2019: Week 20 Reading Roundup

Sunday.May.12 – Saturday.May.18

AKA: The week I saw a coyote roaming my neighborhood which pretty much took 10 years off my life because why is it so far away from the mountains???

FINISHED READING: 3

Truly Devious (#1) by Maureen Johnson

โ€‹I so enjoyed this book! The mystery is well-plotted and interesting. A true crime obsessed teenage girl is accepted to a prestigious academy with an old, unsolved murder mystery. The cliffhanger though!!! [4*]

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

โ€‹Not for me. The basic message is your thoughts control the universe and the universe will give you whatever you want (no work/effort on your part necessary) *major eye roll* [2*

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (read by Josephine Bailey)

โ€‹I listened to the audiobook and was thoroughly impressed by the narration. Each character had their own distinct voice. The story itself is dramatic. Think fairytale, evil stepmother and rebellious stepsister and all. BTW there is no ending! Gaskell passed away before the novel was completed ๐Ÿ˜ฅ [4.25*]

CURRENTLY READING: 2

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

My current audiobook. Loving the narration and the story! About 32% through the book.

Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck has quickly become one of my favorite authors. There’s just something about his writing that really gets to me. It’s simple but deep. Currently about 68% through this novel.

UPCOMING READ: 

Um, idk… probably the ARC below…?

BOOK HAUL: 1

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

โ€‹I won an ARC of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway!! I’m really lucky when it comes to winning books haha

PUBLISHED POST(S): 1

My review of The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning can be found HERE

IN OTHER NEWS:

Ahhhhhh!! There is a Nancy Drew television adaptation coming this fall!! OMG!! I am equal parts excited and nervous!! 

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! ๐Ÿ˜€

2019: Week 19 Reading Roundup

Sunday.May.5 – Saturday.May.11

AKA: the week of shiny new ARC’s + HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!! โค

FINISHED READING: 3

Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe #2) by Raymond Chandler

โ€‹A good mystery but Philip Marlowe’s characterization felt off for some reason. Plus, the ending was neatly tied up. [3.5*]

Trump and Me by Mark Singer 

โ€‹A short and funny book about one journalist’s experience with whatshisface [3*]

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

โ€‹SO DAMN GOOD!!! It was unexpectedly funny. Very insightful. Perfection. My favorite parts were the blog posts (they were real thinkers!) [4.5*]

CURRENTLY READING: 2

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

My current audiobook. Really enjoying it. About 42% through.

Truly Devious (#1) by Maureen Johnson

I’ve been wanting to read this YA mystery for a while now. Barely started it so I don’t really know how I feel about it yet.

UPCOMING READ:

Idk!

BOOK HAUL: 2

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Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

An ARC I won through a Goodreads giveaway! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren 

An ARC I received from BookishFirst! I actually used my points to claim a copy of this book ๐Ÿ˜€

PUBLISHED POST(S): 1

My review of How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox can be found HERE

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE!! ๐Ÿ˜€

2019: Week 18 Reading Roundup

 Sunday.April.28 – Saturday.May.4

AKA: Another good reading week!


FINISHED READING
: 5

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

โ€‹Love Morgan Matson!!! Her books are just so feel-good reads. In this story, we have Charlie, the youngest of 5 trying to get her older sister’s wedding back on track after disaster after disaster threaten to ruin the day. Family dysfunction and family love take center stage in this book. It’s unbelievably hectic, and wild and I enjoyed every second of it (even if Charlie did annoy me sometimes). [4*]

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (read by Jim Dale)

โ€‹A beautiful and magical tale. One of my absolute favorites. Loved the audiobook! [5*]

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

โ€‹A coming-of-age story told through various short stories/vignettes. It’s a beautifully written, quick read. Esperanza (the MC) reminded me of a young me. [4*]

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

โ€‹OMG!! This book is so damn HILARIOUS!! The stories are ridiculous, and Lawson’s recounting is the best thing ever. I really enjoyed everything she had to say about mental illness. Recommend the audiobook!! [5*]

The Wrong Mother (Spilling CID #3) by Sophie Hannah

โ€‹Do not read this as a standalone! You’ll just be as confused as I was. I had no idea it was part of a series. So while I was trying to solve the main mystery, I was also trying to figure out what was going on between all these detectives. The mystery itself is actually really well done. I was a little shocked by the denouement (in a good way). [3.5*]

CURRENTLY READING: 2

Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe #2) by Raymond Chandler

My goal is to read the whole Philip Marlowe series. I’m about a quarter of the way through this read and while I am enjoying it, it feels a bit… different from The Big Sleep

