Wednesday, December 31, 2014

5 most popular posts from this year

TanyaAndi and are doing a fun December activity and I will be participating occasionally. Might be a nice change from the usual.

Today's is to highlight your 5 most popular posts from the year! As a scale for "popular" I did the most views.

5. Book Review: The Secret of Raven Point  (A girl becomes a nurse to try to find her brother who is missing on the Italian Front. Also people having sex in a minefield. Not a good idea!)

4.Book Review: The Bone Church (A couple on the run from the Nazis. Set in Prague. Super nice author.)

3.Bloggiesta Challenge: Pinterest for your book blog (Confession: I can't remember my login for this so I haven't updated in a long time. Don't be like me!)

2. Social Media Etiquette Challenge (Don't be a jerk to anyone ever. Full stop)

1.Book Review: The Great Divide (A family tries to get to South Africa out of Europe. There is also jewelry in pastries. And another nice author).

I love that Great Divide is the most popular one and it's so early on in the blog life that it's basically a wreck. We've come a long way baby! (I think, I hope! haha) Also, it's not a surprise to me that a lot of them are associated with Bloggiestas or book tours but I think it's interesting that the one review that isn't is just kind of random. And all the books are WWII related which helps explain why I have WWII book burnout. I have no idea what that means but I'll go with it!

a month of favorites event GirlXoxo

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reading Totals for 2014

Here's (I think) all the books that I read in 2014. To be honest I got sick of it so I'm probably short some. If you're so so so interested look at my goodreads :) I took out travel books and cookbooks.I started to put the goodreads links in all of them but it was taking a really long time and making me hate my life so I stopped (sorry!) Ones I really enjoyed I highlighted!

Botticelli's Bastard

Prayers for the Stolen

Sinful Folk

Love: The Saint and the Seeker

Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidic Jews

A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up

A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France

The Sea House

Hold the Dark

October Sky

While Beauty Slept

Four: A Divergent Story Collection (Divergent, #0.1 - 0.4)

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

In the Shadow of No Towers

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

Stevenson's Treasure

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker's Journey


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou's Autobiography #1)

The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love

The Life of Corgnelius and Stumphrey: The Cutest Corgis in the World

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

The Undertaking

The Supernatural Enhancements


Beyond the Pasta; Recipes, Language and Life with an Italian Family

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite

How To Be a Heroine

Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness

100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go

Station Eleven

Chateau of Secrets

The Pilgrim's Regress

Rumble Yell: Discovering America's Biggest Bike Ride

The Butterfly and the Violin (Hidden Masterpiece, #1)

Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship

A Year in the Merde



Past Encounters

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

The Golem's Mighty Swing


The Giant's House

Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling

The String Diaries

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

The Accidental Time Machine

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley

Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers, (Snow Piercer, #2)

The Escape (Snowpiercer, #1)

Alias Hook

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes

The Duel for Consuelo

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Ordinary Grace

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate


Breakfast at Tiffany's

The World Without Us

Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories

O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1)

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)

Defiance (Resistance, #2)

Victory (Resistance, #3)

The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your
Amazing Body

A Bag of Marbles

The Bone Church

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

My Hands Came Away Red

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

The Martian

Resistance (Resistance, #1)

The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War

A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Hospital of the Transfiguration

American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning

All the Light We Cannot See

All That Is Solid Melts into Air

The Uninvited

Crazy Love


Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and
Madness from Romanov Russia

The Children of Hurin (Middle-Earth Universe)

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)

Flowers for Algernon

Zone One

The Night Bookmobile

Ms. Understood: Rebuilding the Feminine Equation

Unravelling Oliver

24 Hours Dublin

The Harlem Hellfighters

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2)

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)


Worst Seat in the House: Henry Rathbone's Front Row View of the Lincoln Assassination

All the Birds, Singing

The End of Plagues: The Global Battle Against Infectious Disease

The Fever

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

The Quick

The Long Walk

The Enchanted

Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone

Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain

Previously Loved Treasures (Serendipity #2)


Bald New World

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris

World of Trouble (The Last Policeman, #3)

Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made

Making the Case for Christianity: Responding to Modern Objections

Burial Rites

The Wolves in the Walls

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count

Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Once Upon a River

Mississippi River Tragedies: A Century of Unnatural Disaster

The Cartographer of No Man's Land

Run, Don't Walk: The Curious and Chaotic Life of a Physical Therapist Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)

