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review 2018-08-31 18:55
Quirky, funny, and smart, ‘Unclaimed Baggage’ takes on some big issues in small town Alabama
Unclaimed Baggage - Jen Doll

It’s probably humanly impossible to not like a book with fluffy clouds and a little squirrel holding nuts on the cover. So far, I believe this to be 100% true.

 

‘Unclaimed Baggage’, while having nothing to do with now-endangered and very cute red squirrels, is just as adorable a book on the inside as it is on the outside, and if it’s that cover that draws you in (like it did me), so be it). It’s the goods inside though that will make you stay a while.

 

The title of the book is the name of the store that brings three new and unlikely friends together in small town Alabama. Doris has been working at Unclaimed Baggage for a while, and takes great pride in her work, unpacking suitcases that have lost their owners somewhere along the way on their journeys around the world, left at airports, unclaimed, unnamed. The contents of the bags are then sold in this unique store, which gets customers from all over the place, and even has an Instagram feed.
Nell is the newcomer, who has been made to move from the Chicago suburbs to this tiny Southern town, away from her boyfriend and BFFs, and at the start of the summer too. Forced to get a summer job by her rocket scientist mom, she fortunately meets Doris at the store.


And to round out the unlikely trio, we have Grant Collins, the hometown (but recently disgraced) football star, struggling with a drinking problem, having recently lost his girlfriend, as well as his way. His mom calls in a favor and gets him a job at the store, which is probably the best thing to ever happen.
Over the course of their summer (but barely a couple of my days) this trio is taken through a bonding experience like no other, and not only do they have infinitely a more exciting summer than I had, these unlikeliest of friends learn some big eye-opening things about the world.

 

Author Jen Doll is a smart writer, and beneath all the adorable quirkiness, she presents a whole host of issues that teens (and a lot of us, in fact), have dealt and might deal with: sexual assault, alcohol abuse (particularly how it’s accepted in certain groups in high school), grief and loss, racism, a particular brand of which is still especially pervasive in the South, as well as an expectation for everyone to subscribe to the same Christian dogma.
Doll also gives us these wonderful teen characters that challenge these issues in a way that I found, for a change, to be brave instead of obnoxious, to be thoughtful instead of preoccupied, and actually give us cause to be sympathetic to their faults (especially dear Grant).

 

One key element of this novel, underneath all that quirkiness which I just loved, is relationships, and since this is a contemporary YA novel, it’s worth noting that it isn’t filled with text conversations, and there are also positive family relationships in this book, with the parents actually feeling like real people. I’m finding this is becoming a rarity in my reading lately (is it really so bad to put that out there?). Additionally, the close relationship Doris had with her aunt Stella, who’s passed away, plays a big part in the book; the exploration of Doris’ grief and the influence she had on her, adds depth to this story and her character.

 

All of this though, is served up with heaps and heaps of Southern fried syrupy goodness and charm, or at least, a furry manatee, and suitcases with their own names. The ‘scenes’ at the store were so wonderful, I wanted more, with all these amazing artifacts and personal belongings from people all over the world ending up on their shelves with the teens wondering their backstories.


I also didn’t even mind the fact that Jen Doll uses the alternating ‘voices’ of Doris, Nell, and Grant, to tell the story, which is a writing device I was becoming tired of lately but in the case of ‘Unclaimed Baggage’, I found it worked well. The book is also divided up into the three months of the summer vacation, to give you a sense of time flow.

 

However ‘slow’ their (or anyone’s) summer went, I raced through this book. It is funny, quirky, thoughtful, and full of so much heart that I can’t help but love it to pieces.

 

*I gratefully received this ARC as part of Miss Print's ARC Adoption Program."). 
This squirrel is being released into the wild on September 18th, ‘18.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/36949992-unclaimed-baggage
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review 2018-07-02 14:29
Fifty Shades New Zealand Style
Fierce (Not Quite a Billionaire) - Rosalind James

This ended up being a big old nope at 20 percent. I usually love Rosalind James's books. I recommend her Escape to New Zealand series to anyone that asks about a really good romance with some hot scenes.

 

Premise is that this book follows a New Zealand Mr. Grey (Hemi) coming along and deciding that he is going to (swear word) a woman (Hope) that he meets when he goes to see a photo shoot set up.

 

 

James can usually turn a phrase and make me see her characters, but I had a hard time even picturing this whole thing. She tried to turn her New Zealand characters into Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and it did not work at all. 

 

The little we find out about Hope is that she is struggling to make things work for her and her teenage sister. They are sharing a tiny place in New York (I think it's a studio) and she's working for an insane photographer. When she meets Hemi she feels intrigued by him and he weirdly decides he is going to have to have her. Cause that's what doms do I guess (I have no idea). Hemi arranges things so that Hope gets a job at his company and from there he is going to make sure that she eventually gives into him (barf). 

 

Hemi is crude and sorry not sexy at all to me. I was done after he propositions Hope in his office and she rightfully slaps him. Of course James has Hope thinking to herself that she could not helped being turned on by the whole thing and I just quit this book at this point. I just got frustrated because a scene before this Hemi tries to force Hope into going out to dinner with him and she says no to that. He even tries to force her to go overseas on an assignment even after she explains why she can't (her sister being left alone is a huge problem). So he's not exactly blowing my socks off with empathy. 

 

I would recommend passing on this one. 

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text 2018-06-22 14:34
Reading progress update: I've read 20%.
Fierce (Not Quite a Billionaire) - Rosalind James

This is awful. Going to be a DNF. This is a terrible book that reads just like 50 Shades of Grey though the billionaire in it is not white, he's Maori. It's gross he is sexually harassing someone that works for him and is trying to force her to go out with him and after she says no to that, demands to see her the next day. Next day pops up and he tells her he wants to "swear" her and she slaps him, but also can't help being turned on. Nope. 

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review 2018-06-09 06:53
Fun non-Western fantasy . . . but with too many spiders TT_TT
Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor

Entertaining fantasy adventure read, but WAY too many spiders for me, lol. The initial jolt of awe for the world building from the first book has worn off a bit, but it's enjoyable and seamless to settle back into. I recommended Akata Witch as a potential MG crossover, but the characters and their relationships have aged up in this sequel, so parental guidance is recommended. Nothing too explicit or anything, it's just that the discussion of adult relationships might not appeal to younger kids. Excited for book three!

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review 2018-05-25 23:13
Fantastic Historical Romance
My Fierce Highlander - Vonda Sinclair

My Fierce Highlander by Vonda Sinclair is an amazing historical romance.  Ms. Sinclair has delivered a well-written book.  The characters are absolutely phenomenal.  Gwyneth was sent to the Highlands after she found herself unwed and pregnant.  She rescues Alasdair when he is injured while battling her cousin's clan.  Gwyneth and Alasdair's story is loaded with drama, humor, action, suspense and sizzle.  I enjoyed this book from cover to cover and look forward to reading more from Vonda Sinclair in the future.  My Fierce Highlander is book  1 of the Highland Adventure Series but can be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.

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