Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: "The Secret History of Wonder Woman" by Jill Lepore

If you are looking for a quick, bite sized book that will tell you all about Wonder Woman in big, broad strokes not the book for you. Are you looking for an incredibly detailed, well researched, and interesting book that gives you the real long game about the creator of Wonder Woman, the huge influences on him who made Wonder Woman who she is and more? DING DING. Here is the book you are looking for!

So, the man who created Wonder Woman was....uh...a renaissance man of sorts. Yeah, that's it. He invented the detector! He got fired from almost all of his jobs! He was not classically handsome but must have had a pretty magnetic personality or something because the women in his life put up with A LOT. And yeah, that plural is indicative of lovers and wives...which he usually had one of each for many many years in a polyamorous scenario.

Have you heard the rumors about the reason that there are so many chains and cuffs and ropes and Wonder Woman being tied up is because her creator had some BDSM tendencies? That is not a complete untruth. Though lots of times it serves as a metaphor for women being shackled to traditional gender roles. (And by that I mean, it was 1932 if you were female you went to high school, you got married, you had kids, that's it. Any deviation from that path and you were getting eyebrows raised and people tittering about you. I would never have guessed that: birth control, the women's suffragette movement, and so many other things would have contributed to a comic book!

A thing that this book mentioned in passing that got me weirdly angry is that there were so many women who did work on comic books of the time that were given no credit for their work because they were women. And that's just all kinds of bullshit. Where's a book about the unsung women of the comic book world?!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: "American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land" by Monica Hesse

This was picked for my work book club. I had heard a lot of buzz about it but couuuuuldn't actually have told you what it was about. True crime is not generally what I find myself reaching for as far as nonfiction is concerned, but it turned out to be a really interesting read.

The author went out of her way to tell you about the community where the story takes place. This is one of those books where the setting itself is a character, and if you didn't get a feel for the place the rest of the book wouldn't make as much sense. 

There's a main couple in this story and I feel like everyone who has gone to a bar, or lives in a state that has a strong drinking culture - for better or for worse- (#DrinkWisconsinbly!) has seem a version of the main couple in the story. I think that was one thing that kinda of made me chuckle at this book. All of the people in this book were interesting, well thought out/fleshed out people. (I mean, it's nonfiction, these people are real but I feel like you got a whole person, not just a weird snapshot, 2D version)

Also, learned so so so so so much about how volunteer fire departments worked! I've never lived in a place that didn't have a city/municipal fire department so that was interesting to me as well.

This very well researched and through book read really fast and kept me hooked until the end, which is quite a feet considering you know who committed the crimes from about the first 10 pages onward!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Poetry confusion.

So, I struggle with poetry. I want to like more of it. There's some that I really like. I like the Romantic poets, like Blake and Coleridge. I like some Tennyson. I can be down for some Shakespeare sonnets. (Though if I am reading Shakespeare it's Hamlet or Macbeth, let's be honest.) 

I keep saying I'm trying to get more into TS Eliot because I like the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and The Wasteland. 

But when I try to get into more of his poetry or, you know, literally any other poetry I feel like I don't know where to start. I know I probably can just jump in anywhere and that's fine (like there's no wrong way to read, we all know that) but I always feel like I'm starting at the wrong place. Apparently I need chapters and chronologicalness to make me confident in what I am doing bookwise.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Poets? Poems? Poetry for Dummies?

I will say, poetry that rhymes or is more lyrical in nature is the most appealing to me. I feel like that's my only parameters.

And because the internet is full of whatever you need at your fingertips I found one of my favorite pieces of poetry. I thought it was a Longfellow, and it kind of is, but it's actually "his" because he translated it into English.

Image result for soul from thy casement look

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Review: "Blink- The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell

Several of the very smart scientist ladies that I work with have been talking about Malcolm Gladwell's books lately and I thought I would jump in and try one for myself. This is not my most favorite nonfiction read (that's a pretty crowded category to be fair) but I still learned a lot. 

One of the things I learned kind of made me sad. I always assume that everyone in them as a little psychic ability in them. Just your gut instinct on why you do or don't do something. This book tells me it's just because my brain is moving a lot faster than I thought that it was. Which FINE OKAY SCIENCE but that's just a little bit less fun.

The two parts of the book that I found the most interesting were:

The Pepsi Challenge. A thing when Pepsi did a study giving people one sip of Coke and Pepsi, with the sippers not knowing which was which, to see what they prefered. That section goes into what was weird about that study (who ever drinks just one sip of something?), what factors made it turn out the way that it did and finally an answer on why New Coke was a thing. 

The other part was the very very end about people auditioning for orchestras that play their instrument behind a screen. It is supposed to help take out people's bias and holy cow it sounds like there's a lot of bias floating around in that world! Basically, women can't play brass instruments. Stick to the flute and the violin and the clarinet women of the world or else be ready to face some unfair and unbiased scrutiny! #smashthepatriarchy

I gave this book a solid 3 out of 5. Some of it was interesting but then some of it seemed to go on for far too long on any certain topic.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

DNF: "The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day" by James Kakalios

I have a Did Not Finish review for you today.

