Posts Categorized: Books

A More Diverse Universe – Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

October 8, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 5 ★★★★★

A More Diverse Universe – Mare’s War by Tanita S. DavisMare's War
Series: diversiverse, mare's war, tanita s. davis
Published by Random House Children's
on June 2009
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Library

There are a great many things I find fascinating.  Family history.  WWII history.  Teenagers.  (No really, they are!) And road trips, for a start.

Mare’s War features all of these, so there was no way I wasn’t going to love this book.  And I did, I sooooo did.

Going on a road trip with their… unusual grandmother Mare is the last thing teens Tali and Octavia want to do with their summer.  At the insistence of their mother, the girls reluctantly get in the car and take off to a mysterious family reunion on the other side of the country, in Alabama.

The girls, like most teenagers, don’t know how they will survive the trip with Mare.  Before they have even left the driveway, their grandmother is getting on their nerves with her smoking and Mare is annoying with Tali constantly listening to music on her MP3 player.  The two make a pact; Mare will not smoke if Tali will give up the music.

To make the time go faster, Mare begins telling the girls stories, stories of her younger years.  The girls are astonished to hear about Mare’s youth in Alabama, about how she grew up during the Great Depression, the lengths she went to to protect her own sister and her differences with her mother.  The biggest surprise of all is learning how Mare ran away from home to join the WAC (Women’s Army Corp) and served during World War II.  Mare’s struggles at home with her mother and her mother’s abusive man make joining the army feel like a piece of cake.  It gives her a safe place to live, three meals and day and gives her strength and a belief in herself that could never be bought.

Yet, even though the WAC gave immeasurable help to their country while fighting the Nazi’s in Europe, the segregation that Mare and all the other colored soldiers in the 6888th Battalion, Company C, face is much harder to defeat.  Mare’s tough spirit and pride in her Company and all the women she served with  remain with her and become a huge part of who she is. After all she’s been through, is it any wonder she thinks Tali and Octavia are a little bit spoiled?

The girls are fascinated.  Who knew their grandmother had done such amazing things?  Mare’s stories are eye-opening to say the least.  By the end of their trip, the three have grown closer and the girls have a new respect for Mare – and Mare for them.

Tanita S. Davis has written a thoughtful, powerful tale about women, African-Americans, and the struggles they have faced in, not only the racist past, but in the still racist present we live in now.  Not only that, but it fills in a blank part of all American’s history of World War II, the brave way the women of the 6888th Battalion, Company C, helped end World War II.  And it’s powerful message of family, of history, of knowing your place in the world and the sacrifices of those who came before us, help shape every reader’s perception of themselves.  I hate to admit that I knew next to nothing about the 6888th Battalion, Company C, so I was so happy to learn more about these amazing women.  It’s a shame that their story has been so hugely lost to history and many props to Ms. Davis for bringing their story back to the light.  This is a book everyone woman, no matter their color, should read.

As for whether a teenager will sit through a book about history, I love what Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy has to say about that:

Oh, and if you have teens who you know will like this book but may be turned off by the history, because some teenagers eyes glaze over when you say “and it’s about women soldiers in World War II!” Simply say, “and then Mare went after her mother’s boyfriend with a hatchet.” Imagine hearing THAT about your grandma.

Not to mention Tali and Octavia do a lot of growing up during the course of their road-trip.  Octavia especially, a quiet, shy girl, learns to find courage within herself and that is always fun to read. And the dynamic between the two girls, typical sisters, friends and fighters, is well written and felt true to life.

Mare is one tough grandma and I couldn’t help but come to adore her (and the girls!) over the course of this book and is definitely why this was one of my favorite reads ever.



Listen Up! My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

October 6, 2015 Books 3 ★★★★★

Listen Up! My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth ReichlMy Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life
on September 25, 2015
Pages: 352
Format: Audiobook
In the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary. “I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.”

My Kitchen Year follows the change of seasons—and Reichl’s emotions—as she slowly heals through the simple pleasures of cooking. While working 24/7, Reichl would “throw quick meals together” for her family and friends. Now she has the time to rediscover what cooking meant to her. Imagine kale, leaves dark and inviting, sautéed with chiles and garlic; summer peaches baked into a simple cobbler; fresh oysters chilling in a box of snow; plump chickens and earthy mushrooms, fricasseed with cream. Over the course of this challenging year, each dish Reichl prepares becomes a kind of stepping stone to finding joy again in ordinary things.

