June 2014 archive

Review: Bully!

Bully!: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt: Illustrated with More Than 250 Vintage Political Cartoons by Rick Marschall

From Goodreads: One of America’s most beloved presidents comes to life in this comprehensive, unique biography illustrated by more than 250 period cartoons.

Theodore Roosevelt, adored for everything from his much-caricatured teeth and glasses to his almost childlike exuberance and boundless energy, as well as his astounding achievements, captivated Americans of his day—and the cartoonists who immortalized him in their drawings. In Bully! The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt, author and cartoonist Rick Marschall tells Roosevelt’s story, using words and colorful images alike. Incorporating hundreds of vintage illustrations, Bully! captures Roosevelt’s remarkable life and incredible accomplishments as no other biography has.

In Bully! you will read and see why this man continues to capture the imaginations of Americans and those who love America. You will learn:

Why World War I might never have happened if Roosevelt had won the presidency for a third term
How TR the Rough Rider inspired his men How Roosevelt drove the building of the Panama Canal through almost insuperable obstacles
Why his strong (but today underreported) Christian faith directed his every action
Why “the cowboy” Roosevelt was the most intellectual president America has ever had
Why his foreign policy of speaking softly and carrying a big stick was so successful
How the “Progressive” Roosevelt was actually a “Conservative”

Jennie’s Thoughts: When I ran across this book during a Half Price Books trip, I immediately knew I had to buy it. I was months from reaching TR in the Presidential Challenge, but I’ve learned to buy these biographies ahead of time when they’re on sale or look interesting.

The unique addition of political cartoons from the time made this biography a must buy, and in that aspect I wasn’t disappointed at all. The pages are thick, so the cartoons are beautifully presented and fascinating. Each chapter of text included a section of cartoons relating to the chapter.

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As for the text, I learned more than a few things about TR, but I was slightly annoyed by the obvious pro-TR leanings of the author. Not to mention a reference to today’s tea party movement. That aside, I think the creative pages made this a biography I would recommend, as long as you keep in mind the other part.

Two Reviews Just for You!

So I just realized today, as I sat to write a review that last week, I failed you. I was on vacation and lost complete tracks of days and real life and all things that weren’t sandy and beachy. But beach vacation means beach reading so two reviews this week!

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King

So I’m a big time Stephen King fan. Like, big time. I have really liked his other crime books (Colorado Kid and Joyland) and was thrilled that this one was coming out just days before I was to leave on vacation. I bought it and forced myself not to read it and…

You guys. It was not awesome. I was so bummed. The first 150 pages or so were so slow that despite an 11 hour car ride, it still took me like 4 days to get through. Once I that point, it seemed like it picked up and he did hit his stride but honestly by that point I was already kind of over it. I did end up liking the characters but never felt super invested in the characters and kind of walked away disappointed.

Push Girl, by Jessica Love

I told you guys a little bit about this book when it first came out because I was so excited, but much like the Stephen King book, I stored it away like a book loving squirrel because vacation reads are supremely important. 

You guys. It was awesome. I was just in love with it. I think that an enormous part of my love was because it just seemed so real. I didn’t have to suspend my belief for a single minute and there was not a moment where I was taken out of the story- I was just in it from page one until the very end.

The dialogue is what impressed me the most. It just seemed exactly, exactly real and right. It made the characters come to life and it took me about 4 pages to fall wildly in love with everyone that I was supposed to be in love with.

Ok, I lied. I loved the dialogue, but what I was most impressed by was Kara. I thought that the authors did something awesome: wrote a minority character who was more than just a minority. Yes, she was in a wheelchair but first she was this vibrant person with normal, human feelings. I thought that they wrote this impeccably and I walked around with a new respect for people in wheelchairs, especially young people.

I thought that the romance bits were great but thought that the parts that focused on friendship are where this book shone the brightest. There is little that compares to a good friendship story in my book and this one did a fantastic job.

Read this. Buy it for your friends. It’s phenomenal.

Review: Across the Universe Trilogy

Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis

From Goodreads (for the first book): Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Jennie’s Thoughts: If you want to read an awesome science-fiction trilogy (with all three books out already!) that is packed with twists and betrayals and kisses and love and creepy mind controlish things and crazy predators and suspense. OH THE SUSPENSE. Read this series, now!

