Friday, October 28, 2016

I Got How Many Books in October???


I had this idea. I thought it was a good idea; now I’m not so sure. Being that I read a lot and talk about books a lot, I thought maybe I would document here what books I get each month, starting with October.

The problem is, it would seem that I amassed 41 books in October. I’m not sure whether to throw my fists in the air and celebrate or hang my head in shame.

Let’s go with the former. Woohoo, I got 41 books in October!!! Now, just because I got that many doesn’t mean I read that many (or that I’ll ever read them all; let’s be honest).

Also, side note: I'm not going to link these titles like I normally do. Because 41.

So, let’s start with what I finished (or abandoned) this month:

  • My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce was my favorite book that I read this month, and then I got to see Arce speak at the Hachette Book Club Brunch. Amazing! Read my full review. (received for free to review)

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is one that I started but haven’t finished and may not finish. Hachette Group sent an advanced reader copy of this book to the attendees of their Book Club Brunch. Lots of people loved it, but I have plenty others that I am more excited about. (received for free with event ticket)

  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue was my Book of the Month selection in September. I started at the end of September and finished early in October. I loved this story and it pairs nicely with My (Underground) American Dream. Read my full review.

  • The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury was my book club’s October selection. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I learned a few things about the history of witches, religion, and mummies. (purchased new on Amazon)

  • The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer (purchased new on Amazon)

  • Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz is an easy-to-read look at some fascinating women from around the world. Read my full review. (received for free to review)

  • Wonder Women by Sam Maggs is another newly released look at women’s history and achievements. Those must be big topics now. It’s about time. (received for free to review)

Here is where things get complex. I acquired A LOT of books from a lot of different places this month. The book sale at my local library and the Hachette Book Club Brunch certainly boosted this number higher than a typical month. Here is the breakdown:

Book of the Month selection:

  • The Wonder by Emma Donaghue -- I’m a little ways in and loving this one so far.

Bought new on Amazon:

  • Earth Magic by Steven D. Farmer – Because I bought the Earth Magic oracle deck this month, and why would I not get the book of the same name? I’m all about healing ourselves and the earth.

  • Womanrunes by Molly Remer and Shekhinah Mountainwater – Because I also bought the Womanrunes deck, and this is its companion guidebook.

Bought new on Womancraft Publishing:

  • Burning Woman by Lucy H. Pearce – I bought this as a set with the Womanrunes deck. I’ve been excited about this book since it came out, but hadn’t gotten around to buying it yet. Problem solved. And it’s signed!

Bought used through Alibris:

  • The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer – I’ve seen this mentioned several times and finally read the poem, which I loved. This book expands upon the ideas in the poem. I’ve been listening to the audiobook through my library’s association with Hoopla, and I ordered a used copy through Alibris to reference later.

Bought used at Housing Works:

  • The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

  • Rosie by Anne Lamott

Bought used at my local library book sale (I should mention that the entire list that follows set me back $12).

  • Japanese Haiku

  • A Walk With Me by Gwen Frostic

  • Poetry: An Introduction to Its Form and Art by Friedman and McLaughlin

  • Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

  • Three Voices: Arthur Bramhall, Eugene T. Maleska, Herman M. Ward

  • Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

  • When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, edited by Sandra Martz

  • Words from the Wise: Centuries of Proverbs to Live By

  • Bhagavad Gita

  • The Way of Life by Lao Tzu

  • Extreme Faith

  • The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

  • The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

  • Immortality by Milan Kundara

  • Webster’s Dictionary

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

  • Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O'Connor (these last three books I took to work--I’m a copy editor)

Received for free for review:

  • Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-Free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time – I received this from Blogging for Books, and have been trying recipes. See my review.

  • The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

  • The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires (a children’s book)

Received as part of an event:

  • Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton -- Finally! I waited and waited and waited (you may remember that story). But it’s here now, so everything will be okay. And it’s signed!

Then, of course, there are the six books that Hachette Book Group gave attendees in our goodie bags.

