“Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.”
I loved this book so much. From the very first pages, I believed that we were in Louisiana in the 1940s. Ida Mae and her best friend feel like real people who grow apart over time because of the differences in their abilities to advance in the world. This book addresses not only racism but also the colorism in the African American community.
Ida Mae’s father taught her to fly for their crop dusting business. She hasn’t been able to get her license because the instructor wouldn’t approve a license for a woman. When women are started to be hired to ferry planes between bases to free up male pilots for combat, Ida Mae wants to join. She is very light skinned so she lets the recruiter assume that she is a white woman. This makes a divide between Ida Mae and her darker skinned mother, family, and friends. A big question in the story is can she come back from this? Once she starts living the life of a white woman, will she be willing to be seen as a black woman again?
“Naomi Soledad León Outlaw has had a lot to contend with in her young life, her name for one. Then there are her clothes (sewn in polyester by Gram), her difficulty speaking up, her status at school as “nobody special.” But according to Gram’s self-prophecies, most problems can be overcome with positive thinking. Luckily, Naomi also has her carving to strengthen her spirit. And life with Gram and her little brother, Owen, is happy and peaceful. That is, until their mother reappears after 7 years of being gone, stirring up all sorts of questions and challenging Naomi to discover who she really is.”
Naomi and Owen were left with their great-grandmother in Southern California when their mother decided that she didn’t want the responsibility of caring for them anymore. Owen was born with physical disabilities and this was too much for their mother to handle. Now, seven years and several surgeries later, Owen is thriving but he still has some obvious disabilities. Naomi is happy at home in the trailer with Owen and Gran and their close community of neighbors. Then their mother reappears with a new name, Skyla, and a new boyfriend. She wants to take Naomi to live with her. Just Naomi.
Naomi and Owen are half Mexican but they have no connection to the Mexican side of their family since their mother refused to let their father see them after they divorced. He has sent money to Gran to help out though. Now, to help bolster support for Gran to be able to keep the kids they head to Mexico to try to find him. They know that he always attends the Oaxaca Radish carving competitions around Christmas so they head there. (Yes, that is a real thing.)
This story highlights the world of a young girl who doesn’t realize how much her family turmoil has affected her until it is time for her to stand up for herself and her brother. Her world is widened by meeting her Mexican relatives and by finding out more about her parents. Kids whose parents have left them imagine all kinds of scenarios about them returning. When it doesn’t work out in the way they expect, it can be devastating. Gran has tried to shield them from the truth but it is coming out now and they have to deal with the consequences. Gran has always been their rock and now they see her scared and unsure of what to do. Naomi and Owen react differently which accurately represents their ages and personalities.
This is a middle grade book. I’d recommend it for any kid who doesn’t know quite where they fit in the world. Also, seriously, radish carving – that is a weirdly interesting competition.
“Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself. “
Everyone needs to read Juliet Takes a Breath
Ok, that was easy. Review over.
Seriously though, this book has something to say to everyone.
Juliet is nineteen and has her first girlfriend. Her family doesn’t know and that bothers her. They are very close and keeping something this important from them feels wrong to her. She tells them right before she leaves for the summer to do an internship in Portland with her favorite author. The reception is not what she hoped for.
Portland isn’t what she expected either. It is so overwhelmingly white but the white people are weirder than any white people she’s met before. If she’s come to her favorite lesbian author’s house, why is there a naked man in the kitchen? Why doesn’t she understand what anyone is talking about?
There is no right way to be
Juliet had idolized Harlowe as a lesbian author who seemed to have the answers to everything. But as Juliet gets more involved in Harlowe’s world she sees that some of the ideas that Harlowe has might not be right for her. Part of her growing up and owning her own story is finding out how she needs to branch out and be different. Learning what to keep and what to reject is hard. She needs to see a variety of ways of being a lesbian so she realizes that there are options out there.
Likewise, Harlowe can’t mold Juliet to fit into her preferred narrative. This causes conflict in the book as they try to find neutral ground to speak to each other.
Not everyone speaks your language
Juliet doesn’t have the background in the language of the LGBT movement to be able to understand everything that people in Portland are talking about. Preferred pronouns? Polyamory? As readers follow Juliet’s stories they are exposed to concepts that they may also have not known about. It is also a reminder not to denigrate people who may not know the “correct” terminology but to educate.
