Category: Review


Books I’ve Recently Read – Nonfiction!

Posted 3 May, 2017 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 18 Comments

Tags: ,

Books I've Recently Read

 

We meet again! While blogging hasn’t been high on my to do list over the past couple of months, I have been enjoying books. Now that I’m working every day, I’ve added audiobooks back into my rotation…for the days that I’m not listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (yes, still). I’m only in the car about 40 minutes a day, but every so often I’ll put on my earbuds while cooking dinner (if I’m not in charge of any littles) or while cleaning up around the house for some bonus listening time.

Below are three books that I listened to late last year…that all happen to be nonfiction. Nonfiction is definitely my go-to on audio–I find that I can usually get into the book more quickly than listening to fiction where it’ll take me hours to be invested (ahem Lonesome Dove ahem). For better or worse, it also doesn’t seem so detrimental to my experience if I zone out a few times here and there, though I think that I tend to stay more focused on nonfiction than fiction on audio. My mind doesn’t wander quite as much.

 

isaac's storm book cover

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

Audio Narrator: Richard Davidson | Audio Duration: 9 hrs and 38 mins
Published: 1999 | Pages: 323 | Genre: Nonfiction/History
On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: In 1900 a hurricane swept over Galveston Island (in Texas) and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. Isaac’s Storm follows Isaac Cline, the Weather Service Director, and how he and others failed to recognize the danger of the city as the hurricane approached from the Caribbean. Because this happened over a century ago, this event has always felt so far away in history but Larson put a human face on the disaster by including many first hand accounts from the days leading up to the hurricane to the weeks after.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Audio was a great format for Isaac’s Storm. Richard Davidson’s narration reminded me a lot of Edward Herrmann’s narrations and I had to keep checking to make sure it wasn’t him (Herrmann did narrate the abridged version). I wasn’t quite as captivated by this book as I was The Devil and the White City, but it was still a fascinating listen. After listening, I found myself scouring the internet for pictures of Galveston before and after the hurricane. I had no idea that Galveston was such an up and coming city in the 1800s. Sadly the hurricane had a great affect on its status as a major gulf port.

 

h is for hawk book cover

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Audio Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
Published: 2014 | Pages: 300 | Genre: Memoir

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: In short, H is for Hawk is about Macdonald’s journey through grief after her father’s passing and her relationship with her hawk Mabel whom she trains during that time. The book is part reflection on her emotions and existence after her father’s death and part field guide on what it takes to train a hawk. She also throws in some biographical information on the author TH White (The Sword in the Stone) and his experience with training goshawks.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: H is for Hawk is one of the most amazing audios I’ve listened to, even though the actual subject wasn’t always interesting to me. I don’t know how else to explain that and I realize how ridiculous it sounds. Macdonald’s voice was like a salve and I soaked in it.  I’d listen to it again…but it’s one of those that I can’t automatically recommend because the subject doesn’t seem universally interesting? But please give it a try, and if it feels a little slow at first just let her words wash over you. The writing is gorgeous.

 

As You Wish Book Cover

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Audio Narrator: Elwes and other cast | Audio Duration:  7 hrs and 1 min
Published: 2014 | Pages: 259 | Genre: Memoir

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Cary Elwes, who plays Westley in the classic movie The Princess Bride, reminisces about the making of film. He brings in the remembrances of other cast members to provide a full picture. He starts with the the failed productions and conceptions of The Princess Bride to how the cast was put together, to how the film became a surprise cult classic.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: I smiled from ear to ear while I was listening to As You Wish. I loved hearing all the tidbits and gossip surrounding the production and actors/actresses. It was fun to learn that Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally pinned as The Giant (later went to Andre the Giant) and that Elwes and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo) took very serious swordfighting lessons to make their scenes as authentic as possible. And so much more. If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride, you must listen to this book. The paper copy is great and has pictures, but you won’t regret choosing audio for this one.

 

*Amazon and Indiebound links are affiliate. If you purchase anything through those links, I will receive a small commission which will help support this blog. Thank you!

 

If I didn’t think your eyes were starting to glaze over, I’d also include little write-ups for The Happiness Project (which I’ve now listened to twice) and Evicted (which was so eye-opening). Maybe next time. ;)

Have you listened to anything fabulous lately??