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Okay, I barely started this book last night so I’m not that far into it yet. But first impression: the MC runs a blog!!! #relatable haha

UPCOMING READ: 1

Audiobook! Which one? Idk. Nothing is really calling to me right now…


IN OTHER NEWS:
 

Today is Cinco de Mayo. So if you want to go and get drunk? Go ahead! Just don’t use this “holiday” as an excuse (especially if it has absolutely nothing to do with your culture i.e. non-Mexican). Seriously. Don’t wear fake mustaches. Don’t wear a sombrero. It’s just plain wrong. Stop appropriating a historical event that has nothing to do with you. For the record, I’m Latina, not Mexican. So I will not be celebrating the Battle of Puebla. Because again, I am not Mexican. And if you’re not either, then you know what NOT to do. 

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! ๐Ÿ˜€

2019: Week 16 Reading Roundup

Sunday.April.14 – Saturday.April.20

AKA: An incredible reading week!

FINISHED READING: 4

Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons) by Gabriel Garcรญa Mรกrquez

โ€‹A relatively short tale about a 12-year-old girl bitten by a rabid dog. Although she shows no symptoms, she is sent away to a convent where she undergoes various exorcisms to “cure” her of the sickness. The language was a bit difficult for me but I did like the story (for the most part). A 36-year-old man falls in love with the little girl. Yeah. A whole lot of nope at the last 20% of the book. [3*]

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (#1) by Douglas Adams

โ€‹Ha! This book is weird but amazing. I can’t even summarize the plot. It’s too indescribable. There’s a mystery involving 2 ghosts, the fate of humanity, and a whole lot of science fiction. Funny and odd, just like the adaptation. [4*]


The Orange Girl
by Jostein Gaarder

โ€‹My goodness, this book! A 15-year-old boy reads a long-lost letter his father wrote to him shortly before he died 11 years prior. In it, the father spins a fairytale-like story about meeting the orange girl (the boy’s mother). This book is so therapeutic, that I was sobbing by the end. Because it’s not only about love, but about our very existence in the world. [4*]

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

โ€‹The life-story of our foreign-born U.S. Founding Father. I absolutely loved this book!! Because it just goes to show how incredibly hard immigrants have to work to prove themselves just as capable as their colleagues. Hamilton didn’t take anything for granted, using every opportunity he earned, and relentlessly striving to preserve the sanctity of his adopted country’s constitution. He not only fought for the states and created our financial system, but actually shaped our beloved country. One of the best biographies I’ve encountered as it covers all aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s life (i.e. The good, the bad, and the controversies) and the American Revolution. Recommend the audiobook narrated by Scott Brick [5*

CURRENTLY READING: 1

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty 

My 30-Day buddy read. About 76% of the way through. The story is okay. Simply okay. Some things are interesting. But it really hasn’t held me captivated. As of now, it’s looking like a 3* star read. 

UPCOMING READ: 

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I have this audiobook all ready to go! I am so damn excited!!! 

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BOOK HAUL: 9

Anyone else get all 9 books on Amazon for World Book Day?? I can’t say no to free books! Especially since 1 of them was on my TBR haha. 

IN OTHER NEWS:

I know everyone is watching Game of Thrones. But is anyone watching the BBC  Les Misรฉrables adaptation on PBS?? I really liked the first episode!  Hallelujah to the No Singing!! Plus having read the book recently, it seems like a pretty faithful adaptation which makes me very happy ๐Ÿ™‚

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Hardy Boys Collector’s Edition by Franklin W. Dixon

I’ve read this collection before. A long time ago. And I was still able to remember some of the details! So the mystery wasn’t as much of a mystery to me. I still enjoyed it though and was thoroughly entertained. 

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The Hardy Boys are great. Frank and Joe are like the dynamic duo. They have fun and have a penchant for solving mysteries. And this love seems to stem from their retired cop father and loving mother. Love it. 

This collection concludes my foray into Nancy Drew and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Well, that is unless more of these syndicate books happen to fall into my lap ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Caribbean Cruise Caper (#154)

The Hardy Boys are invited by a teen magazine to be advisors in an amateur detective contest they are sponsoring. The contest is being held aboard a yacht traveling through the caribbean. From the onset, problems arise. It seems that someone is trying to bring the contest to an abrupt end. With each antic getting more dangerous. Luckily, the Hardy Boys are on the case.

What I particularly like about this story was the mystery within a mystery. The other teen detectives were able to see firsthand how the Hardy Boys work together. The dynamic duo bounce ideas off of one another, they tackle different aspects of the case, effectively working together. 

