Hot Eats and Cool Reads: A Review of 19 Books Sheena Read in 2017!

Jan 28, 2018

A Review of 19 Books Sheena Read in 2017!

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You can find fiction, non-fiction and some about the Holocaust, the South, mental illness, family secrets and more! Amazing authors like Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain and Judy Blume!





Whew. It's been SOOOO long since I've posted anything bookish here on the blog.

How can the blog be named Hot Eats and Cool Reads if there's never any cool reads?

I'm going to fix that today by sharing all the books I read in 2017!

I'm a Goodreads fanatic! I love to keep track of all my to-read and read books there, join challenges and find new books!

I've had my Goodreads profile since 2009 and am up to 449 book ratings there! If you want to follow my bookish journey there, click here!

Let's get started! Last year I read 19 books!

1. If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

Sadie Blue has been a wife for fifteen days. That's long enough to know she should have never hitched herself to Roy Tupkin, even with the baby.

Sadie is desperate to make her own mark on the world, but in remote Appalachia, a ticket out of town is hard to come by, and hope often gets stomped out.  When a stranger sweeps into Baines Creek and knocks things off kilter, Sadie finds herself with an unexpected lifeline...if she can just figure out how to use it.

This intimate insight into a fiercely proud, tenacious community unfolds through the voices of the forgotten folks of Baines Creek. With a colorful cast of characters that each contribute a new perspective, IF THE CREEK DON'T RISE is a debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

I rated this a rare 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

2. Hanging Onto Sanity As State Hospital Staff by Rod Brixius

Hanging Onto Sanity As State Hospital Staff by Rod Brixius

Conditions inside state hospitals did not change to any appreciable degree during the 100 years before 1959. That is the year the writer was introduced to the state system. During the next 45 years all institutionalized mentally challenged and most mentally ill individuals were discharged from state institutions.

This easy-reading book will give the reader some perception about how the staff, who cared for patients and carried out daily tasks, dealt with conflicting administrative and state directives that often were impossible to carry out.

HANGING ONTO SANITY AS STATE HOSPITAL STAFF gives an insider's view of individual incidents that took place inside Minnesota state hospitals during the forty-three years the author was employed in various positions within the organization. Some are comical and others are deplorable and graphic. How can an entire department justify manipulation 'therapy' to get even with another department?

I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

3. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty - rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar - pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away.

The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback.

Stolen is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare - or die trying to fight it.

I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

4. Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

5. Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) by Octavia E. Butler

In 2032, five years after losing her family and setting out on a quest to find peace in a chaotic land, Lauren Oya Olamina has gathered more than 60 people in the self-sufficient community called Acorn. Olamina, an African-American hyper-empath (a person who can feel others' pain so intensely it is often incapacitating), is the creator and prophet for the new religion called Earthseed. "God is Change" is Earthseed's basic belief; the religion teaches personal harmony and the hope of one day reaching the stars.

After years of separation, Olamina discovers that her teenage brother, Marcus, has also survived; she immediately welcomes him to Acorn. As an unseasoned Christian preacher, Marcus is suspicious of the cultlike aspects of Earthseed and grows more and more distant from its ideals. Now that Olamina is newly pregnant, Bankole, Olamina's much older physician husband, wishes to find a more established township in which to practice medicine and protect his family.

However, soon a fundamentalist Christian named Jarret is elected president of the United States, and his insistence on burning non-Christian churches and murdering those of other faiths becomes very popular. Acorn is attacked, the women raped, the men killed, and all survivors are enslaved. But Olamina eventually escapes and sets out to recover her friends and family and rebuild Earthseed.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

6. From Somalia to Snow: How Central Minnesota Became Home to Somalis by Hudda Ibrahim

From Somalia to Snow: How Central Minnesota Became Home to Somalis by Hudda Ibrahim

From Somalia to Snow: How Central Minnesota Became Home to Somalis gives readers an invaluable insider's look into the lives and culture of our Somali neighbors and the important challenges they face. Designed with a diverse audience in mind, this book is a must-read for students, health-care professionals, business owners, social service agencies, and anyone who wants to better understand the Somali people.

In providing a great understanding of Somali culture, tradition, religion, and issues of integration and assimilation, this book also focuses on why thousands of Somali refugees came to live in this cold, snowy area with people of predominantly European descent.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

7. Trouble Don't Last by Shelley Pearsall

Trouble Don't Last by Shelley Pearsall

Eleven-year-old Samuel was born as Master Hackler's slave, and working the Kentucky farm is the only life he's ever known--until one dark night in 1859, that is. With no warning, cranky old Harrison, a fellow slave, pulls Samuel from his bed and, together, they run.

The journey north seems much more frightening than Master Hackler ever was, and Samuel's not sure what freedom means aside from running, hiding, and starving.

But as they move from one refuge to the next on the Underground Railroad, Samuel uncovers the secret of his own past--and future. And old Harrison begins to see past a whole lifetime of hurt to the promise of a new life and a poignant reunion in Canada.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

8. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese.

But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush.

Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

9. The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The American South in the twenty-first century. A plantation owned for generations by a rich family. So much history. And a dead body.