The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

Russian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot
French Ghosts, Russian Nights, and American Outlaws: Souvenirs of a Professional Vagabond

Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

Sea Change

The Astronaut Wives Club

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

The Dog Stars

The Paris Architect

American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton

The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery

Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow

At Least You're in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent, #1)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

The Taste of Apple Seeds: A Novel

Bring the Jubilee

The Secret of Raven Point

I Shall be Near to You

Shovel Ready (Spademan, #1)

Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties: One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships

The Northern Lights: The True Story of the Man Who Unlocked the Secrets of the Aurora Borealis

Never Cry Wolf

My Ãntonia

The Joy Luck Club

Zen in the Art of Writing

Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) 

Gibbin House

Mistaken Enemy

I'm Off Then

The Master and Margarita

Mr. Chartwell

Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread Fifty Books You Haven't Touched Since High School

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

The Returned

The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo

The Things They Carried

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings

Burn (Pure, #3)

The Circle

Dear Girls Above Me: Inspired by a True Story

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman

Under the Tuscan Sun

Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters

Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo

The Alteration

The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya

Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure

People of the Book

The Absence of Nectar

The Paintings That Revolutionized Art

The One (Selection #3)

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid

Dancing With the Enemy: My Family's Holocaust Secret

The Sandman, Vol. 10: The Wake (The Sandman #10)

A Voyage for Madmen

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Worlds We Make (Fallen World, #3)

Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages

The Visible World

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary

The Beach

St Lucys Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan

Unnatural Selection

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans


Heart of Darkness

The Resurrectionist

What if?

Your Life Still Counts

Four Seasons in Rome

Evil Under the Sun

The Langoliers

Jurassic Park

The Silent Sister

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

The Oblate's Confession

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Girl with the Flammable Skirt

Wicked Plants

Friday, December 26, 2014

Quirk Book Reviews

My dear friends at Quirk Books have sent me a couple of books recently, and having read them all I thought I'd group all the reviews into one handy little post. Thanks Eric and company at Quirk!

 "Stars and Swipes:30 Awkward Postcards of Awkward Americana" and "Hugs and Misses: 30 Postcards of Awkward Romance". These aren't really books though. They're hilarious postcards in a cute, self contained package. They're by Wilhelm Staehle, and they are funny. Like laughing by yourself funny.

(The day I got these I was supposed to be making dinner,but when I saw these had come in the mail I started reading them and then time kind of got away from me and I kind of had to lie to my husband about why there was only a half finished dinner even though I'd been home for like an hour...yeah never mind that.)

You can check out his website with even more hilarity here.  Jack the Tripper? Caspar the friend zone ghost?

I've already pulled certain postcards out of the romance book to be sent as Valentine's Day cards. Because Valentine's Day should be about snark between friends and loved ones.

I really don't want to spoil any of them for you, because they are all hilarious so I'm only posting one:
I'd like to be in this gang.

That's all you're getting! Go to the website for more!

Check out Quirk's website for more information about the books!

The other book is going in a completely opposite direction, so brace yourself!

"The Resurrectionist: The Lost Works of Dr Spencer Black" by E.B. Hudspeth is a book unlike anything I'd ever read. The book is broken down into 2 different parts.The first is the story of Dr Spencer Black. He had a childhood that included nocturnal graveyard robbing with his dad and brother. (The family that plays together...) He is incredibly smart and becomes a gifted doctor in the Philadelphia area. He takes on hard cases, like amputating the limbs off of kids who have extra ones for whatever reason. The kids are often neglected or hidden away by their families, but Dr Black things they are special. He thinks that these people don't have genetic mutations, they are descendants of creatures of myth like mermaids or centaurs This becomes his life's work. Thiiiiings don't necessarily go well.

The second part of the book is part of Spencer's life work. Incredibly detailed anatomical drawings of creatures that he claims to have found and studied. The illustrations are beautiful and incredibly creepy at the same time. (I think the creepiest ones are the muscle layer ones. Eek!). Did you know that there are mermaids that only live in fresh, shallow water? They're actually called "nereids". I actually think the mermaid section was my favorite.

