Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020 Second Quarter Reading 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 34 books so far this year and I am 9 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
5. The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

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
8. The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey
9. The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy

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
9. Becoming by Michelle Obama
10. The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates with Linda Schatz
11. Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
12. Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins
13. Snipped in the Bud by Kate Collins
14. Night of the Living Dandelion by Kate Collins
15. Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D.
16. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
17. The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg
18. Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens
19. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
20. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Here's the further break down of the books I've read this year so far in 2020.

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

* 12 of the books are nonfiction and 22 are works of fiction. 

I've really enjoyed reading the books I've read this year so far this year. How is your year of reading going? I hope you have read many great books to date. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rakestraw Books "Live at Home!" with Rep. Eric Swalwell - Author Event

I've really missed visiting bookstores and attending author events/book signings and book festivals since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm this year and left us all sheltering in place.

I am thrilled to see many businesses pivoting by changing their business model and thriving during this difficult time by finding new ways of remaining relevant to their customers during COVID-19. 

Case in point, a local independent bookstore here in my area, Rakestraw Books, has begun having virtual author visits where one can watch live author events from home, which I think is fabulous!!

Tonight, Rakestraw Books offered  "Live at Home!" with U. S. Representative Eric Swalwell from 7:00pm to 8:00pm. So, I decided to watch this live event from the comfort of my own home. 

Eric Swalwell has served as the U.S. Representative for California's 15th congressional district since 2013, which just so happens to be the district in which I reside. Swalwell has recently come out with a new nonfiction book titled, Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, so he spoke about his new book among other things.

The following information about Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump and the "Live at Home!" with Rep. Eric Swalwell was found on Rakestraw Books's events page:
In Endgame, Congressman Eric Swalwell offers his personal account of his path to office and how he and his colleagues resisted, investigated, and impeached a corrupt president. After the shock of the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration (including the luncheon afterward), Swalwell, as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee, quickly became involved in pushing back against Trump’s outrageous actions as he sought to get to the bottom of foreign interference in our elections. But Republicans were in control of the investigation, and it became clear that taking back the House was essential.
Swalwell takes readers inside Congress and through the impeachment process, from Trump’s disgraceful phone call with the Ukrainian president, just one day after Robert Mueller testified to Congress, to caucus meetings and conversations with the Speaker to the bombshell public hearings and the historic vote, and then what followed next—the holding of the articles, the news of more possible witnesses, and the sham trial in the Senate. Endgame is fascinating, a gripping read by a unique witness to extraordinary events.
During this special Rakestraw Books "Live at Home!" event, Rep. Eric Swalwell will be joined in conversation by award-winning journalist Frances Dinkelspiel. There will also be time for your questions. Tickets are $30 (admits one and includes a copy of Endgame). This event will take place via CrowdCast.
What did I think of the Rakestraw Books "Live at Home!" with U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell author event? It was wonderful to finally attend my first author event of the year! Watching the event online from home was fun and different... No concern or need to wear a face mask or social distance. This online event went smoothly with no technical difficulties. But most importantly, I enjoyed hearing what U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell had to share with listeners this evening. I look forward to reading Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy

Reading make-up tutorial books are definitely books I normally do not read. However, years ago, I use to watch TLC's popular show What Not to Wear and enjoyed watching this series quite a bit. I remember thinking Carmindy, the show's make-up artist, did a great job making each contestant on the show look great with natural looking make-up. 

So, when Carmindy came out with her book, The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman, in 2007, I decided to purchase the hardback edition... Although I can't remember exactly when I purchased The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy, I've owned it for at least 7 years now and FINALLY read it this year!! 

I originally purchased The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy because I've never been a big make-up wearer. I thought I could improve upon/learn the basic techniques to applying make-up that would enhance my make-up wearing experience and gain more confidence in knowing that I was correctly applying make-up to my face.

So, onward to the review of The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy! This book is beautifully rendered. I absolutely L-O-V-E the entire layout for this book starting with the cover design and photography... if you take off the dust jacket for the hardback edition, you see cool images of various types of make-up. Additionally, the interior layout is well organized and thought out starting with the table of contents. I also loved the introduction as Carmindy shares her make-up philosophy and how she became interested in make-up. Her philosophy is a POSITIVE one as she believes in focusing on accentuating your best features by using the right products and not covering flaws with too much make-up... In fact, Carmindy doesn't believe women are flawed or need to meet any set standard of beauty. So she gives a very positive focused message, which I love! 

Each chapter of The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy focuses on something specific, whether it's learning the 5 minute basic make-up routine, to learning how to shape your eyebrows, the best make-up colors based on skin tone and eye color, how to apply make-up based on your age range, and how to take the basic look from day to night, and so much more. The instructions for make-up application are easy to follow and loads of photographs are given throughout. 

All that's left to do is practice the techniques given in The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy, which may be awhile since I'm still dealing with crps symptoms regularly.

