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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Review: A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

 Title:  A Very Punchable Face

Author: Colin Jost 

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Publish Date: July 14, 2020

Source: Library


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "If there’s one trait that makes someone well suited to comedy, it’s being able to take a punch—metaphorically and, occasionally, physically.

From growing up in a family of firefighters on Staten Island to commuting three hours a day to high school and “seeing the sights” (like watching a Russian woman throw a stroller off the back of a ferry), to attending Harvard while Facebook was created, Jost shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump.

You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won). You’ll go behind the scenes at SNL and Weekend Update (where he’s written some of the most memorable sketches and jokes of the past fifteen years). And you’ll experience the life of a touring stand-up comedian—from performing in rural college cafeterias at noon to opening for Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.

For every accomplishment (hosting the Emmys), there is a setback (hosting the Emmys). And for every absurd moment (watching paramedics give CPR to a raccoon), there is an honest, emotional one (recounting his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers’ collapse on 9/11). Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face reveals the brilliant mind behind some of the dumbest sketches on television, and lays bare the heart and humor of a hardworking guy—with a face you can’t help but want to punch."

 My Two Cents:

"A Very Punchable Face" by Colin Jost is a hilarious book! These days, I am always looking to laugh and the harder I laugh, the better. I love Saturday Night Live and it's one show that I always try to watch. I get way too tired to stay up to watch it live but we usually catch it the day after. For the past several years, Colin Jost has been a mainstay on SNL as both a writer and a host on Weekend Update.

In this book, Jost covers from his very young life up until now. He tells all sorts of stories like the time he became a journalist for his small hometown newspaper on Staten Island or the time he studied abroad in Russia (who knew he studied Russian literature) and his host family didn't talk to him at all. While most of the book is non-stop hilarity, there are also some poignant moments like when Jost is describing his amazing mother's experience during 9/11 (she worked as a medic with the New York Fire Department). She is pretty amazing!  Jost is a great writer and you feel like a friend is talking to you about some of their funniest exploits!

This book is also a must read for any SNL fan of the past several years. I loved the behind the scenes look that you get in this book. We get to see everything from how he applies to how he finds out that he landed a spot. Jost talks about some of the best and worst hosts during his time (the Trump episode seemed pretty surreal). And we also get a deep dive into how some of his favorite sketches came together and which ones were the most memorable for him.

If you're looking for a book that will force you to burst out in laughter, this is a fantastic pick!

 


 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Story Graph!!!

 If you are a bookish person, you probably have your go-to way to track all of the books you're reading and everything you want to read! For some of us, it's spreadsheets. For others, including myself, it's a website. I have been using Goodreads for several years but there are a few things that I really wished for that it didn't really have. One of the big reasons I started using Goodreads is that I really wanted was to be able to find good book recommendations and while Goodreads has a plentiful list function for just about any topic that you could wish to read about, the recommendations kind of failed for me. Goodreads can also just be really, really, really, extremely clunky!

Enter The Story Graph! Right now, the site is in its beta version but the site is trying to make it easier to find book recommendations that actually fit what you are looking for! The interface is also really beautiful! I was able to download a file from Goodreads and seamlessly upload it to The Story Graph where I started getting recommendations that ACTUALLY look like things that I might like to read! The site is still relatively bare and is missing some of the things that I loved from Goodreads: a mobile app; the ability to scan the cover/ isbn rather than search for a book title; some of the social function; etc. But again, this is just the beta site so there is room for some of these things to be added in the future (fingers crossed!!!) and I am so excited to see what they do!

Have you heard of The Story Graph? What are your thoughts?

 

Here are two of my kittehs for your viewing pleasure.

 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Review: The Night Portrait: A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy by Laura Morelli

 Title: The Night Portrait: A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy

Author: Laura Morelli

Format: Paperback

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: September 8, 2020

Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Milan, 1492: When a 16-year old beauty becomes the mistress of the Duke of Milan, she must fight for her place in the palace—and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date.

Munich, World War II: After a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader, she risks her life to recover it, working with an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies."

My Two Cents:

"The Night Portrait" is a dual-narrative historical fiction of two women set in both the time of Renaissance Italy and in 1940s Europe during the height of World War II's messy ending. The narrative has a lot of twists and turns and kept me on my toes with the connection between Cecilia and Edith over 500 years. This book was a treat!

In Renaissance Italy, Cecilia is a beautiful girl trying to change her fate from that of a nobleman's mistress to that of a titled noblewoman. She is such a fascinating character. At 16, she is wise beyond her years and understands how the game of climbing the social ladder must be played. I loved following her as she figures out ways to ensure that she continues moving ever forward with her plans. She fully recognizes just how little control she has over her fate as a young woman but is doing everything she can think to ensure she achieves her goal, including getting her portrait done by Michaelangelo who may have the recipe to keep her in mind and in view for centuries to come.