It's creepy and sad and awesome. The book itself is wonderful and weighty. I was sent the hardcover and I can't imagine reading it in any other format, especially with the detailed drawings.I mean, just check out the cover, it pretty much tells you what you're getting!

Don't worry, just a harpy skeleton!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy All the Things!

Merry Christmas or Happy Whatever You Celebrate if You Celebrate!

I hope that your 2014 was wonderful and that your 2015 has all good things waiting for you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen" by Lucy Knisley

Relish was exactly what I needed and didn't even know I needed it . My experience with graphic novels to this point basically dealt with some combination of " violence, death, flawed superheroes or masked vigilantes, or really strange illustrations that were borderline too creepy a lot of the time" (I'm looking at you Neil's Sandmans!). So even though I knew the content matter of this graphic novel I was basically waiting for the other )weird/violent/scary) shoe to drop and it never did. Turns out this is just a funny, informative, relaxing read!

It's the story of Lucy, growing up in New York City with super foodie parents. Food was at the center of nearly everything that they did. Lucy tried more exotic, high brow food by the age of 8 than I have at 29. (But it''s okay, because she knows there is a time and place for hot, salty, golden McDonald's French fries....*pauses to wipe drool off keyboard and continues*)

After her parents split up she moves with her mom to a farm not terribly far outside of New York City. There they grow vegetables and raise chickens. (Though there is some initial problems with too many roosters in the hen house, as the saying goes...) Lucy's mom starts a catering business that caters super fancy parties and even a celebrity photo shoot.

Lucy misses the hustle and bustle of a city so she ends up going to art school in Chicago. Even though food is still a big part of her life.

There is more to this GN than just Lucy's story. There's also recipes, many of which look surprisingly uncomplicated and delicious. One is for her oft made, crafted to perfection chocolate chip cookies. There's also a (surprisingly interesting) cheese cheat sheet!

I'm in no way a high class foodie but I do love to eat and I think it's interesting the way that food brings people together. It's really all about the relationship between food and people in a pretentious funny way. The illustration are fun and casual too! 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Roommate Jen- You'll be getting this for a birthday present at some point in our lives. That's your warning! :)


Friday, December 19, 2014

Still Shopping for Your Book Lover?

I hope that you're almost done with your holiday shopping for the book fiend in your life, but just in case you're not....(I know I'm not reinventing the wheel with this post, but they are fun so there we go! All ideas are from Etsy, love to support the crafters!)

Knit Fingerless Gloves Knit Arm Warmers Knit Gloves Fingerless Mittens Knit Hand Warmers Gauntlets Knit Wrist Warmers Indigo Blue Lace

Want some warmth while reading but still want to have unhindered fingers? How about some fingerless gloves? (This shop has tons of pretty options!)

Ship at Full Sail - Hand-cut Silhouette Bookmark, Ship Bookmark, Nautical Bookmark, Pirate Ship

Who doesn't need bookmarks? I always need more bookmarks. This shop is all silhouettes in city skylines, favorite characters and more. So fun!

Colorful Kiwi Orange Strawberry Fruit Shaped Sticky Post-it Index Bookmark Tabs | Cute Affordable Food Themed Stationery

I use tabs to mark all my spots in books so I can go back to the things I found interesting. This shop has no shortage of adorable notes for use!

A Moment - A comic typography quote art print by 17th and Oak

Do you have a comic book fan in your life? Can we talk about how totally awesome these prints are? Typography and heroes! They also have a bunch of movie ones, including my boy, Indiana Jones. I think this shop is my new obsession.

Spare Oom  18" x 5.5"  Wooden Sign Chronicles of Narnia

Do you have a Narnian in your life? Just in case they get lost on the way back through the wardrobe you can label their far away land of "Spare Oom". (I.Love.This.)

And if you're looking for something electronic...

Are you looking to buy a new Kindle? Jamie at Books and Beverages has a lot of experience with them, and she wrote up a little helpful guide. Check it out here!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 Favorite Reads of Last Winter

TanyaAndi and are doing a fun December activity and I will be participating occasionally. Might be a nice change from the usual. Today's blogpost: 5 favorite reads of last winter!