I picked this book from Blogging for Books to review because I was like "Hey, I like nonfiction. This is probably harder on the science then I am used to, but I can handle it. I'm a badass!". Dear reader, I AM a badass, but I am not great at science comprehension which is what you might need to be to really enjoy this book.

I thought the format was really great though. It goes through a person's average day and points out the uh, physics of the everyday things. Like how bluetooth speakers work and how an airplane stays in the air and all of that type of thing. I knew I was in trouble with this book when I hit this sentence:

To understand how the toaster converts electrical energy into heat and light requires and understanding of thermodynamics, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics".

Even with the simplest of explanations and many many pictures this was not going to be something I could really comprehend AND enjoy learning about.

So, while this wasn't a good fit for me, maybe it is a good fit for you! If it sounds interesting give it a shot!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book review: "Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys

I can't remember how Salt to Sea ended up on my TBR but I am sure glad I did. The fast moving story and the short chapters made me want to sit down and read it all at once, but alas  half hour lunch breaks would not allow it.

The book's short chapters are narrated by four different people all thrown together in the horror and panic and chaos that was the end of WWII in Europe. Each of the 4 people are making their way towards a port city where they are hoping that a boat will get them to safety. Most of them are running away from things in their past, that inevitably leak out little bit by little bit as the story goes on. However, one of the people is a douche bag moron who is looking for glory and all I could do was root for an untimely and violent demise for him. Which, you know, in a book about WWII the odds are pretty good. 

The characters were varied and interesting and believable and the last 4 or 5 chapters in the end are tense and scary and makes you feel happy that you are reading on dry land. Unless you are reading this on a boat. Then put on your life jacket and sit on the deck.

I liked that this book had such short, easily digestible chapters. AND that they were clearly marked with who was narrating what. I hate it when books switch between narrators and you spend the first 10 pages of each chapter trying to figure out who is talking. It's format makes it for a good book that you can put down and pick up again easily, or one that you can blow through in one sitting. 

I will give it 3.5 out of 5 stars!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book review: "Color: A Natural History of the Palette" by Victoria Finlay

While this book lacked the conversational tone that I prefer in my nonfiction books it still gave me a lot of really interesting tidbits that I can share with you.

-When you rub a thin layer of graphite around a canonball it makes it pop nice and cleanout of it's cannon. And you can also, you know, write with it.

-When Gutenberg printed his first few Bibles he couldnt keep the ink from fading. Luckily Jan Van Eyck, the famous painter. started making oil based ink a few years before and Gutenberg took that idea and ran with it. If not for Van Eyck those pages could be blank now!

-The author talks about what Victorian ladies who through the use of their white face powder, slowly poisoned themselves with lead. THAT was super interesting and sad.

-Did you know that if you swish our hand around a container of mercury (DONT DO THIS AT HOME) with the direction it's going it feels like water, no resistance. If you go against it, it's like an unstoppable force. Take of your jewlery when you do this, or else it will eat the rings off your hand immediately. PLEASE DON'T SWIRL YOUR HAND IN MERCURY.

- If you're a synaesthetic your brain can make connections between things that the majority of people don't. A man named Scriabin associated musical notes with color. But the problem is, if Scriabin heard an F flat he might see the color green. But it another person with this condition hears an F flat he sees navy blue. The connections are not universal between people. Which would be awesome. But also weird.

-There's a whole page that talks about Jan Van Eyck's most famous painting "The Arnolfini Marriage". There is probably no other painting in the world that is open to more interpretations than this painting. Are the couple happy? Are they pregnant? Are they in love? Is it significant that the window is open and she has a hand on her belly?! No.Clear.Answers. I could sit in art history classes forever just about this painting.

So while the writing style wasn't my favorite I still learned a lot. My other super small criticism is that she spends time in Iraq and Syria and while she does talk about the Taliban (it was written in 2003, so still post-9/11) I feel like the picture over there is a bit different now....


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book review: "Break Open the Sky: Saving Our Faith From a Culture of Fear" by Stephan Bauman

This is one of those books that after I read it I kind of just felt happy and calm and introspective. Which is kind of a rare thing, which I don't know if that attests to the books that I read or how I am as a human!

In the introduction the book talks about how at even though (generally speaking) people are living longer, earning more money and have more things than any other time period in the past our anxiety is also at an all time high. And according to the poll, people in the United States are getting progressively less happy. Maybe we need to realign our priorities?

Quote: "But meekness is not synonymous with weakness. For Jesus, being meek didn't mean the lack of strength but rather strength under authority, his Father's authority. The Greek word for meek (praus) means excersizing strength with humility, gentleness and even restraint, all of which requires a deep level of trust. This is not what we normally think of when we think of power....But meek is not weak".

