Wednesday, February 14, 2018

TLC Book Tours Book Review - The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard


The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard



• Paperback: 384 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Atomic City Girls from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  The review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.


Golden Lines

The flag was dirty and stained; June couldn't help but wonder if some of the dirt was human blood.  It was horrible to look at, a souvenir of battle, of killing - the kind of thing that should be buried with its owner or left where it was found, far away from this American living room. 123

June looked around for a second time to make sure no one had heard.  She stood motionless for a moment.  After wondering for so long what they were working on, she now recoiled from the truth. 161

Inevitably, he wound up at the canteen.  Max wasn't there so he drank by himself, stewing in his own anger, his sense of having been wrongfully accused overwhelming enough that he didn't stop for a moment to consider that she might be right.  211

Later, when trying to understand his reaction, June would think of only one explanation. Already he was thinking past the victory to the consequences of their work. 250

The Army had begun allowing colored families to live together only a month earlier, finally caving in to the demands from the Colored Camp Council. 254

Cici let out a short, loud breath.  "I'd rather die than be touched by that dirty Jew!" 282

"I don't like your tone, boy." 329

The Why?


It blows my mind how much I think I know about American history only to find out there is so much more to learn and so much more I actually don't know.  I'm overwhelmed at times about things I think I know but possibly could be just what I've been taught to know.


First Impressions

When I first began reading, the photographs throughout the book kept me looking ahead for more.  At first, I thought the story was going to be about a young farm girl who loses her fiancee in the war and heals her heart through "men's work" during the war.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Atomic City Girls is so much more.

The Publisher's Summary 

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.
The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

My Perspective

Beard's characters carry her story, particularly Charlie and Ann, Sam and June, Cici and Tom, Joe and Moriah.  You either very quickly like them or you don't...and then you may change your mind depending on how they interact with the other characters within this fabricated city where most of them are happily ignorant of the true reason they are all together in this place.
Happily ignorant.
I think that was the most difficult for me. 
The few who had issues with their real purpose at Oak Ridge, TN were in the minority.
The others succumbed deeply to propaganda that most of us today would scoff at.
Or, at least I hope we would.
The winds of change are beginning to blow in Oak Ridge, however, and Beard addresses those issues from a variety of viewpoints so the reader fully understands the difficulties involved with changing society...difficulties that I believe we take for granted today.


The Google Factor (I'm a nerd)

The Manhattan Project
Department of Energy
Atomic City
Oak Ridge, TN
Y-12
calutron
uranium, electrons, plutonium, separating isotopes
amount of money spent on this and other similar projects
Oak Ridge Woman's Club
African Americans at Oak Ridge, TN
Colored Camp Council
building the atomic bomb
Norris Dam
FDR
Women Scientists who worked on the atomic bomb


The Author 

Janet Beard




Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read
Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica
Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds
Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi

Friday, February 9, 2018

TLC Book Tour Book Review - A Piece of the World - Christina Baker Kline


A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline




• Paperback: 352 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 30, 2018)


Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Piece of the World from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  The review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.


Golden Lines

"I still keep the door between the kitchen and the shed open for the witches." 237

I think of those long-ago Hathorns, determined beyond all reason to leave the past behind - and we, their descendants, inheritors of their contrarian tenacity, sticking it out, one generation after the next, until every last one of us ends up in the graveyard at the bottom of the field. 240

I choose the pink, of course. 243

We should have sold this house when we had the chance.  You're the inmate and I'm the warden. 271

What she wants most - what she truly yearns for - is what any of us want: to be seen. 296



The Why?

First and foremost, it's Christina Baker Kline...I LOVED Orphan Train...if I made a list of best novels I've ever read, Orphan Train would be on that list.
I also love Twentieth Century Americana and American Literature.


What an idea...to take this well-known Wyeth painting and the history surrounding it and fill in the blanks with story.  

First Impressions

As I first began to read, I noticed the slower pace...I was a little disappointed but then realized that maybe the pace was on purpose.  The slow, mundane, sobering, self-sufficient, persistent, rural life pace.
I slowed myself down and really let the words and the imagery sink in. 

The Publisher's Summary

"To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World."

My Perspective

Christina Olson's austere existence is defined by her past as well as the generations who came before her.  Her existence is tightly interwoven with her her mother, the last child (a daughter no doubt) of the Hathorn clan, her father, who left his home in Sweden and became stranded from a fishing boat, only to meet the 34 yr. old "old maid" who would become his wife, her brothers, and her grandmother Mamey.
An undiagnosed neurological illness (which some have said was polio) keeps Christina from experiencing life as everyone else her age does, and she watches time flow by as if she is standing still.
"Andy" Wyeth visits one summer and chooses the Olson House as his painting perch.  He and Christina form a bond like no other...only they can truly "see."
A Piece of the World honors a simple life, made by those living it, despite every possible obstacle thrown in your way.


