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Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane

Title: The Thunder of Giants
Author: Joel Fishbane
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: April 14, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The year is 1937 and Andorra Kelsey – 7’11 and just under 320 pounds – is on her way to Hollywood to become a star. Hoping to escape both poverty and the ghost of her dead husband, she accepts an offer from the wily Rutherford Simone to star in a movie about the life of Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess who toured the world in the 19th century.

Thus, Anna Swan's story unfurls. Where Andorra is seen as a disgrace by an embarrassed family, Anna Swan is quickly celebrated for her unique size. Drawn to New York, Anna becomes a famed attraction at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum even as she falls in love with Gavin Clarke, a veteran of the Civil War. Quickly disenchanted with a life of fame, Anna struggles to prove to Gavin – and the world - that she is more than the sum of her measurements."


My Two Cents:

"The Thunder of Giants" is a historical fiction story that looks at two very interesting women. The first woman is the fictional Andorra Kelsey, who is almost 8 feet tall. She lives during the 1930s and feels like she's a disgrace to her family who is sort of embarrassed by her incredible size. The second woman is Anna Swan (non-fiction), a woman who lives during the late 1800s and is also almost 8 feet tall. Unlike Andorra, Anna is accepted for her size and almost celebrated. The author looks at the differences between these two women's lives.

This book is a debut for author Joel Fishbane. I was intrigued by the story of these two women and that alone pulled me in. With both Anna and Andorra's stories, I found myself wanting more detail about these women. This book is relatively short and the author tries to make use of The space within the book to tell the stories, however, this book left me wanting more details about the inner workings and motives of both women. I felt like I was being held at arm's length for much of the book.

The book seems to focus a little bit more on Andorra, who definitely has the sadder story. We get to know her family and the sort of almost cruel treatment that she receives at their hands. She always seems to be the subject of ridicule which one it must've been incredibly hard. It is easy to see why she is driven to rub elbows with some unsavory characters to make a movie about Anna Swan's life.

This was a good debut even if I wanted more from the characters. Overall, I thought this book was a good debut and I like the inventiveness of the story, however, I wanted a little bit more detail.




 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: Textastrophe by Matt Andrews

Title: Textastrophe
Author: Matt Andrews
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: February 17, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Once upon a time, prank phone calls were the best way to procrastinate, but in 2015, they’re so passé. Instead, Matt Andrews has mastered the art of prank texting. What happens when you offer to barter two sub-sandwiches for a used motorcycle? Who do you call when you want to build a mysterious man cave in your basement? What do you do if you need a knight in shining armor to deliver you to your high school reunion? If you've ever left a "contact me" pull-tab at your local grocery or posted an ad on Craigslist and received insane and unbelievable text messages in response, Andrews is very likely to blame. We'd be mad at him if we could stop laughing long enough to hit "send" on the exceptionally witty come back we thought of...too bad he's already moved on to his next target and deleted us from his phone, now only to be remembered in these pages of his laugh-out-loud funny book."

My Two Cents:

As author Matt Andrews shows in "Textastrophe," putting your phone number in a public place like a Craigslist listing or on a sign may be a bad idea, a really bad idea. Andrews has perfected the final art of text pranking and this book is a collection of some of the different text pranks that he has pulled.

If you read the Textastrophe blog, you might be familiar with some of these pranks as I was. However, there were a lot of other hilarious pranks that I was not familiar with that I loved reading. And even those that I was familiar with still got a good laugh out of me.

This is a very quick read that will give you a good laugh. I could see it being really good gift for someone who is looking for a laugh or needs a little bit of cheering up.


 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman

Title: The Day We Met
Author: Rowan Coleman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband Greg seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.

When Claire meets a handsome stranger on a rainy day, she starts to wonder if Greg still belongs in her life. She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. When Greg gives her a blank book, Claire fills its pages with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing."


