Saturday, May 30, 2015

Armchair BEA Day 4 - The Constant Heartbreak that is Book to Movie Adaptations...

Book to Movie Adaptions
What books do you want to be made into a movie or television show? What are some of your favorites? We'll explore more about this topic, especially what works and what doesn't.  Are there any upcoming shows or movies that you're excited for? What are your recommendations?

I'm going to tell you a sad story.

So I read this book "Serena" and I loved it. I made my friends and family members read it and they loved it. I was feeling triumphant.

Then I heard they were making a movie based on the book and I was feeling nervous.

But then I heard the JLaw and Bradley Cooper were the leads and I was feeling thrilled!

But then I heard about the amount of reshoots they were needing to do....and then I heard nothing. I was feeling scared.

And then articles like this started coming out....

Serena is the cinematic equivalent of watching a car battery dying

Doomed from the beginning

It gets released on Netflix on June 9th and I will be watching it as soon as that beloved red envelope shows up in the mail. I'm holding out hope, because the critics are not always right, and I love the book so much.

We shall see!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Armchair BEA Day 3 - Blogging Talk...

Blogging Q&A
Blogging 101. All kinds of tips and tricks to get you started or keep you going. Talk about ARCs, reviewing in general, web design, etc.  What blogging platform do you use? How do you network? What are some of your favorite web designs?  Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now. Either way, we want you to share your knowledge with the rest of the community!


I am no expert on anything blogging, there are people who have been doing it for much longer than me. However I thought that this topic was fun and a good opportunity to chat on such things. I'm really looking forward to seeing what other people have to say too!

1. I've really tried to incorporate posts that aren't reviews once a week onto the blog. It takes some more brainstorming, but I think the variety is good. Also it gives me more flexibility if I'm in a reading slump or just don't have time to get a book read and reviewed in time. I think it's gone well so far! They seem to be some of my more popular posts.

2. I love Netgalley, because goodness knows that free books are some of the best kind. However, it also gives me this anxiety knowing that I have a archive date deadline and a percentage to keep up! Whenever I get approved for a title I try and read it right away so I don't forget about it...

3.If you're a book blogger and you're not on the twitter I highly recommend you join in. It's weird in the beginning, I agree. But just start following all of your favorite bloggers and chime in occasionally and before you know it you'll get the hang of it. It's a great way to meet people and get all the good gossip :)

4. I am not tech savvy and am actually pretty proud of myself that the blog doesn't look like something I created in MS Paint. Thank goodness for pre made templates on Blogger.

5. I seem to have a problem keeping my fonts consistent. I do not know why that is but it is annoying to me (and I'm sure to readers) so I will do my best to pay attention to that more!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Armchair BEA Day 2 - Talking Social Media, kinda. I might have hijacked this topic a little...

Social Media: How do you use social media to expand your blogging/writing horizons?  Social Media is all about networking and connections, and utilizing today's technology to the fullest.  Make sure you mention your own social media pages. Do you have another blog, maybe a Tumblr? Have a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? Or maybe there's an underrated social media program that you like.

Before we start here's my social media info:


(Instagram is technically just my personal account but lots of bookish stuff pops up there too!)

So it probably doesn't count as social media, but I want to talk about Goodreads.

I don't think I'd be half as organized in my reading life or running this blog.

I think my favorite thing is making your own shelves. I have shelves for big books ("450 pages +") , books that are perfect to read on vacation ("vacation reads") and books that I can't get my hands on through my library ("books I want to read but the library doesn't have"). I'm super creative with the names right?

One thing that irritates me (and I know Jen from Relentless Reader talked about this too) is that there isn't a way to show that you read a book. Like if I read a book in 2012 and reread it again this year there isn't really a way to show that. Unless I made a special shelf for rereads. Which I might, because I do like making my own shelves! :) Anyone have any hints for Jen and I?

At first I was going to copy and paste all of my reviews on to goodreads but then I got super lazy and was like "naaaaaaah." Maybe someday but not now.