This is a book for anyone who has ever felt out of place but who wants to belong. Juliet is charming and you root for her the whole way through the book.
I listened to the audio version of this book. The narration was amazing. Her accents were well done and the Spanish in the book flowed naturally in the story.
Do yourself a favor. Pick up this book and fall in love with Juliet.
“In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). “
This is her memoir about her family’s year in Paris. It was developed from her Facebook posts so it contains mainly short snippets of information about her days interspersed with longer essays.
She is an American who is married to an Italian man. They live in New Jersey and have 2 kids. They move to Paris and enroll the kids in an Italian language school because they are fluent. Her son is taking classes like architectural drawing that he isn’t interested in so he doesn’t do the work. Her daughter is now a child who is well acquainted with principals’ offices on two continents. Eloisa walks around the city sampling the food and getting mad that her husband is losing weight as fast as she is gaining it.
“I asked if Alessandro would pick up some of the spectacular chocolate mousse made by a patisserie on the nearby rue Richer. His response: “I thought you were on a diet.” These seven words rank among the more imprudent things he has said to me in the long years of our marriage.”
The Saga of Milo
Background – They had a Chihuahua named Milo. He used to fly back and forth from the U.S. to Italy with them when they visited her husband’s family. But Milo got fat. He got stranded in Italy because he was too heavy to fly back to the U.S. in the cabin. So Milo has been staying with Italian Grandma until he loses weight. Yeah, it’s not happening. Occasionally she reports in on Milo’s vet visits with Grandma.
“Apparently the vet has suggested vegetables, so for dinner Milo is having lightly steamed broccoli tossed in just a touch of butter, and some diet dog food steeped in homemade chicken broth.”
I have these clients.
“Milo has been back to the vet for a follow-up visit. To Marina’s dismay, her Florentine vet labeled Milo obese, even after she protested that ‘he never eats.’ Apparently the vet’s gaze rest thoughtfully on Milo’s seal-like physique, and then he said, ‘He may be telling you that, but we can all see he’s fibbing.'”
I have never been that brave.
“Marina said today the first thing she plans to do back in Florence is find a new vet. That nasty vet who told her Milo is obese, she said, is too young and doesn’t understand Milo’s emotional problems.”
I read a lot of the Milo sections to my coworkers. They thought they were hysterical. Yes, this is our life.
“The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men! But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.”
Oak Ridge was a temporary city in the middle of nowhere, hidden by topography, and never meant to see the light of day. It had one purpose — to enrich uranium to feed the development of the nuclear bomb. A lot of people were required to build and then run the huge plants. How do you get a lot of people to agree to do a job that they aren’t allowed to know about or talk about? Pay high wages and tell them it is for the war effort.
People left other jobs without knowing where they would be going or for how long. Many were told to go to a train station and they would be met. They had no idea where they were heading.
I can’t believe that people agreed to do this. I’m too nosy. If you gave me a job and told me to spend eight to twelve hours a day manipulating dials so that the readout always read the correct number, I couldn’t do it. I certainly couldn’t do it for years without needing to know what I was doing. I would have been fired and escorted out of there so fast. How was the secret kept for so long?
Coming out of the Depression though, any job was a good job. These jobs were hiring women and African Americans at wages they wouldn’t see elsewhere. Of course, there was discrimination and segregation. Housing for African Americans was poor and they were not allowed to live together if they were married. When someone started wondering, “What happens if we inject this uranium into a person?” you know they picked a black man who just happened to have a broken leg to experiment on. He did manage to escape eventually but not before they had done a lot of damage to him.
This book tells the stories of women in several different jobs – secretarial staff, Calutron operators, cleaning staff, and scientists. They made a life in a town that wasn’t supposed to last long. The audiobook was compelling listening. The story sounds like a novel.
I went to vet school in Knoxville, which is 20 miles away from Oak Ridge. I had friends who were from there and friends whose families had been forcibly removed from the area in order to build Oak Ridge. It was interesting to hear what went on behind the scenes.
I would be interested in pairing this with this book:
“On August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a small port city on Japan’s southernmost island. An estimated 74,000 people died within the first five months, and another 75,000 were injured.
