Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2020 First Quarter Update!!


I set my 2020 Reading Goals on December 31st of 2019 as follows:
My goal is to read 52 books in 2020. All 52 books to be read will come from my current 'to be read' pile. No specific titles at this time have been decided upon. However, I do plan to read 13 books that I've acquired through Goodreads Giveaways, 13 books that I acquired prior to May 2014, and the 26 remaining books will be chosen at random from my 'tbr' pile... These could be books added  to my collection after May 2014, more of my older books acquired prior to May 2014, or more books I acquired through Goodreads Giveaways.
I've read 19 books so far this year and am seven books ahead of schedule at this point! 

Here's the break down of my reading so far in 2020.

Goodreads Giveaways books as follow:

1. Where the Lost Girls Go by R. J. Noonan
2. The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
3. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
4. The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic

Books read that were acquired prior to May 2014 as follows:

1. You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam
2. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger
3. The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
4. The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
5. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
6. Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence
7. Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Books read that were acquired May 2014 or later as follows:

1. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
2. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
4. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani
5. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
6. Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan
7. The Sellout by Paul Beatty
8. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Here's the further break down of the books I've read this year so far.

* 12 books were written by women and 7 by men. 

* 7 of the books are nonfiction and 12 are works of fiction. 

* 9 books fall into the mystery/thriller genre or have a mystery element to them, making mysteries/thrillers the go to genre for me thus far this year. Not that my plan was to read mostly mysteries/thrillers, it just worked out that way!

* Lots of good reads for me so far this year... Too early yet to pick my favorites.

How is your year of reading going? I hope you have read many great books to date. 

Stay safe and healthy during this time of shelter in place and social distancing while COVID-19 is going on... Hopefully, we can flatten that curve!!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Largest Chain of Bookstores in St Petersburg, Russia


Social distancing and sheltering in place is the perfect time to take virtual tours of bookstores!!

I so want to visit this bookstore in St. Petersburg, Russia some day.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and narrated by actor, Bryan Cranston. Listening time for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is 7 hours, 47 minutes.

The Things They Carried is a work of fiction written in essays that reads more like a memoir to me. The essays are about serving in the Vietnam war and how it effects the lives of those that served.

The following essays are the ones I enjoyed reading the most:

1. The Things They Carried
2. On The Rainy River
3. Stockings
4. The Man I Killed
5. Ambush
6. Good Form

Tim O'Brien's writing is really well done. I never thought I would enjoy reading a book about the Vietnam war as much as a I did. I usually tend to stay away from books about the harrowing effects of war.

Young men of my parents generation were drafted into the Vietnam war. My parents married in 1968 right out of high school and I was born 11 months later. Marriage and a baby were my father's way out from having to serve during Vietnam. Others were not so lucky. One of my father's close high school friends was drafted into the Vietnam war and as expected, he came back changed from the experience. I can't imagine having to fight in a war, especially one that seemed as unpopular as the Vietnam war was. 

It's also very sad to think that at 18 years of age the US Government drafted young men to fight and possibly die in combat, but these same young men were not old enough to vote until the age of 21. How was it possible that these young men were thought responsible (dispensable?) enough to fight for our country in combat, yet not allowed to vote for government officials and laws that effected the society they lived in? It wasn't until March 23, 1971, that the 26th Amendment was passed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. 

I thought Bryan Cranston did an excellent job of narrating The Things They CarriedI also enjoyed the added bonus track at the end of The Things They Carried where Tim O'Brien reads his essay 'The Vietnam in Me', which is not part of the written version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 'The Vietnam in Me' recounts "the author's trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before."

Below is the plot summary for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien from Amazon:
This modern classic and New York Times best seller was a finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award and has become a staple of American classrooms. Hailed by The New York Times as "a marvel of storytelling", The Things They Carried's portrayal of the boots-on-the-ground experience of soldiers in the Vietnam War is a landmark in war writing. Now, three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston, star of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, delivers an electrifying performance that walks the book's hallucinatory line between reality and fiction and highlights the emotional power of the spoken word.
The soldiers in this collection of stories carried M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and M-79 grenade launchers. They carried plastic explosives, hand grenades, flak jackets, and landmines. But they also carried letters from home, illustrated Bibles, and pictures of their loved ones. Some of them carried extra food or comic books or drugs. Every man carried what he needed to survive, and those who did carried their shattering stories away from the jungle and back to a nation that would never understand.

