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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (Agatha Raisin #3) by M.C. Beaton

Never say die. That’s the philosophy Agatha Raisin clings to when she comes home to cozy Carsely and finds a new woman ensconced in the affections of her attractive bachelor neighbor, James Lacey. 

The beautiful newcomer, Mary Fortune, is superior in every way, especially when it comes to gardening. And Agatha, that rose with many thorns, hasn’t a green thumb to her name. With garden Open Day approaching, she longs for a nice juicy murder to remind James of her genius for investigation. 

And sure enough, a series of destructive assaults on the finest gardens is followed by an appalling murder. Agatha seizes the moment and immediately starts yanking up village secrets by their roots and digging up all the dirt on the victim. Problem is, Agatha has an awkward secret of her own…

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Such a delightful read during summer gardening season.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was an amazing story teller for these types of cozy mystery books, especially for the setting of an old English village where the vernacular and voice portrayal made so much sense in both time and place. She also brought out the snarky side of the main character which confirmed that it wasn’t all in my mind.

This was my first in the series, which I chose out of order because of the season, so I’ll have to catch up on the others, but so far, I enjoyed it. It was a short, easy read which made it all the more perfect for the moment for me as a typical mood reader.

The storyline and writing were interesting to follow with unique character quirks that I found delight in. I didn’t know if I was supposed to love or hate the main (or even the side characters), but sometimes it doesn’t matter because the plot was the driving force and it was quite entertaining to be stilted by unconventional characters that brought a different flavor to the mix in each their own way.

I would have liked a bit more integration of gardening subject matter. And sometimes the main character’s remarks in conversation and love interest/crush made me question her whole persona. And the climax/plot reveal were a little too late in an anticipated arrival of a lesser known character and cliffhanger for me, but still, short and sweet so I hung on and finished it with enjoyment anyway.

I’m looking forward to the rest in this series.



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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give #1) by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Such an impactful book. I read this one for Life’s Library Readathon. I’d highly recommend this book to everyone.

I listened to it as an audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, who was an excellent narrator, she told the story with great passion, voice clarity, and character distinction, I’d highly recommend this version.

The story was one of struggle and triumph, coming of age during adolescence, a portrayal of racial, social, and economic disparities both real and perceived by the main character who tells her story, one of personal experience as she navigated her way through life, tragedy, and complex situations.

She questioned her own cultural origins, adaptations, and exchanges, vacillating between two roles she felt she had to play in order to maintain her sense of self and personal value, reflecting upon others, and multicultural influences that shaped her identity in who she was and voice to action events she would be called upon to represent.

The writing was phenomenal in such a way that I was taken right into the story. It was very casual in conversation, very thought-like which was fitting for the telling of such a personal story. Some parts lingered on in detail a bit but at the same time felt deliberate, building reader-character relationship, adding effect by sharing even the mundane of the main character’s daily scenario and how an adolescent of her age would likely react and notice her surroundings and personal interests consistent with the time and setting.

The societal issues brought up in this book are ones of great need for recognition and further discussion. It would make an excellent book club and school summer reading recommendation.



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Book Blog Books Featured

Books I’m Reading: Summer 2020 Readathons & Challenges

This summer I’m participating in:

The Reading Rush

Life’s Library Readathon

Libro.fm Summer Reading Challenge

ARC August is coming up too, but we’ll see how far I get with these reads!

The Reading Rush

The Reading Rush is a week long readathon, starts next week!

Here are the challenges:

1. Read a book with a cover that matches the colour of your birthstone.

My March birthstone is aquamarine. I love the blue-green shade seen in the ocean front cover of this book.

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

2. Read a book that starts with the word “The.”

I have yet to decide between these two…

3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.

TBD

4. Read the first book you touch.

TBD

5. Read a book completely outside of your house.

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

6. Read a book in a genre that you’ve always wanted to read more of.

I don’t read a lot of poetry and this book is our next Life’s Library Book Club read.

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

This one takes place in New Zealand.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Life‘s Library Readathon

This readathon hosted by participants in Life’s Library Book Club is one month long.

There are 16 prompts.

