Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The View from the Cheap Seats - Neil Gaiman

Title: The View from the Cheap Seats
Author: Neil Gaiman
Hardback: 522 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Published date: May 2016
FTC: I requested to review from publisher


Have you ever been asked the question "If you were to go dinner with your favorite author, who would it be?" Well, this is kind of like being granted that wish. The first Neil Gaiman book I read was an eBook of Neverwhere back when I was a receptionist out of college and it was ok that I was working and reading books at the same time. I was hooked. Then I read Stardust. Then Coraline and Anansi Boys. And I fell hard for The Graveyard Book. Who hasn't? Even my kids love Chu (who doesn't love a cute sneezing Panda).

So sitting down to read The View from the Cheap Seats is how I would imagine sitting down with Neil Gaiman would be. Ok ok. In reality I know that 1) it would never actually happen and if it did 2) we'd probably be talking more about our kids and spouses. (I think Amanda is fabulous and not just because we share the same name.) That and if I was magically granted a night out with someone to dinner I honestly would pick my husband. Goodness, I treasure my date nights with him like a greedy pirate (and yes, I've been watching too many kid TV shows).  But seriously, sometimes as a stay-at-home mom I just want a dose of adultness (I know that's not a word) and adult conversation. So I pour myself a cup of coffee and enjoy reading Neil Gaiman's thoughts and ponderings and it is like hanging out with a friend who enjoys reading, libraries, Doctor Who, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, science fiction, Tori Amos, fairy tales, and basically good art.

I haven't finished the entire book. It's something I don't want to rush through. I read a few section a day and I savor it like chocolate. I also jump around reading sections because, well, it's my book and sometimes I like to throw off my linear self. While reading I've come across many authors I've never heard of and want to read, authors I've heard of and never read, and authors I've read that we both love. Can you believe I've never read Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Because I can't quote the entire book, just go out and buy it. It's one you need to own. But here's a few examples:

   "The magic and the danger of fiction is this: it allows us to see through other eyes. It takes us to places we have never been, allows us to care about, worry about, laugh with, cry for, people who do not, outside of the story, exist.
   There are people who think that things that happen in fiction do not really happen. These people are wrong." p415

   "I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things. I believe your remedy for that should be to argue with me or to ignore me, and that I should have the same remedy for the wrong things that I believe you think.
   I believe that you have the absolute right to think things that I find offensive, stupid, preposterous or dangerous, and that you have the right to speak, write, or distribute these things, and that I do not have the right to kill you, maim you, hurt you, or take away your liberty or property because I find your ideas threatening or insulting or downright disgusting. You probably think some of my ideas are pretty vile too."  p4

You also have to go and read Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming. It's required reading...or at least it should be.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Hope Unfolding - Becky Thompson

Title: Hope Unfolding
Author: Becky Thompson
Paperback: 209 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Published date: March 2016
FTC: Received to review from Blogging for Books


I am the proud mommy of three beautiful boys ages 5 to six months. My youngest was just a few months old when I somehow came across Becky Thompson's book Hope Unfolding. I think it was Facebook or an ad from a publisher? Anyhow, I was struggling. I am a stay at home mom, which I love, but it can be tough sometimes. Baby number three was a surprise - we were about to call it quits and be happy with two kiddos when God had other plans. I called him Baby Joy before I knew who he was and that is exactly his personality. The most joyful baby I've ever met. But I was still struggling with two rambunctious boys and a new baby and basically I needed a reminder of Hope. I was about to order Becky Thompson's book on Amazon when I checked out Blogging for Books and it was available to review! Um, yes! Let me just say that I recommend this book for any mommas out there who are just struggling or need a pick-me-up. Big or little. And at some point we all do. We all do.

Back of the book:

God’s love, plans, and promises for you are forever unfolding.

 I get it, Momma. I totally get it.
 Every day you wake up and try your very best. You love, give, and pour out your life for the ones who call you Momma. But no matter how much you offer, there are still days you feel as though you come up short. You worry, Am I loving these babies enough? Is this ever going to get easier? Why does it seem like I am the only one who cannot balance it all?

Sometimes, we just need hope (and maybe a long uninterrupted nap). We need someone to help tune our hearts to the voice of the Father and to remind us that He has not forgotten about us.
In Hope Unfolding, Becky Thompson is a friend who reminds you that you aren’t alone, and that God is still writing your story. She guides you to encounter the Truth of God’s presence that not only fuels you with strength, but also a fresh confidence. And beyond gaining faith that tomorrow could be different, you find hope and purpose where you are standing today.



My thoughts:

I read this book in the mornings while eating breakfast and drinking my coffee. It was like sitting down for a chat with a fellow mom who's been there and gets it. Since then, I've started following Becky Thompson's Facebook page and seriously, you can't help but loving her. She often has Live posts and recently has been posting Live sessions going through her book. I'm excited about her recent news that she's coming out with a book called Love Unending, a twenty-one day journey to help focus on your marriage during this hard time of raising little ones. I will be buying that one.

But going back to Hope Unfolding, this book is an example of what I call "cheaper than therapy." Ha! I don't think I learned anything spectacularly new but I definitely needed to start my day in a frame of mind that it's ok momma, I am enough for these boys. I will have ups and downs but God made me their momma and I don't have to prove myself to God or these little ones. Just like they will never have to earn their love from me or God. So I'm going to put down my to-do list, put down my phone, and allow myself to just be. 

Cheaper Than Therapy
Coloring, a good book, and coffee (not pictured)


Friday, July 29, 2016

Girl Waits with Gun - Amy Stewart

Title: Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters #1)
Author: Amy Stewart
Hardcover: 408 pages (my version eBook)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published date: 2015
FTC: Rented from the library eBook collection


Title + cover = awesome. I am sold. I basically didn't have to know much about this book to want to read it. But then I saw that Amy Stewart wrote it. I am dying to get my hands on books Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and The Drunken Botanist. I also just saw they came out with a coloring book from The Drunken Botanist. Ok ok I am getting off topic. I'm eagerly awaiting her next book in this series.

Back of the book:

A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. 

My thoughts:


I loved this book. The characters and the writing were superb. For some reason I could envision this world so perfectly. But I think what I loved about the book was the three sisters. I adore Constance Kopp. She is the perfect heroine/protagonist/person I just want to cheer for. One sister is a bird fanatic and is perfectly happy being a hermit and taking care of birds. She is constantly reading the newspaper and sends Constance torn out headlines via carrier pigeons. I love that. Her much younger sister is a fashion fanatic. I'm torn about wanting to see these characters in a television show - a la a well made PBS/BBC version but would be nervous they'd mess it up. I was so excited to find that book two will be out soon. More Kopp sisters please!

I'm pretty picky about giving books five stars on Goodreads but this one deserved it. I can't wait to read Lady Cop Makes Trouble.

Extra:

At the end of the book, Amy Stewart mentions that she got the idea of the Kopp Sisters series from real life Kopp sisters.  Seriously, truth is usually crazier than fiction.  Head over to Amy Stewart's website to check out her Q&A and see photos of the Kopp sisters. As a history major, I loved her attention to detail, her historical research, and the authenticity of her writing. 

 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown

Title: The Weird Sisters
Author: Eleanor Brown
Hardback: 320 pages
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Published date: 2011
FTC: Bought at library book sale

I remember the acclaim The Weird Sisters received when it first came out a few years ago.  It had been on my radar since then. Come on. Shakespeare, sisters, and a back of the book quote that states "There is no problem a library card can't solve." I just thought I'd love it. Hmm. Well...no.

Goodreads synopsis:

There is no problem that a library card can't solve. 

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. 

See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much. 

But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from -- one another, their small hometown, and themselves -- might offer more than they ever expected.

My thoughts:

I guess it boils down to the fact that I didn't like the sisters. At all. I couldn't stand them in fact.  Its funny, the quote on the cover of the book states, "See, we love each other. We just do't happen to like each other very much." My problem too. Pretty much self-involved, each one. And while there is a fairly happy ending, I didn't think there was a ton of character growth. 

