Library Checkout: October

I love this idea of Shannon’s so much!  I’ll take any excuse to spread the library love!  My daughter read her first chapter book with me this month thanks to the library! Please pardon me for crying over this milestone.

LibraryCheckoutBig

Library Books Read (and rereading and rereading with Babycakes)

  • The Sandman Volume I by Neil Gaiman – (My review)
  • The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
  • Nancy Clancy: Soccer Mania by Jane O’Connor
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  • I am a Witch’s Cat by Harriet Muncaster
  • I am Malala
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Checked Out to Read

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Nil by Lynne Matson
  • Sekret (still renewing this one sigh) by Lindsay Smith
  • Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Treehouse #1)  by Mary Pope Osborne

Returned Read

  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

On Hold

  • Breaking Bad Season 1 (so excited)
  • Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
  • The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (119# on 39 copies bah)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition
  • Laurie Berkner Band Favorite Kids Classic Songs
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead
  • The Veil by Chloe Neill
  • The Witches by Stacy Schiff
  • Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

Returned unread:

  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter
  • Interstella Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (Babycakes)
  • Slaughterhouse 90210: Where Great Books Meet Pop Culture  by Maris Kreizman – didn’t even make it to the checkout – but this looks awesome! I had too many books at that trip if there is such a thing.

Museums!  Because the Chicago Public Library is the coolest I lucked out this month and checked out

  • Shedd Aquarium Pass
  • Adler Planetarium Pass – sadly returned unused.  Stupid weekend cold.

How did you do at the library this month?  Any recommendations of what to read first?

Review: Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World

Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World, Andy Bull

Publication: October 20th 2015 by Avery

Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: e-ARC from publisher

24941475

A story of risk, adventure, and daring as four Americans race to win the gold medal in the most dangerous competition in Olympic history.

In the 1930s, as the world hurtled toward war, speed was all the rage. Bobsledding, the fastest and most thrilling way to travel on land, had become a sensation. Exotic, exciting, and brutally dangerous, it was the must-see event of the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, the first Winter Games on American soil. Bobsledding required exceptional skill and extraordinary courage—qualities the American team had in abundance.

There was Jay O’Brien, the high-society playboy; Tippy Grey, a scandal-prone Hollywood has-been; Eddie Eagan, world champion heavyweight boxer and Rhodes Scholar; and the charismatic Billy Fiske, the true heart of the team, despite being barely out of his teens. In the thick of the Great Depression, the nation was gripped by the story of these four men, their battle against jealous locals, treacherous US officials, and the very same German athletes they would be fighting against in the war only a few short years later.

Billy, in fact, went on to talk his way into the Royal Air Force—despite their Brits-only policy—and was there to fight the Nazis during the Battle of Britain. King of speed to the end, he would become the first American fighter pilot killed in WWII.

The exploits of Billy and his teammates make up a story that spans the globe, from Golden Age Hollywood to seedy New York gambling dens, to the most fashionable European resorts, the South Seas, and beyond.

Bobsledding, king of the Winter Olympics – who knew?  I admit I don’t think a lot about bobsledding in the years in between Olympics, but I was sold on this book from the description above.  You have to love a story of athletic determination and beating the odds to get to the Olympics – even if that wasn’t quite what this team’s story was.  It turns out that the bobsled course was a millionaires’ playground and the biggest challenge to the gold medal winning team was a paper pusher with a grudge.   This did read in parts like a society column (thanks Sarah),  but when balanced with the stories leading up the the Games I didn’t mind that.  

A sport “for those rich enough to afford it and bold enough to brave it.”  The men that made up the Olympic bobsledding team definitely were bold and overall – wow really rich.  The connections between these men and Hollywood and Tammany Hall were fascinating to me and I definitely could have read more about those links.  I liked the in depth looks at the bobbers – but I was frustrated that it was most in detail for Billy Fiske.  He was a heroic man and deserves the attention completely, but for being a book about the team, it felt like in the end it was Fiske’s story with his teammates as footnotes.  I was particularly fascinated with Eddie Eagan – from birth on a Colorado ranch to a Rhodes scholar to Olympian- and I would have loved to have read more about his post-sporting life.  While the story of how the Olympics came to Lake Placid was interesting, I would have like more of the book to have been about the Games themselves rather than the maneuvering necessary to get an Olympic bid into place.   Maybe the length of nonfiction books like Romantic Outlaws has spoiled me – I just would have liked more depth overall.  In the end this was an interesting story and will give me something to think back on when I watch the next winter Olympics.  

For the oddness of the story about the Dewey family and their involvement in Lake Placid alone this was worth the read – I’ll never look at this cataloging system the same way again.  

3 stars

Thank you Avery Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition.

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Sandman

The Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman, (The Sandman #1)

Published January 1st 1991

Paperback, 240 pages

Source: Chicago Public Library

6657541

Goodreads…

In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.
This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

I have made it pretty clear I think that I’m basically in love with everything that Neil Gaiman writes.  If I had one book I could read forever it would be American Gods.  So I was kind of ashamed that I’d never tried his graphic novel series The Sandman – thanks to the Roof Beam Reader TBR Challenge I can say I’ve crossed the first in the series off my list!   Of course now the next book is on my TBR but that’s ok because it’s Neil Gaiman.  