Published on the seventieth anniversary of the bombing, Nagasaki takes readers from the morning of the bombing to the city today, telling the first-hand experiences of five survivors, all of whom were teenagers at the time of the devastation.”
The Girls of Atomic City does discuss the reactions of the citizens of Oak Ridge when they found out what they had been doing. It discusses the guilt that some people still have for their part in making the bomb.
You know what I kept thinking about while listening to this? This scene from Clerks.
Randal: There was something else going on in Jedi. I ever noticed it till today. They build another Death Star, right?
Randal: Now, the first one was completed and fully operational before the Rebel’s destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where credit is due.
Randal: And the second one was still being built when the blew it up.
Dante: Compliments to Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me that second time around. I could never put my finger on it, but something just wasn’t right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: The first Death Star was manned by the Imperial Army. The only people on board were stormtroppers, dignitaries, Imperials.
Randal: So, when the blew it up, no problem. Evil’s punished.
Dante: And the second time around?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn’t even done being built yet. It was still under construction.
Randal: So, construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I’ll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you’re getting at?
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they’d hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so they bring in independent contractors. Why are you so upset with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed! Casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. All right, look, you’re a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia – this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn’t ask for that. You have no personal politics. You’re just trying to scrape out a living.
This book is basically the point of view of the people building the second Death Star.
“Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood. But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France. From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.”
This is the book the husband would have written if he lived in France. He is the person who said halfway through our trip to France that it would be a wonderful country if there were no people in it. His favorite French vacation story is the time we watched an older French woman beat a disabled British tourist with an umbrella because he didn’t give his seat up to her. He learned that parapluie is umbrella from that incident.
We once had a black, female, French neighbor to whom the husband had to explain several times that while the people in our small town might in fact be both racist and sexist, what was getting her in trouble was being French. No, it wasn’t ok to park in the fire lane and then cut in line at WalMart because she was parked in the fire lane, for example.
David Lebovitz had this same frustration with French people when he moved to Paris. Why are they always cutting in line? Why won’t they help you in a store? Why does it take so long to accomplish everyday tasks?
This book is hysterically funny. He is a cookbook author whose new French apartment had a tiny kitchen and suspect plumbing.
Eventually he learned to adapt and thrive in his new city. He learned to cut in line with the best of them. He started dressing up to take out the garbage. That’s when he knew he was home.
There are lots of recipes in this book. I even made one. I know! I’m shocked too. I almost never make recipes in books. I made the fig and olive tapenade though and it was scrumptious. I even took a picture of it as proof but it looks like a glob of clumpy black stuff on some bread. Yummy food photography is not a skill I have.
“Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.”
Leah Remini is the perfect person to write this tell all book about the inner workings of The Church of Scientology. She was brought into the religion as a child when her mother joined. She was taken out of school and moved to Florida in order to work at retreat center for Scientologists. She progressed through the religion as she started her acting career. As she became more famous, she was given more and more opportunities to promote her faith.
She knew that she was working to clear the planet. She was part of saving the world. If that meant that she needed to go to the center and do her courses for hours a day, she did it. If it meant giving millions of dollars for church activities, she went along. She faced interrogations based on reports that people wrote about her. She was even thrown off a boat once. It didn’t faze her.
Through it all she remained a true believer
Then she was invited to be part of the elite group of Scientologists who grouped around Tom Cruise. That was when she started to see hypocrisy. She saw people how weren’t behaving like the church demanded and nothing was being done about it. She noticed that people were disappearing and no one would talk about it. She decided that she needed to speak up to save her church — and they silenced her. Eventually she was declared to be a Suppressive Person who no Scientologist is allowed to associate with. This is a horrific punishment for a person whose entire life revolved around the church for thirty years and whose entire family are members.
That’s when she decided to speak out publicly.
I listened to the audio version of this book and I think that was a good choice. She reads her own story and you can hear the emotions brought up. There is sadness for her lost life and anger at the people who deceived her. There is love for her family who decided to stand by her.
My only issue with the audio is that got slow in the middle. She spends a lot of time detailing growing up in Scientology. It was necessary information to have to understand what happened later but it didn’t keep my interest. I actually put this audio down for several months and didn’t intend to go back to it. I only listened again because I finished another book and didn’t have anything else with me while in the car. I’m glad I picked it back up. The last third of the book was very compelling.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Scientology or anyone who is in the mood for a different look at a celebrity memoir.
