High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins

high acheiverTitle: High Achiever

Author: Tiffany Jenkins

Format: ebook

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was introduced to Tiffany Jenkins by a friend of mine who found her mom-vlogging hilarious. And while I don’t personally have any children, I appreciate a funny lady. So began my following of “Juggling the Jenkins” on facebook. And yes, Tiffany lived up to the hype. She’s hilarious.

After doing some background digging on Jenkins, more of her page started to make sense: like why she has supporters instead of followers. She is a recovering drug addict. And this book is all about it – her hitting bottom, doing time, and getting herself clean. And her story was quite impactful.

From a reader perspective, this book was so well written and well constructed. Tiffany’s style is simple, honest, raw, humorous when appropriate, and her storytelling skills are top notch. I mean her editor may have helped in the construction of the book and its timeline, but I’ll give Tiffany the credit since she’s the author. I thought the structure worked very well, kept the book moving, and kept you wanting more right up till the end. Like, literally. After I finished the books I scoured her facebook for more info on her ongoing recovery. I just wanted to know more about her and her story!

I talked about this book so much while I was reading it, my husband downloaded and is listening to the audio version (narrated by Tiffany herself).

So, if you are interested in this content, a fan of memoirs, or just really like a good page turner, check this one out!



Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey

Title: Unspeakable Things

Author: Jess Lourey

Format: ebook

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unspeakable Things

Despite my true crime obsession, I do not read a ton of crime fiction. I’m not sure why, it just seems like there’s so much actual content, that making up crimes doesn’t seem totally necessary, perhaps? But, when I do occasionally pick one up some crime fiction, I generally enjoy it. And that rings true for Unspeakable Things.

The story was really engaging, and the characters had enough depth to get the reader engaged. I thought the story sucked you in pretty quickly and it succeeded in being a quick read that led to a few nights a bit past my bedtime!

However, I was left wanting. I don’t know if this was intentional by the author – the story is written for adults, but it is told from the perspective of a young teenager – most definitely not YA content though. With that, there was a lot of dancing around what was actually happening in the McDowell home. Without explicitly calling it out. This worked in one approach – as being told by a young teenager, you as the reader definitely get to experience the uncomfortable and confused vibe of the main character. But at the end, I just wanted to know more – how bad was it? Was it really going on, or was it the paranoid overthinking thoughts of a teen?  This just left me feeling that the ending fell a bit flat. 

That being said,  I think it’s still worth the read if you’re able to get your hands on it.


A Twisted Faith:… by Gregg Olsen


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A twisted FaithOK! Book #1 for 2020 complete. Another Gregg Olsen. I promise I downloaded and started reading this book before Olsen liked and re-tweeted my last review and I had a mild fan-girl meltdown. (Squee!)

Title: A Twisted Faith: A Minister’s Obsession and  the Murder that Destroyed a Church

Author: Gregg Olsen

Format: Ebook

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Olsen’s books are just so easy to get into and the stories are so crazy messed up (and these are the non-fiction books of his!) that once you get going, it’s hard to stop. I added several more of this non-fictions that I haven’t read yet to my TBR on Goodreads. But, I had to pull myself away from starting another because TECHNICALLY I’m supposed to be focusing on books I already own this year. (see end of post for my fail on this end).

Anyway, back to A Twisted Faith. I am super into topics of cults, cult-like religions, religion-gone-wrong scenarios, and this book fits right in that wheelhouse. Set in the Bainbridge Island/Poulsbo area of Washington State, this book is about a small congregation that gets very twisted by a manipulative and most definitely un-godly minister. Basically, this dude manipulates many members of the congregation, seduces several women in the congregation, and hatches a plan to murder his wife. None of this is really a spoiler since this is all in the description of the book. HOWEVER, the method, means, and extent of this minister’s manipulations is fascinating. I mean this guy is a DOG and a scumbag.

As usual, Olsen delivers on a true crime book that reads like a novel. I appreciated his peppering in of questions and comments of hindsight as he told the story from the perspective of its unfolding. It helps to add layers of understanding without taking away from the narrative.

Also, since I purchased this book before 1/1/2020, I get to count it toward my Mount TBR book challenge.

Of course, I’ve moved on quickly to a book I just purchased, so no Mount TBR for my next read (Unspeakable Things by Jess Loury). I imagine this will be a quick read since I have torn through the beginning and had to force myself to stop reading last night!  Then back to books I already have, I promise (or more Olsen).

Book Challenges: 2020


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Happy New Year’s Eve!

Here we are – the final day of the year, of the decade! I can hardly believe it. Looking back over the past 10 years, it’s been a pretty wild ride. Lots of activity, lots of growing, lots of learning! I’m looking forward to the next 10!

Sitting in my mid-30s, I have a different perspective on growth, self, and improvement than I had as we entered the 2010s. And, that’s a good thing. With that, I am recognizing there are some habits, practices, and attitudes that I am looking forward to leaving in this decade, and some new things I’m looking forward to nurturing as we move forward.

Several of these things have to do with reading- which is exciting. I want to read more, write about it more, be mindful and read with intent. I also need to read the damn books I already own (don’t fret, I’m not giving up my BOTM membership!). With that said, I am embarking on some reading challenges for 2020.

This is my first year using the Little Inklings “Always Fully Booked” planner (it’s adorable! and sold out, sorry). They have 4 challenges in the front of the planner: A-Z Challenge, Reading Rainbow Challenge, On the Cover Challenge, and their 2020 Challenge with prompts.

With intention: I am going to try out the first two mentioned above – A-Z (basically read books with a titles that start with every letter of the alphabet) and the Reading Rainbow Challenge (covers are every color of the rainbow). The others I may check off if I have a book that crosses with the prompts, but as the year starts, I’m not going in with purpose on those two – but I reserve the right to change my mind mid-year, hehe.

However, the real underlying most intentional challenge that I am doing is Mount TBR. I signed up for Mount Blanc level which is to read 24 books on my physical TBR – AKA all my bookshelves filled with books I haven’t read. It has to be books you already own – there are other challenges for TBRs that are virtual (like your goodreads tbr list where you want to read 1000 books but you don’t actually own all of them). Where it gets a bit tricky for me is that I listen to books a lot, but I only purchase them with the credits from my audible subscription. So most of those won’t count because I don’t already own them. Though I am currently listening to 2 and won’t be done with them today (Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow and Becoming by Michelle Obama). And, let’s be honest – I just checked my account and I have 3 credits available, so I’ll be purchasing three audio books today to ensure they count for this challenge HA- this is a bit self defeating haha.

I am looking forward to filling up my days with pages and clearing out my over burdened shelves!

Cheers to 2020 reading!

If You Tell: … By Gregg Olsen



This is my first review under the new format I am testing. Thanks for stopping in to see my review!

IF YOU TELL GREGG OLSENTitle: If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

Author: Gregg Olsen

Format: Ebook

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

This non-fiction account of horrific family abuse in Washington State is out of this world. The content itself is shocking as it is. While I was able to devour this book in under 3 days, I still had to take breaks to digest the content and reflect. There are some truly horrific examples of abuse in this account. However, the real clincher is Olsen’s writing.

I’ve read a few of Olsen’s books, both fiction and non fiction, and have become quite the fan. Olsen has a spectacular writing style for nonfiction – the type of style that reads like a novel – so much so that multiple times I felt the need to recheck the title (is this a true story?!) and one time even googled the Knotek family to see if this was really actually real – it is.  That’s a testament both to the unimaginable actions of the Michelle Knotek, as well as Olsen’s ability to keep you completely hooked on the story with out droning on like you’re being lectured as many non-fiction books can ultimately feel.

Without giving away spoilers, if you are into well-written true-crime, narcissistic and sociopath personalities, and the strangle-hold someone can have on their family via abuse, this book is a must read. It’s been a while since Olsen has ventured back into the nonfiction realm, and I am super glad he did.

Get your mind blown, and get a copy of If You Tell today!


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


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This book. Oh, this book. This book brought me back to school. It schooled me. Toni Morrison called it “required reading,” and I could not agree more. There are parts of me that can’t think of this book without being infuriated and sad for the American condition.

Coates is brilliant. He’s a thinker, and a writer, and he demonstrates the duality of America and the inaccessibility of the American “Dream” in a beautifully poignant way. This book is marvelously uncomfortable. And everyone should read it.

Do you think there is a race problem in America? Do you think there is not a race problem in America? Do you think you understand race? Do you think you don’t understand race? Do you think race is even a “thing”? Have you ever thought or felt that someone else is in control of your body, regardless of how innocent you are of any wrong-doing? If any one of these describes you, even in the slightest, no matter what color or race you believe yourself to be, you should read this book. Coates captures perfectly the current state of America, of the dual histories of America, of the dual present of America. He articulates everything I ever wanted to say about race in America, but didn’t know how to exactly put the words together. Like a dream you just-sort-of remember, but cannot articulate completely.

Granted, his view is one among many, but his experiences are real and valid. If you don’t understand the outrage around the end of several young, black men’s lives recently, then you should read this book. If you think you understand the outrage, you should still read this book.

Coates is essentially writing a letter to his fifteen year old son, describing what it was like for Coates himself to grow up as a black man in America, and what he hopes it is and isn’t and knows it is and isn’t, for his son. Sounds a bit back and forth? Yes. That is part of the point.

This is a book I’ll read over and over. I’ll pick up and flip to a section and read, to understand (or try to understand) something so completely outside of myself and my own experiences. This book opened my eyes to the present in the same way W.E.B DuBois’ “The Soul of Black Folks” opened my eyes to the past. Whoever is reading this – your existence and perspective is not a complete story of a country, culture, society or nation. Step outside yourself. Open your mind. Read this book.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


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**This review contains “spoilers.” In whatever that means for a work of historical nonfiction.**

Essentially, this book is about the 1893’s World Fair in Chicago and the men that made it happen. Tangentially (unfortunately), it’s about one of America’s earliest serial killers.

Overall, I gave this book three stars. It was well written, and well researched. For me, it contained a bit too much White City bureaucracy and not enough Devil. But, both aspects are interesting in their own right.

The history of the World’s Fair, how it came to be, what it encompassed, and what it took to get it done, is impressive and intriguing. It could have been a book on its own. I’ve never given much thought to architectural history before, and this book proved a welcome introduction to the topic. Larson did a wonderful job making a 120+ year old event still feel relevant. Politics, bureaucracy, the pride of powerful men, all still themes ringing true today. Additionally, Larson’s ability to tease out the events and people that intersected, or resulted directly from the 1893’s Fair that are still relevant today (Helen Keller, Susan B Anthony, Disney, Oz, Shredded Wheat!), certainly keeps the reader engaged.

The “story” of Prendergast as an assassin could’ve developed much more thoroughly. The snippets one gets of him are most intriguing, but disappointingly scarce.

The story of H.H. Holmes could’ve been a separate book in and of itself. Unfortunately, it didn’t occupy as much time as it should have in Larson’s pages. The last quarter of the book, following up on Holmes’ activities after the Fair, was among Larson’s crowning moments. Tying the story together with the hunt for proof that Holmes had committed even a fraction of the atrocities that he may have was exciting. But, admittedly, I wanted more. If Holmes’ case was the media frenzy that Larson led us to believe, then there should be sufficient historical fodder for more time spent to this aspect of the book.

Larson’s attempt to intersect Holmes as a devil that would affect the end of the great men of the Fair and the case investigating Holmes fell a bit flat. Part of it was that the crux of the book centered around the bureaucracy of building the Fair and it’s impact on American architectural history. During the building and exposition of the Fair, there was no real intersection between the main characters and Holmes; and, not enough development of those that spent the time investigating, defending, and dealing with him in the end.

All in all, I enjoyed Larsen’s approach to writing history. He attempted to make history relevant and exciting for the reader today, without sacrificing academic rigor. I enjoyed the way he was able to tease out events of the events of the time that would ring familiar to today’s reader. Additionally, it was quite stimulating to reflect back on the progresses that have been made in areas of public works, public safety, psychopathology, criminology, and even the concept of “evil” in a seemingly common man, over the past century.

My essential admiration for Larson, and this book in particular, is the making history relevant, and useful. Reflection on historical events, and progress, as well as creating additions to the collective historical memory are the supreme asset of the continuation of the study of history. While the book does have its flaws, over all it is a great read. Though, I do hope that Larson dives deeper into the details and connections in his other and future works.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


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What a wonderful gift to reading and literature this book is. Published WAY back in 1996, I’m not sure how everyone of my reading buddies hasn’t heard of this book by now.

I heard about this book first from the fantabulous Rebecca Schinsky via the BookRiot podcast. She raved about it, which immediately made me want to read it, because let’s face it, if Schinsky likes it – it has to be good. But then, when I came across it at my local indie bookstore, the handwritten recommendation from the book store staffer raved about it using almost exactly the same words (AND SO MUCH MORE). So I was sold, book was purchased, love was had.

On its face – this is a book about a bunch of friends – scientists and a Jesuit priest – discover life on another planet and then venture, under the purview and finance of the Jesuits, to this planet to make contact with this alien race.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – seriously?

But wait! It’s really about SO MUCH MORE than that. This is book about God, about faith, about understanding faith, about losing faith – from many different points of view religious, skeptical and even secular (imagine!). This book is about purpose, and mankind, and morality, and good intentions, and misunderstandings, and cultural diversity, and destiny. It’s about the vulgarity of intelligent life. It’s about living beings as a cog in a wheel of economic and social structure.

This book is really about BIG topics. Wonderfully written, totally inspiring, want-to-get-lost-in-it-for-days fantastic. I took a longer time than I needed to for completing this book. I simply did not want to finish it. Well, wait. Yes, I wanted to finish it – but I didn’t want it to be over. This is the type of book, these are the types of characters and ideas, that sit with you for a long time. If you are looking for a really exquisite piece of literary fiction, this is it – get it now.

Mile 81 by Stephen King


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This work was marketed as a Kindle Single, which I didn’t know was a “thing” prior to this experience. I guess Kindle Singles are like novellas? I think it was longer than a short story, but I have trouble judging that type of thing in “kindle pages” as opposed to actual pages.

Anyway, the story was great – Demon other world abandoned car parked at a Mile 81 rest stop devouring good samaritans at will. Super creepy. Super King.

There’s not a ton more to say without just telling you everything that happens, so I’ll let you read it, that is – if you have a Kindle or Kindle App – it’s only $2.99 on Amazon, so not too much of an investment, either in time or money, to add a little creep factor to your to-read list.

I don’t dislike the idea of Kindle Singles – I wish they’d employ it more, for new authors, or for selling single stories of a short story collection. It could be used as an “appetizer” of reading.

What are your thoughts on this concept?

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King


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Doctor Sleep is the long awaited, or perhaps, long anticipated sequel to King’s The Shining. In preparation for the release of Doctor Sleep, I read The Shining for the first time – having seen the movie several times, but not having read the book. Not surprisingly, the book was better.

Doctor Sleep picks up the story of Danny and his shine, several decades later. In trying to deal with the horrors that was his childhood at the Overlook Hotel, Danny has grown up into an alcoholic, not particularly shocking. The story is Dan’s overcoming of his alcoholism, reconnection to his shine, and the relationship he develops with a young girl who can shine quite significantly more than even Dan himself.

The book is classic King. Supernatural, super engaging, and super creepy. The best part about this book was its ability to stand on its own. Yes, it’s helpful to know the back story and have an understanding of what happened to Danny in The Shining. But the story can hold its own. It hearkens back to the plot lines of the original here and there, but it has its own solid plot, characters and sense of engagement. The makings of a sequel that doesn’t really feel like a sequel – which is what we’re all really looking for, right?

If you’re a King fan, I assure you won’t be disappointed. If you’re only interested in King’s “big works” I would count this among them. I’m glad King waited these many decades for the story of Danny to come back to him naturally, instead of trying to pump out a “second best.”

I give Doctor Sleep 3.5 of 5 stars.