Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: I am Livia

{on Goodreads}
I am Livia is the story of Livia Drusilla, one of the most powerful women in Ancient Rome and the wife of Augustus Caesar. Livia grows up privileged in the house of her powerful aristocratic father. She is educated, well-informed, and not afraid to speak her mind. To her mother's chagrin, she doesn't act like a well-tempered Roman woman should. Shortly after Livia is married to one of her father's allies, Livia's father is exposed as one of the Senators involved in the assassination of Julius Caesar, putting their family in a precarious position and forcing them to flee. Rome is plunged into civil war as Octavius, Caesar's adopted heir, battles for power over his newly formed empire. In the meantime, Livia struggles to survive with her new husband and baby. When her family returns to Rome, Livia finds herself rediscovering the strange attraction that she has for Octavius. Soon she finds herself wed to the new Caesar and at the helm of Rome, with a greater influence than she could have ever imagined.

I picked this to read on my kindle for a recent trip because I love this period in history. In January, I read this book and loved it, but Livia was portrayed in a negative light in that story and I was curious to read a different perspective. Though Livia and Cleopatra were at opposite ends of the battle between Octavius and Marc Antony, I admire them both for the power they wielded and the influence they had in a time when women were usually forced into the background. It was impressive how knowledgeable Livia was when it came to the politics of Rome, but I also loved how her character was so real. She frets about her relationship with her husband, her ability to be a good mother, and the well-being of her people. This is one that I'd recommend only for those who already have an interest in Ancient Rome, as it was a fun historical-fiction read but not one that will make it on my favorites list.

Bottom Line Rating: 3/5
Title: I am Livia
Author: Phyllis T. Smith
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing, 2014
Price: $4.99
Format: E-book
Source: Amazon Kindle Store
Book #21 of 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Paying Tribute

My grandmother introduced me to Maya Angelou when I was only a little girl. She taught me that Angelou was the type of woman to look up to --outspoken, unapologetic, wise, kind-natured, brilliant, graceful-- a woman whose words were so powerful that we offer them up as motivation and inspiration for ourselves and others, often without knowing that it was she who spoke them first. The quote pictured here is a favorite of mine-- one that inspires me daily. The loss of a great woman like Maya is heartrending, though those that mourn her can take solace in the timelessness of her words.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Reads

Happy Memorial Day!

To celebrate the holiday and the start of the summer reading season, I've curated a list of books that feature those in military service.

Because we are talking about the military, and that's not something that I have much knowledge about, I'd like to give a little shoutout to my lovely friend Allie over at The Little Prince Project. Allie and have become super close since we met at American University our sophomore year, and have a mutual goal of becoming educators!
 Allie's passion is for civics and military education; I have learned so much from her about our country's history, the Constitution, and the military in the past few years. Allie's blog is an excellent resource for civics education, and I encourage everyone to check it out! (Plus, today she's featuring a book review-- one that might be perfect for your to-read list!)

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell // My dad read this one and says he would give it 3 stars, mainly because he felt that the truth must have been exaggerated. It may be worth picking up still; in my experience, this sub-genre is hit and miss. It was also released as a movie this year, and I'm one of those people who prefer to read a book before going to see it in theaters.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien // This is one that I read in a literature class in my sophomore year of college. Before we read it, I guessed that it wasn't going to make it onto my list of favorites; two years later, I can still recall specific sentences that moved me. O'Brien certainly has a special aptitude for words. 

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel // This was required reading for me the summer before I entered college. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Again, this type of book isn't really my area of interest, but Finkel has such a talent for writing and this story was profound. I passed it onto my brother and it remains one of his favorites. I'd recommend this one most out of any on this list. 

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel // As soon as previews for this movie started playing and I realized that it was based off a book, I went looking for it. I'm a huge fan of books about art. It's a pretty long read, and I have to say that I learned more about WWII in general than about the efforts to save the endangered artworks. Still, I think it's important to recognize that every service member contributes to the big picture, and I was proud that I actually finished a non-fiction work from cover to cover, as that's a pretty rare feat for me.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle // This one made it onto my dad's list of recommended biographical books. It sounds like a really interesting story, and it seems like it would appeal to those who are fans of series that are action-packed and full of intensity.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beautiful Bookshelves

It's certainly been a busy start to the summer! After finishing up my final exams, I sped home to unload the car and turned right back around to hop on a plane to Colorado. I got to see my bestie graduate from nursing school (yay!) and spend a few days hanging with her. The day of her ceremony was absolutely gorgeous, and it was so special to be there for her. We've been friends since we were less than a year old!
{What are best friends for, if not making sure that your cap is perfectly centered?}
While I was away, my Dad painted my room a new color. (Did I mention he's the best?) Previously, my room was red and the inspiration for it came from my travels through Thailand and Morocco while I was in high school. It's been a while and my tastes have changed a bit, so we decided to give it a new spin with light grey walls and navy, coral, and yellow accents. It's a work in progress, but one of the biggest focal points of my room is my bookshelf. Enter the reason for this post: I've been on the hunt for bookshelf styling inspiration. I may be a bookworm, but I also love pretty things. My book collection is a point of pride for me, and I want to put it on display in a way that conveys how big a role books play in my life. 