Just after dawn, Caren walks the grounds of Belle Vie, the historic plantation house in Louisiana that she has managed for four years. Today she sees nothing unusual, apart from some ground that has been dug up by the fence bordering the sugar cane fields. Assuming an animal has been out after dark, she asks the gardener to tidy it up. Not long afterwards, he calls her to say it's something else. Something terrible. A dead body. At a distance, she missed her. The girl, the dirt and the blood. Now she has police on site, an investigation in progress, and a member of staff no one can track down. And Caren keeps uncovering things she will wish she didn't know. As she's drawn into the dead girl's story, she makes shattering discoveries about the future of Belle Vie, the secrets of its past, and sees, more clearly than ever, that Belle Vie, its beauty, is not to be trusted.

I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

10. My Lobotomy by Howard Dully


My Lobotomy by Howard Dully

At twelve, Howard Dully was guilty of the same crimes as other boys his age: he was moody and messy, rambunctious with his brothers, contrary just to prove a point, and perpetually at odds with his parents. Yet somehow, this normal boy became one of the youngest people on whom Dr. Walter Freeman performed his barbaric transorbital—or ice pick—lobotomy.

Abandoned by his family within a year of the surgery, Howard spent his teen years in mental institutions, his twenties in jail, and his thirties in a bottle. It wasn’t until he was in his forties that Howard began to pull his life together. But even as he began to live the “normal” life he had been denied, Howard struggled with one question: Why?

I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

11. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall


Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

12. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Judy Blume takes us back to the 1950s and introduces us to the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she herself grew up.

Here she imagines and weaves together a vivid portrait of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed during one winter. At the center of an extraordinary cast of characters are fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman and her spirited single mother, Rusty. Their warm and resonant stories are set against the backdrop of a real-life tragedy that struck the town when a series of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving the community reeling.

Gripping, authentic, and unforgettable, In the Unlikely Event has all the hallmarks of this renowned author’s deft narrative magic.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

13. Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain

Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain

Laura Brandon's promise to her dying father was simple: to visit an elderly woman she'd never heard of before. A woman who remembers nothing—except the distant past. Visiting Sarah Tolley seemed a small enough sacrifice to make.

But Laura's promise results in another death. Her husband's. And after their five-year-old daughter, Emma, witnesses her father's suicide, Emma refuses to talk about it…to talk at all.

Frantic and guilt ridden, Laura contacts the only person who may be able to help. A man she's met only once—six years before.

Guided only by a child's silence and an old woman's fading memories, the two unravel a tale of love and despair, of bravery and unspeakable evil. A tale that's shrouded in silence…and that unbelievably links them all.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

14. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

For over a decade, Jenna Metcalf obsesses on her vanished mom Alice. Jenna searches online, rereads journals of the scientist who studied grief among elephants.

Two unlikely allies are Serenity Jones, psychic for missing people who doubts her gift, and Virgil Stanhope, jaded PI who originally investigated cases of Alice and her colleague. Hard questions and answers.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

15. Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf

Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf

A gripping tale of one girl’s struggle against the Nazis.

“Remember who you are, Milada.” Milada’s grandmother says these words on the night the Nazi soldiers come to their home in Czechoslovakia. But what do they mean? She is Milada, who lives with her mama and papa, her brother and sister, and her beloved Babichka. Milada with the sun-kissed hair, eleven years old, fastest runner in her school. How could she ever forget?

Then the Nazis send Milada to a Lebensborn center in Poland, and Milada quickly discovers that holding on to her true identity will be the greatest struggle of her young life.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

16. Southern Strife: A novel of Racial Tension in the 1960's by Valerie Stocking


The pain and rage of clashing cultural landscapes explode in this provocative and sobering look of America's south during the mid-1960's. Twelve-year-old Joy Bradford moves with her mother Jessica from their white Connecticut suburb to the racially divided town of Willets Point, Florida. Her friendship with Clay, a mixed-race boy and also a newcomer in town, sends shockwaves through her family and the community, increasing the growing racial tension that already exists.

Clay's well-educated, African-American father Clytus attempts to open a clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This prompts Jessica's new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in driving the family out of town. This forceful demand sets off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

17. Starter House by Sonja Condit


Starter House by Sonja Condit

Lacey Miszlak grew up homeless; her crazy mother dragged her from one terrible living situation to the next. But now she thinks the pieces of her life have finally come together. She's pregnant with her first child, and she and her husband Eric have moved into the home of their dreams. She knows soon its beautiful sunlit rooms will be filled with the joy of the new family she will build there.

But there's a strange darkness on the stairway and an odd little boy who won't leave Lacey alone, and soon she's forced to realize that a danger she never suspected is lurking in the hallways of her beautiful new home. She's going to have to solve a decades-old mystery to save her family from an evil that has lingered in wait for them for years.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

18. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!

19. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks


World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. "World War Z" is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, "By excluding the human factor, aren't we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn't the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as 'the living dead'?"

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Find it on Amazon by clicking here!


I hope you enjoy all of these books as much as I did! 💜💜💜

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