Does anyone else feel overwhelmed? Guess I should stop writing and start reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What is That Hachette Book Club Brunch Thing I Keep Mentioning? This.


Last Saturday was pretty much the perfect day. How do I measure a good day? Good conversation, time spent with friends, delicious food, and books. Saturday had all four.

I joined a few friends in New York City for the entire day. The women I went with aren’t people I get to see very often since my move, so having a full day in the city with them was magical.

Our first stop was the Hachette Book Club Brunch. My friends had gone last year and had a blast, so I decided to join them this year and I was not disappointed.

Hachette Book Group planned a four-hour event that included panels and discussions with four non-fiction authors and four fiction authors, plus lunch.

Prior to the event, Hachette had mailed advanced reader copies of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (on sale February 2017) to all of the attendees. My copy was delayed, so while I waited, I went in search of some of the other author’s books and was able to get a Kindle copy of My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce, which I loved (see my review).

As if I wasn’t already excited about the day itself, I was extremely interested in hearing Arce speak. She was in the first panel along with two other memoir authors -- Amy Dickinson and D. Watkins -- and moderator Bill Goldstein. It was an interesting mix of authors that resulted in lively discussion.

Arce talked about the fear of being “found out” as an undocumented immigrant, which permeated her childhood and young adult years. Spoiler alert: Now a U.S. citizen, Arce will be voting for the first time this year.

Watkins opened his talk by stating that his family grew up in poverty but wasn’t poor. Capitalism was always top-of-mind in his family and his brother helped sustain the family by selling drugs. When he died, Watkins took over the business. These days he is a college professor and is passionate about getting stories to children that they can see themselves in. By the end of the session, I had added Watkins’ book The Cook Up to my Amazon wishlist.

Amy Dickinson spoke of her mother’s death and how it impacted her. She later mentioned that she, too, grew up in poverty, but “the kind where you have a bathtub in your front lawn.” Dickinson is the woman behind the “Ask Amy” advice column, which replaced the Ann Landers column more than a decade ago.

The next session featured author Beth Macy discussing her experience researching and writing Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South, a journalistic exploration of the Muse brothers kidnapping. She was positively giddy as she spoke of her first encounter with the Muse brothers’ niece. Macy had gone to the niece’s restaurant hoping to get permission to write the family’s story. Instead, she was shown a sign on the restaurant wall that read, “Sit Down and Shut Up.” Fortunately, over time she was able to get the permission she sought and now has a much talked about book to show for it.

With the nonfiction sessions behind us, we were served lunch and given an opportunity to have books signed by all of the authors in attendance. I was determined to meet Arce and, although I couldn't very well have her sign her book on my Kindle, I jumped at the chance to have a few-minute conversation, during which I gushed about her book and she said “thank you” a lot. I’m not necessarily eloquent in discussions with people I don’t know well, but it totally made my day to chat for a few minutes even if I thought I was doing it badly.

After lunch we returned to the auditorium for the fiction sessions, beginning with a panel including Jane Hamilton, Eowyn Ivey, and Robert Hicks. I admit I haven’t read any of these authors, but I intend to correct that. During this session, I added Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards and Ivey’s The Snow Child: A Novel to my wishlist. All three authors explained how they built the worlds in their novels and how they came to understand their characters. It was so much fun to hear their thought processes. Ivey charmed me when she said she had been bored with her writing until she had the realization that, as a fiction writer, she was allowed to add magical elements to her stories. It brought life to her writing and she hasn't stopped since.

The event finished with keynote speaker Min Jin Lee. She shared the importance of Korean and Japanese history and mentioned that Pachinko took 30 years to write because it began with an experience she had in school and branched out from there. During the question and answer portion, Lee struck me as humble and engaging. With each audience member who stepped up to the microphone and asked a question, Lee asked, “What’s your name?” then said, “Hi, (name). I’m Min.” So sweet.

Just when I was about to be sad that our time listening to the authors had come to a close, Hachette Book Group handed out goodie bags. And it was probably the best goodie bag I’ve ever received.


