Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Title: Here and Gone 32336395
Author: Haylen Beck
Pages: 304
Year: 2017
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Rating: 4/5

 Goodreads Synopsis: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Thank you to Penguin Publishing for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine if your children were kidnapped by the people who were supposed to protect them. Who can you turn to, if not the police?

Eighteen months ago, Audra Kinney fled from her abusive husband, Patrick, with her two children, Sean and Louise. Patrick has since enlisted the help of Child Services in an attempt to gain custody of both Sean and Louise, and Audra is forced to take them and run. Her nervousness at being caught and shipped back to her husband has forced her to take back roads through small towns in order to avoid law enforcement.

However, on a desolate Arizona road, Audra is followed and pulled over by Sheriff Robert Whiteside. He states that her car is overloaded, which may cause problems for her on the bumpy road, and insists upon carrying some of her possessions in his cruiser to the nearby town of Silver Water. While transferring boxes, he “finds” a bag of marijuana in her trunk and arrests her for possession. He radios Deputy Mary Collins to watch Sean and Louise while things are being sorted out, all the while assuring Audra that everything will be okay.  Upon being booked at the police station, Audra asks after her children; Sheriff Whiteside responds “What children?” Her nightmare has begun.

From continual false accusations to manufactured evidence, Audra is fighting an uphill battle against law enforcement. She is vilified by the media and her husband, both of whom use her troubled past as motive for murder. Audra has no one to turn to, no one who believes her story. All the while, time is running out for Sean and Louise, who are being auctioned off to the highest bidder…

With a realistic plot line and alternating POV chapters, this story is not for the faint of heart. I flew through this book in a matter of hours, and I think it would make a great beach read. The ending was a little dissatisfying and the story did not have much depth to it, but it was endlessly entertaining. I can definitely see this being turned into a film in the future. Haylen Beck has created an intense, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Catch it when it comes out on June 20th 2017.

Re-Reading Books?

I’ve always been a re-reader. If I loved a book the first time, I liked taking the time to come back and visit a world I once called home. I loved the comfort of reading something I knew I loved, the way the pages wore and the crinkles of the spine.

I haven’t been re-reading so much lately, but I think its interesting to go back to a book you loved as a kid to see how your tastes have changed. Something that seemed really interesting to me as a kid, isn’t so interesting now. I still appreciate the books I loved earlier in life, but I think its interesting how my tastes and preferences have evolved over time. It’s also fun to go back to books I found quite difficult at one point, because I have found that they are not so difficult anymore. (Part of growing up and brain development, I suppose.)

I’ve learned to view books with a more critical eye as well. I find issues with books now that I didn’t notice when I was younger. While they are still some of my favorites, it’s interesting to see what I notice about them now vs. what I noticed as a kid or teenager when I first read them.

Who else is a re-reader? What are your favorite books to re-read?

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Title: The Wangs vs. The World28114515
Author: Jade Chang
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Rating: 3

Goodreads Synopsis: Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Before I begin: how do you feel when an author has their characters frequently speak in a different language, and they don’t provide translation? I, for one, find it to be very irritating. Especially if I can’t figure out what they are saying.

The Wangs Vs. the World follows a family of billionaires living in L.A. who lose everything when Charles Wang, the patriarch, decides to put up his home and business as collateral to start a new line of makeup products (Referred to as “the Failure.”). When the economy crashes in 2008, Charles packs up his second wife Barbra and pulls his two kids (Grace and Andrew) out of school to make his way across the country to his oldest daughter Saina’s house in Helios, NY. This fall from grace is narrated by Charles, Barbra, Grace, Andrew, Saina, and even the car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

This book was promoted to be a hilarious “riches to rags” story about a family of Chinese immigrants living in America. I guess I didn’t get the jokes… I got the impression that parts of it were intended to be funny, but they just fell flat for me. In fact, I found myself cringing throughout the entire novel. The first chapter starts out with a joke about how Wang means “King” in China and “penis” in America. Penis jokes ceased to be funny when I turned 12, but please… continue. From there, Chang showcases the family’s prejudices against people who think differently than they do, look different than they do, and come from different areas and walks of life than they did. “All Floridians are backwards, all republicans are stiff and racist, all teenage/college-aged girls are slutty, mixed relationships are only okay if you have cute mixed children…” should I go on? I considered abandoning this book several times, but plodded on in the hopes that it would eventually get better.