“London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity. Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.”
I love historical fiction and especially British historical fiction. I was thrilled to receive this book from my OTSP Secret Sister and had to read it immediately.
BBC radio was only allowed to broadcast during set hours and was not allowed to cover news. One of their most popular departments was Talks, headed by Hilda Matheson. It was unusual for a woman to be allowed to head a department. The head of the BBC, John Reith, was a very conservative man who asked all (male) applicants for executive positions two questions – Are you a Christian? and Do you have any character flaws?
He thought that Miss Matheson was too liberal in topics she wanted to cover. She also kept bringing in homosexuals to present topics. He did not approve but did seem strangely up to date on who had rumors circulating around about their sexuality. Their conflict was real and this novel examines their issues through the voice of Maisie, a secretary that they share. Reith warns her about being too ambitious and being exposed to the wrong kinds of people while working in the Talks department. Matheson encourages her to speak up and promote ideas for new shows. Eventually Maisie is enlisted by Matheson to spy on some new backers of the BBC who have ties to an increasingly unstable Germany.
Hilda Matheson was a fascinating woman who I’d never heard of before. She was a political secretary for Lady Astor, the first female Member of Parliament. Then she went to the BBC and after that she worked on the Africa Survey. She also became a radio critic and wrote a textbook on broadcasting. She was a lesbian who had relationships with several high society women in England. A book on her alone would have been fascinating.
There is spying, burgeoning feminism, the evolution of new technology, and arguments about censorship. What more could you want from one book?
“AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions of original (previously unpublished) works across Africa and abroad.”
Short story collections take me so long to read. I’ve had this book on my iPad for years. Here are some of my favorites.
Moom by Nnedi Okorafor – This is the short story that was reworked into the opening of her novel Lagoon. What if alien first contact on Earth was made by a swordfish?
Home Affairs by Sarah Lotz – I loved this story of a bureaucratic nightmare taking place in a modern city. When I think of African sci fi I tend to think of monsters and countryside. This turns those assumptions around and makes a nightmare out of the most annoying aspects of modern life – waiting in line.
The Sale by Tendai Huchu – Third world countries have been sold to corporations and citizens’ health is monitored at all times in these new perfect cities. But what if you want to rebel?
Planet X by S.A. Partridge – A new alien society has made contact and the people of Earth are afraid. One girl thinks that humans have more to fear from themselves than from the aliens.
Closing Time by Liam Kruger – Alcohol and time travel shouldn’t be taken together
“As the weeklong Taungbyon Festival draws near, thousands of villagers from all regions of Burma descend upon a tiny hamlet near Mandalay to pay respect to the spirits, known as nats, which are central to Burmese tradition. At the heart of these festivities is Daisy Bond, a gay, transvestite spiritual medium in his fifties. With his sharp tongue and vivid performances, he has long been revered as one of the festival’s most illustrious natkadaws. At his side is Min Min, his young assistant and lover, who endures unyielding taunts and abuse from his fiery boss. But when a young beggar girl named Pan Nyo threatens to steal Min Min’s heart, the outrageous Daisy finds himself face-to-face with his worst fears.”
I bought this book several years ago when I was trying to read books set in as many countries as possible. I had never seen any other books written by a Burmese author. I never got around to reading it though. I finally decided to get to it during the #diverseathon readathon. I’m glad I did.
I didn’t know anything about nats or the Taungbyon festival to honor these spirits in Myanmar. Worshippers, mostly women, come to the festival to promise the nats favors and offerings if they help their family in the coming year. The book opens with beautiful descriptions of some of the people coming to the festival – a pickpocket lamenting the poor pickings this year, a poor woman, and a rich woman. Once the stage is set, the story moves to Daisy Bond and Min Min.
