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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hello from #LFLonChestnut !

One of the reasons I started book blogging is because I wanted to share my love of books with the world. Now I've found a new way to spread ALL. THE. WORDS. Say hello to my Little Free Library Charter Number 54881.

My husband built my LFL to match our house. I love it and it makes it so special that he built it for me!

Have you ever heard of a Little Free Library before? They're a great way to bring a bit of bookish community to your local area.

I have been running out to the LFL every single night after I put the kids to bed to see what got taken and what got dropped off. So far books have moved every single day in the week since my LFL opened. It's been amazing!

Follow my LFL steward adventures on Instagram or by using #LFLonChestnut across social media!

Do any of you have a Little Free Library?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: A More Perfect Union by Jodi Daynard

Title: A More Perfect Union
Author: Jodi Daynard
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: May 23, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "In 1794, Johnny Watkins returns to America from Barbados, intent on becoming a great statesman. Even his hero, John Adams, believes the gifted boy will go far. There’s just one catch: Johnny must learn to pass for white.
He finds a spirited and lovely confidante in Kate, one of the few who knows that Johnny’s father had been born a slave. But as he moves closer toward the new city of Washington, Johnny leaves Kate behind, falling instead for a prominent Maryland heiress who may not have his best interests at heart. Embroiled in the vicious politics of the approaching election, Johnny lives every moment at risk of being unmasked.

Then, a discovery about Thomas Jefferson, one that could sway the election, imperils not only Johnny’s future but also his life. In the end, Johnny learns who his real friends are—and the truth behind the great promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

My Two Cents:

"A More Perfect Union" is the story of Johnny Watkins, a young man looking to contribute to the future of his adopted country of the United States in any way he kind. Inspired by great men like John Adams (who Johnny knows personally), he decides the best way that he can contribute is to become a politician and to truly lead his new country. Being mixed race, he has to pass for white in order to do what he aspires to do. He worries that his secret may be revealed at every turn.

This is the third book in Jodi Daynard's Midwife series but this book can very much be read as a stand alone book. The focus of the story is really on Johnny himself, the son of some of the previous characters in this trilogy. Although Johnny is hiding a secret, in many ways he is freer to pursue what he wants compared to the previous generation.

Johnny is right at the center of a lot of the political action of the time. He spends time in places like Boston, Maryland, and D.C. throughout the book meaning that he rubs elbows with a lot of the famous people at the time. I loved all of the detail that was included in the book! You get a good sense of the places that Johnny is seeing. There is also a love story at the center of the book that will keep you guessing (and rooting for Johnny and Kate) until the very end!

Overall, this book made me want to read more books set in this time period. This was a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy!  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases by Andrew Thompson

Title: Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases
Author: Andrew Thompson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Ulysses Press
Publish Date: March 14, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The English language is riddled with phrases that are complete nonsense. Ever met "a monkey's uncle," seen a "red-handed" thief, or "put a sock in it" when asked? You knows the real meaning of these common expressions, but do you know where, why, and how these idioms entered America's vernacular in the first place? Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red uncovers and explains the amazing and bizarre origins of 400 such phrases. Breezy and fun to read, this book of word trivia is far from being just an etymological dictionary. As if he were unraveling 400 little mysteries, the author reveals the backstory of each expression and tells how they've gained their new meanings. For example, you will enjoy following the exploits of the Marquis of Waterford. Was it the Mad Marquis' drunken excess and paint-brush wielding fun in the town of Melton Mowbray that inspired so many to "paint the town red" even today? This question and many others will be answered within."

My Two Cents:

"Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red" is a book for lovers of words and phrases. Perhaps it is also for POTUSes who think that they have made up a phrase like "priming the pump" only to be corrected and told that "priming the pump" has existed as an economics-related idiom for almost 90 years. "Priming the pump" is not included in this collection but after last week, it should not be missed after seeing story after story about that particular phrase's origins. 

Have you ever used a colloquial phrase and wondered where it came from? Why do we say things like "beating a dead horse" or "head over heels?" If these questions fly through your mind, this is the book for you.

