Book Review: Jessica Simpson – Open Book

Jessica Simpson rode the wave of teen pop singers during the late 90s/early 00s when the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were dominating the charts. She never quite found the same musical success that Spears and Aguilera did, but became a household name after her marriage to 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey led to the hit MTV series Newlyweds.

In “Open Book,” Simpson recounts her struggles in the music business, relationships with her parents, the men in her life, alcohol, diet pills and sexual abuse at a young age.

Simpson was born in Texas and raised in the church; her father was a Baptist youth minister up until the time the family left Texas to try to launch her singing career. She started out in the gospel circuit, but it’s it’s very clear from the get-go that Simpson was a victim bullying and emotional abuse from people in the industry. They called her sinful because of her chest size and said she couldn’t continue to tour because her image was too sexualized.

Her own father, Joe Simpson, who served as her manager, was a negative influence on her as well, spending money she earned from her hit records, trying to control everything she did, especially when it came to marrying Nick Lachey. 

Even if you aren’t a fan of pop music, Simpson’s book takes a critical look at the unhealthy expectations placed on women, especially YOUNG women, that exist in the music industry. Immediately after inking her record deal, she was asked to lose 15 pounds and spent the next twenty years of her life taking diet pills to try to maintain the “ideal” weight of 100 pounds. And when her records didn’t sell as well as her competition, they tried to “sex up” her image – something Simpson wasn’t comfortable with due to her faith and religious upbringing.

It’s also very clear to see that her father’s controlling nature had a negative impact on her marriage to Lachey and future relationships with John Mayer and Tony Romo. 

“Open Book” is a surprisingly honest and vulnerable autobiography from a star many have written off as just another dumb blonde. It exposes some hard truths about the music industry and Simpson is transparent about her own misgivings and shortfalls when it came to her failed marriage and substance abuse.

This will likely appeal to the female audience that grew up during the height of her career, but even if you aren’t familiar with her music, it’s a quick read that will keep you engrossed until the last page.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Five Fantasy Series You Should Read While Staying Home

Hopefully you’re staying home, staying healthy and safe while we figure this pandemic mess out – my library closed yesterday until further notice, so I’m home with some free time and plan to get caught up on my Goodreads reading goal. I’m several books behind (oops) so I believe I can get caught up in the next couple of weeks or however long the quarantine is going to last.

You may be looking to catch up on reading too – I hear so often that people don’t have time because life is so busy. Now is your chance! I’m sharing five fantasy series I love and since we’ll be in for a while, I thought series were the perfect choice because you can binge the whole set at once!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Shelved in young adult, this steamy faerie action/romance series is definitely NOT for the younger crowd. The first book starts off as a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” and the action only ramps up from there.  After ninteen-year-old Feyre kills a wolf in the forest that turns out to be fae, she’s kidnapped and taken to the faerie land of Prythian to pay the price.

In the subsequent books in the series, “A Court of Mist and Fury” and “A Court of Wings and Ruin”, Feyre struggles with the decision to become fae herself, a set of trials set forth by the Queen Amarantha and her own family being put in danger. Of course there’s also a love triangle and if you are looking for something steamy, this trilogy delivers. 

acotar-series

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Billed as Harry Potter for grownups, this three book series turned television show follows Quentin Coldwater, a young man who discovers a secret college of magic located in New York City called Brakebills.

While attempting an old spell, Quentin unleashes an ancient evil called “The Beast” on the school. Quentin and his friends attempt to defeat the “The Beast” and discover along the way that Fillory, a fictitious land much like Narnia, is actually real. 

This is a fantastic series for adults with a lot of literary elements that make it a joy to read. Some of the characters are downright unlikeable, but it’s still one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read for adults. 

the-magicians-novels-

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

If the cover doesn’t draw you in, the story definitely will. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is inspired by West African mythology and revolves around Zélie Adebola who is discovering that magic has not completely left the world even though all the maji have supposedly been killed. In a race against time, Zélie set outs with a rogue princess to bring magic back and launch a revolution against a tyrannical regime hell bent on wiping people like her out for good. Don’t let the size intimidate you – at 544 pages, this is an intense book to dive into, but well worth it for the supreme storytelling and lush world building.

Described as Black Panther but with more magic, this inventive new series is the next big thing in young adult fantasy. Only the first two books are out, so if you don’t mind waiting for book three, this is the perfect series to keep you entertained while hanging out at home for the next couple weeks.

tumblr_inline_ppp8q8aZwu1r813r6_500

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinderella as a cyborg? These reimagined fairy tales follow Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White through a futuristic world where people of earth, cyborgs and people from a lunar colony are experiencing extreme tension. 