I read the first two near when they came out, but have had the third on my shelf to read since it released. It was just sitting there, staring at me…knowing I was scared to find out how it all ended. Sad to know it would soon be OVER. Gah. I finally picked it up and started reading last month. And then I basically had a prolonged heart attack.

I’m serious. Every time I sat down to read my heart raced, my stomach churned. I was so caught up in the NON-STOP ACTION, that I was just…sick with tension and anxiety and then this one thing happened and OH MY GOSH I cheered and cried and well, I can’t tell you what it was to avoid spoilers, but I loved that Beth Revis tackled this thing so well. Anywho, once you’ve finished the third book, find me on Twitter and we’ll chat about what I’m talking about, okay!

I’ve met Beth Revis at a few YA lit festivals over the past few years, and I truly think she’s one of the nicest authors I’ve met. And, she’s freaking hilarious. My husband was with me on the second festival I attended where she was on a panel, and I’m pretty sure if Beth suddenly became single, he’s be throwing divorce papers in my face on his way to proposing to her. :)

Have any of you read these books? Did you love them as much as I did?

Summer & libraries – like PB&J

Summer is made for reading. When it’s too hot to run around and be active, a cool spot with a good book is bliss.

photo credit: Tina Ottosson

With summer reading programs kicking off this month, I’m sharing our first library haul of the summer:

It’s hard to navigate the stacks with 3.5-year-old triplets (I spend more time picking up books they “look at” and discard than picking out books that work for us to take home), so my trio are just now starting to pick out a couple books of their own. Their choices aren’t always my favorite. Ah, parenthood!

ETC’s books:
All Through My Town by Jean Reidy
Baby Bear Counts One by Ashley Wolff
The Best Picnic Ever by Clare Jarrett
Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord
How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? by Jane Yolen
How Does Sleep Come? by Jeanne C. Blackmore
It’s A Firefly Night by Dianne Ochitree
Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman
Llama Llama Time To Share by Anna Dewdney
Making Friends by Sarah Powell
The Perfect Dress by Melissa Lagonegro
The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring
Splat Says Thank You by Rob Scotton
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

Jenny’s books:
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Rob’s book:
Under the Dome by Stephen King

Does your library have a summer reading program in which you’re participating? What’s are you kicking off summer reading with?

Review: My Reading Life


From Goodreads:

Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. 

Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is also a vora­cious reader. He has for years kept a notebook in which he notes words or phrases, just from a love of language. But read­ing for him is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity. 

In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of passionate reading. He includes wonderful anecdotes from his school days, mov­ing accounts of how reading pulled him through dark times, and even lists of books that particularly influenced him at vari­ous stages of his life, including grammar school, high school, and college.

Andrea’s Review: In February 2012, I traveled to Savannah for the Savannah Book Festival for a long weekend of good books, great food, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship with two of my most favorite people, Julie and Crystal. We’d met on the online book club, but this was my first time meeting them IRL, as well as my first book festival. That year, the keynote speaker was Pat Conroy.

I wasn’t familiar with Conroy, per se- I’d seen some of this titles on some must-read lists, that sort of thing, but I’d certainly never read any of his work and was uncertain what kind of speaker he would be. Meanwhile, Julie was fangirling herself into a near swoon with anticipation of MEETING PAT CONROY during his book signing.

Pat Conroy has the most distinctive voice and manner of speaking. He is crass and politically incorrect; he is passionate and hilarious, he takes the English language and crafts sentences with so much weight and depth to them they positively drip with Southern charm and cunning. I love him and every book I’ve read by him, but somehow this one has been sitting on my shelf for two years. It is among my prized books because it is my first signed book I’ve ever owned.


“To Andrea- For the love of words, Pat Conroy”

In ‘My Reading Life’, Conroy takes us on a journey through his memories of reading some of the greatest books ever written, meeting some of the most notorious authors, and returning to old favorites. It is a love letter to the love of books, the love of words. It bares his soul and lets the reader know that he is a reader, one with some serious issues, and that the very words that he so skillfully manipulates are at once his salvation and his torture. It left me wanting more: more Conroy (I’m currently reading his best-selling Prince of Tides) and more of the books he writes of with such admiration and devotion. I mean, I’m seriously considering tackling ‘War and Peace’ after reading this book.

If you love books about loving books, this book is for you. If you love Pat Conroy half as much as Julie & I do, this book is for you. If you think I’ve lost my ever loving mind, well, to quote Pat Conroy:

“{You get a little moody sometimes, but I think that’s because you like to read.}

People who like to read are always a little *&%^$@! up.”

Review: Rebel Belle

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

From Goodreads: Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Jennie’s Thoughts: Oh, Rachel Hawkins, you know how to make me laugh! Her Hex Hall series was full of humor and hilariously awesome magical fun. This book, the start of a new trilogy, was much the same, only completely different. :)

Harper is hilarious and spunky, but also full of heart, and some new-to-her kick ass fighting skills. As things between David and Harper grow more dangerous, I was pulled into their magical world and their relationship. The ending was such a perfect fit for the story that I gasped and then laughed out loud. I’m looking forward to the next in the series to see what happens next!

Andrea & Jenny: Our Outlandish Predictions (spoilers)

So, as we mentioned yesterday, the eighth book in the Outlander series was released this week. It’s called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, but the Outlander fan base has lovingly nicknamed it MOBY.  Jenny was lucky enough to snag a library copy on release day, but Andrea’s copy just arrived yesterday! In the meantime, as we bounce between dance recitals, work, snack time and laundry, we wanted to speculate what our beloved fictional friends are going to be up to.


Andrea’s Predictions: So, having just completed my re-read of the series a few weeks ago, I’m so ready to read MOBY! (Because I live out in the sticks, away from civilization and bookstores, and because I had some nifty B&N credits from the ebook settlement, I preordered the hardback of Written In My Own Heart’s Blood for my collection. This means that I didn’t receive it until Thursday.)

Shall I try to recap the last part of Echo, in 20 words or less? Here goes:

Jamie! Claire! Shipwreck! Lord John! JAAAAAAMMMIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE ohmygodhe’salive Jamie! Claire! Lord John! Gulp!

Based on this recap, I can calmly assume that Jamie will be honor-bound to punch Lord John in the nose. Barring that, he will somehow contact dear old Ned Gowan, who always shows up when there’s (ahem) sticky marital issues at hand. So what if Ned is 102 by now and living clear across an ocean?
Of course, on the other side of the stones, Bree is going to exact revenge, Highlander-style, on that dirty kidnapping bastard Rob. And Roger is going to plait her hair for her, and then he’s going to paint his face and get savage (if Bree leaves any pieces). They will then flee Scotland, return to the Spaniard, and retrieve the treasure before going back in time again.
Jenny: Herself Diana Gabaldon really did a number on us at the end of AEITB, no? Right hand to God, I looked for evidence of missing pages when I first finished, then I set the book down rather heavily (you can pretend I heaved it across the room, but let’s be honest – that book would cause major home damage), and said many not-nice words.
Jamie/Claire/Lord John – The men will have it out in a physical manner, then life will (maybe in some time) resume to fairly normal. There’s a lot of water flowing under the bridge where Lord John and our beloveds are concerned, and I suspect this will only add to it rather than dam it or suck it dry.
Rachel/Ian – How magical is it that Ian has found luuuuuurve? And with a wee lass as bonny as our Rachel? Sa-WOON. I couldn’t be happier. I just hope they figure out this Quaker/bloody man business.
Speaking of bloody men, I’ve seen speculation about auld Arch Bug, the creepy creep. I think he really is super, actual dead. No questions asked.
William. Poor Willie. I hope he gets his stuff figured out and learns to love his wild and not-at-all-proper family. I really do enjoy his character and hope to see him happy.
Jem/Bree/Roger/Buck – Lord, have mercy. I have no idea where to go with this one. Is Jemmy in their present time? Is he back? Did Roger and Buck make it to the same time? HOW IS THIS FAMILY REUNITING? This is the cliffhanger giving me the most anxiety. They’ve been through so, so much already, and to be split up in so many ways. UGH. I’d love to see them all back with Jamie and Claire, but I just don’t know if Herself will do that. Bree and Roger do so well in more current years.
At least Herself told us (directly so, too – she tweeted US on @WeStillRead! It was the best day on Twitter ever), that MOBY will resolve in ways much more satisfying to readers than AEITB, though there will still be questions and things left unsaid, as the end is still not quite in sight.


What hopes or predictions do you have for Jamie, Claire and the rest?

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