Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Article Sharing: 23 May Releases We're Excited About

Thriftbooks is sharing a list of 23 May books that they are excited for that cover a multitude of genres. Check it out!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Article Sharing: What's New and Coming Soon in Book-to-Screen

ThriftBooks offers up thirteen books that "inspired the latest, greatest adaptations". From the Bridgerton series to The Sympathizer, there's a little bit of something for everyone. Check it out!

Poetry Sunday (04-21-24 edition)


NiteTyme | DeviantArt

Scars aren’t proof

that you’ve been hurt

scars are proof

that you have healed.

-- Ziggy Alberts

Saturday, April 27, 2024

REVIEW: Forage. Gather. Feast.: 100+ Recipes from West Coast Forests, Shores & Urban Spaces by Maria Finn


Celebrate the pleasure of the wilderness (or even your backyard) with this approachable forage-to-kitchen cookbook featuring 110 recipes using foragable foods—from seaweed love to mushroom lust and everything in between.

Identify foragable foods in your own backyard to create simple, rustic recipes from the bounty of the coast, forest, and urban spaces up and down the West Coast.

Featuring more than 100 recipes and chock-full of lush photography, this cookbook shows you what to do with the delicious foodstuffs you can dig, snip, or catch anywhere from Alaska to Northern California, then put it all together in homecooked meals best shared with friends and gorgeous sunset views or cooked in the wild over a campfire.

Format 304 pages, Paperback
Published April 9, 2024 by Sasquatch Books
ISBN 9781632174864 (ISBN10: 1632174863)

My Thoughts

This book is about making use of the wealth of edible ingredients that can be found in the wilds of the West Coast. At first glance, I can tell you that I love the cover! It's like a charcuterie board of foraged goodies! You can smell the earthiness of the foraged mushrooms and the saltiness of the oysters; taste the sweet citrusy bite of blood orange.

This book guides you into the woods and to the water's edge for an adventure with purpose. It helps you see delicacies hanging over the sidewalk or slipping through the cracks. Harvesting wild food is an unscripted experience that requires us to follow nature's rhythms of tides and seasons, rain and dry spells. If we do this, she gives us incredible, nutritious food for free.

The author suggests that foraging is a great stress-reliever from daily life and a great way to come to know yourself, and to share your newly-discovered self with others over the meals you craft from your wild findings.

Due to the nature of this book, it is inherently vegetarian and pescatarian. Proteins are sourced naturally, and recipes include nothing like chicken or beef or other farmed livestock.

There are three chapters:

  • The Coast with recipes like Fire-Roasted Butter Clams with Seafood Gremolata, Dungeness Crab Boil, and includes a DIY for how to make your own Sea Salt.
  • The Forest with recipes like Fire-Roasted Kabocha Squash with Chanterelles, Wild King Salmon Bellies with Roasted Morels and Peaches, and Pine Scones with Huckleberries.
  • The Edge and Urban Foraging includes recipes like White Bean Stew with Stinging Nettles and Oyster Mushrooms, Rose Hips and Apple Jam, and a DIY for Rose Petal Honey.

The cookbook's recipes use foraged ingredients like crabs, clams, oysters, various seaweeds, wild mushrooms, flowers, pinecones, berries, herbs, ferns and various greens. It provides instruction on how to catch crab, find bivalves, and harvest seaweed. There are a few Seasonal Menus at the end of the book to inspire you to host a seasonal party, or perhaps a Campfire Brunch with recipes like:

  • Elderflower French 75
  • Pine Scones with Huckleberries
  • Herby Mushroom Leek Toasts
  • Spruce Tip and Juniper Berry Sockeye Salmon Gravlax on bagels and cream cheese
  • Campfire Dashi-Poached Eggs with Vegetable Hash
  • Flaming Pine Needle Mussels
  • Bay Laurel Nut Hot Cocoa
  • Chilled Huckleberries with Campfire Caramel and Seaweed Salt

My final word:

I lived in the Pacific Northwest for several years in the '90s and consider it my second home. I fell in love with the area while living there with a military husband. This cookbook is reminiscent of the West Coast and the time I spent wandering the forests looking to identify edibles. I love the pictures. I love what this cookbook aspires to be. The thing that holds me back is the feeling that the recipes are somewhat unattainable. As the author says in her introduction...

The recipes are simple yet the ingredients a bit esoteric. Some you may be able to find seasonally at the farmer's market or grocery store, but the fun is in finding your own patches of rose hips and huckleberries.

It's not that the recipes are overly-complicated or filled with hard-to-find ingredients, but they feel like they are more well-suited for a gastronomist. A little amuse bouche that you find off-menu at a five-star restaurant. But I love the endeavor, and the heart and soul of this book, and I recommend it for the hard-core food crafters who are always looking for something new to try, or those who live in areas of the West Coast with lots of areas in which to forage. Beautiful photography and ambitious. 