15 for each Life’s Library shelf and 1 bonus.

1. Aloe: A book where magic happens.

:fire:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone #1 by J.K. Rowling

2. Chamomile: Enjoy a cup of tea (or favorite beverage) when reading this book.

:tea:

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

3. Cygnus: A book that either talks about space/the universe OR takes place in space.

:swan:

This one is making a reappearance from previous readathons. Because what challenge would be complete without it?

Earth by David Brin

4. Forest: The character(s) travel far distances.

:compass:

When Bunnies Go Bad (Pru Marlowe #6) by Clea Simon

5. Hibiscus: A book that takes place in Africa or Asia.

:elephant:

The Poppy War (#1) by R.F. Kuang

6. Ivy: There is a 4-legged animal on the cover.

:cat2:

Dark Canyon by Louis L’Amour

7. Marble: A book set before 1970 OR in a world without computers.

:computer:

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

8. Onyx: A book that evokes nostalgia for you.

:water_buffalo:

Again, an appearance from The Reading Rush, this one takes place during from the 1950s to 1980s, decades in which I love learning about Hollywood life of the time.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

9. Pearl: A book that is part of a series.

:octopus:

The Paris Librarian: A Hugo Marston Novel #6 by Mark Pryor

10. Quartz: There is pink on the cover.

:gem:

I’ll be reading this outside as part of The Reading Rush challenge, which also happens to have pink on the cover.

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

11. Rose: Sit where you can enjoy the sunlight when reading this book.

:rose:

Overlapping with The Reading Rush challenge.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

12. Scale: Read a non-fiction book.

:test_tube:

I’m #57 of 119 on the waitlist for the library… not sure if I’ll get it in time, we’ll see!

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

13. Tulip: Read a book with either a bird or food on the cover.

:owl:

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

Making an appearance from The Reading Rush.

14. Willow: Read a play or a book of poetry.

:guitar:

Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore

15. Gold: Book cover is shiny – it can be the entire cover or just a portion of the cover like the text or part of the image.

:gold_tea:

Also from The Reading Rush.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

16. Bonus: Read a book either Rosianna or John has recommended OR a previous LL book that you haven’t read yet.

:tada:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Libro.fm Summer Listening Challenge

I’m also participating in the Libro.fm Summer Listening Challenge which takes place all summer long.

Here is the bingo card:

What books are you reading?

Let me know what readathons/challenges you are participating in this summer, if you have any book recommendations, and what books you plan on reading in the comments below!







Categories
Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

N —– by Dick Gregory, Robert Lipsyte

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night…”

Nigger by Dick Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Such an impactful story. This was a reread for me, having read it in high school, a suggested reading from my history teacher who always said “Know history and know it well.” I would highly recommend this to anyone.

You might question the title, it’s controversial, you might be put off to reading this book by it, you may be curious. I can tell you that the author addresses this in the first part of the book and explains that he was not careless in his choice. As an autobiography, it’s a deep look into the author’s personal life, growing up, navigating life, his observations, all of it, profoundly relevant to today’s climate.

It’s a book I’ve had on my TBR for a while now, one that I’ve been wanting to reread as an adult, comparing the social context and my initial thoughts of when I first read it to a future time in my life, much like rereading Orwell’s 1984. So when I saw it was published as an audiobook this year, I moved it up on my list, and with the current events, it became even more pressing on my mind. It put a lot of the pressing issues into greater and deeper context revisiting it.

The audiobook is narrated by Prentice Ongyemi and Christian Gregory, which I’d highly recommend.

The story.

The book is based off of the author’s individual experience, but expands on an experience that was not all his own. It was powerful and impactful, his story told with honesty, humility, and optimism. He wrote about his childhood and journey through adulthood, which included historic events such as the March on Washington and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, both of which took place in 1963.

I enjoyed the introductory piece, by his son, Dr. Christian Gregory. It set the pacing for the story.

The writing.

All I can say is that the writing is touching, moving, and beautiful. There was a lot of detail, but it also remained to the point, much like a conversation, drawing in such a personal way that I felt intertwined with his life achievements, joys, disappointments, and struggles.

