Monday, June 30, 2014

July Announcement!

Way back in January (cold, snowy, hopeless,soul sucking January) I had a thought.

I don't read a lot of women authors.

I do read some of course. (Though a lot of time I don't pay attention to who the authors are, and if you're you have an ambiguously sexed name like myself, you might not be able to tell)

Almost all of my favorite authors are men.Margaret Atwood being the exception, because Margaret Atwood. 

But only having one lady author as a favorite is just too few.

Every book that I review in the month of July will be written by a woman.

Women are awesome.

Women run countries, run companies, run households, birth humans (!), defend our country, fight for rights, stand up against injustice, go to work with colds that would level your average husband, cure diseases, and all kinds of other amazing things. 

Seriously. Works of art. Every single one.

So, to help me with All-Lady July I need to hear about your favorite female authors and why they are your favorite. Tell me about a female author that you've always wanted to read but haven't gotten to yet.

 I'm going to try to post/review more than normal this month so be ready for more content! 

Help me help all of us by giving more recognition to female writers.

We will be making one, and only one, small deviation from the theme. It's mini bloggiesta time in mid-July and I signed up to do a challenge on social media etiquette. I say it still fits with the theme, because I'm a lady and I wrote it! (Well I think my husband would challenge me being "lady like", I'm a lady and that's good enough for me!)


Also, Ambiguously Sexed would be the name of an all girl rock band that I would play tambourine for, who wants to play Keytar? Kuitar? I don't know how to spell that.

That is all.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Author Interview with D. Lawrence Young - "Six Million Accusers: Catching Adolf Eichmann"

Today I'm a part of a GMTA tour talking about D. Lawrence Young's exciting sounding book!

Here's the synopsis!
"Six Million Accusers" is a historical novel reliving the hunt for, and capture of one of history's most evil criminals - a leading Nazi named Adolf Eichmann.

Having disappeared after WWII, members of an Israeli organization search the world for Eichmann, hoping to one day capture one of the men responsible for brutally massacring millions of Jews, and others. Following any tip possible, eventually they discover a Jewish father and daughter who swear Eichmann quietly lives in their community, under a new name. The search for Eichmann ramps up, and the agents begin to fervently believe they have found their man.

As they get closer and closer, a plan must also be created to capture Eichmann, and secretly transport the villain back to Israel. Is it really Eichmann? And if so, what complications may arise that might destroy their plans to have this notorious Nazi held responsible for his crimes?

"Six Million Accusers" is based on historic detail, and David Lawrence- Young does an excellent job reliving the hunt for, and capture of Adolf Eichmann. Well written and easy to read, "Six Million Accusers" should be a staple of the educational discussion of WWII and the aftermath.

~~D. Bettenson

I did a little interview with David as he is promoting his new book.

1. I see you call your book a "documentary novel". What does this mean exactly? 
 It means that this novel isn't just, to quote my friend, William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', a product of my 'heat oppressed brain', but that it is very close to the truth and is based on reliable sources. 

2. What made you focus on Eichmann's story and not another Nazi?
I chose to write about Eichmann and his capture by the Israeli Mossad secret service since I am Israeli and also because this story is inherently a good and exciting story whoever carried out this project.

3. How much/what kind of research did you have to do to tell the story? Did it involve any travel?
Much of my research was done by using books, newspaper articles and the net. I also met an ex-Mossad agent who gave me a certain amount of information and also access to some relevant photos and correspondence in connection with capturing Eichmann and flying him back to Israel. 

4. Was there anything that really surprised you when you were researching?
Not really. I was quite knowledgeable about the details of this capturing Eichmann project. However, learning about the initial details how Eichmann's son accidentally gave away the secret of his father's hideaway was new to me. Also the story of how the original recipients of this secret was also new to me. 

5. Are there any other books coming from you in the future? Are there any other topics you'd like to explore?
I am now half-way through writing another historical novel - a much more imaginative one this time, but one that is still based on a true story about the English Civil War during 1642-51.  After this I plan to write one about the Serbian Black Hand Gang who killed the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef in Sarajevo in June 1914 and thus fired the spark that (may) have started WW1. It will be written from the Serbian point-of-view. To this end, I will be travelling to ex-Yugoslavia and Sarajevo this summer.

I'm really interested in the upcoming book about Serbia. I love a good book about historical events that don't get a lot of attention. Thanks so much for the time David, I appreciate it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Living Abroad (Tuscany and Germany )

"My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)" by Luisa Weiss

If you asked Luisa where she was from she would probably have to consider her answer before replying. Grown up in Berlin until her parents split, then raised in Boston by her Dad except when she was on summer vacations back in Berlin, then some time in Paris, time in New York City, almost to San Francisco, and then back to Berlin, for good (for now). It's a lot of bouncing around, but it helps to make her who she is (even if sometimes she struggles with the "who she is", like we all do).