This audiobook also includes an exclusive recording "The Vietnam in Me," a recount of the author's trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before, read by Tim O'Brien himself.
Below is an author interview with Tim O'Brien talking about his book, The Things They Carried which I found to be good.



I am giving The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Fabulous Bookshops in London to Visit!!


These look like fun bookstores to visit in London!! What do you think?

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Sellout by Paul Beatty


The Sellout by Paul Beatty is definitely one of the most unique reads I've read in a longtime! Paul Beatty is a good writer. I can see why he won the Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Sellout in 2016... In fact, Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which was narrated by Prentice Onayemi. Listening time for The Sellout by Paul Beatty is 9 hours, 35 minutes. I loved the sound of Prentice Onayemi's voice and felt his voice was perfect for this novel. However, the audio production could have been better as you could sometimes hear the narrator inhale or exhale and sometimes hear him swallow throughout the novel.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a satire. It is a tightly written novel without a wasted written word. Be prepared to be dazzled when reading it. I enjoyed reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

The following is a plot summary for The Sellout by Paul Beatty from Amazon:
A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.
Born in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class.  Californians: "I'd die in the same bedroom I'd grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that've been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.
Fueled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
I am giving The Sellout by Paul Beatty a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next, post happy reading!!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Evolution of Science Fiction


Love science fiction? Check out this video about the evolution of the science fiction genre.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic

                                                                                                                                       

I chose to read The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic during Women's History Month and I am glad that I did!

I received an advanced reader copy/uncorrected proof of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic from the Goodreads Giveaway program. 

Below is my honest, unbiased review of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic.

I enjoyed reading The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic. This nonfiction book comes with an introduction, eight chapters, and a conclusion. Topics discussed include women and friendship, women's history, motherhood/parenting, marriage for women, women in the workforce, food and body image, identity and feminine sacrifice.

I found that The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic focuses largely on how things are for women in the US currently and the history of how things came to be for women in the USA. The conclusion chapter, which was short, is just that a conclusion. It discusses the areas we need to change in order to improve the quality of life for women. 

The following is a summary for The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic from Goodreads:
What do women want? The same thing men were promised in the Declaration of Independence: happiness, or at least the freedom to pursue it. 
For women, though, pursuing happiness is a complicated endeavor, and if you head out into America and talk to women one-on-one, as Jill Filipovic has done, you'll see that happiness is indelibly shaped by the constraints of gender, the expectations of feminine sacrifice, and the myriad ways that womanhood itself differs along lines of race, class, location, and identity.
In The H-Spot, Filipovic argues that the main obstacle standing in-between women and happiness is a rigged system. In this world of unfinished feminism, men have long been able to "have it all" because of free female labor, while the bar of achievement for women has only gotten higher. Never before have women at every economic level had to work so much (whether it's to be an accomplished white-collar employee or just make ends meet). Never before have the standards of feminine perfection been so high. And never before have the requirements for being a "good mother" been so extreme. If our laws and policies made women's happiness and fulfillment a goal in and of itself, Filipovic contends, many of our country's most contentious political issues--from reproductive rights to equal pay to welfare spending--would swiftly be resolved.
Filipovic argues that it is more important than ever to prioritize women's happiness-and that doing so will make men's lives better, too. Here, she provides an outline for a feminist movement we all need and a blueprint for how policy, laws, and society can deliver on the promise of the pursuit of happiness for all.
I am giving The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next posy, happy reading!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett


Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett is a cozy mystery novel and the first novel in 'A Booktown Mystery Series'. I've had this cozy mystery novel since October 2012 and am glad I finally read this book in an effort to read many of my older books stacked in my 'tbr' pile.

