Monday, February 29, 2016

Book review: "This is Awkward" by Sammy Rhodes

"Don't waste your awkwardness. It may be the very place you learn to be vulnerable and thus experience the grace of God".

I didn't do this on purpose, but I kind of like that I'm reviewing a book about awkwardness on a day that shows up on our calendar only occasionally. It's kind of an awkward day on the calendar so it fits with our theme nicely.

In the book, the author covers a variety of topics that a lot of people struggle with but might have trouble talking with: depression, divorce (especially when it's your parents), sexual abuse, etc. But he also talks about great things too like friendship, love, forgiveness and grace.

The parts of the book that I liked the best were the ones that talked about friendship. Friendship is a life changing, life giving thing. And not just the skin deep kind of friendships, but the friendships where you can be your whole self around them an no that they still love you. Or they know your secrets and they still love and accept you even if you have a hard time accepting and loving yourself. He quotes a friend who says "The two most life-giving words in the English language are me too". I can't agree enough with this. (It also made me think of this quote by CS Lewis: "Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.")

My favorite quote: "Sometimes life is like Hebrew: it's best understood backwards"

I think that a lot of the fears and experiences described in this book are shared by a lot of people. "Am I going to be the reason that my kids will be in therapy someday?" (Probably, yes). "Is the fact that I struggle with porn make me the biggest sinner ever? No one seems to talk about those kinds of pproblems so it must make me the worst, right?" (No, you're not the worst.)

One thing that I was curious about was what actually lead our author into the ministry. Because, if I had the kind of nervousness and social awkwardness that he has you'd think that preaching in front of hundreds of people and having one on one talks with people about sensitive and painful topics would be something you'd run away screaming from. Maybe that's in the next book.....

What I truly appreciate about this book is that really nothing is held back. There wasn't any feeling of "Man, if I include this in the book people are going to think that I'm nuts! I should leave that out." I feel like he really laid his feelings bare and that is a brave thing to do!

This book comes out tomorrow, March 1st at a local indie bookstore or a huge corporate bookstore near you!

I signed up to be on the launch team of this book, I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: "Mukhabarat Baby! My Life as a Wartime Spy for the CIA" by Eric Burkhart

Eric's book takes you behind the curtain as what life is like as a member of the CIA. There's all the buzzwords that you expect from a spy (like "procuring an asset") but there's more to the book than just the cloak and dagger stuff. You get a look at the politics, the process and the day to day operations of living that covert life!

Eric's journey to the CIA started with working border control at the Mexico-US border, and if he ever writes another book I hope it is about his time there. He does share a few stories but I bet there are more!  He gets to the CIA, goes through training and his first assignment is to Kosovo. I feel like a lot of the unrest that happened over there at that time was barely more than a blip on most American's radar but it was a dangerous and unstable place for awhile. Something big happens during his time there but it's spoilery so I will not share!

It sounds kind of silly but the the part of this book that surprised me the most was his time at Langley. You kind of think that the headquarters of such a secretive organization would be cloaked in secrecy and people jump from one shadowy corner to the next going about their daily business. Eric is very clear that so much of the day to day operations at the CIA is the same as any other office. There's always a battle for the best parking spots, there's gridlock when everyone leaves at the end of the day, there's that one coworker that no one likes but no one can stand up to, etc etc. Though I do kind of wish that there was the Muzak version of the Mission Impossible theme played in the elevators or something :) 

The thing that made me sad about this book is that he has all of these experiences with all of these interesting sounding people but then we don't hear about them again. I always want to know the whole story about everyone. "Did he get that assignment? Does everyone still think that woman is nuts? Is that guy still sleeping his way through Eastern Europe?!" But I always just want to know everything about everybody...and maybe some people he can't share because it's classified (waggles eyebrows). If you're looking for an enlightening read about a world most people don't get to see this might be the book for you, 3.5 stars!

Author's Bio:

Eric Burkhart was born in North Carolina in 1965, and raised in France by his mother while his father was serving in Vietnam. Eric's parents retired to San Antonio, Texas in 1978, and Eric has considered himself a Texan since that time.

