Tuesday, January 10, 2017

QUICK REVIEW: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd


Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Viking
ISBN 0670024783 (ISBN13: 9780670024780)

About the Author

SUE MONK KIDD was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards.

The Mermaid Chair spent 24 weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, reaching the #1 position, and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times trade paperback list. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. Kidd lives in Florida with her husband.  

Check out the author's website
Follow the author on Twitter
Friend the author on Facebook

My Thoughts

Hetty (aka Handful), a young slave on a Charleston plantation, is given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday as a handmaid. The story follows the lives of Hetty and Sarah over the course of 35 years, laying bare the differing difficulties that both endure throughout their lives.

This story is inspired by the historical figure Sarah Grimke, and it was fascinating to read more about the lives and accomplishments of her and her younger sister after finishing the story.

Hetty is indeed a "handful", and a willful young girl who grows into an impressively strong young woman. 

Sarah likewise is willful, and finds herself constricted by social standards for women. She is smart and ambitious, but trapped in a man's world. So she carves out a place for herself in a world that only views women as wives and mothers or property or burden.

I liked this story. There were a lot of hard moments to get through, but overall it was rather inspiring and perhaps even empowering. And it made me realize how closely intertwined women's rights and civil rights were, as the real Sarah Grimke was heavily involved with both. Hetty is equally impressive in her struggles, and fights tooth and nail for everything. This is a great book club read!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble
My Rating: 

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

This book was the November 2016 selection for the Cape Coral Bookies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf


From chef and creator of the popular food blog Domesticate-Me.com, 125 outrageously delicious yet deceptively healthy recipes for dudes (and the people who love them), accompanied by beautiful full-color photography.

Dudes. So well intentioned when it comes to healthy eating, even as they fail epically in execution—inhaling a "salad" topped with fried chicken fingers or ordering their Italian hero on a whole wheat wrap (that makes it healthy, right?).

There are several issues with men going on diets. First, they seem to be misinformed about basic nutrition. They are also, generally, not excited about eating "health food." You can lead a dude to the salad bar, but you can’t make him choose lettuce.

Enter Serena Wolf—chef, food blogger, and caretaker of a dude with some less than ideal eating habits. As a labor of love, Serena began creating healthier versions of her boyfriend’s favorite foods and posting them on her blog, where she received an overwhelming response from men and women alike. Now, in The Dude Diet, Serena shares more than 125 droolworthy recipes that prove that meals made with nutrient-dense whole foods can elicit the same excitement and satisfaction associated with pizza or Chinese take-out.

The Dude Diet also demystifies the basics of nutrition, empowering men to make better decisions whether they’re eating out or cooking at home. Better still, each recipe is 100% idiot-proof and requires only easily accessible ingredients and tools. With categories like Game Day Eats, On the Grill, Serious Salads, and Take Out Favorites, The Dude Diet will arm dudes and those who love them with the knowledge they need to lead healthier, happier lives—with flattened beer bellies and fewer meat sweats.

The Dude Diet includes 102 full-color photographs.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Harper Wave
ISBN 0062424386 (ISBN13: 9780062424389) 

About the Author
(from the back cover)

Serena Wolf is a graduate of Harvard University and Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She puts her culinary skills (and sense of humor) to work as a private chef, culinary instructor, food writer, recipe developer, and blogger at Domesticate-Me.com. She lives in New York with her dude.

Check out the author's website
Follow the author on Instagram

My Thoughts

You know, I'm not a dude, but I tend toward eating like one. I like fatty, salty comfort food. I want nachos and chili and steak and grilled sandwiches. My hips are not happy about this. I need to trick myself into eating healthfully while convincing my stomach and brain that I'm still just as bad as ever!

This book can help with that little problem. The author offers up recipes that will appeal to any "dude", while making those who care about them feel okay about what they are feeding their dude. The full title says it all: "The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty". That's me! I like to eat dirty!

The book is divided into chapters like Badass Breakfasts and Take-Out Favorites. The author starts out with an introduction on how how her boyfriend got her started on this path, leading to not only this book, but also the website Domesticate-Me.com. She was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic response she received from not only her boyfriend, but from plenty of dudes everywhere-- even a couple of NFL players.

The book includes a list of 14 "Dude Diet Commandments", with "rules" like: 
2. I shall eat more fish, poultry, and lean pork. Red meat is an indulgence, not a diet staple.  
12. I shall exercise on a regular basis. Such exercise will break a sweat. Sitting in a steam room or sauna does not count.
She then walks you through the basics of the Dude Diet, and how to be successful at it before leading you into a collection of recipes like Apple Pie Overnight Oats and Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake, and classics like Epic Meatloaf and Dude Diet Philly Cheesesteaks

Now in full disclosure I admit that I tried the Skirt Steak and Avocado Quesadillas, and I must be honest and say that I was not a fan. However I also must say that I don't think this really reflects much on the recipe, but rather that I discovered that I am not a fan of the flavor or texture of skirt steak (which I'd never had before) nor whole wheat tortillas. With a few tweaks to suit my own taste buds, I think this recipe could be a winner. There are still plenty of recipes in the book that don't contain skirt steak. The Apple Pie Overnight Oats are at the top of the list, as well as Chicken Parmesan, Chopped Chicken Club Salad with Honey-Mustard Dressing, and Double Chocolate Pound Cake. 
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, October 17th: #redhead.with.book
Friday, October 28th: Create With Joy
Friday, October 28th: Joyfully Retired
Monday, October 31st: Just Commonly
Tuesday, November 1st: Art Books Coffee
Wednesday, November 2nd: Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, November 3rd: Wall-to-Wall Books
Monday, November 7th: Stranded in Chaos
Tuesday, November 8th: What Will She Read Next
Wednesday, November 9th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, November 14th: Rebecca Radish
Tuesday, November 15th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, November 17th: Oh, That’s Tasty!
Friday, November 18th: WildmooBooks
Monday, November 21st: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 22nd: In Bed with Books
TBD: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

My final word: This is a great idea for helping the dudes in your life, as well as yourself, eat more healthfully. We're talking hearty food cleaned up and made lighter without losing flavor. It's a homerun!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.  .


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Friday, October 28, 2016

ON MY RADAR (10-28-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time
Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel Eileen was one of the literary events of 2015. Garlanded with critical acclaim, it was named a book of the year by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. But as many critics noted, Moshfegh is particularly held in awe for her short stories. Homesick for Another World is the rare case where an author's short story collection is if anything more anticipated than her novel. 

And for good reason. There's something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh's stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion. Moshfegh is our Flannery O'Connor, and Homesick for Another World is her Everything That Rises Must Converge or A Good Man is Hard to Find. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful. But beauty comes from strange sources. And the dark energy surging through these stories is powerfully invigorating. We're in the hands of an author with a big mind, a big heart, blazing chops, and a political acuity that is needle-sharp. The needle hits the vein before we even feel the prick.

Siblings and Other Disappointments by Kait Heacock

Kait Heacock delves into the vulnerability of relationships and the various ways families fight, forgive, or fall apart. Her debut collection of twelve short stories follows a long-haul truck driver, a mother waiting for the rapture, newlyweds on a trip to the mountains, a father who competes in food-eating competitions, and an array of other characters scattered throughout Central Washington, down to Nevada, and up to Alaska. Each story explores themes of loneliness and isolation and how those exist both apart from our families and within them. Siblings and Other Disappointments unpacks the myriad meanings of the word family and the ways in which the bonds of those units are forged, dissolved, or simply maintained.  

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker than the expected social evils. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SHARING: A Reader's Blessing

Grant Snider of Incidental Comics

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: News of the World by Paulette Jiles


Longlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by William Morrow (first published March 29th 2016)
ISBN 0062409204 (ISBN13: 9780062409201)

About the Author

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Check out the author's website.

My Thoughts
Captain Kidd laid out the Boston Morning Journal on the lectern and began to read from the article on the Fifteenth Amendment.
Captain Kidd is in his "golden years", left a widower with two grown daughters and grandchildren. He's a bit restless, still on the road and not quite ready to settle just yet. He travels Texas offering readings of the news. People pay to hear him recite the news of the country and the world at large for various reasons-- some just like the social aspect of gathering with a group to hear the news, some are illiterate and incapable of reading the news themselves. Whatever their own personal reason, people gather for a dime a piece to hear Captain Kidd read.

While Captain is in Wichita Falls, he is approached with the request that he take a young captive and return her to her family. Young Johanna was taken captive at the age of six by the Kiowa after they had killed her parents and little sister, and adopted by a Kiowa couple. She was raised by Turning Water and Three Spotted as their own for four years, until the Kiowa decided that it was too dangerous for them to keep a captive white girl when there are soldiers always looking for a reason to battle. So she was traded back to the whites at the age of ten, finding herself surrounded by strangers she doesn't know or understand, frightened and confused and yearning to return to the only family she knows.

The Captain agrees to transport her back to her family, and so begins their three-week journey to San Antonio. Along the way they fight battles, both literal and figurative, with small victories occurring at every turn. Every smile and every English word is a victory, but as time goes on every step of the hoof and turn of the wagon wheel brings them closer to separation.

The author says in "A Note From the Author" that it seems all captive children who had been brought back to "civilization" had yearned to return to their Indian families, regardless of how little time they spent with their adopted families. The author says that her Irish character Doris Dillon said it best:
"...You can put her in any clothing and she remains as strange as she was before because she has been through two creations...To go through the first creation is a turning of the soul we hope toward the light, out of the animal world. God be with us. To go through another tears all the making of the first creation and sometimes it falls to bits. We fall into pieces. She is asking, Where is that rock of my creation?"
When trying to think of how this book made me feel, the word that came to mind was "wistful". Yes, "wistful", yearning, longing. You feel for this little girl who was ripped from the only family she seems to remember, the only life she knows, and given to a stranger to return her to people she doesn't know and info forced assimilation. You feel for the Captain, separated from his family who are living lives of their own, he himself alone in the world.

The author's writing is a bit like the wagon journey they are on-- slow, steady, and gets the story where it's going. It's not overly laden with flourish, nor overly emotional or descriptive, yet effective. Her characters are well formed and relatable.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, October 4th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 5th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, October 7th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 10th: BookNAround
Tuesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, October 12th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, October 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, October 14th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, October 17th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, October 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, October 19th: Books on the Table
Thursday, October 20th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 24th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, October 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, October 26th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, October 27th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, October 28th: Art @ Home
Monday, October 31st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, November 1st: Man of La Book
TBD: FictionZeal
TBD: The Paperback Pilgrim

My final word: This is one of those sweet and gentle reads, and at 200 pages, it's a fast read as well. There are moments of tragedy and heartbreak, but for the most part it is a sweet story as this old man wandering at the end of his life falls in with a young girl who is lost and seeking the nomadic yet grounded life she has known. The two of them turn out to be quite well-suited for one another, and the Captain will become more to this little girl than anyone ever expected. This is a good rainy-day read, to sit curled up with on a gray and overcast rainy or snowy day.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.