Friday, September 29, 2017

An Evening with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of books like "We Should All Be Feminists" and "Americanah" speak. She was speaking as part of the One Maryland, One Book program. Her debut novel, "Purple Hibiscus" is the book for this year. I was super excited for this event and I was not disappointed. If you ever have the chance to see her, run, don't walk!

Adichie gave a rousing talk that touched on everything from feminism to storytelling.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from her talk:
  • "I revisited Purple Hibiscus and realized, I'm no longer that writer. But I also thought, 'not bad...'"
  • "Violence can breed silence."
  • "It's very easy to dispense advice when you don't have to follow it."
  • "If a child has both parents, a child deserves to actually have both parents."  on parental equality
  • "We have to name a problem in order to solve it."
  • "Lots of women give up and give in when it comes to expecting fathers to take an equal share in child rearing"
  • "Feminism is not just for women. If we lived in a feminist world, both men and women would benefit."
  • "Dissent is not treason."
  • "So to prevent violence, which I don't condone, I don't read reviews."
  • "I think there are some things that are too big to forgive."
I also got to get books signed by her! She was wonderful! I got to thank her for the inspiration she's given me in raising my girls to breathe fire! When I told her I had twins, she said "That's delicious!!!" This has to be my favorite response ever! I think the second picture might be just after she said that.

It was a great night for this bookworm!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: There's Nothing to Do! by Dev Petty, Illustrated by Mike Boldt

Title: There's Nothing to Do!
Authors: Dev Petty, Illustrated by Mike Boldt
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 19, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Frog is bored. He can't find ANYTHING to do--even when his animal friends make good suggestions, like sleeping all day, licking between his toes, or hopping around and then staring off into space. Will he find a fun and exciting way to spend his day?"

My Two Cents:

In "There's Nothing to Do," there is a little frog and he is BORED. He believes there's nothing to do and everything everyone else in the book suggests is even more boring than the suggestion before.

My girls are too young to understand what being bored is but oh, do I remember complaining about being bored to my parents when I was little. This is a very common situation. The book has a good message about coming up with things to do and thinking in such a way that you'll never be bored.

The standout in the book for me is the illustrations. They are great! The animals are adorable and the pictures are so funny. My girls loved naming all of the animals and pointing out what they were doing.

This was a great book and definitely one that my girls love revisiting over and over again!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

HFVBT Review: Evita... My Argentina by Helen R Davis

Title: Evita... My Argentina
Author: Helen R Davis
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: February 10, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "EVITA ... My Argentina Evita Peron tells her own spectacular story. Tracing her life back to her humble beginnings, when she is abandoned by her father, Evita takes the reader on her journey to become an actress and later, to the pivotal moment when she meets Colonel Juan Peron. Never content to stay in her husband's shadow, Evita reveals how she shares his belief that Peronism will help the working class. Eventually she begins doing work on her own as the president of the Society of Benevolence, helping the poor and winning the peoples' trust. As the times change and women get the vote, Evita becomes even more powerful, running the Ministries of Labor and Health, starting a foundation, and organizing the first female party, The Female Peronist Party. A larger-than-life story, told in her own fictional words, the powerful novel is as educational as it is entertaining."

My Two Cents:

"Evita... My Argentina" is the story of Eva Peron, a woman who went from a poor girl without a father to an actress to the wife of General Juan Peron, who became the President of Argentina. She was a larger-than-life legend whose legacy has been both elevated and tarnished by different groups of people. Often controversial and often beloved, she is a fascinating figure and it's no wonder that she made for a fascinating book subject.

Evita tells us her story herself, which was super effective. She is the major focus of the book and although we get to know her very well, many of the secondary characters are so secondary that they factor very little into the book. This book is mostly Evita's personal thoughts and feelings on things. Because she is telling it herself, the book is very one-sided. Having a little bit of a background in Latin American politics and history may add to your like of this book as it was very interesting to me to compare and contrast historical events with Evita's glossy remembrance of events. There is not much of an outward look at how the opposition saw some of the negative effects of Peronism. 

