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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard

In this dazzling collection, Annie Dillard explores the world over, from the Arctic to the Ecuadorian jungle, from the Galapagos to her beloved Tinker Creek. With her entrancing gaze she captures the wonders of natural facts and human meanings: watching a sublime lunar eclipse, locking eyes with a wild weasel, or beholding mirages appearing over Puget Sound through summer.

Annie Dillard is one of the most respected and influential figures in contemporary nonfiction and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Teaching a Stone to Talk illuminates the world around us and showcases Dillard in all her enigmatic genius.

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Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was alright.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about myself. Well more confirmation about my taste in books actually.

I’m just not much for books that are super contemplative.

Contemplating your naval type stuff. I like action. Like John Wick action. Take me somewhere I didn’t see coming. An underlying life lesson is fine. Some distinct pull from reality or unique observation. Or a cutesy little story about a relationship gone awry and a character who ruins, then saves the day. Or educational, I love educational.

So I have to be honest in that I don’t have the patience for books like this.

I read this one for Life’s Library. I must say it’s introducing me to books I wouldn’t normally read and I do find some value in that.

I read alternating print and audiobook. The audiobook was narrated by Randye Kaye. The audiobook was great at some points, but mostly sounded too much like a computer with mixes of voice inflection that were either jarring or mismatched. Words were typically ran together which was less to my liking. Funny enough though, when sped up, the running of words actually became more isolated, distinct, and more thus more clear.

A variety of POVs. First person present, ugh. Deep contemplation with inferences I didn’t feel attached to most of the way.

A lot of similes which sometimes I appreciated, but so many made it feel like a college entrance exam.

Too abstract for my taste and mood right now. It was overly descriptive for my liking.

There were a lot of general mere observations which I found rather boring to read about. I just didn’t connect to all of the stories. Not real memorable for me.

So what did I like?

I found the mundane activities described about attending the Catholic church, a childlike outlook, deciding which parts were performative and which were meaningful, was confirming to experience.

My favorite part was the telling of the girls of the village wanting to braid and re-braid hair. I think that’s always something so strong among every culture, with integration and an expression of acceptance, endearment, exploration of the world and self, building connection, a bit of joy, skill, and bonding, is girls, mothers, sisters, friends, doing each other’s hair.

I liked the mention of solar eclipse. Having witnessed a few totals and partials in my lifetime, I could appreciate that chapter. The excitement, yet eeriness of birds going silent, darkening, and wondering what people back in the day thought about the world ending.

I also liked the little booklet we got in our subscription package. Has some good writing prompts in there that I might try answering on my website/blog. 32 questions in all. Might be an interesting personal exercise.


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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Centennial by James A. Michener

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Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier.

Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe.

Centennial by James A. Michener

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these books.

I listened to this one via audiobook narrated by Larry McKeever, who was just the perfect narrator for this series once again. Easy to listen to and I liked his pronunciation of Arkansas.

In today’s world, it is so hard to imagine travel of the time. It took all day just to go 15 miles. The whole family in tow and none of the luxuries of radio, audiobooks, podcasts, A/C or heating, readily available maps, petrol stations, ice chests, or favorite road trip snacks like Black Forest Gummy Bears, Cheetos, or a grande, hot, white chocolate mocha with 2.5 pumps of white chocolate, 1/2 pump of peppermint, with whipped cream- my go-to travel drink from Starbucks.

I started this one over summer, traveling through the mountains of Colorado, it was neat to hear to the commentary of the terrain while visually seeing granite rock layered like a tilted stack of pancakes with edges toward the sky. The erosion, hoodoos, those top heavy rock formations that look like they could topple at any time. Hearing about how it took years of volcanic ash to just drift its way over, the violent collision of tectonic plates, forming areas where mastodons and bison would eventually wander around, once a place where ocean deposited sediment as it peacefully filled the basin of land from melting glacier.

Originally published in 1974, it marries nonfiction accounts of the formation of the Midwest, geographically, population settlement, industry, and relationships with sweet, interesting, sometimes brutal tales of fictional characters so seamlessly integrated into what daily life may have been like in a fascinating, yet incredibly comprehensive historical novel.

50 hours and 5 minutes actually.

Michener was just so clever. I loved the themes, the pacing, the wealth of information.

I loved Rufus the bull story, the beavers, the real origin of horses, and Nacho.

