Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men by Alexandra Robbins

Alexandra Robbins is one of my favorite non-fiction authors and journalists, so I was so excited to read her next book and get an inside look at what fraternities are really like. Throughout the book, we get to follow Jake, who is a “freshman searching for brotherhood,” and not your typical frat boy. He was an overachiever in high school whose idea of a good time on a Friday night was going to the movies and not really into drinking. He really only decides to rush because his dad was in a fraternity. Over the course of the year, we see him go through the highs and lows of rushing, pledging, hazing, wanting to give up, and the mindset that he has throughout all this. We also get to follow Oliver, who is a chapter president who has to deal with trying to keep his fraternity afloat after facing so many citations by police officers. Robbins chose these two because “they represent students missing from the media and contemporary literature: smart, goodhearted, self-aware, earnest fraternity members whom readers would root for.”

Despite it being non-fiction, she writes in such a narrative way that keeps you hooked and wondering what will happen next. Along with that, each chapter has insightful academic discussions addressing all the stereotypes about fraternities. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything and lays out all the facts, from the toxic nature of some fraternities to why fraternities are so successful even today, and why they are such a distinctly American concept. But one of my favorite parts was the fascinating social history of how fraternities began in America, then dwindled, then rose again (in large part to the picture of college life portrayed in the movie Animal House, and then to alcohol companies’ advertisements). And when the drinking age was increased to 21, that didn’t help matters any because now instead of students drinking at bars, they moved to private places like fraternity houses, who now controlled the scene, and by the 1990s, 86% of fraternity brothers became binge drinkers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about besides simply the stereotypes that you read about in the news. Don’t get me wrong, there are still so many racist fraternity chapters out there, but there are some good inclusionary ones too, and she highlights them both. And I am already looking forward to what Alexandra Robbins writes next!

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

“When money and morality intersect, the results can illuminate intriguing truths about human character.”

An Anonymous Girl is the much anticipated second novel by writing duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. It’s about a girl who signs up for a psychology study on ethics, and having studied psychology in undergrad and worked in a psychology research lab, the premise immediately intrigued me. But the setup was slow and the book quickly lost my interest and never really gained it back, for the most part.

While the study the main character Jessica, a make-up artist working for Beauty Buzz in New York, participates in starts as just answering questions on a computer, it slowly morphs into something more: she is later asked to do research in the “field”, involving people that have no clue that they are supposed to be part of a “study”. But Jessica obliges because she and her family are strapped for money and the psychiatrist running the study, Dr. Shields, is more than happy to provide.

It sounds like it could be a fascinating premise, but honestly, it just felt like your typical domestic thriller to me. If The Wife Between Us was about a husband who didn’t want to let go of his wife, then this book was about (view spoiler). There really were no surprises, and if the authors thought they were revealing something new to the readers, they really weren’t. It’s very obvious from the very beginning who the villain is and the book quickly becomes very repetitive.

The writers do mention a few psychology studies such as the invisible gorilla study and the prisoner’s dilemma, but most of those were just done in such a bland way I just couldn’t bring myself to care. (Although if I had to pick one, the prisoner’s dilemma was my favorite.)

But they do make you question, how far would you go to protect the ones you love? And how many lines would you be willing to cross for money?

All in all, this book was kind of a letdown, but maybe if you haven’t read as many thrillers or don’t have a strong background in psychology, you may have a different take on the book.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8, Volume 1)

This starts after the destruction of the Hellmouth, and the Slayers are organized. Buffy has relocated to Scotland.

Dawn is a giant.
Xander is Buffy’s lead military expert and Watcher and has a patch over one eye (so people say he’s like Nick Fury now).
Willow has been traveling and working on her magic, but she returns to help her friends.
Slayers: there are 1800 now, and 500 of them are working with Buffy in 10 squads.

Twilight is the new villain that targets Slayers.

Faith is off handling a different job.
Giles recruits Faith in England.