I was scared when Amazon bought it, but in the way that I use it, it hasn't seem to make a ton of difference...except for the lame ads embedded in the feed. That's stupid. (Though I did read one of the books it recommended once and it was awesome so whatever. It was helpful once.)

I love the giveaways! I used to win them all the time and now I hardly win any. But it's a great way to keep pulse on books that you might not hear about otherwise and add them to the TBR!

Are you on Goodreads? Want to be my friend? Have any tips to share? Any great features I'm not using?

To finish, here's an interesting graph that goodreads made (Click on picture for link to larger image:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Armchair BEA Day One! - Introductions

All! It's BEA this week! Those of us who aren't at actual BEA are participating in Armchair BEA! An (almost) week of discussion posts. It's a fun time, and I've been looking forward to it for awhile and it starts today! Hooray!

Each day I'll share the discussion question and my response. Can't wait to read everyone else's responses too!

An Armchair BEA standard. We provide a list of ten questions beforehand, and ask that you pick FIVE. Hopefully you'll be making more friends and meeting new people, so introduce yourself and get to know others. Tell us all about yourself!


Share your favorite blog post on your blog
I guess it would be this one where I talk about a form letter for authors and publishers who want bloggers to review their book. I think it's good hearted, almost helpful, snark.

What is your favorite genre and why?
I wouldn't really call it a favorite but I read a lot of nonfiction. Sometimes I look at my library hauls and my goodreads shelves and I'm like "uhoh , got to mix in some fiction, getting a little nonfic heavy!"

What book are you reading right now? Remember how I just said I read a lot of nonfiction? I'm in the middle of a very interesting (but sad) book called "Firestorm: Allies Air Power and the Destruction of Dresden". It's all about why the Allies decided to bomb Dresden to pieces, and why it's still kind of scandalous, much examined decision. There are more fun, less serious books in my future, I promise!

What is the top book in your TBR pile? 

I guess it would be Outlander! I've been saving it for a few months to read on a really long upcoming airplane ride. (T-8 days, Ah!)

What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?
I've got a lot of really great sounding books waiting on my Kindle right now: Uprooted, For the Love, Rain: A Natural History and The Book of Speculation

Monday, May 25, 2015

Language and Translation

Translated books are kind of a hot topic these days, especially if you're trying to diversify your reading list!

Many people have signed up for The Introverted Reader's 2015 Books in Translation Reading Challenge. The challenge goes all  year, and all you have to do is read books that have been translated from their original language into a language that you feel comfortable reading.  Wondering what some popular options are?

- Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (originally Swedish)

- Anything by Kafka (Kafka is Czech but he wrote in German. Thanks Rachel!)

-Various works by Chekov (Russian)

-"The Never Ending Story" (German) - (I didn't even know that that was a book, let alone that it was in German originally!)

- Fairytales by Hans Christian Anderson (Danish)

- "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)

I'm not directly apart of this challenge but right now I find myself reading a book that was originally in Japanese! It's Silence   by Shusako Endo. (There's punctuation and things over the letters that I don't know how to insert, but just feel free to follow the link!) It's really interesting, and the translation (and the writing) is really good because it has a nice even flow to it. However, the story itself is pretty heavy and there's a lot of sad parts! It takes place in Japan in the 17th century. Japan was very much an island to itself, trying to keep it's isolated ways. However, there were some Catholic missionaries that were allowed in, they were usually Portugese. (I'm not sure why this is necessarily. Maybe because they could hitch rides all around the world on merchant vessels?). After a time, some of the warlords and rulers decided that this Christian influence is not something that should be apart of Japan. Not only were people not allowed to practice, but Christians were hunted down and eliminated. There was usually torture involved, some of it the most creative and awful that I have heard in a long time. I know, sounds terrible. But the faith of the priests and their followers is inspiring, but none of them are made out to be these perfect people. Ordinary people in extraordinarily awful circumstances. Not a place that any of us want to find ourselves in.