The dialogue was good (when it was in English), especially between the siblings. The author has a knack for using dialogue to portray images and characters, and clearly made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters. I just didn’t have any sympathy for them. I didn’t relate to their problems, hopes, dreams, or fears. Any time I felt sympathetic for one of them, they did something that changed my mind. Okay, that’s a lie. Grace was the only character I wasn’t completely turned off by, but that’s only because I kept telling myself that she was just a kid and didn’t know any better than the life of privilege she was accustomed to.

This review seems to have taken a turn for the critical, which I apologize for because it really wasn’t that bad. I gave it 3/5 stars, verging on 3.5. I have to say, this book was not a terrible read. I didn’t hate it, and I did end up liking Chang’s writing. However, I found myself to be more often offended than complacent, and less invested in the characters than usual. There seems to be a disconnect between author and reader as well, which is demonstrated by the liberal use of Cantonese/Mandarin or whatever language they are speaking without translation or explanation. I feel like I missed important plot points because I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, and the dialogue in this book was so important because this book was entirely driven by dialogue and the individual journeys the characters take over the course of the novel.

Physical Books or E-Books?

Physical books vs. E-Books was a topic of major discussion all throughout college for me. Which was better? Which is more practical? Are e-readers putting the publishing industry out of business? Where can people stick their e-readers? I think I’ve heard all the arguments, and I’ve heard all the deprecating remarks about people who use e-readers, but I’d like to know your thoughts. Do you prefer physical books, or e-books?

When it comes to describing physical books, magic is the only word that comes to mind. I love everything about them, from the smell, the crinkle of the pages, the little details and nuances sprinkled in by the publishing company. You don’t get the little stars next to the page numbers in Harry Potter in an e-reader. It’s easy to be drawn in by a book, lured by the possibility of a new adventure, a distraction from the every day, a new life to step into for a little while. With an e-reader, the lure is still there, but it isn’t as encapsulating.

But, I’ll be the first to admit that I love my kindle. If nothing else, for the convenience and the money it has saved me. In college, I bought all my required textbooks in digital format on my kindle. While my classmates spend hundreds on dollars on a physical copy, I spent a fraction of that online. Lugging massive books to class or to the library was never an issue for me, because I had everything on my kindle. I was also able to highlight and mark the pages without feeling guilty about defacing a book. On long trips, I am able to keep an entire library of books in my kindle, whereas previously I would take an entire backpack full of books.

While I would prefer a physical copy of a book, more often I choose the digital version for the price and the convenience. Like I said, I can see the pros and cons of both, but I want to know your thoughts! Which do you prefer? What’s the reasoning behind your preference? Let’s discuss! 🙂

24 Things I’ve Learned in 24 Years


Today I turn 24, and one year closer to my quarter life crisis. (JK.) I’ve never been one to look back, but this year I have realized how much I have learned and overcome. These are just 24 of the life lessons I’ve learned over the years, and maybe they will help you guys as well.

And I just want to say, I’m not sorry for the excess of cliches in this post.

1- It’s okay to be yourself and to be comfortable in your own skin. Embracing who you are will come with time, be patient.

2- Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. Enjoy being young and not having responsibilities for as long as you can. Seriously. It’s a trap.

3- Love on your grandparents while you can. Your time with them is already limited, make sure you take advantage of all the love and advice they wish to give.

4- Learn to say no, and don’t be a people-pleaser. There is a difference between being nice and seeking approval from everyone. You will NEVER please everyone, don’t waste your time trying to do so.

5- Learn to say yes! Don’t hold yourself back from things because you fear judgement or failure. And when in doubt, take the first small step.

6- Those who mind, don’t matter; those who matter, don’t mind. The things that seem like a big deal to you are not a big deal to someone else. You are your own worst critic.

7- Family is the most important part of your life. Look after those relationships, let them grow.

8- Home is where you make it. It isn’t in one place, it’s in many places. It’s with the people you love, and where you feel safe, comfortable, and happy.

9- Allow yourself to make mistakes. Human error is natural, and you are not a lesser person because of it.

10- Don’t dwell on the past. You can’t change what has already happened, but you can learn from it. Don’t dwell on the future either, there isn’t any use in worrying about something that might or might not happen.

11- Take care of yourself, mind and body. As you have been taught to treat others, treat yourself with respect.

12- You are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. If you want to change your life, change the people you surround yourself with.

13- It’s better to have one good friend than a thousand acquaintances. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you, and let go of fair weather friendships.

