Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Fed Up

Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward
By Gemma Hartley
HarperOne, 2018. 264 pages. Nonfiction

Journalist Gemma Hartley continues the conversation about emotional labor that she started in her viral article, “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up.” Every day women are often expected to anticipate the needs of others, keep their households running, and conduct themselves in a way that puts others at ease. It’s exhausting work, and Hartley discusses how the social conditioning of emotional labor has focused almost solely on women for too long, and it doesn’t have to be that way. This is a call-to-arms for women who feel tired and fed up.

I really enjoyed this book. It was well written, and put to words things that I’ve felt but didn’t know how to express. Often I could see my own experiences reflected in what the author has experienced, and recognized things I’ve been doing at home and in my marriage to more evenly distribute the emotional labor I was bearing, before having the language to express it. For any woman who feels “fed up,” and for the men who want to understand why we got that way, I would highly recommend this book.


Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses From Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets
by Tyler Nordgren
Basic Books, 2016. 239 pgs. Nonfiction.

Solar eclipses have gone from omens of doom to events of intense scientific study, to tourist attractions over the course of history. Author Tyler Nordgren takes readers on a journey through the history and science of eclipses from the first eclipses recorded to the last eclipse that will ever happen and all the science in between.

I am not the best at understanding science and complex math concepts, but I learned so much reading this! This book is part history and part astronomy, and the writing style is narrative and easy to read. Reading this made me regret not traveling a little farther north to be in the path of totality for the eclipse in August 2017, but the good news is we will be solidly in the path of totality for the eclipse on August 12, 2045! As far as recommendations go I think anyone that picked it up would enjoy this book.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Siren's Fury

Siren’s Fury 
by Mary Weber
Thomas Nelson, 2015, 355 pgs. Young Adult Fiction.

In the second book of the Storm Siren trilogy, Nym has saved Falen and brought about an end to the war with neighboring Bron only to learn that Draewulf has stolen everything she cares about, even her Elemental abilities. When she sneaks off to Bron with a group of Falen delegates, Lord Myles tempts her with new powers and she must decide how much of herself she can compromise to destroy the monster.

The plot thickens! Here the reader learns more about Draewulf’s background which I thought was fascinating. I listened to the first part of the book, but they changed narrators from the first which I thought was distracting and the plot twists were frustrating enough that I debated finishing it. Then I switched to reading it and it wasn’t nearly as frustrating, I’m so glad I finished the book! If you read Storm Siren, you’ll definitely want to continue with Siren’s Fury.


The Science of Science Fiction

The Science of Science Fiction
By Matthew Brenden Wood
Nomad Press, 2017. 120 pages. Young Adult Nonfiction

Is it possible to clone dinosaurs like in Jurassic Park? How about traveling through space like in Star Trek? Not everything that is depicted in science fiction is a matter of if, but sometimes just a matter of when. Science and technology are developing at a rapid pace, and in some cases what was once fiction has already become fact. This book explores some of the most common sci-fi concepts, discussing the current science and where it’s headed in the future. Accompanying each chapter are QR codes linking to videos and articles for additional information, discussion questions, and related experiments that can be done at home.

 I had a lot of fun with this book. It’s short enough to be easily digestible, scientific enough to make me feel smarter, and simplified enough for the layman. I loved the QR codes with additional tidbits; they really added an extra dimension to the book’s content. I also felt like each chapter’s discussion questions were quite thought-provoking, making this a fun and informative choice for educators and students.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting 
by Chris McLaughlin
Alpha Books, 2010. 193 pgs. Nonfiction

Why compost? Compost is nutrient-rich and great for your garden or houseplants, even if your garden is the size of a postage stamp, plus it cuts down on your waste which is good for the environment. But doesn’t composting smell bad? Not if you do it right! And getting it right is easy with this book as your guide. Here you’ll learn how composting works, what you can and shouldn’t add to your pile, maintenance, the benefits of keeping worms, and much more.