Below is a summary for The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy from Amazon:
Good beauty advice is hard to come by these days. Women are constantly inundated with products that promise to remove wrinkles, reduce puffiness, highlight cheekbones, hide blemishes, and make them look younger, healthier, tanner, and even thinner–but do these products really work? Are they worth the time, money, and effort? Carmindy, makeup artist on TLC's popular show What Not to Wear, believes that the secret to a great look is to focus on the positive: learn how to enhance your best natural features with sheer washes of color rather than hide under layers of artificial–looking makeup. In The 5–Minute Face, Carmindy shares her beauty philosophy, offering a practical, easy, and always–successful makeup routine that works for all ages and skin types.
The steps for achieving the five–minute face–from smoothing on foundation, to slicking on lip color–are simple. But as Carmindy demonstrates, many women don't know which product is right for their skin tones, or are clueless on how to apply makeup for optimal results. Throughout every chapter, she provides valuable advice on perfecting the makeup technique that is right for your face, including product tips and accompanying "toolbox" sections that describe which tools to use with each type of makeup.
No matter what your age is, or whether you have porcelain skin or rosacea, Carmindy will help you look fabulous. In addition to the 5–minute makeover, she discusses:

•How to Get Brows That Wow: Learn what brow shape best frames your face

•What's Age Got to Do with It?: Tricks and trade secrets that keep every woman looking beautiful, from teens to women fifty and over.

•Beauty Comes in All Colors: Freckles? Blemishes? Carmindy solves the problems that make finding the perfect makeup for your skin tone difficult. Also includes tips on lash dying for those fair lashes, and lash perming for those who want permanently curled lashes.

•The 10–Minute Face: Carmindy shows how to build on the 5–minute face for special occasions. Everything from sexy dates–looking right in all white at your wedding–to the perfect look for a job interview.
Accompanied throughout by Palma Kolansky's beautiful photography, The 5–Minute Face is every woman's guide to enhancing their unique and beautiful features with the perfect makeup routine.
I am giving The 5-Minute Face: The Quick Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

I listened to the unabridged audio version of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and narrated by Kim StauntonKim Staunton is a good narrator and I enjoyed her narration of Kindred

Listening time for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is 10 hours, 55 minutes.

I've heard Octavia E. Butler's name for years in the literary world, however, Kindred is the first novel I've read by the author. Kindred is a work of fiction that falls into many genres as it falls into the science fiction genre, historical fiction genre, and time travel fiction as well. 

Kindred is definitely a heavy hitting read. In fact, it's pretty graphic at times due to the violence and brutality bestowed upon African American slaves of the antebellum south. I definitely agree with the following statement from the plot summary below that reads, "author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice" in her novel. 

Additionally, Octavia E. Butler's writing is superb and engrossing. As a reader, I was sucked into the storyline immediately and couldn't wait to see what happened to the main character, Dana Franklin, and her husband, Kevin. I was intrigued as to how the time travel worked, what would happen to Dana each time she traveled back and forth through time, and how things would eventually work out for all those involved. Kindred is an amazing novel and explores relevant themes.

The following YouTube video explores the major themes of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.

Below is the plot summary for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler from Audible:
The first science-fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of African-American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity.
Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life.
During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she's been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
Author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure. Kim Staunton's narrative talent magically transforms the listener's earphones into an audio time machine.
I am giving Kindred by Octavia E. Butler a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I remember reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for the first time during my senior year of high school as an assignment for my English literature class. I enjoyed reading this novel back then and remembered at the time how different the novel was from the 1931 horror film of the same name starring Boris Karloff. 

Anyway, I thought I'd reread Frankenstein again 30+ years later to see how I viewed the novel through adult eyes verses that of a teenager being required to read the novel as a class assignment. This time around though, I listened to the unabridged audio version, which was narrated by Dan Stevens.

Although, I enjoyed revisiting the classic novel and found it to be a good read, it was a bit too flowery and verbose for me. The themes presented in this novel are still relevant today though and are well detailed/explored by the author... So, with that said, I feel like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is still a must read today.

Below is a video I discovered on YouTube, which explores the themes found in Frankenstein.

Listening time for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is 8 hours, 35 minutes.

Below is the plot summary for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley from Audible:
Narrator Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) presents an uncanny performance of Mary Shelley's timeless gothic novel, an epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.
I am giving Frankenstein by Mary Shelley a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens is a new to me author. I discovered his novel, Nothing More Dangerous by reading a book review of it written by Dorothy @ The Nature of Things. After reading Dorothy's wonderful review of Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of it.

Listening time for Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens is 10 hours, 27 minutes and is narrated by Kevin Stillwell.

Thank you Dorothy for your review! I ended up truly enjoying Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens from start to finish. The storyline, characters, and writing are fabulous and engaging. I look forward to exploring more works written by Allen Eskens.

