Thursday, March 14, 2019

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Almanac 2019


A one-of-a-kind annual featuring surprising facts, stunning color photos, arresting infographics, and illuminating maps that present the world in a whole new way.

An almanac like you’ve never seen before, this arresting volume features key information on science, nature, history, and geography, spiked with cutting-edge ideas and spectacular visuals. Discover features that only National Geographic can deliver, including exquisite photography, explanatory infographics, illustrated timelines, and maps created by expert cartographers. Chapters include Exploration & Adventure, This Planet & Beyond, Life on Earth, and The Science of Us; featured topics range from the polar jet stream and how chameleons change colors to the world’s biggest cities and the science of addiction. It includes top travel trends, new explorations, and recent discoveries, as well as fascinating trivia. Enlightening for young and old, exquisitely designed, each page of this special almanac reveals something new about today’s world. 

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (October 23, 2018)

My Thoughts

My father raised me to have a ravenous curiosity for the world. I'm always asking "why?" and saying "I wonder..." So when I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a longtime in coming, but well worth the wait!

In the foreword by Cara Santa Maria, she describes this book as
"...a compedium of adventure, science, photography, and wonder that will spark your curiosity and excite your senses. This book celebrates trailblazing scientists and explorers, and the contributions they've made to our understanding of the universe."
And so it is! This book is a feast for the eyes! Every page is in full color with beautiful photography. The book is broken into seven chapters:
  • Trending 2019
  • Exploration & Adventure
  • This Planet & Beyond
  • Life on Earth
  • The Science of Us
  • Yesterday to Tomorrow
  • Our World
Each chapter begins with a "Quizmaster" by Cara Santa Maria, testing your knowledge with questions and listing the page on which the answers may be found. Questions like "What four nations have moon missions, past and present?", "What is the name of the fungus threatening the world's frog species?", and "In what continent is the ancient city of Timbuktu?"

The book doesn't go into depth on any one subject, but rather is a "jack-of-all-trades", giving you enough of a sampling to pique your interest and make you want to learn more. It touches on hot topics like smart cars, gene editing, and drug-resistant bacteria, as well as lighter topics like butterflies and bagels. Regardless of the topic, it's interesting, educational and visually appealing!

A section on US History includes a glossary of state flags, including the New Mexico state flag...
"I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures."
And includes a quick guide to other US territories like Guam and Puerto Rico.

Throughout the book there are "Best of @NATGEO" sections containing some of the best photography of National Geographic. Beautiful landscapes, fascinating people, awe-inspiring weather and stunning sea life. Each image pulls you in, seeking to absorb every minute detail.

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

Monday, November 19th: BookExpression
Monday, November 26th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Monday, November 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, March 5th: A Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, March 6th: Man of La Book
Friday, March 8th: Instagram: @thepagesinbetween
Tuesday, March 12th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, March 13th: Instagram: @biblio_files
Thursday, March 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
TBD: Literary Quicksand
TBD: Monday, March 4th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
TBD: Friday, March 8th: Into the Hall of Books
TBD: Monday, March 11th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

My final word: This book lived up to my expectations. The quality of the book is high, with heavy gauge glossy pages and gorgeous photography. It just feels expensive and like it is going to hold up very well through many years on my bookshelf and being thumbed through. The photography is what we've come to expect of National Geographic. It's concise and to the point, and touches on many, many different topics. If I were to criticize anything, it would be that it may be a little too light on substance about many subjects. It left me a little too wanting rather than merely piquing my interest. It's hard to give a topic like climate change it's due significance in a mere paragraph, but the illustrations help add weight and meaning when a topic is light on real details.Overall I am very pleased with this book which is a true feast for the eyes and mind.

Buy Now:

National Geographic
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 the publisher, 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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I'll Be Back


It's been a crazy year and a half. From Hurricane Irma hitting us head-on to my father's death, to four months solid of weekend protesting against illegal slaughter farms and cruelty and now a rollover car accident which has totaled my car, things have been hectic and exhausting. I'll be back once I get my bearings about me. Until then enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel E Muir-Harmony


A celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo missions to the moon, this narrative uses 50 key artifacts from the Smithsonian archives to tell the story of the groundbreaking space exploration program. 

Bold photographs, fascinating graphics, and engaging stories commemorate the 20th century's most important space endeavor: NASA's Apollo program to reach the moon. From the lunar rover and an emergency oxygen mask to space food and moon rocks, it's a carefully curated array of objects--complete with intriguing back stories and profiles of key participants. 

