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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

Title: I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks
Author: Gina Sheridan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Adams Media
Publish Date: July 31, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Straight from the library--the strange and bizarre, ready to be checked out!

From a patron's missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan's circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, "What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?" Whether she's helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn't have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan's bizarre tales prove that she's truly seen it all.

Stacked high with hundreds of strange-but-true stories, I Work at a Public Library celebrates librarians and the unforgettable patrons that roam the stacks every day."

My Two Cents:

"I Work at a Public Library" is a collection of anecdotes from the Tumblr page of the same name. I wasn't familiar with this site were before reading this book; however, after reading this book, I know that I need to look at it. These stories are so funny! This book recounts some of the funny experiences that librarians working in public libraries have had to deal with. The Tumblr page of the very same name has become a haven for librarians wanting to talk about some of the crazy and ridiculous things that have happened in their life.

Even if you are not a librarian I think that you will fall in love with this very funny book. It's one of those books where you either need to be not embarrassed to get caught laughing in a public place or you just need to read it in the comfort of your own home so that nobody can hear you laughing! Luckily, I read it at home and was able to laugh as much as I wanted to! Some of the anecdotes definitely had me laughing out loud.

I know that this is a book that I'm going to want to read it over and over again just because it was so funny. I think that this book would make a great gift for either the librarian or the book lover in your life who wants a good laugh and doesn't take things too seriously. After reading this book I really wish that there was a sequel!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport by Ian M. Packham

Title: Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport
Author: Ian M. Packham
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bawdy Zebra
Publish Date: November 14, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this didn't affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport is the account of Ian’s attempt to complete the first solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa using public transport. The decision to travel using transport only available to local populations ensured immersion with populations across the continent. It led Ian to cross Africa riding in battered minibuses and bush taxis, on the backs of flatbed trucks, over rivers in dugout canoes, and along the coast of South Africa in a van delivering freshly-made meat pies.

Travelling 25,000 miles (40,000 km) – equivalent to circumnavigating the Earth at the equator – with no communications but an old mobile phone, and all his kit for more than a year of travel hauled onto his back, Ian was as reliant on some of the one billion people that call Africa home as he was on his own wits.

Lasting more than 13 months his journey took Ian along the coast of 31 countries, where he discovered for himself the daily struggle of living in and travelling through Africa. Starting his journey in Gibraltar before crossing to Tangier in Morocco, he travelled westward, experiencing Africa at its most raw and real.

He is forced to fight off thieves in Senegal, is mistaken for an undercover UN official during Liberia’s presidential election, refused entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while in Sudan becomes perhaps the only person teargassed trying to visit a museum. Travelling during an electrifying year for Africa, he is one of the first tourists to visit the Libyan capital after the revolution that wrenched Colonel Gaddafi from power."

My Two Cents:

"Encircle Africa" is a travel memoir of Ian Packham's travels through the continent of Africa. Packham decides to travel throughout Africa using only public transportation. He decides to stick to the shore of Africa and visit all of the countries around Africa's edges. If you are in armchair traveler like me, you will enjoy this book!

Each chapter of the book takes on a couple different countries throughout Africa. I really liked how Ian was able to give us a little bit of information about the feeling of each place along with some of the history of each area. There are many countries within Africa that I don't know much about so it was interesting to get a first-hand point of view of what those countries are like. I found myself wishing that some of the chapters were longer because each of the places seem so interesting. This book really only gives you a very brief taste of each place.

Overall, I found the writing of this book to be very good. The author definitely knows how to bring the people of all of the different countries in Africa he visits to life. There were a couple grammar and punctuation issues with this book; however, I chalk this up to this book being a debut book. With a little more fine-tuning, This author will make a very good travel author!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pulitzer Prize Winner Offers Free Insight Into Literature of American Slavery

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know about this great online course through MOOC on literature of American Slavery. This sounds super interesting! Now you may be asking yourself what a MOOC is, right? A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. I've taken a couple through the likes of and they are a super fun way to learn something new!