An evil queen is trying to wipe out earth’s population with a plague, so Cinder, along with several other classic fairy tale characters team up to try to defeat her and save both Luna and Earth. There are four books in the series (along with a few short novellas) and the entire series is a fun, sci-fi take on the classic stories you know and love. 

the-lunar-chronicles

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I had to throw a classic in here! After Harry Potter, “The Chronicles of Narnia” is my next favorite fantasy series. C.S. Lewis opened my eyes to a whole other level of storytelling as a child and re-reading it as an adult is a unique experience as well because you see the allegories that you missed as a kid.

Narnia is a fictional fantasy land that various children find over the course of the seven books. Most notably are the Pevensie children who first find Narnia by a secret door in the wardrobe. Talking animals, witches and fantasy creatures play important roles in the stories, as does the great lion Aslan, who helps the children overthrow the White Witch’s control over Narnia in the first book.

194 1

Those are just a few of my favorite fantasy series! Got any recommendations for me? Be sure to comment and tell me what you think I should read during all my newly found free time! Happy reading – stay well, safe and practice good social distancing and cleanliness. We’ll all get through this together.

Literary Themed Spots You NEED to Visit in Indianapolis

When you think about Indianapolis, you probably think about the Indianapolis 500 or the Colts. Maybe only cornfields come to mind. We are a “flyover” state after all.

However, if you’re a punk ass book jockey like me, then you’re probably seeking out bookish related things in each city you visit. Well, I’m here to tell you that Indianapolis has got it going on when it comes to literary spots you should check out.

Here are five spots you don’t want to miss next time you are in the Circle City.

Books and Brews

Books and Brews marries used books and craft beers in a unique setting. With several locations around Indianapolis, this cute little brewpub features a gently used bookstore in the front of their space and  10% of all proceeds goes to IndyReads (which I’ll highlight a little later).

The drinks are named after books and with names like “The Stout of Monte Cristo”, “Clifford” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Stout”, you’ll want to partake even if you aren’t a beer drinker.

Each location hosts trivia nights, has board games on tap for you to play with friends and serves lunch and dinner so you can grab a bite to eat to go with your bubbly. There are nine locations around Indy, one in Muncie, and one in Ohio, so no matter what side of town you live on, there’s bound to be one near you.

James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home
Located in the historic Lockerbie neighborhood, this gorgeous Victorian home and museum celebrates the life and accomplishments of Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, who spent the last twenty-three years of his life living and writing in the home.

IMG_2035.jpg

The museum also hosts events, like Victorian teas and summer writing camps.

IMG_2037.jpg

Admission is dirt cheap – at $4/person, that’s practically a steal and the home/museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to check out Crown Hill Cemetery, where Riley is buried. You’ll also get a great view of the city skyline from his tomb at the top of the hill and you can also try to find President Benjamin Harrison and outlaw John Dillinger’s grave sites while you are there too.


Woody’s Library Restaurant
A restaurant in a former Carnegie library? Yes, please!

Woody’s Library Restaurant is located just north of Indianapolis in the swanky town of Carmel. The library moved out of the space in 1970, selling it to the Town of Carmel. They used it as office space and even a courthouse until 1998, when owners Richelle & Kevin “Woody” Rider purchased the property.

Since then, the former library has been serving up lunch and dinner in a relaxed atmosphere and while the menu offers fairly standard American fare (think burgers, tenderloins, and BBQ), there are several unique options for people wanting something a bit different. Those with dietary restrictions will be pleased that the menu designates vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.

The owners kept the original library reference desk, which now serves as the bar counter and all the shelves and floors are original. You will be in love when you see the interior!

Indy Reads Books
In time when bookstores are dying, Indy Reads Books is thriving and for a good cause. Located off Mass Ave., the new/used bookstore is a funding source for Indy Reads, a non-profit whose mission is to make Indianapolis 100% literate.

They also offer diverse programming and feature local artists pieces on the walls. It’s a magical place, so be sure to stop in, support a great cause and check out their book mural on the side of their building while you are at it!

IMG_2042.jpg

The Public Collection
This is one of the coolest art installments in Indianapolis!