Buy Now:

Find purchase options on Sasquatch Books

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a middle-aged 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 Netgalley and Sasquatch 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, April 26, 2024

Spotlight... I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger


I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger

Set in a not-too-distant America, I Cheerfully Refuse is the tale of Rainy, an aspiring musician setting sail on Lake Superior in search of his departed, deeply beloved, bookselling wife. An endearing bear of an Orphean narrator, he seeks refuge in the harbors, fogs, and remote islands of the inland sea. After encountering lunatic storms and rising corpses from the warming depths, he eventually lands to find an increasingly desperate and illiterate people, a malignant billionaire ruling class, a crumbled infrastructure, and a lawless society. As his guileless nature begins to make an inadvertent rebel of him, Rainy’s private quest for the love of his life grows into something wider and wilder, sweeping up friends and foes alike in his wake.

Format 336 pages, Hardcover
Published April 2, 2024 by Grove Press
ISBN 9780802162939 (ISBN10: 0802162932)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Introducing... Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez

  Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

Posted by just_in_267
AITA for naming my ugly dog after my ex best friend?

I [29m] have been friends with Chad [32m] since we were born. Our moms are best friends and we grew up together and were roommates for the last 10 years, up until the incident that set our current situation into motion.

A little backstory. I have this...streak if you will? Basically every woman I date more than a few times ends up finding her soulmate after we break up. It's a thing. It started three years ago and it's now happened five times. We break things off and the very next person they date ends up being The One.

My friends think this is hilarious. I always part ways with the women on good terms, and I'm happy they're happy. But my buddies tease me mercilessly about it. They call me the good luck charm.

-- Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What's Releasing (4-24-24 edition)


The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War by Erik Larson

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile brings to life the pivotal five months between the election of Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War—a slow-burning crisis that finally tore a deeply divided nation in two.

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the fluky victor in a tight race for president. The country was bitterly at odds; Southern extremists were moving ever closer to destroying the Union, with one state after another seceding and Lincoln powerless to stop them. Slavery fueled the conflict, but somehow the passions of North and South came to focus on a lonely federal fortress in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter.
Master storyteller Erik Larson offers a gripping account of the chaotic months between Lincoln's election and the Confederacy's shelling of Sumter—a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. Lincoln himself wrote that the trials of these five months were so great that, could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.
At the heart of this suspense-filled narrative are Major Robert Anderson, Sumter's commander and a former slave owner sympathetic to the South but loyal to the Union; Edmund Ruffin, a vain and bloodthirsty radical who stirs secessionist ardor at every opportunity; and Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of a prominent planter, conflicted over both marriage and slavery and seeing parallels between both. In the middle of it all is the overwhelmed Lincoln, battling with his duplicitous Secretary of State, William Seward, as he tries desperately to avert a war that he fears is inevitable—one that will eventually kill 750,000 Americans.
Drawing on diaries, secret communiques, slave ledgers, and plantation records, Larson gives us a political horror story that captures the forces that led America to the brink—a dark reminder that we often don't see a cataclysm coming until it's too late.

The New Menopause: Navigating Your Path Through Hormonal Change with Purpose, Power, and Facts by Mary Claire Haver MD

Filling a gaping hole in menopause care, everything a woman needs to know to thrive during her hormonal transition and beyond, as well as the tools to help her take charge of her health at this pivotal life stage—by the bestselling author of The Galveston Diet.

Menopause is inevitable, but suffering through it is not! This is the empowering approach to self-advocacy that pioneering women’s health advocate Dr. Mary Claire Haver takes for women in the midst of hormonal change in The New Menopause. A comprehensive, authoritative book of science-backed information and lived experience, it covers every woman's needs:

From changes in your appearance and sleep patterns to neurological, musculoskeletal, psychological, and sexual issues, a comprehensive A to Z toolkit of science-backed options for coping with symptoms.
What to do to mediate the risks associated with your body's natural drop in estrogen production, including for diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain.
How to advocate and prepare for annual midlife wellness visits, including questions for your doctor and how to insist on whole life care.
The very latest research on the benefits and side effects of hormone replacement therapy.

Arming women with the power to secure vibrant health and well-being for the rest of their lives, The New Menopause is sure to become the bible of midlife wellness for present and future generations.

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Danielle Steel comes a powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Sophia Alexander, the beautiful daughter of a famous surgeon in Berlin, has had to grow up faster than most young women. When her mother falls ill, Sophia must take charge of her younger sister, Theresa, and look after her father and the household, while also volunteering at his hospital after school. Meanwhile, Hitler’s rise to power and the violence in her very own town have Sophia concerned, but only her mother is willing to share her fears openly.