I really appreciated the author’s laid back approach to composting. He gives specific instructions for different methods of composting, but also stresses that compost just happens so there’s really a large margin of error in the process. Which I took to mean don’t stress about it! If you’re on the fence about whether you actually want to give composting a try, this book will talk you into it because he makes it so easy.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Positive Discipline: The First Three Years

Positive Discipline: The First Three Years: From Infant to Toddler--Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child 
by Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Ann Duffy
Three Rivers Press, 2007, 292 pgs. Nonfiction

Kind and firm is the backbone of the Positive Discipline approach to child-rearing. Specific to children ages 0-3, parents will find instruction on positive methods of managing the challenges that come with raising toddlers and methods that will encourage toddlers to learn confidence and appropriate boundaries rather than punishing them for age-appropriate behavior. Topics covered include: brain development, temperament, trust, autonomy, age-appropriate behavior, emotional and social skills, eating, sleeping, potty-training, childcare, and more.

I love the philosophy of kind yet firm, no anger needed. It really helped me to understand what sorts of things are age-appropriate and how to communicate with my toddler in a way he will understand, which means I don’t get so frustrated that he doesn’t get ‘no’ like I want him to. I definitely recommend this book to parents of toddlers, although I would probably read the third edition rather than the second one like I did just because I think the chapters about finding support resources and childcare options would be more up-to-date.


Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of the Void

Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of the Void 
By Mary Roach W.W. Norton, 2010. 333 pages. Nonfiction

Mary Roach, a journalist, explores the great lengths that NASA and other space agencies go to in order to test astronauts to see if they are ready for an extended time in space. From training them how to go to the bathroom in zero gravity to dealing with the psychological issues caused by cramped quarters, delays in communication, and potential disasters around every corner, Roach reveals the rigorous tests that potential candidates are trained for on Earth to handle the living in space. For example, how do eleven astronauts respond to being hangry in space? To find out, they tested how long it took potential astronauts to lose their temper after their lunch was delayed for several hours. Most people broke after four hours of waiting for lunch. Those that didn't break, moved on to the next test.

Roach’s writing is humorous and conversational while being informative. She makes the science of human physiology in space understandable for ordinary people. The reading is fast paced and each chapter focuses on a different aspect of training. It’s an easy book to pick up and put down without losing the point. A great read.


Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood

Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood
By Alida Nugent
Plume, 2013. 191 pages. Nonfiction.

Now what? That's the question Alida asked herself when she graduated college with no career trajectory and bills to pay. This memoir is about Alida figuring out life, overcoming setbacks, and making things happen. She needs to figure out living arrangements (living with her parents forever is not an option), career options (being unemployed doesn't pay all that well), and what her real views on life are (who knew a grilled cheese sandwich could change her opinion on body image?).

This wasn't my favorite book. However, if you ever feel like you're failing at adulthood, then give it a go. It will give you the reassurance that you are not alone and you are doing better than you think you are. Though I didn't agree with everything Nugent had to say, I did walk away from this book feeling more confident in my abilities to function as an adult. I like that this book was more a collection of vignettes from her life rather than a continuous plot. Though the tone dripped with harsh sarcasm, Nugent's personal revelations made it clear that you can move forward in life without having all the answers.


Monday, April 22, 2019

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of The World From the Periodic Table of Elements

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of The World From the Periodic Table of Elements
by Sam Kean
New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010. 391 pages. Nonfiction. 

The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Before I read this book I hated chemistry. Now, after having read this book, I find that I still hate chemistry. However, I greatly enjoyed learning the history of the periodic table of elements and the interesting stories of the men and women who discovered them. Sam Kean spins together a history of science class that is kind to those who don't consider themselves to be "math & science people" (me *cough, cough*). I doubt I'll remember everything I learned, but I will remember the many laughs I had while reading this book. I recommend this book to science-geeks and non-science-geeks alike, and to anyone who wants to get a good laugh and feel a bit smarter at the end of a good read.


Kid Gloves

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos
by Lucy Knisley
First Second Books, 2019. 248 pgs. Nonfiction Graphic Novel.

Lucy Knisley had always wanted to be a mother. But when it came time to get pregnant, it turned out to be a little harder than she’d thought it would be. First, she had a miscarriage. Then, she had another one. When she finally did have a successful pregnancy, there were many health complications ending with a very dramatic labor and delivery.

