“Stalking Shakespeare” by Lee Durkee – Review

By: Angie Haddock

Following his divorce, down-and-out writer and Mississippi exile Lee Durkee holed himself up in a Vermont fishing shack and fell prey to a decades-long obsession with Shakespearian portraiture. It began with a simple premise: despite the prevalence of popular portraits, no one really knows what Shakespeare looked like. That the Bard of Avon has gotten progressively handsomer in modern depictions seems only to reinforce this point.


This one was fairly riveting, albeit in a totally nerdy and slightly manic way.

I studied theatre in college, and have read some Shakespeare plays in my time. But I had never considered that we don’t actually know what he looked like. There are a few popular portraits that are used to portray him, and many that have been assumed to be him over the years, but – while they all depict men of his era, and are similar in some ways – there are discrepancies among them that would indicate they may not be portraits of the same person.

So, who decides if any of these Elizabethan men are or are not William Shakespeare? Apparently, there is a whole world of museum curators, art restorers, and scholars who debate things like this. And often, disagree. And maybe even, sometimes, hide or purposefully misrepresent their findings?

The author, though, is admittedly obsessive. Also an alcoholic, on Adderall, and at times addicted to pain killers. So, while some of these tales are indeed fascinating, we have to ask if he is predisposed to seeing things as “conspiracies.”

Another theory that arises from this world is one that I had heard of before, but didn’t realize was still hotly debated. And that is: was William Shakespeare even real? Obviously, his plays were. But were they written by someone else using a pen name? Or perhaps even by several authors? The various theories on who else might have written his works are peeked into in this book, and make for pretty scandalous reading at times.

I enjoyed this one. Obviously, though, I like a good non-fiction, and have a passing interest in theatre stuff. I feel like it may get too “in the weeds” for a casual reader. It would easily appeal to fans of history, and specifically British and/or art history.

Shakespeare – if he really existed at all – has birth and death dates that are both in April. In honor of that, this book comes out today, April 18th. I was able to read ahead through NetGalley and the publisher, Scribner.

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“The Man Without Shelter” by Indrajit Garai – Review

By: Angie Haddock

Lucy, a young lawyer, is on fast track to partnership in her firm. Arnault, a convicted felon, leaves prison after two decades through a piece of evidence in his favor. The two of them come together during a rescue operation at the centre of Paris, and then they go on with their separate lives. Months later, their paths cross again at a camp for migrants on the edge of Paris.


This novella had some good points and less-good points. Let’s start with the writing itself. The author was born in India, moved to France, and now lives in the US. The language seemed a little “off” at times – just odd word choices or ways of phrasing things – but I attributed this to the author’s background. (By that I mean, I assumed that English isn’t his first language. This could totally be my own assumption.) None of these quirks made the story hard to understand. But, if you’re a person who lives for flowery language, or is on the hunt for the most amazing phrasings – this would not fit the bill.

The story itself is pretty solid. We have Arnault, the titular man without shelter, who finds himself in that predicament because he was just released from prison. We also have Lucy, a lawyer who sets to helping him. Lucy’s story is basically driven by Arnault’s, though, and I think his part is what shines through the most.

Where this book shines is in portraying a lead protagonist who is homeless. (How often do we see that?) It shows many of the obstacles Arnault faces, like not being able to renew his ID without a permanent address. It also shows, through the Lucy character, how the rest of us might unintentionally mistreat such people. Consider the following:

“The homeowners like her (Lucy), when they meet a homeless man, they want to know his past, more out of curiosity than compassion… And most don’t want to talk about their past… They want to talk about their present and events of society. They, too, are citizens with their rights to vote, their rights to privacy… They find it ruthless when others pry into their past and consider it appropriate because they’re homeless.”

On the other hand, I got a little suspicious toward the end, when the villains of the story turned out to be some other folks described as being with one of the “traveling clans” from “different parts of Europe” who only stayed for a while and then moved on. The way they were described made me think (again, maybe my own assumptions) that they were Romani? And making them the bad guys seemed a little harsh/racist. (But, I don’t live in Paris myself, and don’t know the beefs between homeless populations there.)

This was only novella-length, so a quick read. If you are interested in books set in Paris, or seeing life through the eyes of a homeless person, it might be worth a look. I was given a copy from the author’s publicist.

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“Elektra” by Jennifer Saint – Review

By: Angie Haddock & Tory Tanguay

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?


While the Goodreads blurb gives some of the basics here, a little of the story might be helpful before we get into the conversation we had about this one!

We briefly meet sisters Helen and Clytemnestra in their home of Sparta, before they marry brothers Menelaus and Agamemnon. Helen stays in Sparta, and Clytemnestra moves with her husband to his kingdom of Mycenae.

Years later, Agamemnon is leading the Greek forces to Troy. On the eve of the Trojan war, he kills his and Clytemnestra’s oldest daughter, Iphigenia, as a sacrifice to the gods. Clytemnestra was tricked into taking the daughter to him, and lives out the ten years of the war waiting to seek revenge on her husband.

Tory and Angie both read this one recently, and here are some thoughts.

Angie: So, I guess the first thing that came to my mind is… we have 3 different perspectives. Was there one that resonated with you more than the others? Or, conversely, one you didn’t like as well?

Tory: I feel like I resonated more with Clytemnestra especially considering her understandably very heart-wrenching reaction to the loss of her daughter. I feel like her responses were something along the lines of what I would experience if I had been in her shoes.

What about you?

Angie: Same, at least at first. I felt like her situation was so horrific, and I wanted to give her a lot of leeway for the decisions she made. I also felt like Elektra’s perspective was very sheltered. She was young, and idolized her dad, but it came from a place of… well, of course, he’s her dad. So he could do no wrong, ya know?

Which made it interesting later, that she became more and more like her mom as she became an adult. Whether she saw it or not.

Tory: I felt the same about Elektra. Like she really wasn’t considering the whole picture. Sure you can idolize your dad and think he hung the moon but to totally absolve them of cold-blooded murder?

Now I’ve been a Greek mythology buff since I was a pre-teen. Did you have any knowledge of this storyline or characters before you read the novel?

Angie: And really, I think kids would be just as likely to idolize either parent? So the fact that she gave no grace to her mom… really came from Clytemnestra’s subsequent distractedness. Like, her dad wasn’t around for the next 10 years, so she could keep an idealized version of him in her mind… but not of her mom.

Tory: True.

Angie: I’m not really deeply versed in it. Like, I knew the basic plot points of the Trojan war, and I’d read “Circe” as an adult.

But I couldn’t say I remembered who Elektra or Clytemnestra was. The name Cassandra sounded more familiar to me, but I wouldn’t have remembered her story per se.

How did this stack up against your prior knowledge of these characters?

Tory: So I first became knowledgeable about basic Greek myths (like origins of the gods type stuff, basic how the world works things) when I was about 12-ish? But the story of Elektra (also spelled Electra) I really became familiar with after having to read the play by the same name in high school if I remember correctly by either Sophocles or Euripides. (Both of them wrote plays regarding the story but I don’t remember which one I read.)

Jennifer Saint’s version seems to stick to my knowledge and remembrance of the story but I thought it was interesting how she added Cassandra’s version in there too because she really has such a minor part in the whole thing.

It was nice for background information especially from the Trojan aspect of things but I wonder if she could’ve gotten away with not having her point of view at all.

Angie: Hers did not entirely fit with the other two. But like you said… I feel like having a voice within Troy just helped us, as the readers, keep tabs on Agamemnon and how the war was going?

I felt like her story was semi-interesting in its own right, but could have definitely been a different book.

Tory: I completely agree.

I sometimes felt like Cassandra’s version of events was just in there to make a fairly short book slightly longer.

Angie: Ha! Fair enough.

Tory: Now going back to Electra and what you mentioned about her having an idealized version of her father, I kinda get the impression that she is completely responsible for Orestes’ view of Agamemnon. Like if Electra didn’t exist then Orestes wouldn’t have had a real view of his father to begin with.

Angie: Agreed.

Tory: Does that make sense? He wasn’t even born yet when his dad left and then because of Electra he takes on the same view.

Angie: Yep, fair. And if anyone gets unfairly shafted in this book, I feel like it’s Orestes and Georgios.

Tory: Oh completely.

Angie: Cassandra, ok, I’ll say she didn’t create too many of the agonies she was dealt. But everyone else… kinda did.

Tory: If I remember the plays correctly I think Georgios is strictly made up for the story.

Angie: Ah, good to know. But, it does give Elektra a place to hide out for a while, so I think it’s an ok addition?

Tory: A “you reap what you sow” kind of idea?

I think having him in there works for the story.

Angie: I mean, yea… I guess to an extent, Clytemnestra losing her oldest daughter was only brought on by her husband (not her). Although, she talks about having that fear of his line being cursed, anyway. But after that… she basically loses her youngest two children because of her rage over the first one. And Elektra grows up to also live a life fueled by vengeance.

As did Aegisthus.

Tory: You’re right, Clytemnestra didn’t bring things on by herself at first but her reactions to the events did so. One thing you learn after reading a lot of Greek myths and tragic plays and such is that you can’t escape fate.

So if Agamemnon’s family line is destined to be cursed, it’s gonna be cursed no matter what you do or don’t do

Angie: Ok, so… since you’re more versed in it… does the curse continue? I honestly didn’t see Elektra becoming a mom herself, but she does in the end…

Tory: I feel like and through that and her response to her daughter’s death, like we’ve said, she brings on the continuing cycle through giving Elektra a need for vengeance.

Oooh good question! I think as far as we know it ends with Elektra and Orestes just cause we don’t hear anything else about the characters because the plays end. But I could be wrong.

Angie: It’s interesting to me that she did become a mom, but… I wonder if she really didn’t know that much about the history of her own family? She and her mom spent so much of her childhood avoiding each other, it’s possible.

Tory: And does the generational trauma end with her? It’s interesting to think about.

Angie: Right?

Tory: It’s an interesting choice by Saint to be sure.

Angie: Ok, so another thought I had… we agreed that Georgios and Orestes get the major shaft. So, could we say that, in this story, the men are largely used as chess pieces by the women of the book? Even though the men are technically in charge in their society… are they really?

And I think, along with that…we have to consider Helen! We don’t get her perspective here, but all these men went to war for her.

Tory: Oh that’s a great thought! At least in this story I would agree with that cause in the original tellings of these storylines it’s completely the opposite.

Angie: Interesting. So… ok, I’d say Helen gets off basically scot-free here. The rest of the women do see consequences to their actions. But overall, we might consider this to be a feminist retelling of the story? Just based on how these women wield their power over their lovers, brothers, etc.?

Tory: I could see that. At least it being the women’s side of the events of the Trojan war aftermath.

However, I usually think of feminist stories as women taking matters into their own hands with a better outcome and I don’t really think a better outcome happens in this case.

Angie: For sure, they all make a mess of things.

Tory: A large bloody mess.

Angie: Are there any other points you want to discuss before we wrap up?

Tory: The only other thing I’ve been thinking about since we first mentioned Georgios is that I saw him as a hopeful redemption arc for Elektra. Like, he agreed with her that Agamemnon was awesome but at the same time wanted her to let go of that idealized fantasy a little and just move on with life.

But Elektra sees the possibility of redemption so to speak (settling down, being a wife and parent with him) and just looks at it and is like “Nah.”

The cursed line could have ended there but it doesn’t.

Angie: So it’s like… that offer of living a redemptive, different life was right there, but she just couldn’t quite do it.

Tory: Exactly.

Angie: She is, for all intents and purposes, her parents’ child.

Tory: 100%.

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“The Dead Romantics” by Ashley Poston – Review

By: Tory Tanguay

“A New York Times Notable Book of 2022!

The New York Times Bestseller and Good Morning America Book Club Pick!

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.”


Content warnings: Parental death, grief

Is romance dead? Or is it just the ghosts that our main character can see? Meet Florence Day, a ghostwriter for a famous romance author who has become disillusioned with the idea of romantic love after a bad breakup with the “perfect” man. Florence has been writing romance novels under someone else’s name for about five years and she’s getting sick of it. She tries to enlighten her new (and may we mention, very handsome!) editor and tells him she just can’t find the inspiration to finish her latest novel. However, her editor refuses to give her an extension on the deadline and Florence figures her writing career will soon be over.

Then she gets the phone call that stops her dead in her tracks. Her father has passed away suddenly, and Florence must go back home to a small town to help her family bury him. Did I mention that her family runs the town funeral parlor and this funeral is sure to be anything but run-of-the-mill?

But after being away from home for ten years, Florence just can’t bring herself to face her past there… or for that matter her present or future in general. Nothing and no one in her small town seems to have changed and she loathes it. Stuck in a rut, she thinks things can’t get much worse, but guess what? They can!

Now Florence has started seeing an annoyingly handsome ghost who she can’t seem to get away from. Normally this would be a little unusual but it’s cool… Florence has had the ability to see and speak to ghosts since she was younger (a gift she shared with her now-deceased father) and now must help this guy figure out just what he’s doing on the other side. What exactly is his unfinished business and how can Florence help him to finally cross over? And she most certainly cannot initiate a relationship with said ghost, right? Right?!

I had kept hearing about this book on BookTok and decided to give it a chance as I was in the mood for something a little more lighthearted than my last read and with a probable happy ending. Ashley Poston’s adult debut novel is really something she should be proud of. It’s a rom-com storyline with a fairly unique twist and surprise ending where our main character also figures out what really matters to her in life and remembers why she wanted to be a writer in the first place.

This book was laugh-out-loud funny at times and the tension between Florence and her ghost was *muah, chef’s kiss*. I absolutely loved it (which is unusual for me with romances) and gave it five stars.

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“I’m Still Here (Adapted for Young Readers)” by Austin Channing Brown – Review

By: Angie Haddock

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with race in America came at age seven, when she discovered that her parents had named her Austin to trick future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Channing Brown writes, “I had to learn what it means to love Blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.


I want to say up front that I have not read the grown-up version of this one, so I cannot compare the two! But I did love this version on its own merits.

Brown grew up between Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, so I related to her instantly on that front. (Hello, fellow Cleveland native!) And she grew up in a similar time period, as well… so things like having to use a pay phone are things I understood. Maybe Gen Z will or not, but that will make itself seen when they get their hands on this one.

The stories here are mostly short and to the point, but they are great reminders (to an old folk like me) of how we are molded as kids. The stories are about church, school, hanging out with friends, getting that first crush. Things that kids – even ones growing up in a different time – will surely relate to.

This book is written to and for black girls, primarily. This only comes out in certain parts, though (mostly at the beginning and end). And while these girls will be able to see themselves in these scenarios, I think it’s equally important for other kids to consider the stories as well.

For example, she tells a story about a teacher using a hair salon as a scenario in class. A hair salon experience will be different for black kids and non-black kids, though. So, while the black kids reading this could be identifying with Brown’s confusion over the example – a white kid reading this might have never considered before why the teacher’s scenario didn’t make sense to everyone in the class. I feel like it could be eye-opening for younger readers to see that different perspective, maybe for the first time.

So, I think kids of all colors would learn something from these stories. Their takeaways will inherently be different, but it would be a good introduction to trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This book comes out today, April 4th. I was able to read it in advance through Netgalley and the publisher, Convergent Books.

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“The Invincible Miss Cust” by Penny Haw – Review

By: Tory Tanguay

Must-read historical fiction for fans of Marie Benedict and Tracey Enerson Wood, based on the real-life of Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon.


I have worked in veterinary medicine for almost 20 years, seven years of which I’ve been a veterinarian. With March being Women’s History Month, I found myself wondering about the women who have gone before me in the field. Who were they? What struggles did they have? What oppositions did they face in a field that used to be completely dominated by men? (Veterinary medicine is by far and away a female-dominated field right now.) Then, I came across this book, The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw. I had never heard of Miss Aleen Isabel Cust before but once I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it.

This historical fiction novel tells the tale of Miss Cust, the first Irish and British female veterinary surgeon, born in Ireland to an aristocratic English family in 1868. I felt a kinship with Aleen because like her, I knew from a young age that I was destined to work with animals. It was my calling in life as it was hers. Her family, however, is strongly opposed to the idea for back then women were only (supposedly) good for getting married, keeping house, and having babies. Her family is absolutely horrified by the idea of her not wanting to marry and wanting to go into the field of veterinary medicine as the only acceptable occupations for women were wife and maybe a nurse or teacher. Even then, a lady of her breeding should not demote herself to something as menial as working. But “haters gonna hate” and Aleen pays them no mind and pursues her dream of becoming a veterinary surgeon.

This is truly a book that took me on an emotional roller coaster. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, and I celebrated in Aleen’s joy, while reminiscing about my own journey through veterinary medicine (all full of the same emotions). The first half of the book seems to stick decently to research performed by the author, but the second half seems to turn into more of a story of romance with much creative liberties taken. This second part seemed to drift away from the feelings and tone originally established by the author and was a little unexpected. The romance doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and honestly seems to be slightly thrown in as it seems to be a complete deviation from Aleen’s established personality and mindset. Not to say that people don’t fall in love on life’s journey, they absolutely can. It just doesn’t work for me.