Also, a super dramatic but simple cover. You know how I like those!

Translations are a good thing. It helps to make our world smaller (in a good way!) and brings together people that might not have had contact normally. You know who does that for a living? Smartling. They translate digital content into all kinds of languages so that way the most content can reach the most people! Because as funny as those "engrish" signs can be sometimes, you don't actually want that for your business, Smartling to the rescue!

Friday, May 22, 2015

My 5 favorite books I've read this year (so far!)

In no particular order...

Dead Wake
I've already gushed about this book in a blogpost. And I feel like everyone who has read it has only good things to say about it.I thought it was compelling and I'm already tap tap tapping my watch waiting for Larson to put out his next book.

When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped us Win WWII
I adored this book, it made me weepy from almost the get go and I stayed that way throughout. The author is a lady, so I wrote up a review and put it back for All Lady July. I am all kinds of excited to share it with you.

Last Night in Montreal
I reviewed this one too! After Station Eleven I need some more ESJM in my life and I was so happy to have found this, her first book. If you are intrigued by the hype around S11 but don't dig the dystopian thing; this is where you need to be.


Berlin: A Portrait of a City Through the Centuries
I nearly walked past this one at the library, but then I just couldn't do it; and it came home with me. I'm so glad that I picked it up! I'm reviewing this one later, but obviously since it made this list you know I loved it!


Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back Again
I just finished reading this one a day or two ago! A man (with a very interesting/sad childhood and backstory) greatest dream is to study theology at Oxford. He makes it happen, but not without lots of sacrifices and doubt. He struggles with what he feels called to do. And I even learned a few things about CS Lewis I didn't know! Also the cover is beautiful and the author is really nice.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: "Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia" by David Greene

Try not to be shocked, I found another book about Russia to review. My weird obsession continues.
Our author is David Greene. Apparently he works for NPR? Hosting something called Morning Edition? What I'm trying to say is I wasn't familiar with his work previous to this book. Greene had done some work in Russia periodically, but then came back with his wife Rose to work for NPR there permanently (bureau chief or head correspondent or something). He and his trusted translator Sergei decide to journey across Siberia on the famed Trans-Siberian railroad.

Here's a couple of things that I thought were interesting:

-Russia is a huge country, that spans several time zones. However, all the train schedules are shown on Moscow time. So you could literally be closer to Paris than Moscow and you still have a  train schedule in Moscow time. Is this confusing? Oh yes.

- Did you know gulag is really an acronym? (I thought it was just Russian for prison or camp or freaking worst nightmare or some such thing). It loosely translates into English as "main department of labor camps". Apparently "Western historians have used the term more broadly than Russians have." So it's not always a place for political dissidents, it could just be more of a regular prison with regular criminals.

- Life expectancy rates are really low for men in Russia compared to other similarly developed countries. It's only 60 years! Some contributing factors? "60% of men smoke...each citizen on average, consumes 4 gallons of pure alcohol a year". This will put you in an early grave. It just will.

-Up until 2013 beer was considered a food, not alcohol in Russia. (I thought that THAT was deserving of it's own bullet point!)

One of the things that I thought was most interesting was the attitudes for the government. People seemed to crave stability. In times of dictatorship or communist rule, things were definitely scary; but people had government issued homes and jobs and that offered stability. When Russia dips it's toes into democracy, there's less stability, more people fall through the cracks and face hardships that they hadn't before. (This is a problem more with the rural poor than the urban elite. That is a big old gap.)

I really enjoyed this book. I felt like it was a really good look at the two real separate groups in Russia (the above mentioned rural poor and urban elite) and what makes Russians Russian and what makes them tick! 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: "Ask the Past" by Elizabeth P. Archibald

I was barely 10 pages into "Ask the Past" and I knew it was going to be a read I'd find hilarious (and maybe occasionally useful?)

The book shares practical advice from centuries gone by on a whole range of topics. It's kind of comforting that people have been basically struggling with the same problems for a long time: "I don't want to embarrass myself in front of others" or "I want this girl to like me" or "I've been shot, what remedy should I try?" Oh humanity, we haven't come as far as we'd like to think!

Books like 1777's work "The Complete Vermin-Killer" offer advice on bed bugs (KILL IT WITH FIRE!). Or a tip about why you should always carry some hog lard when you go off to war, from a book from 1441. There is advice about how to get out of awkward conversations, how to look great on a limited budget (accessories, duh),  and what musical instrument just wants to cuddle.

The accompanying witty remarks from the author make the great (though sometimes a little nausea inducing) advice even better. There are also some medieval illustrations that border on disturbing every once in awhile!

I'm so glad I live in a time where we have things like penicillin,soap,clean hospitals and countless other things. Though, if Star Trek is right, in a couple of millenia people will look back to this time and be like "Oh! Barbarians! How did they manage to not all die of ridiculous diseases and their constant warfare!?".

There's also great advice like: "if you have to fart, try to cover it with a fake cough". Like I said, we've come so far...

A perfect book for a history lover, art lover, or someone who just wants to feel good about themselves because they know that when they blow their nose they shouldn't wipe the residue on someone else's drinking glass. #lifehack . 3.5 hilarious stars!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Rapid Fire Book Reviews #5

These all ended up being nonfiction somehow. Not on purpose but I do like a good nonfiction!

Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe: Basically this book is life lessons and lessons through situations in the Chronicles of Narnia. It says at the beginning that it's important to have read all of the books. I've read them all, but for some of them it's been a long long time! Having said that, even if you don't remember/haven't read some of the other books (you know, like anything beyond LW&W) you will still get something out of this book. It even talks about why there's controversy with how the books are numbered which is something I'd always wondered about.

Adventures in Saying Yes: A Journey from Fear to Faith  Firstly, this book randomly showed up in my mail one day and I don't remember asking for it or receiving any emails about it. So if I promised someone at Bethany a full blown review for this and I failed to deliver I am truly sorry. But you get a mini one and hopefully that counts.This book is about a man and his family who are missionaries in Beirut in pre-9/11 times. I think there's a line between "I feel like God is calling me to do this, even if it's outside of my comfort zone" and doing things that are pretty dangerous and foolhardy. I feel like this man danced on that line a few times. But maybe you can really only tell where that line is when you're in that situation. At least he was honest about the times he failed spectacularly.

The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philip Lenard Changed the Course of History: So this book is about a scientist who makes it his life mission to slander and generally hate on Einstein. I assumed that this guy was just some ridiculous quack. He was a Nazi pretty much from the day it was founded. He didn't just hate Einstein for his "baseless" science, but also because he was a Jew (even though he wasn't practicing). I was like "Well he's a very open anti-Semite and he sounds pretty nuts so I'm sure he was a bad scientist too." Nope. He actually was one of the first people to figure out how to potentially make X-rays. Oh yes, and a Nobel prize winner. It's a lot of science (a lot a lot if you're a physics idiot like me). But if you have an interest in science and a real life man that sounds like an insane Bond villain, this is your book!

Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II: To be honest, I was going to make this an All Lady July book, but then I decided against it. A few too many characters for me to be able to keep straight and review succinctly. However, I'm glad I read it! The story of this little city that sprung up and employed all of those people on this top secret thing was very interesting. My Dad has asked me before if I've read it, and now I have! Planning cities is his deal, so maybe I can encourage him to read this one!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An All Lady July Call to Arms

(That title sounds a little ominous, I promise, no vigilante justice needed)

I know you're thinking, um Wesley, it's not even June, I know you're a Type A but isn't this really planning ahead ? It is thinking ahead, but I'm going to be out and about for a long time in June (hooray!) and summer gets so busy for everyone.

And I like to plan things stupidly in advance.