14- Trust your gut. If something seems fishy, it probably is.

15- No one will love you as much or as unconditionally as your parents do.

16- Communication is the key to every relationship. Nothing is ever solved without action, and life isn’t a sci-fi novel. No one can read your mind.

17- Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone with more money, a better body, a better (perceived) relationship, etc. Life isn’t a race, you will reach your milestones at your own pace.

18- Intelligence comes in many forms, and just because you aren’t good at one thing doesn’t mean you won’t be good at another. Intelligence comes from work ethic and a passion to learn. 

19- Timing is everything.

20- Be kind to those who have wronged you, and forgive them. Don’t waste your energy holding grudges.

21- Everyone is going through something. Don’t be quick to judge, and understand that everyone has their demons.

22- Social Media is not reality. People often live their best social media lives when their real life is in shambles. Don’t base your confidence or self worth on the amount of likes or followers you have.

23- What doesn’t kill you really will make you stronger.

24- Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things. #Wisdom

Things That Make me Instantly Want to Read a Book

While I would love to read every book ever published, I have to be a bit (a lot) more selective with my TBR considering that there are only 24 hours in a day, and I’m asleep for at least 8 of them and working for 8 more. Which, only leaves 8 hours for books, hygiene, food, and friends! Who needs a social life when you have books? I say, while surrounded by my many cats and pizza boxes… A’hem. Here are a few things that make me instantly want to read a book!

The Cover

I’ll be the first to admit, I tend to judge books by their covers. If a cover has some half naked couple on the cover sweating desperately in each other’s arms, you can bet your sweet ass that I am not reading that book. Some books that have recently caught my eye are Into The Water by Paula Hawkins, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, and The Graces by Laure Eve. Yes, I know these are very diverse covers. I’m a diverse gal.


Written by an author I already love

If I’ve already read and loved a book by a particular author, I will instantly want to read the rest of the books they have written. Especially if that book was part of a series.


Recommendation From Reliable Source

Christine Riccio from PolandBananasBOOKS and Sasha Alsberg from ABookUtopia always recommend books that sound interesting. I’d trust them with my TBR. My family, probably not.



I am definitely not immune to hype. If everyone else is excited about a book, I’ll check it out on Goodreads to see if I also want to be excited about that book. If it’s something I think I’ll enjoy, it goes to the top of my TBR list.


This is make or break for me. If the summary or blurb doesn’t appeal to me, I probably won’t be reading it. Ain’t nobody got time for books they’re not interested in.


Sample Read

If a book passes the summary test, then I’ll usually download a sample on my kindle. If I can’t get through the sample, then I know I won’t get through the book. But if the sample leaves me wanting more and desperate to find out what happens next, I’ll usually buy it.

Upcoming Movie Adaptation

This one probably goes hand in hand with hype, but it has to be a movie I want to see. If the movie looks really good and I know it is based off of a book, I’ll usually try to read the book first before the movie comes out. The only book I’ve read post movie is The Book Thief, and I liked the book immensely better. (As always.)


Historical Fiction

We all know that I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and if you didn’t know, now you know. You know? kwtT0.gif

It’s so hard for me to pass them up, especially if its a time period I’m interested by. I especially love reading about World War II. Some of my favorites are The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman.

Let me know in the comments if you agree with my list, and what makes you want to read a book!

Get To Know Me Tag

Thank you so much to Brookie @ Brookie Cowles for tagging me! This is a long tag, but I’m excited to do it. If you haven’t checked out Brookie’s blog, I suggest you do so immediately. I’m serious. Drop whatever you’re doing and go. I’ll wait.

Name: Christen

Nicknames: I don’t think I’ve ever had a nickname… Sometimes my dad calls me by my sibling’s names when he’s angry and doesn’t know who to yell at first. Does that count?

Birthday: May 16th

Star Sign: Taurus

Occupation: Production manager, blogger, reader, self-proclaimed comic relief.


Hair color: Dark brown, never dyed, never highlighted. Okay, I did get some of those chunky blonde highlights that were so popular in the early 2000’s. I looked a little something like this:



Hair length: An inch or two below my shoulders. I want to cut it into a bob, but I was a chicken in a past life.

Eye color: Brown, the color of dead plants and chocolate. My siblings got hazel and green eyes, respectively. I got brown. Rude.

Best feature: I’ve been told that I have a nice smile. DAMN RIGHT, I promised my orthodontist my first born child in exchange for these suckers.