The tone was rich in sentiment, that words mean things and that context matters. And even more so he brought such a great understanding to what it meant and how it felt to be called a word so hurtful, so crushing. At the same time disregarded, semantic overload, often unaddressed, sometimes replaced by a euphemism because of the implied racism when used in and of itself, connotation of anger, bitterness, all going back to the ability to destroy someone with a single word.

The story and writing took shape as he elaborated on finding, understanding, and owning his identity in the way he advocated for himself and humanity. While observing and experiencing racial injustices along the way of self discovery, world view, and how he fit in it, he became an activist for respect, dignity, and freedom, and this book, his life journey through it.

FAVORITE LINES:

“Every door of racial prejudice I can kick down, is one less door that my children have to kick down.”

“When you shoot right and truth and justice down, the more right and truth and justice will rise up.”



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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship – the fastest then in service – could outrun any threat. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small – hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history. 

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent account of the Lusitania. I listened to this via audiobook narrated by Scott Brink, who had a soothing, deep voice, also excellent.

The Lusitania, described as a luxurious transatlantic passenger ocean liner with a hull of a battleship, sank on May 7, 1915. It only took 18 minutes to sink. Over 1,000 innocent people drowned. A maritime disaster, changing the course of WWI.

This book described the surrounding events in great detail, from the design of u-boats, the U-20 in particular, from the making and outfitting of the torpedo that hit the ship, characteristics of a zig-zag course in question as the Lusitania made its way through the Celtic Sea. The book also covers events of the time including parties, the oppression of war, German naval policy, President Woodrow Wilson’s decision-making process, and a dynamic love story.

I liked the organization of the book, integrating backstory with current events of the time. I really enjoyed the additional tidbits of sailors’ superstitions such as unlucky days to sail and the thought-provoking presentation to better understanding of English supremacy of the seas.

Cleverly done were the inclusions of multiple inquiries of the time as well as today such as how such a sinking of sorts could have happened to such a large, sturdy ship, with so many lives lost, its course of action, course of sailing, and the major questioning of the additional contents on board: weaponry and its role in the 2nd explosion that happened on board after the torpedo hit. It offered explanations and alternative theories about the curious circumstances.

What I really appreciated about this book were the tributes to individual victims. The book also discussed the emotion felt between loved ones attempting to find closure in the absence of a victim’s body and being caught between hope and grief, as well as the overall aftermath of the disaster and how their lives went on.

I highly recommend this one to anyone, especially those who may be less clear as to how the sinking of this ship played a major part in leading the United States into WWI.

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Entrées Featured Recipes

Portobello Mushroom and Creamy Clam Sauce Dinner

Portobello Mushroom and Creamy Clam Sauce Dinner | Erica Robbin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

So hearty and delicious!

Here is an easy seafood recipe!


Credit: ericarobbin.com

Ingredients


PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM AND CREAMY CLAM SAUCE DINNER:
– 2 pounds clams in shells, rinsed clean
– Water, for boiling
– 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
– 3-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 cup fresh portobello mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions


PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM AND CREAMY CLAM SAUCE DINNER:
1. Steam clams in pan of shallow water until they just begin to open.
2. Drain water, reserving a few tablespoons, and set clams aside.
3. In the pan, melt butter and cook over medium heat until light brown.
4. Add garlic and cook until just beginning to turn golden.
5. Add mushroom and cook on medium heat until just tender.
6. Add cream, garlic salt, and pepper.
7. Deshell clams and add to mushroom mixture along with a few tablespoons of clam juice.

 

Enjoy! Let me know what your favorite summer seafood dishes are in the comments below!

Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Romance

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence.

Can Del find her recipe for happiness? 

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie. 

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? After discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.

Escape to the French Farmhouse: The most refreshing, feel-good story of the summerEscape to the French Farmhouse: The most refreshing, feel-good story of the summer by Jo Thomas
My rating: 5 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.

Such a great book for the perfect reading escape!

I loved this book, all the components. As far as the story goes there were elements of connection, community, and belonging interlaced with real life challenges and celebrations that were relatable on so many levels.