In the 1940s, Edith is an art conservator called into service to "rescue" paintings in Poland and send them back to the Motherland of Nazi Germany. Edith knows how to survive but she also knows that what she is being asked to do isn't right and that she needs to find her way to fight the injustice of helping to steal paintings while still being able to survive. She is super brave in the face of the risk of what will happen to her if her plans are discovered! She finds herself working with the infamous Monuments Men in a race against time to protect as many paintings as she can, including a strange one of a young woman holding a very odd pet.

This book had so much going for it. Not only were the main characters good but the secondary characters were wonderful as well! I loved the taste of Michaelangelo that we get: a man who dreams of creating war machines but just hasn't gained ground. Dominic dreams of going home to the United States but realizes how much there is at stake in the last days of World War II.

I really enjoyed all of the historical detail as well! You get a good taste of both the Renaissance Italy and the World War II era Europe. I loved how the world building was so well woven into the narrative that you can very much picture what the characters are going through without the narrative ever feeling like a major information dump.

This book is a treat for my fellow historical fiction lovers who want a fully engaging read about some amazing art and memorable characters!



Monday, August 31, 2020

TLC Book Tours Review: The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild by Enric Sala

 Title: The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild 

Author: Enric Sala

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: National Geographic

Publish Date: August 25, 2020

Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Enric Sala wants to change the world--and in this compelling book, he shows us how. Once we appreciate how nature works, he asserts, we will understand why conservation is economically wise and essential to our survival. 


Here Sala, director of National Geographic's Pristine Seas project (which has succeeded in protecting more than 5 million sq km of ocean), tells the story of his scientific awakening and his transition from academia to activism--as he puts it, he was tired of writing the obituary of the ocean. His revelations are surprising, sometimes counterintuitive: More sharks signal a healthier ocean; crop diversity, not intensive monoculture farming, is the key to feeding the planet.


Using fascinating examples from his expeditions and those of other scientists, Sala shows the economic wisdom of making room for nature, even as the population becomes more urbanized. In a sober epilogue, he shows how saving nature can save us all, by reversing conditions that led to the coronavirus pandemic and preventing other global catastrophes. With a foreword from Prince Charles and an introduction from E. O. Wilson, this powerful book will change the way you think about our world--and our future."

My Two Cents:

An alternate title for Enric Sala's "The Nature of Nature" is "Everything is Connected." As he states in his book, it is so very important to look at the world as one ecosystem full of obvious connections and much less obvious connections. The ecosystem is deserving of protection. It is also so very important to continue to value science and push science forward for better understanding of our environment and the effects of how we live our lives has on the world.

This book is filled with fascinating stories from Sala's own work experience as well as accounts of experiments that show just how interrelated everything is. Written in a way that excited my interest enough to read further about some of the things he talks about in this book, this book has the power to ignite curiosity and determination in protecting our world.

Shortly before this book was printed, COVID-19 started making its way around the globe. Recognizing that this zoonotic disease represented a great example of why it is so important to take care of our world and ensure resilience, he and the publisher pulled the book back to write one more chapter on COVID-19 and everything we know so far. It was fascinating (and a bit jarring) to read about this thing that we are very much still facing and some of the lessons that I have already come from it in a very short amount of time!

This was a fascinating read that left me ruminating how much work has been done as well as how much work there is still to do! 


 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

 I am so excited to show you the gorgeous new cover for "The Social Graces" by Renee Rosen! I have loved her other books and am so excited for this one!


Book details:  

THE SOCIAL GRACES by Renee Rosen (Berkley trade paperback; on-sale April 20, 2021)

Pre-order link:   

https://bit.ly/3leUzfn 

What's the Story?:

Renee Rosen, bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, delivers readers a peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands' infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor--the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America's richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? When it carries on just as it has done for generations? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this gripping novel follows these two women as they try to outdo and outsmart each other at every turn. As Caroline comes closer to defeat and Alva closer to victory, both will make surprising discoveries about themselves and what's truly at stake.

 Q&A with Renee Rosen:

What inspired you to write THE SOCIAL GRACES?

THE SOCIAL GRACES is the story of Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.  That’s my elevator pitch, but it’s also the story of mothers and daughters, of sisters, of husbands and wives, of class and examining one’s shifting values. 

In terms of inspiration, it was more of a “who” rather than a “what”. I was brainstorming on new book concepts and my agent mentioned Consuelo Vanderbilt. Right after that, my editor suggested doing something in the Gilded Age. So really it was the two of them who inspired me, and after some preliminary research on New York in that time period, it was obvious that the rivalry between Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt had the makings of a really interesting novel.

