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Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

Title: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York
Author: Sari Botton
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
ISBN: 9781580054942
Number of Pages: 288
How I Got It: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary
In 1967, Joan Didion wrote an essay called Goodbye to All That, a work of such candid and penetrating prose that it soon became the gold standard for personal essays. Like no other story before it, Didion’s tale of loving and leaving New York captured the mesmerizing allure Manhattan has always had for writers, poets, and wandering spirits.

In this captivating collection, 28 writers take up Didion’s literary legacy by sharing their own New York stories. Their essays often begin as love stories do, with the passion of something newly discovered—the crush of subway crowds, the streets filled with manic energy, and the sudden, unblinking certainty that this is the only place on Earth where one can become exactly who she is meant to be.
They also share the grief that comes like a gut-punch, when the metropolis loses its magic and the pressures of New York’s frenetic life wear thin on even the most fervent dwellers. As friends move away, rents soar, and love—still— remains just out of reach, each writer’s goodbye to New York is singular and universal, like New York itself.
With Cheryl Strayed, Dani Shapiro, Emma Straub, Ann Hood, and more.

My Review: I wanted to live in New York when I was younger, so reading a collection of essays about leaving the city was bittersweet. I loved each writer's individual love story with the city and like most love stories, the eventual falling out. The final decisions of each writer to leave the city surpassed my initial jealousy of them getting to have the experience in the first place. New York is a mecca that calls to creative types and I am no different. I myself have wanted to live in that magical city surrounded by art, artists and inspiration at every turn. But alas, I am 36 years old with a husband and children, not twenty with fluid sexual proclivities and drug addictions. The collection of essays is depressing in the sense you know it will be due to the fact the writers eventually had enough and moved on (literally.) However, it is a valuable supplement to bookend the myriad stories of moving to New York to "find one's self" or "make it big." The statistical reality of these journeys is that many (most?) will not result in life long citizens of the city.  

**  I received this book in exchange for an honest review **

Bountiful Blessings Cookbook

Title: Bountiful Blessings Cookbook
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Publication Date: November 1, 2013
ISBN: 9781624167089
Number of Pages: 400 
How I Got It: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary: 
If you love creating in the kitchen, the Bountiful Blessings Cookbook is for you! Featuring hundreds of recipes—for main dishes, sides, desserts, and everything in between—that will surprise and delight for all seasons, this collection includes just the inspiration you need to create one simple dish or even a complete family feast!

My Review:
I grew up with my grandmother using and gifting church cookbooks.  The recipes were relatively simple and no-fail. They didn't contain fancy ingredients and had no qualms about including copious amounts of Crisco and butter. I especially loved that they were titled with the name of submitter (Betty Jean's Jell-O Fluff, Sheila Jone's Easter Casserole, Sally Pruitt's Christmas Ribbon Candy.)  I followed several recipes out of these compilations when I was first learning to cook and I have a few tried and true that I return to several times a year. The Bountiful Blessings Cookbook is sleek, updated version of the church cookbooks I grew up with. The recipes are straight-forward and no fuss.  The collection is separated into categories such as Main Dishes, Vegetables, Breads, Candies, etc. In a world full of fancy and complicated recipes, sometimes you just need to know how to make some deviled eggs! I will be referencing this collection for years to come in order to relive some forgotten childhood favorites and to try something new. Mayonnaise rolls anyone?

***  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

Best Books of 2013

Any book lover will tell you that trying to pick a favorite book is nearly impossible. After much deliberation I have narrowed down my list for 2013 to my top 30 choices; divided into my top 6 and 24 honorable mentions (in no particular order.) Click the linked titles to read my reviews.