Daisy is a natkadaw or spirit medium. He pretends to be possessed by a spirit to bestow blessings in exchange for cash. The women around him will hear about it if they don’t offer him enough cash too. Min Min is his “husband.” He acts as a manager for both Daisy’s career and house as well as being his lover. Daisy is very insecure about his relationship with Min Min. Daisy is in his 50s and Min Min is a teenager. Min Min also isn’t gay. Daisy bought him from his mother to serve this role in Daisy’s life. He knows Min Min isn’t happy and is afraid that he is planning on leaving. His paranoia is serving to push Min Min farther and farther away until he does make plans to get away from Daisy.
Here’s a video that shows what the festival looks like now.
This book is beautifully written and draws you into the festival that you’ve probably never heard of.
“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her. Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”
I loved the world building in this story!
A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns? Yes, please!
People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin. She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village. She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.
She has to go back to her village in the story. I thought this was well done. She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.
I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though. It was too insta-love for my tastes. Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari. There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building. They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.
Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making. If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that. You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around. Bossing you is her job. I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids. (Carnivorous mermaids! Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her. I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.
Just so we are clear – Kara is white. Mnemba is black. Let’s revisit that cover.
Yeah. Totally whitewashed. This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.
I loved the world. I loved Mnemba. She could do better than Kara.
“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”
I have a confession. I hate YouTube. If I am forced to watch a video because of a deep interest in the subject, it better be captioned so I don’t have to turn the sound on my iPad on. It is no wonder that I’d never heard of Zach Anner before reading this book. It is also a testament to my love for his story that I’ve watched several of his YouTube videos and shared them with others.
Zach has cerebral palsy which causes him to have limited fine motor skills and poor balance. He describes his legs as mostly decoration. He has a lazy eye and his eyes don’t track which makes it difficult for him to read. He also has a razor-sharp mind, a wild sense of humor, and the compulsive need to express himself through pop culture references. This leads to a laugh out loud funny memoir about the unexpected turns his life has taken.
The book is not organized chronologically. I appreciated that. How many memoirs have you read where you know something interesting happens in the author’s twenties but first you have to suffer through the minutia of their childhood for many, many chapters? Here we start on a high note. He entered an online competition to win a spot on a reality show on OWN, Oprah’s network. The prize? His own TV show on the network.
His video went viral when it was discovered on Reddit and adopted as the favorite by 4chan purely because of the spelling of his name. He went on to win his own travel show on OWN. From there you can only go downhill through cancellation and strangers asking, “Didn’t you used to be….?” in stores. He describes how he moved to YouTube to make the realistic traveling with disabilities show that he wanted to make.
Along the way we learn about his attempts to find love, his love for music, his time working at Epcot policing other people’s disabilities, and his failures in adaptive P.E. class in 4th grade. Each story is hysterical but ends with a life lesson that manages to be uplifting without being sappy.
This is best experienced by listening to the audiobook. Zach narrates it himself. I can’t imagine this book without his upbeat and charming narration or without listening to himself crack himself up retelling the adventures that he’s had.
One of the first videos Zach talks about making is this one where his friends torture him at a trampoline park. I had to look it up.
It is even funnier when you hear the background story of what went into making it.
I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE! Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook and step into Zach’s world.
“According to a magazine, Susie is a ‘Leftover’ – a post Bridget-Jones 30 something who has neither her dream man, job, nor home. She doesn’t even own six matching dinner plates. According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake, start online dating – or at least stop being so rude to every guy who tries to chat her up. But Susie’s got a plan. If she can just make it the 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream career in food, then surely everything else will fall into place.”
Susie is a girl after my own heart. She has a theory that every type of emotional turmoil can be cured by the application of just the right type of pasta.
She spends her days writing advertising copy for a company that doesn’t appreciate her. She’s counting the days until her promised promotion is here. With the bonus money she makes, she is leaving that job and going into food full time. In the meantime she is muddling through and obsessively watching her ex’s new girlfriend’s Instagram feed.
This is chick lit at its finest. The cover is even pink. I love books that combine food and a hint of romance.
The ending is one that any blogger will find themselves laughing out loud over (because it is so delightfully improbable but fun to imagine.)
There are also recipes for lots of types of pasta to full any need in your life.