Here is the press release:

"John Jay Online Brings History Alive: First-ever MOOC on the Literature & Law of American Slavery Opens for Registration
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Biographer John Matteson to Teach Free, Eight-week Online Course

NEW YORK CITY (August 12, 2014) – John Jay Online, the online education department of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, today opened registration for its first-ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the Literature & Law of American Slavery. This unusual and in-depth look at one of the seminal periods of American history brings these two worlds together to paint a richly faceted picture of the era, examining how American life today is still haunted and shaped by slavery. The free, eight-week course will be taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning John Matteson, Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The course begins on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Registration is now open at

Professor Matteson won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. Professor Matteson has designed the MOOC as an immersive experience; students will discover what it was like to live in the troubled decades leading up to the Civil War from one of the foremost experts on that period.

“We are still processing the effects of the slaveholding era today,” said Professor Matteson. “While most of us acknowledge and understand our history, we don’t think about, or examine, how the debate over slavery changed American law and influenced literature. With this MOOC, we’re taking American slavery out of the typical textbook context to explore not just how the people who lived through it were impacted, but how it still impacts us today.”

The MOOC will address many atypical questions about American slavery, including:

  • What were the legal principles behind slavery, and what were the arguments both for and against its legality?
  • How did the leading American writers of the time respond to slavery, both in fiction and in nonfiction?
  • What was slavery like from the perspective of the slave, and how did African-American writers take up the war of words on the subject?
  • How did the Civil War inspire the authors who lived through it and saw it firsthand?
  • Why does the institution of slavery, which was abolished in the United States in the 1860s, still matter to us today?

Students can anticipate spending up to five hours per week in the eight-week course, which will include video lectures, readings and discussions. While of educational value to all those interested in the subject and era, the MOOC will be a particularly effective way for post-graduate candidates and those considering full-time enrollment as students to further invest in their education.

“We’re very proud to be able to offer the public a free course of this caliber,” said Dr. Feng Wang, director of John Jay Online. “Even a decade ago, this would not have been possible. Thanks to today’s technology, anyone with an Internet connection, no matter where they live, or what their educational level is, can participate in a rich academic experience with classmates from around the world, taught by one of the brightest thinkers of our time.”

To learn more and register for this free course, please visit"

Review: Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Title: Flight of the Sparrow
Author: Amy Belding Brown
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance."

My Two Cents:

In Amy Belding Brown's "Flight of the Sparrow," Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians. At first she is very afraid but eventually she learns a lot from her captors and is forced to walk the line between the white man and the Indians. What makes this book so amazing is that it is based on a true story. Brown draws heavily on a lot of historical fact in order to create a narrative for Mary.

One of the most interesting parts about this book is how Mary comes to terms with both understanding her life as a white woman in the Massachusetts Bay colony and the ways of the Indians. We see how Mary lives her life as a family woman and the colony. She enjoys her life and is very scared when she is captured by Indians. When she returns though, she finds that she never really understood the Indians in the first place and finds herself supporting some of their ideas and the ways that they live, which makes her an outsider within the colonist group. This is definitely a story about knowing oneself and knowing what is the most important things in one's life. She finds that she may not have been as free in the colony as she was during her time with the Indians.

I love historical fiction; however, I especially love when historical fiction is based on an actual historical figure. I think that it really helps you to understand some of the personalities of times past. You can tell that Brown put a lot of care into gathering details of Mary's life in order to put together the story. And some points you can see how Brown is almost stymied by some of the information that she gathers, which makes the narrative stiff in some parts. However, overall the book is very nicely written and really gives you insight into how people live during that time.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Stillhouse Press launches with new DC cultural series, "The Stillhouse Sessions"

Hi everyone! Happy Monday! I wanted to draw your attention to a great cultural series that has just been launched for D.C. area book lovers! The Stillhouse Sessions series is meant to bring together local book lovers from around the region who want to celebrate the independent spirit of the written word. From Stillhouse's website: "Stillhouse Press ( is dedicated to craft publishing, seeking out writers whose work affirms the enduring power of the written word to inform and delight. With the student-directed support of George Mason’s MFA program, Stillhouse Press was founded by Relegation Books Publisher Dallas Hudgens, as a way to give graduate students an opportunity to gain experience in small press publishing through hands-on application."