Below is the plot summary for Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens from Audible:
In a small Southern town where loyalty to family and to "your people" carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition.
After 15 years of growing up in the Ozark hills with his widowed mother, high-school freshman Boady Sanden is beyond ready to move on. He dreams of glass towers and cityscapes, driven by his desire to be anywhere other than Jessup, Missouri. The new kid at St. Ignatius High School, if he isn't being pushed around, he is being completely ignored. Even his beloved woods, his playground as a child and his sanctuary as he grew older, seem to be closing in on him, suffocating him.

Then Thomas Elgin moves in across the road, and Boady's life begins to twist and turn. Coming to know the Elgins - a black family settling into a community where notions of "us" and "them" carry the weight of history - forces Boady to rethink his understanding of the world he's taken for granted. Secrets hidden in plain sight begin to unfold: the mother who wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor who carries the wounds of a mysterious past that he holds close, the quiet boss who is fighting his own hidden battle.

But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of Lida Poe, the African-American woman who keeps the books at the local plastics factory. Word has it that Ms. Poe left town, along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. Although Boady has never met the missing woman, he discovers that the threads of her life are woven into the deepest fabric of his world.
As the mystery of her fate plays out, Boady begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town - and he will be forced to choose sides.
I am giving Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg and narrated by Amy McFaddenThe Paper Magician is the first novel in the The Paper Magician series and falls into the young adult/steampunk/fantasy genres.

Although I loved the premise of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, I didn't end up enjoying the storyline all that much. Ceony Twill, the main character, comes off as kind of bratty/ungrateful at the start of this novel. Then Ceony slowly warms up to her apprenticeship in paper magic once she becomes acquainted with her paper magic instructor, Emery Thane, and begins her training. 

Shortly after her training begins, Ceony's world is turned upside down when her instructor, Emery Thane, has his heart ripped out of his chest by an Excisioner, a practitioner of dark, flesh magic, and Ceony is left to rescue him. The storyline and plot go downhill quickly from there. I could have cared less what happened after that as the story and plot became uninteresting to me. Needless to say, I'll skip the rest of the series.

Listening time for The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg is 7 hours, 25 minutes. Amy McFaddon is an okay narrator.

Below is the plot summary for The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg from Audible:
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic...forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined - animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner - a practitioner of dark, flesh magic - invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart - and reveal the very soul of the man.
From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight fans of all ages.
I'm giving The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg a rating of 2 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

My Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D.

I recently read Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. This is a work of nonfiction which explores concepts such as multiple systems, the nature of consciousness, personhood, the mechanics of hypnosis, past lives, and more.

I ended up reading Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. because Bill Puett was one of my college professors back in the day. In fact, he was one of my favorite professors in college. I took 2 (or maybe 3??) of his philosophy courses during college and at one point thought I wanted to major in philosophy. But I ended up sticking with my original major (BA in Russian language) instead. 

I'm glad I read Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. This book is not a lengthy book as it is under 200 pages, but it isn't a light read in the slightest.

Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. is epistolary in nature as it is written mainly as a series of emails between the author and various persons that inhabit a single body... think 13 different people inhabiting one body verses one person with 13 different personalities. 

This book covers what it is like for one specific 'body' that lives with dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) and their journey. This book goes a lot deeper than exploring what it's like to live with 13 individuals in one body and it's more than simply a biography. The author largely communicates with Black, who is one individual that lives in this multiple system. Bill and Black delve into some deep philosophical discussions that are a lot to intake and absorb at times about topics like consciousness, past lives, and the mechanics of hypnosis. Additionally, there are some new to me concepts/terminology/vocabulary that I'm still trying to fully grasp, so I will need to do another pass through of Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body.

Below is the summary for Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. from Amazon:
For more than 18 years, I have had many conversations with Black and the thirteen people of a multiple system who share the same physical body. I have been for some their closest friend and for all a counselor and life coach. They are a wonderful and extraordinary group whose lives have touched me deeply. Here is a book about multiplicity, consciousness, personhood, souls, past lives, ethics, and friendships over lifetimes, written through the lens of our deep friendship and concern for each other.
I'm giving Conversations With Black: 13 People, 1 Body by Bill Puett, Ph.D. a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

I've been wanting to read Born A Crime by Trevor Noah since last summer. So this year, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of Born A Crime by Trevor Noah and narrated by the author. 

I'm so glad that I finally got around to listening to Trevor Noah's memoir. It's amazing!! And listening to Born A Crime narrated by the author made it all that much better as he makes it come alive... plus it was wonderful listening to Trevor Noah speak the various African languages in short sentences throughout his memoir.

Trevor Noah definitely captures the essence of what life was like for him growing up in South Africa... Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is well written and very engaging. It was very interesting to learn what it was like to grow up as a mixed race child in South Africa during Apartheid and in poverty. Trevor Noah's memoir had me laughing out loud in parts, sad in other parts, and everything in between.

The listening time for Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is 8 hours, 44 minutes.

Below is a summary for Born A Crime by Trevor Noah from Amazon:
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
I am giving Born A Crime by Trevor Noah a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!