The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

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Flora BanksFrom GoodreadsSeventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

What if you couldn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes or hours at a time? What if you had no memories from the past seven years? What if, suddenly, one moment and everything about it sticks? Would you travel to the ends of the earth to chase the only memory you have?

For Flora, the written word, whether it’s on Post-its, in notebooks, or on her arms, is her lifeline to the world around her. With no ability to create new memories, she must rely on these notes to help her make sense of her life. It is her normal. But when she wakes up the morning after a party with the very visceral and real memory of kissing her best friends’ boyfriend the night before, an entirely new set of possibilities opens up for Flora. Could Drake be the cure for Flora’s mind? Can love really heal?

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Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

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AllegedlyFrom Goodreads: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Mary has spent the past six years serving time for a crime she never actually admitted to. Time spent mostly in isolation in adult prison– as a nine-year old– for a crime to severe for juvie, but a child far too young to serve with adults. Released to a group home when she is 15, Mary must live as a ward of the state until her 18th birthday. Just before she turns 16, she realizes she is pregnant. But the state will never let a “baby-killer” keep a baby. In order to protect her growing child and the family she dreams of, Mary will finally have to tell the truth of what happened that night– the night Baby Alyssa died. It’s a secret she’s been keeping for years.

I read this book in less than a day. I started it on a break at work, then picked it back up when I got home. And never put it back down. I had to know the truth of what happened. Who really killed Baby Alyssa and how. And why. I couldn’t stop until I had all the answers.

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On Bookstores

I’ve hesitated in writing this post because I know it’s going to come across as harsh, and that’s not what I’m striving for. But the more I think about the reason for this post, the more I feel the need to get this off my chest.


Over the holidays and even as recently as last week, I’ve had numerous customers browsing through my bookstore, checking out all the books on our displays, then standing there, IN MY STORE, purchasing them from a big name online retailer on their phone. I’ve seen other bloggers say they’ve done the same thing. There’s even a post on our store’s Facebook page encouraging customers to sit in our cafe and use our free wifi to order the books they want online. As a full-time bookseller for the past 9 years, all I can say is…

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*Grabs my soap box and my megaphone*

I get it. Things are cheaper online than in the store most of the time. With the miracle of modern shipping from that major online retailer, it can be at your door in about 2 days.

I’m not going to fault anyone for wanting to save money. I’m broke. I. Get. It. Every dollar I save is more groceries I can buy. But to essentially spit DIRECTLY in the face of brick and mortar stores? Nope. I won’t have that. Cause that leads to me buying no groceries at all.

But there’s a question within this that I get all the time. Why are online retailers so much cheaper than brick and mortar stores? Let me break it down.

Online retailers buy wholesale from publishers, meaning they can charge less for each item because they’ve gotten a discount as a whole. Then those books sit on massive shelves in giant warehouses until you click that little Add to Cart button. Then it gets put in a box, stacked on a pallet, and sent out with the shipping company. A couple days later, it ends up on your doorstep.

Major bookstores, like the one I work for, also buy wholesale from publishers. They also sit on massive shelves in giant warehouses. They also get put into boxes with lots of other books. They get stacked on pallets and sent out with the shipping company just like your book did. Except instead of ending up on your doorstep, they end up in my store’s back room. And unlike your box of books, that’s not where their journey ends.

They then have to be unpacked, sorted, placed on carts, and shelved in their proper locations. Newer, more popular books are moved to displays for you to come in and peruse and hopefully take home with you. In the unfortunate event that a book doesn’t get purchased after a certain amount of time, it is pulled from the shelf, sorted into yet another box, and sent back to the warehouse, where it takes its place back on its original shelf again. It’s a lot of work. A single book may have been touched by more than a dozen different people in its lifespan from the warehouse to my store and back again. And my store is just one of hundreds across the country that go through the same process every. single. day.

Those books don’t sort and shelve themselves either. They don’t set themselves up on displays. We don’t have little elves that make everything look pretty while we sit around and read books all day. We have a staff of nearly 40 people who set up and break down those displays each and every week. We spend hours every morning putting out the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of new books we got the day before. We organize and pull books from sections to make room for the constant stream of new titles. We bust our asses so you can come in and find the book you’ve been dying to read, as well as the one you would have never picked up until you saw it on the shelf.

But all of that stuff doesn’t really matter. Robots could do that. What we have in store is our expansive knowledge and passion for books. Try typing “Blue book I saw on Dr. Oz” into Amazon and see what happens. Oh that’s right. Nothing. Ask me that and I’ll likely exclaim, “Oh yeah that one! It’s right over here!” as I walk you to the display and put it in your hand. Most days I’m part Sherlock, part Vanna White. Ask me what book to give at a baby shower. Ask me what you should buy for your 8 year old who hates to read. Ask me for a recommendation of a really good YA book. Cause I’m all over that. And if I don’t know the perfect book to hand you, chances are there’s someone in my store that does.