The bag itself was a nice canvas tote with a zipper top and outer flap pocket, and it was filled with books. There were six books and a notebook in there. What did we get? Here’s the list:

I know. It’s like Christmas here. After hearing Dickinson speak, I wanted to read her upcoming book, and there it was. Also, the day before the event, I had seen an ad for The Tourist and added it to my Amazon wishlist. Seeing that at the bottom of the bag may have made me squeal.

The magic continued after we left. Being that my friends and I are all book lovers (obviously), we decided to visit a bookstore.

A couple of days earlier, I had read an article about 19 Beautiful Bookstores You Need to Visit in America. During our train ride, I pulled up the article and found a store from the list that was in New York City. So off we went to Housing Works, a store that sells used books received by donation and employs volunteers, then uses the proceeds to provide health support and services for HIV/AIDS. Brilliant.

We finished our day at Wine 30 where we split appetizers, sipped wine, caught up on each other’s jobs, trips, and families. We relaxed, we laughed, we ate.


By the next day, I felt a renewed energy about life. It filled my soul’s well and readied me for whatever adventure may come next. It will likely involve reading.

Disclaimer: I have used affiliate links throughout this post, and received some of the books mentioned for free from Hachette Book Group as part of my event ticket price (which I paid on my own). Please see my affiliate disclaimer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nourishing Meals: a cookbook review


Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-Free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time
by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre
Published by Harmony, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, on October 11, 2016

There is something about fall that gets me in the mood for cooking. The cooler weather makes me want warm, hearty meals.

I have been looking for a new cookbook to add to my collection, but I am picky about them. I wanted a cookbook with “normal” meals in it -- no outrageous recipes, no unknown ingredients. I was ecstatic to come across Nourishing Meals.

Nourishing Meals is written with food allergies and sensitivities in mind. Thankfully, these aren’t really issues for my son and me, but because of this focus, the recipes focus more on whole ingredients. Finding healthy and delicious meals that would satisfy us both was my goal.

The book begins with approximately 40 pages explaining whole foods, causes and symptoms of food sensitivities, and other healthy eating concepts. From there, it moves on to more than 400 pages of recipes, which are broken down by course.

Although not every recipe has a photograph, there were a few photo sections that showed some of the recipes with their name and page number listed for easy reference.

Right from the start, I was impressed with the breadth of this book. It delivers mightily on “thud factor” (that is, the sound it would make if you gently tossed it on a table), measuring in at 8 x 10 x 1.25".

It is perfect-bound and, therefore, has difficulty laying flat. I have a cookbook stand that holds it open just fine. If you don't have a stand, be sure to have a paperweight or other heavy object to keep the book open.

For the first few nights, I simply flipped through, reading names of recipes to my 5-year-old son and showing him pictures. He often exclaimed, “Oooh, yeah. I would like that,” and I made a list of our favorites. Sometimes when I look through a cookbook, I only find a handful of recipes that I would actually make; with Nourishing Meals, I have 25 recipes on my list, and that was only writing down those I wanted to make first.

So far, I have made two of the recipes from our list: Kid-Friendly Salad with dressing and Chicken Pot Pie.

I thought the salad was delicious and, after having it for dinner one night, I took leftovers to work for the next two days and enjoyed it just as much. My son wasn’t fond of the lettuce (which didn’t surprise me), but he liked the other non-lettuce ingredients and the dressing quite a bit.

The chicken pot pie came out pretty well. I have never made one before, and I am really proud of this attempt. In fact, I've never made any pie before. I'll definitely need a little practice with pie crust as mine was a bit dry, but the filling was delicious.


This was exactly the kind of cookbook I was looking to add to my collection. For now I'm storing it right on my kitchen counter, so I can continue to try new recipes. I can definitely see this becoming one of my go-to cookbooks.

