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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the ...

July 16, 2022

Catching Up on the TBR Pile

by Donna Huber

My library system recently made it possible to request audiobooks from any library in the state. Several books that I've had in my review pile for some years that weren't available through the digital library I now can get from other libraries in the state. These are primarily ARCs I got from Netgalley which archived before I read them because I didn't have a good system in place to keep track of the books.  So if you are a big library user or just prefer to read backlist titles, today I have two you may want to check out.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

book cover of memoir Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn
August 2015; Penguin Books; 978-0143127697
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); memoir

I probably accepted this book for review because of the title. Back in 2015 when this book was published, I was just starting to read memoirs. This book kind of got pushed to the bottom of the pile. But in 2020, I listened to Flinn's The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (read my review) and really enjoyed it. So I've been trying to get this book to the top of the pile since.

If you have read The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, this book isn't anything like it. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is about Flinn's family. There are mentions of her grandparents, her uncles and her siblings, but the focus is really on her parents. They are famous or even that extraordinary, but they did live an interesting life during an interesting time.

There are still mentions of food. Her parents ran an Italian restaurant at one point and cooking played an important role in Flinn's life as she grew up. 

I enjoyed the historical tidbits about food - like when pizza became popular in the U.S. and chili in Michigan. I enjoyed her story about being a 9-year-old fixing herself steak and green beans based on recipes from a Julia Child cookbook. 

I could relate to many things in Flinn's life - living on a farm, moving to a new place, the need to belong. 

If you enjoy memoirs about ordinary people living pretty ordinary lives then this is a good memoir to pick up.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

book cover of romance novel Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
August 2012; Atria; 978-1476712048
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); romance

There was a period of time right after I graduated from college when I was still trying to figure out what I liked to read as an adult. I read a ton of Tom Clancy and then my co-workers got me hooked on the Harry Potter series so when they started reading the Twilight series, I jumped on that bandwagon. Somehow I discovered Twilight Fan Fiction. It was then that I first read Beautiful Disaster.

I remember it being really popular and several fanfic authors started to get published. I was curious about how they would translate into published novels as there are a lot of things that readers overlook or tolerate in a fanfic that wouldn't be in a published work. I read a few, but whether it was because I had already read the story or it didn't stand up to the expectation of a published work, I quickly grew tired of them. I wanted to see if time made the heart grow fonder so I dug Beautiful Disaster out of my TBR pile.

I remember very little of this book from my fanfic days. I knew the main female character was a college Freshman who went away to school to escape a troubled past and the main male character had some major anger issues and was sleeping his way through the co-ed population.

Beautiful Disaster is a New Adult romance - a genre and audience that I almost never read. So I struggled quite a bit with the book. I felt the characters were selfish and had too many double standards. I kept trying to remind myself that they were only 18 or 19 years old. But they were so immature, I really struggled. 

The story is more of a romantic fantasy - you know how you fantasize about dating the bad boy? That's kind of how this story read - a nice fantasy but not at all realistic. I prefer more realism in my novels, particularly when reading romance. 

The relationship between the two main characters is quite unhealthy. They both could use some therapy. At least Abby recognized the potential for physical violence against her while dating a guy with Travis's anger issues. But she didn't seem to recognize the emotional abuse that was occurring from practically the moment she met him. 

If you have a college-age child reading this, you may want to take the opportunity to use this book to have a frank discussion about various forms of domestic violence.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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