Champion Public Library | Ardmore, Oklahoma

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When I was in high school, I volunteered and studied with my friends at the Chickasaw Library (now known as the Champion branch of the Southern Oklahoma Library System). In the past five years, they underwent an amazing renovation that not only modernized and brightened the space, it added a teen section with comfy chairs, an expanded children’s section, and even a 3D printer! How often do you use the library?

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Audiobook Review: STAY SEXY AND DON’T GET MURDERED

Stay Sexy and Don't Get MurderedI am not a regular listener of the My Favorite Murder podcast, but I’d heard such positive things about it, I wanted to read (or, in this case, listen to), Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered. Authors Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff are hilarious, open, and full of interesting stories in chapters with names like “If You’re In a Cult, Call Your Dad” and “Stay Out of the Forest.”⁣

The publishers call the book a “dual memoir,” and it is rich with details about their childhoods and early adult years, including struggles with depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse.⁣

There’s a horrifying story in which the inability to say no leads to a session of topless modeling. In a more positive vein, Hardstark describes her love of reading and meeting Ray Bradbury at an event.⁣

Throughout the book, the women emphasize self-awareness, vulnerability, and connection. What was missing was the true crime I expected. I liked the book anyway, but it’s not a traditional true crime volume.⁣

I loved listening to the audiobook and hearing the women interact. Paul Giamatti reads some sections. One of their fathers even jumps in for a cameo. Even better, I got the book through Libro.fm which works in partnership with independent bookstores.⁣

Libro.fm is an affiliate link – we’ll both get a free audiobook if you join!

Book Review: THIRTEEN, what happens when a killer hides on the jury

Thirteen
Eddie Flynn #4
Steve Cavanagh

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Up and coming movie star Robert “Bobby” Solomon has been accused of murder, and his lawyer, Rudy Carp, convinced Eddie Flynn that Bobby was innocent. Unable to walk away, Eddie joined the defense team. Unbeknownst to him, the real killer, Joshua Kane, was feet away in the jury box willing to do anything to make sure the jury convicted Bobby for his crimes. When Kane realizes what a keen adversary Flynn represents, the moralistic lawyer becomes another of his targets.

Thirteen, told in alternating points of view from Eddie Flynn and Kane, was one of those thrillers that I couldn’t put down. I liked that the action took place during the trial, and the true identity of the killer kept me guessing. A parallel plot about crooked police officers also hooked me. Also, precis of each juror in the form of reports by the juror consultant were interspersed throughout the book which entertained and intrigued me. By the end of the book, my expectations had been completely subverted.

I wish that some of the characters, such as Bobby, had been more developed, and that some, like Rudy, had acted more consistently. Also, the actions of the FBI and the extent of their cooperation with Flynn and his investigation team seemed far-fetched. Finally, I didn’t always like the writing style. I found some of the dialogue, especially between Flynn and his estranged wife, awkward, and Cavanagh tends to overuse short incomplete descriptive sentences for effect. Only after I was quite into the book did I realize this was part of a series. I don’t think it’s at all necessary to read the other books to appreciate Thirteen.

Fans of thrillers, courtroom dramas, and mysteries, though, will, I’m sure, like me, devour this book despite its minor flaws—and probably never think about juries the same way again!

Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE, an uplifting and entertaining romance

Happy Publication Day to Things You Save in a Fire!

Austin firefighter Cassie Hanwell can outperform her colleagues physically and mentally, and she’s tapped for a leadership track until one disastrous evening derails her career. Cassie moves from her progressive fire department to a small, Massachusetts station where her male colleagues are resentful of the changes the first female hire will bring to the department.

Cassie moves in with her estranged mother who requested her help due to health problems. Her mother, Diana, left Austin for another man on Cassie’s sixteenth birthday, and since then, Cassie has been angry and resentful. Diana and her next-door neighbor, Josie, a crochet club of two, are highlights of the book injecting both wisdom, compassion, and humor.

I was first attracted to this book because I loved the title, Things You Save in the Fire, and the description appealed to me. After reading just a few pages, I realized this was a book I would never normally read. Rather than “women’s literature,” I would position this more firmly centered in the romance genre. What happens is fairly obvious from the beginning, but how it will happen is not at all clear, and that question made me invested in the book in ways that surprised me. I really wanted to know how Cassie navigated her new life in Massachusetts and achieved the ending she wanted (even if she didn’t know she wanted it), and that kept me reading compulsively.

Threading through the plot is theme of forgiveness and connection, and while I value both and laud their inclusion in the book, I did feel that the message was overlaid in a too obvious way and would have been more successful if integrated in a subtle manner. Additionally, though the characters certainly endured obstacles and setbacks, overall things worked out easily for them, which gave the book a whiff of a too-good-to-be-true fairy tale.

While I didn’t always like the writing style of Things You Save in a Fire, I still found it thoroughly and unexpectedly entertaining and heartwarming. Readers who want a quick, uplifting stultifying romance should turn to this book.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance reading copy of this book!

Book Review: NATIONSL GEOGRAPHIC READERS – ELEPHANTS

National Geographic Readers: Elephants
Avery Elizabeth Hurt

Happy World Elephant Day! 🐘 These majestic herbivores develop strong social ties within their matriarchal social groups. Not only are they one of the world’s largest land mammals, they are also one of the most intelligent, able to use tools and solve problems. They can communicate with each other from up to two miles apart, and they show empathy, even mourning their dead. Sadly, elephant populations are under extreme threat primarily due to habit loss and poaching.

Today, I thought I’d read National Geographic Readers: Elephants to honor these animals. Geared toward ages two to five, this is one of National Geographic’s “You Read, I Read” series. One page is designed for a parent or guardian to read aloud with a challenging world highlighted while the facing page is designed for the child to read and repeats the highlighted word. Each of the brief chapters concludes with a different interactive activity to reinforce comprehension and retention.

This volume about elephants included a lot of information on their body parts, like their trunks and ears, their families, their needs, such as diet, sleep, and water, and their habitat. The text is engaging and age appropriate with the help of an older reader, and the numerous color photographs are phenomenal. The book mentions the declining elephant population and that organizations are trying to help but doesn’t provide details. National Geographic Readers: Elephants is a wonderful introduction to the natural history of elephants for young readers, and the illustrations will absolutely delight them.

If you want to see amazing pictures of elephants and learn how to help, please visit these excellent organizations: