Friday, February 26, 2016

Fiction Friday: The Mapmaker's Children





I recieved a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.


"From the New York Times bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a story of family, love, and courage

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. 

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way."

From the Hardcover edition.
________________________________________________________________________

My Thoughts...

I couldn't wait to get this book in the mail! I was so excited for the opportunity to review this book and I was not disappointed. 

The characters, both historic and fictional, are colorful, warm-blooded, and complex. The tapestry woven between eras and the women struggling to find their places and purposes within them is one that at first seems fragile but steadily becomes rich in detail and as hardy as it is enduring.

I absolutely love the character and perspective of Sarah. Faced with plenty of opportunities to become bitter and brokenhearted, she propels herself and in many ways her family and friends toward the opposite spirit, choosing instead to deepen her belief and love of the Abolitionist cause her father and brother gave their lives for, and throwing her every energy into saving and dignifying as many lives as possible. Taking full advantage of each chance to further her talents and intellect so as to make use of them to provide freedom for others, Sarah bursts through the barriers imposed on women of her time. While author Sarah McCoy admittedly takes historical liberties, the integrity of this remarkable woman of history is indisputable, and she is sure to become as dear to your hearts as she is now to mine.

If the book had solely focused on Sarah Brown's unforgettable life I would have been completely satisfied, but intertwining the story with a modern day woman added layers of grief, perturbation, and empathy that makes the story all the more engaging. 

I didn't immediately like Eden, her personality felt as bony and sharp as her physical description, but perhaps this was the author's intention. Bit by bit, we begin to see the tendrils of Eden's broken heart slowly reaching out and trying to make sense of her similarly shattered dreams. As her cool demeanor gradually warms from the gentle love of a welcoming community, so did my appreciation for her and my desire to see her find comfort and healing. My respect for her inner strength deepened too, for what she had endured before we come upon her at her most vulnerable. 

My praise for this book stems not only from it's rich heritage, so respectfully rendered, nor solely the wonderfully crafted characters, nor simply from the engaging story line that pulls you in right off the bat. It is how all of these elements combine to create a book that stirs up genuine feelings, transports one squarely into the thick of a lost era, and like the best of stories, was difficult to put down.

 While this book certainly roused a number of reactions and personal examinations on my part, a feature that I did not expect to like was the Book Club questions in the back.  I tend to find Book Club questions trivial rather than thought provoking, however I found several in this set to harmonize succinctly with my own thoughts. 

I loved the idea however to have an accompanying playlist, and highly recommend using it to engage even more of your senses while experiencing this book!

This is a title I am proud to add to my personal library, and heartily recommend!




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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Ride of Your Life

This post contains affiliate links.



I received a free electronic copy of this book for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Futility.

Responsibility.

That sense of something missing.

Many of us have at one time or another felt this combination of feelings, and it tends to sap us.

Author Ran Zilca was no stranger to these feelings, so he decided to confront them, investigate their root for himself and others, and embarked on a journey not only physically but emotionally as well.

Seeking out leading experts in psychology and behavior along the way, Zilca travels across the country by motorcycle in an effort to fulfill a lifelong dream and try to learn how to use his experience to not only to help himself in the future, but others as well.

Along his ride, he is met with challenges both big and small, physical as well as mental and emotional, but finds some unforgettable people, places, and purpose along the way as well. Not surprising that he learns first hand that a journey is as much if not more about who we become along the way, especially when it might be the first time that we are truly meeting one's self. It's about embracing the present moments and connecting to them wholly. It's about finding those things that we never get tired of, the smell of rain, wind on our skin, the voice of our child expressing their love or pride for us, and remembering to notice them day to day, not just when we are four states from home. 

His descriptions of his travels and thoughts are full of detail that make it easy to imagine yourself a silent passenger. They seemed to me especially relatable as I have traveled a few of the same routes, actual pavement but more significantly, the byways of one's mind.  

Swift moving, introspective, and bright. This book played heavily on my already homesick feelings for mountain air and blazing sunsets over craggy outcroppings, and seriously stoked my desire to head out on the open road myself. Nay though, my own road trip will have to wait a while. My internal journey however is well under way, and the many insights in this book served as good fuel. Some I found I was already practicing, others were an entirely new perspective for me to consider, and a few I have set goals to personally implement more fully.

My one criticism, the perspective is substantially middle-class and remains there. This in itself is not necessarily a negative. However, those for whom life, either by consequence or circumstance, has not been particularly kind may have a harder time finding the means to their personal journeys. I would have liked to see more on how those whose daily struggles often consume the vast amount of their daily energy and resources can still find similar fulfillment.  




Author Ran Zilca and his Motorcycle 
Get your own copy here!

                                                                    

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Mindful Monday: Women in Black History



I recieved a free electronic copy of this book for the purpose of review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.


Though marketed as a children's title, this book is a beneficial read for people of all ages.

Within these pages we meet fourteen determined women. These women were not after fame nor fortune, though a few of them did attain one or both. These women lived their lives with conviction, strong moral principles, and deep respect for fellow human beings. 

Even in the face of brutal abuse, discrimination, or violations of their rights, these women sought to educate rather than retaliate. To persuade rather than suppress. To reconcile rather than harbor hate.

Though in many ways their achievements might seem fairly common place to us now, in their lifetimes they were trailblazers, unconventional, cutting-edge, and it was through the efforts, example and courage that slowly but surely brought about further awareness of the need for significant social change.

Each woman's story begins as early in her life as careful research has rendered possible, and this approach helps the reader to really develop a relationship with each character. Also rather than focusing primarily on the single or few events in her life that she is known for, the chronicles follow each woman's full life course, how they lived their whole life, and that this is as much a reason for their significance to history as were their claims to fame.

I learned so much about the few women in this book that I had heard of or read brief accounts about before, and I met through these pages so many others that I now admire and respect.

It's very difficult for me to choose a single one to say was the most impactful to me, they all made me think deeply upon the times in which they lived, the times I live in, and the struggles they and others, black women especially, have faced throughout the history of the U.S. 

It was through this book that I really learned about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and how through corruption from law enforcement to judges practically gave free licence to any slave owner or bounty hunter to kidnap and enslave any black man or woman they wished without proper and credible means to prove that one was in fact a slave at large. Every black individual, even those born and raised free could be pulled out of their own homes, dragged away in darkness and sold. The only true freedom to be found lay across the boarder, in Canada, where every aspect of slavery altogether had been abolished and made illegal. 

Not a single one of us living in the U.S. today, regardless of race, have been untouched by the accomplishments these courageous women achieved. They shaped events in their lifetimes that opened doors for millions of other humans.

I sincerely hope author Tricia Williams Jackson decides to write a second volume. I'd love to see her wonderful biographies of several more amazing women in black history such as Aviator Bessie Coleman, Writer Ida B. Wells, Billie Holiday, Maya Angelou and so many others I don't even know about yet!!



Get your own copy here!

                                                                    

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Travel Tuesday: A Pint of Plain




The history of the Irish Pub by an American writer in love with Ireland, having recently settled down there, in search of his new watering hole.

From the birth of Guinness to the near death of a hand pulled pint, this books takes you all over the Emerald Isle. Author Bill Barich's hands on account of the tastes, smells, and rich history of the Irish Pub is as enjoyable as it is interesting.

As he visits various pubs looking for the perfect combination of nostalgia, genuine character, and camaraderie, he finds so much more in the places and people he encounters along the way. As so many traditional pubs sell out to developers or modern club owners, one gets the clear, almost desperate feeling that something authentically Irish is going extinct, even while the modern replicas are raging successes all over the world. These almost comical reproductions cater to more of an imaginary ideal rather than the true identity of the hardworking publicans who cared for generations of dispirited and overworked masses of Irish laborers.

As a few stalwart holdouts attempt to preserve an indisputable cornerstone of Irish history, the vast majority of owners and patrons seem to be struggling to adapt and find their place in the rapidly modernizing Ireland.

I don't even like beer, but this book made me want to try an authentic taste of "the black stuff" It's a romance story with a place, told through the patient pursuit of the perfect "pint of plain."



I purchased my personal copy of this book as a damaged copy from a local book chain. I have not recieved any compensation to review this title. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Get your own copy below!

                                                                   

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Mindful Monday Review: Uncommon Waters - Women Write About Fishing



See this tattered, weather-beaten, bound volume? 

This is my personal copy of one of my favorite books.


I love that everything about it seems unconventional, after all women don't fish, wouldn't actually like it, much less want to write about it, right?  

So WRONG!!

The voices, stories, poems, and pages of this compilation are rich with just how natural a fit fishing is for the women who love it!

With excerpts, essays, and more from women of all walks of life, varying ages, experiences, and eras, these words tell stories of yearning, discrimination, determination, obstacles, failures, personal tragedy, turmoil, joy, desire, and success. Some are mothers, some are wives, some are daughters, sisters, employee's, and entrepreneurs, but all are women on a journey.

It is my personal opinion that one does not have to be female, nor even like fishing to thoroughly enjoy this collection, but you probably will love it all the more if you do.

I laughed a lot, I hurt with some, I cried with others, and I felt amazing peace with many.

This is a fantastic book to read on a rainy day with a warm mug of tea, on a road trip, or camping out under the stars while your feet remain toasty by glowing coals.

Though published nearly twenty years ago, the relevance is timeless.


AWBB Book Points: ! ! ! ! !  5/5

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Friday, February 5, 2016

My Personal Book Rating System

I've read the argument that the reason movies have a rating system is so that parents can decide in a more informed manner what content is appropriate for their minor children.

I support this, and I have often felt that the current rating system is helpful, but it could certainly stand to be improved upon. Obviously, movie companies have a lot to lose if a more detailed or stringent system were in place, and many would argue that the current system is adequate and that it is a parents job to be more stringent themselves if that is their viewpoint and aim.

I also, however, take a little bit of issue with the idea that the rating system is solely there to protect children. I am not alone in using ratings and disclaimers as a way to judge if a movie is appropriate for me myself to watch. Not only am I very sensitive and easily disturbed by violent images, depictions of sex outside marriage, and swearing, among other things, but I also feel that these things are harmful to my thinking, and erode my spiritual relationships so I am careful to give heed to my conscience in these matters.

Herein lies the mine field for a book lover like me. Books have no real rating system or content disclosures. Very often and with growing frequency, after reading through the plot synopsis, I begin a book, or even get well into it when it takes a turn toward very mature content.

I don't mean a brief violent scene, or an allusion to some act, or even an instance or two that the page can easily be turned over or skipped, but gritty and graphic and detailed content repeated throughout the writing. So often a very good or otherwise intriguing and enjoyable story line and excellent character development have been ruined for me because of the integral nature of such content to the story or the saturation level throughout the read.

I expect to occasionally run into books where I skip over parts here and there, but I would certainly appreciate a better heads up when I am perusing the bookshelves.

I realize this type of universal disclosure is likely never to occur on any sort of grand scale in the book industry, it would likely only serve a relatively small amount of readers such as myself, but could theoretically severely impact the already meager profits book publishers and authors make in comparison to the movie industry.

However, here in my cozy little internet book nook, I can at least provide this service for my readers, a good portion of which I would guess might be somewhat like minded.

Here is what I will try to provide for my readers:

1.) An honest review of story, characters, and writing style, even if I find certain elements objectionable. I will skip over what I can, and alert my reading audience if a lot of skimming over parts was necessary, and why, or if I cannot even finish the book due to saturation.

2.) A disclaimer to alert to certain elements of content, including if possible the frequency or intensity. (I may not be able to provide the later for some books, especially if I could not even finish it due to those elements, but I will alert readers to that result.)

3.) A rating system similar to television and video game ratings.

  • 7+ - Age seven and above
  • PT - Preteen
  • GA- (General Adult readers) few or no instances of sex/swearing/violence (SSV)
  • RD- (Readers Discretion) - Some SSV, not explicit, and primarily related specifically to the plot, or scene, and generally in the light of being a bad example rather than glorified. (Ex. a murder mystery is going to have a murder scene of sorts, and a book about a teenage mother may allude to the obvious act that led to pregnancy. The story lines however should focus on catching the criminal, and sending the message that our choices have consequences on more than just ourselves, etc.)
  • NR- (Not Recommended) for sensitive readers or those whose conscience would find the contents offensive.
Also I will give books a ranking system I will call AWBB (A Wee Bit Bookish) Book Points. a basic 1-5 ranking system using exclamation points!!

Part of being a book reviewer includes the agreements that I personally have made with a publisher, author, or promotion site. Most often this will include a free print or e-copy of a book in exchange for an honest review. While I do try to screen the books I choose or am offered to the best of my abilities, there is only so much that can be learned from a plot summery, so occasionally I may write a review for a book which I personally would not buy or recommend to a friend or even may not have been able to finish because of taking issue with particular content elements, but have given my word to review. Keeping my word is important. I will do my very best to always respect my readers, my authors, their publishers and distributors, and myself.

How do you select reading material, and what kind of guidelines would you like to see when it comes to literature? Share your thoughts in the comments!


              

Welcome!


This is my new space for my book habit.

I haven't been able to break it. I've been addicted since at least age four, but probably sooner. 

Shortly after that I started my coffee habit. Haven't been able to break that either. 

So I might as well share 'em!

To all the other bookworms out there, as well as authors, publishers, agents, promoters, and anyone else in the book world, I hereby join you all!

Yes, I would LOVE to do book reviews, but see my guidelines page first.

Yes, I would LOVE to help you promote a book, join in book blasts, blog tours, etc., but see my guidelines page first.

Want me to share an original work of writing here as a guest post? I'd LOVE to, but see my guidelines page first.

Want to join in literary linkys? We'll have some!

Want to recommend a book for me to read or share? I'd LOVE to, but, you know, see my guidelines page first.

Oh! I'll test and review coffee too! Just FYI!

Ok!! I'm excited!

See you between the pages!