​After completing college, Burkhart relocated to South Africa for a job in community planning and design. After returning to the United States in 1994, Eric started a career in federal service by becoming a Federal Agent. In 1999 he moved over to the CIA, which became his passion and focus in life. After being poisoned by while working in Kosovo in 2001, Burkhart was eventually obliged to medically retire, but not before extending his career to include tours in Iraq and Africa. Mukhabarat, Baby! is Burkhart's first book.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: "The Vegetarian" by Han Kang

I may have had unfairly high expectations for this book. After reading the summary and other people's reviews I thought "hooray another weird book!" I have a soft spot for the weird, dark books out there and coming off of Mr Splitfoot and The Beautiful Bureaucrat recently I was hoping for another winner, but this one didn't jive for me like I had hoped.

A young woman decides to become a vegetarian one day. Her husband does not take it really well, he thinks that it reflects badly on him, especially since she doesn't articulate why in a way he would like. She just says that it's because of her dreams. Her husband is not the only one who doesn't just roll with the punches on this one. It becomes a whole thing, to the point where her dad slaps her and tries to force feed her meat during what might be one of the most terrible family dinners on record in literature.

*Just an aside- if my husband decided to stop eating meat I would 1) ask him if he was serious 2) tease him for 10 minutes about he was never on board for Meatless Monday and now he's a vegetarian? 3) get passed it. Why do the people in the book take it so seriously? Like that the fabric of their family is torn in two because one of them doesn't eat me. Cultural? No one wants to be different? I think maybe one of the reasons that this book didn't resonate with me as much was I spent a lot of time being like "Is this a metaphor? Does this represent something?" and I got in too deep trying to analyze it.*

Anyway, the book chronicles how this decision has a ripple down effect through the family. There's infidelity, hospitalization, rape, and a "munching on a bird on a park bench" incident.

I never felt like I got into this book, but it is getting rave reviews from others so if it sounds like something that would get you interested please pick it up!

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guilty Pleasures

There has been much discussion recently about guilty pleasures due to Lent being underway. I was thinking about some of my guilty pleasures and thought I would share. Anyone else have similar ones?

1. Cute office supplies

How do you cope with annoying spreadsheets? You put them in cute file folders. Having to leave notes all of the time for people? Adorable post it notes.
I am in deep with the cute office supplies and I really have no guilt about it. I could technically use the boring office supplies at work but why would I?! Here's some recent favorites...

Doughnut Paper Clips - Dounghnut Bookmark - Doughnut Paper Clip - Doughnut Paperclips - Doughnut Bookmarks - Fun Bookmarks - Office Supplies

Mouse Pad -  Gradient Leaf Pattern

2. Blooper reels on YouTube

Whenever I sit down at my computer to get some blog stuff done, I like to have some background noise. So I'll go on YouTube and then before you know it I've wasted an hour watching blooper reels. I honestly don't know why it has such a magical time suck power on me. Well, in some cases I don't. Sometimes you just need to sit and watch Paul Rudd dance.

AKA All the time.

3. Movie theater popcorn

It's stupidly expensive. It can't be remotley good for you. But I don't care. I must have it. (Unless it's a sad movie and then I'd feel guilty about it. Can you imagine eating popcorn during Schindler's List? Not good.

4. Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor is so helpful for trip planning and scoping out restaurants and a billion other things. But more often than not my thoughts go something like "If Quinn and I wanted to go to Amsterdam and stay in a Hilton to use her points, which one would be the best one?" And then it's another fall down the rabbit hole for an embarrassingly long time planning things for a trip that might not actually materialize.

5. Supernatural

This show is getting (somehow) even more ridiculous the longer it is on tv. 10 years might be too long for any show to be on, for real. But it's campy and funny and doesn't take itself too seriously so I keep showing up to watch it. Also, there are some super classic episodes that will never get old, and as a bonus they produce great GIFS.


Friday, February 19, 2016

DNF Book Review, Slightly Angry: "Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse" by Brigid Keenan

As mentioned previously I wanted to try and get a "fish out of water"/expat story on the blog every month. Basically because I like those types of books. When I saw this book I thought it'd be perfect. And I was kind of right. It would have been perfect if it hadn't been so terrible.

It is a diary written by our author, a woman whose husband is a European diplomat who has been stationed all around the world (Syria, India, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, etc etc). Potentially so interesting right? She probably talks about local projects she gets involved with, great sights, and stories about wonderful locals that she learned so much cultural insights from...? No. I wish.

