Friday, December 22, 2017

Grin & Beard It by Penny Reid

3 Stars

Today sucks and there are only two of us at work to do everything that normally 5 people do and some bitch has already tried to throw me under the bus for SOMETHING I DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING DO!!!! and my computer just SHUT DOWN without me even touching the G.D. thing so why don’t we not talk about this book for a minute in order for me to calm myself down before I pull an Office Space on this mah fah . . . .

Okay, so it was a Christmas miracle and the pornbrarian™ (new word) decided to give me the best present ever in the form of buying this entire series. Up to this point I had scored the first for free from Amazon and got the third from the porny library. My experience proves that (1) you can totally read these out of order and it will matter zero and (2) beards are guuuuuuuud.

Grin and Beard It is the second book in the Winston Brothers series and focuses on brother Jethro . . . .

“Oh, Ranger Jethro. You are so adorable. I just want to take you home and put you in my pocket.”

I want to take him home and put him somewhere too. And it’s near my pocket . . . .

I’m sure all of these books follow the same script – boy meets girl/boy and girl shouldn’t be together for whatever reason/slow roller of a romance/big shebang. This one had the bonus of Jethro not liking Jennifer Sylvester and her stupid fucking banana cakes so I was on his team all the way. That might be partially to blame on my oldest’s newly acquired taste in “country” music (country in quotes, because as much as he would never admit it, this new stuff is like straight up boy band music with a little twang – there’s no Waylan or Johnny in the mix, fo sho!). Anyway, don’t hate ‘cause I ain’t knocking it. I’ve found myself turning the ol’ Pandora over to the Florida Georgia Line plenty and that’s where I met a young'un named Sam Hunt who sings songs that make me wanna sploosh my pants and who could have easily fit the role of Jethro here . . . .

Come to Momma! I mean, assuming you’re old enough for me to want you to come to momma, that is.

This second book ended up being a fine time for me. Jethro was hawt and I didn’t want to punch Sadie in the throat so that was a bonus. The only teensie gripe I have are authors who promise “fat” girls who wind up being described as looking exactly like this . . . .

I’m all for this idea . . . .

But until authors stop making their “fat” leading ladies top out at a 12 or 14, the cycle isn’t going to be broken. Penny Reid had the perfect opportunity here to go bigger. I mean, does Ashley Graham really come to mind when you think of “everyone’s favorite funny ‘fat’ lady????” The correct answer is no, because SHE does . . . .

Baby steps, I guess.

Anyway, that’s a seriously minor quibble so I will zip it and hope my turn comes around for all of the other brothers in the Winston household fairly quickly while I wait with baited breath along with all the other horny housewives for Billy’s story . . . .


If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White

3 Stars

I grabbed this from the library after seeing my friend HFK's review a week or so ago when I was looking for something new to listen to on the drive to and from work. This fit perfectly into my 15-20 commute window and I was able to finish it in just a couple of days. While there's nothing real deep about this selection, if you like Betty White - you should like it just fine. And if you don't like Betty White?????


Thursday, December 21, 2017

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

3.5 Stars

I haven’t been able to break the “10 reviews behind” mark these last couple of months and since this one already has 10,000 it probably doesn’t need whatever idiocy I can spew out about it to help sell more copies, so I’m going to barf out something real quick here in order to (hopefully) not spend the first half of 2018 trying to play catch up.

In A Dark Dark Wood is a book that I spent the better part of the year waiting for my turn to come around at the library. Miracle of all miracles, somehow I managed to remember that I wanted to read this simply due to the title/cover, but also managed to not spoil myself about anything regarding the story. That’s probably a good thing, because even though in the back of my brain I knew this was a mystery, when I settled down to read it one dreary Saturday morning I got lost in the story and gave zero farts about trying to figure out all of the whos/whens/whats/whys/hows. I was just kind of digging the goings on at the Hen Weekend.

If you’re looking for a real thrill-ride of a book, you might find yourself disappointed. The actual “whodunit” and other reveals were exactly what I thought they would be having watched Lifetime Television for Women for a bigly amount of years. What made this one work was all in the storytelling.