Another quote: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other" - Mother Teresa. 

I liked that the author seems to have a lot of experience with a lot of different people all around the world. That might seem like a weird compliment but there's a lot of Christian authors who write well meaning books who seem like they live in a little Christian bubble.

I received this book in exchange for a honest review from Blogging for Books

Friday, July 28, 2017

All Lady July - Book Review: "In the Shadow of Lakecrest" by Elizabeth Blackwell

While reading this book, especially the first half, all I could think was "Oh yeah, I know this book. Except it was called Rebecca. And Lakecrest was called Manderley and it was way better written than this". 

This is a little harsh (though not unfair) because you could reach the moon if you stacked all of the books that have this basis premise on top of each other: poor girl meets rich but mysterious man, whirlwind romance, quick marriage, he brings to his ancesteral home, family is mysterious and unwelcoming and then the mysteries of his sordid past unravel.

As the book went on it came into it's own a little bit more, but noone of it was reinventing the wheel. However it's a pretty short, fast read so if you want a little escapism this isn't the worst way to go. I think it's like, 276 pages?

I read this for my work book club so I will have to think of something more constructive to say for our meeting :)


Monday, July 24, 2017

All Lady July - Female Author Word Search

Let's ease ourselves back into the work week with something just for fun.

G W U M I N B Z U W O O L F A 
N H U X U L O O H U R S T O N 
I A X E U N L S A P G H L L D 
L R R M C E R T N H C E L Y C 
W T E Y G I W O C I E N I U G 
O O Q N F O R P S T K H V X O 
R N A E O N E T S U A C H F A 
J R A D T E M R D Q V X I H T 
T E R C T N C G J M I H Y D E 
T E V H L T O U K A I J F Q S 
O E P C A Q L R D H C V A N H 
C L L O O U T N B G G K A D N 
L Z A E L M Z I J U Z T S N C 
A W J X U L W V Z G N C V O G 
I N J L I R L T B Y O Z Z S N 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

All Lady July Book Review: "98 Reasons for Being" by Clare Dudman

I'm honestly so meh about this book it's kind of hard to write a review about it.


*An excuse to use an X-Files GIF almost makes up for it*

Our story takes place in an insane asylum in 19th century Germany. A young woman is brought in who refuses to eat, sleep or speak in a few weeks. Dr Hoffmann is the very caring doctor who runs the asylum and he takes a particular interest in Hannah. There are side stories about a few of the other patients and the people who work at the asylum (spoiler alert, not many of them are good folks. Some of then are actually very not good folks.) The doctor uses his therapy time with Hannah to exercise some of his own demons as well because his home life isn't great. And he also wrote a book of like, cautionary kids poems that are apparently famous in real life that I've never heard of?

Here's some of the things that didn't work for me:

-Switching character perspectives within the chapers
-Having the side story characters be more interesting than the main characters
-I found myself not really caring how it ended because I wasn't invested in the characters

Just because I didn't like this book doesn't mean that you might not like this book (it's got a lot of good reviews on goodreads, so many I'm just some barbarian, who knows?) Cover is fun though!


Monday, July 17, 2017

All Lady July Book Review: "Things We Lost in the Fire" by Mariana Enriquez

When I met up with Julianne a few weeks ago she HIGHLY suggested this book, she also said Shannon (formerly of River City Reading) also loved it. I trust both of these ladies taste in books so I picked this one up from the library last week.

I couldn't stop reading this book. When I wasn't reading this book, I wanted to be reading this book.

Karen Russell is my short story go to, but when if you want something that skews a little more to the horror side of the weird short story genre then I can not point you to this book fast enough.

All(ish) of these spooky stories take place in Argentina, and some of that countries' complicated history plays into some stories, but if you don't know anything about Argentina you're still going to be fine. (All of my Argentine history comes from the musical "Evita"  but I like that musical considerably less know that I grew up and realized Peron basically through open the doors for escaping Nazis and laid down the god damn welcome mat. ANYWAY, rant over). 

The stories are short, maybe 10-15 pages at the longest but they feel complete, not like some short stories when you feel like maybe a page or two got left out somewhere and your book is faulty.  A lot of the stories deal with people's strange experiences after a personally traumatic event which is interesting. A few of the stories address the issue of poverty and drug use which I think is interesting. And at least one of them has really great, creepy, religious undertones which is boss. And a haunted house or two, naturally.

If you want some books that scratch that itch of tense, interesting and downright spooky I can't think of a better book to recommend. 4 outta 5!


Friday, July 14, 2017

All Lady July 2017 - The Shopping Post

Oh these darn shopping posts, they are so fun to do but I always just end up wanting to BUY ALL THE THINGS! All of these posts, of course, celebrate ladies of lit or things that ladies who love lit might love for themselves! Click on the pictures for the link to where you can purchase these fine items!