I gave this book four out of five stars. I do especially recommend it for those interested in the history of women in veterinary medicine. It most definitely sent me down a rabbit hole of doing my own research on women in the history of vet med as well.

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“The Last Lion of Karkov” by Dale Griffin – Review

By: Angie Haddock

Raised in Karkov, a military, male-dominant kingdom, twins Natalia and Jillian know nothing but battle. When Jillian emerges as the dominant twin and apparent heir to the throne, Natalia, the softer and more diplomatic sister, ceases her military training. As Natalia prepares to marry the prince of her father’s favored Western ally, Jillian is set to become the first woman Lion of Karkov. But things don’t go as planned when the older generation of warriors values her womb over her sword. Suddenly, the role Jillian has fought for all her life is slipping through her fingers…and she’s not about to let it go without a fight.


This book is a chonky one, coming in right around 600 pages… but it’s also full of action and moves quickly. So you’ll understand that the blurb at top really only encompasses about the first 100 pages! It does, however, introduce you to our two main characters.

Jillian and Natalia were raised without a mother, and they are literally the only females they’ve ever known. It’s also their society’s tradition to kill off female babies born to the king – known as the Lion – and also any additional siblings, once one is deemed the Heir. So, the fact that either of them live to be teens – let alone BOTH of them – is already “against tradition.” And we meet them as teens here, although we do occasionally hear stories from their earlier years. Their mere existence is revolutionary, and they know this, so they don’t expect to be hemmed in by old traditions now.

But as Jillian learns more about the traditions that have come before her, she becomes convinced that neither her nor Natalia can be a part of them. Natalia is set to leave, anyway, but can Jillian protect her if they’re apart?

Both twins have a fierce loyalty to each other, which is sustained throughout the entire book. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t change!

As I said, this book moves quickly. We see characters move geographically, and visit these other neighboring kingdoms. I should say that all the kingdoms are roughly based on actual places we know, seemingly around the 1700s of our own history. (This estimate is largely based on the technology available to our characters.)

We also see a lot of action. I am not big into war books, or battle strategies, and there is some of that in here. But the story always moves on from it, and it never felt overwhelming.

One thing that caught me off guard a few times is that the characters would often make a plan – or learn of one being crafted by the opposition – and then we’d see that carried out within mere paragraphs! Even in a book this big, not a lot of time is wasted waiting for the next thing to happen.

There are wars, alliances and betrayals, and also a citizen rebellion. That aspect definitely gave me some “Les Mis” vibes. If you’re into European historical stuff, I’m sure you could draw even more parallels.

Another interesting aspect to me is that, with a book this big, there were some characters that I grew to like… and then didn’t see again for a few hundred pages. But honestly, despite the deeply troubling pasts of these countries, there are many likeable characters in here. There are even a few who will surprise you.

Many of our characters converge in the last 100 pages or so, when four of the nations prepare for a battle. Considering there are multiple warriors, military leaders, and royals involved – I was happy to see that the machismo was not too heavy. Sure, some grumbled about their ideas being better than someone else’s, but mostly the men involved all wanted to do what was best, and were willing to work together to make it happen. And I was very happy that the battle was not too long.

This one comes out today, March 14th. I was gifted an advanced copy from Books Forward. The author, Dale Griffin, is donating $2 from every copy sold to Girls, Inc. from now through the end of April. If you’re into fantasy and action, pick this one up today!

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Online Book Sales with Miss Penny’s Books

By: Angie Haddock

During the lockdown days, I stumbled upon Miss Penny’s Books on Facebook. If you’re in any book buy/sell/trade groups, you’ve probably seen people post pictures of books… mad amounts of books… that aren’t necessarily in order. But if you’re anything like me, you feel compelled to sift through these pics anyway, just to see if there’s anything you’d want.

That’s exactly what shopping from Miss Penny’s is like.

While it may not be for the super-organized or impatient among us, it can be a lot of fun. Books are priced from $1 to $3, and you need a minimum of $5 to order. Shipping is added, per media mail rates. Karolin, who runs this page, is very responsive to messages and will usually have your total to you pretty quickly.

I asked Karolin how this adventure got started:

“Miss Penny” has always been my alter-ego. I’ve always been a deal hunter and one day (maybe a decade ago) came up with the name. “Miss Penny” has had a coupon blog, a youtube channel and now is selling books. Who knows what’s next! For now, Miss Penny Books is here to stay and very happy to be here.