This is such a great book about pregnancy. The author weaves her own personal experiences with sections detailing the history of obstetrics and gynecology. In addition, she debunks common myths and misconceptions regarding conception and pregnancy in a clear and transparent way. Knisley discusses the facts of pregnancy, the emotions that accompany it, and so much more. By being so raw and open with her personal story, she demystifies a lot of things regarding pregnancy and, I felt, also created a channel for people to discuss experiences with miscarriages. This graphic novel is great for anyone who has been pregnant, currently is pregnant, or hopes to be pregnant sometime in the future. It is also a good resource for anyone who just wants to learn more about conception and pregnancy.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul

Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul 
by Nikita Gill Hachette Books, 2018. 170 pages. Nonfiction

These poems aren’t just clever twists on fairy tales. They are a celebration of the reader. The first poem is an invocation of the importance of learning to love and to hold on to ourselves and the final poem is a benediction thanking the readers of the world for holding the author when she was in pain. This book is more than just a fairy tale gimmick. This is a book about us and what it means to be human.

 Gill's style is romantic and evocative. The fairy tales take on new meaning as we learn why Beauty stayed with the Beast, that King Triton and Ursula had been each other's first love, that Snow White, tired of the endless flirtations of her king husband, also became a powerful sorceress. The poems and stories are sparsely written, but each word carries a heavy weight of meaning. When the book was over, I started it again so I wouldn't have to say goodbye to these characters.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Serious Moonlight

Serious Moonlight
by Jenn Bennett
Simon Pulse, 2019. 432 pgs. Young Adult.

Birdie just got her first job working the graveyard shift at a hotel in downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, one of her coworkers just happens to be the boy that she had an awkward “encounter” with the other day. Determined to move past that incident, Birdie and Daniel find themselves teaming up to solve a mystery involving a mysterious local author.

This book does a great job portraying flawed characters in a sympathetic way. Birdie never knew her father and her mother died when she was young. She was raised and homeschooled by her overprotective grandparents and grew up pretty isolated from others her age. Birdie also suffers from narcolepsy (undiagnosed) and must learn to deal with all of these things as she starts her new job. Daniel, on the other hand, is deaf in one ear and had his own incident in high school that is explored later in the book. I thought this book really delicately handles different forms of grief while also being tactfully sex positive.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Cover image for Bellewether
by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018, 434 pages, General Fiction

When Charley Van Hoek moves back to Long Island to be the curator of the Wilde House Museum, she immediately becomes fascinated with what happened to the inhabitants of the house during the French and Indian War. Specifically, Charley is interested in the story of Lydia Wilde and a French prisoner of war named Jean-Philippe de Sabran. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story.

Susanna Kearsley is a master at writing stories that deftly combine elements of historical fiction, mystery, romance, and a slight hint of something magical. Although this book takes a while to unfold, Kearsley’s skill in telling two different stories at once, and making the plot of each build and grow at the same rate, kept me hooked. I was equally interested in both stories, and hanging on Kearsley’s every word.

Fans of Susanna Kearsley will likely also enjoy books by Kate Morton. Both authors write captivating books about people in the present day researching mysteries of the past.


Next Year in Havana

Next Year in Havana 
by Chanel Cleeton
Berkley, 2018. 382 pages. Fiction

Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa, was the daughter of a wealthy family in Cuba who fled the country during the Cuban Revolution and came to America. Elisa’s last request is to have her ashes scattered in her home country, and she tells Marisol that she’ll know where to scatter the ashes when she find the right place. Having never been to Cuba, and not knowing anyone there, Marisol is less confident she’ll be able to find the places most special to her grandmother, but enlists the help of grandmother’s childhood best friend and her handsome grandson to help. When long buried family secrets begin to come to light, they irreparably alter Marisol’s understanding of her grandmother’s past, and that of the country she left.

At the same time charming and informational, this book was enlightening and a true pleasure to read. It weaves the story of both Marisol and her discoveries about her grandmother’s past with Cuban history and class dynamics to create a fascinating and resonant story that I could not put down. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with a side of both political history and a dash of romance.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Witch Elm

Cover image for The witch elm
The Witch Elm
By Tana French
Viking, 2018, 509 pages, Mystery

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life—he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden, and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

This is a novel that will keep you guessing!  Every person in this novel has something a little off about them, and they all seem like they have something to hide. Since Toby’s run-in with burglars, he has memory problems that make it hard to figure out what’s going on. As he asks his cousins over and over again about his past, they seem not to trust him with the truth. Even the police seem a bit suspicious. While I don’t usually like books about unreliable or morally ambiguous characters, and this novel is possibly full of them, I can’t stop thinking about this novel just the same!