MY FAVORITE LINES

“He tested his scales as carefully as Saint Peter is supposed to test his while weighing souls.”

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Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Nonfiction

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

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Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear–fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world.

In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond.

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was an ok book. I didn’t really get as much from this book as I was expecting to. It didn’t make a great book for me mainly as far as content was concerned. But those who are seeking out a personal connection and wanting to find comfort in a community of self discovery about this specific topic may really enjoy it.

I guess all in all I found it less relatable in the way it presented material with the expectation that data would immediately jump to a positive outcome without understanding the process or context or respective community that specializes in such subjects. It didn’t dive into the nitty gritty of risk calculation in the way I wanted it to, rather than just seeking out a conversation on social health determinants from one person’s response as they weigh their fears and hopes against pros and cons, and if that’s the case, this book might be for you.

My takeaways were that I found it important to remember there were no comparisons or alternatives at the time and much of the process ranging from diagnostic and treatment protocols, to standards and ethics were still being explored and written. Some things about human behavior are not quantifiable to science. We have more time, more money, more accessibility to information, yet human irrationality is still an issue to battle.

I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

Organized by storyline, writing style, tone, organization, editing.

It’s a long critique so grab a coffee!

The storyline.

It was more of a personal, exploratory anecdote of a woman’s discovery of life and all that comes with it, that people get sick, personal revelations from a from a sort of curious, yet almost naive perspective, teetering on paranoia. It sort of read more like some conversations you’d see on Facebook. Sharing how she felt agony the first time her son drank water, had some delusional experiences about seeing vampires. Some readers may relate to and glean from those types of experiences rather than expecting to read this book as an authoritative source on immunity as far as the physiological process goes.

Sort of vacillated between two ultimate decisions, rather than a compromise of the two. Some ideas seamed to be headed toward personal support for full anarchy with others representing full governmental control, all stemming from a point of reference of someone who didn’t seem to truly know how to make up her mind. I think some decisions and placement of facts supported a fair amount of healthy skepticism; however, it was more of an internal conversation of the narrator with herself, made into a book, where I wasn’t sure where intention of the premise was headed and the pacing wasn’t tight enough to direct me there.

It was more of a cynical take, depicting failures of immunity from every aspect rather than excitement about science and discovery. Which was fine, I just didn’t realize that going into it, and therefore, felt it to be quite a bit of a drag. This book could have been labeled, All the Times Capitalism and Modern Medicine has Failed Us as far as content was concerned.

This book portrays the narrator’s uneasiness, her skepticism, her wanting what is best for her personal health and loved ones. There wasn’t much mentioned in the way of safety and efficacy data or risk versus benefit. There wasn’t a deeper dive into the original research. Seemingly it read like more like a call for unity in personal reassurance with an attempt to substantiate feelings with what seems like more time researching rumors than hard science. This book was basically the product of that.

Almost read like the narrator was focused on finding these gotcha moments, gaps in the literature, and ultimately filled the holes with anecdotal evidence and quotes, supportive opinion pieces that rival with the preceding statement, but without remedy or display of personal satisfaction with the proposed solutions or reality at hand once they’ve been fulfilled or corrected.

I didn’t know what would ever satisfy the narrator to give her peace in her own mind and that was at times frustrating to keep reading through.

The biggest example was stated at the end “I still believe there are reasons to vaccinate that transcend medicine” but the narrator did not give a lot of support in helping the reader believe that throughout the entire book, that she would ever come to such a conclusion.

I think more statistical data would have given the arguments and counter arguments more strength instead of vague phrases like “relatively small” and “nearly everyone” and “most other people,” and “a number of people.”

There seemed to be this underlying expectation beyond moral hazard and dilemmas that were actually not known to the medical community at the time. Almost an expectation of harmony when life turned out otherwise and this sense of taking it personally. Maybe there was an unrecognized lack of trust and yearning to take back control with a lot of fear to conquer, yet I didn’t see a lot of “aha” moments or actions to show me as a reader how this narrator coped and became satisfied with her findings, or with life in general. The last quote about the garden from Voltaire’s book was more of the saving grace, but not much led up to that point aside from this notion of blood type connecting races, ultimately recognizing that all humans are human.

Writing style.

It was written in first-person, very fitting, and definitely seemed to come from a place of good intention to share a personal experience. Yet it spoke more toward the experiential side of how one’s personal life has been affected by the surrounding world by also interchangeably using the word “we” which often popped up to describe the narrator’s own worldview, parading the views of similar group think as universal collectivism.