Translated by Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, Anne McLean, and Ollie Brock
“The Polish Boxer covers a vast landscape of human experience while enfolding a search for origins: a grandson tries to make sense of his Polish grandfather’s past and the story behind his numbered tattoo; a Serbian classical pianist longs for his forbidden heritage; a Mayan poet is torn between his studies and filial obligations; a striking young Israeli woman seeks answers in Central America; a university professor yearns for knowledge that he can’t find in books and discovers something unexpected at a Mark Twain conference. Drawn to what lies beyond the range of reason, they all reach for the beautiful and fleeting, whether through humor, music, poetry, or unspoken words. Across his encounters with each of them, the narrator—a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon—pursues his most enigmatic subject: himself.”
I look for books from different countries of origin and every year I find that I’m lacking in Latin American books. I also am always on the lookout for books about Poland. I was thrilled and intrigued when I found a book by a Guatemalan author that referenced Poland.
This books is a series of interconnected stories. Like all short story collections, I felt like there was something that I was missing as I was reading this book. Short stories feel like there is a level of symbolism or intent just under the surface that leaves the reader feeling like they missed something important.
A college professor in Guatemala starts his introductory literature class on short stories. He doesn’t like his students because they don’t care about literature. Then he realizes that there is one student who does care. When that student drops out a few weeks later, he travels to his home in the country to find out why.
This story has little aside in it when a student named Ligia asks why all the writers were male.
“There are also no black writers, Ligia, or Asian writers, or midget writers, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one gay writer. I told her that my courses were politically incorrect, thank God. In other words, Ligia, they’re honest. Just like art. Great short story writers, period.”
So, in other words, my habit of specifically looking for books outside of my English-speaking American existence which led me to find this book, is stupid.
He goes to a seminar on Mark Twain where a real Mark Twain scholar makes fun of them all for overthinking.
He meets a Serbian pianist performing in Guatemala. The pianist is part Gypsy and admits that he’d rather be playing Gypsy music.
He meets an Israeli tourist in a bar. He admits that he is Jewish.
The Polish Boxer
How did his grandfather survive the camps?
He gets postcards from around the world from the Serbian pianist explaining Gypsy music until he suddenly disappears.
He decides to go hunting for the pianist.
He is in Serbia hunting for the pianist and trying to find out what does it mean when a Gypsy does a pirouette?
A Speech at Povoa
He needs to write a speech on literature tearing reality.
His grandfather dies and he finds out that maybe everything he thought he knew was a lie.
Did I like this book? I’m not sure. The writing was beautiful and could draw you in. The stories had some interesting moments. I liked The Polish Boxer and Postcards best. The Pirouette bored me out of my mind.
This book would be good for people interested in Latin American literature who enjoy lyrical writing.
“The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, forty percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service—more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. And the USPS has a storied history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing. Critics say it is slow and archaic. Mail volume is down. The workforce is shrinking. Post offices are closing.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the post office.
I’ve never understood how they can sort all that mail and get it to where it is going. If you told me that this was involved, I’d believe you.
That why I was so excited to listen to this book about the workings of the post office. I also had just visited the Smithsonian’s Post Office museum in Washington D.C. when I started the book. In all my visits to D.C. I had never known about this museum. It is right next to the train station.
Did you know?
Many of the major roads of the United States were laid out by mail carriers
Mail used to be delivered up to four times a day in U.S. cities
There have been a few times when mail volume got so high that the system collapsed
It was illegal for anyone other than the U.S. mail to deliver letters
The United States Postal Service is now an independent company that reports to the government instead of a government department
The Post Office is required to deliver everywhere. At times that has required mule trains to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, sled dog teams, and even reindeer. Mandatory rural delivery allowed farmers to get daily newspapers. This kept them informed of the best time to sell crops for the highest profit. It kept everyone in the country informed about events. The United States mail has helped to hold the country together.
I particularly liked learning about the mail trains. Specialist clerks rode these mobile sorting cars, picking up letters at high speed and getting them sorted before the next town. There was one of these mail cars in the museum and a video of former clerks showing their system of sorting. It was amazing. I also learned about Owney, the famous mail dog.
Technological advances have helped the mail be delivered faster and faster. Optical scanners were developed to read printed labels of bulk mailers and now can even read handwriting. After a few passes through the scanners, mail can be sorted into the order in which each carrier will deliver it. I think that’s just magical.
One thing that wasn’t covered at the museum but was well covered in the book was the Comstock Era. This is a time of strict censorship of the mail. Items that were judged to be obscene were not allowed. This included information on contraception. There was a lot of entrapment by postal inspectors who would order an item and then arrest the person who sent it.
Also not covered in the museum but talked about in the book was the wave of violence at post offices in the 1980s and 90s leading to the phrase “Going Postal.”
We all know the Post Office is having problems. First class mail is down as most people send emails instead of letters. The Post Office is not allowed to get involved in electronic forms in the U.S. by law, unlike in other countries. Amazon’s new partnership with them to deliver mail on Sundays is helping as is a renegotiation of the labor contracts of Post Office employees.
Those of us who love getting mail hope that they will find a way to survive and thrive.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who love learning about how everyday things work. The audio narration was very well done. The story moved quickly enough to keep my listening interest.
“Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.”
Zainab is getting a lot of attention as the very stylish spokeswoman for a candidate known for speaking her mind without checking with her advisors first. This makes her a perfect target for a rising star in conservative talk radio. A Republican’s advisor is Muslim? Chase Holland doesn’t even have to think hard to turn his audience’s outrage on. He doesn’t count on liking Zainab when he meets her though.
Amra works long hours to secure her promised partnership at a law firm. When her family surprises her with a reintroduction to a family friend’s son, she is outraged. However they hit it off. She hides her workaholic tendencies from him and this leads to difficulties as the relationship gets serious.
This book also features Hayden, a white woman who converts to Islam and is convinced that the South Asian Muslim women she knows aren’t following the religion correctly. She is influenced by a very conservative Muslim woman and enters into an arranged marriage with that woman’s son. The author is a convert too so it is interesting to get that perspective.
An attempted terrorist attack brings these women’s carefully balanced lives to the brink of chaos. Zainab is feeling the political pressure of being forced to apologize for something she had nothing to do with. Amra’s conflicted desires for her job and her family lead her to the breaking point. Hayden realizes that she may have been lead astray by those who she has been modeling her new life on.
“Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.
A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.”
There is a lot going on in this book. There is a relationship between Annie and Julia. There is the mystery of the vandalism. There is tension between Julia and her fiance. Annie is trying to find a recipe book of her mother’s. It is a bit too much taken all together. What stuck with me was this:
This book is the story of two people who were raised together but who see the world completely differently because of their racial and class backgrounds.
Annie is Hispanic and working class. She lived in an upper class world but never was allowed to forget that she was the daughter of a servant.
Julia is white and upper class. She can’t understand why Annie is still bitter from her experiences in high school. She hasn’t thought about that in years.
Julia is looking for a diversion for a year and offers Annie the chance to open her dream bakery. Despite her reservations Annie agrees because this is the only way she will ever receive funding. They can’t even agree on where to open it. Annie insists on the Mission but Julia is convinced that is a dangerous, lower class area. When the bakery is vandalized repeatedly during construction it seems like Julia may have been right.
“When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.
When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew.”
Ellie has always wanted to bake for a living but her parents have encouraged her to get a steady and reliable job. Now she has a chance to run a seasonal tea shop in a castle in the northeast part of England. She is even allowed to live in – a fact that horrifies her mother. She doesn’t see how Ellie will survive in a remote area that is *gasp* over an hour drive from her parents’ house. Ah, bless the British and their warped sense of distance. It always makes me laugh in books when they discussed drives that Americans would do without thought to go to a restaurant as epic adventures requiring careful planning lest disaster fall upon them.
The owner of the castle isn’t a fan of business or of letting people come traipsing around his family home. He needs the money to keep the place up though. The castle isn’t a huge tourist attraction so keeping it afloat and learning how to make a small tea shop profitable isn’t easy.
Soon Ellie is scraping by and mostly eating left over pastries for every meal. She doesn’t want to admit to her parents that things aren’t going well. She determined to make a go of her little tea shop.
I couldn’t sleep one night and downloaded and read this book all in one sitting. It was sweet and cute. It was perfect for a light read. I would recommend this for any chick lit or light romance fans or anyone who ever dreamed of quitting their job and cooking for a living.
I’m jealous of British high tea. You can’t get anything like it around here. I torture myself by following Kelly Michelle on Twitter. She has gluten free high tea a lot. I just look at her pictures and drool. I’m going to Washington DC in July and you can get afternoon tea at a few of the fancy hotels. I’m taking the opportunity while I’m there.