This is a book about actions and consequences, and about how some innocuous things from your past can come back to haunt you. French takes her time unfolding the plot of this book, which really gives both the reader and Toby a chance to try to look at what’s happening from every angle. The book is excellently written, and the audio narration was also well done, although frequent salty language might mean you want to read this one instead of listening to it. This book is a great choice for anyone who loved Patricia Highsmith’s classic novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy

Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy
By Mike Love
New York : Blue Rider Press, 2016. 436 pages. Biography

Mike Love tells the story of his legendary, raucous, and ultimately triumphant five-decade career as the front man of The Beach Boys, the most popular American band in history -- timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of "Good Vibrations." Love describes the stories behind his lyrics for pop classics such as "Good Vibrations," "California Girls," "Surfin' USA," and "Kokomo," while providing vivid portraits of the turbulent lives of his three gifted cousins, Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson. His partnership with Brian has few equals in American pop music, though Mike has carved out a legacy of his own -- he co-wrote the lyrics to eleven of the twelve original Beach Boy songs that were top 10 hits while providing the lead vocals on ten of them.

This book is a raw, intimate read that left me with a lot to think about. Mike Love provides an up-close and personal perspective into his own life, the lives of his cousins (other Beach Boy band mates Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson), and the evolution of rock & roll music. He is honest about his own flaws and the flaws of others, and he doesn't beat around the bush when discussing the many controversies which surrounded him and his family, which allowed me to feel a connection with some of my favorite artists. I listened to Mike Love narrate his memoir by listening to the audiobook on the Libby app and highly recommend it. His narration is truly a heartfelt approach at sharing the highs and lows he has experienced throughout his lifetime. 


Friday, April 5, 2019

Healing Hearts

Healing Hearts
By Sarah M. Eden
Shadow Mountain, 2019. 328 pgs. Historical Fiction Romance

Gideon MacNamara is the only doctor in the small frontier town of Savage Wells. He hasn't had much luck finding a wife so he decides to send for a mail-order bride with some nursing experience. Miriam thinks she is being sent to Savage Wells to be a nurse and doesn't realize she is supposed to also marry the doctor. She refuses to marry him, but Gideon is understanding enough to allow her to serve as his nurse while they get things figured out. Miriam is hiding some huge secrets from her past and doesn't have many options available to her.

This books is set in the same town as the Sheriffs of Savage Wells but it can be read as a stand alone novel. Sarah Eden continues to create characters that work their way into your heart. It was fascinating to learn about Miriam's backstory. It made me want to do more research on common medical practices for women in the 1800's. Women were put in insane asylums for pretty much any excuse. Honestly, it sounds awful. Sarah Eden continues to be one of my favorite authors and this is another terrific book.


Something in the Water

Something in the Water
by Catherine Steadman
Ballantine Books, 2018. 342 pages. Fiction

When newlyweds Erin and Mark decided to honeymoon in Bora Bora, they thought it would be a perfect way to begin the new phase of their lives together. The pair does the things you’d expect people visiting a tropical island to do; like getting tan on the beach and scuba diving. They find a mysterious locked bag in the water but as they try to shake it, to turn it in or find its rightful owners, it keeps making its way back to them. When they return to London, to their real lives, the consequences of their actions on the island start catching up quickly, and if they can't cover their tracks, they may soon spiral out of control. 

This was a moderately suspenseful book with enough intrigue about what was coming next to keep the pages turning. It is one of those books that, if it were a TV show, would leave you screaming things at the screen because it doesn’t seem like the choices the characters made are totally realistic or logical. Those choices do make for a captivating and unpredictable read though, and leave the reader wondering just who can be trusted when everyone seems to be working in their own best interest.


Monday, April 1, 2019


By Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 352 pages.  Historical Fiction

In 1940, Juliet Armstrong is 18 years old, a bit naive, and reluctantly pulled into the world of espionage.  Tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be both tedious and terrifying.  After the war ends, she presumes that life is behind her.  Ten years later, Juliet is working as a radio producer for the BBC, when she is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.

Sometimes I think we take for granted that World War II turned out the way it did, and it's always refreshing to come across a book that can help place us in the period so thoroughly that we remember the outcome was not at all certain to people living in those times.  This book helped bring alive the fear and uncertainty of a long gone era, while its main character who was certainly flawed fights to keep her head while being swept into matters beyond her control.