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I'd been wanting to read The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama for quite a while and was happy to obtain a withdrawn public library copy of it on compact disc last summer...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!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Four New to Me Little Free Library Finds in Livermore, California

Earlier this month, I started off the new year with a bang by finding four new to me Little Free Libraries in Livermore, California with my husband. 

I love finding Little Free Libraries. Especially new to me LFLs. I feel so blessed to live in the Bay Area as there are so many Little Free Libraries to discover where I can trade books.

Below are photographs of the four Little Free Libraries we found earlier this month. Plus, a photo of the books I took home with me.

5534 Jacquiline Way, Livermore CA 94550

1718 Almond Avenue, Livermore CA 94550

4156 Pomona Way, Livermore CA 94550-34447
692 Jefferson Way, Livermore CA 94550


Thursday, January 16, 2020

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam


I am a dog lover! I especially love small dog breeds as our family has had Pomeranians for over 15 years. 

So, as a dog lover, I purchased a discounted hardcover copy of You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam prior to May of 2014. This year in an effort to FINALLY read more of the older books in my 'to be read' pile, I made You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam my 3rd read of 2020.

I enjoyed reading You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness overall. The author, Julie Klam, is a good writer and shares many pearls of wisdom on how dogs have enhanced her life. 

Favorite quote from this book:

A very wise dog woman once told me that dogs find owners, not the other way around. They pick you and they choose to stay with you. In that way, they are also giving you the end of their life. The deeper the bond, the harder it is to say goodbye. I know I'd rather have any amount of time with a dog I love and suffer the mourning than not have the time at all. (page 130 hardcover edition)

The following is the publisher's summary for You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam, which I found on Goodreads:
The hilarious and heartfelt chronicle of a woman learning the secrets of love, health, and happiness from some very surprising teachers: her dogs.
Julie Klam was thirty, single, and working as a part-time clerk in an insurance company, wondering if she would ever meet the man she could spend the rest of her life with. And then it happened. She met the irresistible Otto, her first in a long line of Boston terriers, and fell instantly in love.
You Had Me at Woof is the often hilarious and always sincere story of how one woman discovered life's most important lessons from her relationships with her canine companions. From Otto, Julie realized what it might feel like to find "the one." She learned to share her home, her heart, and her limited resources with another, and she found an authentic friend in the process. But that was just the beginning. Over the years her brood has grown to one husband, one daughter, and several Boston terriers. And although she had much to learn about how to care for them-walks at 2 a.m., vet visits, behavior problems-she was surprised and delighted to find that her dogs had more wisdom to convey to her than she had ever dreamed. And caring for them has made her a better person-and completely and utterly opened her heart.
Riotously funny and unexpectedly poignant, You Had Me at Woof recounts the hidden surprises, pleasures, and revelations of letting any mutt, beagle, terrier, or bulldog go charging through your world.
I am giving You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Skillshare - Write Your Personal Story with Roxane Gay



Wow, learning to write a personal essay from Roxane Gay is a dream come true for those that want to learn from the best!