I had high hopes for Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett. At the time I'd purchased this novel, I was more into cozy mysteries than I am now. I still like reading cozy mystery novels, but not as often. Plus, as an avid reader, I was drawn to a novel about books and bookstores.

Although I enjoyed reading Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett, I didn't love it. The relationship between the main character and her older sister got old after a while. I also didn't care for the few weight/fat body image statements made with regards to women periodically dispersed throughout the novel. The ending of this novel was also a bit more violent than expected for a cozy mystery novel, which I found a bit surprising for the genre. Otherwise I enjoyed reading Murder Is Binding as the mystery itself was good. 

I don't plan on reading any further novels from 'A Booktown Mystery Series'.

Below is the plot summary for Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett from Amazon:
The streets of Stoneham, New Hampsire are lined with bookstores...and paved with murder.
When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.
I am giving Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

10 Ways to Support Your Indie Bookstore During Coronavirus Crisis

I came across a good article through Publishers Weekly titled, 10 Ways to Support Your Indie Bookstore Through Coronavirus and Beyond by Josh Cook. In the article, Josh Cook wrote the following:
Even successful small businesses rarely have a lot of cash on hand. Among small businesses, bookstores tend to operate on a thin profit margin, so even though we are keeping the lights on, we need money coming in constantly to stay afloat. This is why recessions hit bookstores hard. We don't have the extra cash to pay bills, rent, and employees if our income drops significantly or stops completely for three weeks, a month, or two months. For that reason, whether from social distancing, an actual quarantine, or a more general economic downturn, the new coronavirus presents a real challenge to bookstores.
Click on the above link to learn how to support independent bookstores without having to leave your home!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

12 Novels About Pandemics

If you haven't already heard enough about the growing COVID-19 crisis and pandemics in general, then you may be interested in an article I came across on Electric Literature's website titled, 12 Books About Pandemics. In the article, I read the following:
As the world struggles to come to terms with the growing COVID-19 crisis, many of us are turning to fiction as a way of understanding the scope of the danger—and, perhaps paradoxically, a way of finding comfort. If the last thing you want to think about right now is global epidemic disease, we get that! But novels can also help people wrap their heads around something that may seem too big and scary to process. If you feel like you’re living in the first pages of a post-apocalyptic story, these books about historical and speculative future pandemics might help you feel less alone. Pick one up, and then wash your hands.
I have not read any of the novels mentioned in the above Electric Literature article. However, I do have a copy of Pandemic by Robin Cook in my 'tbr' pile waiting to be read. I've thought about making this medical thriller my next read... On the other hand, maybe not as my energy has been too zapped from the endless COVID-19 media attention. I need a distraction from the sheer idea of a 'pandemic' by reading some other subject matter altogether.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy



I enjoy reading cozy mystery novels from time to time. In fact, there's nothing better than reading a well written cozy mystery novel! 

I recently read A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy, which I received for FREE through the Goodreads Giveaways program. Below is my honest, unbiased review of A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy.

A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy is the third cozy mystery novel in the 'A Greek To Me' mystery series. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book I've read by Susannah Hardy. 

I truly enjoyed reading A Killer Kebab. The characters, the plot, and writing were all really good. I'm even considering reading the two previous books in the 'A Greek To Me' mystery series. So, if you're a cozy mystery lover like myself, I recommend reading A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy!

Below is the plot summary for A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy from Amazon:
The Bonaparte House is closed for the season, and Georgie Nikolopatos looks forward to fixing up the Greek restaurant and historic landmark—until her renovation plans hit a fatal snag in this Greek to Me mystery.
With her divorce underway, her mother-in-law returning to Greece, and the tourists gone, Georgie finally has life under control—and the Bonaparte House to herself. She quickly hires a contractor for some much-needed renovations to reopen in time for a special Greek-style Thanksgiving meal. Georgie is suspicious though when former dishwasher Russ Riley arrives with the construction crew. He still has an axe to grind with the Nikolopatos family—but is it sharp enough to kill?
When Georgie finds the body of her divorce lawyer amid the construction debris and Russ is quickly arrested for murder, something about the case doesn’t add up. While Georgie is no fan of Russ, even a bad egg deserves a crack at justice.
I'm giving A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan


I don't remember how I initially discovered Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan. I had been looking to read more books written by Filipino writers and this one fit the bill. I liked the storyline, that it was a mystery set in the Philippines and it won the Philippine National Book Award. So last year, I downloaded the unabridged audio version of Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan and narrated by Ramon de Ocampo with the intention of listening to it last fall... But I didn't find the time to listen to this audiobook until last month.

I thought that Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan was really well narrated by Ramon de Ocampo. Smaller and Smaller Circles deals with a lot of hot topics like poverty, politics, corruption, child molestation, priests as child molesters, and a serial killer on the loose. I found it intriguing to have two Jesuit priests as the detectives looking into the deaths of preteen boys. 

I liked listening to Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan. But this mystery novel wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped it would be based on it being the winner of the Philippine National Book Award.

Listening time for Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan is 10 hours, 45 minutes.

The following is the plot summary for Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan from Audible:
This harrowing mystery, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt through Manila for a brutal serial killer.
Payatas, a 50-acre dump northeast of Manila's Quezon City, is home to thousands of people who live off of what they can scavenge there. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in a city whose law enforcement is already stretched thin, devoid of forensic resources, and rife with corruption. So when the eviscerated bodies of preteen boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf.
In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz is a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys. Smaller and Smaller Circles, widely regarded as the first Filipino crime novel, is a poetic masterpiece of literary noir, a sensitive depiction of a time and place and a fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees' lives.
I'm giving Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan 3 stars out of 5 stars,

Until my next post, happy reading!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole


I read the paperback edition of Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole. I love historical fiction written in the form of letters as is the case with Letters From Skye.

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole alternates between two different eras... That of both World War I and World War II as this novel parallels both the lives of Elspeth Dunn and David Graham and that of Elspeth's daughter Margaret Dunn her budding romance during World War II. 

Additionally, Letters From Skye delves into the relationship between mother and daughter as there are parts of Elspeth's life Margaret knows little about prior to her birth. Margaret finds herself trying to uncover her mother's past when her mother goes missing after an air raid during World War II.

Letters From Skye is a gripping tale and takes readers on journey. I liked how the story unfolds and is told through a series of letters. There are funny moments, there are sad moments, and everything in between. 

I initially became interested in reading Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole because I enjoyed reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows so much. Although both novels have a few things in common, they are different from each other in other ways. I liked Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole, but not as much as I did The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Below is a book trailer for Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole that I discovered on YouTube!



I'm giving Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani



Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani is a comic book geared towards young adults that I chose as a read for Women's History Month as it focuses on the lives of three women primatologists.

I read Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani in a few hours as it is a quick read due to it being a comic book. It's a good first primer for teens on the lives of these three famous women.

The artwork for this book was okay... I didn't love or dislike the artwork. The text was super small in some areas making it difficult to read the words without a magnifier in some spots. 

Otherwise I felt like Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani was a great read.

The following is a summary for Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani from Amazon:
Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology―and to our own understanding of ourselves.Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.
I am giving Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Seriously?? Amazon Sells Books That Claim Satan Caused The Coronavirus...

When I came across the following article on Forbes' website titled, Amazon Sells Books That Claim Satan Caused The Coronavirus by Rosa Escandon, I thought it was April Fools Day, not Leap Day! 

In the article, Rosa Escandon wrote the following:
Authors on Amazon are writing about the coronavirus, but their conspiracies and assertions could mislead readers. Books sold on Amazon claim that the coronavirus is caused by everything from satan to biological warfare. Titles such as Jesus vs Satan: The origins of Coronavirus and Military Virus Apocalypse: Biological Warfare, Bioweapons and China Coronavirus Pandemic are currently available on the platform.
I don't know about you all, but I feel quite overwhelmed by the sheer amount of news coverage regarding the coronavirus through various media outlets. It's like you can't get away from the news regarding the coronavirus as it's all over the tv news, the radio, magazines, newspapers, Facebook posts, emails, texts messages, people talking about it in public, etc. Seriously, it's all become way too much!!