Nourishing Meals is a solid addition to any cookbook collection, particularly for people who are cooking with food allergies and sensitivities in mind.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Harmony, via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review, and I have used affiliate links throughout this post. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My (Underground) American Dream: a book review

My (Underground) American Dream during a lunch break

My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive
by Julissa Arce
Published by Center Street on September 13, 2016

This memoir about Arce’s experience as an undocumented immigrant from childhood through early adulthood was riveting. It begins with early childhood when she lived in Taxco, Mexico with extended family while her parents lived in San Antonio, Texas and traveled to trade shows to sell jewelry. They eventually brought her to the United States where she attended Catholic school and watched her parents work hard, then joined them in their work.

It continues through her high school experience at a public school and college then through her first job at Goldman Sachs, until she ultimately moves on to writing and activism. Somewhere in there (I won't tell you when), she becomes a legal U.S. citizen.

I picked up the ebook when I went in search of the authors who would be speaking at the Hachette Book Club Brunch next weekend. I am so glad I found this one. This was a powerful story.

Arce is open about her undocumented status, how it affected her every action, and what she had to do to be able to get through college. She is equally candid about her home life where her father sometimes beat her, her mother had a horrible work-related accident, and she pushed limits, as teens often do.

This is very much a coming-of-age story, as well as a story of perseverance and triumph. It gives the reader a clear picture of what life looks like when, through no fault of your own, you are an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.

Arce’s tenacity inspires me. Her life has been full of typical and not-so-typical trials and she was able to continue forward with a huge, looming unknown through all of it. She kept striving and working harder than anyone else to prove herself and make everything work out one way or another. That is the lesson I take away from this book.

My (Underground) American Dream is an engaging read. Definitely pick this one up. There will be something in it that inspires you to do and be your best, and it may allow you to see a different side of life in the United States than what you’re used to.

Also, as a side note, I read this one right after Behold the Dreamers (see my review), which is a novel about an immigrant from Cameroon who works for a Wall Street executive. These two books pair nicely together.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook for free from the publisher Center Street and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In addition, this post contains affiliate links. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Most Favorite Planner Ever

I talked about the Desire Map Planner by Danielle LaPorte at the end of last year in a post called The Planner You Want for 2016, and I’m going to talk about it again. Why? Because I love it so much, and the 2017 collection is out!

I love planners. Love them. I need a way to stay organized and, despite all of the online options and apps, I love a physical pen-to-paper planner that I can flip through easily.

I also love journals. Loooove them. So when Danielle LaPorte first designed a planner with integrated journal prompts, I flipped. Okay, I didn’t flip. I’m not much of a gymnast. But I got really excited and ordered one.

Each daily page gave space to scheduling, to-do items, AND to gratitudes, things to let go, core desired feelings, and a “soul prompt.”

There pretty much isn’t anything that could be more in my wheelhouse than that.

I have used the Desire Map Planner for the past two years (2015 and 2016), and I have already ordered one for 2017. I love it that much.

Creator Danielle LaPorte has put so much thought into how people use this planner, and it evolves a little each year accordingly. She also cares a lot about quality. This year’s planner is super sturdy with a durable cover and strong, gold coil. The pages are made from good quality paper with finger cut-out tabs to divide each month and perforated corners to tear off as you go to easily find the current day. Based on the photos in the store, it looks like next year’s edition is similarly made.

It comes in two versions: daily and weekly. I like daily because I get a full page for each day, which gives me more space to jot things down. If you prefer to see a week at a time, choose the weekly version. Both have monthly calendars and goals pages at the beginning of each month.

Each version also comes in two designs. One is a simple and classy black cover with gold writing. The other is a limited edition art print cover. I chose the limited edition cover (both this year and for next year).

You can see them all in her store. That one shown in the image at the beginning of the post? That's the one I'm getting.

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase something from the store using these links, I will get money. I will also thank you graciously because you will be contributing to my and my son’s well-being. That being said, as I mentioned above, I have used these planners for two years (and have read and re-read Danielle’s books and used her workbooks). These are products I stand behind completely. I hope you will enjoy them, too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Be Still: a poem

Really. Just stop.
You don’t have to run all the time.
You don’t have to always be doing.
You don’t have to go, go, go.
You don’t have to scroll through your Facebook feed.
It is OK to do nothing.
Be still.
Really. Just be still.
For it is in the still that knowing comes.
It is in the still that healing happens.
It is in the still.
And still, we run.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Edge of Wonder: a poetry book review

Poem from Edge of Wonder

EDGE OF WONDER: Notes From The Wildness Of Being
by Victoria Erickson
Published by Enrealment Press on December 15, 2015

Edge of Wonder is a book of poetry that is accessible and inspiring. It is particularly suited to sensitive souls (HSPs -- that is, highly sensitive people -- this means you!).

Erickson’s poems marvel at the wonder of the everyday. She delves into hopes, soul-care, and why all of our voices are needed in this world.

Though their language makes them easy to comprehend, these poems pack punches that are harder than they seem at first glance. I read just a few poems each day to let Erickson’s words sink in, to let their simple truths permeate. I will return to Edge of Wonder many more times.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer. I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble with my own money.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Rad Women Worldwide: a book review


Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
Written by Kate Schatz; Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Published by Ten Speed Press on September 27, 2016

Rad Women Worldwide is a fun look at more than 40 women, contemporary and historical, who have done amazing things around the world.

I was pleasantly surprised that the women discussed in this book included names with which I was familiar (Malala Yousafzai and Frida Kahlo, for example), as well as names I’d never heard of (Grace "Granuaile" O'Malley and Policarpa "La Pola" Salavarrieta, to name a couple).

They also come from a wide variety of backgrounds and vocations, such as activist, soccer player, pirate, and even a female king.

The design of the book contributes to the rad feeling with simplistic, edgy images in contrasting colors. I wish, however, that actual photographs had been included where possible. Although the illustrations make for a cohesive look for the book, photographs would have given me a better feel for the women whose stories are told.

The hardcover version is a bit reminiscent of a small textbook (but cooler). It doesn’t have a dust jacket; the cover itself is printed. The inside cover depicts a world map with the women’s names marked on it, showing that the included women are, indeed, from all over the world. This map was a nice touch.

Reading about these women was enlightening and entertaining. I learned not only about the women, but also a bit about history, in general. A full page is devoted to each woman, which makes it easy to pick up this book and read about one of the women in just a few minutes.

Anyone with an interest in women's history (and perhaps anyone with daughters) should pick this book up. I'd suggest leaving it out on the coffee table or somewhere else that encourages picking it up to read an entry from time to time.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Ten Speed Press, via Blogging for Books, as well as an advance-read copy of the ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Additionally, I have used affiliate links throughout this post. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer for more information.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Behold the Dreamers: a book review

Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by Imbolo Mbue

Published by Random House; released August 23, 2016

Behold the Dreamers is a masterful novel that juxtaposes a rich, white American family from Wall Street with an immigrant family from Cameroon trying to obtain their papers to stay in this country legally. Both families are struggling -- one within its own family, the other with the world around them -- and both are affected by the financial collapse of 2008.

Clark Edwards is a hard-working Wall Street executive, and Jende Jonga is his equally hard-working chauffeur. Jende's wife, Neni, is a caregiver studying to become a pharmacist. She is happy to have a chance to live the American dream. That same dream, however, is suffocating Mrs. Edwards.

This is not a plot-based, action book. This is a drama about the daily life -- good and bad -- of two very different families, who perhaps are after the same American dream -- to be secure and have a happy home.

I loved reading this story and getting to go inside the minds and hearts of these characters, who are more alike than they might think. We get to see what drives these characters and what makes them fragile as their lives begin to unravel. We get to see them at their high points, as well as their low points.

Get this book and sink into it. It will make you feel. It will make you think. Mbue offers a rich experience in Behold the Dreamers.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my book review disclaimer. I paid for this book myself through Book of the Month. If you’re interested in joining, please use my affiliate link, so I can earn free books (because you know I'm obsessed with books)! Use the coupon code FRIEND50 to save 50% on a 3-month subscription.