Miss Penny Books started when I saw a friend of mine selling books on Amazon. She would buy books in bulk and throw all the popular fiction books away because they didn’t have a high resell value. When I saw her disposing of things that I would like to read, I stopped and thought, there has to be someone out there who wants to buy these. We have to keep these and find a purpose for them! So, I started selling books on Facebook $1-$3 each plus the cost of shipping and Miss Penny Books was born! 

I visit a few different thrift stores and library sales each week and buy the books that I think my shoppers would like. If I notice a particular author is popular, I try to pick their books up as I find them. New books are added to the Facebook page weekly.

If you like the thrill of the hunt, or finding titles you didn’t know you needed, find Miss Penny’s books in all the following places:



Pango Books

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“Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman – Review

By: Tory Tanguay

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “A Man Called Ove” and “writer of astonishing depth” (The Washington Times) comes a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.


I was drawn to this title because I am, in fact, an anxious person. What better book for me to read? This would either be a book I would enjoy or a book that would set me off on an anxiety attack. Luckily, the first was true.

Looking at real estate properties doesn’t usually end up in a life-or-death situation but that is what happens at the beginning of this novel. Backman weaves an intricate tale regarding an eclectic cast of characters that are all involved in a hostage situation. An unintentional hostage situation with the worst hostages ever. Each hostage comes with a history of emotional baggage, past hurts, and secrets that are revealed as the story progresses. In the end, each one finds that they’re not the only person who needs rescuing.

We have two couples, Roger and Anna-Lena and Ro and Julia. The former two are a retired couple looking for their next flip while the latter are looking to purchase a home for their expanding family. Zara, a well-to-do banker just came to this open house to see how the other half lives. Estelle, an elderly woman, may or may not be checking out this apartment for her daughter. Then of course, there’s the bank robber, whose day (and life) is just not going as planned. Throw in a father-son cop duo investigating the whole thing and you have the makings of a plot with twists and turns that will make you laugh, cry, and think.

The one thing that I loved about this novel is that everyone and everything is connected in some way. The reader is left with the idea that choices that we make in this world in some way affect someone or something else in this world, sometimes without us even realizing it. And indeed, we all could use a little rescuing. The saying “no man is an island” kept popping up in my head over and over because whether we want to be or not, we’re all connected with the rest of humanity.

Beware, however, fellow reader, that although this book may be laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also a heavy book with heavy themes. Content warnings include suicide and suicidal thoughts/ ideation plus lots of deep emotions. If you’re uncomfortable with these types of themes, then this book may not be for you.

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“Badass Stories: Grit, Growth, Hope, and Healing in the Shitshow” by Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt – Review

By: Angie Haddock

Badass Stories” is all about the grit of survival in tough times, the growth that comes from pain, the hope for something better, and the healing that happens along the way. It is a compilation of short stories that illustrate some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about life from the real people in my life and my psychology practice.


This is the third new book I’ve reviewed from this author, and I actually read this one months ahead of its release so I could offer her publisher a “blurb.” This is the one I submitted:

“Badass Stories” is Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt’s most personal book yet – and it also manages to be the most universal. There is (at least) one story inside that will resonate with every reader.

And I hold to that opinion!

The author breaks the book up into four parts, with chapters focusing on grit, growth, hope, and healing. These are stories from her years studying and then working in psychology. The stories feature many patients with different backgrounds and stories, obviously… but what I found more interesting is that, often, it is Eckleberry-Hunt who learns a lesson in these chapters.

Some of these may seem like they are tied to her role as a therapist, but I believe they can be useful for many of us. Lessons like sticking to boundaries, or not being able to will someone else to change, are probably ones we have all had experience with. How she goes about being able to help her clients – or NOT help them, in some cases – are the parts that I found both personal (to her) and universal.

The clients’ stories themselves are at turns heartbreaking, frustrating, and triumphant. Please note: these people are dealing with heavy things. Veterans with PTSD, parents who have lost a child, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and more are represented here. If these sorts of topics are too triggering for you, consider this your warning.

Because there are so many different topics, though, I found myself drawn into each story for different reasons. Sure, some may have reminded me of myself… but just as many brought to mind friends, family members, etc. I kept thinking of the many people I could pass my copy on to, because so many of us will find something within the pages that comes close to some aspect of our own stories.

This one comes out on February 14th, and is available for pre-order now. I was given an early copy from the author and her publisher, Turner Publishing.

Related Reviews:

Getting to Good Riddance

Move On Motherf*cker

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