A few years ago, several artists were commissioned to create public art pieces that could house library books. Similar to the Little Free Library, these books can be borrowed and returned at any time. They are scattered all over the city, and more are popping up each year.

img_1945

The Indianapolis Public library donates all the books, the artists are based in Indiana and the purpose of the project is to “improve literacy, foster a deeper appreciation of the arts (and artists), and promote social and educational justice in our community.”

Cool, right? Check out their web site for more information and to find all the locations of the art pieces.

And in Carmel, their city has installed a Little Free Library in a telephone booth!! Make sure you check out the book benches next to it which feature Indiana authors. (You can find the phone booth off the Monon Trail in Carmel next to the Booth Tarkington Civic Center)

I hope whether you live here or are just passing through that you’ll check all these awesome bookish places out in Indianapolis! Let me know if you do and if you find anything I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2020

It’s a new decade! We’re back in the Roaring 20s, folks, and with a new year, comes a new reading goal. Last year, I barely met my Goodreads goal of 70 books, but the last few months were a whirlwind of change, so I’m pretty sure that in 2020, things won’t be quite as hectic and I can easily top that.

Some of my favorite authors have books coming out in 2020: Sarah J. Maas, Ransom Riggs, and Kimberly McCreight, just to name a few AND there are even a few musical memoirs and political non-fiction titles on my list.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2020? Here are my top picks for the first half of the year since many of the fall releases haven’t been announced yet!


Ransom Riggs – The Conference of the Birds

Conference-BirdsThe fifth installment in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, Ransom Riggs continues the story which has now moved to America. While this series has lost some of the charm it once had, the books are still enjoyable reads and I’m looking forward to seeing where the author takes us.

Releases: January 14

 

 

 

Kiersten White – Chosen

Last year, Kirsten White took us back to the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a 41gOetoeHfL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_new story set in the Buffyverse. It was magical, entertaining and a nostalgic return to a much loved world. Book two finds Nina trying to manage the Watcher’s Castle as she attempts to turn it into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons.

Releases: January 7

 

 

 

Mary Kubica – The Other Mrs.

One of my favorite thriller writers returns with a new mystery set in Maine. Sadie and Other-MrsWill Foust haven’t lived in their new home long when their neighbor is murdered, setting everyone in the small town on edge. Kubica is the queen of twists and her books just keep getting better.

Releases: February 18 

 

 

 

 

Sarah J. Maas – Crescent City

Ok, so this one made my list LAST year because it originally was supposed to come out in the fall. But it got delayed, so it’s making the 2020 list too. And we have a cover and a plot about a half fae, half human who falls in love with an angel. Sarah J. Maas is one of the Crescent-Citybest young adult writers out there, but this one is aimed at an adult audience, so you know the romance is going to be on fire!

Releases: March 3

 

 

 

 

 

Zan Romanoff – Look

Lulu Shapiro’s a social media star. But when a video of her that she didn’t want public gets posted to the Internet, it creates a series of events that lead her to meet 51XQz7KureLCass. But the online fame continues to follow her around, even when she’s trying to find herself and explore a new relationship in an offline way. Zan Romanoff is sort of an under the radar young adult author, but she crafts great realistic fiction stories that often reflect the trends and times we live in.

Releases: March 31

 

 

 

The Jonas Brothers – Blood

I probably don’t read as much non-fiction as I should, but when I do, I love to read music biographies and political stuff. Weird combination, I know. The Jonas Brothers are kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I used to hate them because there was some tension between them and Hanson and if you know me at all, you don’t talk smack about my favorite 41AkISOahNL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_band. But they’ve buried the hatchet, and let’s face it: the Jonas Brothers made some pretty catchy music. So I’m really interested to read this one and find out some background info on the brothers because siblings really do make the best music together.

Releases: March 17

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Collins – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Honestly, this title makes me nervous. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a new Hunger Games book and many times when an author returns to a series after a long hiatus, the new story isn’t any good. Since this is a prequel, it might be interesting to read 46346381._SY475_about some of the events before the Katniss world began, although I would have rather read about the first Hunger Games, not the tenth. Still, it will be a big one in 2020 and I’m intrigued.

Releases: May 19

 

 

 

 

Kimberly McCreight – A Good Marriage

It’s been a while since Kimberly McCreight wrote anything for adults, but her psychological thrillers fill the Gillian Flynn void for me. There’s murder, marriage 417k2BUfO6Lproblems and intrigue as lawyer Lizzie Kitsakis juggles personal problems and a call from an old friend who needs her help. Eagerly awaiting this one.

Releases: May 5