Last winter was particularly brutal. But luckily good books and a warm apartment helped keep me sane. Here are my five favorite books that I read last winter (summaries and pictures from goodreads):


"HHhH" by Laurent Binet.
"HHhH: “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich”, or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague.” He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.
Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet’s captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabćik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich’s car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.
A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s remarkable imagination, HHhH—an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman—is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.
HHhH is one of The New York Times' Notable Books of 2012. "
This book was incredible. It was even funny sometimes, quite a feat considering the subject matter. After reading this book (though it was a little bit fiction) I felt like an expert on this event. When I'm in Prague I will be seeking out all of these places!


"Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach

(You can check out my review here)

"Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers some willingly, some unwittingly have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them."

Ah the book that introduced me to Mary Roach. And my favorite Mary Roach book still! Death is a taboo and touchy subject and I appreciate Mary's humorous but respectful approach. I highly highly recommend this book, even if you aren't generally a science person.


"Havisham" by Ronald Frame

(You can check out my review here)


Before she became the immortal and haunting Miss Havisham of Great Expectations, she was Catherine, a young woman with all of her dreams ahead of her. Spry, imperious, she is the daughter of a wealthy brewer. But she is never far from the smell of hops and the arresting letters on the brewhouse wall—HAVISHAM—a reminder of all she owes to the family name and the family business.

Sent by her father to stay with the Chadwycks, Catherine discovers elegant pastimes to remove the taint of her family's new money. But for all her growing sophistication, Catherine is anything but worldly, and when a charismatic stranger pays her attention, everything—her heart, her future, the very Havisham name—is vulnerable.

In Havisham, Ronald Frame unfurls the psychological trauma that made young Catherine into Miss Havisham and cursed her to a life alone, roaming the halls of the mansion in the tatters of the dress she wore for the wedding she was never to have.

Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013"

You know how I know this book is good? I don't like Great Expectations, and I still really liked this book. I think Miss Havisham is such an interesting character and I was so curious to hear about her backstory. Didn't disappoint!


"The Circle" by Dave Eggers

(You can check out my review here)

"The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge."

This book is great but also very scary because I can see it happening in the not too distant future. Put your electronics down occasionally before it all takes over!


"Burn" by Julianna Baggott

"The fate of the world is more fragile than ever as Pures battle Wretches and former allies become potential enemies.

Inside the Dome Patridge has taken his father's place as leader of the Pures. His intent had been to bring down the Dome from the inside with the help of the secret resistance force led by Partridge's former teacher Glassings. But from his new position of power, things don't seem quite as clear. Perhaps his father had been right. Perhaps if the world is to survive it needs the Dome--and Partridge--to rule it.

Outside the Dome Pressia and Bradwell continue piecing together the clues left to them by their parents from the time before the detonations. Soon they will be able to help heal the Wretches, freeing them from their monstrous fusings and the Dome's oppression once and for all. But their success also depends on Partridge. Can they still trust their friend and ally to see their plan through? Or will a new war begin?"

I don't generally get over the moon excited about trilogies but this one I was bananas for. It was agonizing waiting for the third book and when it came out I gobbled it up. Love this series because it takes a really harsh look at people and realities after a cataclysmic event.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: "Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans" by Gary Krist

"I doubt if there is a city in the world where the resident population has been so divided in its origin, where this is such a variety in the tastes, habits, manners and moral codes of it's citizens" -Fredrick Law Oldmsted.

(He has nothing to do with the book but I love Fredrick Law Olmsted. That is one interesting life! Here's the wiki page for him in case you have the curious!)

I love history and architecture, but New Orleans never has appealed to me. Which is weird, because history and architecture and cemeteries are all things I love. Maybe I will come around to it, but I feel like I already know so much about the city from this super interesting book!

The book focuses on New Orleans between the years of 1890-1920, especially in the areas that the title has already told you: sex, jazz, murder, and really control of the city. (Though to be fair the sex part of the title could have probably been "vice". Even though there's a lot of talk about brothels there's also talk about booze and gambling. Though they mostly happened in the brothels, so touche.)

Sex (and/or vice) were a big part of the scene in the Storyville section of New Orleans, where all the fun/seedy stuff went on. There were brothels that catered to all tastes and desires and to all different types of people ("black, white, jew, interracial"). There was of course people (like Carrie Nation) who wanted to reform New Orleans and make it a respectable place. There were mixed results (there's the "battle for modern New Orleans.)

