catch our breath and adjust to the turn of events of the last book or what.


On a positive note, the mystery was good. I had no clue who the murderer was until the final pages.


I will continue with the series.  The previous book was just too good for me to give up cuz this one was just so-so.