Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Eric Carle Museum

My mom came to town last week for a few days of exploring, rest, and relaxation and it was such a treat to have her here! There's not a whole lot to see and do in this part of the state (since we're not exactly outdoorsy types), so in putting together our must-do list for her stay, we decided that a trip to the Eric Carle Museum was definitely in order. Neither of us had been to the museum before, and since my mother is a preschool teacher and fellow children's literature enthusiast, she was the perfect person to explore it with! 

The museum features three galleries, with two visiting artists that change throughout the year. I was so sad to hear that we had just missed the exhibit celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans (you can imagine why I'm drawn to the series...) but from the current exhibits I ended up leaving with a admiration for a previously unknown illustrator!

The first gallery features the works of Eric Carle (see above), who is best known for his popular children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My mom's current preschool students are all in the 3-4 year age range, so Eric Carle's books are particularly relevant for that stage in their literary education! Her preschool also does a featured unit on Eric Carle each year, so she is very knowledgable about his work and about the unique way in which he creates his illustrations. I like Carle's style because it's full of color (perfect for a classroom), but I was more interested in his life story during our visit. I had no idea that Carle had personal experiences with WWII, and really enjoyed learning so many new things about him! One quick tidbit: a primary teacher of his pointed out his proclivity for art to his parents, and when Carle was pressured to pursue a more practical career, his mom remembered that remark and encouraged him to pursue art! What a great mom!

{image via}
The first of the current exhibitions is A Genteel Tradition: The Art of Alice Bolam Preston, an illustrator whose style completely captured me during our visit. You can read a little bit more about her here. I absolutely love the intricacy of her style. It reminds me of being younger and feeling completely captivated by fairy stories. She has a great talent for bringing woodland creatures to life. 

The second current exhibition is Tall Tales and Short Tales: The Art of Uri Shulevitz, another illustrator with whom I was unfamiliar before our visit to the museum. The image above was taken from the Caldecott-winning Fool of the World and the Flying Ship. I loved the vibrancy of his work and how he managed to make it both whimsical and grounded in reality. I wasn't quite as interested in the type of stories that he's known for, but I think his illustrations would make great framed art for classrooms, libraries, and children's bedrooms. 

The museum also boasts an art room, in which visitors of all ages are encouraged to sit down and create a work of art. The day of our visit, the project focused on black, white, and shades of gray (and a variety of materials) in anticipation of an upcoming event at the museum. My mom and I only had a few minutes to build our creations, but we loved the finished products, which you can see in the photo below. I can get caught up in trying to make something look perfect, so it was fun to just let go and create something silly.

Of course, the gift shop was probably my favorite part of the whole experience. It was bookworm heaven! They even had pencils with little tiny hungry caterpillars perched on top! I had to think long and hard about what to get, but I settled on a Madeline t-shirt for myself and a tote bag with an illustration and quote from Roald Dahl's Matilda, which will replace my old "library bag." Because yes, I require a tote bag when I make trips to the library. (Sometimes I require two bags-- but let's not judge me for that.) If you can't read it, the quote says, "'I'm wondering what to read next,' Matilda said." That's a dilemma that I face all the time. I also got a little gift for one of my besties-- but it has to stay a surprise!

I could have spent hours upon hours in the store, and I now have a go-to place when in need of a gift for a fellow preservice teacher friend! If you fall head-over-heels for literary-themed presents but are too far away to visit the museum, you can shop in their store online. But don't say I didn't warn you: you will want everything.

This is turning into a super long post, but the last thing I want to say is that for teachers and students in the area, the museum holds excellent professional development events. I am hoping to attend one in the next year while I am still in Amherst! You can see the upcoming events schedule here. I am currently in the last, chaotic stage of the semester (featuring finals and moving out of my apartment), but I'm hoping to make it to an event this weekend. They are hosting a panel of authors to talk about why they write middle grade books. Since the audience for those books (8-12 year olds) is relevant to my educational career, and because I am a fan of reading them myself, I am eager to hear what they have to say!