Signature

Divider

Unlatched by Jennifer Grayson

Posted 28 September, 2016 by Trish in Mommyhood, Reading Nook, Review / 10 Comments

Tags: ,

 

Unlatched cover by jennifer grayson

 

Title: Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy
Author: Jennifer Grayson
Published: 2016 Pages: 336 | Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: Breastfeeding. It’s complicated!

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

My sister asked me the other day at what age I thought it was inappropriate for a child to still be nursing. Had I not just finished Unlatched, I don’t know what my answer would have been. The short answer I gave her was “I don’t know…it’s complicated!”

And that’s what makes Unlatched such an interesting read. Grayson goes into some of the history of breastfeeding and how views of breastfeeding have changed over the past century. These days it feels taboo to discuss breastfeeding, depending on the audience, and it certainly isn’t something that most women choose to do in public, despite it being the most natural way to feed an infant. How did breastfeeding become such a source of controversy? Why are mommies at war with one another over breastfeeding versus formula feeding?

I read Unlatched mostly while I breastfed my 8 month old babe or while I pumped breastmilk at work, because that’s when I get much of my reading in these days. Even though I am a breastfeeding mom, I had many conflicted thoughts while reading this book and at the beginning was incredibly turned off by Grayson’s tone and point of view. I mean, the second chapter of the book is entitled “What Would Baby Jesus Drink?” Cue the eyerolling. I formula-fed my first baby and felt so much guilt over it and it is very clear that Grayson is very pro-breastfeeding (she weaned her oldest at four years).

The breadth of the book is quite expansive and at times I felt like it was a little too wide. She covers breastfeeding in ancient times through the Industrial Revolution. She gives a lot of focus to when mothers began working outside of the home in the 1800s and the great effect this had on breastfeeding in the 1900s. She talks about the advent of formula and how formula marketing has played such a large role in breastfeeding and its public perception. She talks about the Women Infant Children program and the government involvement with formula companies and WIC.

Grayson also talks about the benefits of breastfeeding as well as some of the mysteries, but this is where I wanted more information. She dropped a bomb in my lap that breastmilk is actually a tissue. What the what? What does this even mean? She doesn’t expand and I couldn’t find any information online. She strongly believes that if more babies were breastfed that our national health would increase as a whole. But is there that much research to substantiate this huge claim? She didn’t convince me.

There’s SO MUCH. SO MUCH. There’s the idea that breastfeeding is now something that is tied to privilege–if you can stay at home with your child then yay for you. But this also assumes that you’re able to nurse with other littles around. Or that you have the flexibility and support system. Or that it comes easy to you. Breastfeeding is hard!

Which then leads into the discussion of how breastfeeding is handled in hospitals. My own experiences between my first and second baby were very different. No one mentioned putting the baby to my breast right after I had her the first time around–I had to ask the nurses when I should start trying to feed her. Rooming arrangements were also different between the first and third. With my first, she was only brought into my room to nurse. By my third baby, she never left my side for one second during our entire stay in the hospital. The presence (or lack) of formula, pacifiers, and lactation consultants varied each time.

She talks about how the women in 18th century France shipped off their babies to farms to be breastfed by others. Or the “mass infanticide” that occurred in Britain and Ireland when babies were not breastfed by their mothers (what?!). She talks about how the normal breastfeeding range is 2-7 years. Though I’m not sure exactly where this is happening. She talks about pumping and how the return to work is affecting our babies. Of course this also goes hand in hand with maternity leave–or the lack of it. This third time around, I’m lucky to work the hours that I do around breastfeeding and pumping. I know from my first corporate job that this is rarely the case for working mothers.

So yes, in many ways I really connected with Unlatched and it was a read that I found compelling. But the delivery of Grayson’s message was often tough to swallow. I spent the first half of the book exasperated with the way that she was trying to sell breastfeeding. Additionally, the first couple of chapters in the book felt unorganized and the information seemed conflicting. Grayson made a lot of claims but it wasn’t always clear whether these claims were founded in actual research or supposition.

The second half of the book was much more polished and felt more relevant to the conversations we need to be having about breastfeeding–how formula companies have evolved and how more research can be done to uncover some of the mysteries of breastmilk. These articles from around the web are snippets from the book if you’d like to get a taste of the writing style and content. ‘The World’s Oldest Profession’ Might Not Be What You ThinkIs It Time To Stop Talking About The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?Breast milk is best and free, so why is it a luxury for American moms?

I know, I know, this post is already a 1,000 words long…likely the longest book post I’ve written (not to mention the essay I wrote on my own breastfeeding journey), but here are a few of the passages I highlighted throughout the book (and there were many).