She talks about how she calls her husband every hour and complains about how bored she is (this is basically an exact quote from the book, this isn't me projecting). Also complains about the furnishings in the house they are living because they have to be older than 8 years old to be replaced. (Raise your hand if a majority of your furnishings are older than 8 years old. Both hands raised here!) She also has a cook and a general handyman/driver so she has literally all the free time in the world and doesn't do anything to take advantage of it.

In fairness, I can understand that that kind of life can be lonely. It's a lot of time being unsettled in a new place, and a lot of times you have limited amount of people you can communicate with. But this book is recent. There is the internet. Get on Rosetta Stone and learn basics of the local language.  Volunteer to teach English to kids. Get in an online support group. Take up knitting. Start a book blog! Apparently, according to other people's goodreads reviews she does get less whiny and more interesting as the book goes on. But I don't have the time or the desire to wait around on her to develop as a person or author.

People who have amazing opportunities and don't take advantage of them to the full extent make me batty.

And that is my angry book rant of the day.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: "My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past" by Jennifer Teegee

Everyone's got skeletons in their familial closet. Jennifer Teege's are worse than the normal. 

Jennifer was adopted as a young girl of about 7. Her father was Nigerian, her mother was German and she lived with her new family in Munich. Jennifer had fond memories of her loving, accepting Grandma, but less good memories of her mother, who had married an abusive man and always made it seem that Jennifer was a nuisance on her short visits.

Her childhood was mostly good, her parents were loving and she was close with her brothers but she often felt like an outsider due to her skin color. Jennifer grew up, got married, had kids and life was going well until a trip to the library one day. By pure coincidence (if one believes in such things) she picked up a book on the shelf and began to flip through the pages...she recognized some of the people in the pictures, they were her mother and her grandmother... She flips to the front of the book and sees that the author is her mother and that the book is all about how her father was the commandant of the concentration camp portrayed in Schindler's List. He was Amon Goeth. Jennifer almost has a complete breakdown.(This would be hard news for anyone to take but someone with already a history of depression like Jennifer it's even worse). She is confronted with about a bazilion questions:

Did my adopted parents know and not tell me? Why did my biological mother and grandma never tell me? How could my grandmother be so hopelessly devoted to Goeth, even after his execution? Does this make ME bad? How can I face my Jewish friends?

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think it's interesting and unique and I can't imagine Jennifer's shock. I think that she does NOT give her adoptive parents a fair shake at all. After she finds out about her biological family she pulls away from them really hard which I don't understand. The writing is a little strangely tilted at spots but I think that might be more of a translation issue than anything else. I give this book a right on the nose 3 out of 5 stars.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Movies with Brian: "Brief Encounters"

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Welcome to this month's edition of Movies with Brian!:

Well, Valentine’s Day is approaching and nothing says romance like a movie about cheating spouses.  This may not be one to cuddle up to with your spouse, but Brief Encounter is wonderful moral dilemma that takes us to the brink of infidelity in the most proper of societies – 1940’s Britain.

Brief Encounter is written by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean. The film itself revolves around a romance developed between an English housewife (Laura, played by Ceila Johnson) and an MD (Dr. Alec Harvey, played by Trevor Howard). Their chance (or brief if you will) meeting takes place at the railway station when a speck of dust is lodged in Laura’s eye and Dr. Harvey – who happens to be walking by – offers his professional assistance. This initial meeting really is quite a bit of nothing, there are no immediate sparks. There next meeting, however, takes place at a restaurant in which Laura offers the empty seat at her table out of politeness – the restaurant being filled to capacity – but they end up hitting it off and catching a movie.

The movie is filled with less than subtle insinuations with an extended preview for next week’s show: Flames of Passion. Without giving away any spoilers things heat up quickly, lies are told, guilt and shame persist for both Laura and Alec.

An interesting factor is the focus on Laura and the effects on her home life rather than Alec. It is not demonizing, but rather compassionate towards her situation – she loves her husband who provides a stable home, but her passion is ignited when with Alec. You see her struggle to maintain her composure, to do the respectable thing; but her desire – like so many of ours – says: Just a little, but nothing beyond that…. And that line of thinking goes as it usually does – further down the path. The more pivotal moments in which a decision to step further are made are beautifully shot, if you watch pay attention to Lean’s use of shadow. I think of the first kiss they share, at the train station between platforms, and how the passing train suddenly casts their faces in darkness – these moments are placed throughout, visually cueing us to the moral conundrum.