It was more like an opinion piece, an editorial journal article, or blog post written to depict a sort of maladjusted or misinformed individual seeking out truth and this was her journey. Again, perhaps some readers can relate. The narrator was a bit unnerved about many things, almost speaking for one, speaking for all type of manner. It didn’t clearly delineate clinical duty and perspective from regulatory perspective, nor public confidence from individual confidence and how they all play out with each other and how that has changed over time.

Tone.

It was written with a doubtful tone, much frustration, and examples were worst case scenario. Stating a fact, then following it with “if all is well.” It seemed to view situations through an idealistic lens, rather than the reality as it lies. It basically put modern day expectations on old-fashioned practices.

There was a negative connotation to almost every statement. Even when it came to word choice, in the most exaggerated sense. Not just an exploration of facts but human response in the worst light. Often dividing the world and each individual response and decision as black or white, death or life, good or bad, etc… On rare occasion it contained some balance of perspective, defining terms and root meaning along the way, but went right back to gloom and doom. In realizing that this book was more about sharing personal experience, I just would have liked to have seen the narrator connect with herself more and just come out expressing some true, deep emotion, saying “Oh I was incredibly angry… oh I was upset… oh I was sad…oh I was full of joy…”

Organization.

The organization of chapters was not so great. Timelines as far as historical discoveries, her son’s development, and disease categories, stages of immunity, were not neatly in their chapters.

Instead it jumped from concept to concept.

Interjections of DDT, the state of belonging, Dracula, and then her son’s birth. Followed again by smallpox then childbirth, then back to smallpox, back to swine flu, then remarks on capitalism, back to drawing out symbolism with vampirism, then prenatal experiences, then vaccines causing autism discussion, conscience, to Coca-Cola’s “nerve tonic” history. Even goes into 3/5 Compromise with a totally out of context metaphor, then to Corexit, and back again to smallpox.

Editing.

Could have used some additional editing as some sentences were a repeat of each other, other sentences were really out if place without connection to subject matter or proper transition.

There were quotes with the named author early on, yet only introducing readers to their status/role way late in the book.

I think readers looking for a more relatable experience rather than a deep dive into scientific insight or a literary piece of work would probably appreciate it more than I did. Perhaps this is more geared toward someone who just wants to find a similar mother-child relationship, someone who they can sympathize with qualms about vaccination and medicine in general, as well as find confirmation and comfort in that shared experience.

I appreciated it for what it was, but this just wasn’t the book for me.

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Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fiction

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

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In Mexico City, a young mother is writing a novel of her days as a translator living in New York. In Harlem, a translator is desperate to publish the works of Gilberto Owen, an obscure Mexican poet.

And in Philadelphia, Gilberto Owen recalls his friendship with Lorca, and the young woman he saw in the windows of passing trains.

Valeria Luiselli’s debut signals the arrival of a major international writer and an unexpected and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


Mundane musings. I did not really enjoy this one unfortunately. I DNF’d it in the 20s, later picked it up again, DNF’d it for the final time 2/3rds the way through.

I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

When I saw the list of literary references included in our book club package, I was so excited to start it.

However I couldn’t find the rhythm of the book. It was a compilation of random excerpts that didn’t take deep dives as stand-alones and didn’t make much sense to me strung together either. They weren’t so interconnected for me and I had a hard time following.

I expected it to be emotional, philosophical, entertaining, some sort of pursuit. Something along those lines, like an infusion of some underpinnings to bring completeness to the entire narrative, building up to something interesting, but instead it was quite flat. Really boring actually. Each entry lacked context and I hoped that together it would be a bit more coherent in a creative way, but sadly, it didn’t make much sense.

It was outside of a logical and creative realm that I could understand. A lot of it left my brain after reading. No themes lingered in my thoughts afterward which I was hoping for, something to give me some sort of foresight into the list of artists or commonality, nothing, just confusion in my head.

I just didn’t think or feel with this one.

Maybe I should have tried reading it in the original language of Spanish?

I’d like to try reading something of a different sort by this author though, perhaps something with some type of promised focus that might be more appealing to my style and taste in books.

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Featured Hors d'œuvres Recipes

Stuffed Mushrooms

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Stuffed Mushrooms | Erica Robbin

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

An easy appetizer.

