chicago

Book Review: How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

Posted on

Why This Book 
I won this book via a Goodreads Giveaway a few months ago. In my quest to finish reading all ARCs or Giveaways by 12/31, so 2018 starts off with less stress and a reduced TBR, I read this book over the Christmas holidays. I am quite glad I did, as it was a feel-good type of novel that really helped me prepare my resolutions for 2018.

changelife

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Eloise, 39, is a personal chef who takes care of a large, loving family in Chicago. She once had a promising sports career, but had to give it up due to an injury. Since then, she’s drifted, or at least thinks she’s drifted, due to losing connections with two best friends in high school and a married man she’d been having an affair with recently (unknowing he was married). When a former teacher dies, the 3 friends are reunited and make a pact to change their lives. They’ve given each other a list of 5 things to accomplish before their 40th birthday — all items to push their boundaries and emotions. The book is a journey to find oneself again after a number of years where life took you on a course you perhaps hadn’t realized was never truly planned.

Approach & Style 
The book is written in 1st person perspective with a focus on Eloise, the primary character. I read a physical copy which was ~380 pages, inclusive of a few recipes. 24 chapters average about 15 pages each, containing a beautiful voice of a woman I wish I could meet. She’s that wonderful.

Key Opinion 
With a title like this one, I had very high hopes. It absolutely delivered. Consider it a character-driven book, while a bit too fluffy / light in some areas, that will engage you on many levels. Eloise is a brilliant main character; she spoke to me as I begin thinking about my own life and what I am trying to accomplish. Like the main character, I turned 40 this year and had a lot of thoughts about what I wanted to do with my life. The characters drip off the page with love, sadness and hopes. There are so many clever moments, precious times in our lives we don’t always recognize. Eloise’s connection with each member of her family, the family she cooks for, and all the others she meets is heartwarming.

The plot, quite minimal, evolves at a slow pace as you read about Eloise’s every day for a period of a few months. It’s rare I enjoy reading about the very realistic happenings in someone’s life, but Ballis made it refreshing and immersive. I looked forward to hearing what happened on each of her 20 dates. I wanted to know what new social activities she would consider trying. I needed to be side by side with her as she wrote her cookbook. The writing is clear and direct — shows creativity and brings imagery to every page. I could feel the emotions within each relationship. I recommend this book for anyone looking to spend time with a beautiful character and just witness a normal life.

Final Thoughts 
I’d give this book a 4+ rating, as it was quite endearing, charming and inviting. I will definitely read more from this author, given the focus on food and relationships. It’s the type of book where you can let yourself go, immersing your thoughts and dreams in that of a character you will adore.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Review: The House on Mango Street

Posted on Updated on

The House on Mango StreetBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to The House on Mango Street, a short series of vignettes published in 1984 and written by Sandra Cisneros. Picture it: Long Island, August 1995. 18-year-old college student receives a letter in the mail, revealing two books he must read prior to attending the freshmen orientation seminar on his first day of college later that month. Young kid says “They’re giving me work to do already? WT…” It went something like that. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read, and I was a good student, but seriously… I’m scared of going off to college and already being told to start doing some work. Can’t I have some break before I… never mind. So I read it. And wow, it’s fantastic. A short collection of stories about growing up in Chicago, learning how to live on your own (sort of). Meeting different people. Seeing other sides of life. Learning more than you thought was out there. Embracing change and culture.

Oh… I get it… that’s what’s about to happen to me! Wow… nice book. Thanks. So then I get to the orientation. And they want us to discuss it in a random group that was set up. So we get put in groups of 6. I’m with some weird-looking people. At 18, I looked about 12 still. For some reason, I got stuck with the other 18-year-olds who looked 28. I wanted to call them mom and dad. But I knew better. I kept my mouth shut. Sandra Cisneros has just taught me that. So… I’m very shy and don’t say a word. No one speaks. I realize I guess I must say something. So I said. “I liked it a lot.” Everyone nodded. I said something like “what did you think?”

I’ll save you the drama. None of them read it. I was the only one who did. How embarrassing for them! It was so good… but I played it cool and described the plot. It seemed to open up the conversation, but then we were asked to nominate a leader to step up to the stage and explain your group’s understanding of the book. Oh you know… vengeance… some day… payback…

My lesson. Don’t ever read a book again. JUST KIDDING! You must read this one. It’s a beautiful story and helps you embrace change and difference. And the characters are quite memorable and quirky. Quick read. Maybe 2 hours. You should definitely give it a chance.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Blacklist

Posted on Updated on

BlacklistBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to Blacklist, the 11th book in the “V.I. Warshawski” thriller and mystery series, written in 2004 by Sara Paretsky. What a fantastic book! It had everything from murder to corporate espionage to communism. Spanning a history of nearly 50 years, the story puts VI in the most scary of situations, and it allows Paretsky to truly tell a tale of remarkable prominence. There are so many connections and seedy things happening, you’re not sure how to begin figuring it out. Plus there are two cases she’s got going on at once. Will they intersect? Something tells me they will… they always do. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. They might not actually come together. The best part of this book is Paretsky’s unyielding way of telling the truth and the reality of what’s happening all around us. I’m about 6 books behind on this series, at least a decade or so, and I can’t wait to catch up this summer. She’s always a treat.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Tunnel Vision

Posted on Updated on

Tunnel VisionBook Review

3+ out of 5 stars for Tunnel Vision, the 8th mystery book in the “VI Warshawski” thriller series, written in 1994 by Sara Paretsky. In this book, Paretsky tackles the struggle of the homeless, domestic abuse and city politics. With her building set to be knocked down, VI has to find alternative offices, but she won’t give up. When she’s one of the last people still holding on to her lease, she finds herself being target. First she’s stalked and scared in the building. Then she finds a dead body, who later turns out to be a woman she volunteered with at a shelter. Then it’s connected to a city official, and she’s eventually accused of the murder. How does she get herself into these situations? While a good book in the series, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. It’s still a good series. I think VI’s personality got to me too much in this book. I know she’s under attack. And she’s trying to do the right thing. But she was a tad annoying and self-indulgent in some chapters. Eventually, we get back into the norm where she fights the right people and helps make her point, but it was a little over-done this time.

View all my reviews

 

 

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

Review: Fire Sale

Posted on Updated on

Fire Sale Book Review
3+ out of 5 stars for Fire Sale, the 12th book in the mystery and thriller “VI Warshawski” series, written in 2005 by Sara Paretsky. I really enjoy this series, and Paretsky’s style is quite conducive to my reading habits and approach. I love the characters, the plot and the setting. The voice is strong. The mystery is always good, sometimes too complex. While I normally give most of her books a 4, this one was a little less for me — purely because of the topic. Whenever a book involves school sports, I tend to find it a tad boring. I’m all for team spirit, and hope that the money falls in the right hands, but like with parts of the book Beartown, I struggled. That said, it’s written well and will appeal to many people. VI is fantastic and I always root for her. I also enjoy when the bad guys/girls get their just desserts. Paretsky does an exemplary job covering yet another great social topic in this one — big business, school sports, young guys approach to pressuring girls and what’s really important in the school district? A definite read for fans.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Guardian Angel

Posted on Updated on

Guardian Angel Book Review
3.499999 of 5 stars (therefore rounded down!) for Guardian Angel, the 7th book in the mystery series, written in 1992 by Sara Paretsky. This book was a slight turning point in the series for me. VI has always been a bit of a recluse, a little difficult to swallow and sometimes bitter. But it was part of her charm and personality, and you always understood her. In this book, she’s fighting for something she strongly believes needs to be fixed, and several of her cases are colliding. At the same time, her friends are warning her to slow down, remove herself from a few situations and to think about what she’s choosing to do. While they don’t truly turn their backs on her, they’ve made it clear she’s crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed. What do you do when you feel your friends have abandoned you for your choices? And what’s a reader to do when you’re concerned about a character you love? Is she going too rogue? Do you believe her? Why and What is going on? Keep asking the questions… it’s worth it at the end, but it does push the envelope for a bit in how much you can tolerate how VI behaves.

That said, the mystery is of course great. VI tackles several social topics, especially understanding who stands up for people when they can no longer stand up for themselves? And when you add in unscrupulous people, battles between lawyers and the bad side of town, it’s bound to get complicated. This one is worth reading if you’ll only sample a few in the series.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: Blood Shot

Posted on Updated on

Blood Shot Book Review
4 of 5 stars to Blood Shot, the fifth release in a mystery series of 20 books (and still counting), written by Sara Paretsky in 1988. I stumbled upon this thriller and suspense book series during college, upon coming across some of the bright yellow, red and purple covers. After catching my attention, I gave them a chance and then devoured several in a row in the first few years to try to catch up. The main character, VI Warshawski, is a tough female private investigator in Chicago, a fictional character resembling no person I’d ever met before. In this book, VI goes back to the dangerous streets she grew up on to help a childhood friend find the father she never knew; the friend’s mother is dying which leaves a big hole in her life. VI, reluctant to help, gives in and starts an explosive path into history, uncovering crimes among the big business world, including toxic chemicals and the lengths people will go to keep some information secret.

For those new to the series… this is a really great set of “modern day” PI detective books with a strong female lead. For the most part, VI is quite likable; however, it takes a little getting used to. She’s tough, a bit rude and direct, and often fails to realize she’s holding herself back from being open-minded. In the first few, I thought… no one like this exists. Please forgive me, I was a naive 20 year old from the suburbs who thought all people were generally friendly. VI’s a different kind of friendly. If you’re on her good list, she’ll take a bullet for you. Seriously. And she has. But if she’s on your bad list, you might get some acid thrown in your face. OK, maybe not that bad, but you get the drift. The fun part part about these books is they were right in the beginning of technology’s rapid growth on the detection front. Cell phones and computers were just becoming common in the hands of regular people. See was still using coins in a pay phone and an answering service. I can’t imagine waiting for your service to tell you you had a message. Wow! But makes you realize how much harder she had to work to solve her crime — natural talents and ingenuity. Good one to sample from the series.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews