Book Review: Dirty Wars and Polished Silver

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver by Lynda Schuster

Pages: 352
Publisher: Melville House

From a former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, an exuberant memoir of life, love, and transformation on the frontlines of conflicts around the world

Growing up in 1970s Detroit, Lynda Schuster felt certain life was happening elsewhere. And as soon as she graduated from high school, she set out to find it. 

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver 
is Schuster’s story of her life abroad as a foreign correspondent in war-torn countries, and, later, as the wife of a U.S. Ambassador. It chronicles her time working on a kibbutz in Israel, reporting on uprisings in Central America and a financial crisis in Mexico, dodging rocket fire in Lebanon, and grieving the loss of her first husband, a fellow reporter, who was killed only ten months after their wedding.

But even after her second marriage, to a U.S. diplomat, all the black-tie parties and personal staff and genteel “Ambassatrix School” grooming in the world could not protect her from the violence of war.

Equal parts gripping and charming, Dirty Wars and Polished Silver is a story about one woman’s quest for self-discovery—only to find herself, unexpectedly, more or less back where she started: wiser, saner, more resolved. And with all her limbs intact.

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Schuster has an excellent authorial voice that makes every adventure even more fascinating to read. She's had an incredible life, filled with travel and experiences most people would never dream of having. 

The tone of the writing is very engaging and never fades to dryness or loses audience attention. This is a great memoir for anyone interested in the work that Schuster has done, the concept of foreign correspondence, and even travel or the culture and lifestyle of other countries. 

Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Author Website
I received my copy from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. See the rest of the tour here

Book Review: A Beautiful Poison

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

Pages: 350
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This was much more suspenseful and mysterious than I expected. I thought I'd enjoy this book, and my expectations were absolutely exceeded. This book is fantastic. Not only does it have a genuinely interesting mystery plot, with several twists I was definitely surprised by, but it also incorporates excellent use of historical realities. 

It's not often that I read something taking place in this time period, and I've never read a book about the deadly influenza in the US in the early 20th century. There are also issues dealing with the then-unknown radium poisoning, the war, the draft, and "modern advancements" of the time. I can't vouch for how accurate all of the small historical details are, as well as the phrases and words and machines used throughout, but it definitely allowed me to feel transported to another very intriguing era. I felt for every character, doubted them, cared about them, suspected them. I changed my opinion on the outcome of the mystery many times and was still wrong. 

This is a dark book, filled with pain, death, and mystery. But it is kept interesting and engaging by the incorporation of lighthearted characters, mild humorous moments, and a whodunnit fit for any fan of mystery books.

This book started a bit slow, and didn't get me too hooked until about a third or halfway through. From there on, though, it was gripping and I flew through in a few hours. Highly recommended. 

Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Author Website

My Top 10 Movies

Monday, August 14, 2017

I know this blog makes it obvious that I love books, but what might be less obvious is that I also love movies. I grew up in a family of movie fiends, with parents who had a mission to introduce me to all of the best classics that were out there. 80s movies are my jam, even as a 90s baby, I'm currently trying to watch all of the "best movies of all time," and I will always love a good thriller, action comedy, or rom com. 

10. Bridesmaids
Why it made the list: In my opinion, it's the best comedy of the past 10 years or so, probably because it was written by and stars mainly women. This is 100% the go-to movie for any friend gathering I've ever had. It's funny as hell every single time.

9. Speed
Why it made the list: Though this movie is supremely unrealistic at times, it's also supremely entertaining. The action and suspense just literally never stops. Plus, young Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are fine as hell, and her character has the same name as me.
8. The Usual Suspects
Why it made the list: This has one of the best classic twist endings of all time. Blew me away, and continues to on every re-watch. The acting and story line in this movie is just fantastic.

7. Home Alone
Why it made the list: This is a lifelong classic and tradition for me. From the beginning of my childhood, every Thanksgiving was spent at my grandparent's house watching this movie with my cousins. It's so funny and pure and nostalgic. I love this movie endlessly.

6. The Shawshank Redemption
Why it made the list: This is a favorite for many, and it's not hard to see why. It's an amazing, dark, impactful, brilliantly-acted, award-winning movie for a reason. 

5. Pride and Prejudice
Why it made the list: I fell in love with this movie within the first 15 minutes. The cinematography, costumes, and scenery are absolutely stunning. Plus, Kiera Knightley as one of the best literary heroines of all time works so well. This is one of my favorite books of all time as well. 

4. In Your Eyes
Why it made the list: The most underrated movie on this list for sure. It's original, creative, and somehow just completely captivated the romantic in me the entire time. And no matter what my roommates say, the end is perfect.
3. Baby Driver
Why it made the list: This is the most recent addition to my list, but it was an instant favorite. If you need to understand why, just watch it. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it was almost the perfect movie for me. Excellent cast, incredible soundtrack and cinematography, gripping plot, dark humor. It is fantastic.

2. When Harry Met Sally...
Why it made the list: This is the most quotable movie of all time, hands down. I will not be convinced otherwise. Every time I watch this movie I love it even more. Best romantic comedy of all time. 
1. Rain Man
Why it made the list: This is and probably always will be my favorite movie of all time. It is incredible and funny and heartbreaking. Dustin Hoffman deserves every award ever for this role. 

Other honorable mentions:
  • Little Miss Sunshine (funny as hell and so backwardly charming)
  • Back to the Future (the ultimate classic)
  • Sixteen Candles (also super quotable, and a childhood favorite)
  • The Edge of Seventeen (shockingly good. Plus Woody Harrelson)
  • The Village (still gets me. so underrated)
  • Super 8 (the first movie that I enjoyed being scared by)
  • La La Land (the soundtrack makes me cry some days)
  • Midnight in Paris (Europe, the 20s, flappers, famous writers)
  • Easy A (Emma Stone's masterpiece. no question)
  • Arrival (linguistics + aliens = somehow incredibly adsorbing)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Heath Ledger could take me out any day of the week)
  • X-Men series (Loved every single one, no matter how cheesy those originals were)
  • Beauty and the Beast (the original!)

Guest Post: The Three Best Books About Habits

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Guest post by: Marla Leigh

Three books you should read to create routines, break bad habits and start good ones
In my last post, I talked about a book called The Miracle Morning. I credit that book for helping to convert me from a lifelong night owl into an early bird. The magic of the book is not a particular time of day but rather the intersection of determination and consistency, which creates habits.  Habits are the micro-decisions that you make all day, every day that determine the overall picture of who you are. Aligning your habits with your desires could be the single most important tool to help you meet all your goals.

I have three book suggestions to help you smash your goals and turn your wishes into reality.

1. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
What it’s about: it discusses how to properly prioritize your day so you can find time for the things you want to do and need to do.

Why you should read it: because it will challenge how you spend your time. Time and money are the two assets that people do not believe they have enough of. We are not all on a level playing field when it comes to money, but we all have the same 168 hours in a week. The difference between success and failure is in how we choose to spend our time.

2. What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
What it’s about: This book highlights successful people and finds a common thread...that people who are successful have a strong, productive morning routine.

Why you should read it: because whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them if you put in the time and energy. The start of your day sets the direction for the rest of your day. Starting your day out goal-driven ensures you will end your day with success.

3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
What it’s about: the research behind how and why we develop habits. It also contains case studies that help illustrate the points the book is trying to make.

Why you should read it: because it goes beyond telling you that you need to change your habits, and helps you develop tactics to actually get there.

I hope you will give one of these books a try. Tell us in the comments: what time management or goal setting books do you love?

Author Bio: My name is Marla Leigh from It is my pleasure to be here and share my great love of books with you. I love books of all kinds, but in particular nonfiction and juvenile fiction. I guess they appeal to the part of me that never grew up. I believe that books enrich every area of our lives, so I encourage you to read more. It is good for your brain, mental health, and overall health. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite reads with you and hope to hear about some of yours as well

Book Review: My Sister's Bones

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

From the publisher:
In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and RenĂ©e Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?
The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.
As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.
In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.
Page count: 416
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
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This is a great suspenseful novel based in real-life emotional turmoil. It does a great job of combining the trauma of experiencing war and death with the psychological suspense you expect in a thriller. This is a dark and gripping book. It doesn't hold back. 
It has a bit of a slow start, and some portions were lacking in full-bodied emotion or suspense, as both were being included, often to the detriment of one or the other. However, this kept interest and is a good one to pick up for anyone interested in suspenseful novels that also deal with PTSD or related issues. 
See the rest of the book tour here. Add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads. Buy it on Amazon
This book was provided to me by TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins in exchange for my review. 

July Wrap-Up

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I read a lot in July! And I'll probably read even more in August! I've been reading a lot of amazing stuff lately, and a wider variety of topics and genres than ever before. All of these were great. My favorite of the month? Six Stories for sure. It blew me away. I'll be posting a full review of it pretty soon.
From this month...
Most likely to reread: Six Stories (I actually think I'll reread this pretty soon to see how my perspective changes knowing the ending)
Funniest: Shrill
Kept me up at night: Six Stories
Most impactful: Tell Me How it Ends

1. Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski
Page count: 225
Genre: thriller, mystery
Unique feature: told as a transcribed podcast, with an epic twist ending

2. What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Page count: 336
Genre: mystery, drama
Unique feature: by a debut author, based on true events

3. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Page count: 260
Genre: memoir, humor, feminism
Unique feature: you'll learn and laugh your ass off at the same time

4. Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Page count: 128
Genre: essay, social justice
Unique feature: this is an essay based on the 40 questions asked of immigrant children entering the US

5. The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne
Page count: 96
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, drama
Unique feature: the illustrations are stunning, and it's a modern take on Peter Pan

6. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Page count: 160 (though I listened to the audiobook)
Genre: mystery, fantasy, gothic
Unique feature: This involves a multiple-homicide via arsenic, a cat named Jonas and a narrator named Merricat

7. The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes
Page count: 384
Genre: lit. fiction, women's fiction
Unique feature: features a pretty epic life swap

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Page count: 460
Genre: drama, mystery
Unique feature: recently adapted into a well-reviewed TV series

9. Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by various authors
Page count: 144
Genre: memoir, collaboration project
Unique feature: This is literally a book made up of hundreds of memoirs at exactly six words each

10. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Page count: 130
Genre: essays, feminism
Unique feature: it's so important