I love making these. Quick, simple, and hearty. Crispy bits of cheese, a tangy cream cheese center, the depth and earthy substance of mushroom, bursts in each bite.

I like to layer seasoning with Himalayan salt and pepper or Trader Joe’s Onion Salt. But even a 3 ingredient layer of mushroom, cream cheese, and shredded cheese is good in and of itself.

The key to not having a soppy, wet mushroom is to dry wipe the mushrooms clean of soil. If you must use water to rinse them, be sure to thoroughly pat them dry with a towel, paying close attention to the gills. You can also wash the mushrooms the day before and leave them overnight in the fridge so they dry out a bit. Reason is because the mushrooms will absorb water, leaving you with a soggy appetizer.


Credit: ericarobbin.com

Ingredients

    STUFFED MUSHROOMS:
  • 1 pound mushrooms, any variety
  • Himalayan salt and pepper (Trader Joe’s Onion Salt optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cheese, any variety, grated

Directions

    STUFFED MUSHROOMS:
  1. Prepare mushrooms as above, stems removed, place caps in pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C).
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper and sliver of butter over mushroom caps.
  4. Fill caps with cream cheese.
  5. Sprinkle with seasonings again, then sprinkle on cheese.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.

Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.
 
So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.
 
As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?
 
Curl up with this gorgeous story about love and second chances, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.

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A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Avon Books UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I love Phillipa Ashley’s stories and writing style. The plot, the twists were well thought out. I liked the feeling that something was lulling, something in the background, a secret still to be revealed, all while instant gratification reveals were woven throughout the plot.

I think anyone looking for Christmas story to read as the days lead up to the holiday will enjoy this book. Romance, tension, cutesy bits, family bond, fun, this book had it all. It followed a timeline like an advent calendar which I quite enjoyed. Built on relational aspects, it was an endearing look into love and loss, life tragedy with hope and cheer, a feel-good story that was not the typical predictable plot one would expect, and a real Christmas mood setter for me because the scene descriptions were so well-fitted to capturing Christmas spirit and described in a lovely way without being over-the-top..

Had all the elements I love in a book. A lovely Christmas setting, enthusiastic characters with life choices and places they wanted to go, descriptions that weren’t over-embellished, and a deeper life roadblock that was realistic and heart-felt.

Though, toward the end, the characters annoyed me. Some disconnects for me, like the mother-in-law reaction of only hoping they were meant for each other. I admit I wasn’t really hopeful for the happy couple either, not the other couple either I suppose. I wanted to root for them at the beginning, but I just wasn’t feeling it toward the end. The elements of the story were there but I guess there was more focus on the details of the event than working through the feelings that I wanted more of.

Some of the overall situations in the relationships were a bit weird to me. Like certain dilemmas made for detours I was less interested in. It was the feelings that were a bit displaced and lesser developed. I guess all-in-all it was hard for me to grasp the coming to terms of their feelings because a high emotion sequence needed a higher emotional response that I just didn’t see in the end. Time or pacing may have been a big factor, maybe from that aspect it could have lingered more in increased length of time to provide resolutions that would have been a bit more realistic. Started out strong though, but I wanted to see it carried out just as strong.

It was just their circumstances and being stuck inside each other’s feelings rather than finding their own. The characters, and I mean actually majority of the characters, didn’t seem to understand how their hurt was being projected. They all reminded me of that Simpsons episode where the family zaps each other as a form of aversion therapy… unsuccessfully: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFCgz….

“Hey I thought we were making real progress…” Marge Simpson

Marge’s response “Hey I thought we were making real progress…”

A bit patched up, a bit packaged up in a very presentable way; however, all while being a bit oblivious to their own being.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the Christmas magic and the way the cutesy parts were displayed, the dog, the pizza party, the gorgeously decorated venue, all for a very lovely time I spent reading and escaping the year’s exhausting moments.

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Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Romance

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

As a single mum, care-home caterer Connie has thrown herself into online dating – or she had until one dating disaster too many. Now she’s hesitant…hurt in the past and with her son to consider, she won’t rush into anything. Then one of Connie’s elderly patients sets her up on a date at a beautiful German Christmas market – with the promise she’ll take a mini-bus load of pensioners with her… 

Amongst the twinkling lights and smell of warm gingerbread in the old market square, Connie heads off on her date with a check-list of potential partner must-haves. Baker Henrich ticks all the boxes, proving to be reliable, thoughtful and keen. But when Connie meets Henrich’s rival William, she starts to wonder if ticking boxes is the answer.