“But the truth is that while the rooting and sucking reflexes are hardwired in a baby, a mother’s knowledge of how to breastfeed is not. For humans and members of the larger primate order to which we belong, that knowledge is culturally based and it is largely learned” (loc 234). But then “…for thousands, perhaps millions, of years of human history, breastfeeding was a natural, intuitive experience that all Homo sapiens and previous human ancestors had shared and knew intimately” (loc 271).

“The federal government’s Women, Infants, and Children program, also known as WIC (which provides supplemental foods as well as health assistance to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children under the age of five), buys and distributes more than half of all the infant formula sold in the United States every year, making the US government the formula manufacturers’ biggest customer” (loc 347).

“And many soon came to see formula as preferable in an era when doctors believed that breastfeeding could only be successful under ideal conditions: if the mother had ample daily exercise; if she drank prescribed quantities of water; if she followed a plain diet; if she abstained from tea, coffee, and alcohol; if she wasn’t stressed in any way. The bottle, unlike the breast, was predictable and measurable” (loc 1439).

“Yet here’s the crux of the problem: in a culture where both men and women automatically think sex when they see a naked breast, it is a real challenge for a mother to whip out one of those sexually loaded things every time she needs to feed her kid” (loc 2623).

“But maybe we should stop talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and instead start considering the risks of not breastfeeding, since I’m certainly not fine. Are you fine? Are we—an overweight nation of chronically ill, medicine-dependent formula feeders—fine?” (loc 3637…Grayson was formula fed as an infant).

“But in the United States, we’ve championed pumping to the exclusion of giving a new mother the time to bond with her newborn, by packing her off to work with a health care–sponsored breast pump and zero paid maternity leave” (loc 3856).

 

Bottom Line: Whew. I still have so many more thoughts and the more I think about it, the more the breastfeeding question continues to complicate itself in my mind. Do I wish that more mothers would consider breastfeeding their babies? Yes–absolutely! Do I think that mothers should feel less guilt over not being able to breastfeed? Yes–absolutely! It’s not clear-cut for me. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Is this a book for everyone? No. Is it a perfect piece of journalism? No–I think Grayson’s book is flawed in many ways. But I do think that as uncomfortable this conversation is to have, we should be talking about breastfeeding more than we are.

 

Signature

Divider

Books Recently Read – Post-Apocalypse Edition

Posted 5 August, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 15 Comments

Tags:

Books I've Recently Read

 

We all have our preferred reading topics and post-apocalyptic is definitely not one that I gravitate towards. Except surprisingly almost a quarter of the books I’ve read this year are set after an apocalypse. What strikes me about all of these books, is how different they are from one another (The Fireman and I Am Legend are two no included in this post). They’ve also all been optioned for movies, so I guess post-apocalyptic books are here to stay. Well, I Am Legend was published in 1954 so it was ahead of the game.

Even if you’re not a fan of post-apocalyptic books, the three below are ones that I think would be widely enjoyed. Especially Station Eleven, though your next best bet is The Girl With All the Gifts. Annihilation is a thrill-ride and a lot of fun.

 

Girl With All the GiftsTitle: The Girl With All the Gifts | Author: M.R. Carey
Published: 2014 | Pages: 460 | Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: Unputdownable!

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads  | On Audible

In Short: Melanie goes to school like many other children her age, but they probably don’t enter the classroom the way that she does–strapped to a wheelchair with a gun pointed at the back of her head. She doesn’t realize exactly what makes her different from normal children, but little does she know that outside of the confines of her boarding school, the world has been ravaged by Hungries.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: You know how much I hate spoilers, but we all know what makes Melanie different, right? Do NOT let this put you off from the book. Melanie is a character you will want to root for every step of the suspenseful journey through this post-apocalyptic story. I was constantly amazed by how I was drawn into the narrative and enjoyed the writing. I was sad when the book was over. Read it! Even if you think it’s not up your alley.

“Because the air is warm, and it’s breathing; moving against Melanie’s skin like something that’s alive. And the light is so intense it’s like someone dipped the world into a barrel of oil and set it alight.”