The author brought forth all the emotion in just enough detail where I could easily sink my teeth into without feeling an incompleteness or feeling drained. The book overall was actually happy and uplifting, even though some stories were quite sad and deeply resonating with me. Stories with subplots that read like I was having a conversation with a best friend. Sometimes the main character was like, ok, what are you doing? But it was a story, her story, and life is not perfect and all the elements of her life were brought in full circle.

I was looking forward to wherever the story was going to take me.

As far as the writing goes, I loved the pacing and tone. Just enough moving the story forward, balanced with backstory, revelation, and self-reflection. Overall the amount of events were fast for the length of time they were set in, but it worked as a driving, yet delicate force to include necessary happenings that were realistic enough to be attainable.

1st person present is my least favorite POV to read, but this was done well because every word, every sentence was intentional, purposeful. It was written with such fluidity that it was a joy and pleasure to read.

The subplots with bigger stories flourished with a diverse enough cast of characters where each had distinguished charm all in their own both in the main character’s description and interaction with them, as well as in dialogue.

And simply the setting. The description of the French countryside, encompassing the main character’s house, market, and lifestyle centered around the beautiful scenery and delicious bakes from the star of the show, lavender, really made me feel like I was there enjoying it along with them. I’ve only been to Charles de Gaulle airport mind you, but through this story of imagine, I was among the lavender fields and dining out, the warm sun on my face, with a crisp, chewy lavender macaron and glass of wine, loving every bit it.

Highly recommend for an absolutely lovely summer read and I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today?

We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

Check out the audiobook at Libro.fm and support your local bookstore

Check it out on Amazon

Blonde RootsBlonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book. Unfortunately that’s where it ended for me. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

The story.

I love satire. Satire that takes a contrasting view and turns it into a narrative that pushes it so far that it becomes believable, relatable, immersed in an idea that can cause you to question reality, cause you question yourself, your own ethos at times.

However I didn’t see the point in this book. It took aspects of African culture and experiences of slaves during the trade and imposed them onto “whytes” as a juxtaposition, which to me, lost the very cause and effect it tried to steer its way through. Its whole foundation, all of its substance, disorientating. Whether satire or not, there was this attempt to draw parallels that just weren’t there.

I would rather have liked the portrayal of satire as an extreme to evoke an empathetic sense. It banked on stereotypes upon stereotypes, trite propositions that did not give rise to irony, sarcasm, or human connectivity. It played it safe. Sardonic but not in a clever or meaningful way.

Apart from the so-called satyrical take, I didn’t feel a stronger connection to it in any sense of the idea that I think the author was trying to convey. I suppose the story is what really felt forced to me. Contrived in such a way that it was running away with itself, losing power, perspective, and what I had high hopes for in achieving the main idea. And the idea was there, but the details to get there were less developed for me. Some parts read like an outline.

The heavy topics seemed to only be there for shock value and it was the explanatory tidbits that followed that really threw me off, especially because the tension seemed to be drawn off of this shock value which didn’t make a strong story of fiction for me in and of itself and were less supported even more so by the over-explanations of them.

Then there was a red-hot poker searing, sending warm bloody tears streaming down your body. Peeling “hairy” skins of a guava. I’ve eaten a lot of guava in my lifetime. I’ve had a guava tree. Had a really good harvest this past year. First, they’re not hairy and second, it’s actually quite common to eat them whole, skins and all. Perhaps the author was thinking of kiwi? There’s also a notable difference between coconut milk and coconut water.

I won’t comment on other discrepancies or even what I thought were less accurate portrayals of rationales behind certain historical events because they’d be tediously beside the point to mention in a story like this, which I felt began to ignore the strengths of context, community, and redemption which would have helped to guide readers and answer the questions proposed in the description in the first place.

The writing.

The writing as a whole wasn’t much of anything new. Read a bit mundane and unoriginal. Fire cackling, wind slapping, cloudy gray skies, heavy wooden door, tan leather boots. The prose toward the end depicted the movement of the story in a more unique way, but then focused more on actual events and became tethered to the dialogue rather than expressing emotional energy, reflection, or perception, which I think was lacking in majority of the book.