Will Connie find the love of her life this Christmas, and if so – who will it be?

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Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was such a sweet Christmas story. Loved the opening scene with life dynamic, getting right into both the middle of a story yet the beginning of an adventure.

I think anyone looking for a delightful, heart-melting, uplifting, lighthearted, yet meaningful Christmas tale will appreciate this book. It follows characters through relationships and the quirky things about aging, those learning to relish the little victories in life through grief and gain and finding satisfaction and purpose.

The story. With the foreshadowing of tidbits, coming full circle, made for a nice reveal of excitement and hope, the kind of feelings that come with Christmas. I loved the strides the characters made through the conflict.

The writing. I loved how Jo Thomas wrote. The authentic experiences, the setting, the character interactions, all were genuine. Gentle and not over the top, deep enough to bring real life into each character. She wrote appealing to all the senses and I adored the details in the baking scenes, and I especially adored the elderly insight and social activities. Nice way to shape the characters, coaxing them through their celebrations and dilemmas, all while providing entertainment and commentary along the way.

I would have liked a little more conversation of one certain relationship, to have developed a bit more in recognition of reconciliation. And one aspect teetered on less moral ground for my preferences. However I liked the inner monologue which helped to make the teetering situation more palatable for me, especially when the permissiveness and timeline of the situation, from this aspect of single and available both on paper and emotionally finally came to be.

I can’t comment on the recipes as they weren’t contained in the ARC I received. Bummer.

Overall the story was a well thought out plan. It kept my interest. Perfectly packaged but not without some bumps in the relationships, I loved the tension, the anticipation, the wonderings, the joy, the delightful way it all unfolded in this Christmas tale.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin #2) by M.C. Beaton

Former London PR agent, Agatha Raisin still hasn’t adjusted to village life, where the only prospect for a hot evening out is a meeting of the Ladies Society.

And since her overtures toward James Lacey, the retired military man next door, have failed, Agatha jumps at the chance to visit the new vet, who is single and good-looking. Although Agatha’s cat hasn’t a thing wrong with him, Hodge endures having a thermometer shoved up his bum in the name of romance.

Unfortunately his sacrifice is all for naught when the vet is soon found dead next to a high-strung horse. The police call the vet’s demise a freak accident, but Agatha convinces the hard-to-get James Lacey, who is also bored in the Cotswolds, that playing amateur detective might be fun.

Unfortunately, just as curiosity killed the cat, Agatha’s inept snooping is soon a motivation for murder.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She’s ornery, dismissive, curious. I’m reading them all out of order depending on what is available from my library and loving every bit.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Diana Bishop, who was great, though I do love the extra edge of snarkiness that Penelope Keith brings out in the character to match.

I keep coming back to this series because they are such great in-between, hearty, make me laugh books with lightened life lessons of daily life to also satisfy those aspects when choosing a book worthwhile.

I did think it got a bit complicated in the manner of which a character was taken out, became quite over-layered in attempt to maintain the mystery, but all in all I enjoyed it and will keep on in the series.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. 

Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such an excellent book. I’d recommend this to anyone, anyone looking for gaining an outlook of life from another whether similar circumstances or different from your own, those seeking out humanitarian endeavors, anyone who is looking for a bit of history into the country of Sierra Leone from personal experience, curiosity of historical events during the 1990s, or anyone looking for insightful inspiration or meaning for their lives.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by the author, which I’d highly recommend.

This book was unique in that it was a beautiful story, beautifully written, and listening to the author narrate it really put a complete idea and significance in my head. Not many memoirs in my experience can do all 3 from the same person and I think this book deserves a bit of celebration for that.

Everything from survival to the most rudimentary way of living to joy in abundance and renewed zest for life. In its simplest form it tells an immigration story and I really liked the way he told his story, humbling and honest, but it was even deeper than that because it encompassed a turning point in human history, one of triumph beginning on a personal level, while also recognizing loss, separation, longing, and coming to terms with the past and how hardship in the most crude way tells an even more powerful story because he lived to tell about it in a story all his own without sugar coating or watering down the distress he experienced and paths he followed.

It’s a heavy read with much tragedy and trauma, but I cherished hearing all about his experiences because it depicted an uncomfortable reality, savagery, suffering, and all the peaks in between.