The Google Factor (I'm a nerd)

Andrew Wyeth's painting habits and modes, his vision
Salem Witch Trials history - Bridget Bishop
Cushing, Maine
Harvard
the U.S. Navy
suffragettes
literature mentions
Emily Dickinson's poetry
Christina Olson's illness - I cringed at the descriptions Kline wrote as Christina moved from place to place...the imagery was vivid.

I'm a huge fan of historical fiction in which the author painstakingly keeps as much history as possible...I so appreciate what Kline did with A Piece of the World.


Christina  Baker Kline







Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, January 31st: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, February 1st: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, February 2nd: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Monday, February 5th: Instagram: @a_tad_bit_bookish
Tuesday, February 6th: 5 Minutes For Books
Wednesday, February 7th: BookNAround
Thursday, February 8th: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks
Friday, February 9th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, February 12th: Openly Bookish
Tuesday, February 13th: Staircase Wit
Wednesday, February 14th: Life By Kristen
Thursday, February 15th: Man of La Book
Monday, February 19th: Book by Book
Tuesday, February 20th: Rockin’ and Reviewing
Sunday, February 25th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Monday, February 26th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Caryn, The Book Whisperer


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam - HFVBT Book Review and GIVEAWAY





Publication Date: January 2, 2018
St. Martin’s Press
eBook & Paperback; 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Lost Season of Love and Snow from the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  The review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias. 


The Why

It's no secret that I love historical fiction. Always have and probably always will.  I've read a few books about the Tsars, Catherine the Great, and Anastasia. I had never heard of the Pushkins before this book.

First Impressions

Honestly...when the book first arrived, I was a little disappointed in the cover.  It felt sweet and romantic to me, and I'm not usually that kind of reader.  
As I began to read, once Natalya meets Alexander, I was even more worried that I would not like the book bc of the swoon factor.
About the time the couple began to settle into married life and began having a family, I couldn't put the book down.

Reading and Summary

Natalya was 16 when she met famous Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin.  The beauty of her family, she was expected to carry the weight of the family's survival on her shoulders.  She needed to marry well...essentially whatever it took.
She fell in love with Alexander and he with her...so their futures were blinded somewhat to the early warning signs in their relationship including Natalya's need for some semblance of self beyond her beauty and Alexander's jealousness.
It's no spoiler how the story ends.
Alexander is killed in a duel defending Natalya's honor, and a country blames Pushkin's flirtatious wife for the downfall of more than one man.

My Perspective

Positives

Things I'm Googling...the very best part of historical fiction to me :)

the Decembrists
Alexander Pushkin
Natalya Pushkina
Evgeny Onegin
Tsar Nicholas
Charlotte of Prussia
Tsarskoye Selo
Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy - "The American"
Georges d'Anthes and Ekaterina

Natalya herself...after Googling some, I decided I agree with the author...Natalya was misunderstood...while beautiful and flirtatious, she was trying her best to live in a world that she perhaps was too independent for...a mind of her own, and it seemed she tried her best to do what was expected of her while also keep her creative husband creating...while also enjoying her own life.
The reality of any creative relationship is that someone has to bring in an income.  And someone has to keep the outsiders happy while waiting for the creative to create.  And have babies, and keep servants, and dress nicely, and balance the household budgets, and smile just enough for the tsar while also keeping him at arm's length, etc, etc.
The world they lived in had expectations, for Natalya, even more than the expectations for any other woman in her situation since she had to act in her father's stead where her sisters were concerned, and somehow she and Alexander had to meet those expectations.  Theirs really was an almost impossible situation.

I felt Natalya's story affected me somewhat like the story of Queen Katherine Parr.  Both women were strong enough to live life within the confines of society but also still maneuvering more comfortable places within that stifling society.  Neither disappeared when the men they were married to died either. Both married others and went on with their lives.
I'll take that kind of history over swooning any day.

Negatives

Swooning never impresses me...I got tired of Alexander's whining.  However, I feel after reading some of the author's writing about the book, that her intention was just that.  Not only to show the feminist version of Natalya but to show a feminist version of society's expectations for men as well...men who may not live up to those expectations specifically.

The fact that tsars, emperors, kings, rulers of any kind were able to take a woman, any woman he saw fit (married or not) and make her his makes my blood boil.

The Bottom Line

I enjoyed the book and am glad I didn't let my first impressions push me away from it.  I'd still like to know more about Natalya.

The Author

Jennifer Laam




Jennifer Laam is the author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, The Tsarina’s Legacyand The Lost Season of Love and Snow, all from St. Martin’s Griffin. She is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management. Jennifer has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, and currently resides in California’s Central Valley. When she is not busy writing or reading, Jennifer spends her time obsessing over cosplay, trying new vegetarian recipes, line dancing, and spoiling cats. She works for her alma mater, University of the Pacific.
For more information, please visit Jennifer Laam’s website

You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Goodreads.





Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 8
Tuesday, January 9
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, January 10
Review at Creating Herstory
Thursday, January 11
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, January 12
Monday, January 15
Tuesday, January 16
Wednesday, January 17
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, January 18
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.


Giveaway!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 paperback copies of The Lost Season of Love and Snow! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.




Embed Code: Lost Season of Love and Snow

Friday, January 5, 2018

TLC Book Review - Just Sit by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz




9:58 a.m.

The Why
Ever since reading Dan Harris's book 10% Happier, I've been interested in meditation and have even "sat" a time or two first thing in the mornings.
I've probably developed my "mindfulness" practice more than my meditation practice, however.
I was a natural when the opportunity to read and review Just Sit came along.

First Impressions
When the book arrived, I was first excited simply by the format!  Harback, slick cover, simple, inviting illustrations, and almost a graphic novel type feel to the inside.  I was pretty sure just from the physical aspects of the book that I would like it...and most likely keep it. 

Reading and Summary 
As I started reading the book, I was further enamored by the repeated illustration of the foxes in meditation pose - simple, eyes closed, mudra, fluffy tails supporting their knees (do foxes have knees?), cushion, buddy meditating, peaceful...and the beginnings of the mantra that actually runs throughout the book.
JUST SIT
Basically, meditation is a practice...and just like anything else we might choose to add more of to our lives, meditation takes practice...and a letting go...no analyzing...no judgement...no blaming others...an acceptance of ourselves and our lives, who we are and out place in the world...and just being.
But you have to Sit.
There's a lot in the book about Why people choose to meditate or Why they should and then the Hows of meditation with suggested "exercises" for building a practice as well as specific meditations for varying times in our lives.
But the bottom line is you have to Do it.
You have to Sit.
Just Sit.
Just Sit is not only the title of the book, but it is a phrase that is repeated continuously throughout the book.

My Perspective

Positives

the quotes - "You cannot make me happy.  You are not my happiness." (160)

the history lessons - meditation has been around for 5000 years...that's a lot of interesting stuff to learn about :) 

humor - the authors take their own advice and don't take themselves too seriously...their humor made the book feel more personable and not like just an instruction manual.

the illustrations - I've said this before and I've said it again...even non-readers would appreciate this format.

the graphic novel feel - see comment above ;) 

the instructions with illustrations - the best I've seen really

tough love - "Get over yourself" "So What" "Deal with your Shit"

the yellow boxes throughout - famous meditators - except Richard Simmons (149)...his was the only box that didn't include info about his mediation practice.

the pink boxes throughout - "Notes from the Cushion"
My favorite was on pg. 156...about Elizabeth...which also surprised me given my negative reaction mentioned below about alcohol

the biological explanations of why meditation works, the vagus, the fight or flight, the chakras (I did want more explanation of the suggested colors here in the chakras section)

the science

the end of multi tasking - "Let that shit go."

8 weeks to build a practice - I'm definitely going to do this...the other section that I multi starred for a return visit is the section on Loving Kindness meditation...I know I will do this once I return to work next week.

Negatives

repetition - I know the phrase "Just Sit" is the title and the main point the authors are trying to make...but...I wish I had a dollar...

snide remarks
I smirked right along with the authors until pg. 78 when they mentioned making time for meditation "before your afternoon chardonnay or AA meeting."
and
pg. 83 "make it a double" innuendo
oooooooo......kkkkkkkkk

Chapter 6 and 7 felt out of place to me...almost as if these chapters could be an explanation or justification as to why anyone would want to meditate in the first place.

Meditating as a way to self soothe (23, 42) ...but repeated mentions of drugs, alcohol, and/or hangovers...(as a recovering alcoholic, it seemed counter productive to me...if you're learning to self-soothe via meditation as is the author's literal and inferred suggestion, why would you continue to use other substances...why especially would the authors actually discuss drinking and meditation at the same time? (129)
In an otherwise very valuable section of the book on mudras, the authors purport that the "chin mudra" is good for "...heavy drinkers and potheads" (121)
"Don't be a Quitter" as the subtitle for the question on drinking and meditation...huh?

I realize my perspective is a very specific one, but it is mine.

Pg. 97 "Help and Support" - the author suggest googling phrases like "save me"
"I think I have a drinking problem" "I want out"...as phrases to find meditation aids...
I couldn't help but feel the areas in the book where someone who really might need help shouldn't have been treated so glibly.

pg. 154 - suggesting meditation as a aid for dealing with depression instead of medication.
Now hear me out here.  
Of all the fantastic, well thought, researched even sections of this book, this one very important section is basically 3 short sentences as an answer to someone who "struggles with depression"...the authors do later on suggest that someone who is struggling seek outside help...I just think this section is dangerous.