This book showcases the historic space exploration program that landed humans on the moon, advanced the world's capabilities for space travel, and revolutionized our sense of humanity's place in the universe. Each historic accomplishment is symbolized by a different object, from a Russian stamp honoring Yuri Gagarin and plastic astronaut action figures to the Apollo 11 command module, piloted by Michael Collins as Armstrong and Aldrin made the first moonwalk, together with the monumental art inspired by these moon missions. Throughout, Apollo to the Moon also tells the story of people who made the journey possible: the heroic astronauts as well as their supporters, including President John F. Kennedy, newsman Walter Cronkite, and NASA scientists such as Margaret Hamilton. 

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by National Geographic Society

My Thoughts
Fondly I recall wandering the halls of the National Air and Space Museum when I was director there in the 1970s and eavesdropping on visiting families.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, National Geographic gives us an illustrative book about this landmark event, filled with photographs and information about America's journey to the moon.

This book opens with a foreword from Michael Collins, a Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 pilot and the director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum from 1971 to 1978. He is the photographer who took one of the most iconic images of space exploration, showing the Apollo 11 lunar module above the moon's surface with Earth in the background; a photo which Collins named "Three Billion Plus Two". Collins provides a good introduction to this book, effectively summarizing  the space program and some of the key individuals involved in space travel. He acts as a reliable narrator of the early days of space travel.

This book is divided into nine sections: The Early Days, New Challenges, The Assembly, Liftoff!, In Flight Moonwalking, Lunar Science, Overcoming Catastrophe, and Return to Earth. Each section begins with an introduction and is filled with artifacts pertinent to that stage of the space program. Quite appropriately the first artifact following Collins's foreword is a plaque containing fabric and a piece of wood from the plane of the Wright Brothers that took flight in 1903, the fragments of which Neil Armstrong took with him into space aboard the lunar module Eagle in July 1969, on that famous flight that put man on the moon.

Some of the artifacts in the book are a given, things like the Vanguard TV-3 Satellite, the first satellite launch that failed spectacularly in 1957 following the equally successful launch by Russia of their first satellite Sputnik. Or the Freedom 7 Mercury Capsule, which launched the first American into space on May 5, 1961.

Some items are more intimate and personal, like the Ansco camera that John Glenn bought at a drug store and used to catch photos from space in 1962, or the "Urine Collection and Transfer Assembly" that was used by astronauts on the Apollo 11 flight for...well, urine collection during space travel. And the museum collection includes the more mundane, like small plastic toy astronauts and lunar roving vehicles from the '70s.

At the end of the book you will find a detailed Apollo timeline, as well as further reading suggestions.

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

Tuesday, November 6th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, November 7th: Tina Says…
Thursday, November 8th: Instagram: @giuliland
Monday, November 12th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, November 14th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, November 15th: BookExpression
Monday, November 19th: Instagram: @reading.wanderwoman
Tuesday, November 20th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, November 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, November 22nd: I Wish I Lived in a Library
TBD: A Book a Week

My final word: This book is essential to anyone interested in the history of the space program. It's tough to do a book like this and not have it feel like a text book. This one walks that line. It's informative, but it also humanizes the artifacts and offers you a personal look inside space exploration. A wealth of knowledge and a little better understanding of why we did what we did and how America became the first to put a man on the moon, while acknowledging its failures and embarrassments along the way.

Buy Now:

National Geographic
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 the publisher, 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. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer


This fully revised edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market. Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy.

With more than 2.75 million copies in print, this perennial bestseller is the most frequently updated of all North American bird field guides. Filled with hand-painted illustrations from top nature artists (including the ever-popular hummingbird), this latest edition is poised to become an instant must-have for every serious birder in the United States and Canada. The 7th edition includes 37 new species for a total of 1,023 species; 16 new pages allow for 250 fresh illustrations; 80 new maps; and 350 map revisions. With taxonomy revised to reflect the radical new American Ornithological Society taxonomy established in 2016, the addition of standardized banding codes, and text completely vetted by birding experts, this new edition will top of the list of birding field guides for years to come.

Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by National Geographic Society

My Thoughts

One of the joys of having your own home is having your own yard. And one of the joys of having your own yard is the wildlife that comes with it. Squirrels, opossums, raccoons, butterflies and bees, even rats (yes, they are wildlife, too! What's a squirrel, but a rat with a fluffy tail!) And, of course, birds!

Every spring I keep an eye out for the baby birds that wind up on the ground, in order to protect them from the dogs and make sure the parents are caring for them. And at times in the past it has led to me trying to figure out what type of parent bird is attacking me in defense of its baby. I wish I'd had this guide then!

This is a really nice guide! The cover is heavy gauge paper and glossy, and declares that the guide has ALL 1,023 SPECIES of North American birds!  Now in its seventh edition, this guide has more than 900 maps and 3500 illustrations. The book is a nice size at 5.5 by 8 inches-- not too big and not too small!

Open the book to find a Quick-Find Index on the inside cover listing every type of bird (i.e. grouse, eagle, martin, vireo) and a quick page listing. The inside of the back cover has a map key to common map symbols used throughout the book. Both the inside front and back covers fold out to reveal a "Visual Index of Bird Families".

