Book Review: Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

Girl in the Rearview Mirror
by
Kelsey Rae Dimberg

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you watched my most recent episode of Read React Decide, you know that I selected Girl in the Rearview Mirror, after reading random passages from five random books. Despite an earlier retraction about not being able to go paperless when I read, I really did go paperless for this book. Even though I hold the hard cover version in my video, I downloaded the eBook on my Kindle. And because I was on vacation, I took zero notes. I did not want to lug around a notebook and pen. That’s not a vacation!

The author describes Girl in the Rearview Mirror, her debut, as a noir mystery with adjustments, but I felt it was more of a psychological thriller. There are no hard-boiled detectives (the “detective” is a young nanny, Finn, who tries to unravel a mystery) and it’s set in Phoenix, Arizona, not exactly gritty. I only realized she calls it noir fiction after I read it, so that was not on my mind at all.

Because I did not take notes, this will be a more casual review. Be sure to check out my follow-up video at the bottom of this post, which is a supplement to what I say here. I’m doing something new on YouTube, re-reading the passage that made me choose the book and then talking about a really funny coincidence with that.

On to the book. The story opens at a political rally, during Senator Jim Martin’s campaign for re-election. Image is everything to the Martins and the senator’s perfect-looking family surrounds him, including Philip Martin who is expected to one day step into his father’s shoes. For now, Philip focuses on his restaurant and other real estate investments. With his wife, Marina, who runs a museum, and Amabel, their adorable four-year old daughter, they look just right for the part.

Finn’s protective instinct kicks in when Amabel gasps and points to a stranger with bright red hair and exclaims, “That girl—she’s following me!” An upsetting meeting with the stranger a few days later convinces Finn she must learn all she can to protect Amabel.

A couple substories frame the plot. First, there is Philip, the second son who can’t live up to his late older brother, James’s legacy. James died a hero’s death in Iraq. Philip, meantime tries to forget a scandal that ended his college football career.

Finn also struggles with the past and the title refers to events she tried to leave behind when she left home for college. She explains, “By the time I arrived at school, I realized I could start over. I introduced myself as Finn, my middle name, and it stuck. Within months, my first name sounded foreign. Natalie was the girl in the rearview mirror.” Now she has a great gig as a nanny for a wealthy and powerful family. And her boyfriend, Bryant, who runs Jim Martin’s campaign, completes the picture.

When she meets the red-headed women, Finn agrees to deliver a message to Philip. Sounds easy, but Philip avoids Finn who discovers a tangled mess. Soon, she finds herself in danger and wonders if Bryant is her enemy.

I enjoyed this book which explores the always-interesting theme of truth versus public persona. Readers who don’t like politics may initially be put off by the political storyline, however, once Finn begins her investigation, the adversarial element between political parties moves to the background. The story is much more about how politicians smooth out their pasts and present shiny images than it is about Republicans and Democrats.

A series of twists leads to an ending I did not imagine and ties in nicely with how image is everything to politicians. I was glad to have a lighter read while on vacation. The book was easy to pick up between activities and I recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers.

Check out my video here:

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Book cover eye candy – similar, very similar, confusing, pretty and more book covers

Happy Sunday Everyone! I’m being very superficial today and sharing book covers that caught my eye for different reasons. Sometimes, and I’ve said this before, I think I’ve already read a book because the cover is so much like another cover!

Similar Covers

These are both pretty and similar. A bit hard to read because they’re so busy and colorful, but I do like looking at them.

Very Similar Covers

The handwritten slanted font, often in all caps, is very popular these days. And look at all the ones that feature a rocky coast!

Sunglasses Covers

Yes, summer is over but the sunglasses stay.

Confusing Covers

Honestly, these books might be great, but these covers are too hard to look at.

Prettiest Covers

You may have figured out that I like colorful book covers! These are also a bit similar to each other, but that’s okay with me because I like looking at them!

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In case you missed them! BCM post recap September 2022

Hey Everyone,

In case you missed them, here’s a quick look at Book Club Mom’s posts in September.

I reviewed three books this month. I just finished Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg so look for that review and a new YouTube video in the next couple days.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue – 3 stars. I was disappointed in this story about a fictional African farming village, Kosawa, and their fight against Pexton, an American oil company. My main complaint was that it was too heavy with its message and a little boring. It got a lot of hype. I should have known!

Love Marriage by Monica Ali – 4.5 stars. This one was a winner! Set in London, it follows the lives of a young Indian woman, about to be married, and her fiancé, whose family background is much different and who comes to the relationship with a burdensome secret. I think the best part of the book is how what seems to be a simple story develops and reveals complex problems within and between its characters.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – 5 stars. Another winner and an oldie but a goodie! Totally enjoyable mystery featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe who opens a detective agency in Botswana. The first in a series of twenty-two novels.

