The Kiss Quotient

“A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.”

So I love Romance novels. They are my guilty pleasure, but traditionally I stick to the truly fantastical ones; the ones that could never happen in real life because they are in space, have magic, or are in the distant past, but all the hype for this book got to me and I checked it out. Boy am I glad that I did!

This book was a page turner. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know more about Stella and her desire to find a way to get over her dating issues. I needed to know Michael’s backstory. Why did he decide to become an escort? The secondary characters were great as well, truly helping to move the story along.

These characters drew me in and I was rooting for them the whole time. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to punch Philip for the jerk he seemed to be. So if you want to try out a contemporary romance, I would highly recommend this one.

Speak No Evil

“On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.”

I have recommended this book time and time again to family and friends. This book hits hard and I think it is an important read for everyone. For Pride month and with what is going on in our country with racial inequity, this book is an important contribution to these conversations. I cried many times throughout this book and had to set the book down multiple times.

I encourage everyone that reads this post to read this book. Check your local library, order it from a local bookstore, and get it on your Kindle.

You can order books from Main Street Books and can find this one here: https://mainstreetbooks.indielite.org/book/9780061284939

First: Sandra Day O’Connor

“She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her class at law school in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings–doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.”  -Goodreads description

This biography takes readers on a journey that spans eight decades and chronicles the life of the first women to ‘break up the boys club’ in the U.S. Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor’s journey from a gritty, beloved childhood on a ranch to a prolific Supreme Court Justice is told with honesty. The author takes great care in researching and Sandra’s personal and professional life. The book shows a wide scope of Sandra’s life by pulling from interview transcripts, her husband’s diary, personal writings, published court opinions, and speaking engagements.

The author, Evan Thomas, accurately portrays Sandra’s conviction concerning the law along with her willingness to see multiple perspectives before making a judgement. Sandra’s life is not ‘sugar coated’; this book takes an candid and at times humorous approach to her journey. The book strives a strong balance between Sandra’s role in groundbreaking Supreme Court cases and her journey as a wife, mother, friend, author, and national inspiration. I rate this biography 5/5 stars and would recommend it to any reader who enjoys non-fiction, feminist, and intellectual writing.  

If you are interested in reading this book and are part of the Lindenwood community, you can check out the audiobook through OverDrive. Check out your local library if you would like an e-book.

The Martian

Martian“When a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, astronaut Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, completely alone. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, but will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

The Martian is incredible. Andy Weir is a genius (seriously, I think he graduated from college with a computer engineering degree at 15). His writing is often called “real science fiction” where it is science fiction based on plausible facts. He goes into detail about why things happen and how they work, which is why I think so many people like this book.  The story is also an awesome stranded-in-space survival story. They turned it into a movie a few years ago starting Matt Damon and they did a great job bringing the character of Mark Whatney onto the screen as well as all the other characters. Of course, I recommend reading the book first if you haven’t watched the movie already.

Interested in this book? Look for it at your local library. If you’re affiliated with Lindenwood, you can request this book from the Lindenwood Library.

But I Could Never Go Vegan!

“If you’re a waffling vegan newbie, on-the-fence vegetarian, or veg-curious omnivore, this book will banish your doubts. You’ll find you can get enough protein, fit in at a potluck, learn to love cauliflower, and enjoy pizza, nachos, brownies, and more—without any animal products at all. (Even vegan pros will discover some new tricks!)”

This book has 125 vegan recipes broken down into fun categories. Now, I don’t fully want to be vegan, however, I think it is important to replace some of our family’s meals throughout the week with vegan options. My husband and I are not fully into giving up dairy yet, so we have taken this book with its amazing ideas and modify until we are ready to go the full vegan route. We are mostly wanting to switch to a larger vegetarian diet, so this book gives us great ideas on how to incorporate different alternatives into common meat plates.

For instance, last night we made southern biscuits with sausage and gravy. Instead of using the sunflower sausage mentioned in the recipe, we put in vegetarian sausage. We also made the spiced carrot cake cupcakes (but just a regular cake because I don’t have a cupcake pan) with cream cheese frosting. These were both amazing!

The rest of the recipes look delicious, minus the fish section (I do not like fish at all) and I cannot wait to experiment with these, whether we keep the full vegan recipe or modify with some dairy. What is nice is that the recipes are easy to follow, great pictures, and quite short, with most not going more than one page. My husband has tried going vegan before and I am not 100% sold on full vegan recipes. However, the recipes in this book make it not sound so rough since I really do love cheese, milk, and eggs. We will one day hold to the full, vegan recipe and continue to use these throughout for delicious and different meals.