You foodie types might now Luisa from her blog The Wednesday Chef where she cooks and bakes her way through huge piles of clipped and stacked recipes.Before she started her blog (and then eventually wrote this book) she was in the publishing business. She even worked in the cookbook department of a publishing company in Paris, how fun is that?

In her book she addresses the things that have happened in her life. Her parents splitting, never really feeling like she was from somewhere, a broken engagement, love lost and love wondrously found again. She's gone through a lot of feels in a lot of different places.

One thing that was always a constant in her life was cooking. She makes her family's tomato sauce for comfort food, she baked German Christmas cookies by the dozens when she struggled to re acclimate to Berlin the second time, her boyfriend makes her a huge pot of German pea soup when he introduces her to his friends.

The book also includes some really delicious sounding recipes. There was about one or two that I could maybe handle, the Christmas goose recipe sounds like something that would take me untold years and untold dollars to get even edible.

I'm not a great cook by any means (I'm passable) and I still enjoyed this book.It even made me very curious about white asparagus and figs.Who wants to cook for me? :) I've been to Berlin and it's an intriguing complicated city and the book made me want to go back and experience the city again. Maybe she'll cook if I visit? I give the book a 3 out of 5 stars!


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

This was the first book that I had read on my newly acquired Kindle, and my first book from Netgalley! (It's a castoff from my Mom, she reads on her Ipad now). So, that's exciting for no one else but me, but there it is. This is also 1 of 2 books about Tuscany that you're going to get this year, not intentionally,just happened that way.

Jennifer has a dream that a lot of people have, being an expat in some beautiful place where you find success and are instantly brought into your new community with loving arms and open hearts. Her dream is exactly that, a dream. Jennifer is in her late 30s and hating her life as a New York City lawyer. She has saved and saved, and finally pulls the trigger, moving to Tuscany specifically Montepulciano, a small town that she fell in love with on a trip. It's just her, her old weimaraner Cinder, some savings, and a basic grasp of basic Italian.She imagines that she will pick up on the language quickly, do a lot of writing, find a job in the meantime to supplement her nest egg and make lots of new friends. This doesn't quite happen.

She finds a great small apartment, with a lovely view and a place to hang your laundry out of your window like in the movies. (Though her landlord isn't particularly nice or helpful). The town is full of small shops (especially cheese and olive oil) that cater to the tourists who come in summer time. There's a wonderful market in town on Wednesday and one of them is a delightful vendor to whom she takes a liking (rawr) and starts putting out feelers for jobs.

The problem is she needs proper papers to work and she failed to take into account the slowness and red tape that Italy specializes in. It takes months and months. She thinks that she can take on locals who want to learn English. However most of the men who approach her think that English lessons from a single American means something else, mostly lecherous things. And then theres the day that her duvet freezes on the laundry line. There are times where she's pretty sure she will be homeless (though it never actually happens). Uggggh.

I liked this book because it doesn't sugar coat things. Yeah you live in this beautiful place, but that doesn't mean that everything is going to be glorious. It's likely that at some point you're going to be lonely and broke and wondering if you did something REALLY stupid by leaving a comfortable job and all your friends and family. 3 out of 5 stars from me!

This is great and all but I'm still about to be homeless.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book review: "Jesus: A Pilgrimage" by Father James Martin

 If Father Martin's name sounds familiar, I did an author highlight focused on him in the early days of the blog, see here. Father Martin was even so kind as to response to/retweet a tweet I sent him, so he will always be a favorite of mine for that reason alone! He recently released the book we are talking about today, and I might like it more than all the others, but it's pretty close,...

So Father Martin has some time off and is presented with the opportunity to go to the Holy Land. At first he struggles with if he even wants to go or not. (This is kind of funny because I will randomly think about whether this is a place I would want to travel to or not. I'm glad that I could live vicariously through him). He decides to go and is so pleased when a fellow priest and friend, named George offers to come with him. George has also been to the Holy Land before, so he has some experience and will drive the rental car. (No small thing considering how often they get lost!)

The book recounts their journey along with insights from Father Martin about the biblical events that go along with the places that they see. I've got a few thoughts on the book itself, and then I'll share one story with you that I thought was one of the most compelling.


- I like that Father Martin fully admitted when things were not ideal. Some places really move him and make him feel super connected to God...but not everywhere. Sometimes they are somewhere and it's crowded, or it's hot or it's overly commercialized, or there are tourists eating potato chips at the all-night prayer thing you're trying to attend...and sometimes there's just no connection just because there isn't.