The film is filled with moments of cinematic bliss. The opening credits, with the long shot of the train departing, the steam from the engine rising and covering the ground, the noise of it all; and then the camera shifts, subtly, to capture the incoming train as if we were passengers being carried in and dropped off in the middle of this story. There is, almost, a perfect blend of movements that build into crescendo, and seem to bring us back down and ease us in to the reality that this passionate affair is over, that life will continue as it was.

This movie, if you have not seen it, belongs on your bucket list. If you are brave pre-order the criterion release coming in April, it will be loaded with extras.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentines for when you're sarcastic

My husband and I don't really do Valentine's Day, but he will probably find a card from this list, or something similar waiting for him on the 14th.... (Click picture to be taken to original source)



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Somewhere on twitter, originally at

For the Valentine who also happens to be your loofah.
Shock! Buzzfeed

Still Buzzfeed! Also, Gaston, eww.

This cheeky valentine.
And Buzzfeed with the finish.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Graphic Novel Book Review: "Boxers" and "Saints" by Gene Luen Yang

I was going to originally review this GNs back to back months for my graphic novels pick,but they really are best understood together, I think. So here they are!

The books take one series of events and take two different view points on it. In 1898, in China the Boxer Rebellion started. Some of the Chinese were angry that there were foreigners and missionaries in their country, trying to win converts to Christianity and bringing change to the area (not in always a good way).

In "Boxers", Bao sees a foreign devil (a Catholic priest) smash one of his villages favorite gods. The village rumbles with talk about how this is happening all over the place and just who do these devils think they are?! A mysterious man comes to Bao's village and trains some of the men to fight to defend themselves. He teaches Bao in secret. Soon they become/join "The Brothers of the Harmonious Fist" to go through the Chinese countryside purging it of Christians and foreigners. There's even a "squadron" of all women who eventually start doing the same thing. Then there's a big face off in Peking...

In "Saints", our story centers around a girl named Four. She's the unwanted fourth daughter in a family so they don't bother to name her. One day when she is in the woods she sees this mysterious person who looks like they are made out of gold. She goes to the local Catholic priest to ask about it, and soon they kind of bond. As you might guess, she gets more harassment than love at home, so she starts spending some time with a man and woman who are Christians. At first she goes because they give her snacks, but eventually they become like a family to her. She eventually becomes a Christian and is baptized, taking the name Vibiana. The person who appears to her in the woods is Joan of Arc, and sometimes she talks to Vibiana. The two both had to face threats to their nation, but Vibiana is conflicted because, as a Christian, she is technically on the side of the invaders. Vibiana helps orphans and Christians flee to what they think will be the relative safety of Peking....

I'm not doing a great job of reviewing these. This is just the plot basically, but there are so many other things that go into both of these books. Chinese gods, talking kind of evil raccoon, interesting Chinese cultural points... I have to say that I enjoyed Saints the most, but Boxers is important because of the set up. I liked how Bao and Vibiana both got to tell their sides of the story before their stories intertwine almost alllll the way at the end. And the Boxer Rebellion was brutal and scary and incredibly violent, so my heart is with the Christian missionaries though I'm sure the Chinese had some valid complaints. I thought the story telling was amazing and I'd love to shove these books in everyone's hands. 4 out of 5 stars!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: "Liar" by Rob Roberge

When I read the little summary for this book I was intrigued: man who finds out that he will probably be losing all of his memories due to dementia sets out to put them all down. Great, interesting, fine. And it's kind of like that. It's more of a really choppy, but not quite stream of consciousness/fever dream, jump around time line about his life and his excessive use of drugs and alcohol over the years. Also worth nothing, I didn't know who this person was, but they are apparently a novelist who has put out some successful books.

 He is told that he is at a higher than likely risk for diseases like Parkinson's and dementia, due to some concussions that he got through his life (including one he got in a car accident that was so bad that he almost was paralyzed). Though I feel like he never points out that his brain also could be damaged by the EXCESSIVE drug and alcohol abuse. Honestly, the fact that he lived past 30 seems to be a surprise to him (and to me if I'm honest). He also was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which, he says, lead to some of the drugs and drinking.