Set up like a dictionary, this book has tons of phrases, how they are used, and where they came from. Each chapter focuses on a different origins. Let me tell you, there are soooo many funny phrases that come from the British Navy and sooo many more that started because of different sports. This book is for word nerds (and POTUSes that could stand to pick up a book every once in awhile). This book doesn't need to be read in all one sitting. I know that I personally would like to keep it as a reference book for when I have questions about where certain phrases come from. Overall, this is a very interesting book that taught me many new things about why we say the funny phrases we say.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West by Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Title: Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West
Author: Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: National Geographic
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours and National Geographic Store

What's the Story?:

From "Follow in the footsteps of much-loved authors, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and many more. For vacationers who crave meaningful trips and unusual locales, cue National Geographic's Novel Destinations a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe. Check into Hemingway's favorite hotel in Sun Valley, or stroll about Bath's Royal Crescent while entertaining fantasies of Lizzie Bennett and her Mr. Darcy. The fully revised second edition includes all of the previous sites with updated locations plus color images and an expanded section on all things Bronte. The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums, literary festivals and walking tours. Then, in-depth explorations of authors and places take readers roaming Franz Kafka's Prague, James Joyce's Dublin, Louisa May Alcott's New England, and other locales. Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, Novel Destinations is a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate bibliophile's delight.""

My Two Cents: 

"Novel Destinations" is for travelers who like me love to find any bookish related sites anywhere they travel. Is there a author related museum nearby? Is there a bookstore nearby? If there is, I will find it. This book makes it easier. This is the perfect book to generate new travel ideas (who wants to go to Key West now to see EVERY. SINGLE. HEMINGWAY. RELATED. THING? *raises hand excitedly*). So if you are like me and love to daydream about your next trip, this is perfect.

The book is organized a couple different ways. There are groups of related authors but the locations are not necessarily close so they probably would make for a better bucket list than itinerary. My favorite section was the actual itineraries. Like I said, I'm ready to hop a plane to Key West now. Because the book is sorted a couple different ways, there are some repeats of authors and places. The organization could have probably been a little bit better. It is hard to find the different sections as they can start in the middle of the page with relatively small headers.

The book also is limited in what it focuses on. The locations are mostly in the U.S. and Europe so it is limited to Western writers and definitely should not be seen as an end all, be all of literary travel. It is also limited in the kinds of authors that it focuses on: mostly authors that I would consider classic authors. This book is only a taste of the bookish places you can go!

This book would make a great gift for a new high school or college graduate just stretching their wings and beginning to see the world!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Title: A House Without Windows
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 16, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines."

My Two Cents:

When "A House Without Windows" opens, Zeba is accused of killing her husband. No one around her can believe that Zeba, a mild mannered housewife, would dare to kill her husband. In Afghanistan, there is often no recourse for women who commit a crime and Zeba resigns herself to this fate. Yusuf, an Afghanistan born - American raised lawyer, takes up her case and is determined to get her out of jail. This is a great book about modern-day Afghanistan!

The characters in this book are really great. All Zeba wants to do is to live a good life and to protect her children. She never anticipated going to jail. Although she does not like being in jail, she is resigned and does nothing to actively help Yusuf get her out. As the story progresses, we see the secrets of Zeba's past and what drove her come to light. It gives us insight into what makes her tick and how far she had to be pushed to go to the drastic measures that get her into jail.

Yusuf is also another strong character. He really wants to help his home country of Afghanistan. He is driven to make things better and is passionate about trying to practice law in a way that helps people. He deals with the in-between. Growing up, he felt too Afghani to be totally American and now that he is back in Afghanistan, he is often seen as a foreigner. It was interesting to see how he counters this and makes peace with the in-between throughout the book!