(this gif will be in heavy rotation)

In case you haven't heard, this is the blog's second All Lady July! All Lady July celebrates all things literary and ladies and I need your help! I've had a couple of you lovely people already say they want in, and I thank you! (I'll be emailing you swell humans later today). But there is room for more lady comrades!

Curious about what you could guest post about?

-Reviewing a book by your favorite lady author

- Are there any characteristics from your favorite female book characters that you wish you had? (Feisty like Anne of Green Gables? Archery expert like Katniss?)

-Are there any books that you feel like made you into the lady that you are? Or characters who influenced you and your life?

-Who encouraged you to read? Was it your mom, your grandma, a teacher, a librarian?

-If you could have dinner and drinks (because of course, drinks) with one or a few female authors who would they be?

-What book/s would you stick in the hand of every 13 year old girl? What book do you wish someone put in YOUR hand as a 13 year old girl?

These are only a few options! Let your imagination run wild!

Thank you so much for your support! Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Imagined Meals

I recently read a book called "Lunch with CS Lewis", and it made me think. What authors would I want to have lunch with? What would we eat? What kind of restaurant? What are we drinking? What would we talk about?

So here's a couple of my thoughts, I'd LOVE to hear yours in the comments. (They don't have to be living either, it's our fantasy and we do what we want to!)

Ray Bradbury and I would meet in some greasy spoon diner somewhere between my home and where he grew up in Illinois. It'd be fall, which is Bradbury season, for real. I'd eat a club sandwich with a mountain of french fries and he's eat grilled cheese and tomato soup. (He loved tomato soup, that's not just me making stuff up.) We'd talk about how sad we are that NASA isn't what it used to be. We'd talk about time travel. Did he think that we'd have figured that out by now? Is it maybe good that we haven't figured it out because humanity isn't exactly trustworthy? I'd tell him that I keep meaning to make dandelion wine with my home wine making kit. I'd thank him because his books changed me and my reading life for the better. Except now that I'm always on the lookout for suspicious lightning rod salesman and carousels that spin backwards.

I feel like Neil Gaiman and I would go for a walk in the woods together. We'd have mugs of tea, but I wouldn't drink from mine much because I'm not coordinated enough to drink and walk at the same time.Both of us would have slightly out of control hair. I'd ask him how he felt about becoming a dad again. We'd talk about old folktales and legends and how he's used those for fodder in my favorite books.I'd thank him for writing books that chilled me and freaked me out, but never kept me up at night. I'd ask way too many questions about American Gods. I'd tell him that I was a little confused by Sandman but that I assumed I'm just not smart enough for it. I'd ask him about the pressure he feels, I mean, the internet is full of people who almost worship him. I'd thank him for his very public support of libraries. I feel like this would be a conversation with a lot of flighty looking hand gestures.

CS Lewis and I would meet in a pub somewhere. I feel like he have a pint of bitters and I'd have a cider. I'd drink it too quick because I'd be nervous so that means I'd be laughing my just a little too loud laugh and feel all warm inside. There would definitely be a dog running around.I'd tell him that I think he is the best demon namer ever, I can't even pick a favorite from Screwtape Letters. I'd ask him to tell me all about meeting Joy, and if he would do anything differently.I'd ask him to tell me about his time in England during WWII, was it as scary as I imagine it was? I'd beg him to tell me that, despite what I'd read, he and Tolkien stayed close friends for always. Then I'd probably get a little weepy (from accidental cider chugging and genuine love) and tell him that his books make me feel less alone in my struggles with being a Christian some time. I'd tell him that so many times he'd put to paper what I had felt in my heart. I'd thank him for making me closer to God. There would probably be a little blubbering. I'd hold the pub puppy and feel better.

Friday, May 8, 2015

"The Railway Man" : the Book and the Movie

Awhile back, I was at the movies with my husband. I am one of those weird people who likes the previews (though sometimes I wish there were about ten less and that they would just START THE MOVIE ALREADY!) A preview that I saw and was very excited by was for a movie called The Railway Man. I ended up  netflixing it (that's a verb) and more recently I read the book on which the movie was based. There are some liberties that the movie takes, not surprisingly, but the big difference is that the movie shows one very small portion of a much longer event. So we're going to talk about the book and the movie and what makes them both worthwhile.

