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.

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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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie


From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

Paperback, 672 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN 006246616X (ISBN13: 9780062466167)

About the Author

About Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

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About Laura Kamoie

Laura Kamoie is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing fiction. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and two daughters.

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My Thoughts
The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it's embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton.
Everyone is familiar with Alexander Hamilton. If you weren't before the play became the It play of the decade, then you are now! And even before the play Hamilton, you knew of some of Alexander Hamilton's accomplishments-- you maybe just didn't know you knew.

Alexander Hamilton is one of our "Founding Fathers of the United States". He was a huge proponent for the US Constitution, founder of the US financial system, The New York Post, the Federalist Party and more, as well as the first US Secretary of the Treasury. As Wikipedia puts it:
His vision included a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, with a national bank and support for manufacturing, plus a strong military.
So, pretty impressive guy, right? But you know what they say about behind every man...? In Eliza (whom he calls by her childhood name Betsy) he found the perfect life partner to support him and fuel his ambitious nature. In this story we get to experience life with Alexander Hamilton through the eyes of his beloved wife-- flaws and all.

I was first introduced to the authors with their book America's First Daughter.about Patsy Jefferson, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. I learned then that these authors have a real knack for drawing you into a story, and leaving you wanting for more. When you finish one of their historical fiction stories like this one and America's First Daughter, you are left wanting to read more about the historical characters and their accomplishments. When I read one of their books, I can't wait to finish the story to dig into a history book or Wikipedia and learn more. They bring the characters to life.

This is historical fiction, but as it is seen through the eyes of Eliza and she is passionately in love and in awe of her husband Alexander Hamilton, it feels a bit like a historical romance novel-- at least in the beginning. The story is rife with historical characters, from George Washington to Benedict Arnold to James Madison and more, and the women in their lives often play an important part. The authors draw from letters and documents and actual quotes for the story as much as possible, bringing a sincerity to the story.

One thing that I found a little odd was the way that Eliza would often refer to her husband as "Hamilton" when speaking about him with others, as would other women like her friend Theodosia. I know it wasn't uncommon for women back then to refer to their husbands by the title "Mr.", as in "Mr. Hamilton", but I've never heard of women referring to their husbands in the 1700s by simply their surname, as if they were military squad members or something. It seemed odd to me.

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

InstagramTour Stops

Sunday, April 1st: Instagram: @theliterarybirds
Tuesday, April 3rd: Instagram: @writersdream
Friday, April 6th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary
Friday, April 6th: Instagram: @willbakeforbooks
Saturday, April 7th: Instagram: @bookishconnoisseur
Tuesday, April 12th: Instagram: @prose_and_palate
Monday, April 16th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Review Tour Stops

Wednesday, April 4th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 5th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, April 6th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading
Monday, April 9th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, April 10th: Girls in Books
Wednesday, April 11th: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, April 12th: Reading Reality
Friday, April 13th: The Lit Bitch
Monday, April 16th: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, April 17th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, April 18th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, April 19th: Literary Lindsey
Friday, April 20th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Monday, April 23rd: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, April 24th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, April 25th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Thursday, April 26th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Friday, April 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
TBD: History from a Woman’s Perspective

My final word: I have become a fan of authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. I love the way they write their characters, and the way they can make learning fun, so you don't even know you are learning and reliving history. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton is an impressive story character, as was the real woman! Hamilton is a passionate, intelligent, ambitious man burdened with illegitimacy and doomed to die in what has probably become US History's most famous duel. His wife Eliza would go on to fight to preserve his legacy, before dying at the ripe old age of 97. I would recommend this book not only to fans of historical fiction, but to those who love historical romance. Loved it!

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 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, March 21, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos


The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer.

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062431935 (ISBN13: 9780062431936)

About the Author
A New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family. 

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My Thoughts
It was what she would remember always: how the second she stepped inside, before she'd so much as taken her first full breath of new air, she was struck by the feeling-- the understanding, the certainty-- however improbably, that the house was Joseph.
In the days leading up to her marriage, bride Clare is conflicted. She loves her fiance, but she is having doubts. Everyone reassures her that it is perfectly normal to have doubts as your wedding day looms.

Then a fortuitous meeting with Edith changes everything. An elderly woman, there is something wise and yet youthful about Edith that strikes Clare. It feels as if Edith knows her-- sees inside her. Their meeting is relatively brief yet profound, and quite literally changes Clare's life.