If you are in the Amherst area and are looking for something fun to do on a rainy afternoon, I would highly recommend visiting the museum! The admission price is low and the atmosphere is great for children. There is room to run around, props in the galleries for children to play with, and even a little library where you can relax, read, and do fun activities!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: The House at Riverton

{on Goodreads}

The House at Riverton tells the story of a wealthy family's descent into chaos, but it's also the story of one young woman's witness to the changing tides of society, from the time of World War II to the gilded 1920's to modern day Britain. Grace, born to a former housemaid and single mother in disgrace, takes her first post as a staff member at the Riverton Manor at age fourteen. The manor itself soon comes to life with the arrival of the Master's grandchildren and their widowed father. Grace finds herself enraptured by the children, but especially by the eldest sister, Hannah. Hannah Hartford is headstrong in a time when women were meant to be more demure and prim, and she feels trapped by the opulent lifestyle that accompanies her family's wealth. Decades later, Grace's memories of her time at Riverton resurface after she is contacted by a director looking to make a film about the mysterious incident that cast Riverton and the Hartford family into a dark shadow. Told from the perspective of Grace at the age of ninety-eight, as well as flashbacks of her time working for the Hartfords, the The House at Riverton feels like a story haunted by a ghostly, secretive past. 

I picked this book up from the library recently and fell head over heels for it. I know that this sub-genre of wealthy, aristocratic families set in war-torn Britain can sometimes feel a bit tired, but this was one story that I could not put down. I loved that there was more than one secret waiting to be revealed by the events in the story, and though I had my suspicions, I still found myself in suspense. I read another book by this author in high school, and it was one of my favorites that year (it also has really high ratings on Goodreads!), so I was anticipating that I would enjoy this book as well. I haven't yet indulged myself in Downton Abbey, but I have a feeling that fans of the show will love this story. Grace was my favorite character, and I loved the idea that she went from a simple housemaid at fourteen to an extremely accomplished archeologist and academic before retiring to a nursing home. She was a witness to so much history and such big changes in society, but I think she simply longed to be back in a place with the person that she most cared for, and that the strings that tied her to Riverton were compelling and unique. Both Grace and the Hartford's have their fair share of secrets and demons, but I think the story has more heart when it comes from the perspective of the help rather than the privileged. 

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Macmillan Pan Books, 2007
Price: $15 for a paperback from Amazon, only $3.98 for a hardcover from Better World Books!
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Graduation Gifts

Graduation is rapidly approaching (as in, I'll be walking that stage in only 15 days), so I thought now would be a good time to throw out some suggestions for gift ideas for your favorite bookworm/graduate.

I think books make great gifts because a book is something that a person can receive, enjoy, and then keep on a bookshelf (if it has special meaning) or pass along to a great cause (like the local library, a book drive, or just a friend in need of a good read). Books don't have to be sized (in the physical sense) so that's a plus, though I think that a gift-giver should put genuine thought into the correct fit when picking a book for a loved one.

Books are an especially meaningful gift between friends and family members because they convey a certain message, and one that is poignant for graduates. Mainly, a book conveys that the recipient is intelligent and capable of critical thought, but also in a position in which he or she should continue to seek wisdom and experience. I know quite a few people who will be walking that stage this month, but I don't know of two people who are pursuing the exact same path, and that's what makes college graduations so thrilling-- there is a plethora of options to choose from when picking a book to give to a person who is about to go into the world as a full-time adult. 

Graduating from college feels different than graduating from high school for various reasons, one of them being that when we graduated from high school, the majority of students in my class were going on to college. That is, we were all moving on at the same time, and while we were all off to experience college in different parts of the country, we were moving on to places of similar nature. Now, there's no typical path post-graduation. Some of us (like myself) are moving on to graduate school, others are taking time off to travel the world, others have employment contracts waiting for them, and still others are in a season of just trying to figure things out. And no matter what people are doing, it's exciting to hear about. After moving across the country in elementary school and transferring to a new college my sophomore year, I'm used to having loved ones scattered around the country, but after this summer, I'll have so many new addresses to send snail mail to and lots more places to visit when I have wanderlust. I love the anticipation of trying to guess where we'll all be five years from now (and I'm sure that the reality will be nothing like I'm picturing, which makes it even more suspenseful)!