The writing of the book was interesting. The layout of the book was off the beaten path. This book in many ways feels like Evita is telling you vignettes from her life. The book is very much divided what happened to Evita year by year in her life without a true narrative string other than the simple chain of her life. Each vignette is bounded by something like "It was September 194x" before giving a brief description and maybe a conversation or two surrounding the event. I did find the book a bit limited and yearned for more of a story rather than a statement of what happened. This book gives good insight into how Evita saw herself.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

TLC Book Tours: The Way to London by Alix Rickloff

Title: The Way to London
Author: Alix Rickloff
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: September 19, 2017
Source: TLC Books and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "On the eve of Pearl Harbor, impetuous and overindulged, Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever.

Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers, Lucy never dreamed that she would be one of the last people to escape Singapore before war engulfs the entire island, and that her parents would disappear in the devastating aftermath. Now grief stricken and all alone, she must cope with the realities of a grim, battle-weary England.

Then she meets Bill, a young evacuee sent to the country to escape the Blitz, and in a moment of weakness, Lucy agrees to help him find his mother in London. The unlikely runaways take off on a seemingly simple journey across the country, but her world becomes even more complicated when she is reunited with an invalided soldier she knew in Singapore.

Now Lucy will be forced to finally confront the choices she has made if she ever hopes to have the future she yearns for."

My Two Cents:

In "The Way to London," privileged Lucy is forced to leave her cushy in warm Singapore home where she is basically free to do whatever she wants and spend money however she wants for cold, dreary London as war threatens to engulf the Pacific. Lucy will go on a journey that forces her to change and adapt in ways she didn't think possible. 

This book had a slow start for me. Lucy does not start out as the most likable character; it was hard to find common ground with her for me. She is so focused on herself that she seems to treat the war as a nuisance rather than something to be concerned about. She's annoyed by having to go to England even though it is safer. She's annoyed about having to stay with her aunt so she goes to London and along the way meets Bill, a young boy looking for his mother. Bill was one of my favorite parts of the book and really shakes Lucy loose from her myopic tendencies. Meanwhile, Lucy learns that she may have lost her own mother, which gives her a bit of introspection as to whether she will follow her mother's footsteps or break free. 

This book is very much about how the rich "waited out" World War II. I really liked a lot of the historical detail that was in this book. I loved the descriptions of Singapore in the 1940s. I also really enjoyed some of the smaller details that the author put in the book like restaurants not having to adhere to ration amounts in the early 1940s. I had no idea about that! All of these details really brought the book to life. 

The slow start hung things up for me a bit but the book settles into a nice pace.

Friday, September 22, 2017

TLC Book Tours: The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Title: The Other Alcott
Author: Elise Hooper 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: September 5, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins 

What's the Story?:

From "We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott."

My Two Cents:

"The Other Alcott" is the story of May Alcott, sister of author Louisa May Alcott, author of the classic book "Little Women." Louisa is seen as the successful sister. She chooses to write what's marketable so that she can provide money to her family. She also has a tendency to hold this over her family's head, especially May. May is an artist who is still seeking commercial success out of the long shadow of her sister. This is a fascinating look at a pair of famous sisters and the push and pull that drove both of their lives.

Ah, sisterhood! Coming from a trio of close sisters, I am fascinated by sisterhood. I can't imagine my life without my sisters and so I am always interested in this subject. Louisa and May aren't exactly close when the book opens. Louisa has just attained success with "Little Women," which features May's art, which is panned often by critics. To add insult to injury, it becomes apparent that spoiled Amy March is based on May. May is hurt and embarrassed that Louisa is making money off of her in this way. But as Louisa constantly points out, it is because of the success of her book that May can afford to do things like travel to Europe in order to pursue her art.

I loved reading about the push and pull of these sisters. They obviously love each other and care about each other but there is a lot of competition and jealousy that constantly gets in the way of having a super close relationship. In the end, it's clear that they respect each other and May makes peace with being in her sister's shadow and finding happiness in being "behind the scenes."