My #1 Read for 2013 is Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn


Maddadam by Margaret Atwood 

Historical Fiction


Drinking and Tweeting by Brandi Glanville    

Suspense / Thriller / Mystery

Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell 

Summer/ Beach



Irresistible Blueberry Bake Shop by Mary Simses    


Goodbye to All That by Sari Botton        
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill    

Author to Watch

Braving the Fire

Title: Braving the Fire
Author: Jessica Handler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
ISBN: 9781250014559
Number of Pages: 256
How I Got It: from author

This review is on page 23 of the December issue of Buckhaven Lifetyle magazine

While the holidays bring joy, they can also bring sadness and grief. The memory of lost love ones is especially trying at this time of the year. Many people wish to memorialize the story of their grief in a memoir but just don't know how or where to start. Jessica Handler's memoire "Invisible Sisters" shared the story of the loss of her sisters. After its release, she spoke with many others about their grief. Her newest release, "Braving the Fire," is a gentle but knowledgeable approach to assist a memoirist in recording their story. She acknowledges the plethora of questions that accompany the decision, such as "where do I start, what if I hurt someone with my story, or what if I remember an event differently from someone else?" Her experience with both grief and the writing of a memoir allow her to guide a writer through their own story. Loosely based on the K├╝bler-Ross model of Five Stages of Grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, Handler provides a step by step guide to writing a grief memoir. Offering her own memories alongside writing exercises, pointers, author contributions and interviews makes a reader fell as if someone is holding their hand through the process. "Braving the Fire" explains how to fully immerse one's self into memories and produce the story within your heart and mind onto the page. For more information, visit JessicaHandler.com

** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and submitted the review for publication based on my personal pitching criteria**

Shadows and Ghosts

Title: Shadows and Ghosts
Author: Barbara Froman
Publisher: Serving House
Publication Date: December 14, 2011
ISBN: 9780983828921
Number of Pages: 250
How I Got It: from author

Goodreads Summary:
Ida Mae Glick, a critically acclaimed filmmaker, has lived and taught in the small town of Willow Bend, New York for five years without drawing attention to her troubled past. But when she suffers a near fatal heart attack, the result of trying to live on the same meager rations as a group of homeless people she is filming, she winds up in intensive care under the scrutiny of a neurotic psychiatrist who believes she's unstable. To make matters worse, her mother's ghost has appeared at her bedside with old gripes, and her angry, estranged identical twin, Lisa, is heading toward town intent on having her committed. Ida Mae is desperate to escape with her freedom intact, but knows she'll have to get past her psychiatrist first. The only question is, can she? Shadows and Ghosts is Ida Mae's tale of artistic passion, fierce sibling rivalry, failed love affairs, substance abuse, and the magical redemptive power of cinema.
My Review:
Let me say first off that this book is the perfect example of why you should not judge a book by its cover! The cover would lead a reader to believe the story is a paranormal thriller or horror story when  it is a story of an artist literally starving for her art. I also think this is a perfect example of why the genre of women's fiction is so broad. While most generally think chick lit is synonymous with women's fiction, it is refreshing to read a perfect example of non-chick lit women's fiction. Barbara Froman created characters that are relatable and real. These women are psychiatrists and artists dealing with familial guilt and personal addictions. While producing a documentary on homelessness, Ida chooses to embrace the lifestyle of her subjects, including minimal eating, which leads to her passing out in a grocery store. Waking up in a hospital under the care of a psychiatrist, Ida begins to share her past demons as well as her encounters with her deceased mother. Believing her mother's ghost is a resulting hallucination of her personal deprivation, Ida is in no hurry to return to her prior state but knows she must be cleared by Fern in order to be released. But Ida's twin sister Lisa contacts Fern and requests that her sister be committed due to her previous alcoholism. While Ida did indeed have problems with alcohol, Lisa's true concern lies in her husband Max's fascination with his sister-in-law. Beyond this intense triangle, Froman provides the most perfectly written mothers (Ida and Lisa's Jewish mother and Fern's overly dependent mother.) The power of these women on their daughters is the most realistic depiction of generational guilt I have ever read. Fern works through her strained relationship with her mother and ex-boyfriend by learning from Ida. This novel is a wonderful example of a women's fiction piece that digs a little deeper than other novels within its genre. 

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review ** 

Bellman & Black

Title: Bellman & Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
ISBN: 9781476712000
Number of Pages: 305
How I Got It: NetGalley

NetGalley Summary:

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . . 

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business. 

And Bellman & Black is born.

