Monday, April 22, 2019

Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review

Goodreads:  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Rating:  Loved It!
Source: Library (Audio)

Description: On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more--all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I had heard this recommended by the Modern Mrs. Darcy a number of times and I found the subject matter fascinating so I just had to listen to it!

My Impression:  I've been fascinated with shipwrecks since the day we got the National Geographic magazine all about the discovery of the Titanic in the mail.  Because of that I know a bit more about the Titanic than the Lusitania but I find it equally fascinating. 

This book turned almost everything I thought I knew about the sinking of the Lusitania on its ear and what it didn't change it fleshed out with such incredible detail.  This was one of the those books that I wanted to talk about all the time as I was reading it.  Each chapter brought interesting bits of information about the ship, the war, the passengers, as well as the sinking itself.  It was truly fascinating.  But what really connected me wasn't just the historical information but the biographies of the passengers.  Larson brought so many of them to life and at times had me teary listening to their poignant and tragic stories.  This was interesting, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking and a nonfiction book that not only kept me listening but that I was sorry to hear the end of.

The audio edition is narrated by Scott Brick who did a great job with the pacing and tone without ever lapsing into overly dramatic.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to listening to other books by Larson.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are even the slightest bit interested in this topic than this is a must not miss. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 21

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz - This one reminds me a little bit of a show on TNT called Perception.  There's a cop and a professor who not only has been diagnosed with schizophrenia who sees crime related visions.  I'm really curious about this one! (Publisher)

Jackson by Emily March - I almost passed on this one because I don't like name titles but this one has a bookstore owner which I can never resist.  Plus, I've loved the last few books by March so I decided to get past that particular bias. (Publisher)

A Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry - There's an antique store in England.  And that was pretty much all I needed to know.  (NetGalley)

Dying for Devil's Food  by Jenn McKinlay - This is a fun cozy series though it does make me want to binge eat cupcakes! (Publisher)


Reading:  The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr and still reading The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Listening:  I'm almost done with Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts and I'm going to start Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Watching:  We've been heavy on the movies lately and I've watched a few episodes of MacGyver.  It's not the best show but it is entertaining.

Off the Blog:

This weekend was a three day weekend.  The Tornado had Friday off for a weather day (we lose them if we have a number of school days cancelled for weather concerns but it's been a mild year).  We had talked about going on a day trip but the next two weekends are going to be kind of nuts so we decided to stay home.  Luckily we did because the Tornado's teacher called me Thursday afternoon to tell me he was sick!  So we had more of a low key weekend than expected.  He's feeling much better though a bit puny and sorry for himself.

I'm sticking with the running and it's getting equally easier and harder.  I'm not as tired and it doesn't hurt as much but I'm seriously sore!  I'm also trying to up my strength workouts as that's supposed to help with the soreness but we'll see.

We've discovered our cat is scared of thunderstorms.  He's not quite two yet and apparently in most of those two years we haven't had many storms.  However, the last month or so we've had several drawn out storms and it is past pathetic.  He's literally paralyzed by fear.  I've had dogs who were afraid of storms and it was always sad but I could help them a little.  With him I have no clue.  I got some treats that are supposed to relax him but it's near impossible to get him to take them and when I do I haven't noticed any help.  Any advice?

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - The First Ten Books I Reviewed
Wednesday:  The Missing Years - Mystery Review
Thursday:  Books from the Backlog
Friday:  Friday Fives - My Favorite Slump Busting Reads
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Faithful - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Rating:  Very Good
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:  Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I heard so many good things about this one from bloggers who read all kinds of genres that I couldn't pass it up.

My Impression:  I'm going to be honest - for the first 25% or so I was pretty meh about this book.  Shelby is so full of self loathing and such a hot mess that it's hard to want to hear her story.  But then - around the time she adopted the General and Blinky - everything changed and I was completely hooked.  I didn't connect to Shelby necessarily but I rooted for her and very frequently I wanted to reach into the book and give her a good shake because she just couldn't readjust her vision of herself.

There aren't any magic wands in Shelby's world and her journey isn't easy or flawless but it felt authentic.  I loved Hoffman's ability to make me care and to make me believe that Marielle and Jasmine and Pablo and all the rest really existed and I became really invested as the book went on. This was my first book by Alice Hoffman but it definitively won't be my last.  While it took me a little bit to warm up to both her very unique style and Shelby herself I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this read and I was sad when it ended because that means my time with Shelby is over.

