Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona!

Hi all! I hope you all are doing well in these unsettled times. I know that it took me awhile after beginning social distancing to get back into the reading groove. My anxiety was just heightened and I just felt... well... unsettled. Luckily, I've gotten into the new routine and my reading has returned to normal and a part of me loves that I have even more time to read now. Hah, I'm all about silver linings. I hope you all have found ways to settle into a good book and have been able to find comfort among the uncertainty.

How are you all doing?

Friday, March 27, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living by Kris Bordessa

Title: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living
Author: Kris Bordessa
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Publish Date: March 24, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?

From Goodreads.com: "Whether you live in a city, suburb, or the country, this essential guide for the backyard homesteader will help you achieve a homespun life--from starting your own garden and pickling the food you grow to pressing wildflowers, baking sourdough loaves, quilting, raising chickens, and creating your own natural cleaning supplies. In these beautifully illustrated pages, Kris Bordessa offers DIY lovers an indispensable home reference for sustainability in the 21st century, using tried-and-true advice, 50 enticing recipes, and step-by-step directions for creating fun, cost-efficient projects that will bring out your inner pioneer. Filled with 340 color photographs, this relatable, comprehensive book contains time honored-wisdom and modern know-how for getting back to basics in a beautiful, accessible package."

My Two Cents:

I began reading "Attainable Sustainable" just as we started staying home from work due to the threat of covid-19. We have a lot of time on our hands now and a lot of time to try out some of the tips found in this book. This book is jam packed with ideas of how you can make yourself more self-sustainable. While the idea of self-sustainability itself may be daunting, this book breaks a bunch of initially complicated-seeming things into super approachable steps. Author Kris Bordessa acts as a wonderful coach towards making sure you feel well equipped to tackle the projects in the book.

This book has tips on just about everything you could think of: growing and raising food, cooking, making different household good, cleaning, etc. You can either read this book straight through like I did or treat it as an encyclopedia of sorts. Either way, I know this book is one that I want to keep on hand so that I can reference it whenever I want to try something new.

Not only is the book super useful but it is very pretty as well. It's chock full of tons of gorgeous pictures that not only show you finished projects but also gives you some instruction on how to accomplish some of the various projects. If you're interested in sticking your toe in the self-sustainability pool or if you're a newbie ready to fully dive in, this book is a great start!

Friday, March 13, 2020

HFVBT Review: The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Title: The Lost History of Dreams
Author: Kris Waldherr 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Publish Date: April 9, 2019 (Out now in paperback!)
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh's remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne's last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada's grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle's story of Ada and Hugh's ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh's relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert's own marriage--including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn't--things from beyond the grave."

My Two Cents:

"The Lost History of Dreams" is a delicious concoction of a gothic historical fiction book. Hugh de Bonne is a beloved poet with a very passionate following. When he meets his untimely demise, it is up to his cousin, Robert, to take care of his burial. Robert knows little of Hugh's life as he and Hugh have been estranged for a long time so when he travels to Hugh's residence, he is surprised to meet Isabelle, Hugh's niece, who holds the secret to the real relationship between Hugh and his wife, Ada. Filled with love stories and ghost stories in equal measure, this book was a great gothic story!

This is a very character-driven novel. Robert, Isabelle, Hugh, and Ada all are very complicated characters. I really thought the author did a good job of pulling back the layers of each character and weaving the detail into the story line to move it along. When the book opens, there is a lot of mystery surrounding each character. The readers are not privy to what is driving each of the characters. I was particularly struck by the story that unfolds about Robert and Sida and how it drives him to his occupation: post-mortem photography. More about this later!

The detail in the book was good! I loved the dark, moody feel of the entire book. As I mentioned before, Robert is a post-mortem photographer. This occupation is so specific to the Victorian era and I loved reading about it (even if it creeped me out a little bit - hah!). I also loved reading about Hugh's poetry, distinctly of the Romantic time period. The world-building in this book was really great!

The pacing of the book was good. It did get a little hung up for me as we are introduced to Isabelle and trying to figure out what made her tick and what she had witnessed between Hugh and Ada. Eventually the pacing evened out for me and flowed rather nicely. This was an interesting book and I would love to see what Waldherr writes next!


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Reading Challenge Update

As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!
February went a little bit better!
I read books from this many countries in February:
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 144 books for this challenge so far.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Review: And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Title: And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
Author: Stephanie Marie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 10, 2020

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.

But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.

My Two Cents:

"And They Called It Camelot" is a fictionalized account of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and covers about 25 years in her life: from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. In that time, she goes from being a young woman courting one of the most eligible bachelors in the world to a twice-widowed woman who is carving out a life for herself in the best way she knows how. This is a woman that the world's spotlight always seemed to find, whether she wanted it to or not. Where many would have withered, she grew and stood tall and became a role model for so many, myself included.