There are two upcoming events. Here are the descriptions:
  • The inaugural edition of the Stillhouse Sessions will be held Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 7:00pm at Politics & Prose Bookstore and will feature readings from D.C. native, Maxwell Neely-Cohen (Echo of the Boom) and Ronna Wineberg  (On Bittersweet Place, forthcoming from Northern Virginia-based Relegation Books this Sept.), with musical entertainment from Melodime and drinks courtesy of a local craft distillery.
  • The second edition of the Stillhouse Sessions, “The Salon,” will be held in conjunction with Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book festival on Saturday, Sept. 13, at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts and will feature a donation-based reception with craft cocktails and light refreshments, followed by a conversation on craft publishing, moderated by independent publicist and Potomac native, Lauren Cerand, and featuring authors Roxane Gay (An Untamed State, Bad Feminist), Ronna Wineberg, and Mary Kay Zuravleff (reading from Wendi Kaufman’s Helen On 86th Street and Other Stories, for which she penned the introduction).

#SRC2014 Review: Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart

Title: Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family
Author: Melissa Hart
Format: ARC
Publisher: Lyons Press
Publish Date: August 5, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge

What's the Story?: 

From "Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!

Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to “sink her talons” into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As “human imprints,” these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don’t want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams."

My Two Cents:

"Wild Within" is a memoir about love, animals, and what it means to be a family. Sometimes family are the people that we choose and not the ones that we are born with. In this book, Melissa Hart talks about how she comes to love raptors. Raptors are not dinosaurs but birds like hawks and owls that hunt for their food. Melissa meets Jonathan who works at a raptor rescue organization and he teaches her about all of these amazing birds. While she is falling in love with the birds she also falls in love with Jonathan. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. I think it will appeal to people who love animals!

I have always been fascinated by owls. But the more that I learn about them and other birds the more that I began to love all the raptors. In this book, Melissa doesn't know anything about raptors before she meets Jonathan. I really liked how she was able to show how she developed a passion for loving these animals. I was very interested in the parts where Melissa talks about her work with the raptors at the raptor rescue organization. She shows how much work and dedication goes into rehabilitating each of these amazing creatures. If you have ever been interested in working with any of these animals, this book would give you a first hand look at what it is like to work with these birds.

I also really like the family aspect of this book. When Melissa and Jonathan first get together and get married, they know that they have a passion for rescuing raptors however they don't think that they want to have any children of their own. That changes when they realize how amazing it can be to rescue someone who really needs you. So they decide to adopt a child. Part of the book is dedicated to talking about everything that they go through in order to adopt. They look at international adoption, which doesn't work out for several reasons. They also look at domestic adoption but even that road is quite hard. As somebody who is interested in the topic of adoption, I found it very interesting to read about their point of view.

Overall, I found this book to be very well written and very interesting. I know this is going to be a book that I want to reread in the future when I'm looking for a book that both teaches you something as well as is very uplifting!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Odds and Ends: Concerts, Dangerous Cooking, and Street Teams

It's been a busy but (mostly) fun weekend in ABookishAffair-land. Last night, I went to go see the Miranda Lambert/ Justin Moore/ Thomas Rhett concert with my mom, aunt, and sisters. My sister had gotten tickets for everyone for Mother's Day and I think both of the mothers were of the opinion that the concert was a great gift to wait for!

The concert was outside and we had lawn seats. I had been watching the weather all week to see if it was going to rain at all and up until late in the week, it looked like the weather was going to be just fine. Unfortunately for us, the weather had other plans and it absolutely poured all day. By the time it was almost time for the concert, the rain was still spitting a little bit but it was mostly okay. We had a great time with a lot of dancing. It was a great concert to end the summer with.

This morning, I woke up and started doing some cooking to prepare for the week. I made banana ice cream, tropical granola, and cucumber chips. I was feeling industrious but unfortunately for me, I cut my finger pretty badly on a mandoline (ouch, those things are sharp)! Luckily, no stitches were necessary but my poor finger just bled and bled and bled. It really hurts! My pinky is probably going to have to be wrapped up for a good couple days. Hey, at least all of the food was tasty!

And then on to book news, I did want to let you all know that I am taking a part in Sherry Jones' street team. Jones is the author of such books as "White Heart" and "Four Sisters, All Queens." She has a really exciting book coming out in November called "The Sharp Hook of Love." You will want to check out her site where she is giving away copies of "White Heart!"

I also got some pretty good book mail this past week. As you all may know, I have absolutely loved Stephanie Thornton's historical fiction books! She is coming out with yet another book that looks absolutely fabulous. It's called "The Tiger Queens" and it is about the women of Genghis Khan (ooooo! ahhhhh!). Look at what my copy of the book came with:

How cute is that scroll?

Here's to making it a good week!
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