Weeks later Clare learns that Edith has died and left her a house at the beach.While exploring the house, Clare soon find her and her close family and friends working to solve a mystery pieced together from neighborhood stories, hidden ledgers and old news stories.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, March 6th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, March 7th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, March 8th: bookchickdi
Friday, March 9th: The Sketchy Reader
Monday, March 12th: BookNAround
Tuesday, March 13th:
Wednesday, March 14th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, March 15th: G. Jacks Writes
Monday, March 19th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 20th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, March 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, March 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

My final word: This is my introduction to the author. To be honest, I actually have Love Walked In, but I still haven't found the time to read it. I'm glad that I found the time to read this one! There's good character development, and while the story has the old "someone leaves someone else a house" storyline and romance mingled in, there is a parallel mystery storyline to give it a fresh twist. I especially enjoyed the playful and intuitive relationship between Clare and her best friend /ex-boyfriend Dev. I would happily recommend this one to my book club!

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 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo


From Frida Kahlo and Elizabeth Taylor to Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, and Lena Dunham, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths in the world.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Amelia Earhart, Helen Gurley Brown, Edie Sedgwick, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes, among others. Their lives--imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious--provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being "difficult," Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling--whatever that means for you.

In the Reader's Guide included in the back of the book, Karbo asks thought-provoking questions about how we relate to each woman that will make for fascinating book club conversation.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by National Geographic Society
ISBN 1426217749 (ISBN13: 9781426217746)

About the Author

KAREN KARBO is the author of multiple award-winning novels, memoirs and works of nonfiction. Her best-selling “Kick-Ass Women” series includes The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman, which was an international bestseller. Karbo’s short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Karbo lives in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to kick ass.

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My Thoughts
The book you hold in your hands is about women who insisted on being difficult.
We've all heard the old adage about how "well-behaved women seldom make history", and this book is about some of those misbehaving women. The author shares stories and background of 29 women who wouldn't be constrained by societies boundaries and expectations. 

Women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wasn't afraid to embrace motherhood and marriage in the age of rising feminism while being a career driven, independent woman. A woman who for years was the lone voice for women and equal rights on the supreme court. The term "gender discrimination" started with her (well, actually with her secretary). She has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to countless women, proving you can be strong yet feminine, powerful without overpowering, that you can fully commit to a relationship and yet maintain your independence and self-identity. As the author states:'s hard to believe a woman so genteel and soft-spoken is such a mighty litigator. Her mother-in-law once advised her that the key to a happy marriage was sometimes pretending to be a little deaf; Ruth has said the same applies to being a female Supreme Court justice. "When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out," she observed. "Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade."
...Proving, in case there was any doubt, that you don't need to possess the strapping badass countenance of Xena Warrior Princess to be a truly, deeply difficult woman.
And did I mention that the woman is  85 years old and still works out at the gym twice a week doing things like side-planks and one-legged squats? The woman is amazing!

And women like Helen Gurley Brown, who did things by her own book, becoming one of the first female copywriters at the age of 30, married when she was 37 (in the age of spinsters, she eschewed marriage until she found someone interesting enough with whom to settle down, but had fun playing the field in the meantime), made the conscious choice to not have children (*gasp*), and at age 40 wrote Sex and the Single Girl, which was rife with "wisdom" she'd picked up regarding dating as a single woman in the 50s (dating single and married men alike. She found work to offer a large supply of men).
She came to learn from her life as a single girl that when it came to men, as long as you were naked and smiling, they were happy. In the era of No Sex Before Marriage, this attitude was societal high treason.
Or there is my idol and oh-how-I-wish-she-was-my-mentor Jane Goodall, who pioneered the study of chimpanzee behavior. As a young woman, Jane had graduated from secretarial college in 1952. Later she went to visit friends in Africa, and while in Nairobi she had a fortuitous meeting with archaeologist and paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. He saw something in her and invited her to join him on an archaeological dig. Impressed with her patience and meticulous method, he offered her the opportunity to go setup camp in Gombe to study the chimpanzees there. And Jane, in a world where unmarried girls live with their families and get jobs as secretaries and teachers, didn't hesitate to jump at the opportunity. Jane shook the scientific community with her observations, her findings causing them to redefine man. I think that may constitute as being "difficult"! Then to make things worse, she anthropomorphized the chimps, "attributing human traits" to them, which is taboo in the scientific community. She came under fire many times, but she didn't back down. Much like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane was soft-spoken and genteel, but strong and determined. In regard to an uncomfortable interview where comedian John Oliver attempted to get Jane to play along, the author says:
It's a terrific, awkward moment of television where a woman refused to smile, become giddy and jokey to relieve a tense moment and make everyone feel better. It would have been so easy for her to go along with the joke, to make light of her life's work. But being difficult, she wasn't about to give in. Difficult women aren't all swashbuckling extroverts who shoot off their mouths and shout down their adversaries. Sometimes they just sit quietly and refuse to pretend to be agreeable.
Sorry, but I so identify with this passage!

I enjoyed this book. I liked the profiles, I liked the relaxed and approachable writing style that didn't leave me feeling as if I were reading a text book biography. The author chose a great selection of women to represent the "difficult" woman. And visually I really liked the use of red ink to contrast with the deep black ink, as well as the sketches of each woman at the beginning of each chapter.

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

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair
Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica
Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi
Monday, March 19th: Openly Bookish
Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

My final word: The author does a great job at presenting us with 29 glorious examples of difficult women.They were chosen for all sorts of reasons: for speaking their minds, for bucking the system, for being fearless, for setting new standards and shattering glass ceilings. For leaving footsteps that we may follow in, and for encouraging us to go off the beaten path and find our own track.And encouraging all of us to be at least a little bit difficult. Love this book!

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. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

REVIEW: Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster


The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by Crown (first published March 25th 2014) 
About the Author

Julie M. Fenster is the author of many works of American history, including The Case of Abraham Lincoln, Race of the Century, the award-winning Ether Day, and, with Douglas Brinkley, Parish Priest, which was a New York Times bestseller. She also cowrote the PBS documentary First Freedom, about the Founders and religious liberty. She lives in Upstate New York.

My Thoughts
John James Audobon, the orinthologist and painter, left his family at home in Ohio in October of 1820 and traveled in a slight state of desperation to New Orleans, a well-worn city newly vibrant and very rich.
A couple of years ago I read a fictional account of the life of Jefferson's oldest daughter Patsy, and it really piqued my interest about her father. So when the opportunity came to read this accounting of Jefferson and the exploration of The Louisiana Purchase I jumped at it.

Jefferson was rather forward thinking and was determined to "go west" and expand the US from sea to "shining sea". In pursuit of this dream, he made The Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803.

This book is made up of the tales of the infamous team of Lewis and Clark, as well as lesser known explorers like Pike, Freeman and Custis and Dunbar and Hunter, whom Jefferson sent to explore The Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark's main objective was to follow the Missouri River west and find whether it would offer a route to the Pacific. They were also expected to watch for opportunities of trade, resource availability, and document wildlife and native peoples encountered along the way, all of which was logged in detail in their diaries.

The book includes a handy map of the US in 1803-1804, pictures of the explorers, photos of things they encountered during their adventures, and excerpts from the explorer's diaries as well as editorial articles.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My final word: Providing a good overview of both the expeditions and the politics of the time, I rather liked this book, although it could get a little too detailed at times for my tastes. Recommended for lovers of history.

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a nearing-fifty 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 Blogging for Books, 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, March 2, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Promise by Minrose Gwin


In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart—one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager—fight for their families’ survival in this lyrical and powerful novel

“Gwin’s gift shines in the complexity of her characters and their fraught relationships with each other, their capacity for courage and hope, coupled with their passion for justice.” -- Jonis Agee, bestselling author of The River Wife

A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.

When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family—her hardworking husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama’s beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.

Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.

During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them. Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that come from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062471716 (ISBN13: 9780062471710)

About the Author

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Check out the author's website.

My Thoughts
Too still out there.
An F5 tornado hit Tupelo, Mississippi during the night hours of April 5, 1936. It left death, devastation and confusion in its wake. This is a fictional account of that event.

Dovey is a black laundress who lives on The Hill, which is the "colored" side of town. For many years she has done the laundry of many of the white townfolk. One of the families she works for is that of town judge Mort McNabb. Mort's son "Son" McNabb raped Dovey's young granddaughter Dreama and left her pregnant. 

I found Dovey to be quite likable if abrasive. She's hardworking, focused, loyal and protective of her family. After the storm, she hobbles along injured in search of her missing husband, granddaughter and great-grandson Promise.

The storm also leaves Jo McNabb, teenage daughter of Mort McNabb, injured and responsible for the care of her injured mother. She also finds what she believes to be her baby brother in a tree out in front of the house and he becomes her main focus. Dovey comes across Jo and her mother while searching for her own family. And so begins the odd entanglement of Jo and Dovey.

Jo has become tough and determined since the storm, and totally focused on caring for her little baby brother Tommy. She in part seems to be sort of trying to "win" her mother's love by taking such good care of her mother's youngest son, in a family where the only daughter feels somewhat overlooked.

Dovey's granddaughter Dreama is a beautiful and spirited young girl and passionately loves her son Promise, despite his harrowing beginnings. It wasn't always this way, but she's come around and now adores her son something fierce!

I enjoyed the author's writing style, which is very approachable and restrained, and descriptive without being too heavy or trivial. I liked the characters, and the central storyline. I liked the way that the story would show you one side to a person, and then show another side to them, making you reassess your view of them (or making a character reassess their view of them). And having recently gone through a major hurricane myself, and now having just lost my father a few weeks ago, I have a little understanding of what the characters in the story are going through-- the exhaustion and uncertainty and loss.

However I was also left feeling a little "blah", and I'm not sure why. I liked the characters. Maybe it had to do with the story being rather mundane much of the time. It's people laying around injured and exhausted, walking in search of family or help, hungry, confused, but for the most part felt sort of like watching a camera follow around a mother for a week: mother feeding kids, bathing kids, lulling them to sleep, doing laundry, picking up toys. Day after day the same mundane things interspersed with moments of devout humanity.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, February 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 28th: The Sketchy Reader
Thursday, March 1st: Readaholic Zone
Friday, March 2nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Monday, March 5th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Tuesday, March 6th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 7th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, March 8th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Monday, March 12th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, March 13th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, March 14th: Broken Teepee

My final word: What makes this story especially uncommon is the viewpoint of a black family after a natural disaster like this. Especially from this era in the 1930s when the black community went "uncounted". This is "their" story, when history didn't deem them important enough to even count among the dead. The characters are fleshed out, and they are characters with whom you can identify. It's a moving story, but at times can get a little wearisome. And the ending came up fairly abruptly. But overall I liked this story and would recommend it. For lovers of historical fiction.

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 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White


Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN 1542048982 (ISBN13: 9781542048989)

About the Author

Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Sonand Echoes of FamilyThe Promise Between Us, a story of redemption, sacrifice, and OCD, has a publication date of January 16th, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. 

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

My Thoughts
Crouched in the corner of my baby girl's bedroom, we both shake, the three-legged mutt and the mother with a colony of fire ants multiplying in her brain. 
Katie is an artist who has been hiding the fact that she suffers from OCD. She's also been hiding her past from those who are a part of her "new life". Nine years ago she ran out on her husband and baby girl, and later promised her husband that she would stay out of their lives and play dead. She's begun a new life for herself as a metal artist, and she has a good man in her life. She keeps pushing him away, but he seems to keep coming back.

Daughter Maisie is a bit quirky and very smart. Her mother died when she was just a baby and she was raised by her single father who is a professor. Now she has a new stepmom and is about to start middle school, and she's beginning to feel the pressure.

Through happenstance Maisie and Katie meet, and Katie recognizes the signs of OCD in her own daughter. 

This is my first exposure to this author. I enjoyed this book for the most part. The author has a relaxed writing style, and really does a great job of making the characters come to life. But a few things did bug me.

First was the fact that Maisie always felt younger than the ten years of age she is supposed to be in the story. She felt like she was more like six or seven years of age. And her biological mother Katie would speak to her like she was a little girl, using childish phrases and words. That really kind of annoyed me.

Secondly was the descriptions of the OCD experience. Maybe it's accurate and I'm way off (after all, it seems the author got her insight through speaking with people who suffer with OCD, including her own family member). So maybe those who suffer from OCD will read this and think it is spot-on, but for me it felt over-dramatic in the same way that Maisie felt overly young. Both things just felt "off".

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

Tuesday, January 16th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, January 18th: Books and Bindings
Friday, January 19th: Readaholic Zone
Monday, January 22nd: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, January 25th: Leah DeCesare
Friday, January 26th: What Is That Book About
Monday, January 29th: Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, January 30th: Book by Book
Thursday, February 1st: Wining Wife
Wednesday, February 7th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 8th: Novel Gossip
Monday, February 12th: SJ2B House Of Books
Tuesday, February 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, February 22nd: The Geeky Bibliophile
Wednesday, February 28th: Comfy Reading
TBD: Instagram: @writersdream
TBD: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

My final word: Despite my reservations about the internal descriptions and dialogue with OCD, and the childishness of Maisie, I really did enjoy this story. I wasn't a fan of Maisie's father Callum, and Katie's sister Delaney felt a little one-dimensional. But Katie was a highly fallible character that you could root for, Maisie was an endearing off-beat little kid, Lilah was the stepmom who surprised everyone with her strength and loyalty and determination, and Maisie's "Uncle Jake" was also a very flawed human being who I wound up liking. I would especially recommend this one for those who enjoy stories involving mental health, and those who like stories centered around family dramas. I will be happy to read this author again.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

Cover: B+
Writing Style: A-
Characters:  A-
Storyline/Plot: B+
Interest/Uniqueness: A-

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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.