An entertaining trip!

Daredevils (#159)
The Hardy Boys and their family are helping an old family friend, Terrence McCauley. Terrence is a young stuntman working in Hollywood, California. And someone seems to have it out for him. Danger is lurking everywhere, not just on the sets. Who is trying to hurt him and why is what the Hardy Boys have to figure out.

This is a fast-moving, action-heavy mystery. The Hardy Boys have to work hard to keep Terrence safe. But doing so puts their own lives at risk, as they quickly find out. An exhilarating story, for sure. Although, the discovery of the who and why is a bit anticlimatic, in my opinion.

There was a line in this book that made me laugh. Frank Hardy has just confronted a suspect. As he’s getting ready to leave, he says: “Then you’d have to start looking for a new job… I hear they need ghostwriters for kids books.” Ha! Don’t you just love that self-awareness? Kudos to the writer! ๐Ÿ˜€

Skin and Bones (#164)
The Hardy Boys are vacationing in San Francisco. They’re staying with Sergeant Chang, a friend of their father’s. The boys are quickly involved in a mystery when Cody, Sergeant Chang’s son, confides that he needs their help. His store Skin and Bones, which specializes in exotic animal specimens, has been robbed and ransacked multiple times. Cody has also been receiving threatening emails. He’s hesitant to tell his father, so he wants the Hardy’s to uncover what they can.

This was an interesting little mystery. From the onset the boys have a likely suspect. Although, certain things don’t add up. And before they know it, the real culprit is unmasked. But not before everyone’s life is put in danger. 
 
While the story was entertaining, I didn’t really like how the case was resolved. I mean, they figured out who the real criminal was after he took a gambit and showed his hand. Which is probably why criminals always get caught. Taking unnecessary risks. Hm. 

Final Thoughts
As I said in the beginning, this is my last Stratemeyer book. And. This is also my last review post of the year! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Seems a bit apropos that I end my reviews of the year with a nostalgic read ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

My first Agatha Christie mystery novel and I must say, I was pleasantly entertained. 

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The story is narrated by Mr. Hastings, a soldier on leave during WWI. He is invited to Styles by Mr. John Cavendish. While there, a murder occurs. Luckily, Mr. Hercule Poirot is staying in the nearby town and is asked by Hastings and Cavendish to investigate the poisoning of the family matriarch, Emily Inglethorpe. 

Very intriguing mystery. Red herrings here and there keep the reader guessing. I was completely immersed in the story. Except. Except for Hastings’ narration. The guy is insufferable. Always voicing his opinions on the case. Which surprise, surprise, are always way off base. Plus he consistently critiques Poirot’s methods. Super annoying. 

Anyway, a great introduction to the great Agatha Christie’s writing. I know I’ll be reading more of her works soon!

The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope

The Bobbsey Twins! I had never read one of these books before. But I’ve heard a lot about them. Or so I thought. Because imagine my surprise when I realized the Bobbsey Twins are 2 sets of twins. 2! 12 year olds Bert and Nan. And of course, 6 year olds Freddie and Flossie.

This is remarkably different from the other Stratemeyer Syndicate books. For one thing, the kids are super young. The Dana Girls, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are all older teenagers. Second, the twins have both parents. Both! They’re not orphans or have only one parent. Wait. The Hardy Boys only have one parent, right? Hm, I’ll find out next week ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Bobbsey Twins and the Cedar Camp Mystery (#14)

Originally written by: Howard R. Garis (1921); Rewritten by: Grace Grote
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 Despite their young age, these kids are true amateur sleuths. When their father receives a strange message from the man taking care of their land in Canada, the family sets out to investigate. In Canada, they uncover a gang of gold mining thieves, and rescue a kidnapped man.
 
Fairly interesting. The parents help their kids along the way. They give permission and when necessary, accompany the kids on their sleuthing endeavors. The twins are incredibly responsible and take care of one another. That was rather sweet.
 
At times I rolled my eyes at some of the things that happen. But I did like this book. For the most part.

Now, on to the next one!

The Bobbsey Twins Camping Out (#16)

Originally written by: Howard R. Garis (1923); Rewritten by: Mary Donahue (1955)
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Mr. Bobbsey is having problems with some lumbermen. So he and the family head to their bungalow to try to resolve the problem. While there, they also attempt to find a runaway circus bear.
 
This was an interesting little story. It wasn’t as serious the book before. In the sense that, this story revolves more around the family’s mishaps while camping. 