The writing was good! I really liked how the author captured the thoughts and feelings of the two sisters. I loved reading about May's time in Europe and how she seeks making her own name. This was a small detail but I loved the appearance of Mary Cassatt and how she introduces May to Impressionism before Impressionism was really a thing. I love Cassatt and I would love to see a novel about her!

Overall, this was a great book that left me thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have the sisters that I have. There is no greater gift!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Life of a Book

We book lovers are a special breed. Not only do we love reading books but we love hearing stories about the books. Why were they written? How did they come to be? For my fellow book lovers, boy, do I have something for you!

Penguin Random House has started doing a new series called "The Life of a Book" and it's interviews with those in the know about some of the hottest releases and how they came to be. Their latest is about a super hot release by Celeste Ng, "Little Fires Everywhere." It's not just one interview but an interview series about different aspects of the book to include editing and marketing.

Even though I read a lot (a lot! a lot!), I often lose sight that it is so much more than just the author who has a hand in bringing a book to life.  

This is also a great opportunity for me to once again plug one of my favorite podcasts (also from Penguin Random House) called Beaks & Geeks where Ms. Ng was just interviewed last week.

Take a look!

What book would you like to see them take on next?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

HFVBT Interview: Jessica Brockmole, Author of "Woman Enters Left"

I am very excited to welcome Jessica Brockmole here to A Bookish Affair as a part of the HFVBT tour of "Woman Enters Left."

1.     Since What inspired you to write "Woman Enters Left?"
WOMAN ENTERS LEFT came from a number of ideas I’d tucked away in my Future Story Ideas Box. I’d wanted to write about the radium girls, about early Hollywood, about road travel and Model Ts. Route 66 and divorce ranches. Loving a friend from afar. All of these came together to tell Louise, Ethel, and Florrie’s stories. But ultimately the book was inspired by the ephemera I used to research it. Without all of my road maps, travel guides, budget books, postcards, recipe booklets, and grocery ads I might not have thought of all the ways to tell a story. It isn’t just narrative that can make up a story, but all of the documents we use to record our lives.

2.     Cross country road trips seem to have a special place in American lore. Why do you think we as Americans are still so drawn to road trips today?
With the vastness of the U.S., it’s easy to think of the road trip as something almost quintessentially American. This is a country it could take half a year to cross via covered wagon. Even when the transcontinental railroad cut that time drastically, it still took more time and money than all Americans could devote to travel. It wasn’t until the advent of low-cost, relatively reliable automobiles in the 1920s that middle-class Americans began to take to the roads in increasing numbers. With a picnic basket or a tent in the back, they could go for a jaunt into the countryside or, with a road map and a lot of gumption, set off to one of the many newly opened National Parks. Not only did reaching such places really require a car in those early years, but they also required a lot of fortitude in an era before frequent service stations or regular paving. That sense of adventure also was something quintessentially American and the road trip began to move into American mythology as a rite of passage.

3.     What’s the best road trip that you yourself have ever taken?
I’ve taken a lot of fun ones over the years with friends and family. Last summer my husband, our kids, and I took our new truck to the road. Two thousand five hundred thirty-nine miles, eight states, six museums, four national parks, millions of fossils, more than a few bison, and an unspecified number of historical markers equaled one awesome family road trip!

4.     Who is your favorite character in “Woman Enters Left” and why?
This is a hard question to answer; I spent so long with all of them that I consider them all really good friends! As much as I love my main characters, when asked about favorites, I’m always drawn to my secondaries. Carl is a character who grew from a background villain to a complex and interesting character integral to the novel. I would love to sit down with Carl and Hank and one of their jigsaw puzzles and hear their story.

5.     What is your favorite scene in this book and why?
I love the scene where Louise pushes her car out of the snow. It’s so emblematic of the strength she’s discovered on the drive. I also love the quiet scene in the tent with Ethel and Florrie being nervous while the air smells like soap. I love Louise and Arnie meeting over that flashbacked library table. So many! But the one that always (still) makes me cry is A.L. escaping everyone and covering her mama to keep her warm.

6.     If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

I’d take Dolores Umbridge, Bill Sykes, and Bob Ewell…and then I’d jump in my secret hidden helicopter and leave them there. If there’s room on the boat, let’s squeeze in the man who shot Bambi’s mom.