This is not an uplifting "man started doing drugs and drinking when he was 15 and eventually turns his life around" story. Though that is kind of the story. Rob is a serious alcoholic and drug user for a long portion of his life, and then gets clean for 20 years, and then falls back into his old habits.

It's probably my fault for not liking this book very much. If I had read a couple more reviews I would have probably seen that this was not a book for me. it was too nonlinear and didn't really seem to say anything. I never felt like he was bragging about his exploits. Maybe it is best read if you are a fan of his work already, then it might provide you some perspective about his writing?

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

My New Podcast Obsession - Stuff You Missed in History Class


I feel like I'm always a little behind on getting the scoop on the best podcasts, though Heather over at Capricious Reader has turned me on to so many great ones I don't even mind being late to the party. My most recent obsession is "Stuff You Missed in History Class". The hosts thoroughly research and then tell us about interesting true stories that are interesting and maybe under-reported in the history books. They episodes are short, interesting, and make you feel like one smart cookie by the end of them! I listen to a couple a day and I rue the day that I finally get caught up and actually have to wait on new episodes.

I've mad a little playlist to pique your interest. I tried to pick a grouping of episodes that represent the span that the podcast encompasses but mainly I just ended up picking my favorites. Each title is linked to the episode for easy listening! (If you listen to this podcast and have favorites please tell me about them in the comments so I can give them a listen!)

"The Princess Who Swallowed a Glass Piano" (Aired April 24 2013)

There once was a princess who lived kind of isolated in a far away castle...and she thought she swallowed a piano and this caused her great distress. The interesting thing is that this wasn't a super strange thing at the time....

Sir Christopher Lee (Aired October 12 2015)

Sir Lee was a BAMF. There's simply no other way to put it. Actor, espionage maker, family man, a wizard AND a heavy metal musician. I might be in love with Christopher Lee. It's a shame that he died recently.

"The Hartford Circus Fire" (Aired March 11 2015)

In 1944, a fun day at the circus turned into a  big top terror. I'm not sure why this event fascinates me so much, but it always has. Maybe because my great-grandma sewed costumes for a circus!

"China's Footbinding Tradition" (Aired March 19 2014)

Just a head's up there is some talk about repeatedly breaking foot bones in the episode. But besides that, it's interesting to hear about the "whys" of this tradition. Spoiler - it's not because everyone had a Tarantino-esque foot fetish. But yeah, maybe some of that too.

On the docket to listen to today while starting at spreadsheets and doing math:

"The Dyaltov Pass Incident" (Aired October 6 2014)

A camping/climbing trip for a bunch of college kids goes horribly wrong and we still don't know why!

Anyone else listen to this podcast and have a favorite? Or have a different podcast they love that they would recommend?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: "In the Land of the Armadillos" by Helen Maryles Shankman (HFVBT)

A Spring 2016 Discover Great New Writers selection at Barnes & Noble.

A radiant debut collection of linked stories from a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, set in a German-occupied town in Poland, where tales of myth and folklore meet the real-life monsters of the Nazi invasion.

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish populations. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.
Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, In the Land of Armadillos is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.

Wesley's review:

This was my kind of short story collection. When I finished it (a little bit past my bedtime *cough*) I just held it in my hands and savored the feeling of reading something that was just such a good read. It was like eating a Snickers bar on a day that if you DIDN'T GET SOME CHOCOLATE THERE WOULD BE HELL TO PAY.


This is my favorite kind of short story collection, when all of the  stories have a common theme or setting and has a thread of continuity through them all but it doesn't just tell the same story from a different angle over and over again.

I like the little dose of magical realism in a couple of the stories. For the people of Europe during WWII it must have really seemed like the end of the world was at hand; so who says talking animals would have been completely out of the question? (If you don't like magical realism, don't let this put you off. It doesn't show up a lot.) Even my magical creature, the golem, shows up in a story. I might have to update my guest post about golem that I just did for Book Bloggers International! 

I liked that there were some happy endings, but not so many to not be realistic. Because, not a whole lot of happy endings come out of WWII, but there were enough to keep me from despairing.