Bottom Line

I did like the book.  
I will keep it on my shelf and most definitely refer to it as I push myself to do what I believe the authors truly intended their readers to do:
Just Sit.

I more than likely will not recommend this book to those who are hurting, in early recovery, and possibly not even fellow "recoverers" in long term sobriety as I am. I would, however, be interested to see if they felt the same way I did...or if it's just me being sensitive.
Or feeling sensitive...as the authors suggest we refer to ourselves :) 


10:46 a.m.

Other Stops on the TLC Book Tour

Tuesday, December 26th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, December 28th: Life By Kristen
Friday, December 29th: Openly Bookish
Tuesday, January 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, January 4th: Peppermint PhD
Friday, January 5th: Writing and Running Through Life
Monday, January 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 9th: Literary Quicksand
Wednesday, January 10th: Wall-to-Wall Books
Thursday, January 11th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, January 12th: Kahakai Kitchen




Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Two Good Dogs - 1st Book Review of 2018 - Two Good Dogs by Susan Wilson



11:37 a.m.

At some point and time in my life, I listened to Susan Wilson's One Good Dog on audiobook.  I think.
See.  
This is why I have a love hate relationship with audiobooks.
I can't remember anything.
I know I enjoyed it, and I know that the dog's voice was one of my favorite parts of the book...but when I don't have the book book...I remember just enough to drive me bonkers.

One Good Dog is a story of redemption.
Adam March should be happy with all the trappings of life that he's set in motion for himself.
Yet, as life goes...he's not.
One day he flips out and loses everything.
Through community service and the love and need of a dog, he begins to find himself and set a much better life in motion.


Two Good Dogs is Wilson's continuation of that story.
Adam's life is much changed, and he and Chance the pit bull have gone through a lot together and are still actively in recovery with Chance being trained as a therapy dog to assist Adam when he needs it most.
Adam meets Skye Mitchell and her 14 year old daughter through his new work with start ups.
Skye is herself a survivor of an abusive relationship and husband (Cody's father) who was involved with drugs.

As is suggested by the title, there is, of course, another dog as well.
And a young street kid named Mingo who is in desperate need of guidance (although he doesn't know it and wouldn't admit it anyway).
Skye's daughter is a survivor of a crime.  She's witnessed a murder, but her mom doesn't know it.

There's a lot going on in this book.
Maybe too much.

Now, overall, I loved it...because I love the dogs...and I love the advocacy parts.  
But gracious, the story had so many offshoots that I really felt could have been developed more.  
Any one of them could have made a novel.  

bullying
child endangerment
drug use and abuse in rural areas
young adult focus
murder mystery
hiding in plain site
revenge
rekindling an old inn
dog fighting
2nd chances
teenage daughters
single parenting
street kids


I couldn't help but feel that Wilson had a lot of ideas for this book but maybe couldn't decide which one she wanted to stick to so she threw in a smattering of all of them?  

The chapters are interspersed with the narrative and Chance's voice.
Chance's voice is the one I liked best.
No surprise there.
I couldn't help but wonder if Wilson has ever thought about writing a novel from the dog's perspective...something akin to Rita Mae Brown's Sneaky Pie series?

I would read for sure!

Here's just a smattering of Chance's voice:

The unhappy girl seems tense to me as she takes my seat.  I'm happy to sit in the back, give her the priority seating even I am rarely afforded.  Even though Adam keeps up a stream of tongue language, she does little more than give him back one word at a time. Words I know. Yeah.  Fine. Good.  I can sense Adam's growing regret that he's allowed this creature in our space.  Although I have only limited experience, I find teenage girls to be mysterious, more like cats.  73

My friend has no permanent name, so he's called by a number of things: Buddy, Pal, Bub.  I get a little confused sometimes because I've been called all of those endearments at one time or another, although Adam maintains Bud exclusively for me.  A distinction, I know, but one that is important to me.  I want to always be his Bud.  We've seen a lot together.  My new friend respects that, and that's why he's such a joy.  This guy, Buddy-Pal-Bub, has breached my natural reserve.  It's like we were once littermates, now reunited.  105-106

Dawg should have gone with us.  I fear that he will spend most of his time in the pen that they built, not a cage, exactly, certainly not a chain, but not a home.  I worried myself into squeezing my head over the edge of the half-lowered car window, barking like some undisciplined cur, calling to Lucky to keep the faith.  We'll be back! 234

I'd left Adam sitting on the couch, holding an object in front of his face and touching it gently every few minutes.  I think it's called a book, but don't quote me. 315

  Final Words:  You do need to be a dog lover for this one...without that perspective, I'm afraid this story will leave you short.  

12:15