After tragedy strikes and her mother dies, Sophia becomes increasingly involved in the resistance, attending meetings of dissidents and helping however she can. Circumstances become increasingly dangerous and personal when Sophia assists her sister’s daring escape from Germany, as Theresa flees with her young husband and his family. Her father also begins to resist the regime, secretly healing those hiding from persecution, only to have his hospital burned to the ground. When he is arrested and sent to a concentration camp, Sophia is truly on her own, but more determined than ever to help.

While working as a nurse with the convent nuns, the Sisters of Mercy, Sophia continues her harrowing efforts to transport Jewish children to safety and finds herself under surveillance. As the political tensions rise and the brutal oppression continues, Sophia is undeterred, risking it all, even her own freedom, as she rises to the challenge of helping those in need—no matter the cost.

In Only the Brave, Danielle Steel vividly captures the devastating effects of war alongside beautiful moments of compassion and courage.

Real Americans by Rachel Khong

Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster, and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn't be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.

In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can't shake the sense she's hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than it provides answers.

In immersive, moving prose, Rachel Khong weaves a profound tale of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance—a story of trust, forgiveness, and finally coming home.

Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made? And if we are made, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome?

An Unfinished Murder by Jude Deveraux

Sara Medlar may be retired as a bestselling author, but her career as an amateur detective is facing one final mystery—and it’s a killer.

Retired romance novelist Sara Medlar has been comfortably sharing her large home with her niece Kate and her “honorary grandson” Jack. It’s a convenient arrangement given the Medlar Three, as they’ve become known, are often working closely together to solve mysteries in their small town of Lachlan, Florida. But when real estate agent Kate announces she’s been given the listing for the town’s storied Lachlan House, it sets off alarm bells for Sara and Jack. The infamous house has a dark history, one that’s certain to haunt them all.

With little memory of her childhood, Kate doesn’t understand what the fuss is about—until the trio visits the house and makes a grim discovery. Flooded by memories of the past, Kate realizes she spent time there as a child. But stumbling upon a skeleton dressed in a rotting tuxedo—a murder victim with connections to her father—causes Kate to wonder if the childhood she can’t remember might be one she’d rather forget.

As Sara, Kate and Jack delve deeper into the dead man’s history, they learn he was last seen at a party held at Lachlan House in the late nineties—a swanky soiree attended by his many enemies. With more than one motive in play, every partygoer is a suspect, and Sara is determined to find the culprit, even if it means digging up past secrets she’s worked hard to keep buried.

Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolitano

“No one in my mother’s family ever talks about anything that can be categorized as unpleasant or as having to do with emotions, and, as a result, they no longer have anything to say. For them it’s not a matter of keeping secrets; it’s a matter of being polite, mannerly, and tough. The McLaughlins couldn’t spill their woes or ask for help even if they wanted to, because they don’t have the vocabulary. They are stranded within themselves, convinced that the only way is to silently persevere.”

Within Arm’s Reach follows three generations of an Irish-American Catholic family who are jarred into crisis by an unexpected pregnancy. This lyrical first novel is told through six different points of view, including those of the unmarried, pregnant Gracie, a local advice columnist; and her grandmother, the matriarch, who is struggling with her commitments to both the living and the dead. Within Arm’s Reach is a poignant reminder of how interconnected our lives are with those we love, how much more we inherit than wills decree, and how the ghosts of our ancestors walk by our sides every day.

Ann Napolitano artfully paints a riveting portrait of a family in crisis, depicting how the ties that bind us so closely to one another are often the ones that cause us the most pain. As the McLaughlins respond to the unplanned and profound change in Gracie’s life, their own memories and personal stories begin to emerge.

In the end, Napolitano creates a family quilt of sorts, each person’s life and actions closely woven throughout the fabric of the past, present, and future. Within Arm’s Reach is a rich and deeply satisfying narrative of guilt, love, betrayal, and the ultimate loyalty—that of blood.

Puppy Brain by Kerry Nichols

How do you raise a happy, healthy, and emotionally resilient dog? Full of actionable guidance, Puppy Brain will show you how to create a harmonious, fulfilling relationship with your pet, from Kerry Nichols, founder of Nicholberry Goldens.

Do you want to learn how to help your dog feel safe? Do you dream of owning a dog who enjoys meeting new people and exploring new places? Kerry Nichols, founder of Nicholberry Goldens, brings readers into the whelping box and onto the frontlines of a puppy’s developmental journey with her trademark clarity and wit.

With guidance about everything from crate training to spaying and neutering, Puppy Brain distills the latest insights and breakthroughs from canine research into practical, actionable, evidence-based guidance.

Through years of research into brain development and the use of intentional rearing protocols that focus on honoring a puppy’s choices and needs, Kerry has developed an approach that results in a harmonious, fulfilling relationship with our dogs rather than one steeped in rote obedience. Puppy Brain will reshape the way you think about your dog and show you how to meet your dog’s most basic needs.