➽ “The Long Way Home” Part One
Read this a long time ago and didn’t take notes on this one. But note that the rest of my review will contain spoilers for each issue as I’m recapping them so I can remember what happened as I read the series.

➽ “The Long Way Home” Part Two
Buffy is kissing Xander, then his head falls off and she falls out a window… only to be caught by some green monster, and next thing you know another blond girl has a knife to Buffy’s throat (it’s Amy, but it’s really hard to distinguish between her and Buffy). Buffy’s pants have all of a sudden disappeared, I suppose because men and their lustiness are what write comics.

Also, apparently some government wants Buffy dead and is okay with blowing her up.

➽ “The Long Way Home” Part Three
This starts off with Buffy in a dream world, and on the second page of this you get to see Buffy dreaming of herself in bed with Spike and Angel. Buffy is woken up by true love’s kiss, but of course we don’t get to see who kissed her. Willow returns after being gone for a year. She won’t say where she’s been, but she does say she’s still with Kennedy and they’re taking things slow (oh, and Kennedy died for a month). Then Willow falls into a trap, and it turns out Amy is working with Warren.

➽ “The Long Way Home” Part Four
In which Warren is still apparently alive because of course he is, and in comics you can apparently jump the shark all the time and nothing matters. Apparently, Amy saved him. And besides that, I had no clue what was going on in this one at all. I had to continually refer back to the wikipedia page. Also, there are so many blond characters I sometimes can’t even tell which one is Buffy so the drawings must not be that good either. Super confusing and honestly it just gave me a headache.

➽ “The Chain” 
Buffy isn’t in this story at all, and it’s another one where I would have had no clue what’s going on had I not read the wikipedia page beforehand. It shows how slayers are chosen and revolves around someone who is chosen to be a decoy for Buffy and go underground to try and defeat the demon Yamanh.

Overall, I agree with what another reviewer said about this collection: “But the big problem is Whedon’s usually brilliant balance between plot and character-development seems off. I think his excitement over using the ‘unlimited budget’ of the comic book medium (allowing him to stage huge set-pieces he never could on TV) causes the relationships to take a back seat. The story with the most emotional resonance is the fifth one, which features none of the main characters.

Also, the thing that made the Buffy series great was the friction between the demands of real-life and the demands of super-hero duty. Here, the characters simply ARE super-heroes, and there’s only a bit of real-life stuff happening on the side to relate to. “(https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…)

Also, apparently they clarify some stuff that was said about Buffy in Angel season 5, but I have no clue what that could be. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

Overall, I just couldn’t relate to any of the characters, and found myself forcing to read this.Whereas I looked forward to reading one issue from the Archie comic every night, this was a chore to read and half the time I had absolutely no clue what was going on.

The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen

“I was Nemesis, the goddess of retribution. Angelo had always called me a deity, and tonight, I was going to justify my pet name by showing up as the most powerful goddess of them all.”

This book was magical and perfect and has given me such a book hangover that it won’t surprise me if I don’t read another book until The Wicked King comes out next week! But this book is like a historical romance set in modern day Chicago where the Italian Mafia is at play.

The story begins at a Gods and Goddesses gala at the Art Institute, and Francesca, age 19 and only child of and heir to Arthur Ross (head of the Mafia) comes dressed as Nemesis. This gala is to start off a series of social events where Francesca is going to meet Italian American men and choose one of them to be her husband. But she already knows who she wants to marry, her childhood friend Angelo Bandini.

“Over the years… [Angelo] became more mysterious and less impulsive, spoke less often, but when he did, his words liquefied my insides.”

But she is one of the most eligible bachelorettes in Chicago and so many people have bid to dance with her, including one mysterious stranger who was condescending to her at dinner. During the dance, they banter some more, and she shares some information with him that will change the course of the night for her.

“Nemesis.” He took me by surprise, his rapacious gaze stripping me bare. “Distributing glee and dealing misery.”