Each story I read I thought "this one will probably be my favorite". (With the exception of the Messiah one, that one I liked the least out of the whole bunch). But I think my two absolute favorites were "Super crotchety old man saves a little Jewish girl, also there's a talking dog" or "Legit ghost story I could tell around the campfire about mysterious animals in the woods" those aren't the actual titles obviously.

The more "humane" side of a couple of the German characters also made things complicated, in the best kind of way.

If you couldn't tell from the gushiness of this review, I very much liked this book. It gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars from me!

About the Author

Helen Maryles Shankman lived in Chicago before moving to New York City to attend art school. Her stories have appeared in numerous fine publications, including The Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Grift, 2 Bridges Review, Danse Macabre, and She was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Winter Story Contest and earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers competition. Her story, They Were Like Family to Me, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Shankman received an MFA in Painting from the New York Academy of Art, where she was awarded a prestigious Warhol Foundation Scholarship. She spent four years as as artist’s assistant and two years at Conde Nast working closely with the legendary Alexander Liberman. She lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a year, spending the better part of each day in an enormous barn filled with chickens, where she collected eggs and listened to the Beatles.

Shankman lives in New Jersey with her husband, four children, and an evolving roster of rabbits. When she is not neglecting the housework so that she can write stories, she teaches art and paints portraits on commission. In the Land of Armadillos, a collection of linked stories illuminated with magical realism, following the inhabitants of a small town in 1942 Poland and tracing the troubling complex choices they are compelled to make, will be published by Scribner in February 2016.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book review: "The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire" by Jack Weatherford

When I say Genghis Khan you probably have some images that come to your head: maybe fast horses, falcon hunting, Mongolia, the creepy Mongolian guy from Mulan who ISN'T Genghis Khan but whatever maybe he's his cousin or something?

What if I told you, that you could have rightly called him a feminist too? Even if a lot of the things he did for women "did not spring from an ideological position or a special spiritual revelation so much as personal experience and the practical needs of running a harmonious society". (I guess if a new law prevented me from being sold into a terrible marriage I wouldn't really care what his motivation was.)

-He outlawed the sale or barter of woman which was a BIG departure from the tribal system which made big changes

-He made his daughters powerful Queens that helped protect the new empire. Before Genghis Khan, there were several tribes in the area who were independent and he (kinda forcibly sometimes) united them under himself to make the Mongol nation. Here's a wonderful paragraph that talks about it: 

"The Daughters of Genghis Khan formed a phalanx of shields around their Mongol homeland. They marked the nation's borders and protected it from the four directions ad they ruled the kingdoms of Onggud, Uighur, Karluk and Oirat. With his daughters in place as his shields surrounding his new nation, Genghis Khan could now move outward from the Mongol steppe and conquer the world"

...and basically that's what he did.

The down side of all of this is that after Genghis Khan died, Mongolia backslide on all of this progressive women stuff in a big, ugly way. Like a mass rape of any girl over 7 that took place a decade after Genghis died. Obviously not everyone shared his views.

Though this book is mostly about strong Mongolian women, I found that some of my favorite parts were learning little things about the Mongolian culture.

Here's a fun fact: Let's say that a son is going off to war or something. As he leaves, his mother will stand in the doorway of her ger (a ger is their home structure. It's like a yurt) and thrown ladles full of milk in the direction that he is going. The milk represents a path made of white stones. If there was such a path, the rider would be able to ride during the night because of the reflection of the moon making it easier to see.

Here's another: The Mongols thought that you'd leave a little piece of yourself in certain objects when you died. Since they were such a horse-centric culture, they thought men left part of themselves in their horses manes. Often the horses manes would be made into banners and left at a great warriors grave. For women it was the coverings of their ger. They were made from felt that the women would pound and work and form and craft that really made it apart of themselves.

There was also a massacre scene that made the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones look like a Sunday in the Park.

The writing in this book was so good, there were so many times I stopped and thought "well that was a beautifully crafted informative sentence. I love that sentence". Like this one "The Mongol Empire ended abruptly on a snowy day in 1399 when the sex-crazed spirit of a rabbit jumped on Elbeg Khan and captured his soul".

  I give this book a solid 3.75. Informative, interesting, a good length. Woohoo!