With irresistible photos, clear guidance, and engaging humor, Puppy Brain reveals the best training practices based on how your dog’s mind works. As her hundreds of thousands of followers can attest, Kerry’s guidance will help you raise dogs who are confident, loving, and happy. The perfect gift for dog lovers and psychology enthusiasts alike, Puppy Brain is the definitive resource for anyone looking to raise their puppy with respect and love.

Missing White Woman by Kellye Garrett

A "propulsive page-turner" (Alyssa Cole) and "thriller not to be missed" (Michael Connelly) from the award-winning author of Like a Sister, in which a woman thinks she’s waking up to a romantic vacation—only to find a body in her rental home and her boyfriend gone.

The truth is never skin deep.
It was supposed to be a romantic getaway weekend in New York City. Breanna’s new boyfriend, Ty, took care of everything—the train tickets, the dinner reservations, the rented four-story luxury rowhouse in Jersey City with a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline. But when Bree comes downstairs their final morning, she’s shocked. There’s a stranger laying dead in the foyer, and Ty is nowhere to be found.
A Black woman alone in a new city, Bree is stranded and out of her depth—especially when it becomes clear the dead woman is none other than Janelle Beckett, the missing woman the entire Internet has become obsessed with. There’s only one person Bree can turn to: her ex-best friend, a lawyer with whom she shares a very complicated past. As the police and a social media mob close in, all looking for #JusticeForJanelle, Bree realizes that the only way she can help Ty—or herself—is to figure out what really happened that last night.
But when people only see what they want to see, can she uncover the truth hiding in plain sight?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Barnes and Noble wants you to have a Happy World Book Day!


Happy World Book Day! In their endeavors for you to have a great World Book Day, Barnes and Noble has a special offer for its Premium members! Today only, both online and in-store, Premium members earn $5 for every $50 spent, plus earn stamps for every $10 spent. More earnings = more books for you!

Pick up new releases, like:

Or pre-orders, like:

TODAY ONLY, so hop to it! Get shopping!

REVIEW: Tom Clancy Act of Defiance by Brian Andrews, Jeffrey Wilson, Tom Clancy



When a Russian superweapon is let loose under the waves, it's up to President Jack Ryan to find a countermove in the latest entry in this #1 New York Times bestselling series.

US intelligence says there's something going on in Russia. While their land forces have been decimated by corruption and incompetence, the Navy seems to be pouring money into some secret project.

Analysts are stumped, until the knot is untangled by one particularly bright young woman at the Office of Naval Intelligence--Katie Ryan, the youngest daughter of President Jack Ryan. Like her father, she sees patterns where other don't, and she's determined that the Russians are about to launch a super missile submarine, the Belgorod.

Now the race is on to determine where the sub is and whether it poses a threat to the continental US.

560 pages, Hardcover
Expected publication May 21, 2024 


About the Author (from Goodreads)

Brian is a US Navy veteran, nuclear engineer, and former submarine officer. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in psychology, holds a Master's in business from Cornell, and is a Park Leadership Fellow. He is a principal contributor at Career Authors, a site dedicated to advancing the careers of aspiring and published writers: www.careerauthors.com.

He is half of Andrews & Wilson, the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, & #1 Amazon best-selling co-author team behind the TIER ONE series. New in 2024:

- EMBER: Tier One #8 (JULY)

In addition to their novels, Andrews & Wilson have multiple projects under development for film and television with major motion picture studios including Tier One, Dark Intercept, 4 Minutes, Portal, Glitch, and The In Between.

Find Brian online at:

Web: www.andrews-wilson.com
Instagram: @andrewsandwilson
Twitter: @BAndrewsJWilson

Sign-up for his newsletter at www.andrews-wilson.com to stay informed about all his new releases or "Follow" his Amazon Author page!


My Thoughts

Much of this story takes place on military submarines-- both Russian and US.

Mil.ru, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Ryan, who we were introduced to in Patriot Games, is back in the 19th installment in the Jack Ryan series. Now 40 years later, Jack is President of the United States, and his youngest daughter Katie has followed in his footsteps as a senior analyst for Russian threats. Like her father in more ways than one, she is as well-suited for the position as her father was, being knowledgeable and willing to do just about anything to get the job done, intuitive and honorable.

Like its earlier predecessor The Hunt for Red October (THFRO), the US is on alert to a threat from the Russians. And, like its earlier predecessor, there is a Ryan working the case!

First, let me say that I know The Hunt for Red October. I have to have watched the movie at least 40-50 times...very possibly more! I kid you not! I could recite the dialogue for half of the movie. I was married to a Fire Control Tech stationed on a nuclear submarine, and I would watch THFRO on repeat every patrol in order to feel close to him.  I even went out on a day patrol on the USS Ben Franklin SSBN 640. We did different maneuvers like dives and emergency blows whereby the submarine rushes to the surface like a super-sonic elevator and pops out of the water. So, can you see how I would have a bit of a personal connection to this story?

This is like a modern day Hunt for Red October. I mean, very obviously so. This is almost like a parallel story right down to a submarine captain going rogue around the anniversary of his wife's death. If you followed a timeline of THFRO, this would basically coincide with the high points with just minor twists to make it different. Women are now much more prominent to reflect the changing times, but even things that are said tend to be similar to THFRO (i.e. "One ping... One ping only."). I can connect the characters to their equivalents in THFRO. "This guy is the equivalent of that second in command on the aircraft carrier that didn't like Jack Ryan in THFRO!"

But in this modern day retelling, it is Katie Ryan that takes on the role of competent and beleaguered analyst attempting to prevent WWIII.

Five words: absorbing, courageous, thrilling, familiar, true-to-life

My final word: Well, I think I've already established that I am partial to the movie The Hunt for Red October (the third book in this series), so this book is right up my alley. I think that the author is a talented storyteller. His experience in submarines make the submarine scenes feel particularly authentic. The writing really flows. It is easy, comfortable and enjoyable. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but that isn't really surprising for this genre. I think that my only real complaint is that it was too much like its predecessor THFRO. It became a distraction for me. I was constantly picking up on all of the similarities. But for someone not suffering from the same affliction as me, this is a fun, on-the-edge-of-your-seat ride!

Pre-Order Now (releases May 21, 2024):

Find purchase options on Penguin Random House

Contains mild language, mild violence and adult situations.

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

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a middle-aged 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 Netgalley, 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, April 22, 2024

Monday Book Love (04-22-24 edition)


Monday Book Love is a catch-all for all of those events where you share your latest acquisitions, events like:

Mailbox Monday

What are You Reading?

Stacking the Shelves

From Netgalley:

The Family Experiment by John Marrs

The world's population is soaring, creating overcrowded cities and an economic crisis. And in the UK, breaking point has arrived. A growing number of people can no longer afford to start families let alone raise them.

But for those desperate to experience parenthood, there is an alternative. For a monthly subscription fee, clients can create a virtual child from scratch who they can access via the metaverse and a VR headset. To launch this new initiative, the company behind Virtual Children has created a reality tv show. It will follow ten couples as they raise a Virtual Child from birth to the age of eighteen but in a condensed nine-month time period. The prize: the right to keep their virtual child or risk it all for the chance of a real baby . . .

Set in the same universe as John Marrs's bestselling novel The One and The Marriage Act, The Family Experiment is a dark and twisted thriller about the ultimate 'tamagotchi' - a virtual baby.

Won from Goodreads:

The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church by JR Woodward

WILL WE BECOME A SCANDAL TO THOSE WHO LOOK TO US AS LEADERS, OR WILL WE CHOOSE TO IMITATE THE SCANDALOUS WAY OF CHRIST? The fall of high-profile leaders has sadly become an epidemic, and although books and podcasts have sought to uncover the problem, they often fail to identify the root cause. In The Scandal of Leadership , JR Woodward offers a deeper diagnosis, outlining a more comprehensive understanding of power abuses in the church and the critical role of imitation. Drawing from Scripture and the scholarship of Walter Wink, René Girard, and William Stringfellow, as well as from positive examples of leaders such as Óscar Romero, this book offers a robust theology of the Powers––of Satan, the demonic, and the principalities and powers explored in the Bible. By unmasking the Powers of domination, Woodward seeks to help missional leaders practice a self-emptying spirituality that reshapes their desires and forms them into Christlike servants who join God’s mission in the world.


Briefly Perfectly Human by Alua Arthur

A deeply transformative memoir that reframes how we think about death and how it can help us lead better, more fulfilling and authentic lives, from America’s most visible death doula.

"A truly unique, inspiring perspective on the time we have, what we do with it, and how we let go of this world.... There is no one I'd trust more to guide me through an understanding of death, and how it informs life." — Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Mad Honey and The Book of Two Ways

"Briefly Perfectly Human is a beautiful, raw, light-bringing experience. Alua's voice is shimmering, singular, and pulses with humor, vulnerability, insight, and refreshing candor.... Be prepared for it to grab you, hold you tight, and raise the roof on the power of human connection." — Tembi Locke, author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home

For her clients and everyone who has been inspired by her humanity, Alua Arthur is a friend at the end of the world. As our country’s leading death doula, she’s spreading a transformative message: thinking about your death—whether imminent or not—will breathe wild, new potential into your life.

Warm, generous, and funny AF, Alua supports and helps manage end-of-life care on many levels. The business matters, medical directives, memorial planning; but also honoring the quiet moments, when monitors are beeping and loved ones have stepped out to get some air—or maybe not shown up at all—and her clients become deeply contemplative and want to talk. Aching, unfinished business often emerges. Alua has been present for thousands of these sacred moments—when regrets, fears, secret joys, hidden affairs, and dim realities are finally said aloud. When this happens, Alua focuses her attention at the pulsing center of her clients’ anguish and creates space for them, and sometimes their loved ones, to find peace.

This has had a profound effect on Alua, who was already no stranger to death’s periphery. Her family fled a murderous coup d’état in Ghana in the 1980s. She has suffered major, debilitating depressions. And her dear friend and brother-in-law died of lymphoma. Advocating for him in his final months is what led Alua to her life’s calling. She knows firsthand the power of bearing witness and telling the truth about life’s painful complexities, because they do not disappear when you look the other way. They wait for you.

Briefly Perfectly Human is a life-changing, soul-gathering debut, by a writer whose empathy, tenderness, and wisdom shimmers on the page. Alua Arthur combines intimate storytelling with a passionate appeal for loving, courageous end-of-life care—what she calls “death embrace.” Hers is a powerful testament to getting in touch with something deeper in our lives, by embracing the fact of our own mortality. “Hold that truth in your mind,” Alua says, “and wondrous things will begin to grow around it.”

I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger (Barnes & Noble April Book Club)

Set in a not-too-distant America, I Cheerfully Refuse is the tale of Rainy, an aspiring musician setting sail on Lake Superior in search of his departed, deeply beloved, bookselling wife. An endearing bear of an Orphean narrator, he seeks refuge in the harbors, fogs, and remote islands of the inland sea. After encountering lunatic storms and rising corpses from the warming depths, he eventually lands to find an increasingly desperate and illiterate people, a malignant billionaire ruling class, a crumbled infrastructure, and a lawless society. As his guileless nature begins to make an inadvertent rebel of him, Rainy’s private quest for the love of his life grows into something wider and wilder, sweeping up friends and foes alike in his wake.

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction--a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted--no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape--she was able to turn to our world's fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

"What the peacock can do," she tells us, "is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life." The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world's gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

The Institute by Stephen King

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King's gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good versus evil in a world where the good guys don't always win.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Poetry Sunday (04/21/24 edition)



i'd rather be alone than form convenient

connections disguised as friendships.

my soul steers away from anything

unauthentic and disingenuous.

-- from Flowers on the Moon by Billy Chapata

Saturday, April 20, 2024



Thursday, April 18, 2024

Introducing... Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance. Mrs. Baird's was like a thousand other Highland bed-and-breakfast establishments in 1945; clean and quiet, with fading floral wallpaper, gleaming floors, and a coin-operated hot-water geyser in the lavatory. Mrs. Baird herself was squat and easygoing, and made no objection to Frank lining her tiny rose-sprigged parlor with the dozens of books and papers with which he always traveled.

-- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What's Releasing? (04-17-24 edition)

 Books that are releasing the week of 4/22/24:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This special clothbound edition features designed four-color endpapers, sprayed edges, a ribbon bookmark, and never-before-seen, exclusive content by the author including a chapter called “Six Thirty and the Moms” as well as an Interview with Elizabeth Zott.

An elegant, deluxe edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller—marking the 2nd anniversary of its publication—that will make the perfect gift or treat for yourself.

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Funny Story by Emily Henry

A shimmering, joyful new novel about a pair of opposites with the wrong thing in common.

Daphne always loved the way her fiancé Peter told their story. How they met (on a blustery day), fell in love (over an errant hat), and moved back to his lakeside hometown to begin their life together. He really was good at telling it…right up until the moment he realized he was actually in love with his childhood best friend Petra.

Which is how Daphne begins her new story: Stranded in beautiful Waning Bay, Michigan, without friends or family but with a dream job as a children’s librarian (that barely pays the bills), and proposing to be roommates with the only person who could possibly understand her predicament: Petra’s ex, Miles Nowak.

Scruffy and chaotic—with a penchant for taking solace in the sounds of heart break love ballads—Miles is exactly the opposite of practical, buttoned up Daphne, whose coworkers know so little about her they have a running bet that she’s either FBI or in witness protection. The roommates mainly avoid one another, until one day, while drowning their sorrows, they form a tenuous friendship and a plan. If said plan also involves posting deliberately misleading photos of their summer adventures together, well, who could blame them?

But it’s all just for show, of course, because there’s no way Daphne would actually start her new chapter by falling in love with her ex-fiancé’s new fiancée’s ex…right?

