Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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

Synopsis

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:

HarperCollins
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

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.  .


Disclosure:

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

Synopsis

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:

HarperCollins
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

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.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

READATHON 2016: End of Event Survey






Well, that's a wrap! Another readathon comes to an end, and I have failed once again to accomplish whatever goals I set for myself. Too many distractions combined with the inability to stay awake.

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Every hour
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Nope. I didn't even get through my one, although I should finish it today. It actually would be a pretty good book for someone to read during the readathon, as it is interesting and a short book (News of the World by Paulette Jiles)
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everyone always does a great job
  5. How many books did you read? I didn't complete any
  6. What were the names of the books you read? News of the World by Paulette Jiles
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? (only one I read)
  8. Which did you enjoy least? see above
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I think I've only missed one or two over the last 7 years. I will always be a reader.
And that's all folks! We'll see you next year!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

READATHON 2016: Mid-Event Survey


Busy, busy! I'm trying to read when I can, but I've had things I had to get done today. If I can finish this one book, the event will have been a success for me!

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? News of the World by Paulette Jiles
2. How many books have you read so far? Still on this one
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? If I make it through this one, I haven't decided what I may read next. Maybe The Wolf Road or A Gentleman in Moscow.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? It's been non-stop interruptions. I have a house full of animals, urgent chores that need to be done, and I'm preparing for The Walking Dead premier event my friend and I are getting together for tomorrow. But I'm reading in between things.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Nothing. I've been through a lot of them now, so I know what to expect of my household, the event, and myself.

READATHON Oct 2016: Opening Meme







I'm here! I'm up! Don't start without me!

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? South Florida
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Finishing News of the World by Paulette Jiles
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I really didn't plan much in snacks this year.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Single woman with a Zoocrew (3 dogs, 5 cats), this is my 7th year participating in the readathon.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I probably won't do anything different. These days, I just take it easy and try to get as much reading done as possible. I won't be staying up for 24 hours. I'm too old for that stuff!

And that being said: Let's get this party started!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mailbox Monday (10-17-16 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Received through the Book of the Month club: 

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.
Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.




A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style.

A Gentleman in Moscow
immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.



For review through TLC Book Tours:

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.
 

REFERRAL: Book of the Month Club



I joined the Book of the Month Club about a year ago, and I've been loving it! Each month, four of their regular judges (they have about a dozen regular recurring judges) and one special guest judge (there is a different guest judge each month) each suggest a book selection. You, as a book club member, review the offered selections and choose up to three of them to be sent to you. Your membership plan includes the first book, and any additional books are $9.99 each.

They also now offer a couple of additional books for you to choose from each month (because there are always so many awesome books releasing, and so its hard to only suggest five)!

The hardbound books come imprinted with the BotM logo, and the month the book was offered. The company also regularly throws in little extras (for instance, this month I got "After Book Mints" and another month a wine cozy). They also hold regular photo contests (like taking a picture to show what you get out of books, or where you read your books, etc.) where winners can win a free three-month subscription.

Find that you don't care for any of the selections during a given month, or perhaps you are going on vacation? No problem! Just skip the month!

Some of the books that I have received so far through the Book of the Month club:

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington

And some of the guest judges:

Allison Williams
Ellie Kemper
Craig Ferguson
Whoopi Goldberg
Mayim Bialik

Use my link to sign up today, and you'll get 30% off (and I'll get a credit for a free book)!

Learn more or sign up now and save 30%!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Synopsis
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: Harper (September 13, 2016)
About the Author
Photo by Melissa Ann Pinney
Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. She has won many prizes, including Britain’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.

Find out more about Ann on her website and follow her bookstore, Parnassus Books, on Twitter.







My Thoughts
The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.

This story covers fifty years and several generations of two families bound together by infidelity, and the genuine affection that grew between the siblings of two broken families.

Fix is a cop in California, married to the moviestar-beautiful Beverly. They are the parents to two daughters, Caroline and Franny. Franny is just a babe and the center of a christening party when deputy DA Bert Cousins shows up at Fix's door with a bottle of gin. No one knows how Bert's appearance at this party will change the lives of all involved.

Bert and Theresa have three children at the start of their story, with one on the way, eventually finding themselves raising two boys and two girls.

A drunken moment between Bert and Beverly grows into something more, and it destroys two families, but out if it a new one is born. Caroline and Franny live most of the time with their mother and Bert in their new house in Virginia, and in the summer Bert's kids join them. During those long summers in a sleepy town and on family trips, the kids grow to genuinely care for one another. They become true siblings, watching one another's back. Well, all except that darn annoying Albie, the baby of the group, who is the hyperactive sort and drives everyone nuts!

This story follows these kids as they grow up, as their parents grow older, and as these kids begin having kids of their own. The story slowly builds up and then slowly unravels the truth behind what happened one terrible day that bound them all together forever.
 