Simple but high impact!

Book Page Flower Terrarium Pendant Necklace. One of a kind.

Books combined with a plant I don't have to actually take care of? Yes please!

Button-Eyed Mug, Unique Coffee Mug, Illustrated Mug, Cute Mug, Gifts for Him, Gifts for Her, Movie Mug, Film Mug, Fantasy Mug

Don't let an alternate family with button eyes keep you down Coraline!

As You Wish Quote Hand Embroidered Hoop Art, Princess Bride Art Romantic Gifts Under 50 for Her, Hand Stitched Nerd Wife Gifts

That embarrassing moment when the Dread Pirate Roberts is actually your BFF Westley.
(Spoiler alert, but that book is like 30 years old so....)

Reading is Revolt Racerback Tank Top-- Readers for Change, Protest shirt, Feminist, Reader, Book shirt, Bookish, Literary shirt, Bibliophile

Want want want. Want want. Want want. WANT.

Jane Austen Mug, Jane Austen Heroines Ceramic Mug, Literary Gift, Bookworm for Her, Pride and Prejudice, Bookish, Book Lover Gift

This is obviously a tea mug not a coffee mug.

William Shakespeare Tote Bag. Shakespeare Tote Bag. Shakespeare Quote. Book Bag. Bookish Tote Bag. Book Tote Bag. Book Lover Gifts. Reader

You might be like, uh Wesley that is from Shakespeare, from McB. And Shakespeare is a dude. And you are correct but this line is spoken by one of the weird sisters and I love them AND it's one of my favorite lines of all of Shakespeare and I make the rules SO IT'S IN. And I want this thing desperately bad.

Wonder Woman Inspired "Daughter of Themyscira" Women's Tank Top

If you love yourself some Wonder Woman but want something different from the Double W's, this is a good option!

Monday, July 10, 2017

All Lady July 2017- "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a kinda, not really book review.

When I was recently at a great indie bookstore, finally getting to meet Julianne of Outlandish Lit fame, my hands wandered over this book. It was a book I'd heard a lot of good things about but I was confused because this. thing. is. tiny. My copy is 48 pages. I picked it up and brought it home and read it in a very short sitting by my sisters pool.

It's wonderful. It's so worth a read. It's already made me more conscious of the things I say and how and why I say them.I'm trying to pass it around to as many ladies as I can. My work friend Maggie has already read it and it's with my Mom currently.

But, it's basically a TED talk that the author gave.

So, please feel free to pick up the book, but maybe start with the TED talk. Just think of it as the audiobook version with bonus visuals :)

We should all be feminists TED talk 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Lady July 2017 - Books that are authored by women that are "on deck" for my TBR

(All Lady July will be a ghost of it's normal glorious self this year, but it's too fun and too good of a cause to not do it at all! So thanks for being here!)

Oh the TBR shelf, a place where books go to languish. However, I organize my books in such a way that I have an "on deck" stack, books that I anticipate will be something I will want to read next. Of course always subject to change -  a readers prerogative. So here are some of the books that I anticipate reading soon (or "soon", realistically) that are authored by women. -All synopsis from goodreads.


This ARC is on my coffee table waiting for me as a part of Amy's Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…


I have actually checked this one out from t he library and had to return it because I hadn't gotten to it in time. Oh those damn due dates. Will try again soon!

Novelist Clare Dudman, whose work has earned comparisons to Andrea Barrett and Barry Lopez, is that rare kind of author who can bring history dramatically to life. Here she conjures up the revolutionary nineteenth-century German physician Heinrich Hoffmann (best known today for his book of children's rhymes, Shockheaded Peter, or Struwwelpeter) as he struggles to cure an inhabitant of Frankfurt's Jewish ghetto who hasn't spoken, slept, or eaten in weeks. As the secrets hidden in the girl's mind are exposed, Dr. Hoffmann also begins to uncover his own buried truths and, in the end, discovers his real reasons for being.


I know, you guys are shocked. A super specific nonfiction book. So unlike me. /sarcasm font/

Discover the tantalizing true stories behind your favorite colors.
For example: Cleopatra used saffron—a source of the color yellow—for seduction. Extracted from an Afghan mine, the blue “ultramarine” paint used by Michelangelo was so expensive he couldn’t afford to buy it himself. Since ancient times, carmine red—still found in lipsticks and Cherry Coke today—has come from the blood of insects.


This one is a little hyped and I think the premise isn't as unique as it probably wants to think that it is but I'm still a pinch intrigued.

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Anyone read any of these?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Philadelphia in Books

I'll be spending Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia for my cousins wedding, and I've never been there before.  In typical Wesley fashion I'm like "Hmm I wonder if there's any interesting books about/set in  Philadelphia..." considering it's role in the founding of this country I figured there wouldn't really be any shortages. So I did a little research and here's some things I found!