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

3 Stars

Let me start by saying I really should have enjoyed this more than I did and I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t. The story here is of Desi Lee – an overachiever to the nth degree. A senior in high school, Desi has made a habit of setting a goal for herself and achieving it. Straight As, varsity soccer stud, on her way to early admittance to Stanford - Desi makes her own destiny. There’s only one thing she fails at – the opposite sex. When a new boy shows up at school, Desi decides she’s going to stop being a flop with boys and decides to get a little inspiration in the form of K-Dramas in order to script her way to romance.

Sounds like something right up my alley, doesn’t it? What can I say????

Have no fear, I’m not going to channel my inner Gretchen Weiners here when it comes to me not loving this as much as I should . . . .

Nope. I have no problem with rom-coms that use a little deception in order to get the ball rolling. Give me a “friends dared me to date you but then we fell in love” or “let’s pretend to date so you can get the guy you like, but really we’ll fall in love” and 9 times out of 10 my middle-aged butt will eat it up and be smiling from ear to ear the entire time. So that being said, obviously I didn’t really care a whole lot about the use of soap opera plotlines to be the inspiration on how to get the guy. Sadly, it was the guy himself. Well, not really. The guy was fine, it was how he ended up being the guy Desi wanted to go for that was the problem.

You see, the story started with Desi having an actual crush on someone. Said someone being a Freshman, it created a lot of fodder for her friends to poke fun at her about. Then Luca walks into school and Desi decides to go for him. Based on what? That he was good looking? Just to say she was able to get a boyfriend? So shallow. I think if she would have gone with her actual feelings and tried to date the Freshman this would have worked a lot more for me. And for anyone who wants to say “ewwww, a four year age difference?!?!?!?!” – that could have been handled just as easily as Desi falling for a complete stranger like was the case here. He could have had a weird birthday that made him older than everyone in class, she could have either had the opposite sort of birthday making her younger or have skipped a grade or something. Also, Desi wasn’t a character who was looking for some serious thing when she started her little experiment so it didn’t need to end up with some “love of her life” situation – they could have went to the prom and had a little smooch and moved on with their lives. Why did the author even have to mention the first boy?!?!?!?!?!

I know I ruined my own good time by overthinking this one, but I couldn’t make my brain shut up. I also still can’t get this freaking song out of my head . . . .

Go read AJ’s review instead. Her brain isn’t her nemesis so she can enjoy things.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

3.5 Stars

If you don’t mind a mystery where the leading lady does this at every opportunity . . . .

This might work out just fine for you.

Amelia’s life changed when a severe head trauma left her without hearing. Caught in a downward spiral of alcohol, Amelia lost her job, her husband and her stepdaughter. Now she’s trying to get her life back on track. With the help of her therapy dog, Stitch, a new job and a new addiction to kayaking rather than the bottle, things are looking up for Amelia. When Amelia and Stitch discover the dead body of someone she used to be friends with, she can’t help but try and figure out the “whodunit” herself.

As I said above, if you don’t mind an amateur sleuth who potentially puts herself in harm’s way time and again and you have a family who doesn’t take your book away from you due to all of your yelling of things like “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!” or . . . .

You’ll find a well-written, fast paced thriller that doesn’t require a lot of twists and turns in order to be a real page turner. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – I dig this Harlequin mystery line of books. I don’t think I’ve picked up a bad one yet.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

5 Stars

“We’re all different combinations of crazy.”

A book hangover, that is. It appears a handful of my friends read Rabbit Cake this past Spring, but GR must have been glitchy (or maybe I was sleep-scrolling then) because I don’t remember hearing anything about it until just last week when my real-life friend (hard to believe, but yes I do have like two of them) said she thought it might be right up my alley. If you’re reading this, let me say THANK YOU REGINA!

Meet the Babbitts . . . .

Things have been a little rough ever since Eva (the Babbitt wife and mother) died. Now, Elvis spends her time trying to figure out what really happened to her mother, Livvie is a potential danger to herself (and sometimes the entire family) every night when she sleep-eats and their Dad walks around wearing their mom’s robe and lipstick while caring for the new love of his life – a parrot named Earnest whose voice sounds exactly like their dearly departed loved one. Rabbit Cake is a story about the grieving process, told by a family who is just . . . .