I feel like there is a certain amount of fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus as it continues to spread worldwide. The news media's hyper reporting isn't helping to ease concerns surrounding the coronavirus and neither is the plunge on the stock market that is being attributed to the coronavirus.

All I want is accurate, reliable information regarding the coronavirus. I've really had to back away from watching tv news and limit my time spent on social media to avoid being bombarded by all the coronavirus news.

How does everyone else feel about the coronavirus?

Little Free Library Finds in Castro Valley, California!!

Over President's Day weekend, my husband and I found four new to us Little Free Libraries in Castro Valley, California. 

The number four must be this year's lucky number for me because last month we found four new to us Little Free Libraries in Livermore, California. It would be kind of nice to keep this trend up each month and find four new to us LFLs each month throughout the entire year. Nice idea in concept, but that may be a difficult one to sustain each month.

I left five books total, but only found one book that I wanted to read. Which book did I add to my 'tbr' collection? Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

Below are photographs of the Little Free Libraries we found. The last photo is of one of the more unique Little Free Libraries I've seen.

3981 Oleander Court, Castro Valley, CA 94546 
3519 Brookdale Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

4368 Lawrence Drive, Castro Valley, CA 94546

18240 Lamson Road, Castro Valley, CA 94546
Have you discovered any Little Free Libraries lately?

Friday, February 28, 2020

Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence


I've always admired Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for her sense of style and also as our nation's First Lady. 

I came across Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence several years ago online. I was intrigued by the summary for this nonfiction book about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's life as editor as I didn't know that much about this particular aspect of her life. 

Since I already love reading and books (especially books that also talk about books) and have always been fascinated by the iconic life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I figured why not buy and read this book to learn more about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her life as editor? I purchased Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence prior to May 2014 where it has sat in my 'tbr' pile until now. 

I decided Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would make a great, early read for Women's History Month and I wasn't wrong!!

I actually liked Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence a lot more than I thought I would! Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked the last 19 years of her life as an editor. She started out at Viking and then ended up at Doubleday for the majority of her editing career.

I thought that Greg Lawrence gave a thorough and comprehensive account of Jackie's life as an editor. He not only writes a bit about Jackie's personal life, but he also discusses her love of reading and books, and most importantly Jackie's role as editor in great detail. Jackie was very passionate about the books she edited and very involved in working closely with the authors that she did over the years as editor for both publishing houses. As readers, we are given in depth insight to the books themselves that Jackie helped edit, how she came across the books she edited, and what it was like having Jackie as editor from the authors themselves.

From reading Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, it sounds like Jackie was a warm and unpretentious person in real life. It sounds like she also had a wonderful sense of humor.

I also definitely had the sense from reading this book that Jackie became an editor to have an avocation other than simply being a socialite/former first lady after the deaths of both of her husbands. She obviously didn't need a career to pay the bills as she had plenty of money. I get the sense that she became an editor due to her passion and love for reading and books. Jackie was smart, educated, sophisticated, savvy, and well connected... All stellar qualities that I'm sure helped her succeed as an editor.


Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence is a really great read and gives readers a unique insight into the publishing world and a snapshot into one area of Jackie's life.

P. S. As an additional side note, there is a section at the end of Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis titled, Books Published By Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which lists all the book titles Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis helped to edit during her career. The list is a long one. Many of the books sound like phenomenal ones to read. Perhaps one day, I can set a goal for myself to read all of the books listed in this section! In the meantime, I'll simply be contented to read the many unread books in my personal collection.

The following is a summary for Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence from Amazon:
History remembers Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the consummate first lady, the nation’s tragic widow, the millionaire’s wife, and, of course, the quintessential embodiment of elegance. Her biographers, however, skip over an equally important stage in her life: her nearly twenty year long career as a book editor. Jackie as Editor is the first book to focus exclusively on this remarkable woman’s editorial career.