So now that I've rambled on about a fraction of the feelings that I have concerning graduation, let me get to the gift-giving. I've picked out six books that will make great gifts for your graduate!

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss // You didn't think I would start this list with another book, did you? Ha! This is arguably the most popular graduation-gift book (and common for high school graduates to receive), but I love the whimsy of Dr. Seuss and I think it's a good reminder for graduates that the world is so full of opportunities-- just because you may be on one path now does not mean that all other doors are closed. 
Gift it to: the education major, the children's literature lover, the adventurer, or the nostalgic one in your friend group!

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg // This has been popular with female graduates since its publication in 2013. It's all about asking for more in the workplace, pursuing positions of leadership, and that major stressor of work/life balance. (P.S. There's also a Lean in For Graduates, with additional material specifically relevant to this time in life. Perfect!)
Gift it to: the business major, the budding entrepreneur, the one who does it all (how do some people come up with the time?), and that friend who you just know is going to fight her way to the top and absolutely rock it when she makes it. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler // You can read my review of this book here, and if you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend picking up one for yourself and one for the graduate in your life. Amy talks a lot about how much work it took to make it to the top of the comedy ring, and is a role model for women (and men!) of all ages. She's proof that you can come from ordinary circumstances and achieve great things. 
Gift it to: the theater major, the one who wants to do anything but business, the funny one, the one all about girl-power, and the one who has no idea what she's going to do post graduation. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo // This novel is about a young shepherd boy who sets out on a journey of self-discovery that takes him from the fields of Spain to the Egyptian desert. I read it as a teenager during a month-long trip abroad that followed a very similar route, and was struck by the power of its message. It's held a very special spot on my shelves in the years since, and I always turn back to it when I feel myself questioning the path I'm on. It's amassed quite a following because it speaks a lot to the importance of following your dreams and listening to your heart-- which sounds cheesy as I type it, but is so poignant at a crossroads-type moment in a person's life.
Gift it to: The traveler, the adventure-seeker, the one who can't decide where to go next, the one who impulsively decides to move abroad (hey, we've all considered it, haven't we?), the hippie of the friend group, and the one who's core mission is to pursue meaning and truth in life.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder // This book was my go-to recommendation for years after I first read it. It's the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who is described as a "world class Robin Hood," a man whose central tenet is that "the only real nation is humanity." He's a physician, a professor, an award winner, and an inspiring figure. He co-founded a small charity called Partners in Health, a foundation that you can read about here. In the 1980's, he went to Haiti to establish health care systems for the disadvantaged. His story is incredible and ignites a sense of global duty in those who read it. Kidder herself is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, so she's another person to look up to for those who want to tell stories about the people who change the world.
Gift it to: the public health major, the journalism major, the one going to medical school, and the one who wants to change the world.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King // With over fifty novels published since the early 1970's, King knows all of the ups and downs of being a successful author. Strangely enough, this book is the only work by Stephen King that I've read (though I recently picked up 11/22/63 to tackle this summer), and I read it as a kid who found myself wanting desperately to become an author. My dreams have taken a different direction since then, but I wouldn't hesitate to pore over this again. I mean, King did initially throw away his first draft of Carrie, so readers can draw connections between frustration and feelings of failure and the rewards of perseverance. 
Gift it to: the english major, the creative writing major, the one who has started writing 3 novels but never finished, the one with dreams of becoming the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Do you have a favorite book to gift on special occasions, or one that holds a special place on your shelves? Share below!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: The Winter Palace

{on Goodreads}
The Winter Palace is the first in a series about Catherine the Great, the longest-ruling female leader of Russia. Stachniak's telling of Catherine's reign starts at the very beginning, when Catherine is a only a girl, just-arrived at the palace of Empress Elizabeth. She is soon wed to Elizabeth's nephew and heir, Peter, and thus assumes the role of Grand Duchess. Her relationship with Peter (while cordial to begin with) is less than amorous, and the court constantly frets over their inability to produce an heir to the Prussian throne. Catherine is cast aside by both the Empress and the Grand Duke, who both underestimate both her ambition and her ability to charm others into following her. Told from the perspective of one of the Empress's tongues (aka spies), Varvara, the plot follows Catherine from her arrival at the palace to her coup d'├ętat and succession to the throne. 