Don't get me wrong, the book is very well-written.  I didn't struggle with that. There are seriously some good quotes, go check it out on Goodreads.  I just really wanted to like the story of the three sisters and I didn't. End point. I've knocked off a to-read book that's been high on my list, glad I didn't spend more on it since it was a library book sale buy, and will donate it again.  

I'm curious though...have any of you read it? Enjoyed it? Why or why not? I'm guessing it might be a good discussion book since I'd love to know others opinions. (Yes, I'm off to read some reviews.)

Extra:

The hardcover copy of is beautiful, a shimmery white with gorgeous green letters. The paperback version is pretty fun looking too:




Friday, May 6, 2016

The Newsmakers - Lis Wiehl

Title: The Newsmakers
Author: Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart
Hardcover: 337 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: January 2016
FTC: Received to review from publisher


The Newsmakers is one of those novels that I loved reading the last page and then moving on to the Discussion Questions enclosed. Setting this novel in the heart of Manhattan's news world, especially during this current season of crazy media enhanced election news, is so fascinating.  Questions like "What tools to real cable news networks use to drive ratings?" and "Is fear an effective management tool?" make me think this would be a great book club read because while it looks like a hefty book.  The Newsmakers is a fun and quick read packed with action.



What if it turns out that the newsmakers are actually making the news happen?

Television reporter Erica Sparks has just landed her dream job at Global News Network. Beautiful, talented, and ambitious, Erica grew up dirt poor, worked her way through Yale, and is carrying a terrible secret. She moves to Manhattan to join GNN, leaving Jenny, her adored 7-year-old daughter, in the custody of her ex-husband. Erica’s producer at the network, Greg Underwood, is handsome and compelling. Scarred by her divorce, Erica is wary of romance, but there’s no denying the mutual attraction.

On one of her first assignments, Erica witnesses a horrific Staten Island ferry crash. Then she lands a coveted interview with presumptive presidential nominee Kay Barrish. During the interview Barrish collapses. Erica valiantly tries to save her with CPR. The footage rivets the world—GNN’s ratings soar and Erica is now a household name.

But she’s troubled. What a strange coincidence that both events should happen on her watch. It’s almost as if they were engineered. Is that possible?

Erica’s relentless pursuit of the truth puts her life and that of her daughter in danger. Her investigation leads her into the heart of darkness—where the future of our democracy is at stake.
 


My thoughts:

The Newsmakers was a fun quick read. Erica Sparks, while outwardly perfect looking, is inwardly a recovering alcoholic trying to regain her footing after loosing custody of her daughter. Going sober she was climbing the ladder when she struck gold by getting hired by the almost too good to be true news network GNN.  I loved being in Erica Sparks head as she was a likable character but not perfect.

The story was fast paced with lots of action in part due to the story line but also because of short chapters and sentences. I noticed that the author has had over 14 years in the cable news industry and the writing reflects that. Often I like the brevity because I am kind of like that - short and to the point. But it also created a kind of distance that I didn't like as much. While I was reading from Erica's point of view and privy to her thoughts, I still felt a bit removed. It also made some of the action a little less intense than it could have been. 

That said, the book ends with a fun set-up for a sequel which I would totally read. And like I said above, I think it would make a great book club choice. I'd love to be in a discussion about what drives cable news networks' ratings, what's ethical or unethical, and is fear an effective (or ethical) tool? There are also a lot of interesting discussion questions about Erica's background and life - coming up from poverty, her descent into alcoholism, and how her background affects her parenting insecurities. 

Have you read anything by Lis Wiehl or any book set in the cable news network world? 

Extra:

Checking out Barnes and Noble, I saw Lis Wiehl's second novel, The Candidate,  up for pre-order. Ooo. 


About the author:
Lis Wiehl is one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers and highly regarded commentators.  Currently, she is the legal analyst and reporter on the Fox News Channel and Bill O’Reilly’s sparring partner in the weekly “Is It Legal?” segment on The O’Reilly Factor. Prior to that she was O’Reilly’s co-host on the nationally syndicated show The Radio Factor. She is also a Professor of Law at New York Law School.

Prior to joining Fox News Channel in New York City, Wiehl served as a legal analyst and reporter for NBC News and NPR’s All Things Considered.  Before that, Wiehl served as a Federal Prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s office.


And for fun, I am starting to get back into posting on Instagram.

A photo posted by Amanda (@libraryofmyown) on

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Mix and Match Guide to Companion Planting - Josie Jeffery

Title: The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting
Author: Josie Jeffery
Hardcover: 104 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Published date: 2014
FTC: Received from Blogging for Books to review

With its unique split-page mix-and match system, The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting is a colorful visual gardening guide to which vegetables, fruits, and herbs grow best with one another, and which do not.

The age-old practice of companion planting is an effective way to create healthier, happier, more productive gardens simply by placing the right plants next to each other. It is an ingenious, all-natural method to control pests, disease, and weeds without the need for chemicals. With its unique split-page mix-and-match system, this colorful, visual guide makes it fast and easy for you to choose which vegetables, fruits, and herbs grow best with one another, and which do not. All you have to do is select your desired crop from the extensive plant directory, flip the strips, match the dots, and get ready for your vegetable garden to flourish!

My thoughts:

I can't wait until I can get into gardening again. I'll admit I am a novice at gardening and haven't had much experience. We were living in Las Vegas and gardening was so intimidating and difficult. I am so excited to now be living in the South were I can experiment more. This is a great resource for beginner gardeners to help find out which plants compliment each other to naturally drive out pests, disease, and weeds. I think this was a pretty fun book for newbie gardeners.  I wasn't intimidated by the book which was full of color photos and divided into thirds with flip-able sections to mix and match. It's really a beautiful book with a gorgeous cover and photos inside. There were a lot of herbs and fruit plants which I am looking forward to growing in my garden.

That said, it took a bit to figure out exactly how the flip sections all worked together. I also think that if I had more gardening experience, I wouldn't find this book as informative. I may want a more comprehensive resource. I am looking forward, as my three sons grow up, to sitting down with them and looking through the pictures in this book to plan out our garden.

Do you have any favorite gardening books, websites, or resources?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Respectable Actress - Dorothy Love

Title: A Respectable Actress
Author: Dorothy Love
Paperback: 363 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: October 2015
FTC: Received from publisher to review



Back of the book:

When the illustrious India Hartley is accused of murder, she has to uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.

India Hartley, the famous and beautiful actress, is now alone in the world after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.

A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.

Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia low country and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

My thoughts:

I enjoy receiving books to review like this because I wouldn't have normally picked this one up on my own. It was a historical fiction crime mystery with dashes of romance that was perfect for me. I was reading it when I was eight months pregnant and it was the exact book I needed to read at night when I couldn't sleep.

I love the Southern setting. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, she points out that while Indigo Point is fictional, she based it on a real plantation called King's Retreat on the southern tip of St. Simons Island. I loved her descriptions of the island and just the beautiful southern flora. I want to visit somewhere like this.
Retreat on St Simon's Island

I also loved that she based her character, India Hartley, on a real historical actress named Frances "Fanny" Anne Kemble.  The real Fanny Kemble's story is actually quite fascinating. I'd love to read a book or watch a movie of her life!  Slavery is an issue covered in this novel and it was something that concerned the real Fanny Kemble as well. I also think it's so interesting that while today actors/actresses are quite huge celebrities, back in the day it wasn't quite respectable to be an actress.  You must check out Dorothy Love's Pinterest board for A Respectable Actress.  The clothes!!
Fanny Kemble

I really enjoyed A Respectable Actress and love the author's attention to historical detail and research. I will definitely check out more of her novels in the future.  In particular, The Bracelet looks so interesting.

Ooo and on Dorothy Love's website, her newest one looks interesting! The relationship between Robert E. Lee's wife and her slave.