At the age of forty-six, one of the most famous women in the world went to work for the first time in twenty-two years. Greg Lawrence, who had three of his books edited by Jackie, draws from interviews with more than 125 of her former collaborators and acquaintances in the publishing world to examine one of the twentieth century's most enduring subjects of fascination through a new angle: her previously untouted skill in the career she chose. Over the last third of her life, Jackie would master a new industry, weather a very public professional scandal, and shepherd more than a hundred books through the increasingly corporate halls of Viking and Doubleday, publishing authors as diverse as Diana Vreeland, Louis Auchincloss, George Plimpton, Bill Moyers, Dorothy West, Naguib Mahfouz, and even Michael Jackson. Jackie as Editor gives intimate new insights into the life of a complex and enigmatic woman who found fulfillment through her creative career during book publishing’s legendary Golden Age, and, away from the public eye, quietly defined life on her own terms.
I'm giving Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel


I read the uncorrected paperback proof edition of The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel in three days! 

I received The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel through Goodreads Giveaways earlier this year. Below is my honest unbiased review of The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel.

First off, let me begin by saying that The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel is the second novel I've read and reviewed by the author. I read The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (click on the link to read my review) in March 2017 and LOVED this novel... So I couldn't wait to hunker down and read The Familiar Dark

I wasn't disappointed! Amy Engel has another winner of a novel with The Familiar Dark. Engel's writing is great... Crisp and engaging from start to finish! I loved the twists and turns in this novel along with the red herrings. If you like mysteries/thrillers with dark, gritty characters, then The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel may be the novel for you! 

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel will be released March 31, 2020.

The following is a plot summary for The Familiar Darkby Amy Engel from Goodreads:
A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.
Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it's better not to know.
Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother's cruel brand of strength if she's going to face the reality about her daughter's death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother's trailer for a final lesson.

The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family--women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances--as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home.
I am giving The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama


I listened to the abridged audio version on compact disc of The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (narrated by the author) for Black History Month.

I'd been wanting to read The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama for quite a while and was happy to obtain a withdrawn public library copy of it on compact disc last summer... But I didn't realize until later on that the audio compact disc was abridged! I prefer listening to unabridged audiobooks. 

The listening time for The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is 6 hours, 10 minutes.

I love that The Audacity of Hope is narrated by Barack Obama. For whatever reason, I find his voice soothing to listen to. As far as this book goes, I liked it a lot. Obama covers a lot of different topics. He talks about family life, political life as a senator, politics, religion, race, etc. One of my favorite parts was listening to Obama talk about balancing the demands of public service and family life and also how he met his wife, Michelle. 

My only major complaint is that the audio version of The Audacity of Hope is abridged. I want to listen to a book in its entirety... not an abridgment.

The following is a summary for The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama from Audible:
In July 2004, Barack Obama electrified the Democratic National Convention with an address that spoke to Americans across the political spectrum. Now, in The Audacity of Hope, Senator Obama calls for a different brand of politics: a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the "endless clash of armies" we see in Congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of "our improbable experiment in democracy". He also speaks, with surprising intimacy and self-deprecating humor, about settling in as a senator, seeking to balance the demands of public service and family life, and his own deepening religious commitment.
At the heart of this audiobook is Senator Obama's vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. Underlying his stories about family, friends, members of the Senate, and even the president is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus.
A senator and a lawyer, a professor and a father, a Christian and a skeptic, and above all a student of history and human nature, Senator Obama has written a book of transforming power.
I'm giving The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke



Black Water Rising by Attica Locke is the second novel I've read by the author. I've had a used hardback edition of Black Water Rising by Attica Locke in my 'to be read' pile since 2013. 

I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of Black Water Rising by Attica Locke and narrated by Dion Graham as the hardback edition I had had issues with the spine making it difficult to read.

Listening time for Black Water Rising by Attica Locke is 13 hours, 52 minutes.

The audio version for Black Water Rising by Attica Locke was a BIG mistake!! UGH, Dion Graham was a poor narrator!! I almost gave up listening to Black Water Rising several times due to his poor narration of this novel. Not to mention the cheesy music (or should I say MUZAK??) played between chapters.

It was also very difficult to get into to Black Water Rising. Initially I couldn't figure out if that was because I was so turned off by the narration and music or if I just didn't like the writing/plot or a combination of both. 

I persevered and continued listening to Black Water Rising, when suddenly the storyline and plot finally picked up around chapter eleven. The rest of this novel was interesting and reasonably good despite the bad narration. The ending was soft in my opinion though.

I don't plan to read anything else written by Attica Locke. Reading two of her novels was enough for me.

Below is the plot summary for Black Water Rising by Attica Locke from Amazon:
Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl, and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with his path to the American Dream, carefully tucking away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.
Houston, Texas, 1981. It’s here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night he impulsively saves a drowning woman’s life – and opens a Pandora’s Box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.
I am giving Black Water Rising by Attica Locke a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke



The Cutting Season by Attica Locke is the last book I read in January 2020. I first became aware of Attica Locke as a writer in 2012 or 2013. 

Curious about Locke's writing (which I'd heard great things about), I purchased used hardback copies of her novels, The Cutting Season and Black Water Rising back in 2013. 

This year in an effort to read older books I've acquired over the years, I read The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with The Cutting Season and didn't feel like this novel lived up to the high expectations based on reviews I'd read. 

With that said, it's not that I didn't like The Cutting Season... I enjoyed many aspects of this novel. It's very atmospheric in nature, which I liked. I also liked the setting for this novel and that it was a mystery novel. The mystery was interesting and so was the main character's backstory/family history.

But I also feel like The Cutting Season is slow in parts and could have been made shorter. I feel like there were too many things the author was trying to address in The Cutting Season that made the book fall flat in parts.

I also didn't like the main character, Caren Gray, as she made too many unwise choices throughout the novel, which I thought perplexing based on her education and life experiences. I guess I thought Caren would be a bit more savvy and thoughtful on how she handled things that occurred throughout the novel. Caren also had too many hangups that seemed to distance her from co-workers and family... It was as if she erected walls around herself. But I guess this could also make her seem more human/flawed. After all, who's perfect?

I'm planning to read Black Water Rising next and am hoping it is much better than The Cutting Season.

Below is the plot summary for The Cutting Season by Attica Locke from Goodreads:
The American South in the twenty-first century. A plantation owned for generations by a rich family. So much history. And a dead body.
Just after dawn, Caren walks the grounds of Belle Vie, the historic plantation house in Louisiana that she has managed for four years. Today she sees nothing unusual, apart from some ground that has been dug up by the fence bordering the sugar cane fields. Assuming an animal has been out after dark, she asks the gardener to tidy it up. Not long afterwards, he calls her to say it's something else. Something terrible. A dead body. At a distance, she missed her. The girl, the dirt and the blood. Now she has police on site, an investigation in progress, and a member of staff no one can track down. And Caren keeps uncovering things she will wish she didn't know. As she's drawn into the dead girl's story, she makes shattering discoveries about the future of Belle Vie, the secrets of its past, and sees, more clearly than ever, that Belle Vie, its beauty, is not to be trusted.
A magnificent, sweeping story of the south, The Cutting Season brings history face-to-face with modern America, where Obama is president, but some things will never change. Attica Locke once again provides an unblinking commentary on politics, race, the law, family and love, all within a thriller every bit as gripping and tragic as her first novel, Black Water Rising.
I am giving The Cutting Season by Attica Locke a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee


I've had the hardback edition of The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee in my 'to be read' pile for 9 years this month!! I'm so happy that I finally read this children's novel this year.

By the way, I first read and reviewed Lewis Buzbee's children's novel, Steinbeck's Ghost, back in March 2014. I really enjoyed listening to the unabridged audio version of Steinbeck's Ghost and highly recommend it. I thought (or at least hoped) that I would enjoy The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee just as much.