This book taught me more about jazz than I ever knew before, I feel like a regular Lisa Simpson! It highlights many famous jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong. He was the first/most famous musician who brought jazz into mainstream America. Whenever I was reading a section about him I kept singing his part of "Hello Dolly" in my head. ("Hello, Dolly...this is Louis....Dolly, it's so nice to have you back where you...beloooooong". Haha!) They also talk about "Jelly Roll" Morton who got so rich playing jazz that he had a diamond implanted on his front tooth. In the early 1900s. Newsflash to modern rappers: swag and grills were not your idea.

They talked about some super gruesome murders in this book. I will give you a math equation to show you: Sleeping victims + several axe chops to the face  = gruesome murders with lots of blood on the ceilings.  I remember seeing something about this on some show about hauntings on the history channel. Here's some more information about it. Also most of these (multiple) murders go unsolved. Sleep tight lovelies! 

Random/favorite observances:

- "New Orleans was the first American Metropolis to build an opera house, but the last to build a sewerage system". Priorities fail. I mean I'm all about the fine arts but I'm way more about flushing toilets and not having cholera.

- The Italians were really really not popular with a lot of people in the city. Learned lots of ethnic Italian slurs from some of the quotes! Eek!

-New Orleans seemed to be doing okay as a pretty integrated city but then there were a lot of Jim Crow laws enacted that really set the city back from where it had been.

This book was great! I try not to compare every really interesting book to an Erik Larson (it's a compliment those books are great) but they are similar! Highly recommended if you love: jazz, history, true crime, mob stories and so much more! I give it 4 out of 5 stars!

I recieved this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Thursday, December 11, 2014

5 Favorite Travel Tips

TanyaAndi and are doing a fun December activity and I will be participating occasionally. Might be a nice change from the usual. Today's topic was vague: a list of 5 favorite things that aren't book related!

I went with my 5 favorite travel tips! I know, this is a random topic for the day, but a lot of travel happens this time of year so maybe good things to keep in mind :)

Don't leave the shower cap!

I saw this tip somewhere on the internet and now I use it all the time. Never leave behind a shower cap at a hotel. Open it up and nestle your shoes inside of it. It keeps all of the gunk on the bottom of your shoes off of the rest of the stuff in your suitcase!

Plastic bags can be your friend!

I always pack at least 2 sturdy, handled plastic bags when I travel. They have never NOT come in handy. You can stuff your dirty laundry in them, you can use them as packaging to help protect valuable things, or wrap up your toiletries bag if you're scared that your bottle of shampoo is going to explode mid flight. The most recent time I used them was to wrap up a pair of costume butterfly wings that I didn't want to shed glitter all over my suitcase.

All the black parts? Glitter.

Always have food!

Whether you're on a plane or in a car always have SOME kind of food with you. It doesn't have to be much but you never know when you're going to get delayed on the tarmac, stuck in a snowbank, or stranded on the highway behind a terrible accident. Being hangry will always make a bad situation worse! Throw a couple of granola bars, a bag of teddy grahams, some candy or something else in your bag. It takes up no space and could save your sanity at the right minute.

Suitcase switcheroo!

When I went to Mexico with my husband for our 5 year anniversary we both packed our own suitcase. Because I am paranoid, I made him put one of my bathing suits and an outfit in his suitcase, and I put a pair of his swimtrunks and an outfit in my suitcase. That way if one of us lost a suitcase the unlucky one would have 2 outfits to live on for awhile. (One in the other one's suitcase and one outfit in your own carry on). I've never had a suitcase lost and fingers crossed and prayers to God I keep that streak alive.

And an eye opening conversation with my sister...

My sister travels for work, literally constantly, so she's a good flyer. I'm an okay flyer until things get really bumpy and then I'm very,very nervous.We were talking about flying and she said something like:

Q: Well you can put alcohol in your carry on.
W: Are you sure? I mean, they won't let me take more than 3 ounces of face moisturizer but I can bring vodka?
Q: Yeah, it just has to be under the size limit and be in the quart bag thing and you can.
W: WHAT? THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. (Scuttles to pantry and throws mini alcohol bottles in ziploc bag in anticipation of next flight which is at least 7 months away).