So Eric Lomax was kind of an introverted only child growing up pretty lonely in Great Britain One thing that gave him a ridiculous amount of joy was trains. Everything about them. Train stations, different types of trains on and on (there's a lot of train details in the book). All of his free time was spent in and around trains or at the Chapel. This part was a little confusing to me, but Eric kind of fell into this culty/weird religious group that really scared his family. I was never quite clear on what they taught but it seemed like they were pretty shifty. But he met a nice girl there so at least it gave him some happiness outside of trains for once (?)

As it did for so many, WWII put all of Eric's plans on hold. He joined the signal corps and got engaged to the nice girl he was dating from the cult. (That's a fun sentence.) He bounces around before he ends up in "Malay", though it is not long until the Japanese come and Eric and several others are captured.

You know "Bridge over the River Kwai"? (starts whistling). Many of the men that were captured with Eric were forced to clear a route for a railroad that would have eventually gone over that bridge. So, in a fit of cruel irony Eric was forced to labor in the service of a railroad. Eric didn't actually have to physically dig the ditches and things that others did. He was responsible for upkeep of vehicles and other mechanical and engineering things, due to his skill.

Things are miserable and horrifying but Eric makes his way the best they can. But then a radio that he and his mates made is found by their captors and things get more awful.

What follows is literally years of imprisonment, torture, starvation and terror.

When Eric survives, which is does, he stumbles back into civilian life. His love of trains is still there but he's a changed person. They didn't have a name for it then, but now we know it's PTSD. His marriage suffers, and his 2 little girls don't understand why their father acts the way he does.

After a divorce, Eric meets a lovely lady on a train and she changes his life. He finally begins to deal with what has happened to him. They put the pieces together as to the one person that really haunts Eric's dreams, the english translator who was present at his torture sessions.

And that's as far as I'm going to take that summary because the end is pretty darn compelling.

So what I've recounted for you is basically the book. It's not a big book either to have all of that information. Eric's writing is very simple and direct, to the point of being a little brusque.

So naturally the movie isn't like the book in some ways.

The movie:
-is told in flashbacks from when he meets Patti on the train starting at a little before he is captured
- doesn't mention his first wife or kids
-Eric has more of a murderous intention in the movie than in the book
-relationships with other soldiers aren't mentioned as much
-the book ends with him still being captive at the same place where he was taken originally, where in the reality he was moved around a lot. There was more misery beyond the time where the movie stops.

Does it make the movie bad? No the movie is really good. Having read Eric's words now, I think it totally makes sense the way that Colin Firth played him. Really reserved and introverted and scared. I mean, Colin Firth is grand, it's just a fact.

Here's my advice. Start with the movie. If you are intrigued, I certainly reccomend the book. You learn so much more about life in camp, along with other things that happened in that part of the world during the war, like the shocking massacre of Australian nurses on Bangka Island.

I know that I often overlook the Pacific theater when doing WWII readings, and this book helped remind me that those stories are as equally compelling and need to be heard as well.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tourist in Your Own City - Milwaukee

It's about summer vacation time for many, and I bet  people have thoughts cast toward far flung, warm places. All of this makes me think about what my own fair city has to offer to visitors. Though Milwaukee is neither far flung or warm (by most people's standards.)

So, if you're in the market for a fun, midwestern destination for your travel experiences here are some things that are great about Milwaukee.

