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text 2020-01-01 00:31
The Best 10 Books I Read in 2019
Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes - Tamim Ansary
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir - Jean Guerrero
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions - Johann Hari
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures - Anne Fadiman
In the Country: Stories - Mia Alvar
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus - Charles C. Mann
Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming - Inara Verzemnieks
Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai
Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War - Helen Thorpe
Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India - Sujatha Gidla

Ordinarily I love to criticize, but the end of the year is my time to reflect on the best books I read during the year, and recommend them to all of you! I read a lot of great books in 2019, so it was a tough competition, but here are the best 10 books (out of 71 total that I finished) of the year.

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary (review)

Destiny Disrupted A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

An informative, wide-ranging, and even exciting history, this is a fascinating primer on the history of the Muslim world. It answered questions I didn’t even know I had, making sense of history all while telling a compelling narrative.

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero (review)

Crux A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero

The best memoir I read in 2019, this is an intense story of a troubled family, in which the author peels back the layers of generational trauma in Mexico and the U.S. It is dark but brilliant.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari (review)

Lost Connections Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

Possibly the most important book I read in 2019, this is the story of a journalist examining the science of depression, and realizing it doesn’t tell us what drug companies would have us believe. It provides a look at the real causes and solutions that’s relevant to anyone who wants to live a good life.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman(review)

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

An incredible work of journalistic nonfiction, the author uses the life of one family with a severely ill daughter to illuminate the culture clash between Hmong refugees and their American neighbors, particularly regarding medical treatment. A great book for anyone interested in cross-cultural misunderstanding and medicine, or the culture and recent history of the Hmong.

In the Country by Mia Alvar (review)

In the Country by Mia Alvar

The best work of fiction I read in 2019, this is a fantastic short story collection, featuring Filipinos both at home and abroad. Great writing and great characters – this is one of those authors who can do in a short story what others require a novel to accomplish.

1491 by Charles C. Mann (review)

1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

The most eye-opening book I read in 2019, this is a real history of the Americas before Columbus, stripping away myth and stereotype. A detailed account that will likely be new to most readers.

Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks(review)

Among the Living and the Dead A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe by Inara Verzemnieks

The most poetic of my top books of 2019, this is a lovely multigenerational memoir of a family from Estonia – both those who fled as refugees, and those who stayed behind. It’s a thoughtful history of a place and its people as well as the author’s own journey of discovery.

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai (review)

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

The best novel I read in 2019, this short book presents the emotionally layered and nuanced tale of four adult siblings and their difficult relationships.

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe (review)

Soldier Girls The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War by Helen Thorpe

A fascinating journalistic account of three women in the U.S. National Guard serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s an honest, warts-and-all look at real life in the military from three very different perspectives, written by an incisive researcher and compelling storyteller.

Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla (review)

Ants Among Elephants An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla

A fascinating family memoir of an untouchable family in 20th century India, focusing on the author’s uncle, an activist, and mother, a struggling professor. A great look at real lives behind the stereotypes.

And some honorable mentions, because I read more excellent books this year than a top-10 list will allow:

Night at the Fiestas
Olive Kitteridge
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815

Happy reading to all in 2020!

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review 2019-08-28 03:46
Temptation (Bad Angels #2) - Inara Scott

This is book #2, in the Bad Angels series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  For read understanding and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this series in order.


Zoe loves her job.  She has come a long way but her life is now in a good place.  Until she crashes in front of Connor.  Somehow him taking care of her puts everything in a new light.


Connor has always wanted Zoe.  She has no idea how he wants her.  When he has the chance to be with her, he has no problem taking it.  It's the after he is afraid of.


I loved how these characters were together.  The sexy heat of them was just hot.  The pace of the book was good.  I enjoyed seeing them together and hoped for more.  This is an author who delivers.  The humor helped it to be fun.  I found myself eagerly turning the pages.  Overall it is a really good read.  I give this a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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review 2019-08-04 23:11
Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks
Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe - Inara Verzemnieks

This is a lovely multigenerational memoir. The author is the daughter and granddaughter of Latvian refugees who fled their home country at the end of WWII, and she returns to Latvia after her the death of the grandmother who raised her to learn more about the country and her family’s stories. Much of the book traces the lives of her grandmother – raised on a farm she would forever idealize, before going to school, moving to the city, and ultimately fleeing across war-torn Europe with her two young children, not knowing whether her conscripted husband was dead or alive – and her grandmother’s younger sister, who was trapped on the farm by the war, then deported to Siberia with her family, to finally return and pick up the pieces all over again. Separated for fifty years, the sisters both seemed to envy the other: Ausma envies the glamorous older sister who got away, while Livija, who finally lands in Tacoma, lives in the past, clinging to the Latvian community in exile and raising her granddaughter in its traditions.

It’s a lovely, thoughtful, atmospheric and emotionally rich memoir, and quite comprehensive for its length, with diversions into Latvian history recent and remote and even geological, but always centered on the family and the countryside they both love intensely and often want or need to escape. The artsiness of the writing style was a bit of a stumbling block for me in the beginning – this is definitely an MFA memoir – but by the end I felt the literary style helps distinguish the book. And I appreciated the author’s reckoning with complex topics, such as how those men, including her own grandfather, who were conscripted into the Latvian Legion – meaning they were fighting for the Nazis, but against the Soviets – should be judged. I felt throughout that the author was searching for truth and comfortable with nuance. And of course, I was especially thrilled to find a high-quality book about Latvia, a country rarely featured in literature. I recommend it.

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review 2019-02-26 14:11
ARC REVIEW Heartbreaker by Inara Scott

Heartbreaker Bad Angels #1, The real reason I picked this book... the dog. How could I say no to that face! I love mastiffs, I wish I could have one. New author for me and usually not much for a billionaire romance but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is a opposites attract/rags to riches romance which I enjoyed. Third person POV that switches focus from Mason to Tess so you get both sides of the story. 

Tess came from a rough environment with a flaky mother who was constantly on the lookout for a new boyfriend or a new high. After making some poor life decisions as a teenager Tess moved in with her grandmother and started to take care of her. Now at the age of 26 she's finally getting her life in order she got her GED and is taking online college courses while working three jobs.

Mason came from a loving home and succeeded at everything he did, except relationships. Good grades in high school, football star, went to Harvard and MIT and earned billions in investing in other people. His relationships on the other hand don't seem to last after the fourth date. Mason's sister, Alli, guilts him into taking care of her 200lbs mastiff, Wick, who just had surgery and is taking medication that's makes him pee, a lot. Unable to give the dog the constant supervision he needs Mason hires a dogsitter. Seeing how adept Tess is with other dogs he begs her to take this job and even offers an outrageous sum of money for her.

Mason is completely taken with Tess, he's never met anyone like her before. She's a hard worker, great with animals, she calls him out whenever he starts flirting, she doesn't want anything from him except to work and get paid, and underneath her ill fitting baggy clothes he knows she's beautiful inside and out. Mason understands that Tess is as afraid of relationships as he is and after they start their non-relationship he's constantly worried that she'll bolt. Tess' past has taught her not to rely on anyone and she's afraid to let her guard down with Mason because his track record with staying with a woman is practically nil she's afraid he'll leave.

Overall, it was an entertaining read. I loved seeing their relationship grow into something more despite all the avoidance in communication with each other when it came to the really important stuff. The chemistry was great, it was obvious from the moment they set their eyes on each other it was going to be hot. I liked the side characters as well, and establishing the friendship and how deep it goes between  Mason and the other Bad Angels and Tess and Cece. I look forward to the rest of the series.       


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text 2016-09-20 21:01
The Boss’s Fake Fiancée By Inara Scott 99 cents
The Boss’s Fake Fiancee - Inara Scott

He’s all about rules. She’s all about breaking them.


No relationships, that’s billionaire Garth Solen’s rule—especially not with a woman like his new employee Melissa Bencher, who thinks with her heart and not her head. But all bets are off when one impulsive act has people thinking they’re a couple.


To protect his ailing grandmother’s feelings, Garth is willing to play the part of Melissa’s adoring fiancé for a while. He’ll try on rings and pose for the paparazzi as long as the boundaries of the game are clearly defined.

One month as an engaged couple, and then they part ways.


No emotions.

No entanglements.

But Melissa’s never been good at following the rules when it comes to matters of the heart. And Garth soon finds himself breaking some of his own rules

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