Not convinced? Let me list some recipes I am excited about! Buckwheat banana bread pancakes with peanut butter syrup; Pecan-date cinnamon rolls; Tempeh bacon mac ‘n’ cheese with pecan parmesan; Balsamic baked pears with cashew blue cheese; Chickpea fries; Loaded Mexican stuffed baked potatoes; Falafel tacos with sriracha-tahini sauce; Avocado & white bean salad wraps; BLT & avocado soft tacos; and many more!

I say give this book a shot! While libraries are closed, give your local bookstore some love. We got ours from Main Street Books! You can also check with your local public library’s catalog to see if they have this available as an ebook!

All About Science – For Kids

So being stuck at home with a 3 year old means that we are reading a lot of kids books. This post is meant to highlight two of our family favorites that have a science focus.

“Prudence looks like a full-time cow she wanders through pastures, she swats flies, and she lines up for supper. But Prudence is a part-time cow she is also a scientist, an architect, and an inventor, studying and building and dreaming and creating.”

I loved this story from the beginning, but it took my daughter a while to see how wonderful it really is. This special cow tries everything, but that doesn’t mean that her fellow herd members thought her trials were great. She wants to fit in, but being a cow and enjoying learning just didn’t quite mesh, but she does find a way to still be a full time member of the herd.

“Simple explanations of complex ideas for your future genius! Written by an expert, Newtonian Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to Newton’s laws of motion. Babies (and grownups!) will learn all about mass, acceleration, the force of gravity, and more. “

This story is perfect for getting your child involved in science and learning. It starts off with “This is a ball”, which is a simple concept. Then you learn about mass. Which is bigger, the big ball or the little ball? Then comes gravity. With a favorite toy you can quickly make the point of what gravity is and does, to every child’s delight. Then comes Isaac Newton, who gets an apple dropped on his head and you have a story of success. My daughter loves this story and can now almost “read” it to me, just by looking at the pictures.

For anyone with kids, these are two great stories. Even if you don’t have kids, they are still cute and fun to read.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Time Travelers Wife“A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant. An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler’s Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come.”

The rules about Henry’s time traveling ability/disorder are laid down and adhered to within the book. It acts as a fantastical element which spices things up while creating complications for Henry and Clare. The story centers on their relationship and focuses on each character equally. It’s a gripping story that incorporates time travel extremely well. I wouldn’t consider this a science fiction novel in the traditional sense. It’s more of a fiction novel with the time travel element added for a bit of excitement.

This book does contain a lot of sex and drug use. Not enough to put me off the story or make me consider it a romance novel but enough that I would not recommend this to younger readers. They made a movie based on this book which I greatly enjoyed as well. They take most of the mature content out and focus on Henry’s condition and his relationship with Clare. It stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. If you don’t like the mature content but are interested in the story, check out the movie.

Interested in this book? Look for it at your local library. If you’re affiliated with Lindenwood, you can request this book from the Lindenwood Library.

Dungeons & Desktops: The History of Computer Roleyplaying Games

undefinedFor anyone like myself, who has an obsession with CRPGs (Computer Role-playing Game), or really RPGs of any variety, that borders on unhealthy (though I do keep from crossing over, I promise), Dungeons & Desktops: The History of Computer Role-playing Games, by Matt Barton and Shane Stacks, is a must read. For that matter, anyone who loves computer games in any manner could appreciate the level of detail and insight that goes into this book.

Dungeons & Desktops is a walk down memory lane; a revisiting of the past; and, an insight into just how things have changed in the gaming industry. I certainly don’t remember every title discussed in this tomb of a book. In fact, my own gaming career, while beginning during the golden era of the 80s, missed the wild west that were the 70s, when text-based RPGs were undefinedborn. But one does not need to have experienced every period of the gaming history to appreciate the loving care that went into this book, nor to understanding just how monumental the changing gaming industry has become in the structure of our society. And this is only in considering CRPGs (eschewing the many other game genres that exist today).

As a budding game designer myself, there is also much for me to appreciate in how different game development is today than it was even ten years ago, let alone back during the time when I was growing up. The book explores development of what came to be modern video game genres, what makes a game an RPG just that and not an adventure game or an action game. While I don’t know that I will be developing any RPGs, video, tabletop or otherwise, I certainly am not going to rule it out. And any video game designer worth his or her salt should want to gain a better understanding of just how a game fits into any given genre. While many of the games discussed in this book do not always fit neatly into the CRPG category, all of them share certain features that define that genre (or rather, were defined over the course of the first couple decades of video game development).

With all that being said, the book was just a pure joy for me to read. I admit to growing nostalgic at times when I read reviews of some of my favorite games growing up. And I felt a bit cheated at times when they covered games I had always wanted to play back in the day, but for one reason or another, I never managed to purchase a copy. And then there were those games that I maybe had heard of, but was glad I had never purchased or even considered before. There was laughter. There was much scratching of my head on reading about some of the weird ideas game designers have had over the years, and also a bit of sadness that some of the most interesting ideas never made it into a successful game.

But love them or hate them, one thing becomes quite clear as you read this book. Gaming, and the acceptance of it into mainstream society, has changed over the years. Early CRPGs were games by nerds for nerds. The common gamer didn’t really exist back in the day, and early game design companies even doubted whether such a crowd could exists. Many text and graphic based CRPGs were brutally hard, and put far greater demands on gamers to take notes and experiment, even to the point of learning what syntax a text parser understood, to advance in the game. Gaming tutorials didn’t exists back then. They are an invention born out of the rise of gaming to the more common, less nerdy crowd. As games came to appeal to more than just the nerds amongst us, the demand for less difficult, and more user-friendly games grew, and features of modern CRPGs, such as automapping and early level tutorials, developed and became the norm. undefinedConsole gaming also had a role to play on this front (which is covered to a lesser degree in the book), but the message is clear: gaming slowly, but surely, came to infiltrate every part of our society, until today, we are face a world where gaming, in one form or another, is a part of almost every area in our lives, from movies and comics to esports and the more traditional gaming communities.

And CRPGs stand at the center of that story. This book may be an overly long history of one genre of gaming industry for some. But for me, it is a lively discussion of a history that I watched unfold, that I experienced as both a lover of games, and today, as a budding game designer. There is much to love in this book. Perhaps I do not agree with every view in this book. But that does not detract from the journey taken, nor from the view reached by the end. I will likely reread this book again at some point. And if you haven’t read it yourself but have a love for gaming as I do, I would highly recommend it as a journey worth taking.

Home Body: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave

For many of us, our new normal happens at home. All of it. Work, school, kids, meals, and just life in general, all within the secure walls of your home. For some, this can be INCREDIBLY stressful as we transition into this new way of life. The pressure is on to cook, clean, do the dishes, manage your children and their school, while still maintaining a sense of your own job. Oh, and don’t forget to stay healthy (both mentally and physically!)

It can all be a bit much. But what if we could find a way to make home, home again. A sacred place where you and your family can truly LIVE at, without all the chaos that comes with daily life.

Home Body isn’t just about spending a ton of money on upgrading your home with luxurious projects. It’s about enhancing the energy of each space by creating purpose and function with design. Joanna Gaines highlights things you can do to brighten a space without spending any money at all! It’s all in the details, she says. Open up the windows and let the natural light in, light a candle, and play some music! She highlights the fact that your home is your story. Every space should feature items or pieces that bring you joy or share sentimental value. The way you fold your linens, display your plates, hang the pictures on your wall. Each space should make you feel capable and confident to do what you need to that day.

Put up that photo that makes you smile, that quote that inspires you, and be sure to place all the tools of your trade in a consistent and accessible place. Make that space YOURS. For me personally, we have our wedding vows hung proudly in our entryway, and a basket of my son’s favorite toys tucked in the corner of our living room. You better believe we have music playing throughout the day, and my work space is set up right next to a large window where I can enjoy an outside view, while keeping an eye on my very active toddler. It doesn’t have to be grand, but it should definitely be personal, especially in times like these. Now, more than ever, we need as many reminders as we can get that we are still okay, and we’ve got LIFE to live today.

Home Body goes through each traditional space in a home from your entryways, to your bedrooms right down to your laundry room! There’s tips to enhance each space (adding greenery, subtle wall fixtures or common household items). And if nothing else, it is a pleasant page-flipper with hundreds of pages of bright, beautiful spaces!

Please stay safe out there, and get creative, homebodies!

The Changeling

“Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.”

The Changeling was one of those books that I felt was starting off slow. However, there is this moment in the middle where the book completely changes and every page after that is a thrill ride. I have recommended this book to a few people mentioning the twist in the middle is a huge WHAT THE HECK moment, but to not be too disturbed. I felt every turn this book took made it more exciting and as I reflect over the story, there is so much that jumps to mind about why I love this book. Victor LaValle is an amazing writer and someone that you should put on your list to read all the books.

If you are interested in this book, order it from MOBIUS when we are able to go back into the building. Or support your local bookstore with a purchase! From the St. Charles are? Check out Main Street Books.