I made two YouTube videos and in one of them, I’m playing more Bach! I know, maybe Bach isn’t your guy but he’s fun to play! I have some ideas about how to make my piano videos more interesting, so stay tuned. My other video this month is another episode of Read React and Decide in which I select random books from the library, react to random lines from them, then decide which to read.

Book Club Mom is playing more Bach

New Episode of Read React Decide

I introduced two indie authors and published updates on two other indie authors this month. Make sure you stop by and read about their writing experiences!

J.Q. Rose

Heather J. Bennett

News from Leon Stevens

News from Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Miscellaneous posts

Thank you to these superstar commenters!

Books to relax with on Labor Day

Youngblood Hawke playlist on Spotify!

Blog Views and Other Obsessions – tentatively happy 🙂

Page to Screens I want to watch

Banned Books Week, challenges and bans

Free or For Free???

I hope you all had a great month. On to the next book!

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Free or For Free???

I’ve been thinking a lot about which is correct: “free” or “for free.”  

Grammar Monster says “Strict grammarians will tell you that ‘for free’ is grammatically incorrect because ‘free’ is not a noun, and this means it cannot be preceded by ‘for’ (a preposition). In their view, something is ‘sold for nothing’ or is ‘sold free.’ However, through common usage, ‘for free’ has become acceptable.”

Collins Dictionary, My English Teacher, and StackExchange back this up. What do you think? Leave a comment!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Heather J. Bennett

Author Name: Heather J. Bennett

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Historical (1970s)/Romance

Books: Letting Go, Expecting to Fly

Bio: As a music fan, Heather focuses her writing on the undisclosed lives of musicians. She is the author of Letting Go and Expecting to Fly and the award-winning short story “Amsterdam” published through Southwest Writers. A native of Long Island, NY, she has been transplanted to Dallas, TX (y’all), where she works as a Marketing Coordinator.

What got you started as a writer? My 1st-grade teacher gave us an assignment and I’ve been a writer ever since.

What is your writing routine? I belong to a writing critique group that meets every Tuesday. A Zoom writing session every Thursday, another writing guild that has an ongoing café to use, plus a full-day writing retreat on the 2nd Saturday of each month, and in between, I try to write/edit at least 1-2 hours after work and on the weekends.

What route did you take to get your book(s) published? I am a self-published author learning more and more each day!

What things do you do to promote your books? I have a Facebook page, and an Instagram page, and am currently working on getting out now that the world is open again. I’d like to do some tabling events and readings. I just moved to the Dallas area and am still learning what it has to offer to authors.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? I like reading a variety of genres from YA to paranormal/supernatural to romance. I think I tend to read mostly YA because of the storytelling and they feel the most relevant to the world today.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? Oh, I much prefer dialogue!

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book? My characters surprise me with every book! In Letting Go, my main character did something completely unexpected and I ended up crying at my desk – in the office because I was writing on my lunch break!

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? Getting a job offer here in Texas, finding someplace to live in Texas, flying home, packing up my house and storage unit, finding a mover, loading it all up and moving from New York – in FIVE DAYS. My new employer had no idea I was in New York – but I made it happen and it’s the best thing I’ve done.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life?  1. Moving to the Netherlands for 4 years. 2. Moving to Philadelphia for 18 years. 3. Moving to Dallas. With each move, I discovered more independence, and more places to explore, and learned that most people want the same things in life no matter where they’re from.

What would you tell your younger self? You don’t have to be the next greatest American author – you just have to keep writing. It will still bring you joy and the most interesting, amazing people will come into your life through your efforts.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I’ve never met a bear on a hike – but there is that meme… if you see me running, you’d better run, too!

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? Oh, I always go for the Pop Tarts! They’ve got vitamins and nutrients, right? Almost healthy, even! (Doritos are a second choice, in case the vending machine gets stuck, but then I’d have Dorito breath….)

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? My kitchen only holds about 3. My friend’s kitchen, however? We had about 20 for Friends Thanksgiving each year.

Closing thoughts: I hope to be able to speak with you all soon!

Website and social media links:
Website: HeatherJBennett.com
Facebook: Heather J Bennett Novelist
Instagram: heatherjbennett_author
LinkedIn: heather-j-bennett


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by
Alexander McCall Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you haven’t read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and you’re looking for a nice, heart-warming mystery, I highly recommend this book, the first in a series of twenty-two novels, set in Botswana, Africa. I read it when it was first published in 1998 and have just re-read it for my mystery book club at work.