There was a lot of explaining away in the narrative. I didn’t feel at ease with the writing style. I wanted imagery and creative language. I had a hard time getting through this book and it wasn’t just the heavy subject matter, but the style in which it was written.

Sentence structure and effect. In recognizing race in a language, the phonic sounds were too formal, too complete and long-winded, too gibberish at the same time, the effect was nonsense to me.

Time. I had the hardest time understanding what time frame it was written in and who it was for. Then realizing it was a mix of time periods and time frames, including a blend of old and modern day vernacular, letting me know early on that this book wasn’t for me. Terms like freaking out, getting mojo back, Inheritance Tax for Dummies along with a twist on geography for role reversal effect wasn’t my cup of tea and was less effective at conveying a message of what I thought of as a more serious and important issue. Time and setting can really solidify a story, this had neither to enhance or support the story in the way I wanted to connect with it more.

POV and tense. The back and forth tenses sort of took me out of the story rather than add to or strengthen the premise. From past to present. There wasn’t a lot going on to drive me forward in the story.

The tone. Monologic tone didn’t fit with the structure of the story. The more graphic parts read just the same as light-hearted ones. Not in a cohesive way, but disjointed actually.

Characters. The growth and development wasn’t there for me. They read the same, not much personality to them. I knew about them but didn’t really know them. As I read on, I even questioned if they were meant to have any emotional capacity, undermining the whole premise.

The voices. The voices were less distinguished. Both main characters read the same people to me.

I will say on my most positive note of the book, “The Middle Passage” was my favorite part of the story and had the most complete concept, thought, and meaningful writing.

Overall this book fell incredibly short for me. I didn’t want to nitpick over this one, but it was just not a good book to me for multiple reasons. I’d be curious to read another book by this author though.

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Categories
ARCs Art Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Graphic Historical Nonfiction

Tolkien’s Worlds: The Places That Inspired the Writer’s Imagination by John Garth

A lavishly illustrated look at the locales familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle-earth.

This book takes you to the places that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien to create his fictional locations in The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other classic works. Written by renowned Tolkien expert John Garth and prepared with the full cooperation of the Tolkien estate, Tolkien’s Worlds features a wealth of breathtaking illustrations, including Tolkien’s own drawings, contributions from other artists, rare archival images, and spectacular color photos of contemporary locations across Britain and beyond, from the battlefields of World War I to Africa.

Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his own profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.

An illustrated journey into the life and imagination of one of the world’s best-loved authors, Tolkien’s Worlds provides a unique exploration of the relationship between the real and the fantastical and is an essential companion for anyone who wants to follow in Tolkien’s footsteps.

The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The places that inspired the writer's imaginationThe Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The places that inspired the writer’s imagination by John Garth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quarto Publishing Group – White Lion for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was awesome.

From gorgeous illustrations to the impressive amount of research, it’s a must have book for any Tolkien collector out there. It will make a beautiful coffee table book in my home and one I’d also recommend as a companion piece to anyone reading one of his pieces or for those just being introduced to the world of Tolkien.

I loved the organization, the range and amount of photos and illustrations, and the amount of detailed discussion of the origin and inspiration that Tolkien depicted in his writing style and world-building mega feat of what I think is the epitome of writing genius.

This book packed so much punch, I admired every bit of information covering the incredibly detailed influences of his work such as geographical processes, ancient architecture, even his recurring nightmares of a wave engulfing the land, bereavements to shipwrecks, and the Elvish language creation which ranged from onomatopoeic words and his studies of Latin.

His imagination was incredible. Some of which also being rooted in a multi-cultural, Gothic atmosphere incorporating unusual caricature from backgrounds of Celtic, Welsh, English, South Africa, and Icelandic tradition, folklore, and wartime events. This book covered it all.

I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since first picking up my first read, The Hobbit, in the 5th grade, and this gave me an even greater appreciation for the creativity that went into his writing.

It was also compelling in the way it made me want to visit all the glorious places, exhilarating locations as some of the foundations for settings in his books, a Tolkien tour.