Below are some of the beautiful bookshelves that I've stumbled across. There are so many ways to style a shelf, I'm a bit overwhelmed by all of the pretty possibilities!


I think what I like most about these is that they bring attention to the shelves by using color. I'm tempted to copy number three and paint mine white with a yellow background. And the color-coordinating on four and six? Gorgeous. It's hard to find shelf styling that actually features more books than decorative items, which is why number two is really inspiring me to add fun touches but keep the attention on the books themselves. What I really need is a wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor shelf so that I can actually display all  of my books, and not have them hiding under my bed in boxes. I guess that will just have to be on my list of future must-haves. 

Stay tuned for more updates on my bookshelf makeover! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Children's Review: Mrs. Morgan's Lawn

{on Goodreads}

Mrs. Morgan is the meanest neighbor, ever. Every time the neighborhood kids accidentally kick a ball onto her lawn, she keeps it. Nothing is allowed to touch her precious lawn, not even the falling leaves. The kids can't imagine what she could possibly be doing with all of their confiscated toys, but it's probably something evil. Their parents tell them that's just how some people are, but Mrs. Morgan must have been born mean. When one little boy goes to speak to Mrs. Morgan about his favorite missing soccer ball, she pretends she doesn't know what he's talking about. The balls continue to be locked up, until the boy does an unexpected favor for Mrs. Morgan while she's in bed with a bad cold. As it turns out, Mrs. Morgan might not be a mean old lady after all. 

This book was a favorite when my brother and I were little. I recently unearthed it while raiding our shelves for books to add to my classroom collection, and I'm surprised that it's in such good shape, considering that I still have it (mostly) memorized, meaning that it got considerable use between the two of us. It's not one that you could find in just any bookstore (it was published in the 90's), but it's worth ordering online. The biggest lesson comes at the end, and is perfectly summed up by the little boy's observation that, "some people are full of surprises."

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Recommended for ages 5-8 (grades K-3)

Title: Mrs. Morgan's Lawn
Author: Barney Saltzberg
Publisher: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1998 (Originally pub. 1993)
ISBN: 078681294X
Source: Home Collection
Format: Paperback

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Books About Art & Artists

I have a weakness for books about art. Stories about art, artists, and especially art theft are high on my list of favorite sub-genres. In high school I took a lot of art classes and I wish I could have taken more throughout college. I've always been one of those people that gets caught up in art, but mostly older works. Modern art isn't really my thing, I adore work from the impressionist and post-impressionist eras. They're just so romantic.

A peek at one of my favorites:
The Bridge, view on the river by AndrĂ© Derain
(The colors are so gorgeous.)

I've curated a list of just a few of my favorite books about art, and added in a couple that I'm looking forward to reading. These range from (well-researched) works of historical fiction to modern stories of the high-profile art world in New York City. What I love about these books is that the authors clearly have a reverence for art, and that reverence translates to a wonderful reading experience.

{on Goodreads}
I can't curate this list without this book. Chevalier is a master and this is a gorgeous piece of writing. My mom recently took a trip to SanFrancisco and got to stop in the Fine Arts Museum there, where this piece is on exhibit. I was jealous that she got to see it in person, but she brought me back a coffee table book and a mug with the image on it as part of my Christmas gifts. I've thumbed through the book several times and it is just beautiful. No wonder Chevalier was inspired by this work!

{on Goodreads}
This is one of the most fascinating art stories ever, and the best part is that it takes place in Boston. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is at the very top of my list for places to visit this summer. The story goes that one night in 1990, two men broke into the museum and committed the largest art heist in history. They stole dozens of works of art, including The Concert, a work by Vermeer (the same man who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring), considered to be the most valuable piece of unrecovered stolen art. That one painting alone is worth over $200 million. This book is a nonfiction account of the mystery and the theories about who was really behind this great unsolved heist.

{on Goodreads}
I picked up this book randomly at the library last year and fell absolutely in love with it. It even made it onto my Top Ten of 2013 list. The protagonist, Madamoiselle Morisot, was rumored to have an affair with the incredibly famous Manet. It was scandalous, heartbreaking, and so romantic.

{on Goodreads}
This was a good read, though it is fictional. I thought it was interesting because it included details on how art forgeries are made and how tricky it can be now to discern whether a work is authentic or not. This one was more contemporary and gave an interesting account of the underground market of high-priced art.

{on Goodreads}

I gave this 4/5 stars on Goodreads. It's based on a true story of the only woman who ever had the honor of studying under Michaelangelo. She was selected to be the painting instructor for the Queen of Spain and finds herself navigating the court and contemplating her own future as an artist. I did read it a while ago but I do remember feeling like the focus was mostly on her life at court and not so much the art itself. Regardless, the story was great and I was completely caught up in it.

To Read:

{on Goodreads}

This one is an account of a single day in the Dutch Golden Age, and tells the story of Rembrant's first masterpiece, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulip. It's one of those books that is written through the eyes of several different characters. I'm looking forward to picking it up for this summer. Plus, isn't the cover interesting? Love its eccentric look.

{on Goodreads}

This is supposed to be an amazing read. I bought it back in January but left it at home because I feared that I would forego any schoolwork if I brought it back to school with me. Love the cover and the story is apparently riveting. It's first on my list for books to read this summer!

Do you have a favorite sub-genre? Any recommendations for great books about art?