 

 

AnnihilationTitle: AnnihilationAuthor: Jeff VanderMeer
Published: 2014 | Pages: 208 | Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: Mind-freaking-trip

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads  | On Audible

In Short: Area X is a mostly uncharted but bounded territory that has been overtaken by the wild. Several expeditions have gone and failed to map the area, and in Annihilation we follow Expedition Twelve through the narration of the biologist. The biologist is accompanied by three other women (the psychologist, the surveyor, and the anthropologist), and it’s clear from the beginning that their expedition will likely not end any more successfully than those before it.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Annihilation is an incredible mind trip–my brain was spinning from the first page (in fact I had to start and stop it a few times until I was ready to concentrate) and the whirlwind continued until the end. Of course this is the first in a trilogy so many more questions are raised throughout the book than answers are provided for. It was a fast-paced read and I enjoyed every moment of it–even if my dreams were a bit vivid. However, I tried to continue with the trilogy and the book couldn’t hold my interest. At 40% I gave it up. This seems to be a pretty common sentiment with other readers. So, pick up at your own risk! Annihilation will not leave you with any satisfying answers.

“Area X broke minds, I felt, even though it hadn’t yet broken mine. A line from a song kept coming back to me: All this useless knowledge.”

 

 

station elevenTitle: Station Eleven | Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: 2014 | Pages: 336 | Genre: Fiction
Rating: A refreshing spin on post-apoc

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads  | On Audible

In Short: Civilization as we know it has ended but a troupe of actors and musicians travels from village to village bringing a bit of humanity with them. The current storyline alternates with the apocalypse as it happens and the reader follows a variety of characters throughout the book–their relationships are sometimes tenuous but one of the strengths of Station Eleven is watching the puzzle pieces fit together.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Station Eleven is a book that I pleasure delayed reading for a long time. Everyone loves the book and I knew that I would likely love it too but then it would be over and I wouldn’t have the anticipation of reading it anymore. I know you understand. I so enjoyed this book and while it was a bit tough for me to get into, I quickly became intrigued by the characters and the storyline. What I loved most about Station Eleven is that it shows the apocalypse happening. Most times the reader only sees the aftermath and is left to wonder just how the world crumbled. I loved actually seeing some of the more logistical pieces among the human stories.

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

 

Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic books? I’d love to hear what your favorites are!

Signature

 

 

 

Facebook

Hey Hey! Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is finally on Facebook!

Divider

Books I’ve Recently Read | Magic Edition

Posted 26 May, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments

Tags: , ,

Books I've Recently Read

Way back in March (I swear that was like a week ago), Kristen from We Be Reading hosted a little party called March Magics. Every year she dedicates March to Diana Wynne Jones, and with Terry Pratchett’s passing she decided to add him to the month.

I’ve had Mort on my shelf for years, and I heard quite a bit about Fire and Hemlock from other bloggers during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so I knew I needed to participate. Both books were good fun and I enjoyed them both–though they were very different from each other. If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read these yet or you’re looking to expand your reading horizon a bit, go ahead and add both to your list to read (but if you’re going to choose one, I’d vote for Mort).

 

Fire and Hemlock

TitleFire and HemlockAuthor: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1984 | Pages: 341 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: Curious and Curiouser (in a good way)

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

In Short: As a child, Polly wanders into a a funeral in an old mansion near her grandmother’s house. Although it is clear she does not belong, she befriends a young man, Thomas Lynn, with whom she forms a strange friendship. As Polly looks back on her childhood, she is not always sure how true some of her hidden fantastical memories really are. Could it really be that she and Thomas Lynn had the ability to imagine something and have it become part of reality?

Bottom Line and Recommendation: I read Fire and Hemlock for Kristen’s March Magics after seeing it mentioned several times during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I’ve only read one other DWJ book (Howl’s Moving Castle), so I assumed this book would be about witches and warlocks and all kinds of different hocus pocus magic. What I received instead was an intriguing little story for which I didn’t quite understand what was going on but I was compelled to continue.

Fire and Hemlock was a curious and fun ride, and one that made me think and ponder quite a bit. I was especially struck by two thoughts as I read: the fascinating way in which a child’s mind works to make connections between fantasy and reality and the way that we remember our past in tandem with how our past actually occurred. Memory is an amazing thing–even if it isn’t always reliable. Recommendation? I’m not sure that I can recommend Fire and Hemlock widely–it is often a very strange read, but it’s a great way to dip your toes into fantasyland.

 

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Title: Mort | Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1987 | Pages: 316 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Death is always good fun!