When I heard that Thornton's latest book would take on Jackie O., I was terribly excited. I am so fascinated by Jackie and knew that she would be in really good hands with Thornton, who has created such wonderful stories about some truly phenomenal women. Turns out my excitement was very much warranted! I loved this fictionalized account of Jackie, a woman who had to reinvent herself so many times throughout the tumultuous period that this book covered and always came out looking like the very epitome of grace and strength!

The book opens with Jackie meeting Jack for the first time. It seems like they have an instant connection. Where other men seem intimidated by Jackie's sophistication and education, Jack seems intrigued. I love how Thornton was able to capture the sparks that flew between them from the very beginning. We also get to see just how complicated things were between them. Although it was clear that they loved each other, we see that Jack had a roving eye and always seems to have his eyes on another woman. I loved seeing how they were pulled apart and put back together again over and over again throughout the book.

The book covers all of the highlights of the Kennedy presidency, which seemed to breathe new life into the entire United States. I loved reading about the renovation and massive redecorating of the White House. Jackie definitely made it America's house and gave it a sense of grandeur deserving of its history. We see her triumph in France and charming De Gaulle. We get to see her in India receiving a veritable menagerie of animals and being awed by the Taj Mahal. The book flashes back several times to that fateful day in November that marred the entire country.

I feel like I knew less about her life after the death of Jack. We see her eventually marry Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping magnate, just four years after the death of her first husband. This really seems to be the first time that Jackie finds herself on the wrong side of the press and it was so interesting to see how she grappled with that after being their darling for so long.

I really thought that Thornton did such an amazing job of giving Jackie a truly authentic voice. I felt as if I were talking to a friend who is ready to spill all of her secrets. This was a great book and a wonderful way to get a better understanding of a truly fascinating woman!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Giveaway Winner!

The "Fighting for Space" giveaway is over so...

Congratulations to the winner:
Cassandra D.

Monday, March 2, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job by Bruce Daisley

Title: Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job
Author: Bruce Daisley 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: HarperOne
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "How does a lunch break spark a burst of productivity? Can a team’s performance be improved simply by moving the location of the coffee maker? Why are meetings so often a waste of time, and how can a walking meeting actually get decisions made?

As an executive with decades of management experience at top Silicon Valley companies including YouTube, Google, and Twitter, Bruce Daisley has given a lot of thought to what makes a workforce productive and what factors can improve the workplace to benefit a company’s employees, customers, and bottom line. In his debut book, he shares what he’s discovered, offering practical, often counterintuitive, insights and solutions for reinvigorating work to give us more meaning, productivity, and joy at the office.

A Gallup survey of global workers revealed shocking news: only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. This means that burn out and unhappiness at work are a reality for the vast majority of workers. Managers—and employees themselves—can make work better. Eat Sleep Work Repeat shows them how, offering more than two dozen research-backed, user-friendly strategies, including:

Go to Lunch (it makes you less tired over the weekend)
Suggest a Tea Break (it increases team cohesiveness and productivity)
Conduct a Pre-Mortem (foreseeing possible issues can prevent problems and creates a spirit of curiosity and inquisitiveness)"

My Two Cents:

Bruce Daisley is the author of "Eat Sleep Work Repeat" and he is also the European Vice President of Twitter as well as the host of the podcast of the same title. He recognizes that many of us spend a lot of time at work and since we spend so much time at work, it's not worth being miserable. There are a few things that you can do, even if you are not a manager, to make the experience better for yourself and those around you. 

This book is broken down into great bite size pieces that give you suggestions of things to consider in order to improve your work environment as well as to help ensure that your team has what they need in order to achieve great things. In addition to suggesting what you can do, each section has concrete actions that you can take that would be easy enough to implement quickly. There are, of course, some things that are not necessarily in the everyone's span of control. For instance, for me and in my work environment, it would be very difficult to change anything having to do with space. We have the space we have and it really can't be changed. That being said, there are plenty of things that I can act on that will have the ability to make a big impact and they are pretty easy.

This is the kind of book that I want to get into everyone's hands that needs a little motivation. It seems like sometimes making changes at work may be super difficult, particularly when you're not the one in charge but this book has plenty of suggestions that you can use in order to make your own experience at work better and if you're having a better time of it, that can have a ripple effect throughout your entire unit. 

I love the tone that Daisley uses throughout the books. He's positive and motivational. He uses a broad range of examples and research that show the impact that some of the things that he suggests can have if implemented. I found the book to be a breath of fresh air and a great way to reframe some of the things going on in my own mind. This would be a great pick for anyone who finds themselves working in an office environment that needs a bit of a boost! I know this is a book that I am going to keep going back to for when I need a bit of a push!

Tour Schedule:

Monday, February 24th: Living My Best Book Life
Tuesday, February 25th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, February 26th: Tabi Thoughts
Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @books_with_bethany
Friday, February 28th: Write – Read – Life
Monday, March 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, March 3rd: Run Wright
Wednesday, March 4th: bookchickdi
Monday, March 9th: PhDiva
Tuesday, March 10th: Wellreadtraveler
Wednesday, March 11th: Orange County Readers
Thursday, March 12th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, March 13th: Amy’s Book-et List
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