Also, if you're a Philadelphian and have any tips on Must See or Must Eats or Must Avoids please let me know!

(All descriptions from goodreads)


It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.


Set in Philadelphia's badlands, where drug gangs rule the streets, this debut novel has the explosive authenticity, the narrative drive, and the tender passion to knock you out of your seat! Fourteen-year-old Gabriel's father skipped two years ago. Now his mother, Ofelia, is searching for her runaway son, riding her bicycle at night through the city's darkest, most violent stretch. The pavement beneath her is mysteriously painted with chalk outlines of bodies. Each time a child is killed, another white outline appears. While Ofelia tries to outrun a vision of her son's death, her son tries to outrun the neighborhood, taking cover with a drifter; but Gabriel is already trapped, at the mercy of Diablo, the ugliest of the dealers, a man who kills for fun.


A collection of fourteen essays which records the cruelties of racism, celebrates the strength and pride of black America and explores the paradoxical "double consciousness" of African-American life.


Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century.

Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time.

Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum.

Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation—despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s "overly" modern medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the "P. T. Barnum of the surgery room."


Few men could compare to Benjamin Franklin. Virtually self-taught, he excelled as an athlete, a man of letters, a printer, a scientist, a wit, an inventor, an editor, and a writer, and he was probably the most successful diplomat in American history. David Hume hailed him as the first great philosopher and great man of letters in the New World.
Written initially to guide his son, Franklin's autobiography is a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life. Stylistically his best work, it has become a classic in world literature, one to inspire and delight readers everywhere.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book review: "Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the German Kommandant of Auschwitz" by Thomas Harding

I had high hopes for this book because it's my favorite when Nazis get what is coming to them. But this book just kind of fell flat for me. The book ping ponfed between the lives of Rudolf Hoss (pretend there's an umlut over the o) the man who would grow up to become the Kommandant of Aushwitz and and a German Hew named Hanns Alexander who lived a pretty upper crust life until he had to flee Germany, and then joined the British Army, and then eventually went rogue to find Hoss.

Considering the subject matter I just kind of felt bored with the story. But there were a few thing of interest:

- I thought it was interesting to hear about how Hoss ended up running Auschwitz and all of the Nazi bureaucracy and posturing among people. They had people coming through all of the time to talk about how they could be at maximum efficiency, like they were producing cardboard boxes instead of killing people.

-The Alexander family had a lot of money and it made their story have much happier endings then the people who didn't have the means to get their whole family out of the country. 

-The epilogue shouldn't be skipped

-"The Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps had been make use of men who were refugees from Germany and elsewhere who waned to fight Hitler. For these men, the stakes were high. If caught by the Reich they would be viewed as traitors and shot. Yet of the more than 70,000 German and Austrian refugees who landed in Britain between 1933 and 1939 approximately 1 in 7 enlisted in the Pioneers".

All in all I give this book a 3 out of 5.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guest post today at Books and Beverages!

The incomparable and awesome Jamie over at Books and Beverages is having her annual Inklings Week and invited me to guest post, which I of course said yes to. My post is up today so go check it out! Also be sure to check out her great giveaway!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book review: "The Witness House" by Christiane Kohl

The first time I read the synopsis of this book I honestly thought I had misunderstood what it was trying to say. And then I read it again and was like "nope, that's what they mean". And ordered it from the library.

The time immediately following World War II in Germany was rough (#understatement). Food and basic services were still not readily available, there was still smoldering ruins of cities, and the world was beginning to learn the terrors of the Holocaust. But there was one thing that the Allies wanted to pursue immediately - putting those in charge of the horrible things that happened during the war on trial and holding them accountable. So, the Nuremberg Trials were organized and Nazi monsters were brought to Nuremberg to be held accountable (the ones that hadn't escaped. Ugh.)

So where do they stay? Some of them stayed at the Witness House, a little villa not far from the courthouse. Some of the guests were Nazis. Some were concentation camp survivors. Some were something else entirely.  Here are a couple of the folks who occupied the same house at these turbulent and unsure times.
Rudolf Diels 

First of all, look at this guys face. Dude has the face of a gangster with those dueling scars, (proooooobably because he was a drunk philanderer so duels are not far behind with those characteristics.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-K0108-0501-003, Rudolf Diels.jpg
Photo from Wikipedia

 Anyway, Diels is a complicated guy. He was on the ground floor with the Nazis, early like in 1933. He was the director of the Gestapo for a short time (you know who replaced him Reinhard Heydrich. That fucker). But then he refused to deport Jews in 1940. And then was involved in the 20 July plot to kill Hitler but was somehow the only person to survive. But then he died in a hunting accident in 1957 that may have involved his dog accidentally tripping the trigger on a rifle(???). I need to find a book about this guy because I have questions.

 Albert Speer

For a long time I only knew that Albert Speer was Hitler's chief architect who was in charge of rebuilding German into a place that exalted Hitler. What I didn't realize is that he was also the Minister of Armaments and War Production (which is far less innocent sounding then architect). For a long time he said that his relationship with Hitler was completely apolitical. He was different then most others at Nuremberg because he accepted responsibility for his part in the Nazi crimes. (Everyone else was basically a variant of "Who, me?" or "I was just following orders" or something else ridiculous).

Erwin Lahousen

Erwin served in the Abwehr, which was an intelligence agency. In the Abwehr there was a lot of anti-Nazi sentiment and he was one of many who successfully sabotaged Nazi operations and helped resistance groups. He was the first witness for the prosecution and testified against Goring specifically.

In the talk about Lahousen there was a few mentions of Wilhelm Canaris who is just...I have a lot of feelings about him. I'm going to get weepy at work if I think about it so here's his wikipedia page. He was held prisoner and executed with Dietrich  Bonhoeffer who I ALSO have lots of feelings about.

The book details their interactions with each other, their reactions to the new world around them (So, that thousand year Reich thing isn't happening, now what?) and more. It's really an incredible story and I highly suggest it to fans of history and psychology - psychologically it is fertile grounds for analyisis!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: "Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail Order Bride" by Marcia A Zug

Well, hello everyone. Long time no see :) 

Today for you I have a book I read during readathon! I have been so  whomp whomp about blogging and ocassional reading in general lately ("If I read this book it will be one more book I should be reviewing and if I don't review it I'm going to feel like a lazy bum and aaaaaaaargh"). I managed to pull myself out of my own dumb self loathing and read this book along with two travel guides to Philadelphia. (I'm going to have, like a free half day in Philadelphia. Any experts have a hot lead on something I can't miss?). At any rate, thanks to a goodreads list I found this book and you guys know how I love me some specific nonfiction. Shall we?

I don't know about you guys, but when I think off mail order brides I have a pretty sterotypical picture in my head. Blonde, eastern european, desperate to get out of their country and get a start in America even if it means marrying a much older guy they don't actually care about. There's a little truth to some of this but that's not always the case, and it certainly has not always been that way. 

It goes allll the way back to the early 1600s when Europeans were coming to what is known as the US and Canada now. With starvation and disease killing of a whole slew of settlers it became abundantly clear that these colonies were not going to make it - a lot of men were like "yeah, no I'm here to make my fortune and then I'll be heading back to England. Thanks so much". So with a high mortality rate and people not willing to stay and doing the long term dirty week of colonizing it was going to go bad. But, with the introduction of women, and therefore families, people were inclined to stay and make a go of it.

Interesting tidbits from this section:
-Tons of intermarriage between white men and native women. In A HEAP of cases the men ditched the colonies and went to live with their wives' tribe because, the Native Americans had their act together WAY more than the colonies.

-The woman who came over, in a lot of cases, had really great incentives to come, including the fact that if they became widows the law ruled in their favor for things like property.

-There was some really tragic and just bad situations for women coming into the Louisiana territory. Shudder.

There's also chapters on: picture brides (Asian ladies who marry men sight unseen and then come over to the US. Please read The Buddha in the Attic. It tells their story and it's short and heartbreaking and the thought of some of the stuff those ladies went through makes my heart clench.) war brides (not always popular with the hometown folk), women who went west seeking husbands during the pioneer/gold rush days (Ever seen Paint Your Wagon? When it's like, 1 woman in a town of 800 men. Yeah, that's not an ideal set up for anyone), and what we think of now as a mail order bride. There's also all kinds of interesting statistics in the chapter with current mail order brides situation.

Also right at the very end of the book they talk about gay men who are living in really scarily homophobic countries like Russia and Ukraine who are looking for love and greater acceptance in countries that are more open like the USA and Canada.

This book with it's super cute cover was a quick, easy read full of interesting facts that made it an entertaining read for readathon or any other time!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Book review: "The Roanoke Girls" by Amy Engel

I picked this book because of the intrigue from the descriptions talking about dark family secrets. I thought, yaaaah there's going to be some kid in the secret room with a hunchback or the person you think is your sister is actually your mom or your dad who you thought was dead is actually alive or something like that. The secret in this book is far ickier than that.

This is a half formed, ending easily guessed "whodunnit", punctuated with a sex scene every 3 pages, and a manic pixie girl for a co-lead. I am not against sex in books, especially when suspected or unexpected pregnancy is a main thread that runs through the books but the three things the characters in the book are concerned with are: sex, food and the flimsy whodunnit plot. Everyone just felt very 1 dimensional.

And I feel bad for saying this because the author seems very nice on twitter. And the cover isn't bad. And that is really all I have positive to say about that.

Of course, and with all of my reviews, if maybe this book sounds intriguing don't let the fact that I didn't like it stop you from picking it up! You do you!