-I like that he takes stories that are pretty familiar to (probably) most of his audience and asks deeper questions, helping to gain a new perspective.

- I think it's interesting how the physical location really affect the story. Like did you know that Jesus would preach from a boat because sound carries better over water than land? (I didn't know that,but I suck at science so maybe a lot of you already know that because you're not science idiots like myself). There's a few instances of this pointed out in the book and I always thought it was so interesting.


Here's the story that I wanted to talk about. Jesus and the disciples have just finished crossing a lake. It's been an interesting day to say the least! (Jesus had just calmed a raging storm that had had the disciples incredibly scared) and night had either fallen, or was just starting to fall by the time they made landfall. Jesus is barely off the boar when he is "immediately" confronted by a demon possessed man.

The man must have been well known in the area. In the book of Mark, it's described that the man couldn't be restrained by chains or shackles due to his incredible strength. He lived among the the tombs in the town's cemetery. Day and night the man screamed and wailed. The Fathers see where the town is in proximity to the cemetery. It's not far away, the townsfolk would have definitely heard this poor man's cries. I can't even think about how scary and creepy and sad it must have been.

The man throws himself down at Jesus's feet. Jesus asks the man what his name is, the answer given is : "My name is Legion, for we are many". (SCARY!) Through a conversation with this man Jesus can see that the man is still "in there" and knows that Jesus can save him from this terrible torment. Jesus casts the devils out of the man.

 Father Martin talks about our struggles with our own "demons" (self doubt, anger, alcohol, drugs, abuse of all kinds) and how Jesus can save us from those as well. If you would like to read the whole biblical accounts the story is recounted in Mark, and Luke. There is also a recounting in Matthew but it's a much shorter one. This was not an unfamiliar story to me, but after reading Father Martin's insights and thoughts I gained a whole new perspective on it.

I highly highly recommend this book. Even if you aren't religious and skip all of the "Jesus parts" and only read about their travel adventure it'd be a worthwhile read (though it would only be half the story). I give it 4 out of 5 stars!

Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Also, if you missed out on the Inklings discussion over at Books and Beverages, click here to check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review: "Ms Understood:Rebuilding the Feminine Equation" by Jen Hatmaker

You guys. I have had a rough past week or two, if we're being honest. It's nothing serious, it's just the real life hurts and crummy things that come along with being a human being. Heart hurts happen.

And lack of sleep makes me overly philosophical and weird and irrationally upset about things. I was really irritated yesterday when I went to a library that had put "Animal Farm" in the YA section, but not "1984". Like I was angry about that for like an hour.

So anyway, when I read this book I was all gushy and in love with it and it made my week so here's the review to get me back in that happy feeling and maybe spread it to you too. I also bought swiss cake rolls last night, but I'm not sharing those. Let's not get nuts.


I know that title sounds a little like something you'd have to read for a gender studies class where you buy this huge $300, 60 lb book that you don't use once, and then you try to sell back to the campus bookstore and they're like, I'll give you $30 bucks and you run out of the room screaming like attic lady from Jane Eyre.......

Sorry, flashback. This book isn't like that at all.

Jen Hatmaker is awesome. She is funny and smart and sassy and does not have it all together and she makes no qualms about it. She has also written a bunch of books. The first one I read by her was called "7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" which I loved. She takes the 7 areas of her life where there is the most excess (food, clothes....something something) and cuts it down to 7 items for a month. So for one month she only wears the same 7 pieces of clothing (with unlimited underwear and bras because let's not get crazy). She does this experiment after finding out about the kind of conditions her soon to be adopted kids in Ethiopia are living in. She prays about it a lot, gets a lot of funny looks, but she barely cheats at all. Apparently this book has a bible study and it's popular in women's bible classes too. So even if you're not religious the book is interesting because it talks about all the excesses we have that we don't even realize.

So this book, basically talks about how women are glorious and worthy of all good things and how God always works for our good even if we don't know Him or struggle with Him. She also talks about the women in Jesus bloodline who weren't perfect (obviously) but play incredibly important roles.

Here's just a couple of quotes that I'm going to leave here that I hope will inspire you to read the book. I'm having a "it's a really good book but I don't really know the best way to describe it to you to make you want to read it" moment.

-"Before you were a daughter, sister, wife, mother, you were a delight to God, who designed every facet and sent you to earth, a gift to all who would know you" .                   (I'm  sure I'm not always a gift, haha)

-"I have chosen you, and my Son prays for you when you feel condemned" (Romans 8:33-34)

-"You are somebody's answer. You are something's answer. There is a problem out there only your presence can solve. There is a broken and wounded hear to which only you can administer healing. You are not a victim; you are an answer".