“trying to be good.”

Warning to all readers: If you plan on enjoying a slice of Rabbit Cake the first thing you’re going to have to do is resign yourself to the fact that Elvis is a 10-year old trapped in a 147 year old’s body. Not literally, of course, but there has never been a human born who has the wisdom and insight and humor as our young heroine, here. If you can allow yourself to let go and enjoy and the ride, you’ll find one of the most delightful dysfunctional families since the Bluths or Belchers.

We’re talking people who will make you laugh out loud . . . .

“How is she doing?”

“She’s dead.”

“Oh my God,” he said.

“Thanks for the help.”

And, as much as I hate admit, maybe look like this before you’re finished . . . .

As you come to the conclusion with the Babbitts that . . .

“Death never makes sense, no matter how someone dies: murder, accident, old age, cancer, suicide, you’re never ready to lose someone you love. I decided death will always feel unexplained; we will never be ready for it, and you just have to do the best you can with what you have left.”

Rabbit Cake is going down as one of my favorites this year (which should serve as Exhibit A on why GR shouldn't push its users into sharing their 2017 wrap-ups so early) and this family is one I won’t ever forget. All the Stars.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

4 Stars

If you only pay attention to this part of the synopsis before beginning Emmy & Oliver . . . .

“Oliver disappeared after school on a Friday afternoon, way back when we were in second grade.”

There’s a very good chance you might end up with this sort of reaction to this story . . . .

Please note that this is VERY MUCH a “kissing book” and an extremely sweet one at that. If you (or your teen) is looking for a new twist when it comes to the story of the boy next door, this might be a winner. It should make you feel all the feely feels of first love and paragraphs like this . . . .

“The only way I could describe what kissing him felt like was, like the last day of school, knowing that months of freedom and sunshine lay before you, the feeling that you could do anything you wanted and time stretched out in endless possibilities. That’s how I felt in his arms, like the future was limitless just because he was there. He was finally there.”

Made even a curmudgeon like myself say awwwwwwwwww . . . .

Monday, December 18, 2017

You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President - A So-Called Parody by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen

2 Stars

To say my expectations may have been set a bit too high when it comes to this release might be the understatement of 2017. Little did I know that by the time I was able to get my hands on a copy, what had been so hilarious to watch on SNL throughout the campaign and during the early days of the administration . . . . .

Would start to lose its charm when the world was faced with tragedy and we learned that we elected someone who could not even pass a civics test . . . .

Who definitely did not have “the best words” when it came to the #metoo movement . . . .

And who believes there are “good people” who belong to the KKK/neo-Nazi organizations, but twists everything a day or two later to fit the rhetoric that the knuckle-dragging 30% who still approve of him want to hear . . . .

Last week the Fake News posted a quote from Senator Lindsay Graham that there’s a 70% chance The Donald would wage war on North Korea if there’s another nuclear missile test or 30% unprovoked. It’s kind of hard to laugh at this point . . . .

The least they could have done was try to keep some of the gems they hired for that drained swamp around for laughs . . . .

Instead of replacing them with less funny humanoids in the revolving door which is this presidency.

Maybe if someone had taken Trump’s phone away from him, I would still be able to think of this book as a parody. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Even sadder is that I turned in the paper version thinking the audio would be the way to go, only to discover Alec Baldwin reads about a third of the thing. Your mileage obviously may vary, but Trump has so out-Trumped himself at this point that there’s a good chance (if he knew how to write in more than 180 characters) that he could have penned this himself.

At this point all I can say with regard to Trump family parodies that bring the funny is: THANK GOD FOR ERIC!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

3 Stars

I’ve made it very clear I’m not a big fan of fictional shorts in general, and I really struggle with collections of them. That being said, now that I’m attempting to dabble in audiobooks they really are the perfect fit for my short commute so I probably need to suck it up and start enjoying them more. All I can really say about Uncommon Type is it was completely adequate for my 15 minute, twice a day listening pleasure. I have been a fan of Tom Hank since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and he starred in (what I now realize was really freaking edgy) my favorite sitcom Bosom Buddies. I’ve loved him ever since and had zero doubt that he would be able to spin a yarn. And that he did. Seventeen of them to be exact. Each very distinct (excluding reference to a typewriter) and perfectly pleasant, just like “America’s Dad” . . . .


Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

5 Stars

WARNING: After take one last peek at what I had written before posting, I realize you have to read about 117 pages before I actually get to anything about the book. #sorry.

I’m going to begin by saying that (in MY opinion) middle-grade has to be the hardest (fictional) genre to write. There’s just soooooo much that can be going on in this age range. Maybe they’ve already hit puberty, maybe they haven’t – maybe they have parents who let them watch R-rated movies, maybe they are still only allowed to watch Pixar flicks because they haven’t reached that magical number “13” (or ten-plus-three as young Matthew in our story here would say). I mean, there’s just no middle-ground when it comes to this in-between age. Even we parents are often lost thinking stuff like: “Am I really going to let this kid play GTA??? Isn’t that the one where he can earn money by being a pixelated drug dealer or pimp????” Only to find out that yes, that is the right game, but he and his buddies spend all their allowance buying these cards that give them fake money so they don’t have to do anything nefarious in order to drive DeLoreans. #ihavenoideawhatimdoingasaparent

This no idea what I’m doing state of child rearing is what led me to dabbling in more middle-grade books. It’s also what made me realize how hard it must be to write something that isn’t too babyish or too adult or too benign or too offensive. Mad props to the authors who can pull it off. Authors like Lisa Thompson here.

I’ll admit I was an insta-sell on wanting to read this as soon as I saw the comparison to . . . .

Rear Window is hands down my favorite movie of all time. Like I love it so much I am pretty sure I was able to channel all of my brain power and make it be on television one time when we just had switched over to satellite and I lost my DVR of it and I needed to get it re-recorded stat for my insomniac viewing pleasure. I used to fantasize about living in a place like L.B. Jefferies’ apartment . . . .

That didn’t end up happening, but I do have a sick fascination of driving around as the passenger in the dark during the holiday season and crossing my fingers for open doors and curtains so I can peep into people’s houses and see their Christmas decorations. #notsorry #arentyougladyoudontlivenearme

All that being said, a comparison to Rear Window is a major double-edged sword because if I hate it, I will hate it exponentially. Luckily for Ms. Thompson she had nothing to worry about.

The story here is of a young boy named Matthew who stopped going to school or outside or almost anywhere other than his room and the “office” of his family’s home. Matthew is no longer able to be around things he can’t guarantee are germ free – including things like Nigel the cat. Well, okay, Nigel the cat was probably always disgusting and hard to be around, but even that relationship has become more strained. Now - when he’s not cleaning, that is – Matthew passes the time watching the neighborhood from his two upstairs vantage points. It’s from there that he takes note of something very important . . . .

“12:55 p.m. That time was important. I don’t know why it stuck in my mind but it did, even without writing it down. At some point after 12:55 p.m. on that bright, scorching day, Teddy Dawson went missing.”

It’s now up to Matthew (and an unlikely assistant or two) to decipher all of Matthew’s observations in order to help the police solve the case of the missing toddler.

As I said before, Lisa Thompson really hit this one out of the park. Matthew’s OCD was soooooo believable and I never felt like I was being hit over the head about him being a little “different” for lack of a better term (I’m looking at YOU here Ginny Moon). His sleuthing was also realistic. Although he was playing a bit of amateur detective he wasn’t allowed to get in the way of the police, for obvious reasons, but he also had a compulsion to not let something happen to this little boy on his watch (and his reasoning makes sense, is hinted at/eventually explained throughout the book). Goldfish Boy is a book for kids and parents both to enjoy. It gets all the stars.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

4 Stars

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this book, but then never reviewed it because I’m a huge dick. Okay, really it’s because I’m not exactly sure what to say, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I am also a huge dick. All I know is when I saw an Alessandra Torre selection up for request on NetGalley, my reaction was like . . . .