Although Catherine is the subject of this series, in this first novel, Varvara is both the narrator and main character. It is through Varvara's lense that we witness change in the rule of Russia. This book reminded me quite a bit of this historical fiction novel (which I loved), as I think it's easier and far more intriguing when the perspective is that of someone who is considered "invisible" within the castle walls. I find it so sad how, during this time in history, women were married without their consent (for the sake of politics) and then were only considered as good as their child-bearing abilities. Catherine is not treated well by her new family, and finds friendship and loyalty elsewhere. The relationship between Catherine and Varvara is unusual, because although Varvara's loyalty lies with Catherine, she is a close confidante of the Empress Elizabeth as well, who considers Catherine to be an unimportant and foolish. I really enjoyed witnessing the rise of this leader through the eyes of someone who was more objective but also had much at stake. Varvara is a character that is easy to both identify and empathize with: she is a devoted mother, loyal, intelligent, and doing everything she can to ensure her own family's survival in a time of upheaval. I love this type of story within the historical fiction genre because it really highlights how powerful women were, not only in public roles, but also behind the scenes. I'd recommend this to fans of Elizabeth FreemantleMichelle Moran, and Phyllis T. Smith. I will certainly be following this series!

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
Author: Eva Stachniak
Publisher: Bantam, 2012
Price: Used copies only $3.98!
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekend Reading

Happy weekend, friends! I'm off on a quick road trip home for the long weekend (Yay for Massachusetts-only holidays!) and have a couple books waiting patiently for me to pick up from the library on the way home. My book rut is officially over, as I'm back to my pace of about one book a week and have had a string of great reads lately! With final exams coming up and a crazy start to the summer following graduation, I'm hoping my reading pace stays on track. I've been stealing moments to read some great stories lately and can't wait to share them with you all! 

In the meantime, here are a few links I've found while browsing the web this week. Let's just say, Pinterest is the perfect place to find lists upon lists of "you must read these" or "best books for spring/summer/vacation/breakups/etc." If you're on Pinterest too, you can follow me here!

One // While you're lounging around this weekend, take a peek at this Buzzfeed article on 22 Things that Belong in Every Bookworm's Dream Home. That bathtub? Swoon

Two // I've been browsing lists of "the greatest books of all time" lately, trying to decide if I want to challenge myself to begin checking off items from one of those lists. As a self-professed bookworm, I know there are more universal favorites that I want to have read by now. I came across this BBC Book List Challenge and decided to see how many I could check off. Apparently, this list doesn't actually come from the BBC, but I think it's a good compilation of some of the best books out there, both modern and classic. I got 24/100, and I have at least 15 others sitting on my shelves, still waiting to be read. Take the quiz and tell me your score!

Three // Speaking of the BBC, here is their list of The Best Loved Novels of All Time. I scored a 26/100 on this one and was glad to see some of my favorite childhood books make the list!

Four // Nine Fairy Tales for Adults That Are Way Better Than Disney...not that I agree with this title (there are few things that are better than Disney, in my opinion), but I loved reading this list. I read The Night Circus in 2012 and gave it five stars on Goodreads. Here's what I had to say about it:

 "This book was as enchanting as the title promised. Morgenstern's writes beautiful prose, full of rich details that truly transport the reader into the scenes. The book also comes with twists and turns, as well as a kind of magic that will appeal to adults, perhaps more than one would expect."

It's at times very confusing, and thinking back on it I'm sure I could read it again with just as much surprise as the first time. If you loved fairy tales as a kid, check out this list! I'll be adding a few of them to my own library stack.