Braces: Yes. My parents thought it would be really cool to put me in braces and get me my first pair of glasses in the 7th grade. That, along with those cool highlights, made me the most popular kid in my middle school. Obviously.

Piercings: Just my ears, and that was a chore. I may or may not have cried more than my 6 year-old (at the time) sister.

Tattoos: No way. 1. I hate needles. 2. I have nothing that needs to be permanently displayed on my body.

Right or left: Right!


Holiday: The first “holiday” I remember is my 2nd birthday. I wore a navy and white striped sailor dress and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to my aunts. Sadly, my Broadway future has been postponed until further notice.


Best Friend: My first best friend was a girl who lived across the street from me when I was 3. She moved across the country when I was 5, and then moved back when I was 17. We didn’t keep in touch very well, but our moms did! Now, if I’m being honest, my best friend is my mom. I do have a few close girl friends, but we live far away from each other and I don’t get to see them often.

Award: Do participation trophies count? Actually I got “The President’s Award” for having straight A’s all through elementary school in the 5th grade. #NERRRD

Sport: I took dance when I was 3, and I was pretty awesome at it. But I had really bad stage fright and didn’t continue. Thus, my dream of being a Beyonce backup dancer goes down the tubes.

Concert: Aaron Carter! My best friend at the time was obsessed with him, and I went along for the ride. No, I didn’t get invited to Aaron’s Party.


TV shows: Game of Thrones, Outlander, Westworld, Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, Fixer Upper, White Princess, Orphan Black, The Magicians, Bachelor anything. I could name a million more, but that would get tedious.

Color: Clear waters, blue skies. My closet is about 50% black though, a reflection upon my soul. 3ocean02

Song: American Pie by Don McLean, Piano Man by Billy Joel (Seriously, anything by Billy Joel.) Lately, I’ve been really into Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran and Body Like a Back Road by Sam Hunt. I have a really broad taste in music, so I’ll listen to anything.

Restaurant: I don’t go out to eat enough to have a favorite restaurant… But anywhere I can get authentic Italian food is my jam.

Shop: Target. I will go into Target for one thing and come out with $100 worth of stuff I don’t need, every time.

Books: All of them.


Shoes: My favorite pair of shoes are these Kino flip-flops I bought in Key West. They’re super cheap and last forever. Seriously. My grandma bought a pair in the 1970’s and they’re still kicking.


Feeling: Happy, content, lazy AF

Single or Taken: Single and ready to mingle.


Eating: Nothing, but I’m thinking about chicken nuggets.

Thinking About: Chicken Nuggets.

Watching: Girlboss on Netflix (Learning so many new curse words!)

Wearing: Running shorts and a Tshirt because I clearly run a lot and don’t use workout clothes as pajamas. Ever.


Want Children: Eventually, preferably after I get married and travel a bit. I’m not quite ready to be responsible for another human.

Want to be married: Yes, and I don’t want to get divorced. I want to be one of those cute, old couples that people take pictures of and caption, “goals.” (What a millennial thing to say… I’m sorry. lol)

Careers in mind: I would love to work for a major publishing company in New York City. If I could work with my favorite authors and get paid to read books, that would be a dream. I’d also love to be an author myself, but we’ll see. My ability to execute my ideas in writing would have to drastically improve.

Where you want to live: I’ve always lived in Florida, so I’d love to experience a different climate than what I’m used to. Preferably a climate where the seasons change more drastically than hot and slightly less hot.


God: Absolutely.

Miracles: Of course, they happen every single day!

Love at first sight: No, love is something you have to work at and grow. You can be attracted to someone at first sight, but not in love with them.

Ghosts: I’ve never experienced one if they do exist, but I don’t want to piss anyone off if I say no.


Aliens: I think it’s possible. I find it hard to believe that we’re the only ones out there when the universe is so big.

Soul Mates: Yes, but I think you can have more than one, and I don’t think its limited to someone that you’re “destined” to be with. I think a soulmate is someone who speaks to your soul; someone who you instantaneously click with. It can be a best friend or a romantic partner.

Heaven: Of course!

Hell: Yes, and not today, Satan.

Kissing on the first date: Eh. I would say no, but I have been known to kiss on the first date on rare occasions.

Yourself: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I’m working on it.


Irena @ Books and Hot Tea| Rachel @ Pace, Amore, Libre | Natasha @ Natasha Reads Books | Savannah @ The Book Prophet | Marta @ The Book Mermaid