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, September 13th: BookNAround
Wednesday, September 14th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 15th: Vox Libris
Friday, September 16th: Art @ Home
Friday, September 16th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, September 19th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, September 21st: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, September 22nd: Tina Says…
Monday, September 26th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, September 27th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, September 28th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, September 29th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, October 3rd: Fictionophile
Tuesday, October 4th: Literary Quicksand
Wednesday, October 5th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense
Thursday, October 6th: Lit and Life
Friday, October 7th: The Well-Read Redhead
TBD: Luxury Reading

My final word: This is a really great story. It's full of rich characters that you really get to know. It's written with sensitivity and humor and compassion, and there is a nice balance that keeps it from getting to heavy. Sometimes there will be a little allusion to something, piquing your interest, and only later in the story shining a light on the matter to more fully explain what happened and how you came to be here. Our book club has come to love this author, and I know that we will be adding this one to our reading list. Well done, Ann Patchett! I feel as if I just left a family reunion and miss everyone already!

Buy Now:

HaperCollins
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

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 the publisher 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.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Synopsis

A sparkling debut combining the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress.

When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?

Full of countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a heartwarming story of a mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who is pulled into their unforgettable world.


Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks  



About the Author

Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.










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My Thoughts
Because the station wagon blew up in the fire, Frank and I took the bus to the hospital.
This story is narrated by Alice, who is assigned to assist Mimi by Mimi's editor Mr. Vargas. Mimi wrote a huge hit when she was nineteen, and has written nothing since (think Harper Lee). Now financial woes are driving her to write another novel.

When Alice arrives at Mimi's, she finds that she will actually be more of a babysitter to Mimi's son Frank than Mimi's assistant.

Frank...oh, Frank. How do you describe Frank? Well, he's described in the book as a miniature Charlie Chaplin. With the mind of Albert Einstein, he dresses like a 1930s movie star, and evokes in those close to him equal amounts of adoration and terror. He evoked the same emotions in me. I adored Frank, but I also don't really think I would choose to have a Frank in my life. Mimi isn't kidding when she says, "My life was so much easier before I had Frank." Frank who has to have scissors and matches hidden from him. For example, one time he uses a battery and wire to start a fire when Alice can't find matches.
"You're a genius, Frank," I said. "How did you think of doing that?"
"Oh, I do it in my room all the time." he said.
Dear Frank, who has outbursts (sometimes violent, but always attention-getting).
"Don't do that, Frank. It worries people. What's wrong with you?"
"The jury's still out on that one," Frank said.
Frank is a handful, but he is also very endearing. Mimi is a very accommodating mother, letting Frank be Frank. She seems hard and stern, but she has a soft side with Frank. Her love for him is evident.
Mimi wrapped her arms around Frank, and kissed the top of his head. Ah, Mimi. So what if she didn't like me? Every bit of affection she had she channeled to Frank, who needed it more than I did.
Alice is doing her best to keep the house running, so Mimi can focus on writing. And she's doing a pretty fine (albeit thankless) job of it until Xander shows up and throws a bit of a hitch into things.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, September 6th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, September 7th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, September 8th: Buried Under Books
Friday, September 9th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, September 13th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, September 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, September 15th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, September 16th: M. Denise Costello
Monday, September 19th: I Brought a Book
Tuesday, September 20th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, September 21st: Back Porchervations
Thursday, September 22nd: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Friday, September 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 26th: The Well-Read Redhead
Tuesday, September 27th: Becklist
Wednesday, September 28th: Reading is My Super Power
Thursday, September 29th: Art Books Coffee
Friday, September 30th: Sweet Southern Home

My final word: I really liked this story. It was sweet and touching and quirky, if sad at times. Alice is a fine and reliable narrator for the story, and she has an intuition on how to handle Frank. Mimi is a tough old bird, and she ironically has a lot of walls for someone who lives in a glass house. Frank is "misunderstood". In a Procrustean world that doesn't look kindly on "different", Frank is like a spotlight in a dark room. He stands out and at times he's somewhat glaring and ostentatious. This is a quick, sweet story full of interesting characters and offbeat moments. I will most definitely be recommending this one to my book club!

Buy Now:

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Barnes & Noble
Amazon
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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 from the publisher Harper-Collins through 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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

REVIEW: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Synopsis

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN 1250074134 (ISBN13: 9781250074133)


About the Author

BRYN GREENWOOD is a fourth-generation Kansan and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She is the author of the novels All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Last Will, and Lie Lay Lain. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas. 

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My Thoughts
My mother always started the story by saying, "Well, she was born in the backseat of a stranger's car," as though that explained why Wavy wasn't normal.
We are introduced to Wavy as a five-year-old who has landed in her Aunt Brenda's house after both of her parents have been arrested. (Wavy's mother Val is a drug addict who cares about little in life, and her father Liam is a neglectful meth manufacturer and drug runner.)

At first glance, Wavy is an odd duck, rarely speaking a word, refusing to eat in front of anyone, and shunning any physical contact. She appears to "have a screw loose", but given time and patience a person will find that there is a method to her madness, and brilliance behind her baffling behavior. She's mature beyond her years, and possibly even a genius, and there is deep emotion bottled up under that still surface.