Audio note: Amber Tamblyn narrated this book.  While I thought her voice was perfect for Shelby her pacing was very slow.  I ended up increasing the speed quite a bit and I think it improved my enjoyment of the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  While I wasn't so sure of this one at first but Hoffman really sold me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  Even if this is a little outside your typical reading genres I think you'd enjoy it.  Though if you have the same audio edition I did I highly recommend increasing the pace even if you never do.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Fives - YouTube Channels I'm Loving

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week is one of the not so much weeks.  The last year or so I discovered YouTube (because clearly I'm on top of trends!).  I mean I knew what YouTube was but thought it was mostly for looking up how to do something or watching the occasional movie trailer.  But then I discovered different YouTube channels that I really enjoyed.  This happened right about the time we changed cable companies and I stopped being able to watch saved TV shows on my tablet.  And with the fact that my usual constant stream of crime shows started causing my crazy intense anxiety and I had to start looking elsewhere for my background noise.  Here are 5 of my favorite YouTube channels!

1.  Safiya Nygaard - Safiya was really the first YouTube channel I ever discovered and she's still my favorite.  She's funny but in a smart way and always seems to put a little bit of history or research in her videos.  Her videos range from topics like "I Dressed Like it was 1977" and "The History of Lipstick" to trying suspiciously cheap companies like Wish or Romwe.  She's also done stuff like buying an abandoned storage or a palette of Amazon Returns.  Really it'd be easier to talk about what she HASN'T done. 

2.  RachhLovesLife - I discovered this channel shortly after I found her somewhat more popular makeup channel but I think this one is really my favorite.  She tests all kinds of online "hacks" or top rated products and she is absolutely hilarious.  My favorite videos are the ones where she's playing Sims4 and I never like those kinds of videos but her spin on it is just so funny.

3.  TheTimTracker - This channel basically focuses on Tim and his wife Jen having adventures at all the Orlando area amusement parks with a special focus on Disney World.  They do a great job exploring all the different parks, festivals, tasting new food, and discovering new experiences.  They always give very honest well reasoned opinions but all the time coming off as upbeat and just super nice.  I may have found them when I was deep in my Disney World obsession (still there) but I keep watching them because they're just such fun.

4.  Yoga with Adriene - So this isn't really background noise as I'm usually actually doing the Yoga practice but I can't make a list of favorite channels without mention this one.  I have done one of her practices almost every day this year and I'm feeling better than I have in years.  I have several other yoga channels that I enjoy but Adriene is the one that I always go back to.

5.  Mellissa - Mellissa is a reseller on eBay and she does haul videos with her husband Bare showing what they picked up at the Goodwill Bins or other thrift stores.  They also do unboxings from different companies that are geared towards resellers.  She also videos about putting together packages.  Honestly, none of this stuff really appeals to me but Mellissa is just the absolute nicest person I've ever come across and I just love their videos.  Something about them is so calming and uplifting and even though their videos are LONG I never get bored or tired of them.

Do you watch YouTube?  Who are some of your favorites?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Hodge Podge of Reviews - What I've Been Reading #1

The Widow by Fiona Barton - I thoroughly enjoyed The Child by Barton last year and was curious how she handled this story involving what happens behind the scenes in the house and in the marriage of a man publicly suspected of the absolute worst kind of crime.  This was definitely kept me hooked and kept me guessing from start to finish.  Just what did happen to little Bella and just how much did "the widow" know.  I was relieved that while crimes against children was very front and center it wasn't graphic and was mercifully light on details.  While I didn't enjoy this read as much as The Child I really appreciate the way Fiona Barton tells a story and I'll definitely be continuing with her books.  I listened to the audio and it was fantastic which a wonderful voice actor for each POV.  Rating: Very Good

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis -This was a reread for me and a very fun one.  It's been quite some time since I visited Lucky Harbor and it was a fun visit.  I especially enjoyed Maddie's journey to not be the mouse anymore and the growing relationship between the sisters.  Yes the romance was fun too but it was the sisters that that really sold it for me.  I listened to the audio on this one and while it didn't detract from the book I didn't feel like it really added anything for me.  This is a fun start to a fun series that never disappoints!  Rating: Good