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Categories
Audiobooks Featured Humor Nonfiction

Wanderlust, USA by Flula Borg

Flula Borg’s life is the stuff of myth. A frequent guest of Conan O’Brien, the German-born actor (think Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat crossed with Billy Eichner) regales audiences with stories from his outlandish travel exploits, and his fascination with America and its “peoples” have warmed hearts nationwide. Flula fell in love with the United States on his first visit as a young boy, and calls this vast country full of exciting, creative, weird, and compassionate people superoberaffengeil – “incredibly top monkey sassy” or, simply, “cool.”

In this zany, eye-opening and delightful six-part audio series, Flula travels the breadth of the United States in search of its coveted and weirdest pastimes to learn more about the country, and better understand what drives people to these cultural events. His adventures include:

Experiencing the famed Iditarod dog-sledding race in Alaska
Partying Up during the World Cup of Surfing in Hawaii
Donning Elvis duds for Elvis Week in Memphis
Portraying a Minuteman at Lexington’s famous Revolutionary War reenactment

In each episode, Flula can be found “shooting the poops” as he calls it with the people he meets, including event organizers, participants, founders, and spectators. His goal is to understand what these quintessentially American event means to the communities involved, how each came to exist, and why they have all persisted – and of course, how he can take part! In addition, each segment is filled with fictional advertisements and mini episodes that explore a region or city’s local haunt, as well as techno tracks created entirely from the sounds he recorded at each event.

Infused with Flula’s infectious enthusiasm, Wanderlust, USA is an immersive and uproarious experience that reveals the heart of America in a unique way. Boom!

Wanderlust, USAWanderlust, USA by Flula Borg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh goodness this was hilarious!

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Libro.fm for providing me with a free copy.

I enjoyed this one as an audiobook, narrated by the author himself which was awesome.

This book was such a great mood setter for me, light-hearted and making me laugh the entire time. And it came at the perfect time. Some parts were silly and a little over the top but unremarkably amusing at any rate.

It featured first-hand experiences of a German-born foreigner learning about American pastimes and command of the English language, and I loved it. I liked the production of telephone interviews and music, super clever.

From surf culture and Keanu Reeves to pen pals and germs, the Kentucky Derby post prime unicorns, I felt that every topic mentioned was described with such entertaining enthusiasm and fresh perspective.

The author, well-communicated and with innocence, almost naive wordplay, brought incredible awareness of American culture and historic events from a non native point of view, and it just spoke to the comedic brilliance that the author has in any story he wants to tell.

There were point of references of mainstream societal expectations, out-of-the-box social norms, modern and nostalgic pop culture, and American history that really depicted the uniqueness of both the content of his stories and the talent of the author himself to make such connections and inferences while portraying them as funny in a book type format.

And I’m still laughing as I write this!

View all my reviews

Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular read! Perfect for the beach, get out of a reading slump, or an escape type of book.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan, which I’d highly recommend. Her answering machine voice was just so spot on.

The story itself was lighthearted at times, also uplifting, and with a deeper sentiment, making it a complete and memorable read for me.

I liked the life perspective the author brought out in the characters who celebrated and struggled with feelings of loss, feeling lost, hope, trust, making amends, finding peace, love, and a slew of wavering emotions ranging from hurt and disappointments, as well as wonder and gratitude.

Since it is a book about authors in and of itself, there were some pretty good bits of irony and satyrical takes on the writing process, publishing, and the authorship community. The literary references and sources of writing inspiration were timeless, some, downright hilarious.

As far as the writing goes, I liked the simplicity brought forth with a single timeline and single POV. It wasn’t complicated which was nice and refreshing, one where I could focus on the actual enjoyment of the story. It read like some people I know.

The voices were distinct and the snarky, playful banter was deeply entertaining. A few bits were a little juvenile for the age group and life stage, but they also made it more amusing in a way. The self-reflection was more of a saving-grace for those parts. Yet it was clearly understood why the characters did what they did which made all the difference in connecting and relating to the story and the characters. And to that, it was also an approachable read for most anyone anyway.

All in all, just loved it!

