My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Book Review: Before I Go

Hey guys! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

To kick this week off with a bang, I thought I would share with you my review of one of the top five books I’ve read so far this year (and I have read a lot of books, so you know this must be a goodie).

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*Warning: This book will make you feel all the feels.

My first reaction to Colleen Oakley’s incredible debut novel, Before I Go: Oh don’t mind me, I’m just over here ugly crying.

On the cusp of Daisy’s four year anniversary of being cancer-free, she gets the dreaded call from her doctor: her cancer is back! But this time it not only invades her breast, but has also travel to other parts of her body. Including an orange size tumor that has taken up residence on the back of her brain. If this news isn’t enough to cause a huge blow, her doctor proceeds to inform her that she has approximately four to six months to live.

But Daisy doesn’t have time to die. She has too much to do. Including caulk the windows, fix the door that sticks, a laundry list of other household chores … not to mention, her husband Jack needs her. Who will pick up his dirty socks off the floor or scratch his back? Who will pack his lunches and make sure that he doesn’t eat cereal for every meal? And, that’s when it hits her. Daisy will find Jack a replacement wife.

And so her search begins. Along with her best friend Kayleigh, she searches coffee shops, dog parks and even places an ad (pretending to be Jack) at an online dating site. She is going to make sure that, before she goes, Jack is sufficiently taken care of. What she didn’t expect was the guilt and jealousy that would come along with it. Could she really handle seeing Jack with another woman? But can she go in peace knowing that he doesn’t have anyone to care for him?

Cancer has touched all of our lives at some point. We tend to watch how those afflicted, whether it be a friend or a loved one, navigate through the disease, struggling, fighting and not giving up hope. And we feel incredibly hopeless, knowing that there is nothing we can do but be there and offer our support, our love, our prayers. But what if it was us in that position? If we were the ones to be told we had a limited number of days/months/years left to live? We all have an expiration date. But what if that date was imminently sooner than we had hoped. How would you spend your remaining days? Would you think of others like Daisy did? Or would you live out your last days checking things off your bucket list?

Saying that I loved this story doesn’t even begin to touch on how I truly feel about this book. The way the author brings the characters to life with each word that she writes is amazing. There are many books that I’ve read and enjoyed, but it takes a special story and writing style to get the effect that this book had on me. And the way that she takes such a serious topic and perfectly incorporates humor is sheer brilliance.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh one minute, cry another, but leave you appreciating life a little more than you did before you started the book, then you must read this book!

You’ll always be in “the mood” to read these great books!

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. –Paul Sweeney

What’s the last book that moved you? Like, really moved you? That made you laugh or cry or completely reconsider your thoughts on life or love? Those are always the books that stick with me. When I come across a book that truly impacted me I can often remember the intricate details of where I bought it or who gave it to me.  Sometimes when I’m in a certain mood, reading a favorite book can help heighten the depth of emotion, whatever I may be feeling at that moment.

Just one of the many, many reasons why books are just all of the best.

Speaking of which, here are a few great books and the perfect kind of mood to read them in.

*This in by no means is a comprehensive list, and it was tres hard for me to just pick one (or a couple) for each mood, but it’s something to get you started 😉

1. When you want to feel all the feels.

Me Before You by: Jojo Moyes

Will and Louisa are two lost souls who are brought together under difficult circumstances.

Will was an adrenaline junkie (i.e., mountain climbing, paragliding, skiing) with a high-powered job. A terrible accident two years ago left him paralyzed from the chest down. He now requires round-the-clock care. He is broken and bitter and hates his life.Louisa (Lou) is a small-town girl who just lost her job at The Buttered Bun. With limited skills, she tries various jobs, but can’t find anything she likes. Her job counselor suggests she go to this interview for a care assistant. She gets the job, but immediately starts to regret her decision. Will is not an easy man to work for, but the money is good (and her family needs it) so she decides to stick it out. From there, a relationship builds slowly and believably and blossoms into a beautiful love story.

Yes, this is a romance but not in the normal typical sense. This is a romance in normal life terms, it is messy and confusing and doesn’t go the way you would think it would. JoJo Moyes brings her characters to life in a most believeable way and writes a book that can make you laugh out loud and ugly cry within a few chapters of itself. It wasn’t a fairytale, it didn’t involve any make believe; it was true to the story, a story that I think will stick with you long after you turn that last page.

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2. When you want to buy a one-way ticket and never look back.

The Lost Girls by: Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner

At age 28 and climbing the corporate ladder in the Big Apple, BFFs Jen, Holly, and Amanda decide to quit their jobs and travel around the world for a year. I enjoyed every minute of their trek to off-the-beaten path destinations and the friendships and hardships they had along the way. I also loved the fact that their journey did not wrap up tidy with a bow on top- they did not necessarily “find” themselves during this year, but instead got to know each other–and themselves–in a completely different and new way. Their friendship, dedication, and sacrificial love towards each other is beautiful and just all of the amazing. After having finished this book, the first thing I wanted to do was call my besties and plan the trip of a lifetime.

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3. When you feel like no one understands you.

The Opposite of Lonely by: Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of fiction and non-fiction tales by Marina Keegan, a very promising young writer who tragically lost her life in a car accident. The title comes from an essay that she wrote where she talks about how all she wants in her life is to feel the opposite of lonely, a term which we really do not have a word for. That essay really helps to set the tone for this fantastic book.

This collection of stories, both fiction and non-fiction, (I never read short stories) is incredible! It’s definitely not for everyone, But, as a 20-something millennial who is still trying to figure out what the hell is life… it was perfect. Marina’s insights into what it’s like to be not know the direction your life is taking you, to feel as though no one truly understands you… it’s enough to make you stay up until 4am in deep, deep thought (which I did). She has this way of putting all of your inner emotions and thoughts, ones you didn’t even know you had, into words. It’s ironic then, that by the end of this book, you don’t feel so alone.

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4. When you’re not sure if you’re doing that great at this whole adult thing.

Hyperbole and a Half by: Allie Brosh

I’ve been a fan of Allie’s blog for a long time which was why I was so super excited to hear that she published a book containing all of her zany and hil-ARious stories and anecdotes. These stories are funny and touching and are illustrated in a way that will make you LOL (which is why I recommend not reading it while at work). One story in particular which she titled This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult pretty much defines my adult experience. I don’t know about you, but I always start out with the best of intentions and just get thrown by the necessity of persisting with those boring chores in order to count as an “adult.” I’m not sure if this book answered whether or not I am in all actuality a full-fledged adult, but it did make me feel that there are other adults out there who are as confused and strange as I am.

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5. When you’re waiting for that person to text you back but they haven’t texted back and now you’re re-examining everything.

Looking For Alaska by: John Green

Looking for Alaska is the debut novel of one of my (and everyone’s) favorite author, John Green. It’s not the most typical Young-Adult novel as it stays away from the usual Boy-Meets-Girl cliché. This is a book which will make you think about the difference between living and existing, and deepen your thoughts on love and life in general. Much like Green’s other books (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, I’m talking to you), this book will leave you jam-packed with emotions. I personally couldn’t love this book more, as it depicted young love and coming of age in the most honest and truthful way, and I really felt the emotional connection that this book was meant to achieve.

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6. When you need a good pee-your-pants, ab-inducing laugh attack.

Yes Please by: Amy Poehler

All hail, Queen Poehler.

No. But seriously. Can someone make that happen?

What we wanted was an afternoon with our best friend and we got that and so much more. Amy Poehler is witty and honest. She admits her faults and is humble when she talks about her good doings. She hit the ground running in comedy and she never looked back and I love being able to take a peek, not only into her career, but into her life. Queen Poehler is basically my spirit animal. She was raised in a supportive family, found her calling in life early and worked her ass off to get to where she is today. She is the perfect feminist mentor without even trying to be one. You will definitely laugh your socks off while reading this poignant look into miss Poehler’s life and career, but you will also be moved and inspired.

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7. When you need a reminder of how awesome your gal pals are.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by: Ann Brashares

I first read these books when I was rocking the scrunchies and stirrup leggings back in middle school, but I still love them to all end. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants follows a group of friends Carmen, Lena, Tibby and Bridget as they spend their summers apart. The day before they part ways, they find a pair of pants that fit them all perfectly. What is this madness, you say? Thus begins the journey of the Pants from D.C to Santorini, Greece, Charleston, Baja, California and back. The girls experience an unforgettable summer and only the Pants know everything.


This is my sort of YA book. It’s messy and complicated and funny and smart and honest and real. It’s about friendship and family and love. It’s about deciding what’s important to you and never losing sight of that, no matter how much other things get in the way. It’s about life.This is something like my tenth time rereading (I recommend starting with the first book of the series and finishing off with the last one, The Last Summer of You and Me). This book proves that real life isn’t boring, but joyous and painful and mistake-prone and beautiful and achingly real.

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10. When it’s a Tuesday. Or a Sunday. When you’re wearing pants. Or not. Pretty much classified as an all-the-frickin-time read.

Harry Potter by: J.K. Rowling

Because, duh.

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With a list like this, you most definitely cannot tell me that you’re not “in the mood” to read 😉

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The Book of Strange New Things: A Book Review

I haven’t read anything quite like this book before. Part sci-fi, part adventure, and completely humanistic, The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber is original and very addicting (I pulled quite the few all-nighters on this one.)

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It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC.   His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling.  Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.   Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable.  While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival.  Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

While I was reading this I had a sense of foreboding, which is I partly I guess what kept me reading until the wee hours of the AM, however, that feeling of foreboding was unfounded. I guess I kept looking for some big revelation or some monumental event but it never happened or was too subtle to notice.

The characters here are all well thought out and I got to know them as their lives unfolded and that is what also what kept me reading. Peter becomes so absorbed in his teachings to the Oasans that he doesn’t take care of himself or his wife’s feelings of aloneness. I liked that Peter quotes from the bible and preaches; I took it as lessons I hadn’t had before.

I wish there had been another few pages to finalize what happens in the end and at close to 500 pages, a few more wouldn’t have hurt. In fact, I think it would have lead to a more satisfying ending. As much as I found this different world and their inhabitants intriguing; I wanted to know more of what was going on with home and the world we know and why.

I’m a sucker for great literature but hate untidy endings so after finishing “The Book of Strange New Things” I was a bit conflicted. The prose is beautiful and mundane. It gets inner monologue. Gosh, there is so much!

It’s a book about beginnings and endings. But it’s also a book about faith.

It’s a book about marriage. But it’s also a book about friendship.

It’s a book about redemption. It’s a book about broken people. It’s the beginning and the end.

Does this sound confusing? It isn’t. It flows beautifully. It is all of those things together and more. It’s a gorgeous story. It’s beautiful and not easily defined. And I whole heartedly recommend reading it. More than once. Because it’s one of those readings that unfurls. And those are the very best kind in my opinion 🙂

*I received an advanced copy of The Book of Strange New Things from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Getting My Sweet Teeth On–A [Cook] Book Review

9780804137683Well hello my fellow sugar-fiend friends!

Boy do I have a treat for you (pun intended).

Now normally, I am not one for cookbooks. I mean, sure, I love looking drooling at the photographs of the delicious food on the pages, but when it comes to actually rolling up my sleeves and using the book for what it actually is there for, to cook things, I’m not such a fan.

Don’t get me wrong.

I LOVE to eat.

I’m just not very savvy in the kitchen when it comes to whipping up tonight’s dinner.

But baking?

Now THAT is a whole other jar of cookies.

I am the baking master of disaster.

I don’t want to brag, but I do make the best chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies in three counties (I’ve got references) and love getting creative with anything having to do with dessert.

It doesn’t hurt that I also have the biggest sweet tooth (sweet teeth is more like it) of anyone I know.

In Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More, Food Network Magazine editors have picked their all-time favorite treats and put them into one amazing book.

I seriously feel like I gained five pounds just staring at the cover of this book! But as a lover of all things called dessert, I couldn’t help but get it, and I’m so glad I did!

This book is made up of various chapters from to die for cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pies, candy, and even to cakes that I swear look like they came from a bakery shop! What I love about this book is that it’s for EVERYBODY, meaning it doesn’t contain ingredients that you have to cross the continent to find. It’s straight forward, self explanatory, and easy to use as well as follow. Each dessert has it’s own picture, another thing to love about this book as I dislike trying new things if I have no idea what it’s supposed to even look like, and the recipe printed on the side in an easy to follow guide. It shows the ingredients first–again, it’s all stuff that can be found in a local grocery store–and from there it tells you exactly how to make the product. This book is also littered with useful tidbits that make it an interesting read as well as pages thrown in that show how to spice up existing snacks like dipping pretzels, chips, and other items in chocolate, or even taking a recipe that they have and adding additional things to it, so one recipe can actually have various tastes.

Some of the desserts actually call for store bought cakes (which I thought was a genius idea! Because sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that!).  Unfortunately for my waist line, I will be trying as many of these recipes throughout the fall baking season as possible. I did try out a few recipes already, just something easy and quick (the chewy chocolate chip cookies and the brownie bars), and let me say they were divine! I brought them into work and instantly became everyone’s new BFF.

This is definitely a book for any dessert loves, and has tons of recipes that would be cute for kids to get messy and help with too!

I give this oh so sweet book a solid 5 stars!

*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: A Book Review

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My grandma and I once watched an episode of MacGyver that ended up with the go-go gadget hero narrowly avoiding certain death in a boat explosion. After the show ended (and just before Jessica Fletcher began flapping her gums on Murder, She Wrote), my grandma turned off the TV and said, “Lindsay (My name is actually Wendi), it doesn’t get any better than this!” Well guess what, my friends, IT DOES. I’m pretty sure I looked silly to strangers (or, more silly than I usually am) by how much I’ve openly laughed while reading this book. It reeks of John Moe’s irascible wit (I think that’s a good thing) and has left me wanting more.

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences by John Moe is one of those books you look at and think, “Either this is a really, really brilliantly written book that will be jam packed full of side-splitting laughs and entertainment or it will be really stupid.” Well, I’m happy to report that this book was really, really brilliantly written book that was jam packed full of side-splitting laughs and entertainment. It was one of those reads that made me happy I wasn’t drinking anything at the time. You know, the whole milk through the nose laughing thing. We all know how Darth Vader shared his big secret with Luke Skywalker, but what if he had delivered the news in a handwritten note instead? And what if someone found that letter, as well as all of the drafts that landed in the Dark Lord’s trash can?

In this super funny collection, Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth, John Moe finally reveals these lost notes alongside all the imagined letters, e-mails, text messages, and other correspondences your favorite pop culture icons never meant for you to see.   From The Walking Dead to The Wizard of Oz, from Billy Joel to Breaking Bad, no reference escapes Moe’s imaginative wit and keen sense of nostalgia. Read Captain James T. Kirk’s lost log entries and Yelp reviews of The Bates Motel and Cheers. Peruse top secret British intelligence files revealing the fates of Agents 001–006, or Don Draper’s cocktail recipe cards. Learn all of Jay-Z’s 99 problems (I bet you didn’t know he has an aversion to mushy grapes), as well as the complete rules of Fight Club, and then discover an all-points bulletin concerning Bon Jovi, wanted dead or alive—and much more.

Like a bonus track to a favorite CD or a deleted scene from a cult movie, Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth offers a fresh twist on the pop culture classics we thought we knew by heart. You already know part of their story. Now find out the rest.

But please do watch that episode of MacGyver too. It was realllllly good. 🙂

I give this wise-cracking book 4 out of 5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I was asked to write an honest review of this book for Blogging For Books. All opinions and remarks are of my own accord.

A Book Review and More Harry Potter?!

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Hey friends! Happy Monday 🙂

I’ve got another great page-turner for you today!

I received The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review and let me tell you all, it was a wonderful read!

There’s a comfort in reading a book with realistic characters, sort of like sipping hot chocolate from that special mug, or slipping into your favorite pair of jeans sweats. Flash, drama, and excitement in a book is fine, but I also like that other type, the type where I read about people who I might meet perusing veggies at the farmer’s market, or while waiting at a bus stop, or even when picking up the mail in my apartment building. Maddie Dawson created a whole slew of such characters — not perfect or glamorous in any way, but ones with their own quirks, both lovable and irritating. In The Opposite of Maybe they come to life, opening a window into their world so we can glimpse them moving through their days. I found myself on many occasions throughout the book really feeling all of their feels; sometimes commiserating, sometimes cheering, and occasionally shouting “What were you thinking?!”

You know you’re reading a good book when you start having full-blown conversations with the characters.

With Rosie and Jonathan, Dawson unveils a couple who fit each other like an old pair of socks; the type you think is just fine until you suddenly realize your toe is poking out and the heel is threadbare. aka pretty much all of the socks I own. That is if I can keep them longer than a few weeks; anyone else notice how they “mysteriously go missing after a run through in the washing machine? I’ve got my conspiracy theories about that which I’ll share later with you. But back to the book…

Though the couple originally planned to move together from the east coast to the west, Jonathan heads off on his own (to start a tea cup museum? I wish I could make this up.), and Rosie stays home to sort out the world of her cantankerous grandmother, Soapie, who raised Rosie after her own mother’s death. Soapie is flirting with memory loss and other issues of the elderly, but still insists on her evening cocktails. a gal after my own heart. She also refuses Rosie’s help in selecting appropriate home health help, instead relying on a young man, with no credentials, no recommendations, and barely a job. So, Rosie moves in to discover the true situation and sort things out. Instead, she discovers that at age 44, with her lover on the other side of the country, and a cast of characters she never anticipated being in her life, she is pregnant. And the rest, as they say, is a good story in the telling.

This book was just so sweet and funny. Everything from Tony’s misuse of words and Soapie’s unique outlook on life, to George’s mad dancing skills and Jonathon’s, shall we say, skewed way of thinking. Every bit of it came together to create such a wacky yet beautiful story, one that was full of emotion and unexpected twists and turns.

I would give The Opposite of Maybe two giant thumbs up, 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Wendi scale.

Speaking of good books, did you hear the news? My girl J.K. Rowling just released another short (emphasis on short) story, a short blob about Celestina Warbeck, a singing sorceress and Molly Weasley’s favorite singer. The character doesn’t appear in any of the seven Harry Potter books, but Rowling says she’s one of her favorite “off-stage” characters.  You can read the new story at Pottermore if you’re a member (and if you’re not, then we obviously cannot be friends. Just kidding. But really, what are you waiting for?!) I’ve always wondered if Rowling wouldn’t one day go back to the HP Universe and explore it more in depth. I would love to see more stuff like this, stories about characters in the HP universe that don’t necessarily involve HP! But instead of just a few paragraphs, I would love, love, LOVE a full-on book.

J.K. if you’re reading this, it’s time girlfriend.

But while we’re all waiting with baited breath for the next HP book, give The Opposite of Maybe a go. I think you’ll really like it.

And if not, I will personally send you some of my famous, award-winning (I’ve got references) chocolate chip cookies.

 

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas: A Book Review

catWell hello, there friends.

And happy hump day! To celebrate only two-ish more days until the weekend graces our presence, I have another book review for you.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for free in exchange for an honest review and honest I will be.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino is set in one day—Philadelphia on Christmas Eve—and follows several different characters, including Madeleine, a nine-year-old aspiring jazz singer who recently lost her mother to cancer; Madeleine’s teacher Sarina; The Cat’s Pajamas club owner Lorca and his son Alex, and several others. Madeleine and Sarina are the most engaging by far, and Madeleine’s feisty independence (she could give Johnny Depp a run for his money for her mouth-of-a-sailor antics) made her a fun character to get to know and spend time with. As the book gradually winds all the characters closer and closer together, they all benefit, becoming more important and interesting to the reader. The intertwining and sprawling of the characters coupled with the fact that it took place on Christmas Eve kind of reminded a bit of Love Actually, actually. Unfortunately, I feel like the massive cast works better on film, where you can put a face with a name.

It’s kind of a strange book to describe—the story itself is very literal at first, but it becomes fantastical, almost fairy tale-like at unexpected times. This to me felt a little off-putting while I was reading it however now, 12 hours after having finished the book, I think the fantastical elements were a good idea. The entire book feels a little magical, so what’s one more magical thing among the rest?

If you’re looking for a new book club read, this would be a fun option. (It’s short and fast enough to not be a burden to club members who drag their toes.) It has plenty to talk about in terms of plot and characterization and there are a few passages in the book that are really, really, delightful and worth marking to come back later and dissect.

The best way that I can describe this book is to tell you how I felt after reading it. Did you ever have a childhood movie or book that you would watch or read often? For me, that list was and is very, very, VERY long, ranging in everything from books like A Wrinkle in Time and Harry Potter (naturally) to movies like Field of Dreams and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I literally watched everyone’s favorite crime-fighting and pizza loving amphibians so much that I wore out all three of my VHS tapes. Speaking of TMNT, I may or may not be a going to see the new live-action movie which hits theaters this Friday. And I may or may not be way too excited to see it. And I may or may not be embarrassed to admit that, seeing as I am a 27-year-old woman.

We went/go back to these books and movies over and over again because of the way they made us feel afterwards, leaving us with a warming in our hearts and stomachs, making us believe and feel like everything in the world could be as fun and magical as what we just saw or read. After turning the last page of 2 A.M at the Cat’s Pajamas, I recognized that happy, contented feeling as one I’d had before: It was like the childishly optimistic, happy afterglow that would stick around after a favorite movie or book.

I didn’t think 2 A.M was the perfect book; it was kind of hard to get in to at first, the back and forth between characters was confusing at times, and I wish that the concept of how whenever Madeleine would sing, strange and peculiar things would happen would have been explored a bit more.

That being said, however, this book did make me smile.

And that counts for a lot.

On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I would give this book a solid 3.5.

I guess you could say that this book was, indeed, the cat’s pajamas 😉

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