Extinction by Douglas Preston

Erebus Resort, occupying a magnificent, hundred-thousand–acre valley deep in the Colorado Rockies, offers guests the experience of viewing woolly mammoths, Irish Elk, and giant ground sloths in their native habitat, brought back from extinction through the magic of genetic manipulation. When a billionaire's son and his new wife are kidnapped and murdered in the Erebus back country by what is assumed to be a gang of eco-terrorists, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Frances Cash partners with county sheriff James Colcord to track down the perpetrators. As killings mount and the valley is evacuated, Cash and Colcord must confront an ancient, intelligent, and malevolent presence at Erebus, bent not on resurrection but on extinction.

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

For as long as they can remember, Jessica, Norah, and Alicia have been told how lucky they are. As young girls they were rescued from family tragedies and raised by a loving foster mother, Miss Fairchild, on an idyllic farming estate and given an elusive second chance at a happy family life.

But their childhood wasn’t the fairy tale everyone thinks it was. Miss Fairchild had rules. Miss Fairchild could be unpredictable. And Miss Fairchild was never, ever to be crossed. In a moment of desperation, the three broke away from Miss Fairchild and thought they were free. Even though they never saw her again, she was always somewhere in the shadows of their minds. When a body is discovered under the home they grew up in, the foster sisters find themselves thrust into the spotlight as key witnesses. Or are they prime suspects?

A thrilling page-turner of sisterhood, secrets, love, and murder by New York Times bestselling author Sally Hepworth.

The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

Bestselling author Ruth Reichl takes readers on an adventure of food, art, and fashion in 1980s Paris in this dazzling, heartfelt novel

Stella reached for an oyster, tipped her head and tossed it back. It was cool and slippery, the flavor so briny it was like diving into the ocean... Oysters, she thought, where have they been all my life?

When her estranged mother dies, Stella is left with an unusual a one-way plane ticket and a note reading Go to Paris . But Stella is hardly cut out for adventure; a childhood trauma has kept her confined to the strict routines of her comfort zone. When her boss encourages her to take time off, Stella resigns herself to honoring her mother’s last wishes.

Alone in a foreign city, Stella falls into old habits, living cautiously and frugally. Then she stumbles across a vintage store where she tries on a fabulous Dior dress. The shopkeeper insists that this dress was meant for Stella and, for the first time in her life, Stella does something impulsive. She buys the dress and together they embark on an adventure.

Her first iconic brasserie Les Deux Magots, where Stella tastes her first oysters, and then meets an octogenarian art collector who decides to take her under his wing. As Jules introduces her to a veritable who’s who of the 1980s Paris literary, art, and culinary worlds, Stella begins to understand what it might mean to live a larger life.

As weeks—and many decadent meals—go by, Stella ends up living as a “tumbleweed” at famed bookstore Shakespeare & Company, uncovers a hundred-year-old mystery in a Manet painting, and discovers a passion for food that may be connected to her past. A feast for the senses, this novel is a testament to living deliciously, taking chances, and finding your true home.

The Summer We Started Over by Nancy Thayer

Two sisters reconnect and pursue their dreams on the beautiful island of Nantucket, overcoming life’s challenges and finding new love, in this heartwarming and hopeful novel by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.

Eddie Grant is happy with her life and her work as a personal assistant to Dinah Lavender, one of the most famous and renowned romance authors in the business. But being a spectator to notoriety and glamour isn’t as fulfilling as she once thought. Thankfully, Eddie has the perfect excuse for a vacation: Her hardworking younger sister, Barrett, is opening her gift shop on Memorial Day weekend, and could use all the help she can get.

But going home to the beautiful island of Nantucket means facing the family’s difficult past. Shortly after the death of Eddie and Barrett’s brother, their mother left them and their father made the spontaneous decision to buy a small farm. Eddie stayed there for only a year before her family’s grief threatened to consume her as well, and had been living in Manhattan ever since. Now that she is back, Eddie must face all she left behind: her father’s increased eccentricities, which has led to a house bursting at the seams with books; her sister’s resentment over Eddie’s escape; and a past love connection, one that is still undeniable and complicated, all these years later. But the Grant sisters are nothing if not resilient and capable, opening a used bookstore in their father’s abandoned barn to manage his hoarding, and navigating the discovery of a long-buried family secret that will change all of them forever.

In The Summer We Started Over, beloved storyteller Nancy Thayer transports readers with a moving story about family, courage, and the resiliency of young women.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Bookish Envy-- Book Clocks


I recently saw a book clock that someone had made, and it was love at first sight! I'm now trying to figure out where I could put one. In my bedroom? 

In my living room? 

It needs a lot of wall space. 

Clock parts, clock face created from book covers that have titles containing a number. Yes, please!

Monday, April 15, 2024

REVIEW: Kowbird by Matt Horn


If you are like most people, you eat a lot of chicken. But chances are you haven’t had chicken like Matt Horn’s chicken. Now you can! Learn how to make the best chicken on the planet, from a true master of the art, in this fun and inspiring book.