Monday, September 18, 2017

HFVBT Review: Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

Title: Woman Enters Left
Author: Jessica Brockmole 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: August 8, 2017
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations."

My Two Cents:

"Women Enters Left" is the story of two different road trips taken a couple decades apart. In the 1930s, Florrie and Ethel have already been friends for about forever. They are leaving their jobs behind to go to the West Coast where she hopes to land a job in Hollywood. Decades later, Louise is running away from her life as an actress as she tries to put together why she has just inherited the estate of Florrie, a screenwriter that she barely knew. She will go on another, vastly different road trip. Filled with family secrets, this is a good story with a lot of twists and turns.

I loved the characters in this book. I was especially drawn to Florrie and Ethel and the story between them. They have a lot of history together being childhood friends and former co-workers. A large part of their story has to do with their former careers as "radium girls." This affects everything from their relationships and how they pan out to the more forward medical difficulties that really affect the story line. It is sad and fascinating and these characters give a face to the large amount of women that faced difficulties because of the radium.

The setting was great too! Who doesn't love the open road? I loved the juxtaposition between Florrie and Ethel's trip and Louise's trip. They both have very different feelings even though the setting is alike. They stop in different places. They figure out things in different ways but I really liked the road trip acting as a common thread between the two story lines. It made me want to jump in my car and go somewhere!

The writing of the book was good! One of the things that I liked the best is that the book is not only told through narrative but through journal entries, letters between characters, and other "found" items that really helped the characters feel real. As the author explains in her Author's Note, you really are able to get a sense of people from these "found" items. You know what makes them tick. You learn what they think of themselves through journal entries. You learn how they interact with others through their letters. It's little bits of themselves. This book allows you to put all of those things together yourself, which was sort of a neat experience as a reader.

Overall, this was a good story and I'm looking forward to more by Jessica Brockmole!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Cami and Kat and the Carrot Girl by Grete Bravo

Title: Cami and Kat and the Carrot Girl
Author: Grete Bravo 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Createspace
Publish Date: March 17, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Grete Bravo's charming new children's mystery follows two sisters, Cami and Kat, as they struggle to adjust to their parents' divorce and their move to a new neighborhood.

Timid Cami and adventurous Kat are unhappy. They both wish for something exciting to happen in their dreary new home. One day, their wish comes true. The two sisters meet Siggy, the carrot girl, an eccentric outcast at their school. Their classmates are afraid of her and convinced she has special powers. When Cami and Kat meet Siggy, they realize that she, like everyone else, just wants friends. Siggy lets them play with her little dog, Plet, and teaches them about growing their own vegetables. The sisters love hanging out with Siggy in her garden and helping her feed her farm animals.

As the three grow closer, Cami and Kat discover a secret about Siggy's family. If they don't act in time, Siggy could disappear from their lives forever!

Bravo, who grew up in Svendborg, Denmark, includes Danish vocabulary to expand children's horizons and teach them about other people and cultures. Cami's and Kat's adventures with the carrot girl emphasize universal values of friendship, compassion, and understanding."

My Two Cents:

In "Cami and Kat and the Carrot Girl," sisters Cami and Kat aren't sure about their new neighborhood until they meet Siggy, the carrot girl. Although they have gone to school with her, they never really knew her and she always seemed like an outcast. Once they get to know her, they find that she is actually quite wonderful and takes them on all sorts of adventures so they begin to feel at home in their new place. Siggy is hiding a secret though that could upend their new friendship!

This is the first book in a planned mystery series for middle grade readers. With a good mix of friendship, fun, mystery, and a bit of an off-the-beaten path story, this book was a lot of fun. Our main characters are ones that middle grade readers will love to follow. Siggy is fun and a bit eccentric. I found her very refreshing because she doesn't seem to care what others think and she is super independent. I really liked that she introduces Kat and Cami to a new language, something that makes this book feel interactive!

The mystery aspect of the book was great. I don't want to give any of the twists and turns away but I wanted to know more about Siggy and her family. There are some pertinent details that seem to still be hidden by the end of the book. I was hoping that we'd get a little more information in order to understand more about what was going on. Perhaps that will come in future books?