In the background, we have the missing bear. Bert keeps the bear story secret but fear and guilt make him nervous. When he finally confesses what’s been bothering him, the family gather more information. They then attempt to capture him. I actually liked this part of the story. Added a bit of whimsy to the book.

The conclusion of the main problem was quickly resolved in the end. Honestly, it was such a cop-out. Obviously the dispute with the lumbermen added a layer of danger to the book. But with the way that plotline concluded… smh. They made too much out of nothing. 

Anyway, it was a fairly entertaining story.

Final Thoughts
I didn’t realize The Bobbsey Twins were part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate until after I finished reading Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. Then imagine my surprise when I was dropping books off at a Little Free Library and I find these 2 books inside. Kismet? 

So I had heard that the original Bobbsey Twin books were extremely racist. But I didn’t see that in these revisions. Thank goodness!! Having never read these books, I really enjoyed them! I’m actually thinking of gifting them to my niece for Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

By the Light of the Study Lamp (The Dana Girls Mystery Stories #1) by Carolyn Keene

Jean and Louise Dana investigate the disappearance of their antique lamp.

Written by: Leslie McFarlane (1934)
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Another Stratemeyer Syndicate publication written under the Carolyn Keene pseudonym. This book was written by the ghostwriter of The Hardy Boys series. 

Jean and Louise are due back at their school for the beginning of their sophomore year. As a surprise, their uncle Ned Dana, buys the girls a lamp that is then quickly stolen. The girls manage to track down the would-be thief but without evidence are forced to concede he may not be the criminal they’re looking for. Back at school, the girls encounter Lettie Briggs. A spoiled, rich girl that has it out for the Dana sisters. On top of that, the girls are also trying to help their friend, Evelyn Starr search for her missing brother. 

Phew! A lot going on. The Dana girls are a force to be reckoned with. They’re impetuous. Act now, think later type of girls. And I was completely okay with that. At times, their behavior bordered on insolence. But honestly, after reading so many Nancy Drew’s, it was a breath of fresh air to see two girls act this way. These girls give zero cares. Zero. All they want, is to catch the criminals and help their friend. 

This book is also set at an all-girls boarding school. So the girls have to work around the school rules to accomplish their detective endeavors. And they have to deal with the aforementioned, Lettie Briggs. This girl. She’s snooty and eager to get the Dana girls in trouble. Never works out for her. The Dana girls always get her back though. Always. 

Did I enjoy this book? Surprisingly, yes. Like in Nancy Drew, the Dana girls have a suspect early on. It’s all about gathering evidence against them.There were a few times where I had to suspend belief because some of the action in the book was over the top. I figured out the ending early on, too. But it was an entertaining read ๐Ÿ™‚

The Girl Scouts at Singing Sands (Girl Scouts series #2) by Mildred A. Wirt

I did say I wasn’t done with Mildred and the Stratemeyer Syndicate haha. 

That’s my Brownie sash and Girl Scout badges haha
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This book isn’t a part of the Syndicate. It was written by Mildred herself. While ghostwriting the Nancy Drew series, she also worked on her own books. I was lucky enough to find this one on one of my Goodwill runs. I recognized her name and immediately decided to buy it. Good thing I did, because my library does not have any of her books! And a quick Goodreads search tells me there are only 6 ratings (including my own) and 1 review (mine). 

Now, let’s talk about the story. The book revolves around Judy and her troop of Girl Scouts (Beaver Patrol). They are 8th grade girls (13? 14?) spending time at Pine Cone Camp with other scout troops. Judy’s aunt telegrams her, informing her she wishes to spend a small vacation in the area and asks Judy to find her somewhere to stay. But it’s summer, and everything nearby is booked. Well, everything except for a small, mysterious cottage. 

Whilst reading, I kept comparing this book to Nancy. I couldn’t help it! These books are actually different though. Sure, Judy is fearless and quite an intrepid sleuth. But the tone of the story isn’t like a Nancy Drew mystery. Judy and her friends are simply going on with their lives when they become curious by certain events occurring around them. 

I really liked this book. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the fact that they were girl scouts. Their various camp activities were touched upon. It allowed me to get a better sense of the various girls. (Judy’s troop is made up of 7). And the the book itself is really educational. The skills the troop learns are actually used. For example, we see the troop administer first aid when they witness a car accident, and bring up fire safety when making a campfire. As a Californian, I really appreciated that. Not to mention there are discussions about caves, stalagtites and stalagmites. All very interesting. 

There was one instance where the language used in the book made me cringe. Look, I get it. This is an old book. So I’ll forgive it. I guess. I am kind of glad it wasn’t any of the girl scouts that said it though. As a former Girl Scout, you know I would have gone on a rant. 

So. A great little book. Not like a Nancy Drew story. But if anything, her aura is still felt. In the way Judy carries herself. And how both have to prove themselves to be taken seriously by others. 

I really wish I had access to more of these books :/ 

Audiobooks: True Crime Edition

I’ve been on a bit of a true crime kick after reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. The following audiobooks deal with a different crime. They’re all informative in their own way. 

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

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Sue Klebold is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. After reading Dave Cullen’s book, I was interested in what she had to say.  

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Sue Klebold herself. It’s always an interesting experience when a writer narrates their own work. The nuances of their words and expressions obviously come through a lot better. It’s like having a conversation with someone. 

Now with all that being said, Sue Klebold’s book is extremely heartbreaking. You feel her pain, confusion, and betrayal. It oozes out of her words. She was blindsided. Completely blindsided. And it’s something that she continues to grapple with. Trying to reconcile the image she had of her bright, loving son with the massacre he committed. 

Depression and suicide are heavily covered in the book. As something that I struggle with, I found this to be insightful and relatable. You know, one of the first questions they asked me when I was in the hospital was “are you a danger to others?”. I answered truthfully: no, I was only a danger to myself. Her son was an undiagnosed suicidal depressant. I’m not saying it’s an excuse for what he did. It absolutely is not. But I do understand his pain. Because I’ve been there. And sometimes I’m still there. 

Anyway. Back to the book. Sue Klebold loved her son. She did her best (as any good mother tries to do). She was blindsided. And now she’s trying to understand. It’s a heartbreaking, enlightening read. 

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer 

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Krakauer states that he first thought of writing this book as a way to learn more about Mormons. Which is fair. The thing is, this book is less about Mormons and more about its extremists.

There’s a difference between Latter Day Saints and Fundamentalists. Something that is touched upon when going into the history of the Mormon faith. And this book focuses more on the Fundamentalists. 

It’s a fairly interesting book. It has true crime aspects as it discusses murders committed by members of a Fundamentalist sect. The perpetrators claim it was divinely ordained. At its core, this book is about American religious extremism. 

My Story by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

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Elizabeth Smart recounts her traumatic kidnapping and rape by a Mormon Fundamentalist.

Sigh. Look, her story is harrowing. But I have to be completely honest. This is one of the worst audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. And by this point I’ve listened to a lot. Yes, I feel really uncomfortable stating this.

Elizabeth Smart narrates the book herself. Within 10 minutes I knew this was going to be a difficult listen. But I stuck it out because I hoped it would get better. It didn’t. I’ve seen Elizabeth give interviews on TV over the years. She’s always calm and articulate. Not in this book. It actually didn’t sound like her. It was childish. I wonder how much of this book she actually wrote herself.

The narration aside, the writing was also terrible. “I was just a little girl“, “I was just a little girl“, “I was just a little girl“. The phrase was pounded into my head. Why the repetition? I already felt for her. And why that specific phrase? Because little girl is what I call my 3 year old goddaughter. Not a 14 year old teen. Semantics, ya’ll.

This is Elizabeth’s story. It’s disturbing and like I said, I feel for her. I really do. But this book was not great. There are a lot of other things that bothered me which I won’t go into. Because I already feel icky about kind of tearing this book apart. Do I recommend it? Nope. Watch her interviews instead.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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An in-depth look at McNamara’s investigation into the East Area Rapist.

While listening to the audiobook, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Michelle McNamara felt familiar. Then it clicked. She was a modern day Nancy Drew! She saw an investigation that had run cold years before and she set out to solve it. An amateur detective if there ever was one. 

There was a lot of detail into how she went about searching for clues and following up on leads. How her every thought turned to the case. What avenues of thought needed to be pursued. She was obsessed with the mystery. 

It’s unfortunate that Michelle didn’t live to see the capture of the alleged Golden State Killer. How DNA turned out to be the game-changer (just as she had perceived). An interesting read, for sure.

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom

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Molly was 26 years old when she became a poker princess. Not because she was a remarkable player, but because she was a good game organizer. 

This book has been on my radar for a long time. I think I read an excerpt of it in a magazine? Anyway, that small excerpt made me see Tobey Maguire differently. This book solidified that.

Molly kind of fell into the poker world. She was new to LA and her boss basically ordered her to be a part of it. The rest is history. She knew she was walking a legal tightrope. The book actually ends with her legal troubles yet unresolved. 

Hm. It was certainly an entertaining read. So many name drops. I haven’t watched the film adaptation but I imagine you get the juicier parts of the book. Probably easier to go that route.