Nadia Hashimi is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. Her books are insightful and tell so much about a culture that I know so little about. The themes that she deals with are complicated. She uses this story to talk about the plight of many women in Afghanistan who feel like they do not have a voice even if something really bad happens to them. She also uses this story to explore what it is like to be torn between two cultures in Yusuf. Both of these themes as well as a taut story line makes this book worth reading!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, May 16th: Book by Book
Wednesday, May 17th: Real Life Reading
Wednesday, May 17th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 18th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, May 19th: Tina Says…
Monday, May 22nd: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, May 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 25th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, May 26th: Read Her Like an Open Book
Monday, May 29th: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, May 30th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 31st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, June 1st: G. Jacks Writes
Friday, June 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Title: God-Shaped Hole
Author: Tiffanie DeBartolo
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: May 2002 (Just re-released this month!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "With wit and humor, the author brings these characters and their quirky, artsy friends alive. Bottom Line: You'll dig it" -- People

If your intentions are pure
I am seeking a friend
For the end of the world

When Beatrice Jordan meets the unpredictable Jacob Grace, the two wild souls become instant allies. Together they discover an escape in each other's creativity and insecurities, while running from secrets they cannot seem to shake - or a fate that could throw them to the ground...

This 15th Anniversary reissue of Tiffanie DeBartolo's classic love story introduces a new audience of dreamers to a quintessentially real and raw vision of spirit, and inspires everyone to live -- and love -- as vividly as possible."

My Two Cents:

In "God-Shaped Hole," Beatrice randomly answers a newspaper personal ad. She meets Jacob and they fall totally and utterly in love. They believe that they are soul mates but somehow it feels real and not like the cliche that term normally seems to denote. They move fast and they dream big. They dream of getting out of the gray concrete jungle of Los Angeles to somewhere that feels more real, has more heart. It is the place of their dreams and the place that keeps them striving for something better. This is a book that will break your heart in a million different ways. This is the kind of book that encapsulates being alive and living to the fullest.

Wow! This book was so good. I loved the relationship between Beatrice and Jacob. Beatrice is a little more realistic and grounded. Jacob is a dreamer. He lives his life in a very different way than Beatrice that sometimes causes conflict but more often than not makes her see life in a different light. Jacob cannot cut himself off from letting his feelings lead but it's refreshing to see how he puts himself out there. He also helps Beatrice to be a little bit less guarded and more open to possibility. 

The book also brought up a lot of questions about fate. The book starts out with Beatrice talking about how a fortune teller told her that her only love would die young when she was only 12 years old. The logical side of her knows that it was only a fortune teller. The illogical side of her that wants to believe in something greater than random chance believes this may have an affect on her life. Is it fate that she and Jacob meet through a strange little personal ad? Did the personal ad foretell of their love story? Was what happened to Jacob connected to Trixie's past? All of these big, huge questions are up to the reader to decide. I loved that this book was one thing on it's surface (a tragic love story) and another underneath (a rumination on chance vs. fate). 

Do you want a book that will break your heart? Do you want a book that will kiss you hard and then sucker punch you? Do you want a book that captures all of the gorgeous things that being in a good relationship brings? Do you want a book that captures why it's so important to live fully without fixating on the future? Do you want a book that will stick to your guts long after you close the book? This one is for you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London by Penrose Halson

Title: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London
Author: Penrose Halson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson—who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau—tells their story, and those of their clients.

From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

Penrose Halson draws from newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and interviews with the proprietors themselves to bring the romance and heartbreak of matchmaking during wartime to vivid, often hilarious, life in this unforgettable story of a most unusual business."

My Two Cents:

 "The Marriage Bureau" is the story of two women who start at matchmaking firm in London during World War II. They pledge to make love matches between many people from many different walks of life. They set up their business on Bond Street. This book is billed as being a true story but reads more like a frothy, fun story of two women with a lot of anecdotes about some of the out of the ordinary clients that they serve.

This book definitely reads more like fiction and while the book says that the author drew on sources from the time and from interviews, much of the story is told through conversations between different characters in the book, which seems to blur the fiction/ non-fiction line a little bit. I appreciated that the author tried to pull the facts into more of a story rather than a history. I was hoping for more facts (How was the business set up? What was it like to have a business involved with very happy things during wartime?).

Also, since many of the stories about clients are anecdotal and contained to individual couples, there is not much of a story arc there. Individually, the stories about the clients are very entertaining. I did wish that there was a little bit more to this book but it is a good taste of an interesting business. It made me want to read more about this subject!

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