The 136 recipes collected here represent a life’s passion for food: a blistering ma po tofu that shakes Reichl out of the blues; a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that accompanies a rare sighting in the woods around her home; a rhubarb sundae that signals the arrival of spring. Here, too, is Reichl’s enlivening dialogue with her Twitter followers, who become her culinary supporters and lively confidants.

Part cookbook, part memoir, part paean to the household gods, My Kitchen Year may be Ruth Reichl’s most stirring book yet—one that reveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of the world's most famous food editor as she shares treasured recipes to be returned to again and again and again.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Is there anything better than sitting down with a friend, sharing a meal, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, some great conversation?


Listening to this book, which is yes, part memoir, part cookbook, feels like that. Listening is like sitting down with Ruth Reichl, as she tells of the dismantling of Gourmet magazine and how she handled the aftermath. She talks. She cooks. She inspires. She loves. Her voice is soft and relaxing. Her writing is gorgeous and will make you so very hungry. Really, you can’t go wrong here. Great writing, great stories, great recipes. And the best part? It’s a great story of how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and find the next thing to fulfill your life.

The only problem, FOR ME (since I had a review copy of the audiobook), is I didn’t get the recipes. If you buy the audiobook however, you get the recipes in a separate file. Win win for you! As for me, I’ll be buying the book.

Seriously, heavily, recommended. 5 delicious stars.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

October 5, 2015 Books, Meme 3

h my GOSH you guys. I am reading the best books. The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin caught my eye weeks ago when Kerry from Entomology of a Bookworm was all Read This Now. And I was all Okay, As Soon As I Can Get My Hands On It. My hands are on it and they don’t want to come OFF y’all. It has so many of my favorite things. Food. Travel. Ex-pats. Looking For Oneself in Unusual (ie: the last place you would think to look for yourself) Places.

Did I mention it is so good?

I am also listening to Toni Morrison read her book Beloved because IT IS #Diversiverse Week!!!! So excited! Aarti’s link up post is here. Follow along with all the diversity fun and heck, link yourself up as well! JOIN IN THE FUN Y’ALL.

Did I mention Toni Morrison reads her book? Her voice is magic. Serious magic.

What are you reading this week? Is it any good?



#15IN31: or, yes, I AM THAT CRAZY

September 29, 2015 Books 5


My girl Andi, my girl with the crazy brilliant ideas. We’ve both struggled with reading this year and she managed to jump start her reading back in April with a similar challenge to this. Since she decided to do it again in October, I thought I’d join her this time. Lord knows I need to jump start my reading. If it’s not an audiobook, I’m not reading it and this has got to stop! I made a list of 15 books I’d really like to read in October, but of course, I refuse to hold myself to it. :)

  1. Nation by Terry Pratchett
  2. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  3. The Body Library by Agatha Christie
  4. Jackaby by William Ritter
  5. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  6. Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond
  7. Innamorata by Megan Chance
  8. Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson
  9. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  10. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  11. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
  12. Castle Waiting Volume 1 by Linda Medley
  13. Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
  14. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  15. The Porcelain Dove by Delia Sherman

Care to join us? You can sign up here!



Behind the Scenes of the Readathon

September 24, 2015 Books 6


Since Andi gave a behind the scenes of the Readathon on her blog last week, I thought I’d do the same from my viewpoint this week and bring it all up to date..

  • Early September Andi messages me. It’s time to get started!
  • I contacted Trish (the wonderful lady who ensured that the Readathon would continue after Dewey’s death) to see if we could buy the domain. She agreed (she is so sweet!) and the process was (surprisingly) quick and easy. I transferred the blog to my server and hot damn! It went off without a hitch.
  • Andi and I had discussed bringing the seasons into the Readathon, so, I quickly used my newfound double exposure skills to whip up an autumnal button (see above).
  • Those hitches, that I thought didn’t go off, start popping up. First, the template can’t be viewed correctly on a smart phone. So I found another template. Then, no one can comment on posts. I tracked it down to a faulty plugin and uninstall it. Problem solved! Whew!
  • Test the new template and comments. Get all the test comments in my email. Realize that all the test comments coming to my email means that I will get all comments. In my email. Imagine Readathon day. Contemplate alternative email for comments.
  • Volunteer sign ups go live! So happy so many people want to help us! You are the best, people!
  • Reader sign ups go live!! Each sign up goes into a spreadsheet created by Google from the form. In the past, I’ve lifted out the information into another spreadsheet to sort readers into teams. This year I found a way to link that information into another workbook in the same file. Life just got a trifle easier.
  • Talk with Andi about prizes. Always a constant powwow.We decide to make a few bookmarks for freebies.
  • I quickly realize that, with the changes were making to cheerleading, I actually need help. I enlist several previous Head Cheerleaders for assistance and they quickly say “What? Of course we’ll help!” Love them.
  • Realize this morning that, since the problem plugin from earlier was a spam blocker, that there is nothing blocking spam comments. Evidence: a ton of spam comments coming to my email. Will start looking for a new spam blocker. Feel kinda DUH about the whole thing.
  • 181 readers are already signed up! Time to get the cheer teams set up and tell my helpers what I actually need help on!
  • As usual, wonder what I’m missing. Ask Andi and realize it’s time to post the call for cheerleaders. Duh.

So far, it’s a pretty normal Readathon!!




The Dog Days of Summer Readathon!

September 18, 2015 Books 5


YOU GUYS! There is a readathon this weekend! Dog Days of Summer Readathon! Three days of stress free reading is what I’m going for. Traditionally, I don’t read books I currently have going because I like to start fresh. However, I did finish my audiobook today, My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (read by the author and it was so freaking good). I moved right into Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (read by Lenny Henry) and I’ve already listened to half of it today. Now, I’m on my couch with a bowl of popcorn and a pile of graphic novels and regular novels and a rum and coke and I’m ready to kick back and read all weekend. I’ll be updating this post all weekend with my progress.

I hope you’ll join me!

Day 1

Finished: My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Started: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Day 2

Finished; My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl; March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell; The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin
Started: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus



Reading Notes: On Reading an Author’s Final Work

September 9, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 8

Reading Notes: On Reading an Author’s Final WorkThe Shepherd's Crown
by terry pratchett
Narrator: stephen briggs
Length: 7 hours 49 minutes
Published by Harper Audio
on 9.1.15
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. ¬The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning. . .



For your information, I’m not really going to write a review of The Shepherd’s Crown. If you’ve read Terry Pratchett, or at least the Tiffany Aching series, you’re going to read this book. If you haven’t even read the Tiffany Aching series, you won’t read this book, at least not yet. This is going to be more of a discussion of the experience of reading this book, for me anyway. It’s going to be hard for me to write, it’s probably going to be disjointed, and emotional, yes, there may be some tears, and run-on sentences, and maybe even a touch of hysterics(!) but you know what? I don’t care. I have some things I need to get, this is my forum for getting things out and so, it is going to happen.

The Shepherd’s Crown tore my heart to pieces. And then, it put all back together again in the most beautiful way….

On March 12, 2015, the beloved author Terry Pratchett died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I came late to his work, when, after getting several recommendations as to where exactly to start, I started with Nation. That, as they say, was that. There was no looking back. While I still haven’t come close to reading all his books, I became a die-hard fan. When he died, I cried just as hard as his longtime fans had, and, begrudgingly began to look forward to what was suddenly his last book; The Shepherd’s Crown. It is not impossible to read an author’s last book. Thousands of writers have lived, and died, and left behind a last work. I think perhaps a last book is seldom written by an author who has stared death in the face for years and knows, beyond a shadow of doubt, that He is near. Terry Pratchett knew.

And it glows throughout his last book.

Death has always been a prominent figure in Pratchett’s books. He has appeared several times to usher a character into the next world. He appears early on in this book, and, while he is speaking to another character, one can’t help but feel that the author is “breaking the fourth wall” so to speak and using Death to speak directly to the reader.