Especially when it came with the disclaimer that it would not be like anything she’s ever written before. She’s not lying. If you are looking for something of the hide-the-salami variety, stay far far away from The Ghostwriter and might I recommend you maybe wander over to something like Moonshot instead. If you like your slap and tickle a little grittier, Sex Love Repeat might be the story for you. Or if you want to really let your freak flag fly and commence with the stabby stabby, The Girl in 6E might be a winner. The Ghostwriter really isn’t like any of those stories – and that’s what makes Torre an instant YES for me. She’s gotta a whole lotta stories in her head.

As for this one? Here’s a teenie little bit of info. Meet Helena . . .

“She’ll rip your heart out, but she doesn’t mean it.”

Helena is a bestselling author. After being delivered a death sentence via her doctor, Helena has one more story to tell . . . .

“The book is about my husband and my daughter. They’re gone. I’m dying. … This is what is important to me. Their story … it’s all that matters to me.”

I will spoil one thing in case anyone’s brain wants to go in the direction mine did. THIS REALLY IS NOT A ROMANCE. Although Helena’s ghostwriter is a man, they do not become romantically involved so just stop your brain before it can even go down that path. This is, however, a love story in a way. It is also a confession and a baring of soul and of healing. I thought maybe only a Torre fangirl could really “get” this one, but then my friend Deanna read it having never read Alessandra Torre before and loved it and I realized I was being the weirdest kind of elitist and trying to keep this author to myself and that is seriously stupid because she has at least one thing for soooooo many readers.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Tribes of Palos Verdes

5 Stars

“Surfers live by the rules of the wind and moon, because the wind controls how big the waves are, while the moon pulls the tide back and forth like a puppet on a string.”

This might have possibly earned its fifth star for being a “right place at the right time” kind of read, but I can’t imagine a universe where it would have scored less than four from me. If you know me (and Mitchell), you are aware that we enjoy a little . . . okay a lot of despair when it comes to some of our fave reads. What can I say????

The Tribes of Palos Verdes first appeared on my radar on one of those “books that will soon be a movie” lists that I am addicted to. I immediately wanted to read it simply for the cover . . .

But alas, the library didn’t have it. When the movie trailer popped up as an advertisement over on the Faceplace, I went looking to the library once again. I even gave up one of my seemingly endless porny book requests in order to beg them to buy this one. (I’m pretty sure they bought it simply to encourage me to not be such a perv all the time.)

The Tribes of Palos Verdes delivered misery in spades. Told from 15-year old Medina’s perspective, this is the story of what happens when her family transplants itself from the Midwest to an exclusive Palos Verdes neighborhood. A place filled with humble abodes such as the following and Average Joe types of neighbors like Donald Trump and the missus . . . . .

From a philandering father to a mentally unstable mother to a brother who attempts to fade into the woodwork via drugs to her own sad tale of being used (and abused), this story pulled no punches. I am always appreciative of authors who don’t feel the need to waste words, and Joy Nicholson delivers a real wallop here in barely over 200 pages. I also appreciate genre benders and The Tribes of Palos Verdes fits that bill as well as it appears it was originally released as an adult novel, but will definitely find its own tribe with older teens who like their fiction a little gritty.

Sidenote about the film: If Jennifer Garner can pull off this role I will eat my hat.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

3 Stars

Althea & Oliver is a different take on the best friends-to-lovers trope. A very different take. I’m not going to waste any time or words on dealing with anything other than . . . .

The story here is that Althea and Oliver have been best friends since their first game of Candyland when they were six years old. When Oliver develops a strange illness . . . .

A line gets crossed that can never be uncrossed.