In summation: women are awesome, women are not perfect, women in the Bible are super important even if they don't look like "typical" Bible heroes,you personally are awesome and are capable of great things. 4 outta 5 stars!

Ms. Understood: Rebuilding the Feminine Equation

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: "Isolation" by Denise R Stephenson

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

"Isolation" is the story about a handful of people dealing with a world I can't even begin to imagine. The story starts in kind of a lookback at how a deadly virus changed the world, and then comes to current time and how the sickness has changed the world and what it means for the survivors.

A horrible sickness has broken out in the world and is spreading quickly. It's incredibly unpleasant (lots of bloody diarrhea) and deadly. The government struggles with how to contain it, especially because they don't know how it spreads.

So it starts with a "no touching your face" ban. I would have been screwed from the get go on this rule! I always have to make a conscious effort to not touch my face or lean on my hand. But not because of any diseases, because I'll break out in zits.


The restrictions tighten and tighten until contact and outside movement is basically nonexistent. Can you imagine? I'm sure there's some people who would really enjoy not leaving their house or having any contact with people. I know that would drive me crazy. I'm totally a touchy feely/hugger so I'd totally wither and die without human contact. I'd be like the sad baby monkeys in Harry Harlow's terrible experiments. (Anyone else have friends in psychology who talk about this?) But then a random touch in a pretty uncomfortable situation leads to something interesting for two people...

I thought this book was interesting because it seems like if this scenario is present in a book the world kind of grinds to a halt. That is not to say that the world of the book isn't insane, because it is. But there seems to be a functional government, laws and rules, fail safes, and people in charge of endless bureaucracies. Usually everything just ends up in chaos and fire and looting and horror. While there is still horror, at least this new world doesn't seem to be defined by it.

I give this book a 3 out of 5. I liked the concept, and the above mentioned differences about how this world continued to thrive. I didn't like it because it talked about all the gross symptoms while I was trying to eat my lunch, bleh! haha. Also there was one character who we heard their POV and we never found out what happened to them, which kind of bummed me out. It was in the earliest days of the outbreak so I'm going to assume her story didn't have a happy ending!

 Ready to read it? There's  giveaway  happening, go on and enter to win it! (US only)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: "Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel" by Robin Sloan

This was another book that's been sitting in my "to be read" pile for awhile that I finally got around to (a never ending process right?)

Clay is a graphic designer type who finds himself out of a job at the beginning of the recession.He wanders through San Francisco searching for jobs, and combs the internet with very little success.

There was a quote from Clay while he was job searching that I think goes through everyone's mind when they do it: "I kept at it with the help wanted ads. My standards were sliding swiftly. At first I had insisted I would only work for a company with a mission I believed in. Then I thought maybe it would be fine as long as I was learning something new. After that I decided it just couldn't be evil. Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil."

He finally finds an ad that intrigues him. It's a help wanted ad for an overnight clerk position at a 24 hour bookstore. He goes and talks with Mr Penumbra who  tell his about the very simple rules that he has to follow to be a clerk. Clay says that he can follow those rules and begins work shortly after begins working.

The late night shift is mostly quiet except for an occasional wanderer, a stripper looking for a book after her shift ends at the sleazy club next door, but then there are his regulars. His regulars don't come in looking for ordinary books to buy. They actually aren't buying anything, they are actually borrowing. The books that they borrow are from a wayback section of the store that contain strange, kind of cryptic books. Clay snoops in a couple but finds them pretty nonsensical.

He realizes that this whole 24 hour bookstore with hardly any paying customers is just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. What follows is intrigue, travel, book burning, secret societies, love, new opportunities, secrets revealed and more!

I didn't like the Kat character, the love interest, really.  I know we're supposed to think she's cute and quirky and techy (kind of like a less abrasive Claudia from "Warehouse 13" if anyone watches that) but I was feeling pretty ho-hum about it.
*Slightly Spoliery* In regards to the immortality aspect. I kind of assumed they didn't mean physically. So when everyone was shocked that it wasn't some kind of magical potion  to live in your physical body I was roiling my eyes. Like really people?

I give this book a solid 3.5 stars. I love the whole idea of the 24 bookstore, even if it's next to a shady strip club.This book started kind of how I thought it would but then departed from what I expected completely, which was ok.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rapid Fire Mini-Reviews

One of my main concerns with starting a blog was that I wasn't going to have the time to read books "just for fun". This has turned out not to be the case. Maybe it's because the books I'm reviewing are almost all books that were already on my TBR list? Anyway, there are books that I read and enjoy that still don't get the full review treatment on the blog but I still wanted to tell you about. So here are some mini-reviews!

Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder and Madness from Romanov Russia by Michael Farquhar . This was a book I got from Netgalley. I honestly can't believe how Russia is still a country (though there are still a fair amount of issues.) The amount of shenanigans that these people got into while still kind of running a huge country was astounding. I can't believe the whole place wasn't just a mess of fire and looting constantly.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead. There's been a zombie outbreak and America is trying to get itself back together, while still eliminating the remaining zombies. Our narrator "Mark Spitz" works with 2 other survivors sweeping the skyscrapers of New York City, trying to get everything ready for survivors to reclaim the city. We hear his back story and of others. The writing was what really made this book shine. There was also a great quote "Even angels are animals". I liked it, even though I'm not much one for zombies.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun. The devil comes to a small, sad, destitute town in Canada. The main characters are a group of teenagers, mostly good kids who are trying to stay out of the serious trouble that presents itself in the town (alcoholism, depression, suicide). Also there is the problem of teenage girls regularly disappearing. Though this book was a little bleak I thought it was great and such an interesting concept.

The Martian by Andy Weir. Everybody was lovin on this book in the book blogging worldasphere it seemed like, proof here and here and tons of other places. I totally agree. I love this book. I chuckled out loud reading it, which doesn't happen often. I like space stuff, as you may have gathered from space week, and this was right up my alley.

World of Trouble by Ben H Winters. I talked about Ben Winter's Last Policeman trilogy and how much I liked it and how I was waiting for the final installment here. Well I got an e-ARC from Edelweiss and I was thrilled. I really liked this book. I feel like trilogies usually peter out towards the end and disappoint but this one certainly does not.

The Fever by Megan Abbott. I didn't like this book. A lot of other people seem too.I like the dad character because he seemed pretty realistic. I just never cared enough about the assorted girl characters to really be invested in what happened to them.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. Truthiness - I DNF'd this. I didn't like that format. A lot of people seem to like it so maybe I'll go back someday. (shrugs)

Resistance series by Carla Jablonski. This series was recommended to me during Armchair BEA when I put out the call for suggestions for historical graphic novels. They were fast interesting reads, but I wasn't crazy about the art.

Phew! Anyone else read any of these?
World of Trouble (The Last Policeman, #3)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: "The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War" by Martin Gilbert

(This week wasn't supposed to be themed "booo wars with Germany booooo" but it shook out that way. This is the last one of the week, I promise.)

Let's start with a map (not a great map but a map that will provide some ballpark reference):

And a little stage setting. The battles at Somme took place between July 1st 1916 - November 19th 1916. It was trench warfare at it's most awful. Men dug into trenches full of mud, sickness, death and danger for months just in the hopes of gaining a little bit of hard-won ground.

On the first day of battle 19,240 British soldiers were killed (36,000 wounded). Just the first day.If you're reading from Wisconsin, that's the entire population of South Milwaukee.It's also slightly smaller than every undergraduate student at UW-Madison. The first day. By the time it was over "300,000 British, Commonwealth (Wesley's Note: Australian, Canadian, South African, New Zealanders) , French and German soldiers had been killed, and twice that number wounded". Well over 80,000 bodies were never identified. Almost all of these bodies are now in mass graves.

So, let that sink in for a moment and then we will continue.

The book does a great job about making all of these numbers be people and not just statistics. There are paragraphs devoted to groups (lots of people joined up with people in their labor union, at their schools, or teammates from sports teams), and then to individuals as well.

I feel like so many stories were like this: "Private X enlisted with all of his teammates from his football club in Leeds. He was killed in action by an enemy shell. His body was never recovered and his name is listed on Thiepval Memorial. He was 20 years old." Reading scenarios like this one after another was a lot to process.

There were stories about men who wrote beautiful poems sitting in the trenches and then were killed the next day. There was a Scotsman who bravely bagpipped songs of encouragement as he charged with his men towards the German trenches. When the battle was over he helped carried the wounded back. He realized he had forgotten his pipes in No-Man's Land and went to collect them, and was shot. Very few of these stories have happy endings. Though there were a few men who survived and became professors, politicians, and social thinkers.

There were a lot of literary connections at this place too:

The short story writer Saki (real name Hector Munro) was technically too old to fight (he was 43), but he lied about his age and enlisted. He was killed by a German sniper. He also has no known grave and is memorialized at the Thiepval Memorial.