My Review: 
I was so excited to get my hands on this and so thankful to be given an e-ARC from NetGalley. I loved Diane Setterfield's previous novel, The Thirteenth Tale, and had high expectations for Bellman & Black. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The foreshadowing of William Bellman killing the rook drew me in and I expected great consequences. While death touches everyone around him, Bellman is oblivious to his personal robust health. Throwing himself into the mill's success as well as his other business ventures, the majority of the story focuses on Bellman's hard work and financial rise. He uses every single minute in the day and Setterfield details and repeats this fact....to a fault. A majority of the story consists of Bellman's daily minutiae and is mind numbingly dull. Setterfield would have done well to give a more outrageous ending or supply a quick turn of events resulting in a frenzied rush to finish reading the story. Instead, her set-up falls flat and I wish I would have quit this book when I had my first doubts a few chapters in. 

***I received this book in exchange for an honest review***


Title: Swim
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
ISBN: 9781451690323
Number of Pages: 48
How I Got It: Personal Collection

Goodreads Summary: 
The short story that inspired Jennifer Weiner’s forthcoming novel The Next Best Thing.Ruth has left her job writing for a hit television show for reasons she’d rather not discuss and is supplementing her increasingly dwindling savings with freelance writing projects—namely, helping anxious high school students craft a perfect college essay and lonely souls craft captivating online dating profiles. When she’s not working, she’s swimming—lap after lap at the local indoor pool, in a desperate attempt to wash away the sting of professional failure and heartbreak that she can’t seem to shake. It takes an unexpected client to show her that appearances can be deceiving, and that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is simply dive back in.
My Review:
This short e-novella jumps back and forth between a couple of timelines but isn't confusing. The jumps give insight into Ruth's surgery-laden youth, her work relationship that almost became something more, and her hope of success with a newly pitched television series. Since this is not essentially a stand alone piece, a summary and analysis are not exactly appropriate. As an introductory teaser to give a glimpse into the larger story it is successful. Most e-books allow you to read a first chapter but a release like this gives insight to the author's style as well as additonal depth that a first chapter may not supply. I personally like the concept and would be more likely to purchase a book after reading a free e-novella teaser. 

Someone Else's Love Story

Title: Someone Else's Love Story
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: November 19, 2013
ISBN:  9780062105653
Number of Pages: 352
How I Got It: Edelweiss

Summary (author's website): 
At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.
Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.
Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

My Review: 
Joshilyn Jackson possesses an addictive storytelling style that will crack you up with a southern turn of phrase, rip your heart out, and then shock you with a climax so unexpected that you find your self flipping pages with your mouth hung open in shock. Readers find that when they get a taste of her stories, they quickly scramble to get their hands on everything she has written. Epitomizing modern Southern fiction (with a heavy dose of gothic,) Jackson turns tales of skeletons (real and metaphorical), and family feuds into layered pieces of art. She's spanned such topics as: racial discrimination (gods in Alabama,) domestic battery (Backseat Saints,) ghosts and mother's intuition (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming,) baby bones and a family secret (A Grown Up Kind of Pretty,) divided towns and a stolen baby (Between, Georgia.)  

Jackson delivers another knock-out novel filled with deception, family members with motives, and the mystery of an immaculate conception with Someone Else's Love Story. The stress of commuting between Lumpkin County and Georgia State is finally being lightened for Shandi. Her father and "Step-Refrigerator" have offered her their Atlanta condo so she can finish college and her three year old son, Natty, can be enrolled in a school that can cater to his high intelligence. Shandi, her best friend since childhood, Walcott, Natty, and all her belongings are south bound on their move into the city when they are detoured by a bout of carsickness. Pulling into a Circle K Walcott fills the tank while Shandi and Natty go inside for a ginger ale. What should be a simple stop changes everyone's life forever when the gas station is targeted for a hold up. 
"I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. It was a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had all been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could...That afternoon in the Circle K, I deserved to know, right off, that I had landed bang in the middle of a love story.  Especially since it wasn't--it isn't--it could never be my own."

William grieves for his lost wife and child in his own ways and just like Shandi has Walcott, he has Paula. As the title suggests, Someone Else's Love Story is full of complicated, twisted, and intertwined relationships that are not what they appear on the surface. Jackson's incomparable unbraiding and reweaving of a story results in another wonderful example of how she gives new definitons to home, love and family.
Be sure to grab a copy of Someone Else's Love Story when it releases on November 19th. 