Bottom line is: Althea rapes Oliver. There’s no other way to say it. Oliver has a (so far) undiagnosed case of Kleine-Levin Syndrome (a/k/a Sleeping Beauty Syndrome) where he suddenly falls asleep and stays that way for an indefinite period of time. Sometimes he “wakes up” to use the bathroom, or to eat, but he’s never really conscious. Althea has been duped by Oliver before – accompanying him to the Waffle House when she thought he was back, only to have him eat his weight in breakfast and throw an absolute fit before falling asleep again. When Oliver and Althea attend a party which leads to their first make-out session where Oliver says he isn’t ready to take things further, only to once again succumb to one of his spells in short order, Althea knows the hypersexual Oliver she meets when he “wakes up” is simply a doppelganger of sorts. But that doesn’t stop her from having sex with him : (

Upon Oliver’s actual awakening, he can feel something is wrong, and when Althea is forced to confess he doesn’t want anything to do with her. And that is the part where a story that was well on its way to being 5 Stars simply for being such a THINKER of a tale dropped to a mediocre 3 because . . . . .

It got boring. And super unrealistic. I’m not going to even bother talking about it – let’s just say Althea’s time in New York? Ugh.

Since I’m not the target audience for this story, that may strictly be my issue, though. As I said before this still really was a real thinker of a book that should serve to open up the lines of communication regarding grey areas (for lack of a better term) of sexual encounters. At best, Althea taking Oliver’s virginity could be called dubious consent (I don’t even think you could call it that, but I’m willing to play devil’s advocate). But there’s also a question of “what if?” What if Althea said no or tried to stop Oliver because he wasn’t really Oliver and he couldn’t be stopped because he wasn’t really Oliver. She couldn’t do anything to stop him at a restaurant, would she be able to stop him in his bedroom? Obviously we’ll never know the answer since it wasn’t written that way, but it’s a pretty creepy thing to think about that would have changed the story 100%. Would readers be more sympathetic to Althea as a female being raped than they are of Oliver who (even in the book) receives “atta boys” rather than an OHMYGODGOTOTHEPOLICEIMMEDIATELY reaction? And what about Althea’s case of “buyer’s remorse” (again, for lack of a better term) when she decides to have sex with the ├╝ber creeper Coby only to beat the shit out of him the next day? Althea appeared to be a willing participant – but she was also intoxicated so could she consent? These are topics parents need to be discussing with their children – especially in the current environment today. If it takes something fictional to be a jumping off point for your family’s discussions, this might be a winner.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax

3 Stars

My friend Jilly gets the credit (blame???) for this one after posting a review for Matchpoint, the second in this series, that she had picked up in order to “decompress” from some stabbier selections. I thought that sounded like a good idea and it became an instantly better idea when I found out this first one was available on the ol’ Kindle for free. That is perfect for me because . . . .

Then I took a gander at her review for An Affair To Dismember and saw a comparison was made to the Stephanie Plum books, which is the equivalent for me to this . . . .

Jilly wasn’t lying. From a quirky grandma to a “love triangle” (term used EXTREMELY loosely since it is not the dark ages and women are allowed to date more than one man at a time until they D.T.R.), this truly does fall into the “if you like Stephanie, you’ll probably like Gladie” category.

Much like Stephanie, poor Gladie is just trying to make a dollah outta fiteen cent. She sucks at jobs, though, so she’s ended up back at her Grandma’s house in order to learn the family business of matchmaking. (I know, I know, you’re just gonna have to kind of go with it and create some alternate reality in your head that makes this a viable career – like the entire town is in a black hole with no WiFi so they don’t have access to Tinder or When the neighbor dies, Gladie doesn’t think much of it – until she goes and pays her respects on the family and gets a little more info . . . .

“I don’t think Randy Terns slipped and hit his head on the table. I think he was murdered. I think someone hit him over the head.”

After that it’s on like bing bong as Stephanie I mean Gladie becomes an amateur supersleuth while finding herself in various over-the-top predicaments . . . .

Where she keeps running into the local police chief . . . .

And also her Grandma’s new neighbor, who may or may not be the guy who shot Bin Laden . . . .

If you’re looking for something that’s light and funny and could easily be turned into a Hallmark Mystery Channel movie-of-the-week to veg out on while still in your PJs at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon and while eating your weight in chocolate-drizzled kettlecorn (not that I know anyone who would do something like that), this might be a winner. (Don’t let the 3 Stars fool ya – 3 Stars is about as high as I go when it comes to these types of books. I really did have fun reading it.) Get it for free RIGHT HERE.