We’re an eclectic bunch. From the girl studying history in college who’s read the Hamilton biography twice for fun, to the girl who is so passionate about manga that she’ll tell you to your face that your favorite series is crap and you should read this other one instead. Or the manager who can talk to you for hours about business books, then walk with you to help pick out the right Bible. The ladies who will give you the next great thriller to read or the guy who will recommend at least 6 different urban fantasy and romance series as well as a book on computer coding. We know our stuff. And just try fangirling about Harry Potter at a Holiday Ball with Amazon. Oh wait! That’s right! They didn’t host one.

And there’s that whole physical building with lights and water and heat/AC thing too. Let’s not forget that. That’s not cheap. Oh yeah. And wifi.

So I get it. Retail prices are a bit more expensive. Because it has to be. There’s a whole hell of a lot more that you’re paying for in a physical store. Like me and my brain. And trust me. I’m %&*^ing worth it. 

Moral of the story– If you’ve ever walked into a bookstore and felt like you were in heaven, do yourself a favor. Buy a damn book there. Support your brick and mortar store, whether it’s a major chain or a local independent shop. Because if you take someone else’s advice and use us as merely a wifi hotspot to do your online shopping, we’re not going to be there anymore.

Every Exquisite Thing

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From Goodreads: Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper– a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic– and the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.

This is honestly the hardest book I’ve ever tried to review. I read this book months ago. This review has been sitting in my drafts forever. I’ve written and deleted paragraph after paragraph, not quite coming up with the words I really want to use. I’m not sure why. The more I think about it, the more conflicted I am with what I want to say. I liked this book. Or at least parts of it. I remember thinking as I read and as I finished that there was so much within this book that was relatable and important. But attempting to write about the book has been a lot harder than I thought.

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As I read through, I found myself saying, “Wow! This is an amazing quote! This is such an important theme!” But when it came time to write about it… Nothing.

But I keep coming back to this review, still trying to write something about it, because I still feel like there are words in there somewhere.

(*Note– By the end, I found a lot of words. For having nothing to say, this is probably the longest review I’ve written. Be warned.

Also, there are some minor spoilers, but no major plot line reveals. So it’s semi-spoiler free?)

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2017 Reading Goals

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Every year I set a reading goal for myself. And for the past couple years, I’ve failed. Miserably. I started out with a reading goal of 50 books a year. I figured I could definitely knock out a book a week. And for several years I did. Easily. So I upped my goal to 60 books a year. I was pretty close to it anyway, so I thought, what’s a few more squeezed in? That year I didn’t even come close to 50, let alone 60. I barely broke 20. It was pathetic. The next year was the same.

But I wasn’t going to let that happen in 2016. I was going to hit my goal. I was going to use this space to help me achieve that. I have a blog specifically for reviewing books for goodness’ sake! This should be a no-brainer! And then I failed. Again. I barely broke 30. I slacked on my blogging. I slacked on my reading. I slacked on life, to be perfectly honest.

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So 2017 will be different. (Hopefully..) I’m going to continue tracking myself on Goodreads, setting my goal there back down to 50 books again. But I’m going to add to my goal. It won’t just be about the number of books I read. I want to challenge myself to read outside my usual YA comfort zone. I say this every year, and every year I fail. But now I have you to hold me accountable. Someone (maybe?) is listening this time.

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2016 Wrap Up

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Well… I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in 2016.

I set myself a goal of 60 books to read this year. I ended up with… 33.

Ouch.

I’m staring at my list, thinking to myself, “That’s it? That’s all I read? That’s not much…” At least compared to previous years.

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So where did I go so horribly wrong with my reading? Well, I definitely struggled with the beginning and the end of the year. It took me until March to read ONE book, and I haven’t finished a book since October. (Although I’ve been making a lot of progress with my current read these last couple days! You know.. The one I’ve been reading since November..) The holidays seem to be kicking my ass the past few years, making it impossible to have time to read, and then it takes me forever to recover. I’m going to try a LOT harder next year. No more ZERO book months!

As I scroll down the list, I realize there are a lot of mediocre books on it. There are plenty of stories that were good, but not great, but there are some that I don’t even remember what they’re about anymore. And some I plain wish I could forget.

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The Female of the Species

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From GoodreadsAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

Rarely is there a book that I’ve read lately that I’ve finished and wanted to scream “READ THIS!!!!!” at everyone I see. One that I want to carry with me at work at all times so I can hand it to every single person who asks for a recommendation. Rarely has there been a book that I’ve thought so hard about and has stayed with me for so long after I finished it. And one that is so incredibly timely in light of recent events. But here it is. Seriously. READ THIS.

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