Celebrated chef Matt Horn spent years perfecting his chicken recipes before he opened his widely acclaimed mecca for chicken cookery, Kowbird, in Oakland, California. Even to this day, he continues to experiment with different cuts of chicken, with a host of sauces and spice mixtures that bring out the best flavors in chicken, and with all sorts of cooking techniques that make this popular food explode with flavor on the palate. In the richly photographed pages of Kowbird, he shares his hard-won wisdom and his brilliantly creative culinary wizardry, elevating the humble bird to its rightful place at the center of the plate—and as the star of the meal.

Matt gives you 65 recipes packed with flavor and creativity for everything from comforting weekday dinners to spectacular weekend feasts. It’s time to set aside the tired old chicken spaghetti, chicken parmesan, and unadorned chicken cutlets and dig.

With recipes for grilling, smoking, sautéing, brazing, baking, broiling, pan-frying, deep-frying, and more, this is a book that takes chicken to delectable places you’ve never dreamed of before.

Format 176 pages, Hardcover
Expected publication May 28, 2024 by Harvard Common Press
ISBN 9780760387412 (ISBN10: 0760387419)

My Thoughts

I chose to review this book from Netgalley as one of those books acting as a catalyst for getting me back into reading and reviewing after a long hiatus. The cover is one of the things that drew me to this book. A delicious spicy chicken sandwich with dripping sauce and pickles. I can almost taste it and feel the crunch of the chicken crust and the bite of the dill pickle, wiping a smear of sauce from my chin.

Inspired by his Oakland restaurant Kowbird, the author Matt Horn begins the book talking about the humble chicken, and its background and history as a staple in Southern cooking. I never knew that someone could have so much to say about chicken, and with such passion and adoration! He would argue that the chicken is not so humble and is such a versatile protein that can be downplayed or elevated and is a perfect representation of cooking in the south.

The book starts with an introduction to Southern cooking and the chicken's place in it. The collard greens and fried okra, chicken roasted or fried or in chicken and dumplings. This cookbook is broken into eight chapters: "Why did the chicken cross the road?", "The southern roots of Kowbird: Chicken, culture and community", Chicken Mains, Southern Sides, Desserts, Southern Sauces, Gravies for Chicken, and Seasonings for Chicken. 

The first chapter walks you through the "chicken's journey through the culinary landscape". It's the ability for chicken to transport you back in time to your grandmother's kitchen with the smell of chicken stew simmering on the stove. Memories of picnics and Sunday dinners. And the author lauds the chicken's ability to "unite".
In a world brimming with differences, the love for chicken is a universal thread. It's a silent reminder that simple joys and flavors bind us all, regardless of where we come from or where we're headed.
The author then offers up a primary on chicken breeds, temperaments and reputations of each, and for what kind of dishes each breed is preferred. His restaurant Kowbird is about community:
Kowbird is more than just a nod to my Southern roots, though it is about building bridges, reviving communities, and fostering entrepreneurship.

The chapter on "The Southern Roots of Kowbird" explores "chicken, culture and community". The author acknowledges some other culinary establishments around the country from which he's garnered inspiration, such as the hot chicken from Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville or the chicken at Honey's Kettle. He explores the origins of ingredients like black-eyed peas and deep-frying techniques being attributable to the slave trade and enslaved Africans. How many Southern dishes were born of hardship:

Many Southern dishes-- often labeled soul food-- originated during times of hardship, particularly during slavery and the subsequent eras of segregation and economic disparity. Enslaved peoples often made do with the least desirable ingredients, which they transformed into nourishing and delicious meals with creativity and resourcefulness: pork intestines became chitterlings, pig's feet became a pickled delicacy, greens slow-cooked with ham hocks were sublime, and cornmeal transformed into grits.

This cookbook offers up main dishes like Chicken Brunswick Stew, the Kowbird Chicken Smash Burger, and Georgia Peach Chicken Thighs as well as Southern staples like Southern Fried Chicken and Chicken and Dumplings. Dive into Southern Sides like Southern Green Beans with Bacon and Biscuits with Honey Butter. Finish off your meal with Desserts like Sweet Potato or Mississippi Mud Pie, 7Up Cake or Peach Cobbler. Additionally, you have recipes for things like Country Sausage Gravy and Memphis Dry Rub.

My final word: This is such a thorough southern cookbook of everything chicken! It has beautiful photography, passion, history, and above all else, pride. This is a chef who takes pride in his Southern roots and wants to share the flavors and love and novelty and versatility with the world. If you love Southern cooking, or if you just love the humble chicken, I strongly recommend this cookbook!

Chicken is a "comforting constant, reminding us of shared tales and the magic of simple, unadulterated flavors."

My Rating:

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

I received an e-book copy of this book to review through Netgalley 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 cookbook.