Overall, this was a good, imaginative story! The characters were memorable and the story line is perfect for middle grade readers looking for a good mystery. There were some loose ends that I would have liked to be tied up but again, this is only the first book in the series so I will try to be patient to see if the ends are tied in future books!


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Title: Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Two Cents:

"Beartown" is the story of a small town where the whole town seems to find hope in the kids' hockey league. There is also a darker aspect to this book that I was not expecting; this isn't exactly a feel-good story. For my fellow Americans, the hockey team has very much the same feel as a high school football team in a small American town. The hockey team brings the town hope but they also run the town and get away with a lot that they would not get away with if it weren't for the team.

Fredrik Backman is definitely on my auto-read list after reading books like "A Man Called Ove." I picked up this book automatically from my library without knowing what the book was about. This book is markedly different than "A Man Called Ove" and "Britt Marie Was Here." Different isn't bad; Backman's great writing and memorable characters are still present but don't expect a super uplifting book.

The characters in this book are very different. Some of them are hiding things throughout the book and the action is often driven by what is being hidden. The story follows both the adults and the teenagers in the book, which I really liked as you get a multi-faceted look at what makes the town as a whole tick and what brings it to its knees.

Overall, the story was good but much darker than what I was expecting. It makes me interested to see where Backman goes in the future with his books!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote the Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, Kevin Hawkes (Illustrations)

Title: Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote the Cat in the Hat
Author: Judy Sierra, Kevin Hawkes (Illustrations) 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 12, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Have you ever wondered how the great Dr. Seuss wrote his most famous book? Did you know that for The Cat in the Hat, he wasn't allowed to make up the fun words he was known for--like OOBLECK and IT-KUTCH and HIPPO-NO-HUNGUS? He was only allowed to use words from a very strict list!

This bouncy account of the early career of Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Ted Geisel) proves that sometimes limitations can be the best inspiration of all.

Kid-friendly prose (with Seussian rhyme for Ted's dialogue) and whimsical illustrations by award winner Kevin Hawkes recall the work of Dr. Seuss himself. Writing tips from Dr. Seuss and exclusive letters from the author and illustrator, detailing how they created this book, are included!"

My Two Cents:

"Imagine That!" is the story of Dr. Seuss and how he came up with all of his wonderful stories. It's filled with great illustrations from an illustrator I adore: Kevin Hawkes. It's about how he first got jobs as a writer for a new style of early reader books after an interesting career as a cartoonist for adults. It talks about how he turned the children lit world on its head with his zany stories.

Dr. Seuss is a hot author in our household as I have two year old twins. I've been reading the girls Dr. Seuss books since they were in utero and now that they are two, they appreciate the books even more. While this book is probably a little advanced for two year olds, my girls loved all of the silly words that appear in this book just like they like the silly rhymes in the Dr. Seuss books. I know my girls definitely learned something about one of their favorite authors in this book and so did I!

My girls (and I) also adored the pictures in this book. Hawkes is a great illustrator and did a great job of bringing Dr. Seuss to life. My girls loved seeing some of their old familiar friends from Dr. Seuss like the Cat in the Hat and we loved seeing new ones as well. This was a fun read for the whole family!


Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World by Lisa Currie

Title: Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World
Author: Lisa Currie
Format: ARC
Publisher: Tarcherperigree
Publish Date: August 29, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Brimming with fun and quirky ways to learn, create and grow, this charming journal presents simple activities to make every day count. Prompts include:
Memorize a poem
Compliment a stranger
Be a tourist in your own town
Learn to say "hello" in five new languages
Write a fan letter
Avoid the news for a full day
Write a five-star review
Send an overdue apology
Filled with delightful illustrations and plenty of room to record your own progress and insights, this is a DIY happiness guide to share with a friend or use as a secret personal playbook for jump-starting each day. Flip to any page and begin!"