So the Sandman, Morpheus, is captured by some creepy dudes who are trying to actually capture Death.  When he finally escapes – 70 years later – there are lots of scary dreams happening.  Morpheus needs to find his objects of power to reestablish his power as the King of his land and must deal with humans, demons and total madmen to do so.  

There are some worlds that Neil Gaiman has created that I would live in – The Sandman’s is not one of them.  I do not want those dreams thank you very much.  The dreams in the Sandman won’t just leave you scared when you wake up – you might not wake up at all.  I expected darkness, I don’t think I expected the level of violence that would be in these stories or maybe it just hit me differently because it really is right there to see the blood not in my imagination?  Either way – ick.   

Morpheus was a far more sympathetic character than I expected though.  I was really sad he had so much work to do to recover from his kidnapping.  I was sad for the people that were having such horrific dreams because he was out of balance.  And Death – I kind of loved her as strange as that sounds.  I hope she’s present in the next book!

I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels but as I read this I was just blown away by the amount of work that had to have gone in – writer, artist, colorists.  How do they all collaborate I wonder?  Definitely something I’ll be reading about when I have the next 4 books in the TBR challenge read!  My favorite thing about this book – I finished and handed it to my husband who immediately started reading it too. Gaiman books for everyone!

Nonfiction Review: Romantic Outlaws

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

By Charlotte Gordon

Random House, 2015

Source: e-ARCs from Edelweiss

22294061

Holly

You guys. This book was my white whale of 2015.

Let me tell you a (not)secret: I do not read nearly as many books as my sister. To date, I have read about half as many books as my 2015 goal – in part because I spent so much time not-reading Romantic Outlaws.

I started this book in March. I finished it in September. More accurately, I started and stopped this book in March and then read this book in September, but it weighed heavily on me in the interim.

Anyway, you should read this book, but I won’t pressure you about when. Take your time.

I chose – and labored over – this book because Amanda said: ‘hey, let’s read this!” All I knew of Mary Wollstonecraft I remembered from Mr. Nall’s AP European History class, and she sounded like someone I should know more about, having written A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, well before the first-wave feminist movement began in earnest.

I went into this book with no idea what I was getting into with the Marys.

Amanda

I too, think I read this book forever.  This is not a read for the faint of heart – it is 672 pages.  But it was completely fascinating and worth all of the time it took.  I really didn’t believe a nonfiction book this long would keep me enthralled but I was hooked.  Occasionally I was thrown off by too many Marys, but I really loved how we flashed back and forth from mother to daughter.

Holly

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759, and died in 1797, when her daughter Mary Shelley was born. Mary W had unquestionably shitty parents – an abusive father and a checked-out mother – and she spent her childhood moving around as her father dodged debts or chased various schemes. Mary W decided she wanted more out of life, and took initiative to make things happen – starting with her writing. She wrote articles, then books, and then decided to document the French Revolution in real time. She willingly went to Paris during the terror while blood is running in the streets. There Mary, not one for social conventions, fell in love and had a child out of wedlock. She was up for the challenges she faced from society, though she had more trouble with her rocky relationship and her own depression. Back in England a few years later, Mary met and eventually married William Godwin, who had once called a husband’s legalized possession of a woman in marriage “odious selfishness.”

Mary Shelley grew up with her father, William Godwin, who remarried shortly after his wife’s death. Godwin, while an interesting person, turned out to be not a winning parent himself. Mary S, singled out her whole life as the child of intellectual heavyweights, went through a rebellious teenaged period which resulted in her running off with the poet Percy Shelley. The married poet Shelley. This was a bad scene, made worse by the fact that Mary’s step-sister and rival, Jane, tagged along. Then Jane changed her name to Claire, and there were pregnancies and rumors and the poet-playboy Lord Byron and before long, the girls and the poets were nicknamed “the league of incest.” All the while, Godwin was either not-speaking to his daughter, or asking her to get Shelley to send money. Along the way, Mary Shelley developed into a talented writer herself, truly the equal of her husband. Mary and Percy marry, eventually, after his wife’s suicide. Seriously – these stories are fascinating.

The book flips with a chapter on Wollstonecraft then a chapter on Shelley. At first, I found this jarring, but when I tackled this book in September I just decided to take notes along the way. Once I actually got into this book, it was a page-turner – in part, because of the scandals and antics, but also because of the impact that mother & daughter had on writing, on feminist ideology, and on the societies in which they lived.

Amanda

Do you ever have that experience when you’re really into a book then find that it relates to everything around you?  As I was reading about Mary W making the choice to stay in France during the Revolution and what she wrote about the revolutionaries I was also reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation books.  That series focuses on the English nobles who, at times, actively worked with the displaced French nobility.  I had a whole new perspective on my fun historical fiction read.  