I HAVE WATCHED YOUR PROGRESS WITH INTEREST, ESMERELDA WEATHERWAX, said the voice in the dark. He was firm, but oh so polite. But now there was a question in his voice. PRAY TELL ME, WHY WERE YOU CONTENT TO LIVE IN THIS TINY LITTLE COUNTRY WHEN, AS YOU KNOW, YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ANYTHING AND ANYBODY IN THE WORLD? “I don’t know about the world, not much; but in my part of the world I could make little miracles for ordinary people,” Granny replied sharply. “And I never wanted the world—just a part of it, a small part that I could keep safe, that I could keep away from storms. Not the ones of the sky, you understand: there are other kinds.” AND WOULD YOU SAY YOUR LIFE BENEFITED THE PEOPLE OF LANCRE AND ENVIRONS? After a minute the soul of Granny Weatherwax said, “Well, not boasting, your willingness, I think I have done right, for Lancre at least. I’ve never been to Environs.” MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, THE WORD “ENVIRONS” MEANS, WELL, THEREABOUTS. “All right,” said Granny. “I did get about, to be sure.” A VERY GOOD LIFE LIVED INDEED, ESMERELDA. “Thank you,” said Granny. “I did my best.”

He did his best indeed.

Endings figure prominently throughout the book. Yet, most beautifully of all, so does reassurance

Tiffany thought of the little spot in the woods where Granny Weatherwax lay. Remembered.

And knew that You¹ had been right. Granny Weatherwax was indeed here. And there. She was, in fact, and always would be, everywhere.

and change

Why? Why not do things differently? Why should we do things how they have always been done before? And something inside her suddenly thrilled to the challenge.

and comfort

“The end of times?” said Nanny. “Look, Tiff, Esme tol’ me to say, if you want to see Esmerelda Weatherwax, then just you look around. She is here. Us witches don’t mourn for very long. We are satisfied with happy memories – they’re there to be cherished.”

For in the end, Terry is still here. His many books, thoughts, and wisdom live on to be cherished, to be learned from, to be loved. Thank you Terry and mind how you go.

¹sidenote: You is Granny’s cat.




It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

September 7, 2015 Books, Meme 8


13th talepriorydeterminedheart


RIP X has done such great things for my reading (seriously, I read three books last week!) that I’m going to keep going in that vein. I started a relisten of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield because it’s one of my favorite books and one of my favorite books for this time of year. Plus the audio IS SO GOOD. I found Death at the Priory on my shelf and was delighted to see the topic was the same as a podcast I heard earlier last week. It was so interesting I had already planned to see if I could find out more. Serendipitously, I had it all along! Lastly, I was approved for an ARC of The Determined Heart by Antoinette May that sounds fantastic. I’m thinking this calls for a reread of Frankenstein, don’t you?

What are your plans for the reading week? Reading anything good this week?

It's Monday What Are You Reading

It’s Monday, What are you Reading is hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.




Monthly Wrap – August 2015

September 1, 2015 Books, Monthly Wrap Up 4


August!!! Look at you baby! I thought we weren’t going to get along this year, but you surprised me. We read:

98.  The Graveyard Book: Full Cast Production by Neil Gaiman, read by Various
99.  Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
100.  What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, read by Wil Wheaton
101.  In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, read by Scott Brick
102. Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud
103.  The Fade Out, Issue 8 by Ed Brubaker
104.  Lumberjanes, Issue 16 by Noelle Stevenson
105.  Wayward, Issue 9 by Jim Zub
106. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, read by Bernadette Dunne

For all my whining about lack of reading time, I managed to get a few titles under my belt. I don’t know where I could have been without audiobooks. Lost somewhere, trying to find the words back to civilization I expect. 4 audiobooks in a row! I don’t remember the last time I did that. Certainly haven’t listened to 5 in a month in quite awhile. All my favorite comics represented this month too. Geez, I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite title for the month. I love love loved In the Heart of the Sea and Mr. Mac and Me was all out charming.  And my impromptu reread (by listening) of We Have Always Lived in the Castle yesterday was literally chilling. I’m serious, as soon as Bernadette Dunne spoke, a chill went down my spin. LOVE that. So, I’m calling August a success. Here’s hoping September is even better!