JRR Tolkien was there. He was 24 years old, and a battalion signal officer. He said that "by the end of 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead." Tolkien himself was never wounded, but was often sick. Towards the end of the war he had contacted "trench fever" and was moved to an officer's hospital.

Tolkien makes references to his war experience at least twice in his masterwork trilogy "The Lord of The Rings". Frodo's faithful companion Sam is "a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself". Also during the journey to Modor this humble group finds themselves in the Dead Marshes, where you can see faces of the dead through the water. Tolkien wrote that based on his experience with mud in France. The mud was so thick that bodies of dead soldiers could be sucked down deep and many were never recovered, or they were only found during large troop movements when the mud was stirred up the most.


Guys, I wish I could tell you that all of this horror and destruction and death made a huge difference. That suddenly after this battle there was an armistice and everything stopped, or something. But I can't. Stories and experiences like this happened all throughout this war.

It was a sad read. But interesting, because I know so little about WWI. I knew the Somme by it's fearsome reputation so I started here. Also a pleasant surprise the author (Martin Gilbert) wrote another one of my most pondered on books - "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust". So many feels on that book I can't even....So I'm not going to rate this book. I feel like it's weird to rate something that was written to preserve the memory of thousands of people who died in battle. Though I will say I learned a ton and I'm glad I read it.

One slightly encouraging thing: there was a British soldier who stayed in the Somme area after the war. He tended one of the (many) cemeteries. During WWII he was a member of the French Resistance and helped 27 shot down Allied airmen escape to Spain. He hid them in the cemetery's workshed.

On a closing note, this is the memorial for the Welsh soldiers who died fighting in Mametz woods. I think it's the most badass war memorial I've ever seen. If I was even REMOTELY Welsh I would have this tattooed on me somewhere..

File:Welsh Dragon Memorial Mametz Wood.jpg
Angry Welsh dragon laughs at your flimsy barbed wire.Then he eats you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Book and Movie Matchup or "Oh my gosh, rural Germany scares me"

I recently read a book and later watched movie that seemed destined to go together in creepy, violent literature and film paradise together. If you like creepiness and intrigue these are for you!

The movie "White Ribbon" was on my Netflix queue for a very long time. I like to keep a couple of subtitled indie films on the list for when I'm feeling artsy and high brow. (This doesn't happen a lot, but when it does happen I'm prepared). Anyway, I actually watched it and it was really something.

There's a tiny town in Germany and weird stuff starts to happen, like "accidents". We get little glimpses into the lives of the villagers and it's not good. The Doctor in particular is a suuuuper jerk.There is a big kind of twist at the end and a few things aren't resolved which makes it even more sinister and strange. It's in German, so get ready to get your English subtitles on.

Here's the synopsis from
From July, 1913 to the outbreak of World War I, a series of incidents take place in a German village. A horse trips on a wire and throws the rider; a woman falls to her death through rotted planks; the local baron's son is hung upside down in a mill; parents slap and bully their children; a man is cruel to his long-suffering lover; another sexually abuses his daughter. People disappear. A callow teacher, who courts a nanny in the baron's household, narrates the story and tries to investigate the connections among these accidents and crimes. What is foreshadowed? Are the children holy innocents? God may be in His heaven, but all is not right with the world; the center cannot hold.

I know that sounds all very violent and awful. They don't show much (actually I don't think any) of the abuse or the violence, but you see the aftermath of it a few times.So sum up: creepy, black and white, tense and interesting.

"Your House is on Fire, Your Children Gone" by Stefan Kisbye

So a few weeks before seeing the movie, I read this book. I found it on my Goodreads "to-read" list, and I honestly don't know how it got there. It's a little scarier then I would normally read (at least from the sound of the description) but it was intriguing so I went with it. I mean, the cover is scary enough, but if you tilt it at the right angle in the shiny clear letters it says something like "if you tell anyone I'll kill you".

So "Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone", this is pretty much a village full of evil kids and strange happenings. The whole book centers around a small handful of village children and their childhoods and the bad things that they do and how it affects the village. There is some pretty graphic moments (like acting out a terrible siege of a city that entails "play rape" which was all kind of horrifying and gross and awful) but these kids are doing weird creepy stuff. There is also a lot of mentions on Germanic folklore and those things seems to be in the forefront of the kids' minds as well. I like the scenes in the maze the best. So it's weird and creepy and partially graphic but I couldn't put it down I was so curious about what would happen next! It's also incredibly short, coming in at less than 200 pages.It's a lot of action packed in few pages!

Here's the synopsis: The village of Hemmersmoor is a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition: There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village's darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, evocative of Stephen King's classic short story "Children of the Corn" and infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm.