And that is where the fun begins. But I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to spoil anything about the story, but this is by far one of my favorite contemporary romances that I have read, and possibly my favorite book by LJ Shen that I have read! (And I have read everything by her!) I can honestly say that she only gets better and better with each book. So if you’re into romance at all, I highly recommending picking up this book!

“Your love story was no fairy tale. More like a witch tale. Wicked and real and painful.”

Thank you to the author and her PR team for providing me with an advanced copy of the book to review in exchange for an honest review!
(Amazon link for the book is here. Currently, only the audiobook is available for pre-order, but check back on Jan. 9 when the book will be released!)

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River is a cozy winter story set at an ancient inn in England where people love to come in and tell stories. One night, a man walks in with a little girl in his arms, claiming she drowned in the river. But a few hours later, she starts to stir. So what happened? Read the story and be mesmerized by Diane Setterfield’s beautiful writing.

One thing to know going in is that there is a whole cast of characters, each with their own story. I’ll mention a few details about each so it’s easier to reference while reading because I knew there were a few times I forgot who was who!

➽ Margot Ockwell is the landlady of the Swan, the inn where this story takes place. Her married name is Margot Bliss and she is in her late 50s.
➽ Joe Bliss is Margot’s husband and a great storyteller, which keeps customers coming back to the inn. He and Margot had 12 daughters and one son.
➽ Jonathan is the 13th child of Margot and Joe, and is currently 15 years old.
➽ Owen Albright , who had followed the river to the sea half a century ago and returned two decades later a wealthy man. He was arhtritic now. Married to Bertha.
➽ Rita is a nurse/midwife who was raised at a convent?
➽ Henry Daunt is the man that brought her in.

This was the first book I’ve read by Diane Setterfield, but it won’t be my last because I quickly learned that she can weave words like magic. And although I typically don’t like slow books, her writing pulled me in from the beginning and now I can’t wait to read more by her.

An Egyptian Adventure by Frances Durkin and Illustrated by Grace Cooke

This graphic novel starts with an introduction to the characters, a short timeline of Egyptian history, as well as a little map.

➽ Luna, likes history, adventures, and story-telling
➽ Nani: likes science, math, and nature
➽ Newton: likes making things, eating, reading, and cooking
➽ Hero: Luna’s cat

These four make up the Histronauts, and they are taking a trip to a museum about ancient Egypt. When they get there, they are transported into ancient Egypt where they can learn more about it firsthand. They learn how the ancient Egyptians have made paper from papyrus for several millenia, and a neat little activity is included at the bottom of the page to show how you can make your own!

And so on it goes: they get to see firsthand how hard farmers have to work to harvest food, learn about burial rites and the afterlife, the Egyptian calendar, and so many other activities that make up daily life in ancient Egypt. The graphic novel is interspersed with fun do-it-yourself activities, games, puzzles, and more.

The pictures were beautiful and detailed and included diversity in the characters. The book ends with a short quiz, and I loved how educational it was while still being a fun read. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with kids. It’s a great, fun way to learn. I even learned so much that I didn’t know and had fun while doing it.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Yesterday I posted about one of my favorite romance authors, but Colleen Hoover is the author that started my love affair with the genre. Before her, I always thought romance books just weren’t for me, to put it lightly. But so many people on bookstagram talked about her that I had to give one of her books a try, and I’m so glad I did! She has a way of evoking every emotion and writes beautifully. I quickly read every single thing she’s written, and now she is an auto-buy author for me!

So today, I wanted to share information about her latest release, a romantic thriller.

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“Sublimely creepy with a true Hoover pulse. I’ve been waiting on a thriller like this for years.” Tarryn Fisher, New York Times bestselling author

Verity, an all-new romantic thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, is available now!

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Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity likely didn’t intend for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

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Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KYpR8y

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/Verity

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2zksQUq

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About Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times and International bestselling author of thirteen novels and multiple novellas. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. She is the founder of The Bookworm Box, a non-profit book subscription service and bookstore in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

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Connect with Colleen

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https://www.colleenhoover.com