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz - I do love a tale of Gothic mystery - especially when it involves a crumbling estate.  Just what had the briefcase contained and why was Madeline's grandmother so desperate to hide it so long ago.  And even more importantly just who was after that information and what did they know?  This was a fun fast paced romantic suspense that while not perfect was an entertaining listen and cements Krentz as a guaranteed author for an enjoyable and suspenseful read.  Rating: Good

Always On My Mind by Belle Andre - I think I'm in the minority here.  The reviews for this one - even from bloggers I trust and usually have the same taste as - are pretty much glowing.  I had some issues with this one.  I loved Lori.  Her ability to not only see the good but find the fun in some serious hard work is endearing and I enjoyed watching her regain her confidence.  My issue was 100% with Grayson.  Grayson is a jerk.  I mean I get that there has been tragedy in his life but that doesn't give him the monopoly on hurt or betrayal.  The fact that he completely dismissed and undermined Lori's feelings when she opened up to him really set my teeth on edge.  He was mean to the point of cruel for really no reason other than he had decided not to get close to people.  Yes there was some redemption but in my opinion it was too little too late.  What kept me reading was Andre's writing which was really brought the characters to life.  While I didn't love Grayson (massive understatement) I loved the Lori and the world that Andre created enough that I won't hesitate to read more from her.  Rating: Just Okay

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Classic Movie Essentials - His Girl Friday (1940)

Setting:  A newsroom in New York city right before World War II. 

Walter Burns - Cary Grant
Hildy Johnson - Rosalind Russell
Bruce Baldwin - Ralph Bellamy
Sheriff Hartwell - Gene Lockhart

Premise: On the eve of her remarriage newspaper editor, Walter Burns, tempts his ex-wife, Hildy Johnson, back into the fast moving world of journalism with the race to stay an execution.

My Thoughts:  "Oh Walter you're wonderful in a loathsome sort of way" so says Hildy Johnson in the airy arch way that only Rosalind Russell can do with such perfection.  This movie has a blazing fast pace and a constant flow of incredibly witty banter.  It's funny and suspenseful and incredibly entertaining.   For the age of the movie it feels incredibly fresh and funny and feels shockingly undated - despite a lot of very dated opinions that get bandied around. 

My only negative would be that if you are even slightly hard of hearing you may want to make sure the background noise is at a minimum.  The dialogue is so fast and zippy it could be hard to hear clearly if there is any white noise.  And also as far as I can tell this is the only movie that Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell costar in and their chemistry is so fantastic that this is an absolute tragedy.

Why I Think It's Essential - This movie is funny and crisp and just a total delight.  And really more people should watch it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Rainy Day Reads

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is Rainy Day Reads.  I love the occasional rainy day and curling up with a good book is one of my favorite things!  Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - There was so much hype when this one came out that I ended up being a little disappointed with it but the story itself is sweet  with a touch of bittersweet and is a quick read that pulls you in.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

2.  The Mysterious Mr. Quinn by Agatha Christie - I love Agatha Christie's short stories and this is one of my absolute favorite collections.  They're light mystery and so entertaining - perfect to spend a gray drizzly afternoon.

3.   In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This is a spooky mystery with an oppressive setting and begs to be read in a thunderstorm.

4.  A Week Winter by Maeve Binchy - The setting for this book is a warm cozy house on the Irish coast and would be perfect reading when curled up with a blanket on a cold rainy day.

5.  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - While I love a rainy day more than two or three make me stir crazy and this is perfect for a little escapist reading when you just can't handle being inside anymore.

6.  The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels - A spooky read that really must be read during a thunderstorm - preferably with howling wind.

7.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - I think you really need to have a plateful of scones sitting by when you read this and a cold drizzly day is the perfect atmosphere.

8.  The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis - Every rainy day should have a little magic and this book is a one sitting block everything out and be completely delighted kind of read.

9.  The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor - I wouldn't read this when the weather is too bad as there are two actual hurricanes in the book but a bit of rain would add the perfect atmosphere to this heart breaking book.

10. Book 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton - This is the perfect "it's been raining so long that if it rains one more day I'm going to lose mind" kind of read.  It's so hot and dry in this book that a bit of rain won't seem quite so bad!

What are some of your favorite rainy day reads?