My Two Cents:

"Surprise Yourself" is a journal of sorts that seeks to get the reader to be open to change and to grow a little bit. It is filled with a lot of different activities that would be good for many different ages. We all know that it is often much easier to stay with what you know rather than reach out and change things up. If you do want to change things up (and you know it's better for you!!!), this book would be a perfect place to start!

While the activities would be good for a lot of different age groups, there are some exercises in this book that even gave me (a full grown adult) pause. Yeah, they're doable but they definitely do stretch you and this book is just perfect for that!

A lot of the exercises are a lot of fun and I loved how varied they were. There's everything from posting an inspirational poster in a public place to thinking about things you may not think about often or at all!

This book would be a perfect gift for your friend who never seems to want to break out of their box.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review: Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham

Title: Hanging Mary
Author: Susan Higginbotham
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: March 6, 2016
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "In 1864 Washington, one has to be careful with talk of secession. Better to speak only when in the company of the trustworthy, like Mrs. Surratt. A widow who runs a small boarding house, Mary Surratt isn't half as committed to the cause as her son, Johnny. If he's not escorting veiled spies, he's inviting home men like John Wilkes Booth, the actor who is even more charming in person than he is on the stage. But when President Lincoln is killed, the question of what Mary knew becomes more important than anything else.

Based on the true history of Mary Surratt, Hanging Mary reveals the untold story of those on the other side of the assassin's gun."

My Two Cents:

"Hanging Mary" is the story of Mary Surratt, who is best known for being one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators and the first woman to be executed by the U.S. federal government. Her name has been inextricably tied to John Wilkes Booth in the plot that took the 16th president down. This book looks at whether her sullied name is warranted or could there be more to the story.

One of the reasons I love learning about history so much is that history is almost never clear cut and just when you think it is clear cut, there is always another perspective to ponder over and always a new way to see things. This book is one of those new perspectives. Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents to read about and I always wonder what would have happened had he lived. I can't get enough of reading about him. This is what initially drew me to this book. What kept me reading is the different perspective of Surratt. Throughout the book, she seems most concerned with making ends meet for her family and while she had Southern sympathies, she still seemed more concerned with running a reputable business and seeing her children stay out of trouble.

I also thought that the perspective on John Wilkes Booth was interesting. As someone looking back to the past, his name is synonymous with Lincoln's killing. In the book, the author gets at just how famous he is. He was like a A-list movie star of the present day. Everyone knew who he was. He made women swoon (some of the characters in the book trade trading cards with his face on them). Men wanted to be him. He wasn't some obscure figure, which makes his plot even more interesting to me.

The writing of the book is good. While it took me a bit to get into the story, once the action gets going, the book becomes interesting quickly. This is the perfect historical fiction for those that understand that history is still very much narrative and are looking for a new take on something so familiar to so many of us.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: Missing Persons Report by A.C. Dreher

Title: Missing Persons Report
Author: A.C. Dreher
Format: eBook
Publisher: Finishing Line Press
Publish Date: November 10, 2017 (Available for Pre-Order now!)
Source: Author


What's the Story?:

From Publisher's website: "I’ve never told details / of my train wreck rebirth.” So writes A. C. Dreher in her stunning debut collection, Missing Persons Report: Accounts from the Mushroom Cloud, but this “rebirth” comes not as train wreck but with all the strength and complexity of human endurance. Her poems are passion-stance vocal-visions of a young woman turning a sometimes-sorrowful past into primordial thunderclaps that accompany the fruitful rain of rebirth. And she demonstrates this endurance through endless affirmation: “the first rule of improv / is always say yes,” she tells us. These poems teem with both purposeful improvisation and affirmations of a life reborn with every breath. Their endurance is palpable, and through her startling images and perceptions, Dreher reminds us that “Love is like a test / we fall asleep and drool on.”
–George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016)"

My Two Cents:

"Missing Persons Report: Accounts from the Mushroom Cloud" is a debut collection of poetry by A.C. Dreher. It's a gorgeous collection that evoked some pretty strong feelings in me (the best kind of poetry, no?). Many of the poems focus on relationships and how they drive us and the memories that we're left with after they are over. The imagery used throughout the poems is strong and left me with a clear picture. Dreher has a way of noticing the small things and describing them in such a way that leaves you with a new picture of a universal idea. All that you are familiar with (the feelings, the longing, the pondering) feels new and fresh again.