Then I met Lord Byron – the Justin Bieber of his time. Seriously, I need to read more about him.  But I then flashed back to Almost Famous Women and the story of poor and illegitimate Allegra Byron.  Does this happen to anyone else?  I swear I referenced this book all the time in conversation and I talked my husband’s ears off.  These Marys were just amazing! I have 21 pages of highlights in my kindle from this book.  I won’t give you all of those – but will leave you with Gordon’s words:

Even those who revere mother and daughter do not fully realize how profoundly they changed the moral code of the day… Not only did they write world-changing books, they broke from the strictures that governed women’s conduct, not once but time and time again.  Their refusal to bow down, to subside and surrender, to be quiet and subservient, to apologize and hide, makes their lives as memorable as the words they left behind.  

So Holly, when are we going to start reading A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Frankenstein?

Read this! Nonfiction November is coming!

Thank you Random House for these advance read copies in exchange for honest opinions!

Guest Review: The Truth Commission

The Truth Commission, Susan Juby

Published April 14th 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: ALA Midwinter Meeting

22522076

From Goodreads:

This was going to be the year Normandy Pale came into her own. The year she emerged from her older sister’s shadow—and Kiera, who became a best-selling graphic novelist before she even graduated from high school, casts a long one. But it hasn’t worked out that way, not quite. So Normandy turns to her art and writing, and the “truth commission” she and her friends have started to find out the secrets at their school. It’s a great idea, as far as it goes—until it leads straight back to Kiera, who has been hiding some pretty serious truths of her own. 

Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission: A story about easy truths, hard truths, and those things best left unsaid.

Guest book reviewer reporting! I am not going to lie (no pun intended, okay maybe it is), I don’t read often anymore, but when I do it takes me a while to finish a book. I borrowed this book from Amanda yesterday to read while my fiancé got his teeth cleaned at the dentist. It was a long appointment, but not long enough for me to finish this book, so I stayed up late (which I never do) and finished it.

From Amanda, I requested something young adult and anything BUT nonfiction. As I began reading, it turned out to be narrative non-fiction. I enjoyed the narrator, Normandy Pale, and her style of writing, but I hated that she included footnotes. I think they take away from reading a story, but I like that Normandy recognized that there are some people, like me, who skip footnotes. (Is her last name an allusion to Beyond the Pale, I don’t know because I can’t remember the Kipling story as well as I used to…)

The Truth Commission started out when Aimee, a fellow classmate, arrived at school with new breasts and a new nose. Normandy and her best friends, Neil and Dusk, started gossiping to each other about Aimee’s features, like any high schooler would do. Neil went up to Aimee and straight out asked her the truth about her new features. From that point, the three friends set out to ask truths about other students and faculty members. While Neil and Dusk found the truth to be freeing and exhilarating, Normandy had some trouble with asking people for the truth.   I don’t want to give too much away, but the novel itself ends up being Normandy’s truth, her way to break out of her sister’s shadow, and a way to show the world that she is not a dimwitted ugly character as she is portrayed in her sister’s famous graphic novel.

Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but Kiera is a character that I ended up hating and for good reason. Normandy’s parents were somewhat not believable or just in denial. Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and give it 4 stars. I also read the advanced copy, so I would like to find out if anything changed

Thank you Stephanie!

Thank you Viking Books for Young Readers for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Published September 27th 1995 by Del Rey Books (first published 1979)

Mass Market Paperback, 216 pages

Source:  Borrowed from the husband!

11

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Can I simply say I don’t know that I’ve done enough drugs in my life to fully get this book?  Or are you not supposed to get this book, I don’t know?

I knew this was going to be a bizarre read, but I think I expected more substance?  Maybe I’ll find it as I continue in the trilogy.  I am very curious to see what happens to this motley crew and the depressed robot at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  I was definitely entertained, and I’m curious as to what else Adams says about the meaning of the universe.  

On the upside, I do know where my towel is!  On to the next TBR Challenge book! 

Review: The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter, Virginia Boecker

Published June 2nd 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

18190208

From Goodreads

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Witches, ghosts, pirates, and handsome young men?  Sign me up for this book!  Elizabeth Grey is an orphan.  She’s found her family in her best friend Caleb and in the Witch Hunters who took her in and gave her a purpose in life.  She searches out witches in this alternate England and turns them in for punishment by the crown.  When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself her whole world is shattered.  She’s rescued from imminent death at the stake by an infamous magician and she feels even more lost about what is happening to her.  She only wants to get back to the Witch Hunters and is willing to make any deal and take anyone down to make that happen.  The more time she spends with these magicians, pirates and ghosts Elizabeth begins to wonder if the truth she’s always known is the only truth out there.  

This book kept me totally entertained when I sat in a hospital waiting room for 18 hours of a day and I think says a lot.  It was a fast and engrossing read.  Elizabeth opened her mind and I liked how she developed as the book went on, the friendships had great potential and the romance was cute.  Maybe some things were a bit predictable, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.  I really liked the world that Boecker created out of historic England and I will look forward to seeing where Boecker goes with the series.  I hope there’s more magic!

3.5 stars

Thank you Little Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!