They don't give a specific date, but the story is set around the 60s, whereas White Ribbon is in early 1900s. So maybe the kids from White Ribbon grew up to be the Nazis and then the ones in the book are all traumatized from World War II? Or something? The big question is holy cow, what is going on in rural Germany????

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone

So I don't know if any of this has encouraged anyone to actually pick these things up, but if you don't mind horror and creepiness and some violence take a peek!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Review: "Previously Loved Treasures" by Bette Lee Crosby and a Question

I received this book for free from author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Ida is in a bad place. Her husband of many years has just died after a long illness. She's in a rambling old house by herself, and she's a little short on cash after paying all the medical bills and expenses. She starts to devise a way to bring in money, but none of them are enough to support herself.

She doesn't have family to speak of, just a son who walked out of their lives when he was 19 that she hasn't heard from since.This is something that she's felt regret and sadness over since it happened. She decides to hire a private investigator to find him.

Between bills and private investigators money is incredibly tight, so Ida takes on boarders. She quickly fills the house with an odd assortment of characters, including her not so nice brother in law Max.She gets a one-two punch of good news and bad news from her private investigator. The bad news is haven't been able to find her son, and the little the investigator gleans is not encouraging; good news is you have a granddaughter!

There is love and loss and grief and hardship and jerks and lovely people and a little magical shop all in one little book.

This book started slowly for me, but it picked up. There's an interesting plot twist that I didn't expect about a quarter of the way into the book. I like it when a book surprises me. A thing that seemed strange to me was the cost of things. Not at Previously Loved Treasures itself, because it's a magical store, but when they'd talk about how much things cost in different parts of the book everything seemed really cheap! Not a bad thing, but I kept thinking man, those are good prices. Though this is a part of a series (this is the second) I didn't feel like I was missing anything from not having read the first book. I give it a 3 out of 5 overall!

Does anyone else's local public library have an adult summer reading program? Mine does and I take it WAY too seriously. (I always say that I'm not a competitive person unless it's something I feel strongly about the subject matter. So you put me some kind of reading or pasta eating contest I'm going to thrown down.) 

In this program you get one point for every book you read of your own choosing, and you get 2 points for every book that you read from a list they provide. Then for each point you earn you get a ticket to put in a bucket that represents a few different prizes. Like last year (when I also went bananas) I won a 2 night stay at a local kind of extended stay hotel. I still haven't used it, because the hotel is literally 3 miles away from my apartment but it will be fun to stay in a hotel and eat someone else's continental breakfast for no real reason. 

I don't know what the prizes are this year but I'm sure I will once again put way too much effort and stress and brain power into a contest that is designed for crazy people like me. So does anyone else participate in a program like this? Are there prizes?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: "Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid" by Jessica Alexander

I heard about this book a few months before it's release date, and despite all of my best efforts to get a free copy from Goodreads I had to wait to get it at the library like everyone else. (This was pre-blog before I had any real pull....ahaha. J/K, still nearly no pull). Anyway, the reason that I was so excited about this book is because when I was in high school and college this was the kind of job I wanted to do. I even was seriously looking into the Peace Corps in college, but it just wasn't meant to be. So I thank Ms Alexander for letting me live vicariously through her, though sometimes it's a bit hairy.

Jessica finds herself a little bit lost after graduating college,not really sure what to do. She does a stint of time running focus groups for Hot Pockets and Sunny Delight. (I just sang "hot pockets" in my head like Jim Gaffigan, teehee). Anyway, through a series of events I won't go into she finds herself in an internship in Rwanda. Almost a decade had passed since the genocide in Rwanda. But refugees from surrounding countries begin pouring into Rwanda to avoid their own conflicts.

~We're going to take a pause here for a sentence that really staggered me. It is in reference to the ethnic cleansing that happened in Rwanda in the 90s. ""Around 800,000 Tutsi were murdered in the space of 100 days - 5 times as fast as the Nazis exterminated people during the Holocaust." This was without trains, gas chambers and the other technologies used. This was house to house, brutal barbaric hands on murder. So when people learn about the Holocaust and they shake their heads and say "Well gosh that's so sad, but we've come so far since the 40s. Stuff like that wouldn't happen now" you grab them by the scruff of their necks and shove that piece of information in the faces. We are not beyond that. If you'd like more information about how to help prevent genocide and raise awareness the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC actively does this. Please visit their website .~

The time she spends in Rwanda is eyeopening. Sometimes she feels left out, sometimes she feels hopeless, other times she feels like she actually is making a difference, even if it's a small one.After that she feels hooked. She spends time in Sierra Leone with children soldiers, with refugees in Sudan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the tsunami,and Haiti after the earthquake.I'm not going to recount everything chronologically, I just am going to point out some interesting little vignettes.

