Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: "Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Naratives from Black History" by Joel Christian Gill

When I was looking for my next graphic novel to review on goodreads the big ol' font on this cover caught my eye, along with it's unusual name. What does fruit have to do with black history? And then I saw that the title comes from an anti-racism song by Billie Holiday that talks about how black victims of lynching look like strange fruit hanging from trees., that's awful to think about. I've linked the song below, also Billie has skills in case you haven't heard her before. Worth a listen on multiple levels!

So, this book talks about 9 stories that you probably haven't heard before. Myself I had heard of two of these men. I''d heard of Henry "Box" Brown from an episode of The Memory Palace - a favorite podcast of mine, and I'd heard of Bass Reeves from an episode of Drunk History. A tv show with a funny premise, but that I've actually learned a lot from. Reading this book you will hear about a chess champion, a cyclist, the nation's first integrated school and more!

I have only 2 gripes, and they are small. One, a lot of times the font is hard to read. It's either teeny tiny or very scripty so maybe not a good book to read on a moving vehicle or in the dark. My other gripe is that they left a lot out of the Box Brown episode. They detail very well his escape from slavery in a small, mailed box but they tell you less about what happens afterward. I feel like they also imply that he escaped and bought his wife and 3 children who were still in slavery as soon as he could but he actually went on a speaking tour and married a white woman in Great Britain and started a new family......I'm sure it comes down to a) limited pages to devote to each story and b) I think the focus is supposed to be on the daring escape (though with things like that I'm always more interested in how you cope AFTER something like that).

A good read, I learned a lot and I will keep my eyes peeled for more in the series.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The 5 Most Recent Adds to My Goodreads TBR

The Wolf Road 

My next book coming from Blogging for Books (it's actually kind of late...maybe should email them....)


 I loved loved loved Company of Liars, so I hope I at least love this one!


I don't know if I'll actually read this one or not if I'm being honest....sometimes that happens on the TBR


 Creepy sounding short stories? Yes, please.


And the next pick for Jamie's Quarterly Classics Club!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" by William Heffernan

I'm going to level with you guys - I don't really do murder mysteries so I'm not sure why this book ended up on my TBR but a departure from what you usually read is good sometimes right?

Basically, three young men leave their home in Jerusalem's Landing, Vermont to fight in the Civil War. One doesn't come back at all, one comes back physically maimed and one comes back personally changed (basically, he was already a bit of an asshole and now he's  a big, huge, cruel asshole). Our main person is Jubel, who is the one who comes back with one less arm than he left home with. He's a deputy with his dad the sheriff (or constable or something) and he has to investigate a murder. So the book flashes between the current timeline (the murder), the timeline where the three boys were fighting in the army together (where something super scandalous happens and they talk about it the whole book without actually saying what it is) and a timeline of when they were younger (oh look what scamps those kids are!).

There's also a love story, because of course there is.

Really there's nothing wrong with this book if you're looking for a historical fiction murder mystery. But there were two things that bothered me about this book.

1) There were two female characters (one a main character, one more peripheral) and they were hardly given any character development. One was like a "so perfect on a pedestal" and then one was "gold digger hussy". Felt like there wasn't a whole lot of work put into the female characters.

2) The whole point of this book is solving this murder and talking about this salacious thing that happened when the boys were in the army. They hard and harp on them both and when it comes to the big reveal of both they each get like, half a page. It's so brushed aside it was like the author didn't actually think about how to wrap it up after talking so much about it. It was a little annoying.

Anyway, I gave it a 2 star but if you are a frequent murder mystery reader or like things set in the Civil War (that was the best written timeline, I thought) you still might want to pick this one up. 


Monday, August 22, 2016

In celebration of Ray Bradbury....

Today, Ray Bradbury would have been 96 years old.

I always have a lot to say about Ray Bradbury (Love him! He's a wordsmith! He's a national treasure! I cried at my desk at work when I found out he had died!) But today I will just leave you with one of my favorite of his silly quotes.

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” Ray Bradbury,:  

Thanks for everything Ray. XOXO.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book review: "The Hidden Letters of Velta B." by Gina Ochsner

After reading this books description I thought I had a pretty good idea of what would happen. I was wrong, as usual. What I couldn't have counted on was the lovely writing that this author used to tell this interesting (though sometimes confusing) story.

This book is set in Latvia, and I learned all kinds interesting folklore and traditions. My buddy at Myths and Legends podcast could fill some episodes with those Latvian yarns. Like, you're supposed to sweep the path behind everyone after a funeral so the dead persons spirit won't follow anyone home. And that gypsies give the gift of a down pillow at a funeral.

It's basically the story of a small town and a family who loves there. It's set in about the 90s but it feels pretty timeless. There's: ghosts, unplanned pregnancies, Baptists who must have a piano on a certain side of the worship hall, a small town that needs an economic boost, a mad (but friendly) scientist, a swindler uncle who is still a little lovable until he turns totally loathsome, grief, lost love and cows in flotation jackets.


Here's one of my favorite snippets of the book (and an example of the authors lovely style):

You tell me  that at the root of the word mirror is miracle or wonder. I have always believed in miracles. I credit your grandfather for this unshakable belief that the inexplicable, unbiddable, and wholly wonderful does and can occur. And I believe in blessings. You cannot be wondrously healed if you haven't first been terribly wounded.

I liked a lot of this book, though sometimes it was kind of hard to follow. And who I thought would really be the star of this book was really just being told the story like the reader is, but that's my own suppositions. I'll give it a 3.65.

Monday, August 15, 2016

New member of the family at the Hoffmann household!

So, here's a fun fact about me. I've wanted a dog since, basically the minute Josh and I got married and had our own apartment. But we lived in a cat only apartment and so I had to wait.....for 8 years. And Josh had never had a pet when he was little and was apprehensive on several fronts.

But we recently added a new member to the Hoffmann ....and her name is Queenie! (Or Queen B or Queenie Beanie or Queenie Dog or Ninja Queenie or whatever)

She's a four year old Shar pei who we got through Shar pei Savers, a midwest based Shar Pei rescue. So much thanks go to them and her foster mom Kathy who worked tirelessly with Queenie to get her to the great dog she is today.

She is 4 years old, so well behaved, and adorable. But I'm biased! I love her little hippo face. She's hard to get good pictures of because she's all black, but I will have her all over social media all the time. So I will have to be a better photographer.

Supervising Dad assembling something for the house....

A favorite nap spot, behind the chair...

Family photo where you can only see her blue/black tongue!

Amazing how fast it went from "No dogs on the furniture" to "Only when invited up, dogs on the furniture" to "Dogs on the furniture but they can't use the pillows or blankets". 


Friday, August 12, 2016

Rapid Fire Mini Reviews #10

The Successor by Ismail Kadare- The first 2/3rds of this book zipped along and made a fair amount of sense. But then the last 1/3rd. Really not so much. If you can hang for the last 1/3, you will get an interesting peak into scary dictatorships and Albanian history, which is probably not something that most people have experience with! 

 The Property by Rutu Modan - A story about a woman and her grandmother who leave Israel to come and try to reclaim the apartment that was stolen from the grandmother's family during WWII. Well, that's what the daughter thinks they are doing. A surprisingly interesting graphic novel, considering it talks about property law a fair amount!

The Light in Ruins by Chris Bohjalian - I feel like you always know kind of what you're going to get with a book by Bohjalian but the serial killer aspect of if made it feel unique and different.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I'm so glad that I read this. It provided a really interesting and refreshing view point. Also, a good reminder to be grateful for the things that we have.Though, at it's heart - a love story.

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker- This is the book that the Tina Fey movie "Whisky Tango Foxtrot" was based on. I really liked it, it was funny and interesting and a little depressing and a good look at how incredibly complicated things are in the Middle East. It's pretty close to the movie, I think they just merged a couple of peripheral characters. I highly recommend both the book and the movie.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

School Library Update

Hi blogger friendos, I've got a question and I am hoping that you can point me in the correct direction.

The school that is connected to my church is looking to beef up their school library. They already have one but it's pretty dated. 

Does anyone know of any places to get grants to get library books? Or places to solicit donations? The books don't need to be religious in nature, just appropriate for a library in a K-8 school.

Any leads that you can pass along would be great! Thanks all!


Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: "A Matter of Breeding: A Biting History of Pedigree Dogs and How the Quest for Status Has Harmed Man's Best Friend" by Michael Brandow

I very much like dogs, and very much enjoy watching dog shows on tv. Saying things like "oh look at his little face!", "Is that a mop or a dog?" and "AAWWWWWWWWW". My dad and I always joke that we should start a drinking game every time one of the (notoriously bad) announcers explains that "the dogs aren't being judged against each other, they're being judged against their breed's standard". The thing is, after reading this book, it becomes AMAZINGLY clear that being as close as possible to the breed standard could be a very bad thing indeed.

Our author talks about a variety of dogs and topics like: breed origins, why dogs that we think are really old look nothing like their ancestors, and why being recognized by the AKC is not always a good thing. Some of the dogs that are talked about at length are: borzois (who I think are so gorgeous but are really just a hodge podge of all kind of dogs that you wouldn't believe, even though they just kind of look like more elgant greyhounds), Labrador retrievers (including why we call them "chocolate" and not "liver" colored), German Shepherds (you ever notice how their back legs make them almost look like they are crouch/crawling when they walk? Not good.) and English Bulldogs (the breed that is the most expensive when it comes to medical bills, but that doesn't keep lots of people from buying them.)

Author also talks about how certain dogs' existence were threatened due to human conflicts: pets that were seen as bourgeousie were rounded up and killed by the thousands during events like the Inquisition and the French Revolution. Sharpeis almost went extinct during Mao's reign in China.

If you're a big dog person, have an interest in genetics or why humans have a tendency to make almost everything worse that they come into contact with, this book might be for you! I gave it 4 out of 5 stars because I'm a big ol' dog nerd!