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Just Mercy had been on my radar for a while but I didn’t decide to pick it up until it was the first pick for the social justice book club hosted by Entomology of a Bookworm. I listened to the audiobook. It was narrated by the author and he did a good job of telling his story.
The story begins with the author setting up a branch of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. The goal is to help people on death row have legal representation.
The case of Walter McMillan is used to explain to the readers how our justice system can go horribly wrong.
Walter McMillan was convicted of a murder even though he was far away from the murder scene with a large group of people, the person who accused him couldn’t identify him in a room, and the truck he was supposedly driving had its transmission rebuilt that day at the time of the murder.
Other cases are discussed throughout the book. Another focus of the author’s is the plight of children who were tried as adults and received life sentences without the possibility of parole. One of the people featured had been kept in solitary confinement for decades. He was caught in a loop of self harming because he was isolated and every time he self harmed he had more time added in solitary.
Sometimes helping someone is making sure seemingly logical things are done like housing young children away from the adult prison population so they aren’t raped.
The author also does a good job of explaining how entire communities are involved in cases of wrongful convictions. He talks a lot with the family and friends of the accused but I would have also been interested to see how finding out that the person in jail for a family member’s murder was innocent affected the victim’s family. There was just one brief interaction about this.
Aside from any discussion of the ethics of capital punishment there is one thing that I just don’t understand. How is it possible to mess up lethal injection as horribly as seems to be happening? I guess I have an unusual perspective on this because euthanasia is an important part of my job. It is easy to do without causing pain and suffering. Why can’t people figure it out? I guess a large part of the problem is that doctors aren’t allowed to be involved. Changing that would probably solve the issue instead of letting untrained personnel do it. But still, books and articles are published in the veterinary literature all the time. Do some study. Get it right if you are going to do it. /rant
A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond...
The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.
I received Air Awakens from my OTSP Secret Sister. I had heard that it was good but didn’t know much about it. I figured this was a good time to start reading the series because I thought the last book was just released. Turns out that book 4 was just released and there is a book 5 that is coming out in July.
I ended up binging on the first three books over the course of 2 days. I finally made myself stop before reading book 4. I loved this world and this story. I was totally immersed in it. You know how when you are deep in a story and you start thinking in the author’s style of writing. That was me. I had to force myself to come back to the real world for a while.
The books all end with cliff hangers too. Actually in one case it is falling off of a cliff. I knew that if I read book four and there was no option to find out what happened, I wasn’t going to be happy. I had to make the decision to stop instead of it being made for me.
In the first book, Air Awakens, Vhalla is a library apprentice who more comfortable with books than people. When she is called upon to help research a cure for a curse put on a prince it is discovered that she possesses magic. Magic users are powerful but are shunned by most of society so she doesn’t want to be magical. But now that her magic is starting to manifest itself she doesn’t have a choice. She is trained by the Prince himself because he realizes that she has an affinity for working with Air. There hasn’t been a sorcerer with that affinity since they were all slaughtered in a war one hundred years ago. They were considered too dangerous and even now some powerful people aren’t sure that Vhalla should be allowed to live.
Ok, so I’m moving to the next book so this might get a little spoilery. You’ve been warned.
To contain Vhalla’s power she has been made property of the crown and is being sent into the war as a weapon of mass destruction. She doesn’t want to go to war. In her mind she’s still a librarian. But she needs to learn to use her power to survive and to protect her friends who are marching with her.
Usually I hate, hate, hate romances in books. That goes double for romances in YA books. I think they are awful. This is one of the few romances that I actually love. The chemistry between the characters is incredible.
The Prince is greviously injured and Vhalla is the only one who will be able to save him. The lengths she goes to illustrates for everyone how much she loves him. His father is not having this so he tightens his control over Vhalla. Now she realizes that she will never be able to earn her freedom from him.
OMG, the ending! Nope. Nope. Nope. This is why I had to make a conscious decision to walk away after 2 days of nonstop reading. I needed to know what happened but if there is an ending like that in book 4 with no way to read book 5 yet, I would not be happy. Right now I’m telling myself that I used my will power to walk away.