-Jessica does a lot of work with children. She did a study in Indonesia (I think, it might have been Cambodia, sorry I can't find it in the book!) about how young boys who were forced to do awful things like being children soldiers grew up. Did they grow up to be productive members of society? Were they criminals? It answers an interesting question about what horrible trauma kids can overcome and grow up to still be functional adults.

-I think some of the roughest times she spent was in the places affected by the wave. She and a fellow aid worker talked about what made it so strange. It was the lack of children. When the water pulled back into the ocean to make up the massive wave a lot of children ran down to the beach to pick up the stranded flopping fish and were swept out first. More men survived than women, probably because they were more likely to know how to swim, or because the traditional sari that women wore could get tangled and pull them down easily.

(Those are both sad so I'll give you a funny one)

-She was living in a shipping container in Africa during one of her missions and she needed to go to the bathroom. However she had just finished getting a ton of bugs out of her container and didn't want to risk them all getting in again. She has a bucket so she decides to do her business in the bucket and then dump it out the window. She does her business and then as she is walking over to the window to toss it away she steps on  a "giant wet corpse" of one of the bugs she killed and spilled her own still warm urine all over herself. (I actually read that part aloud to the husband because I thought it was so funny, but then was also a little horrified. Still warm pee? Ehhhhhew.)

The book was eye opening on so many levels. It gives you perspective on the day in day out lives of the people doing this work. It talks about the loneliness, the sometimes competition between agencies for "clients" and resources. It reveals Jessica's struggles on how to refit into "normal" American society after long periods away. I really enjoyed this book and I'm so glad that I waited to get it from the library! I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Book List About Books (so meta)

"The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life,Love and Lit" by Jen Adams

This book is based off of a popular website called The Books They Gave Me. On the website (and the contents of the book) people send in short explanations of the books that they have been gifted by others and what they meant to the recipients. As I read the first couple of short essays (almost none of them are longer than a standard one sided book page) I was surprised by how much people read into books that they recover as gifts. There were several stories that had variety of the same themes: boy has an absolute favorite book that speaks to his dearest soul, gives a copy to his girlfriend,she reads it and feels no connection at all, realizes that maybe they aren't really supposed to be together.

Maybe I think it's putting a lot of stock into a present because I've never gotten a book as a present from a significant other. My husband now (a non-reader extraordinaire) knows better than to try to gift me a book but knows that a gift certificate to Half Price Books are always welcome. For me personally I think that the books you own are very indicative of who and what you are. When you read a persons book spines you get a little bit in their soul. But I'm just a book romantic.

I liked this book, the short little essays make for an easy and no pressure read. I feel like a fair amount of them were sad but there were some happy uplifting ones too. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Oddly enough I think this book would be a great present for the book lover in your life.

"The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasures of a Good Book" by Wendy Welch

A middle aged couple hit a midlife crisis and decide to get out of the corporate rat race. They both have had a "some day" dream of opening a used book store but neither have any retail experience. (They are kind of vague on what they actually do. The Scottish born husband seems to be a singer/Scotland tour guide and interior decorator while she has a doctorate in some kind of language study thing? They pretty much are crunchy granola, cat people for sure...)

They stumble upon a rambling shabby Victorian house in a small town suffering from bled dry coal mines. They decide, well hell lets do this bookstore thing. And they do. They have no plan, almost no money and nearly no inventory. They eventually get the shop up and running and the book is filled with their struggles to run the store, stories about their customers and life in their small town.

I know this sounds bitter and petty and bitchy (bitetchy? there needs to be a word for that) but I'm a little bit irritated that they actually succeed. They had no plan AT ALL, and are like we'll let's just have a go at it. I guess that just annoys my sense of fair play. Also theres talk of their sex lives and random dalliances they have in the bookshop. TMI.I gave it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.The writing style wasn't my favorite, a little overly self righteous but I liked some of the stories about their interactions with others.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Armchair BEA Links

In case you missed it, this week was Armchair BEA. Here are the links to all of the posts that I wrote and their general theme.It was a great week and I loved leaving/getting so many comments. Made me feel like the popular girl in school, haha. I even won a giveaway or two!

Monday - Introductions
Tuesday - Great things to read that aren't regular books
Wednesday - Great short story writers
Thursday - Great books set beyond your borders
Friday - Memory Lane!

I was out in the lush green Wisconsin countryside with friends this weekend. I am exhausted, but not suburned, we were very vigilant about sunscreen (hooray!).It actual feels like summer now!
All of the boys in their trap shooting tournament

Rolling hills.

Hops in the making!