So obviously you don't want to get super drunk on your flight because: 1) hangover when arriving at destination 2) super dehydrated due to flying anyway 3) you might be an a-hole when you're drunk and that could get you in trouble with TSA and Homeland Security and other people who you don't want to be on their naughty list and 4) you don't want to be on passenger shaming.

Having said that I will definitely be having a couple of small bottles in my next carry on in case of turbulence. Be sure to check with your airline before doing this, of course, because all of them are different.

So there is your COMPLETELY unrelated to books post for the month.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rapid Fire Book Review #3

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. This book was incredible. All of the character's stories wove together almost seamlessly and what seemed like no effort at all. Believable characters, definitely scary parts, and basically one of my worst nightmares beautifully captured in a novel. This would deserve a review all on it's own but I'm unsure how to do it without giving too much away. I'll never look at an airport the same again!If you want more of discussion on this book, head here to see what Shannon has to say about it. I'll be piping in too!

Eastern Europe !: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does by Tomek E. Jankowski. This title of this book is indicative of the book itself, very long! It was really interesting,but it takes on a daunting task; taking on the history of a whole area, and it starts way way way back. There were lots of interesting facts but sometimes I had to resort to skimming. Super cute cover too!


Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore. This billed itself as "an alternative history classic!" I thought it was okay, but when I sat down to actually write a review about it I came up short. When I thought about describing it to someone it sounded really boring. So I don't know what to think about this one.


The Cartographer of No Man's Land by PS Duffy. I wanted to like this book more than I did. I partially think it's my fault because I might have read too many war books in a row. I just never felt very invested in the characters. Though it was interesting to read a book from a Canadian perspective.


Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Make a Beautiful Future by Tracie Miles
Do you feel like that you have screwed up too much in your past that God has no interest in loving and forgiving you? It's not true. He loves you and thinks you're worthy of all the good things that He has to offer. The book is the author's story, but also other women who have overcome great difficulties. At the end of each page there are little activities and Bible verses. What makes it especially good is that these women struggle. I mean, it's not good that they struggle, but when confronted with dealing with the situations they have they aren't just like "Well let's just up and make a super vulnerable huge life change" like it's nothing. It's very human relatable of them!Very encouraging read!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: "While Beauty Slept" by Elizabeth Blackwell

Tip of the hat to T from Traveling with T for recommending this book to me after she heard that I was on the prowl for good fairy tale retellings. Thanks buddy!

Our setting is somewhere Europeish, sometime Middle Ages-ish and our narrator Elise is not in a good position. Her beloved mother, and almost all of her siblings were killed when "the pox" ravaged her family. Her distant, unfeeling father thinks she's useless except to marry her off and to get her out of the house. She's only like 13, so she doesn't want that. She sneaks out of their falling down cottage and makes her way to a somewhat nearby town to find her aunt. She hasn't actually met her mom's sister but she's hoping that she will be able to help her find work in the castle, like her mother had long ago. Her aunt keeps her safe and clothed while she adjusts to life in a town before helping her find work in the castle.

Being in the castle is unlike anything Elise ever imagined. She keeps her aunt's warnings always in the front of her mind, that there might be men who say they love her and want to marry her, but then cast her aside once they were done with her. (This is exactly what happened to her mother.) She is discreet, modest and works diligently, kind of revelling in the fact that she is working for her own money and not subject to the whims of her father or if the crops had failed that year. She quickly moves up the ranks of the help until she is actually handmaid to the queen.

It's not all rainbows and butterflies. Though Elise loves the Queen, she knows that she is sad and burdened with the fact that she hasn't gotten pregnant and Elisa can't help. There's pervy knights who are handsy. There is Maleficent, a royal family member who doesn't like being told what to do and who has a strange effect on the people around her. And then there's a war. And sickness. But no dragons. So there's that.

Here's one thing that drove me a little nuts. At the end of every.single.chapter there would be a sentence like "Would I have made the same decision if I knew what was to come?" or "I had no idea what this action would mean". I get that the author was trying to create some suspense and foreboding but oh my gosh, every chapter?!  Maybe every 3rd chapter would be okay? Gracious. It's a dumb little thing but it was annoying. Having just ranted, I did like the book. I think it was really authentic in some ways (not everyone gets a happy ending, and yeah monarchies are not ideal) and the chapters were short and moved well. A high 3 out of 5! Also I like the cover.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Living Abroad - Vietnam

The House on Dream Street by Dana Sachs

Dana was a journalist in San Francisco in 1989 when she and a friend decide to quit their jobs and go backpacking in Asia for 2 months. Right before they leave for this trip Vietnam was offering tourist visas to Americans for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War. Dana finds herself in love with this beautiful and complicated country.