View all my reviews




]

Categories
Featured Inspiration Thoughts for a Rainy Day ☂

Switching to the New WP Block Editor: Late Adaptor to Gutenberg 2.0

Welcome to Gutenberg

I’m not sure what the official name of the newest version of Gutenberg is or how WP ambassadors are distinguishing the two “block” editors. All I know is that I was one of those very reluctant, old school WP users who was using Classic up until today.

The initial version of the block editor had many glitches, it was bulky and cumbersome to use. It didn’t feel ready for prime time to me and it was time consuming for me, so I had a delay in switching over.

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And I Really Liked Classic

I actually liked typing my posts out in one large paragraph with bits of code in it. It was fast, easy, no-fuss.

I didn’t mind having to switch between the two interfaces, the main and the admin dashboards.

I could accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. There were limitations of course and I didn’t really know the full extent of what the new editor could offer.

I didn’t know what the advantages of the new block editor were. It seemed to be a round-about way of doing something I was already used to doing and I could do it with less clicks, in less amount of time.

My First Post

On January 28, 2918, my first post, Road Trip to Beautiful Taos, New Mexico, was the first post I ever created. It took me a little while to get it down, to learn a bit of code, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, using Classic all the way long.

So far I have published 286 posts.

I hadn’t given the new editor a second thought though for a while.

A New Era in Website Building

However after an opportunity to participate in a bit of beta testing with the newest block editor recently, it appeared that most of my troubles with the first version had been fixed. So I decided to give it another try and have since switched over.

I have also changed themes, cleaned up a few posts.

It’s actually not half as bad as what I thought it would be now that the main bugs have been worked out. The discovery of some pretty neat features and shortcuts have also been a treasure.

It’s a learning curve for sure and has created a totally different workflow for me. A few minor buggy things and quirks still have to be worked out but they’re not a deal breaker for me any longer.

The two interfaces haven’t gone away but the tasks have been solidified in their assigned allottment, with admin view being the dominant, post builder, which is ok, I’m getting used to it.

Navigation is much more intuitive and user friendly this second time around. I’m getting faster at building these blocks.

Still Learning

I have a ways to go before I feel completely comfortable and up to speed compared to my usual process.

After perusing a few posts from the WP Reader where some members mentioned bailing on the platform, I was a little bummed to hear that because I really enjoy our WP community. It is unique to the website building world out there.

I hope you, like me, are able to revisit the latest version of the editor and find a little joy in this.

I just finished a cute book called Beach Read by Emily Henry, so when I saw the option to create a clickable button, Amazon embed, I thought, ok this is pretty awesome.

Overall Thoughts

It took me a couple of hours to convert my site content to the new theme I picked out, Twenty Twenty. About 2 hours to create this post, but it worked!

Take a moment to look around my new style of website, I hope you can appreciate the blocks I used for a more simplified, clean, modern look.

I like how my newly accommodating site uses the full width of the screen, expanded covers as seen on my Photography page, and perfect side-by-side posts like I built on my Recipes page.

There are quite a few options you can make and modifications within those options that allow a lot of visual creativity at first glance.

To know and understand code is an amazing skill and the possibility to use it is still there. The CSS modifier is still there. Both the Visual and HTML Code editors remain. I definitely don’t want to forget what I’ve learned.

I’m still testing it all out. Making tweaks here and there. Deciding if I even need to add any CSS.

I think the amazing thing is, is that I actually have no code in my CSS box at the moment. Below are the codes I embedded to better customize my site before I switched over from Classic. I was using the Rosalie theme at the time.

CSS


/*
Welcome to Custom CSS!
 