The Brewers/Miller Park

The Brewers are not always good (sigh), but Miller Park is pretty sweet. There's a retractable roof so games don't ever get rained (or snowed!) out. The food options range from the usual stadium food (pretzels, hot dogs, margaritas, popcorn),  to amazing local barbecue (Smoke Shack!) and donuts (Holey Moley!)! I joke that I want to get a group together to do a food tour of Miller Park. We buy the cheapest tickets, and then just wander the stadium and try all of the great sounding food options. If the Brewers keep up this record that's going to be all that's worth going to the stadium for....and Hank and the Running Sausages of course! #dontwhackourweiner

Hank in his new mobile Dog House 2014-04-26 08-27.jpg
Via Wikipedia

Ethnic Festivals

Are you Irish? German? Greek? Polish? Italian? Mexican? Native American? There's a festival for that. Milwaukee is a city of many nations and that is shown in our festival season. If you want authentic Irish dancing, Polish pierogies, or the rockingest German polka band this side of Aachen; Milwaukee can provide that. Irish Fest is a personal favorite, because I can find good Irish books at a book booth and pet the huge Irish wolfhounds at the Celtic Canines section. If you want to save money some money for whiskey and tamales check the promotions schedule. Lots of times you can get in for free or heavily discounted!

The Third Ward

Looking for a walkable place full of places to wine and dine and shop? The Third Ward is my favorite destination for those activities. Head to Cafe Benelux for pomme frites and peruse an impressive beer list from your table on the rooftop patio. Pop over to Bangles and Bags  for jewelry and accessories all organized by color in the store! They always have cute stuff for really reasonable prices, I wish they were around when I was going to prom. Need fresh flowers, delicious smelling bread, seafood that's still wiggling or want to get in on a great cooking class? Thank goodness for the Milwaukee Public Market that has all of that and more!

Milwaukee Art Museum

I love art, and I feel fortunate that such a beautiful and well stocked art museum is so close to me! Part of the museum was designed by internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. I heard (though now I can't find my source, so I could be wrong) that it was the first Calatrava in the United States. Though he has since designed a lot of the structures at the new World Trade Center site. The "wings" even open and close accompanied by music! There's Georgia O' Keefes, a huge picture of a happy dog, a favorite George Eames, and the standard "weird" modern art that I don't always understand. There's always interesting exhibits too, right now it's all fashion that's been featured in Ebony magazine over the years!

There's also brewery tours (if you do 3 in one day, you've completed the trifecta. It's not generally a good idea), distillery tour (want absinthe?), opera, ballet, ice skating where Olympians train, kayak on the river, boat cruises around the harbor, food tours, the pedal tavern, Summerfest, the State Fair, gallery night and about a billion other things. When the winter sucks your soul and social life away we go hard in summer :)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: "A Letter to My Mom" Created by Lisa Erspamer

It was not by accident that this book about moms is up on the blog a few days before Mother's Day. (It's the 10th. Just in case you'd forgot. Or were confused because stores started advertising for it in early April and it through your sense of time off.)

This isn't going to be a super positive way to start out a book review but whatever I'm going to do it anyway. Sot his book is apart of a kind of series ("A Letter to My..."). This is the third book in the series. Anyone want to guess what the first two are? Maybe "A Letter to My Spouse?", "A Letter to My Children?" Those would be good guesses. But no, the first two are "A Letter to My Dog" and "A Letter to My Cat".

When I read that my response was "Um...what? Are we ranking cats and dogs above parents? Were the publishing companies more eager to publish letters written to cats and dogs than someone's Mom? Does that order seem weird to anyone else?" So I thought that was strange. I don't know if anyone else would care.

Anyway, now that I've ragged on what I'm sure are perfectly lovely books, let's get to the book at hand.

There isn't much explaining to be done: the whole book is made up of letters from children to their moms. A few sons but mostly daughters. Some people are famous (Suze Orman, Kristin Chenworth, Josh Groban) but others are just everyday people. Everyone wants to say thank you. But for a lot of different reasons. The author's letter talks about how her mom woke her up every morning "with a silly song and a spray bottle of water". And all I could think about how irritated I was when my mom would flip my light on in the morning to wake me up when I was in grade school. If she came in bearing a spray bottle we would have brawled :)

I'm not going to rate this book because that seems weird ("I don't know if I was convinced just how much this person loved their mom..."). But I will say if you're looking for a sweet short book to gift to a mom (or mom figure) this would be a pretty safe bet.