My Two Cents:

"The Day We Met" is an incredibly touching story by Rowan Coleman. In this book, we meet Claire, a woman who should be in the prime of her life, however, She is dealing with early onset Alzheimer's disease. It's incredibly difficult for Claire because she wants so badly to be able to remember things like her children and what they're doing and their names and more importantly, she wants to be able to remember her husband but is worried about saddling him with her health troubles. It was a touching picture of what it means to love and to care for one's family.

I cannot begin to imagine what it would feel like to go through something like early-onset Alzheimer's disease. It would be horrible to go through at any age in a persons life, however, there's something even more sad about it happening so early to person. Coleman does a great job of showing what Claire is going through so that the reader can understand where she's coming from and how much of a difficult time she is having.

I really liked how the book focused on each of the characters so we really got a chance to know them well. Claire's narrative was especially compelling.

I really love books that can take me through a whole gambit of emotions. This book definitely did that for me. You go from feeling really sad for Claire to feeling hopeful for her future by the end of the book. This book had my emotions all over the map. And I loved every second of it!


 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: "Midnight at the Pera Palace" by Charles King

Title: Midnight at the Pera Palace
Author: Charles King
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Publish Date: September 15, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "At midnight, December 31, 1925, citizens of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic celebrated the New Year. For the first time ever, they had agreed to use a nationally unified calendar and clock.

Yet in Istanbul—an ancient crossroads and Turkey's largest city—people were looking toward an uncertain future. Never purely Turkish, Istanbul was home to generations of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, as well as Muslims. It welcomed White Russian nobles ousted by the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik assassins on the trail of the exiled Leon Trotsky, German professors, British diplomats, and American entrepreneurs—a multicultural panoply of performers and poets, do-gooders and ne’er-do-wells. During the Second World War, thousands of Jews fleeing occupied Europe found passage through Istanbul, some with the help of the future Pope John XXIII. At the Pera Palace, Istanbul's most luxurious hotel, so many spies mingled in the lobby that the manager posted a sign asking them to relinquish their seats to paying guests."


My Two Cents:

"Midnight at the Pera Palace" is a nonfiction account of some of the most earth shattering events during the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of Turkey as a nation-state. The titular Pera Palace is a massive hotel in the heart of Istanbul and it played the background to many of the events during this turbulent time. Before reading this book, I really didn't know whole lot about the events surrounding the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of Turkey so I was really interested to read this book and understand a little bit more about these events, which didn't only affect Turkey and the city of Istanbul but alos set in motion other events around the world.

This book is the latest release from noted historian Charles King. I have yet to read any of his other books but after reading this one, I know that I I definitely need to go back and read more of his books. I love historical nonfiction but sometimes it can be a little bit boring and you definitely need to be in a certain mood to sit down and really read through it and understand it. This is not the case with this book. King brings this time to life through a lot of great detail and some really interesting topics. Instead of simply covering a chronological order of what actually happened during the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the events after, King works in many different facets of life in Istanbul during the time and is able to include things like art and music. I loved this as a reader as it really brought the city of Istanbul during this time period to life.

All of the historical detail makes me want to hop a plane (and maybe a time machine too) to Istanbul right now. King makes it seem like such it interesting place, truly the crossroads of the world. If you're looking for a historical nonfiction book that will peak your interest in learning more about this monumental time period and you like rich historical detail, this book would be a great pick for you!


 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins

Title: The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital
Author: Alexandra Robbins
Format: ARC
Publisher: Workman
Publish Date: April 21, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In this lively, fast-paced narrative, New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins digs deep into the subculture of nursing, drawing readers into a brilliantly captivating in-depth investigation of the extraordinary working lives of nurses and the shocking behind-the-scenes secrets that all patients and their loved ones need to know.

The Nurses is told through the real-life stories of four women in different hospitals: Molly, funny, well-loved, and confident enough to quit a longtime job after her hospital ramps up its anti-nurse policies. Lara, a superstar nurse who tries to battle her way back from a near-ruinous prescription-drug addiction. The outspoken but compassionate Juliette, a fierce advocate for her patients. And Sam, a first-year nurse, struggling to find her way in a gossipy mean-girl climate she likens to “high school, except for the dying people.”