I especially enjoyed references to popular rap music at the time, Naughty by Nature, OPP, LL Cool J. The writing was seamless in the story, giving personal insight, yet plenty of context for anyone who may not relate or understand the situations, written from a place of genuine experience and life observations, all with an outlook toward hope, positivity, and meaning.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (Agatha Raisin #4) by M.C. Beaton

After six months in London, Agatha Raisin returns to her beloved Cotswold village-and her dashing neighbor, James Lacey. Well, sort of. James might not be so interested in Agatha. But soon enough, Agatha becomes consumed by her other passion: crime solving.

A woman has been found dead in a lonely field nearby. Her name is Jessica Tartinck, a hiker who infuriated wealthy landowners by insisting on her hiking club’s right to trek across their properties.

Now it’s up to Agatha, with James’ help, to launch an investigation. Together, they will follow no shortage of leads-many of Jessica’s fellow Dembley walkers seem all too willing and able to commit murder. But the trail of a killer is as easy to lose as your heart-and your life. So Agatha and James had better watch their every step.

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really loving this series more and more.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was amazing. She brought to life the saucy, almost snarky, yet fun and lively aspect to Agatha’s personality.

And in this book I learned a lot more of Agatha’s personality. I loved the introspection, the bluntness. These books are becoming my go-to in-betweens to lighten up my reading experience and make me laugh. This was just hilarious.

The writing style itself matches the scene and characters. The writing is clear, direct, and it makes for an easy jump back into the story if your mind just so happens to wander away.

I loved the variation in the expression of emotion.

I felt this one to be more of the resolution I’ve wanted from the series. Though it was a jump around in series for me, perhaps realizing it probably spoiled the progression in the main character relationships, I don’t mind because I go along based on what is available at my library and I’m caring enough about the characters to go wherever they want to take me and this one was just fun.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Historical Fiction

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie.

It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.

Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was interesting in concept and story.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Sneha Mathan, who spoke soft and smooth, fitting for the story and it was very relaxing to listen to.

I appreciated the observations and personal aspects. I thought I was going to like it more thank I did. There was an abundance of observations and because of the writing style, being more long-winded and overly descriptive for me, it didn’t really move along like I would typically prefer. It was poetic which was beautiful, but too many adjectives for my taste made it difficult for me to develop my own immersion into the story.

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Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade, Don Yaeger

From the authors of the  New York Times  bestseller  George Washington’s Secret Six , the little-known story of Thomas Jefferson’s battle to defend America against Islamic pirates. 

Only weeks after President Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, he decided to confront the Tripoli pirates who had been kidnapping American ships and sailors, among other outrageous acts. Though inclined toward diplomacy, Jefferson sent warships to blockade Tripoli and protect American shipping, and then escalated to all-out war against the Barbary states. 
 
The tiny American flotilla—with three frigates representing half of the U.S. Navy’s top-of-the-line ships—had some success in blockading the Barbary coast. But that success came to an end when the USS Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor and was captured. Kilmeade and Yaeger recount the dramatic story of a young American sailor, Stephen Decatur, who snuck into the harbor, boarded the Philadelphia, and set her on fire before escaping amid a torrent of enemy gunfire.
 
Another amazing story is that of William Eaton’s daring attack on the port city of Derna. He led a detachment of Marines on a 500-mile trek across the desert to surprise the port. His strategy worked, and an American flag was raised in victory on foreign soil for the first time.  
 
Few remember Decatur and Eaton today, but their legacy inspired the opening of the Marine Corps Hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.”

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates tells a dramatic story of bravery, diplomacy, and battle on the high seas, and honors some of America’s forgotten heroes.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning anything about pirates, the history of the U.S. Navy, as well as the life of Thomas Jefferson and other key players during the domination of the Ottoman Regencies.

I listened via audiobook by Brian Kilmeade which was great, read like an interesting news story.

It really opened my eyes to many of the things taken for granted through transatlantic commerce as well as oversight of the seas without a navy, the effect on insurance, and trade diplomacy. As well as Barbary Wars situation with its significance to end piracy within the North African coastal regions. I really liked hearing about the USS Washington.

I absolutely loved the description of the floating zoo, carrying not only the ambassador but captives and gift of 4 horses, 25 cattle, 150 sheep, 4 lions, 4 tigers, 12 parrots, 4 antelopes, on top of pointing the ship East in observance of Mecca 5 times daily sailing in storms and all.

This book really made the history come to life.

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