I recieved this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week 2017 Book Review: "The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus" by Brennan Manning

I will admit off the bat that this asn't my favorite Brennan Manning book, though I kind of feel like that's his own fault since he set the bar so high for himself, haha. But like every Manning book, there are still plenty of great takeaways.

I have a feeling that this review will just be a series of out of context quotes, and I realize that that can be not helpful so I will do my best to provide some context!

Starting us off, Manning isn't afraid to throw it down:

For many people in the church, Christianity is not Good News. The Gospel is not the glad tidings of freedom and salvation proclaimed by Christ Jesus, but a rigid code of dos and dont's, a tedious moralizing, a list of minimum requirements for avoiding the pains of hell.

This is not how it should be.

During Jesus' time on earth, he constantly demonstrated his love and tenderness; especially towards people that society at the time or even know, frankly, would have deemed....ew. Us included.Here's a couple of quotes that talk about his love for his people:

In Jesus stories, divine forgiveness doesn't depend on our repentance or our ability to love our enemies or on our doing only heroic, virtuous deeds. God's forgiveness depends only on the love out of which he has fashioned the human race.... But the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. And this, of course, is almost too incredible for us to accept.

and this is actually a quote of a quote

We must remember, he proclaims, that we don not earn God's forgiveness by our sorrow or by our reparation. God's love is given. It is always there, waiting patiently for us. We need only to turn to him and receive it. He is pleased with out efforts but even more pleased with us. That's why He made us. You cannot earn God's love, because He gave it to you before you started to earn it.

One thing that I love about Manning's books is that he often tucks these short little couple a sentence stories into larger stories and some of them make me go "WHAT? NO, WHAT? I MUST KNOW MORE?" or they just make me sob like the little monk who used to be an acrobat in the circus. Oh, little circus monk. So the story for this book that garnered a big reaction from me was even shorter. So in the Bible there's passages about how Jesus talks about how he is going ahead to prepare a place for us and that he will return to take you with me so that you may be where I am. Manning knew a deaf man named Charlie who "at the moment of his death said "For the first time I can hear someone coming."  Ah! What? Tell me more?!

There is also little mini study guides at the end of each chapter and and the very last chapter is kind of a commentary on Christmas and it's weird because it almost seems weirdly out of place because it kind of feels like a Lent book more than an Easter book, but it's not like they aren't all connected, haha.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holy Week 2017 Book Review: "Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women" by Sarah Bessey

Feminism is a divisive concept for a lot of people. It seems like no one can quite agree on what it is. Is it women marching in marches wearing pink hats and "standing with planned parenthood"? Is it women who think that they should be paid the same for doing the same job as a male coworker? Can you be prolife and be a feminist? Do you have to hate men to be a feminist? Are these things mutually exclusive? Here's how I define feminism for myself (and it's also the subtitle of the book #convenient): It's the radical notion that women are people too. You know who else thought women were full blown, totally developed, worth talking to people? Jesus. And that's why we are here.

Women were CLUTCH in Jesus time here on earth. From the very beginning to the very end. He was born to a young woman who, in her time and place in society, was pretty inconsequential but through her willing obedience to her God changed the world. The women at the tomb were the first people that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection. Not his anxious, overwrought disciples that were hiding in a room. The woman who at great personal risk wanted to show their love for Him by finishing his burial preparations. He raised Peter's mother in law from the dead. He frequented Mary and Martha's house and mourned with them at the passing of their brother Lazarus (I mean, it had a happy ending so that was good). While Jesus was in agony on the cross He makes sure that his mother is taken care of ("Behold your son, Behold your mother").

None of these are actions of Someone who thinks that women are ANY LESS than anyone else.

You also can't deny the incredible women who have been moved to do amazing things because of their love for Jesus, here's a teeny tiny teeny tiny list. Including links to their wikipedia pages in case you haven't heard of a few like me: Mother Teresa (duh), Amy Carmichael, Dorothy Day, Corrie ten Boom, Gladys Aylward, Evangeline Booth. (There's even a shoutout to Susanna Wesley, my namesake, who I've never run across in print before and that made my heart so happy). And those are even talking about the organizations mentioned in this book that are trying to end modern slavery, giving Haitain mothers safe places to give birth amid their shaken country, AND it doesn't include the women of great faith who are pillars in our own lives: moms, sisters, friends, coworkers, teachers, counselors,on and on and on. 

Or as the author says:
"Right along side stories of David and Moses and Pail, of Luther and Calvin, of Bonhoeffer and our dads, we could tell the stories of our own patron saints, our church mamas, our Kingdom midwives, the women of the Bible and the women of the Word walking among us right now".

There is so much more in this book that I just don't have the space to go through it all, but you could do worse than a couple of hours with this book in one hand and your Bible open in front of you. And frankly, I hope none of this shocks you. Jesus loves everyone, so of course he loves women. Jesus' words of the Gospel work through everyone, so of course it works through women. Humans were lovingly created in God's own image, so of course it includes women.