The book is notched with quick tabs to Sandpipers, Gulls, Hawks, Flycatchers, Thrushes, Warblers and Sparrows. The introduction explains what species were included in the book, which includes some "accidental species" that have made appearances, but don't have a foothold in the country and have fewer than three sightings in the past two decades (or five sightings in the last hundred years). Some species are introduced species, like the European Starling, and are even deemed a nuisance. The book explains:
In general the ABA [American Birding Association] requires an introduced population to have been present and stable for at least 15 years to be considered established.
The book diagrams the parts of a bird, for those of us interested in an anatomy lesson, and talks about things like plumage variations and voice.

Each family listing outlines the different species found in that family and has a brief description of the family. For example, for the Anatidae family (ducks, geese, swans) it describes them as:
Web-footed, gregarious birds, ranging from small ducks to swans. Largely aquatic, but geese, swans, and some "puddle ducks" also graze on land.
It then tells us that there are 160 duck, geese and swan species worldwide, and 66 in North America.

Each listing then goes on to list each species, and includes illustrations for both juveniles and adults, maps of the range of the various species, their size, how their plumage changes as they mature, and a description of their voice. The species within a family are sorted, such as grouping together Whistling Ducks, or Perching Ducks (like our own invasive Muskovy Duck here in south Florida).

At the end of the book is a list of "accidentals" and extinct species. Extinct species include the Labrador Duck, Passenger Pigeon, and the beautiful Carolina Parakeet (last seen in the early 1900s).

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

Tuesday, November 6th: she treads softly
Tuesday, November 6th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, November 7th: BookExpression
Thursday, November 8th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, November 9th: Instagram: @booksofmainandmaple
Monday, November 12th: Birdchick
Monday, November 12th: Minnesota Birdnerd
Tuesday, November 13th: Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds
Wednesday, November 14th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, November 15th: Just a Secular Homeschooler
Thursday, November 15th: Instagram: @wellreadmama
Friday, November 16th: The Bird Blogger
Monday, November 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 20th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads
Wednesday, November 21st: Literary Quicksand
Monday, November 26th: Eliot’s Eats
Tuesday, November 27th: A Dream Within a Dream
Tuesday, November 27th: Well-Read Naturalist

My final word: This book really has it all. It's thorough and concise. The book feels high-quality, and is beautifully illustrated and enormously informative. This one is a must-have for all birders, whether amateur or experienced!

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 the publisher, 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, June 8, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash


The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash’s Serena, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood.

Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.

When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.

Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early twentieth-century America—and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash’s place among our nation’s finest writers.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published October 3rd 2017)

About the Author

Wiley Cash is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home. A native of North Carolina, he has held residency positions at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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

My Thoughts
Ella May knew she wasn't pretty, had always known it.
Based on one amazing real-life woman, this is the story of Ella May Wiggins who as a single mother became a union organizer and died fighting for worker's rights.

At the ripe young age of 29, Ella May finds herself raising four children alone while working a back-breaking job at a textile mill. She lives and works alongside members of the black community. In fact, her best friend and neighbor in Stumptown is a black woman by the name of Violet.

Ella's husband has run off...again. She knows she isn't much to look at, but she has been keeping company with on again/off again Charlie, who shares her love for music. Ella writes ballads in her free time. Note: One of her ballads, A Mill Mother's Lament, was recorded by Pete Seger.
Pretty took the will to be so and the money to do it and the time to see to it and the sleep to maintain it, and Ella didn't have any of those things.
Ella May never had much in life, and all she wants is to have happy children with food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads. She is struggling to do just that on her measly $9 a week, when she hears of a union. So she hikes to her first union meeting.

Ella is one tough and impressive lady...
But there was something about her that made him fear getting too close, something that told him she would just as soon spit in his eye as say hello.
Equality was important to Ella, both for blacks and for women, and she fought for both.

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

Tuesday, June 5th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read
Wednesday, June 6th: BookNAround
Thursday, June 7th: Man of La Book
Friday, June 8th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Monday, June 11th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, June 12th: Jessicamap Reviews
Wednesday, June 13th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, June 15th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, June 18th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, June 19th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Wednesday, June 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Thursday, June 21st: Lit and Life

My final word: How can you not be impressed with Ella? This story is about desperation and determination and a strong will. Ella was made of the same ilk as the women who fought for women's suffrage or who survived the Dust Bowl. One of my favorite things about this novel is the way that the author tells Ella's story through the use of other characters. Throughout the book each chapter is focused on seeing Ella through a different person on her periphery. I'm always a sucker for Appalachian literature, and jumped at the opportunity to read Wiley Cash when it was presented. Tragic and inspiring, I definitely recommend this one!

Buy Now:

Barnes & 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 the publisher, 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.