Things don't go well at Aunt Brenda's, whose rigid personality doesn't mesh with this odd duck who does nothing normally. With Brenda at her wit's end, it is Wavy's grandmother who steps up and takes in Wavy. She is everything Brenda is not, accepting Wavy for who she is, reasoning out what will work with her wacky behavior. Things are good, but they can't last. Wavy's mother gets released from jail, and it is back to an invisible life with a mentally unstable mother.

Once her father is released from prison, it isn't long before Wavy finds herself in the position of big sister to new baby Donal, and before long she is more of a mother to Donal than their own mother.

Wavy meets 24-year-old Kellen (her father's co-worker) on a day she thinks is her 8th birthday, but doesn't know for sure as she doesn't have a current calendar. Kellen wrecks his motorcycle after being startled by the beautiful little girl walking out of a field in the night, looking like an angel. A relationship quickly builds between them, as he becomes her protector and friend, and she becomes something of a caretaker of him, like a wife or mother.

Through the years, Wavy and Kellen are constants in one another's life-- two lost ships gravitating toward one another, one finding stability in the other.

Kellen looked at me for a second, not long enough. Liam made me invisible. I needed Kellen to see me.
Wavy teaches Kellen about astronomy, pointing out and reciting the names of the constellations in the sky.
Mr. Arsenikos said if you knew the constellations you would never get lost. You could always find your way home.
And Kellen becomes her home. They become family.

When Wavy is in high school, we learn where the title for the book comes from...

I mostly liked high school. I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.
But uncertainty and loss continues throughout Wavy's childhood, and she eventually finds herself lost without Kellen.

This is a unique novel that you hesitate to even pick up, as the subject matter seems so distasteful, with what seems to be a predatory man and an impressionable young girl.
Interestingly enough, the tables are sort of flipped and Wavy is the predator and Kellen the impressionable one. She is an old soul, and while Kellen grounds her, I think that Wavy expands him and his world with her big intellect and powerful love. 

As I began the story, I was intrigued to see whether the author could accomplish making the male character likable, and their relationship acceptable. I thought she did a great job of walking a line, taking you to the edge of "unacceptable" and only making you "uncomfortable". However I appreciated what she said in response to a question about how "uncomfortable" this story can be:
Greenwood asks those who feel uncomfortable about Wavy and Kellen's romance to examine the root of their unease: "Did it make you uncomfortable, or were you made uncomfortable by the fact that you weren't really all that uncomfortable?" she asks. (From an interview with Bustle)
I must agree that I think that is one of the things that made me uncomfortable with this story-- it was how natural their relationship felt, how "right" it seemed, and then the mental reminder of how young this girl was and how inappropriate their relationship would be under any other circumstance. But in this circumstance, in the desolation of her heart and the emotional abandonment and abuse, it felt "right". I became grateful that Kellen was there for her, that he took care of her when no one else did.

My final word: I loved this story! I loved the author's writing style which was easy-to-read, but lyrical at moments. She took on the daunting task of how to make a man that could (or even should) be viewed as a pedophile and make him likable, and how to take an uncomfortable relationship and make it feel not only comfortable, but even fated and necessary. It makes you (or I think at least most) see that Kellen is not really a pedophile-- he is not a predator of children, not a threat to children, and in fact Wavy was more the predator, and Kellen her savior. And yet it still feels uncomfortable to say that, because my mind says "this is wrong" while my heart says "this is right". Kellen and Wavy were as fated as the stars they liked to watch and call by name. And in the end, their love feels not inappropriate or dirty or ugly, but instead it is one of the wonderful things.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
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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 was my August 2016 Book-of-the-Month selection.


 

Friday, August 26, 2016

ON MY RADAR (8-26-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

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

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and will be the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion -- starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.

There’s a lot of Shakespearean swearing in this new Tempest adventure…but also a mischief, curiosity and vigour that’s entirely Atwood and is sure to delight her fans.


Human Acts by Han Kang

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed. 

The story of this tragic episodeunfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho's own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice. 


An award-winning, controversial bestseller, HUMAN ACTS is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity."
  


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.

Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world—and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments.
 


 

Friday, August 19, 2016

ON MY RADAR (8-19-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

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

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.


Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

In this captivating novel from the author of Wife 22, a woman who feels lost in her own time stumbles across a California community that has, impossibly, been marooned in the early twentieth century perfect for readers of The Time Traveler's Wife, Time and Again, and Sarah Addison Allen.

Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world, her adored son and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.
 


Bob Stevenson by Richard Wiley

Dr. Ruby Okada meets a charming man with a Scottish accent in the elevator of her psychiatric hospital. Unaware that he is an escaping patient, she falls under his spell, and her life and his are changed forever by the time they get to the street.

Who is the mysterious man? Is he Archie B. Billingsly, suffering from dissociative identity disorder and subject to brilliant flights of fancy and bizarre, violent fits? Or is he the reincarnation of Robert Louis Stevenson, back to haunt New York as Long John Silver and Mr. Edward Hyde? Her career compromised, Ruby soon learns that her future and that of her unborn child depend on finding the key to his identity.

With compelling psychological descriptions and terrifying, ineffable transformations, Bob Stevenson is an ingenious tale featuring a quirky cast of characters drawn together by mutual fascination, need, and finally, love.