On Amazon | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Young Mort is offered an apprenticeship with Death–yes, the grim reaper who ushers individuals into their next life after they die. While Mort is given more and more responsibility, Death decides to take a little vacation from his duties to see what this “living” thing is all about. Meanwhile Mort decides to play with the fates when he decides a certain princess might not be quite ready for the next world. Pandemonium ensues. Because of course!

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Are you like me and find the Discworld series to be a bit overwhelming? So many books! So many threads! This is my third Discworld book (after having read and enjoyed the first two in the series), and even though a few years have passed since I read those I was able to dive into this one without any problems. Well, except that I find Pratchett sometimes difficult to read. He doesn’t use chapter breaks, his writing is sometimes colloquial, and the paragraphs are metaphor rich that sometimes make my head spin.

But but but, Pratchett is also a delight to read (despite the head spinning) and I find myself chuckling quite a bit at the nonsense or astuteness of his social commentary. Mort was an enjoyable read, even if I have trouble wrapping my brain around fantasy plots sometimes–there was a lot of talk about alternate time and space and woooooo my brain is tired from newborning and a lot of the book went over my head. If you’re a fan of fantasy, satire, or just general fun, Mort is definitely a book to pick up.

A (nonspoilery) taste:

History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved into a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time (150).

There should be a word for the microscopic spark of hope that you dare not entertain in case the mere act of acknowledging it will cause it to vanish, like trying to look at a photon. You can only sidle up to it, looking past it, walking past it, waiting for it to get big enough to face the world (280).

*Amazon and Indiebound links are affiliate. If you purchase anything through those links, I will receive a small commission which will help support this blog. Thank you!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you a fantasy fan? Any go to authors I should add to my list?

Signature

Divider

Graphic Novel Reviewlettes 2

Graphic Novel Reviewlettes 2

  By the way, have I mentioned how glad I am that it’s March? I’m not thrilled that we didn’t have a single hard freeze this year (zomg the bugs we’ll have this summer!), but the trees are in bloom and budding and the weather is getting warmer and we’ve even had our first round of spring storms. Bring on spring!! Below you’ll find snippets for the second half of my Comics in February month. […]

Posted 10 March, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 9 Comments
Divider

Graphic Novel Reviewlettes

Graphic Novel Reviewlettes

Well, Comics February is almost to an end–we have a bonus day this year with leap day and I might try to squeeze in one more read. I always love this month and this month was an especially good one with some great comics. I tried to keep my thoughts on each as brief as possible, but since that was impossible I’m splitting up this post into two. Y’all keep me on track to actually […]

Posted 28 February, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 14 Comments
Divider

Books I’ve Recently Read | February Edition

Books I’ve Recently Read | February Edition

Hi! I was able to knock three books out of the park last month–mostly thanks to being able to read on my phone as I nurse the babe in the wee hours of the night. Now that I have a little more energy than I did a month ago, my time is being split in different directions, but I’m still keeping a book close by at all times! Do you ever read on your phone? […]

Posted 10 February, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments
Divider

Books I’ve Recently Read | Nonfiction November

Books I’ve Recently Read | Nonfiction November

  Oh hi! Look at that! A book post! I’m not going to go into the whole “Ugh I’m so tired this pregnancy is kicking my butt” song and dance, but if I disappear for a few days (or more) that’s likely why. Because OMG I’m so tired and this pregnancy is kicking my butt. I keep meaning to get some posts drafted up, but then hours pass and I look at the clock and wonder […]

Posted 25 November, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments
Divider

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Title: ‘Salem’s Lot Author: Stephen King Narrator: Ron McLarty | Audio Duration: 17 hrs, 35 mins Published: 1975 | Pages: 483 Genre: Horror–woooooo! Rating: Wheeeeeee!!! On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible In Short: In the sleepy town of ‘salem’s Lot, Maine, there’s been a lot of bloodsucking fun going on! Why I Read/Listened: Why, for the #SalemAlong of course! Several months ago Melissa and I were chatting about how we’ve both […]

Posted 30 October, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 10 Comments
Divider

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

  Title: Everything I Never Told You Author: Celeste Ng Narrator: Cassandra Campbell | Audio Duration: 10 hr, 1 min Published: 2014 | Pages: 320 | Genre: Fiction Rating: Quiet, Absorbing, Beautiful On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible In Short: Lydia is dead–or so the novel begins. The teenage middle child of the Lee family is found drowned and as the family tries to piece together what may have happened, their […]

Posted 13 October, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments
Divider