The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee contains many aspects I love in a novel. I love historical fiction and this novel fits the bill in spades as it is set in Victorian London. Additionally, I love mysteries and this novel provides a mystery to be solved. I also enjoyed that the leading character is a smart, adventurous girl - go girl power!! Plus, I enjoyed seeing a well known and beloved author like Charles Dickens brought to life in a work of fiction. I like that this novel makes a case for social justice for children as this may (hopefully) start young readers thinking about how they can help make the world a better place for all.

However, as much as I enjoyed the many different aspects of The Haunting of Charles Dickens that I mentioned above, I felt it was too long and that the storyline was not as captivating as I was hoping it would be.


The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee is also filled with lovely black and white illustrations by Greg Ruth that readers may enjoy.


Below is the plot summary for The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee from Goodreads:
Meg Pickel’s older brother, Orion, has disappeared. One night, she steals out to look for him, and makes two surprising discoveries: She stumbles upon a séance that she suspects involves Orion, and she meets the author Charles Dickens, also unable to sleep, and roaming the London streets. He is a customer of Meg’s father, who owns a print shop, and a family friend. Mr. Dickens fears that the children of London aren’t safe, and is trying to solve the mystery of so many disappearances. If he can, then perhaps he’ll be able to write once again.

With stunning black-and-white illustrations by Greg Ruth, here is a literary mystery that celebrates the power of books, and brings to life one of the world’s best-loved authors.
I am giving The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson


I've listened and reviewed two previous works written and narrated by Jon Ronson. titled, The Last Days of August and The Butterfly EffectI enjoyed both well enough that I wanted to read The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson. I ended up listening to unabridged audio version of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry and narrated by the author. 

Listening time for The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry is 7 hours, 33 minutes.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson is a work of nonfiction about the madness industry. Although I thought the topic of this book itself was interesting and insightful, I wasn't overly captivated by its content. I'm already slowly forgetting the contents of this book after a week.

The following is a summary for The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson from Amazon:
The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths, teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power.
He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath. Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.
I am giving The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger


The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger is a hardback nonfiction book I've had in my 'to be read' pile prior to May 2014. I've always been interested in parrots. I had a cockatiel as a youngster and other family members have had larger parrots like African greys or Amazon parrots. So with this in mind, I became interested in reading more about parrots.

I'm so happy that I finally read The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger!! This nonfiction book was really well written and very captivating from start to finish. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship not only recounts Tiko's life, Joanna Burger's Red-Lored Amazon parrot, and their unique relationship/bond, but it also discusses Joanna's life as a distinguished professor at Rutgers University and her studies. More specifically, Joanna Burger is a behavior ecologist and she shares her insight about wildlife biology and birds. All in all, this is a fascinating read, not only for parrot lovers, but also wildlife lovers and ecologists.

Below is the summary for The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger from Amazon:
“Birds are my passion,” says Joanna Burger, “but parrots are my weakness.” Fifteen years ago, when se adopted a neglected, orphaned thirty-six year old parrot named Tiko, she entered on of the most complex relationships of her life.
Sullen and hostile when he entered Dr. Burger’s home, Tiko gradually warmed as she carefully persuaded him of her good intentions. Eventually he courted her, building nests inside household furniture during mating season and trying to coax her into them. He nursed her vigilantly through a bout with Lyme disease, regularly preening each strand of hair on the pillow as she slept. For a while he even fought her husband for her attentions, but eventually theirs became a relationship of deep mutual trust.
The Parrot Who Owns Me is also the story of the science of birds, and of parrots in particular (America’s third most commonly owned pet, after cats and dogs). Woven into the narrative are insights and fascinating revelations from Joanna Burger’s work — not only about parrots, but about what it means to be human.
By turns delightful, hilarious, touching, and enlightening, The Parrot Who Owns Me introduces us to an unforgettable bird and his human companion, whose friendships tells us much about ourselves.
I am giving The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger a rating of 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!