Many of the poems do have a sort of lyricism about them, which is wonderful and added a lot of flow to the collection. I do know that Dreher is also a singer/ songwriter so it was interesting to see that talent channeled into poems. It does indeed translate well!

I don't get enough poetry in my reading diet so this book was a perfect opportunity for me to fix that. This is a great collection for reigniting your love of poetry and for rediscovering its ability to give names to those situations so familiar to many of us! A great debut and I am looking forward to more by this author.

Here are some of the things that I loved about this collection:

Favorite Poems:
  • The Evolution of Gills
  • Chalk and Charcoal
  • The Space of Fingernails
  • Missing Person Report
Lines (I really could have picked so many more but wanted to leave you wanting):

Postcard from California

"The thing about adulthood is no one checks my candy for poison anymore"

Chalk and Charcoal:

if loving me was like trying to clean windows
with peanut butter and a baseball bat,
loving you was like trying to floss my teeth
with an industrial-strength laser.

 This is a relatively short collection so hopefully it is only a small taste of what we can look forward to from A.C. Dreher!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What's Really on Your Mind by Lee Crutchley

Title: The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What's Really on Your Mind
Author: Lee Crutchley
Format: ARC
Publisher: Tarcher Perigree
Publish Date: September 5, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "An engaging and emotionally aware resource for night owls, insomniacs, and anyone else who finds themselves awake at all hours, The Nocturnal Journal will help you explore what keeps you up at night, and why. Prompts and illustrations tease out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking and exploring, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves."

My Two Cents:

"The Nocturnal Journal" is a great book for those who have trouble falling asleep and counting sheep won't begin to cut it. Do you wish you could turn your mind off or at least figure out why you're staring at the ceiling at two o'clock in the morning? This book is for you. It's a good resource and will hopefully give you some insight as to why sleep isn't coming easily for you.

This book is filled with a lot of different exercises to help you pinpoint why your mind won't rest. Each of the exercises is presented in an entertaining way so you'll hardly notice the book making your brain work (and hopefully get tired!!!). The exercises are fun and allow you to flex a bit of creative muscle, which I really liked!

As someone whose mind often seems to run on overdrive, this book was a good read for me. This book really allowed me to step out of worrying/ fixation mode and get into something more introspective and helpful - a definite bonus for me! This book would be perfect for your friend who complains about not being able to go right to sleep and is up all night!


Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

Title: Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life
Author: Aaron Caycedo-Kimura
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tarcher Perigree
Publish Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Introversion is "in." But there are still many misconceptions about introverts in the world. They're shy. Anti-social. They don't want to have close relationships. They're all cat people. They don't like big parties (okay, that last one might be true).
INFJoe, the cartoon persona of artist and introvert Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, is here to set the record straight. Filled with charming comic book style illustrations, this book provides invaluable insights into the introverted life with plenty of humor and wit. Full of moments that will make introverts say, "That's so me!" as well as helpful tips on surviving at parties and in the workplace, Text, Don't Call is the perfect gift for your quiet friends, or the extroverted ones who could use some help to better understand the introverts in their lives."

My Two Cents:

"Text, Don't Call" is a collection of great comics and an explainer of sorts for all of my fellow introverts. My introverted-ness mostly comes out in how I recharge. When I interact with others, I've had a lot of people seem very surprised that I'm introverted. I'm social but if I don't get alone time (like really, really, really all alone time with no other humans - animals are okay!), I don't function well. This book talks about introverts like me as well as many other types, including the more traditional super quiet, super introspective kind of introvert.

So many of the comics made me laugh because they are so spot on. I especially liked the ones about recharging (there's one with a battery that hit the nail on the head for me). I had to show this one to my husband who recharges very differently than me and is always mystified by my need for alone time - hah!

I could see this book being a great gift pick for other introverts!


Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 Reading Challenges - August Check In

Here's where I am with my reading challenges! 
Here is the original post about all of the reading challenges I'm taking on. The date listed after each book is the date I completed the book. 