***Jackson says that some characters hang around and have more to say after she finishes a novel. Just as one of her previous characters, Rose Mae Lolly carried over from gods in Alabama to Backseat Saints, a character from Someone Else's Love Story is the inspiration for Jackson's next novel.***

*** I received this novel in exchange for an honest review ***

Rain on Your Wedding Day

Title: Rain on Your Wedding Day
Author: Curtis Edmonds
Publisher: Scary Hippopotamus
Publication Date: 
ISBN: 9780988916333
Number of Pages: 278
How I Got It: Contacted by the author

Author Supplied Summary:
RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is the story of Will Morse, an ex-NFL player and Coca-Cola executive who experienced a traumatic breakdown after the dramatic suicide of his youngest daughter Trixie, an NCAA tennis champion. Will was accused of murder in Trixie's death, but was able to clear himself of the charges. The ensuing scandal cost him his marriage, his job, and his relationship with his daughter Alicia, his only surviving child.As the novel opens, Alicia makes a surprise visit to Will's remote cabin in the Georgia mountains to announce that she is getting married. Will wants to rekindle his relationship with her daughter, especially once he learns that she is pregnant. However, Will fears that attending the wedding will bring up painful memories from his past, and lead to conflict with his ex-wife and her family, who still blame him for Trixie's death.
Will develops a relationship with Dot Crawford, a literature professor, who makes a chance visit to his cabin. The relationship flowers into a romantic friendship, and Will begins to open up to Dot about his tragic past. But Will soon learns that Dot is not all that she appears, and that she is working on a book about his daughter and her death.
On the eve of Alicia's wedding, Will must confront the guilt and shame that he feels, and seek forgiveness for his actions that put Trixie in danger, and decide whether to reach out to Dot and forgive her for her betrayal.
My Review:
I rarely find a male author who possesses a writing style I enjoy. I have had male authors request that I review their work and either their work doesn't fit my review criteria or they are trying to write in a female voice and the results are painful. So when I first saw the title/author combo of  "Rain on Your Wedding Day" and "Curtis Edmonds" in a review request, I was initially skeptical. Reading further into the query, I found Edmonds writing humorous and likeable, making me less apprehensive. Upon reaching the summary I was sold on the story. I'm pretty sure that "a modern Southern Gothic novel (set in Blue Ridge, Georgia and Atlanta) about the need for forgiveness, redemption, and Coca-Cola" describes a perfect example of the type of book I love.

The story opens with Will receiving a visit from his daughter at his mountain cabin. An invitation to her upcoming wedding breaks the monotony of his daily life of seclusion. His preparations for the event shakes up his routine and when tragedy strikes his family again, he is forced to discuss the questions surrounding his daughter's death. While the story spans a short amount of time, hermit-like Will faces dating, going to a social event, and the stairs. His bad knees have prevented him from trekking upstairs too often, allowing him to ignore his daughters' rooms, a perfect metaphor for what he has closed off and refuses to acknowledge. The dark subject matters are uncovered in bite-sized pieces, just the same as how Will deals with it all.

This novel should be considered by publishers for future release under their label due to Edmonds' well rounded characters and perfect timing. I believe this is the best self-published book I have read this year.

*** I received this book in exchange for an honest review ***

Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club

Title: The Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club
Author: Liz Stauffer
Publisher:Sartoris Literary Group 
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 246
How I Got It: From the Author

Goodreads Summary: 
When Clare Ballard sports a new bruise on her right cheek the day after a contentious town meeting, the ladies of the Thursday Morning Breakfast Club suspect her husband Roger of abusing her. That same day Hester Franklin, another breakfast club lady, is called to rescue her grandson Patrick after he is arrested for transporting drugs. Proclaiming his innocence, Patrick threatens that those who set him up will pay. Roger Ballard is high on his list.

But it's when Lillie Mae Harris, the club's leader, discovers the body of the local drug dealer on the nearby hiking trail, that the community is upended. Roger Ballard, the primary suspect, goes missing, and when his body turns up in his own back yard, Clare Ballard confesses to his murder. No one believes she did it, but Clare insists she's guilty and mysteriously refuses to talk to her lawyer, the police, or her family and friends.