Tell us about what it was like to write the feuding Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt, two of America’s wealthiest and most powerful women. Did you relate more to Mrs. Astor, or Mrs. Vanderbilt?

Bringing Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt to life on the page was far more challenging than I had anticipated.  When I first started working on the novel, I looked at my cast of characters and realized I had a group of rather unlikable people. On the surface, they came across as spoiled, entitled, greedy and superficial. I knew that if I wanted to engage the reader, I was going to have to really drill down to find the humanity in these people and find a reason for us to root for them. Once I started to see Alva and Caroline as wives, mothers and daughters themselves, they started to come alive for me. I found myself able to relate to both of them in different ways and for different reasons. I related to Caroline reaching the prime of her life and worried that her youth and significance were slipping away. With Alva I related to her passion, her drive, her unconventional spirit.  In the end, I’m happy to say that I found them both women to be fascinating and bewildering characters to work with.

Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you?

I was really surprised by how understated the knickerbockers (the old money) were early on, before the nouveau riche began exerting their influence. For example, Caroline Astor and other society matrons of her ilk found those wonderful Worth gowns to be very gauche and pretentious. They never wore them and instead favored more plain gowns. The knickerbockers lived in very refined, nearly identical townhouses. It wasn’t until Alva Vanderbilt embarked on her architectural masterpieces (such as Petit Chateau and Marble House) that the rest of society began trying to out-build one another with their palatial mansions. The same goes for their extravagant entertaining. It wasn’t until the new money began throwing such elaborate and outlandish balls that the knickerbockers felt they needed to compete and became a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.

If THE SOCIAL GRACES was made into a movie, who would you choose to cast as your two leading ladies?

Such a fun question! I think Kathy Bates would be a fabulous Mrs. Astor and I could see Julia Garner bringing Alva to life. After seeing her portrayal of Ruth Langmore in Ozark as well as a few other performances, I’m convinced she’d be brilliant in any part she plays.

 Want to win your own copy of "The Social Graces?" Enter here!

Hello, New Adventure!

 As all good bookish stories start, this one started with the promise of discounted books. By now, most of you know that I have two five year girls who keep me FOREVER on my toes. And since I love books, I really want them to love books too and fortunately my plan seems to be working. Our house is now not only filled with my books but with the girls' books as well! One of my favorite book publishers for littles are Usborne Books. They're super durable and cover tons of topics! I love them!

Enter A Little Bookish Affair, which will be my corner of the interwebz for these books geared for kiddos! I've started a Facebook group where I'm sharing some of these books if you're interested!

If you could make your kids read a book on any subject, what would it be and why? (Mine would be a book about picking up after themselves :) )



Monday, August 24, 2020

Review: The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo's David by Laura Morelli

 Title: The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo's David

Author: Laura Morelli

Format: Paperback

Publisher: The Scriptorium

Publish Date: May 31, 2020

Source: Author


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As a colossal statue takes shape in Renaissance Florence, the lives of a master sculptor and a struggling painter become stunningly intertwined.

Florence, 1500. Fresco painter Jacopo Torni longs to make his mark in the world. But while his peers enjoy prestigious commissions, his meager painting jobs are all earmarked to pay down gambling debts.

When Jacopo hears of a competition to create Florence's greatest sculpture, he pins all his hopes on a collaboration with his boyhood companion, Michelangelo Buonarroti. But will the frustrated artist ever emerge from the shadow of his singularly gifted friend?"

My Two Cents:

"The Giant" is the story of painter Jacopo Torni, who dreams of making a lasting mark on the art world with his painting. Instead, he is forced to take any job he can as long as it pays so he can pay down some longstanding debts. The jobs are not noteworthy and he finds himself jealous of the notoriety that so many of his fellow artists seem to be finding with ease. Suddenly he has the opportunity to hitch his star to his friend Michaelangelo, already famous in his own right, and Jacopo is ready to take a leap of faith!

This is a well-researched and fascinating story! I always have a soft spot for down on their luck characters and when the story opens, Jacopo just can't seem to make his way towards everything he is dreaming of. Obstacle after obstacle comes his way and while some of them are just bad luck, some of the difficult situations are of his own making. When the story opens, he seems to be aimless and lacking drive. Eventually that shifts as he begins to see a way forward, even if it means playing second fiddle instead of being the star. I loved seeing how he changed throughout the book!

The star of this book was really the world-building and the descriptions. The author takes us back to gorgeous Florence in the 1500s where everyone is racing to make the greatest art to change the art world and make their mark. It's an exciting place and with the detail that the author gives, it makes it easy to imagine that you are in the center of it all as the characters struggle against each other and with each other in order to push forward and achieve greatness.

This book was a perfect pick for when you are looking for an escape to a world filled with art and intrigue!

 

 

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