But you know, reminders are good.  

It boils down to essentially this: women make up half the church and half of the world. The untapped potential should be frightening. Make the opportunities for yourself to do big, glorious things if the opportunities are not made for you.  


Monday, April 3, 2017

Book review: "Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Previous Lives" by Tim Shroder

Disclaimer: I don't believe in past lives or reincarnation. I DO believe that there are so many things that we as humans can't explain and probably will never be able to explain. There's this weird gray area where incidents like these live and I just find that so intriguing. So that's how I found myself with this book.

The author, a journalist, travels with Dr Stevenson, literally across the globe as he interviews people who claim to remember past lives. The three specific parts of the world that are highlighted in this book is Beirut, India and the United States.

There are exceptions but it seems like a lot of the cases went something like this:

A child is born to a family, and at a very young age says things like "This isn't my house", "You aren't my parents". Sometimes they can even name the people who they think are their parents and the town that they say they are from. They refer to themselves as the name of their "PP" (previous persona). They can name and identify their PP's family members. Sometimes they know details about their PP's lives that no one other than that person or their spouse would know.  Almost all of the PP's died violently (thrown from a car during an accident, suicide after being cornered by cops, shot by abusive husband, etc). I think the cases that are most interesting is when there are weird birthmarks. It's like "Well, our son Sid thinks he's actually someone named Bob. Bob died when he shot himself under his chin and through his head. Oddly enough, Sid has a strange birthmark under his chin and on the top of his head where the bullet exited Bob's head. Hmmmmm".

I was explaining this book to some of my coworkers and they asked if any of the children were a different gender then their PP. There were no examples of it in the book but now I'm totally curious.

In this whole situation I feel the most bad for the person whose child thinks they are a PP. Can you imagine, you're pregnant and all excited to meet your new baby and then as soon as they are old enough to talk the things they say to you are "You're not actually my parents." ? 

The author starts as a hardened skeptic but by the end of it he doesn't necessarily end up as a believer, but he realizes there's so many things that he just doesn't have good answers for.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Book review: "The Woman in Cabin 10" by Ruth Ware

I've read 2 super-hyped thrillers in a week, and they are both very different, and interesting for their diverse settings. Woman in Cabin 10 was one of them.

Here's the Goodreads synopsis:

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

Honestly I don't know if I would have picked up this book if it was in a different setting. A lot of the action takes place on an itty bitty luxury yacht, which made me think back fondly on mine and Quinn's time on our European River Cruise. That was a small boat, but it held 92 people as oppose to the book's boat - 20 people.

Here's the few things that made me like this book a little bit less:
-Felt like the ending was really rushed. Sloooooow beginning, good middle, super rushed end.

-Plot holes: there were some things that felt like significant events that just got brushed away with little or no information and I think that might also tie into the rushed end. 

-Unreliable Narrator: This is strictly a person preference but I am always wary of unreliable narrators. Our main character maaay have a drinking problem, and is on some medication to address some depression so when she tells people that she's witnessed something terrifying they don't quite believe her as much as when she told the story before they new about the booze and the pills.
Here's what I liked:
-The setting: as I said before, the boat intrigued me

-It had some epistolary moments which I always think add some texture to a book.

If you like mysteries and need a good vacation read you could certainly do worse than this one!



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book review: "How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip" by Hitha Palepu

If you have hung around the blog for any amount of time, you probably have figured out that I love to travel! Though I am always worried that I have never packed enough of the right thing, or too much of the wrong thing. So I'm always on the lookout for books that might help me with that paranoia of mine!


First of all this is a book with a totally fitting and adorable cover.

Secondly, I like that she gives packing tips for different types of personalities. Like, do you just throw in everything willy nilly and not know what you don't have until you have to find a Walgreens in Edinburgh to get some toothpaste. She suggests the packing list.

Thirdly, this sounds like a silly piece of advice maybe, but I think it's brilliant. "Pack for who you really are". If you have thought about getting back into running after a decade absence, you are not going to start on vacation. Do not pack your running shoes.

Lastly, more simple sounding advice, only pack the things you feel good in. If you don't like how you feel in it when you are at home you aren't going to like it when you are on vacation!

Not so good:

Firstly, I was laughing when she was talking about packing your suitcase to go home and how it should be just as methodical as when you pack to go on vacation. Uh, when I'm coming home from vacation my only goal is to make sure my valuables don't break and that the damn thing zips. End of list.

Lastly, the book is a smallish book and for the packing lists in the back to be useful you'd have to have beautiful tiny penmanship that never messes up or you'd have to copy it and blow it up by about 40%.

Overall a good book, it's always worth a refresher on how to be a good packer. Except now the travel itch has never goes all the way away.....

I was given this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair review