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Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

Title: All the Best People
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother."

My Two Cents:

"All the Best People" is the story of Carole, a woman living in the 1970s that starts to hear voices. Not only does this frighten her because she doesn't know what's going on but it also frightens her that she may end up like her mother. Her mother, Solange, has been locked away in a mental hospital for many years since right after the birth of Carole's younger sister Janine. Carole has to quickly grow up and becomes more of a mother to Janine than a sister. Carole is haunted by this and doesn't want to end up abandoning her children like she was effectively abandoned.

The book centers on three characters: Solange, Carole, and Carole's daughter, Alison (who often seems wise beyond her years). We meet Solange, a woman driven by love in a time where men still very much have power over women. Carole's father had Solange committed for reasons other than mental illness (more detail in the book - this detail makes for a real twist in the story). Carole is a committed mother who wants better for her children than she had being bounced around after her mother is committed. Alison is intuitive and knows there is something going on with her mother before Carole is ready to admit it. The characters are great and really draw you in. The author uses the characters to unwrap the secrets hidden in this family's past in a way that keeps you wanting to read on.

At its core, this book is about nature versus nurture. Can we overcome the things that we are born with? Do our conditions make us who we are? What if the conditions were different? I love how the author explores this them in a very subtle way that will make the reader think.

This book is also about relationships between mothers and daughters. Carole has no control over how her relationship with her mother is. She was so young when she was taken away and seems to have regrets about having so much responsibility thrust upon her when she is so young. Carole also blames her mother for her own diagnosis. When Alison feels her mother pulling away, she does everything to try to keep their close relationship going. I loved how the author was able to show these contrasts and also how events and time can shape these relationships. 

Overall, this was a good read!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hello from #LFLonChestnut !

One of the reasons I started book blogging is because I wanted to share my love of books with the world. Now I've found a new way to spread ALL. THE. WORDS. Say hello to my Little Free Library Charter Number 54881.

My husband built my LFL to match our house. I love it and it makes it so special that he built it for me!

Have you ever heard of a Little Free Library before? They're a great way to bring a bit of bookish community to your local area.

I have been running out to the LFL every single night after I put the kids to bed to see what got taken and what got dropped off. So far books have moved every single day in the week since my LFL opened. It's been amazing!

Follow my LFL steward adventures on Instagram or by using #LFLonChestnut across social media!

Do any of you have a Little Free Library?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: A More Perfect Union by Jodi Daynard

Title: A More Perfect Union
Author: Jodi Daynard
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: May 23, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "In 1794, Johnny Watkins returns to America from Barbados, intent on becoming a great statesman. Even his hero, John Adams, believes the gifted boy will go far. There’s just one catch: Johnny must learn to pass for white.
He finds a spirited and lovely confidante in Kate, one of the few who knows that Johnny’s father had been born a slave. But as he moves closer toward the new city of Washington, Johnny leaves Kate behind, falling instead for a prominent Maryland heiress who may not have his best interests at heart. Embroiled in the vicious politics of the approaching election, Johnny lives every moment at risk of being unmasked.

Then, a discovery about Thomas Jefferson, one that could sway the election, imperils not only Johnny’s future but also his life. In the end, Johnny learns who his real friends are—and the truth behind the great promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

My Two Cents:

"A More Perfect Union" is the story of Johnny Watkins, a young man looking to contribute to the future of his adopted country of the United States in any way he kind. Inspired by great men like John Adams (who Johnny knows personally), he decides the best way that he can contribute is to become a politician and to truly lead his new country. Being mixed race, he has to pass for white in order to do what he aspires to do. He worries that his secret may be revealed at every turn.

This is the third book in Jodi Daynard's Midwife series but this book can very much be read as a stand alone book. The focus of the story is really on Johnny himself, the son of some of the previous characters in this trilogy. Although Johnny is hiding a secret, in many ways he is freer to pursue what he wants compared to the previous generation.