When Mma (pronounced “Ma”) Precious Ramotswe’s father, Obed lay on his deathbed, he told her to sell his cattle and buy a business to support herself. He’d suggested a butchery or a bottle store, but instead, Precious sets up the only women’s detective agency in all of Botswana. Precious is thirty-four when she hangs up a brightly-colored shingle outside her newly-acquired office. She buys two desks and two chairs, connects a telephone and hires a secretary. And Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, eager to help, donates an old typewriter from his nearby business.

The lawyer who handles the sale of her father’s cattle is skeptical. “It’s easy to lose money in business,” he warns her. “Especially when you don’t know anything about what you’re doing…And anyway, can women be detectives?”

Her answer? “Women are the ones who know what’s going on. They are the ones with the eyes. Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?”

Precious may not have prior experience, but she’s a woman with excellent hunches and a sense of justice.

It doesn’t take long for her services to be in demand. She shrewdly uncovers imposters, cheaters, and swindlers and uses clever charm to teach them lessons they won’t forget. One case, however, about a missing boy, dogs her, and uncovers the dark side of witchcraft and human sacrifice in Botswana.

As she solves each case, we get to know Precious and learn about her past, including a short-lived marriage and a painful loss. We also learn about her father’s life in the South African diamond mines. Above all, readers understand the deep love and pride she has for Botswana, a country which, in 1885, was established as a protectorate by the United Kingdom and in 1966 became an independent republic.

This charming story is also not without a little romance, which the author sets up nicely to continue in the next book.

In our continuous quest to find great new books, we lose sight of the great ones we’ve missed. Even though I read it in 1998, I’d forgotten all about how much I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to catching up on the rest. Have you read this series? Have you watched the BBC series which first aired in 2008? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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Banned Books Week, challenges and bans

We’re nearing the end of Banned Books Week, which runs through September 24 and celebrates the freedom to read. We’ve all heard of banned and challenged books, but what do those terms mean?

Challenges and bans explained:
A challenge is when there is an attempt to remove or restrict materials from a library, school or university. A ban is when the materials are removed. In spite of these attempts, the majority of challenged materials remain available, “thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.” (American Library Association)

What were the most challenged books in 2021?

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

Why were they challenged? LGBTQIA+ content, sexually explicit, profanity, depictions of abuse, child sex abuse, use of derogatory terms, degrading to women and, for The Hate U Give, promotion of an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.

I’ve only read two on the 2021 list, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Bluest Eye.

What are the top banned and challenged classics?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Ulysses by James Joyce
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Women in Love by DH Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run by John Updike

I’ve read a bunch of these, but definitely not all. Seeing this list makes me want to go back and read the rest! You can read more about banned and challenged books here.

Have books ever been challenged or banned in your community? Leave a comment.

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Book Club Mom’s Author Update: News from Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Hi Everyone, I recently caught up with children’s author Robbie and her son, Michael. Today they are sharing their new book with you!

Author names: Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Genre: Children

Book: Haunted Halloween Holiday

News: Robbie Cheadle and her son, Michael, are thrilled to announce that their new book, Haunted Halloween Holiday, is available from TSL Publications and Lulu.com. This entertaining story is aimed at children aged 5 to 9 years old and is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art illustrations.

Count Sugular and his family are invited to a party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. He and his wife, Witch Honey, decide to hire a gingerbread caravan and enjoy a weekend away. Their young son, Baby Howler, the only male banshee in their extended family, has been keeping them busy with his noisy wailing. A night of sunbathing on the shore of Meringue Pond followed by a Halloween Party the next evening would be lovely.

At sunset the evening before Halloween, the family and their friends set off by broomstick and flying coffin for their holiday adventure. What a wonderful time they are going to have.

Haunted Halloween Holiday has subtle messages for readers about acceptance of difference and dealing with depression, but it is mainly an entertaining fantasy read for children. The language is descriptive but suitable for the target audience and learner readers.

The illustrations are intended to delight young readers and stimulate their imaginations by depicting all sorts of magical creatures fashioned from fondant including Stinkpot the Troll and his sons, Liquorice and Tar, Sourball the black cat, Witch Goody and her golden swans, and Jack Frost who creates beautiful frosty pictures.

The book also contains several fun limericks to introduce the various characters and set the stage for their roles in the story.

Meet Jack Frost

Jack Frost carves pictures during the night
In the morning they sparkle, frosty and white
His work’s individual and unique
He has an interesting technique
Discovering his flower designs is a delight

Haunted Halloween Holiday book trailer


Are you working on a new book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, big-time and anything in between

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Book Review: Love Marriage by Monica Ali

Love Marriage
by
Monica Ali

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I could not stop reading this book in which two families struggle to understand themselves and their relationships with each other. Set in London, Yasmin Ghorami is a doctor-in-training and her fiancé, Joe Sangster, is a practicing obstetrician. The story begins as Yasmin and Joe bring their parents together for the first time. Yasmin worries about the cultural divide between her parents, Anisah and Shaokat, and Joe’s mother, Harriet, an upper class liberal and outspoken feminist and writer. And Joe can only hope that Harriet will behave around Yasmin’s Muslim parents. Their dinner together unfolds nicely, but soon Harriet has taken over the wedding preparations, with Anisah’s full and enthusiastic approval, and much to Yasmin’s shock at the idea of a now-large and complicated religious ceremony. Readers may think they are settling in for a bit of a romantic comedy, but will soon discover a host of serious and complicated problems. Ali’s characters must undergo important and often painful transformations before they can find happiness.

The first problem: Joe and Yasmin. Joe tells her he wants to settle down, but he has secrets and must work through complex issues about sex and his unusually close relationship with Harriet. Yasmin loves Joe, but is there enough passion? Her limited dating experience is of no help. I like the way the author shows how the couple’s genuine love and affection for each other makes this problem all-the-more painful.

The second problem: Shaokat’s stubborn pride. Yasmin’s father became a doctor against all odds, but at a cost. Now, above everything, he wants Yasmin and her brother, Arif to succeed and his intense expectations work against him. Although Yasmin is on her way, she questions whether she really wants to be a doctor. Arif, unemployed and angry, locks horns with Shaokat who berates him about his lack of motivation. I was incredibly drawn into these simmering conflicts between fathers and their adult children. There are some powerful scenes between Shaokat and his children.

The third problem: Anisah and Shaokat’s marriage. Anisah seems satisfied in her role as wife, mother and homemaker, but when she meets Harriet, she sees a wider world and a chance at happiness she never considered. She shocks her family when she grabs it and Yasmin will learn hard truths about her parents’ early days.

I think the best part of the book is how what seems to be a simple story develops and reveals complex problems within and between its characters. All of Ali’s characters undergo major, often painful transformations. I liked how the author made me feel like I was getting to know the characters, just as if I had met them for the first time, and how my early impressions of them changed over time. Likewise, was my understanding of their relationships with each other, something you don’t understand until you know a person longer. The author does an especially great job portraying the Ghorami family, Arif in particular, and the unique problems they face as Muslims in London. I thought Arif’s transformation was one of the most interesting storylines in the book.

Love Marriage portrays a specific culture and relates it to how everyone experiences similar personal and family conflicts. This is both an entertaining and serious book and I recommend it to all readers who like stories about family and marriage.

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Page to Screens I want to watch

Here are three excellent books that have been adapted to film. The first two were released in 2022 and the third comes out in 2023.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Kya Clark is six years old when her mother walks out of the shack they call home. The falling-down structure is hidden in the marshes of North Carolina, outside the fictional coastal town of Barkley Cove, a place where racial tension and small-town prejudices are firmly in place. The shack is the only place the Clark family knows, where her father’s abusive rages have terrified Kya, her mother and her siblings. Soon her older siblings run, leaving only Kya and her father, who provides her with nothing but fear. And then one day it’s just Kya, known in town and shunned as the wild Marsh Girl.

The story begins in 1952 and jumps to 1969, when a young man named Chase Andrews has died. In alternating chapters, readers learn Kya’s story of survival and how she becomes part of the investigation into Chase’s death.

The 2022 film, directed by Olivia Newman, stars Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson. Screenplay by Lucy Alibar. It’s currently in theaters is available on Prime Video.


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque: This is the story of World War I trench warfare and of Paul Baumer, a nineteen-year-old German soldier who has enlisted in the army. He and his schoolmates joined up at the recommendation of their schoolmaster and in short time must face the reality of a ruthless war. The novel mostly takes place on the front, where Paul and his comrades are fired upon and shelled and do the same to their French enemies in what becomes one of the most famous stalemates in history. Paul narrates his experiences and the deep bonds he develops with the men in his platoon, including the already close friendships with his boyhood friends and Albert Kropp, their superior.

The 2022 Netflix film, directed by Edward Berger, stars Daniel Brühl, Albrecht Schuch and Sebastian Hülk. Screenplay by Ian Stokell.


Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann: a true-crime account of a shameful period of American history in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for the headrights to oil-rich land on their reservation in Oklahoma. David Grann tells this shocking story, including the investigation of the murders led by J. Edgar Hoover’s newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The events in Killers of the Flower Moon depict a deep-seated racism against the Osage, in which the white business leaders and citizens of Gray Horse, Oklahoma pretended to befriend and help the Osage, only to kill them for their money. Killers of the Flower Moon is a thorough historical account of the Osage murders, but this is one story you won’t see in school history books.

This upcoming 2023 film, directed by Martin Scorsese, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone. Screenplay by Eric Roth.

Have you watched Where the Crawdads Sing and/or All Quiet on the Western Front? Do you want to watch Killers of the Flower Moon? All three are on my list. Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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