She returns to live (not just visit) in 1992, she had taken a very intense immersion Vietnamese language class for a few months before she returns. But she still finds he language skills pretty lacking. Luckily, she has an ally in Vietnam, her teacher from the US, Tra has moved back to Vietnam and will be there to help her along.

Dana moves into a guesthouse very near Tra. Her landlord is Tung, a savvy smooth talking businessman who always talks about the time he spent in Germany; along with his with Huong (who speaks no English) and their son Viet. They have a bit of an awkward start (the American and Vietnamese versions of privacy and personal space are very different). However this family will become very important in Dana's time in Vietnam.

In Hanoi, different trades would group together and settle different parts of the city (fabric vendors in one area, bronze workers in one area). Dana's place is located in the area of Hanoi where all the bicycle mechanics congregate. (A Dream was a popular type of motorbike, hence the title.)  Many of the mechanics would come into the house and lounge and chat with the family throughout the day. One such mechanic is a thoughtful young man named Phai, he also becomes an important part of Dana's time.

One thing that plagues Dana when she first moves to Vietnam is guilt she has as an American about the war. (Though - if I remember right- she was only 11 when the war ended). She worries about how people will react to have an American in their midst considering the war ended not long previously.She is never faced with open hostility because of this. Most of the Vietnamese that she talks to have strong feelings about fate and destiny and most have feelings that whatever death or unfortunate events that occur to them were just unhappy turns of unavoidable bad luck.

Dana has struggles. Though her language skills are improving everyday she often gets lost in conversations. People stare at her all.the.time. Perfect strangers warn her that at 29 she's getting to the "rotten fruit" stage where no man is going to want to marry her. She finds out that the regular (and secret) police have a keen interest in her and her friends and activities.

I didn't mind this book, I kind of wish I liked it more.  I think that the part of the problem is that I'm sure 1995 Hanoi and 2014 Hanoi are incredibly different places. I'd be interested to see a more updated "version" of this story. I give it a low 3 out of 5.

A very pretty cover though!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

10 Favorite Book Covers and Mockingjay Ramblings (Spoilers!)

Book covers first, than Mockingjay!

Tanya, Andi and T are doing a fun December activity and I will be participating occasionally. Might be a nice change from the usual. Today's blogpost topic is 10 favorite book covers!

To be fair, if you asked me to redo this list in a month it could be different.












Also, let's talk about Mockingjay for a minute. My heart is still smarting from see PSHoffman on film knowing what turmoil was going on in his personal life. I always thought he was a talented actor, but I'm a little surprised that I'm still sad about his passing. Drugs and the hold that they can have on people is heartbreaking, terrifying and horrible.

There was 2 parts in the movie that really kind of struck a chord with me in a way that I wasn't really prepared for (this is where the spoilers start, to be honest I don't remember them being in the book but it's also been a long time since I read the books); the scenes in the districts with the forest and the dams. It was one of the first times we got prolonged looks at the districts that wasn't through the lens of the Hunger Games so that in itself was interesting. However I think what got me is that the people who were involved in those acts of rebellion knew that they were on what were basically suicide missions. I think especially with the dams, there was no way that even if you survived the shooting you weren't going to be able to outrun the water.

To be a person that looks at an injustice or wrong and says "in an effort to combat or fix this problem, I will lay down my life because I think that fixing this problem is worth the cost" is stunning to me. Stunning and courageous and a little bit scary. Monumental change is often only brought around by monumental sacrifice I think so many of the things that we take for granted have been built upon foundations that cost so many people so incredibly much. Katniss might be the mockingjay but if no one in any of the other districts had the courage to risk so much nothing would have changed.

Pretty deep themes coming from "just" a YA book.

Also "Hanging Tree" has pretty much been on loop in my earbuds since seeing the movie. There is nothing wrong with this!

Anyway, those thoughts have been on my mind a lot since seeing the movie with my whole family on Sunday night. But thanks for letting me ramble at you.