Want to win this book? Pop over here  to enter a giveaway!

I received this book in exchange for a fair review from Blogging for Books

Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Review: "The Inheritance" by Marianne Perry (HFVBT)

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To begin with today, I'm going to give you the book's summary and then I'll talk about why I think it's interesting....


The Inheritance tells the story of a family disintegrating from conflicting loyalties in Calabria, southern Italy. Set during the period 1897 to 1913, the region was subject to earthquakes and tsunamis; the land was harsh and poverty the norm. Superstition clashed with religion and a class system ruled the people. Calabria is the perfect backdrop for the tragedy that unfolds in The Inheritance.
Caterina is an atypical woman, and The Inheritance chronicles her life from birth to young womanhood. Born with an inheritance of loss into a society that has predetermined what she can and cannot do, she vows to live a life of her choosing. Caterina refuses to allow the limits of her gender, the constraints of her class and the demands imposed by those in power to stand in her way. Caterina remains steadfast in her commitment to become the woman she imagines. Her decisions ignite conflicts and fuel a chain of events that result in dire consequences for all whose path she crosses.

So, from that summary doesn't it sound like this woman named Caterina will be the main character of this book? I don't really think that she is. Is she super important in this book and is she one of the main characters? Yes. Do I think I would write the whole summary around her part of the book? Not really. Anna, the mom, or Lorenzo a son, really seem to be the more main characters to me. But anyway...

The book is about a well to do family in southern Italy in the early 1900s. (I had to remind myself of the year, because sometimes it seemed a little bit like the middle ages with trains. There was a whole kind of feudal system, Medici thing going on. Considering the first World War is knocking on the door at the end of the story). The father Santo is devoted to his sons (especially the 2 oldest Caesar and Benito) and is a ruthless business man who has worked his way up from the bottom to considerable wealth. The mother is Anna, who is loving and doting on the estates servants and on her youngest son Lorenzo. Lorenzo and Anna are especially close to a servant girl, a little younger than Lorenzo, who lost her mother at birth. There is also a food loving cook (like there's any other kind) named Bruno and a conflicted priest named Padre Valentine. (I thought his name was a pretty strong "wink wink nudge nudge" considering his role in the story).

When Lorenzo and Caterina are about 12 there is a huge disaster and he is swept away from the estate and they are separated for about 5 years. When they are reunited many many things have changed around them (almost all for the worse I'd say) but will their feelings for each other still be there? (dum dum duuuuuuuuum)

There's a couple of different side stories that go on within the main narrative; but what I think this book real strength is in the different relationships. Anna has a relationship with almost everyone in this book (though the least of one with some of her own family members). I give it a 3 out of 5 stars, and it really made me want bruschetta, so be prepared when you're reading!

About the Author
Family dynamics, genealogical research to solve ancestral mysteries and international travel are Marianne Perry’s priorities. A second-generation Canadian-Italian, she is the author of The Inheritance, a historical fiction/romance set in Calabria, southern Italy from 1897 to 1913 that was inspired by her grandmother’s early life. With a thirty-year career in education and communications, Marianne holds a Master of Education Degree from The University of Western Ontario (Canada). A past member of the Board of Trustees, the Canadian National Arts Centre Corporation, she has also published non-fiction genealogical articles throughout North America. As a girl, Marianne fell in love with The National Geographic Magazine and dreamt of exploring the world. With her January 2014 visit to Antarctica, she achieved her goal of stepping foot on every continent. The mother of two grown children, Marianne and her husband live on the shores of the St. Mary’s River, which drains Lake Superior on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She continues to research her family’s history and write non-fiction genealogical articles. In addition, she is working on her second novel and planning further adventures.
Marianne blogs about genealogy, travel, family and writing on her website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Goodreads.