PopSugar Monthly Challenge

  • January (A book with one of the four seasons in the title ): Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (1/25)
  • February (A book by a person of color): Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang (2/15) 
  • March: A book about an interesting woman: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (3/25) 
  • April (A book with an unreliable narrator): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/6)
  • May (A novel set during wartime ): The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (5/6)
  • June (A book involving travel): News of the World by Paulette Jiles (6/18)
  • July: A book set in two different time periods : The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor (7/27) 
  • August: A book set in the wilderness: American Wolf by Nate Blankslee (8/27) 

 PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Basic

  •  A book recommended by a librarian: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (1/19)
  • A book you loved as a child: Matilda by Roald Dahl (1/12)
  • A book with a subtitle: Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge  by Helen Rappaport (2/3)
  • A book that's published in 2017: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (2/5)
  • A book with a red spine: Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan (2/8)
  • A book of letters: 100 Love Notes by Hyong Yi (2/13) 
  • A book about food: A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman, Andrew Coe (2/27)
  • A book written by someone you admire: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (3/1) 
  • A book by an author from a country you've never visited: Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez (3/5)
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (3/5) 
  • A novel set during wartime:The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff (3/10) 
  • A book set in two different time periods: A Bridge Across the Ocean bySusan Meissner (3/12)
  • A book with a cat on the cover: A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy (3/14)
  • A book by or about a person who has a disability: The Secret Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach (3/14)
  • A book about an interesting woman: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (3/22)
  • A book with pictures: Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (3/28)
  • A book by a person of color: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (3/31)
  • A book with a title that's a character's name: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (4/1)
  • A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down by Richard Adams (4/13)
  • A book involving travel: The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis (4/19)
  • A book set in the wilderness: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
  • A book with multiple authors: I Hate Everyone but You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin (8/23)

Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Advanced 

  • A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquadt (1/23)
  • A book about a difficult topic: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen (3/2) 
  • A book with an eccentric character: Eggshells by Catriona Lally (3/14)  
  • An audiobook: Identical by Ellen Hopkins (5/1)
  • A book recommended by an author you love: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (6/28) 
  • A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: Perilous Undertaking by Leanna Renee Hieber (7/12) 

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

  • Read a debut novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (1/6)
  • Read an all ages comic: Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (1/14)
  • Read a book you've read before: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1/19)
  • Read a book about war: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese (1/29)
  • Read a fantasy novel.: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (1/31)
  • Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams 2/9)
  • Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (3/11)
  • Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (3/23) 
  • Read a book about books: A World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan (3/26) 
  • Read a book published by a micropress: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman (4/6)
  • Read a travel memoir: Schadenfreude by Rebecca Schuman (4/18)
  • Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: I Change Worlds by Anna Louise Strong
  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (5/5)
  •  Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.: Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda (5/12) 
  • Read a book about sports: Moneyball by Michael Lewis (6/6)

Curious Iguana's Read Broader
  • Peek into the Past: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (1/7)
  • Justice for All: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2/1)
  • Justice for All: Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf (2/6)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Chosen Maiden (3/5) 
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): One Child by Mei Fong
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Armchair Adventures: Kindred by Octavia Butler (5/7)
  • Global Voices: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (6/1) 
  • Small Press Works in Translation: Before the Feast by Sara Stanisic (6/5)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Peek Into the Past): Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (6/15) 
  • Armchair Adventures: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (7/1) 
  • Collections Near and Far: Whatever happened to interracial love? By Kathleen Collins (7/22)
  • Peek into the Past: The Black Calhouns by Gail Lumet Buckley (7/23)
  • Global Voices: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (7/24)
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (7/25)
  • Collections Near and Far: Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (7/26) 

Challenge Totals:
  • January: 10 books
  • February: 9 books
  • March: 19 books 
  • April: 11 books
  • May: 5 books
  • June: 6 books 
  • July: 8 books 
  • August: 2 books 
How did it go this month?

My reading for the challenges have really slowed down. I have specific books picked out for almost all of the rest of the challenges so I'm hoping that having a specific list to work from will be helpful!
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