Johnny is right at the center of a lot of the political action of the time. He spends time in places like Boston, Maryland, and D.C. throughout the book meaning that he rubs elbows with a lot of the famous people at the time. I loved all of the detail that was included in the book! You get a good sense of the places that Johnny is seeing. There is also a love story at the center of the book that will keep you guessing (and rooting for Johnny and Kate) until the very end!

Overall, this book made me want to read more books set in this time period. This was a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy!  

TLC Book Tours Review: Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

Title: Goodnight from London
Author: Jennifer Robson
Format: ARC
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall. 

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share."

My Two Cents:

In "Goodnight from London," Ruby is initially thrilled when she lands a job that will take her to London reporting on the war in 1940. In the United States, the war still feels very far away and remote. Ruby is anxious to be where the action is and she knows that this will be a fantastic job to continue to hone her skills as a reporter for a weekly magazine. She doesn't know just how difficult the job will get! Based on stories from the author's own family history, this is a great historical fiction about London during World War II.

Reading fiction and non-fiction about war reporters seems to be becoming a favorite of mine. With characters like Ruby in this book, it is no wonder! Ruby is dedicated to her craft of writing a good story and capturing the facts. This lands her the job in London but Ruby is not prepared for how difficult living and working in a war torn city will be. We see a shift in her throughout the book. While she is a great reporter, she is a little naive at the beginning of the book. We see how she changes into someone who understands the reality of war a little more and just exactly what is at stake. I loved how the author was able to show this shift in the story!

Even though London was at the center of World War II for much of it, I don't feel like I have read about London during the Blitz, which this book centers on. I thought the author did a great job of capturing what it would have been like to be in London at the time. People still must try to go about their daily lives even with the threat of air strikes. They have to find a precarious balance, which is a theme throughout the book. I really liked the descriptions of what the city looked like at the time. This made the book feel real and the things that Ruby and the other characters were going through also added to that. This was a good book with a strong heroine and a good message!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases by Andrew Thompson

Title: Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases
Author: Andrew Thompson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Ulysses Press
Publish Date: March 14, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The English language is riddled with phrases that are complete nonsense. Ever met "a monkey's uncle," seen a "red-handed" thief, or "put a sock in it" when asked? You knows the real meaning of these common expressions, but do you know where, why, and how these idioms entered America's vernacular in the first place? Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red uncovers and explains the amazing and bizarre origins of 400 such phrases. Breezy and fun to read, this book of word trivia is far from being just an etymological dictionary. As if he were unraveling 400 little mysteries, the author reveals the backstory of each expression and tells how they've gained their new meanings. For example, you will enjoy following the exploits of the Marquis of Waterford. Was it the Mad Marquis' drunken excess and paint-brush wielding fun in the town of Melton Mowbray that inspired so many to "paint the town red" even today? This question and many others will be answered within."

My Two Cents:

"Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red" is a book for lovers of words and phrases. Perhaps it is also for POTUSes who think that they have made up a phrase like "priming the pump" only to be corrected and told that "priming the pump" has existed as an economics-related idiom for almost 90 years. "Priming the pump" is not included in this collection but after last week, it should not be missed after seeing story after story about that particular phrase's origins. 

Have you ever used a colloquial phrase and wondered where it came from? Why do we say things like "beating a dead horse" or "head over heels?" If these questions fly through your mind, this is the book for you.

Set up like a dictionary, this book has tons of phrases, how they are used, and where they came from. Each chapter focuses on a different origins. Let me tell you, there are soooo many funny phrases that come from the British Navy and sooo many more that started because of different sports. This book is for word nerds (and POTUSes that could stand to pick up a book every once in awhile). This book doesn't need to be read in all one sitting. I know that I personally would like to keep it as a reference book for when I have questions about where certain phrases come from. Overall, this is a very interesting book that taught me many new things about why we say the funny phrases we say.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West by Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Title: Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West
Author: Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: National Geographic
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours and National Geographic Store

What's the Story?:

From "Follow in the footsteps of much-loved authors, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and many more. For vacationers who crave meaningful trips and unusual locales, cue National Geographic's Novel Destinations a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe. Check into Hemingway's favorite hotel in Sun Valley, or stroll about Bath's Royal Crescent while entertaining fantasies of Lizzie Bennett and her Mr. Darcy. The fully revised second edition includes all of the previous sites with updated locations plus color images and an expanded section on all things Bronte. The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums, literary festivals and walking tours. Then, in-depth explorations of authors and places take readers roaming Franz Kafka's Prague, James Joyce's Dublin, Louisa May Alcott's New England, and other locales. Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, Novel Destinations is a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate bibliophile's delight.""

My Two Cents: 

"Novel Destinations" is for travelers who like me love to find any bookish related sites anywhere they travel. Is there a author related museum nearby? Is there a bookstore nearby? If there is, I will find it. This book makes it easier. This is the perfect book to generate new travel ideas (who wants to go to Key West now to see EVERY. SINGLE. HEMINGWAY. RELATED. THING? *raises hand excitedly*). So if you are like me and love to daydream about your next trip, this is perfect.

The book is organized a couple different ways. There are groups of related authors but the locations are not necessarily close so they probably would make for a better bucket list than itinerary. My favorite section was the actual itineraries. Like I said, I'm ready to hop a plane to Key West now. Because the book is sorted a couple different ways, there are some repeats of authors and places. The organization could have probably been a little bit better. It is hard to find the different sections as they can start in the middle of the page with relatively small headers.

The book also is limited in what it focuses on. The locations are mostly in the U.S. and Europe so it is limited to Western writers and definitely should not be seen as an end all, be all of literary travel. It is also limited in the kinds of authors that it focuses on: mostly authors that I would consider classic authors. This book is only a taste of the bookish places you can go!

This book would make a great gift for a new high school or college graduate just stretching their wings and beginning to see the world!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Title: A House Without Windows
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 16, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines."

My Two Cents:

When "A House Without Windows" opens, Zeba is accused of killing her husband. No one around her can believe that Zeba, a mild mannered housewife, would dare to kill her husband. In Afghanistan, there is often no recourse for women who commit a crime and Zeba resigns herself to this fate. Yusuf, an Afghanistan born - American raised lawyer, takes up her case and is determined to get her out of jail. This is a great book about modern-day Afghanistan!

The characters in this book are really great. All Zeba wants to do is to live a good life and to protect her children. She never anticipated going to jail. Although she does not like being in jail, she is resigned and does nothing to actively help Yusuf get her out. As the story progresses, we see the secrets of Zeba's past and what drove her come to light. It gives us insight into what makes her tick and how far she had to be pushed to go to the drastic measures that get her into jail.

Yusuf is also another strong character. He really wants to help his home country of Afghanistan. He is driven to make things better and is passionate about trying to practice law in a way that helps people. He deals with the in-between. Growing up, he felt too Afghani to be totally American and now that he is back in Afghanistan, he is often seen as a foreigner. It was interesting to see how he counters this and makes peace with the in-between throughout the book!

Nadia Hashimi is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. Her books are insightful and tell so much about a culture that I know so little about. The themes that she deals with are complicated. She uses this story to talk about the plight of many women in Afghanistan who feel like they do not have a voice even if something really bad happens to them. She also uses this story to explore what it is like to be torn between two cultures in Yusuf. Both of these themes as well as a taut story line makes this book worth reading!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, May 16th: Book by Book
Wednesday, May 17th: Real Life Reading
Wednesday, May 17th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 18th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, May 19th: Tina Says…
Monday, May 22nd: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, May 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 25th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, May 26th: Read Her Like an Open Book
Monday, May 29th: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, May 30th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 31st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, June 1st: G. Jacks Writes
Friday, June 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves
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