To learn how this works, see http://wp.me/PEmnE-Bt
*/
.site-content a:link {
                                    color: #53808a;
}
 
.site-content a:visited {
                                    color: #53808a;
}
 
.site-content a:active {
                                    color: #3364FF;
}
 
.site-content a:hover {
                                    color: #6D6A59;
}
/*Change color of certain text inside recipes #10600201-hc*/
 
div.jetpack-recipe-notes {
                                    color: black;
}
 
div.hrecipe.jetpack-recipe > h3 {
                                    color: black;
}
 
div.hrecipe.jetpack-recipe > ul {
                                    color: black;
}
 
/* hide header image everywhere except home page | 11968709-hc */
.page-id-4938 .image-header-flexible.container img {
                                    display: inherit !important
}
 
/* Hide the site logo / #12026071-HC JB */
 
.site-logo {
                                    display: none;
}
 
.image-header-flexible.container img {
                                    display: none;
}
/* Adjust the color of the diamond element throughout the main content font */
p {
  color: black;
}
 
.site-title a {
color: black !important;
border: none;
font-size: 25px !important;
font-family: Montserrat !important;
}
 
.site-description {
color: black !important;
border: none;
font-weight: lighter !important;
font-size: 25px !important;
font-family: Montserrat !important;
}
 
/* Adjust the color of the diamond element throughout the Rosalie theme | 10453438-hc */
.site-description:before, .entry-title:before {
  background-color: #53808a;
}
.site-description:after, .entry-title:after {
  border: 1px solid #53808a;
}
 
/*Hide all meta except date*/
.entry-meta .reading-time {
                                    display: none;
}
 
.single-post .entry-meta {
                                    display: none;
}
 
/* Change Slider Max Height to 500px */
.flexslider .slides>li {
                                    max-height: 500px;
}
 
.flexslider .slides > li .hentry.has-post-thumbnail h1 {
color: white !important;
font-size: 20px;
font-family: Arimo!important;
}
 
.flexslider .slides .entry-meta span.posted-on time {
color: white !important;
font-family: Arimo
!important;
font-size: 18px !important;
}
/* Reduce additional margin/padding space at the top of website — 20049005-hc */
.site {
                                    padding-top: unset !important;
}
.image-header {
                                    margin-top: unset;
}
/* remove gray background of menu | SKO #10440350-hc */
 
.navbar {
  background: #EDE7E3;
}
 
/* widget background white | SKO  #10440350-hc */
 
wf-active .widget-title {
    font-weight: 400;
    font-style: Arimo;
    background: black;
}
 
/*— removes opacity from the related posts / #10440350-HC-PK —*/
#jp-relatedposts .jp-relatedposts-items-visual .jp-relatedposts-post {
    filter: alpha(opacity=100);
    -moz-opacity: 1;
    opacity: 1;
}
 
.site-header {
                                    background-color: #cc0000;
}
 
.widget-title::after {
                                    border-color: #53808a transparent;
}
 
.widget-title {
                                    background-color: #53808a;
}
 
/* Adjust the font and box colors of the read more box */
.entry-summary a.more-link {
background: black !important;
color: white !important;
}
 
/* Adjust the color of the arrow element on the read more box */
.entry-summary a.more-link:after {
color: white !important;
font-size: 35px !important;
}
 
/* Adjust the font of the front page post’s dates */
span.posted-on time {
color: black !important;
font-size: 16px !important;
font-family: Arimo;
}
 
/* Change color of the font of the footer */
.site-footer a {
  color: #688D93;
}
 
footer#colophon {
background: black;
}
.site-info {
background-color: black;
}
 
/*Center Bottom Footer Links*/
/* Center text on 3rd footer widget area | 10542998-hc EH */
#footerthird {
    text-align: center;
}
/* Remove period from date of posting and centering date*/
.entry-meta span.posted-on {
    margin: 0 !important;
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
}
    .image-header-flexible {
        padding-left: 0;
        padding-right: 0;
        width: 100%;
}
.image-header-flexible {
    padding-left: 0;
    padding-right: 0;
    width: 100%;
}
 
.image-header-flexible.container img {
    min-width: 100%;
}
.entry-meta span.posted-on {
    margin: 0 !important;
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
}
.jetpack-social-navigation-genericons a[href*=”goodreads.”]:before {
    content: “\g”;
}
.jetpack-social-navigation-genericons a[href*=”redbubble.”]:before {
    content: “\RB”;
}
/* — enhanced widget title / 13537906-HC (MI) — */
 
.enhanced-text-widget h2.widget-title a {
                                    color:#000;
}

Let Me Know About Your Thoughts

Have you made the switch yet?