Readers will root for these bedside heroes, who operate in a world filled with joy and violence, miracles and heartbreak, dark humor and gripping drama. It’s a world of hazing—'nurses eat their young.' Sex—not exactly like on TV, but more prevalent than many imagine. Drug abuse—disproportionately a problem among the best and the brightest. There are true-life archetypes—the handsome, suave doctor, the patient brought back from death, the hunky male nurse. And bullying—by peers, by patients, by hospital bureaucrats, and especially by doctors, an epidemic described as lurking in the 'shadowy, dark corners of our profession.'"



My Two Cents:

Alexandra Robbins always has a tendency to look at some really interesting groups of people. The last book I read by her was "Pledged," which is the story of women trying to get into college sororities. As that was a world that was totally unfamiliar with me, I found it very interesting. So when I got a chance to get my hands on an early copy of her latest release, The Nurses, as a part of my volunteer work for the Gaithersburg book festival, I was very excited. You can check out the interview that I did with Miss Robbins here.

In "The Nurses," Robbins takes a look at the unsung heroes of the hospital. Those are the nurses who are in charge of the day to day and hour to hour and sometimes even minute to minute care of all of the patients that go to the hospital. A lot of times the people who take on this job don't get the credit that they deserve as Robbins shows in this book.

Instead of just talking about nurses in general, Robbins focuses on talking about a couple nurses from a couple big hospitals a single city. To me, this was much more interesting than just a book about general issues that nurses face. By looking at these people you really get a good look at what these people have to go through. Robbins is able to get some great insight from the people that she follows. Being able to have such a first-hand view really gave me an appreciation for everything nurses have to do.

This book is interesting and well-written. Robbins also gives sort of a prescription if you will of what we can do and what hospitals and medical organizations can do in order to make sure that nurses are able to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Giveaway: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

On May 2nd, the paperback of "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd will be released for those of you that missed it in hardcover last year! I really enjoyed this book. Check out my review here!


There's also a brand new book club guide for this book (see it here) that has an interview with the author and recipes inspired by the book for your next club meeting!

Sound good? Want your own copy of this book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: The Green Road by Anne Enright

Title: The Green Road
Author: Anne Enright
Format: ARC
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Co.
Publish Date: May 11, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher as part of my work with the Gaithersburg Book Festival. This did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.

Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland. 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave one by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home. The Green Road is a major work of fiction about the battles we wage for family, faith, and love."


My Two Cents: 

"The Green Road" is the latest release by the new (and first) fiction laureate of Ireland, Anne Enright. This is the richly detailed story of the Madigan family. Set over thirty years, this book follows Rosaleen and her four children spread throughout Ireland, the United States, and West Africa. Rosaleen has a definitive idea as to how a family is supposed to be and how a family is supposed to act. She cannot understand how her children could feel differently. So when one son, Dan, makes a stunning announcement at Christmas, Rosaleen's thought of perfection is shattered.

I loved reading about this family. Each child is so different and each of them are facing their own struggles. I thought the most compelling story was really Dan's story. He is hiding a secret from his conservative Irish family in the 1980s that he feels like he can never tell them. He is gay and is living in New York City during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. It's a lot of pressure and he builds a story of what he is doing in America in order to hide what he is really going through. It's heartbreaking that he cannot tell his family but he knows that it will upend the delicate balance of his family so he never says anything. I really liked the way that his character was written.
 

Not only is there a compelling story but the writing of the book is wonderful! The way that Ms. Enright writes the characters truly brings them to life effortlessly. At its core, this book is about what it truly means to be a family even when things do not go as planned. This is the first book that I have read by her but I know there will be more in my future! 

Head on over to the Gaithersburg Book Festival site for a great interview that Ms. Enright did for her publisher!
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