Five // Story Tropes Bingo for (Almost) Every Genre. This is perfect for your next book club meeting or a rainy night in with your literary-minded besties. I am partial to the Literary Fiction Bingo (pictured above), but there's also boards for Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, etc. They're hilarious, to say the least.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Overdue Podcast

If you're a frequent visitor of Top Shelf Text, then you know that I've recently gotten into listening to podcasts. Ever since I fell for Serial, I've been hooked on finding new things to listen to. I'm a fan of audiobooks (particularly this one), but I'm pretty picky about the narration. A lot of narrator's voices just irk me and I find myself distracted from the actual plot; I find that I'm less picky when it comes to podcasts. I've been sharing a few of my recent favorites from TED (you can find them here, here, and here) but I've recently found another great series that I think you'll really enjoy!

I stumbled upon Overdue purely by chance, and it's had me hooked ever since! It's a weekly podcast by two best friends, Craig and Andrew, who are both bookworms. Each week, they discuss a book that one of them has recently read. The other person starts out asking questions to find out more about the book, and from there they have a discussion about the book. There's no real formula for the conversation, as it usually turns towards whatever they think is most worthy of discussion. 

What I love about the podcast is that it feels like you're sitting on your best friend's couch, just chatting about books, but your best friend also is super-well read and has the ability to really pull out the important aspects of a story without getting pretentious. Tangents are pretty common, but they're also usually hilarious. I've listened to a handful of episodes already and find that I'm interested in their discussion whether or not I've read the book.

They take recommendations from listeners, too, so if you have a book that you want them to discuss, all you need to do is send them a message! I think it's pretty neat that they're open to suggestions. The idea behind the podcast is that these are books you should have read already, so many of them are classics, but others are popular, newly published titles. (I'm averse to the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy, but loved listening to that episode). I'd recommend this series to anyone who just likes to chat about books in general; I promise that it's worth checking out! I have lots of travel popping up for this summer and I'm looking forward to listening to more episodes on the plane and in the car.

If you're interested in reading more about the podcast itself, you can read an interview with the hosts here.

Once you've given it a try, let me know what you think!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Painted Bridge

{on Goodreads}
The Painted Bridge is the story of Lake House, just one of the private asylums scattered across London in the mid-nineteenth century. In a time when women were committed for maladies like "hysteria," Lake House operates on the premise of bettering women with treatments that are far from proven. Anna, a newlywed, is committed to Lake House by her new husband, after she foolishly tells him of a vision that plagues her. Anna knows that she is completely sane, and spends her time at the asylum plotting her escape and sympathizing with the other patients. While there, she also meets a doctor who believes that the new science of photography can help to reveal the true diagnoses of the patients at Lake House. The longer she stays at Lake House, the weaker her grip on her sanity, and the more desperate her plans for escape. When she befriends the daughter of Lake House's lead doctor and proprietor, Anna finds an opportunity for her freedom. As she fights to convince the outside world that she's sane, Anna finds that her passive acceptance of her former life's path has only given her more cause for misery. A growing sense of determination leads Anna to drastically alter her own circumstances while also shedding light on the lives of those around her. 

I am particularly smitten with stories in the modern gothic genre, so this made it onto my currently coveting list for February. Although I liked the book, I didn't fall head-over-heels for it. I liked that Anna was a strong character in a time when women had so little control over her life, and after reading Miramont's Ghost, I was glad to read an ending that wasn't quite so tragic. I think my biggest problem with the story was that the characters I wasn't supposed to like, I really didn't like, and the characters that were supposed be more appealing were not super attractive to me. I wished that some of the relationships were more hashed out, as I felt that the book could have been much more dramatic in the way that the characters related to each other. I tried to think of some of the "big picture" questions that this book brought up for me, but a week after reading it, I didn't have much to reflect on. That being said, I did find it to be a quick and relatively enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to other fans of the genre. {Here's another book in the same genre by an author that I love.}

Bottom Line Rating: 3/5

Title: The Painted Bridge
Author: Wendy Wallace
Publisher: Scribner, 2012
Price: I purchased a used copy for only $3.98
Format: Hardcover
Source: Better World Books

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Deals & Steals with Better World Books

As you know, I am a big proponent of buying books at a bargain price. I've absolutely loved downloading bargain e-books with my Bookbub subscription, but sometimes I want to add a new book to my actual shelf. I'm big on browsing the bargain section at our nearby Barnes & Noble, and of course, the best deals can always be found at public library sales. But what about when you have a specific book in mind and you want to find a good deal? Enter: Better World Books. 

My lovely friend Allie introduced me to Better World Books last year, and it has been my go-to online seller for books ever since. There are many reasons why I love buying books from this website, so I thought it was about time that I let you guys in on the secret.

Better World Books is more than just an online bookseller. It's a place where used books are rescued from the sad fate of landfills, where they care about their carbon footprint, and where the mission is to spread literacy worldwide. For every book purchased on their site, one is donated to a literacy cause. Take a minute to explore their website and read about their literacy partners! I love knowing that my purchases are going to good use.

With each purchase, you make an impact and get a book for an amazing price. I love shopping their bargain bin. At only $10 for three books, you'll be hard pressed to find a better deal. Plus, they often have special sales where you'll get a bevy of bargain books for an even better price! I've bought about twenty books from the site so far, and each has been in great condition. Often they are library books taken out of circulation or donated from personal collections, and most of the time you can find the hardcover versions for only $3.98! And did I mention that it's free shipping? Just pay a few cents to offset the carbon from your order, and that's it!

Because I love sharing fun tips with you guys, I want to be honest about everything, and I would be remiss to leave out one the one thing that could cause problems with the site. The shipping takes forever (but it's free, so how much can you really complain?). Usually, I count on at least two weeks before I expect my books to show up at my door. I have yet to be disappointed with an order, and usually my annoyance at their shipping time is just because I'm too excited to get my new books!

I would highly suggest this site for those who are compulsive book-buyers, or those looking to build a specific collection! I know this will be a great resource for me in buying books for my future classroom and would recommend it for teachers too!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: Miramont's Ghost

{on Goodreads}
Miramont's Ghost is the story of Adrienne Beauvier, a young woman of privilege, but also of fearsome talent. From the time she was little, Adrienne knows things before they happen. At first, her clairvoyance is taken as an active imagination, but soon it becomes the subject of town gossip. Adrienne's beloved grandfather seeks to protect her, while her own mother ignores her and her malicious Aunt Marie watches her with disdain. The loss of her grandfather sends Adrienne into a dark, inward spiral, and she hides her gift from her family and community. For a time, it seems as though Adrienne has a chance at true love and will be able to escape the oppressive atmosphere of her childhood home. Her Aunt Marie, however, is far more evil than Adrienne predicted, and she finds herself falling for Marie's carefully plotted traps. 

I downloaded this book with the Kindle First subscription and I'm so glad I chose it because it was one of those books that just completely sucked me in right from the start. I felt so strongly for the character of Adrienne; I sympathized with her loneliness and had empathy for her fear of being herself. Many of the characters were in the background, but the relationship between Adrienne and Marie was very intense. I wouldn't necessarily call this a scary story, but reading the passages about Marie's wickedness in the dark with only the backlight on my Kindle had me feeling like I might have nightmares. I don't want to give away the major twists of the novel, because they are of the no-way-I-did-not-see-that-coming, gasping-out-loud type. I can say that I found myself in such despair over this story and Adrienne's misfortunes that I had to explain my terrible mood to my boyfriend when he pointed out that I had been acting sad. I just can't help but feel that Marie is one of the most villainous characters I've ever encountered. I later found out that the setting of the story, Miramont Castle, is actually a real place, and located in Maintou Springs, Colorado. The castle was built by Father Jean Baptiste Francolon, who shows up in Miramont's Ghost as Adrienne's cousin and Marie's only, beloved son. Like his mother, he was a character that I found wholly disturbing. The Miramont Castle is now a historic landmark and rumored to be haunted; I'd love to read some nonfiction about the supernatural events at the castle and the history of it. The only writing-related criticisms that I have are that some of the characters fell a bit flat (I would have liked to see a more well-developed mother for Adrienne) and that I was sometimes confused by the direction of the plot. This would be one that I recommend to readers who enjoy mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: Miramont Ghosts
Author: Elizabeth Hall
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing, 2015
Price: $10.99 {for a paperback on Amazon, only $4.99 for Kindle!}
Format: E-book
Source: Free with Kindle First subscription

Friday, April 3, 2015

Inspired: Ernest Hemingway on Spring

Taking this weekend to choose spending time in the places that make me happiest. For me, that means long walks in the sunshine, snuggles at home with my kitty and a good book, and my dad's famous Sunday-morning pancake breakfasts. 

Happy weekend, and happy reading!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Currently Coveting {April}

Happy April Fool's Day!
My apologies for the lack of posts last week, March seemed to fly by this year and I had to work my tail off to meet some deadlines. Thankfully, the hardest part is over, and I'll be sharing more about my big project with you all at the end of this month.

I found this month's stack of books that I'm coveting through the Goodreads app on my iPhone. Do any of you use the app? I love it for on-the-go moments when I'm in a bookstore and see something I'm not quite ready to buy (or want to find for a better price); I simply scan the barcode on the book, and it automatically saves all of the information for me! Then I can shelve it and come back to it later. Usually that's the extent of my app use, but the other night I was using it to browse while laying in bed, and I found so many good books to put on my to-read list! I'm challenging myself to go a whole month without buying a single book (insert shock-face emoji here), so if any of these make it onto my nightstand this month, it'll have to be through the library. (Though I will make an exception for free books from Bookbub and the Kindle First monthly picks-- can't say no to free books, am I right??) 

Below you'll find my picks for the month of April:

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent // I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I'm willing to give it a shot, based on my interest in psychology and mental illness. Norah Vincent is famous for her social experiment in which she lived disguised as a man for eighteen months. Because of that experiment, Vincent was experiencing severe depression, so her doctor recommended that she commit herself to a mental institution. Vincent was a patient for a year, and used that time to sculpt this book, which is an account of her year and her thoughts on her treatment. It's not objective in the sense that she didn't commit herself under false pretenses (she really did need the treatment), but I've read that she does a great job of detailing her experience while "in the bin."

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano // This is a really old pick (as in, I remember watching an Oprah episode with my mom about it), but I recently added it to my to-read list. I'm a super healthy eater, but I've been trying to evaluate the way I approach food, and I'm interested in this concept of eating mindfully and really enjoying every bite. I think it speaks to the idea of everything in moderation, so I'm looking forward to putting it on my library list.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce // If you saw this post, then you know that I was a fan of the first book in this series. I'm really looking forward to reading this next book, which details the same events but from the opposite perspective. (And it's gotten even better reviews than the first!) I'm debating whether I should reread The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first, because I read it about two years ago and don't remember as much detail as I'd like. I'm also thinking this duo would make for great beach/vacation reads this summer. 

Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan // For nonfiction and psychology fans! I am guilty of forgetting my password just about every time I try to log into an account, and I am certainly a big proponent of going with my "gut feeling" on exams. These are the everyday things that Hallinan discusses in his account of why we think the way that we do, and his arguments about human "design flaw" and how we are built for human error seem really interesting. I'm really fascinated by the brain (as you know), and the fact that our brains are just not built for optimum performance, and that we are designed to make mistakes, is comforting to me. I'd love to learn more about the science and psychology behind these everyday blunders.

Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson // I'm drawn to very specific time periods in historical fiction, and WWII-era stories are one of my favorite subsections within the genre. Not only do I love the cover design, but I'm also hooked by the premise of the story, which is one of dual perspectives: two courageous women, one hiding french resistance fighters and an risking everything to protect an innocent child from the Nazi soldiers who have taken over her home, the other taking refuge from a shattered personal life in the same house decades later. Like many stories of this genre, the themes include family and sacrifice, and of course, the uncovering of old family secrets. Sounds like an excellent story to get lost in, if you ask me!


Now that spring is starting to show itself, I feel like my energy has been renewed, and I can't wait to take advantage of the sunshine by parking myself on a bench outside and getting caught up in a good book! Will any of these make your to-read list this month? Any other reads that have caught your eye lately?

Happy reading!