The Thursday Morning Breakfast Club ladies believe she's protecting someone, and they vow to find out who it is. Charlie Warren, the town's homegrown policeman, using unconventional means, collaborates with the breakfast club ladies to draw out the real criminal. But danger lurks.
Alice Portman, the matriarch of the breakfast club, is struck down in her own yard and is sent to the hospital. Then others in the small community start to disappear — one after the other. As the ladies get closer to the truth, they get closer to the danger. With no time to cry over spilled coffee, they form a plan to capture the true culprits before someone else is murdered.

My Review:
The quaint Appalachian town of Mount Penn is having some not so charming occurences. Drugs, dead bodies, and dirty police cause local busy body Lillie Mae Harris to channel her inner Angela Lansbury and get to the bottom of the crimes. Her sounding board and support system are her Thursday morning breakfast ladies. The close knit group of friends keep each other abreast of all the activities in the community. Or do they? What secrets do some of Lillie Mae's closest friends keep? 
Author Liz Stauffer transports readers to a small town with big problems. She gives us an unconventional amatuer detective with Lillie Mae and shows readers the dark secrets that even the most perfect small towns can hold. If I had to choose something I didn't like about the novel, I would say that I think an aggressive editor could have helped the author tighten up some of the prose. The repetition of names and phrases was a bit distracting but Stauffer still delivered a wonderful, quick reading, cozy mystery to cuddle up with as the weather is turning colder. 

*** I received this book in exchange for an honest review ***

Mad Max: Unintended Consequences

Title: Mad Max: Unintended Consequences
Author: Betsy Ashton
Publisher: Koehler
Publication Date: March 1,2013
ISBN: 9781938467400
Pages: 274
How I Got It: Direct From Author

Summary (via author webpage) 
Maxine "Mad Max" Davies is a wealthy widow living in New York City when she learns her only daughter Merry is badly injured in an automobile accident. She immediately returns to Richmond, Virginia, where she grew up, to take care of her daughter and two grandchildren. 
On the surface she is sophisticated, polished and in control of all situations. Estranged years earlier from her daughter Merry, she wants to reach out and heal the rift. She doesn't know how.
At first, she doesn't realize how badly injured her daughter is. The healing process takes weeks and results in a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. Merry's personality changes. When it becomes clear Merry will never return to the way she was before the accident, Mad Max has few options. 
For most of her adult life, Mad Max lives by a simple mantra:  "I'm through raising children and I'm never living in the South again." Merry's long-term prognosis and the needs of her two grandchildren throw the mantra into the trash.
Mad Max alternates between anger at the situation in which she finds herself and acting silly to keep her grandchildren's spirits up. 
Her best friend tells her she may not have gotten everything right when she raised Merry, but life gives her a "doo-wop" with her grandchildren. Mad Max chooses not to blow it this time.

My review (contains spoilers) :
Max gets the phone call that every parent dreads--you're daughter's been in an accident. Rushing to her daughter Merry's side and to support her, her husband and her children, Max leaves her life in New York City behind. What she believes will be a short stay becomes extended when her daughter's recovery doesn't go as planned. Merry is eventually allowed to go home but she is "different." Max stays on to help to family, but as the days pass, Max recognizes that something is terribly wrong with her daughter. Merry is withdrawn, taking multiple medications, drinking, and becoming obsessed with plastic surgery. Behind her downward spiral is a doctor with a motive. Under his (psychologically creepy) spell, Merry changes more dramatically in behavior and physical appearance.  Mary's husband Whip hides in his work, leaving the children in Max's care until Max confronts him, pointing out that she will not be able to stay forver and that he needs to see what is really happening to his family. Finally reaching a breaking point when reviewing their destroyed finances,Whip demands a divorce, causing Merry and her doctor to act even more irrationally. 

I agreed to review this book after I read the summary and saw the cover. I was intrigued with the juxtaposition of the debutante and the gun and how these played into the story.  What I originally thought was going to be a story of an estranged mother being given a second chance and reconnecting with her daughter turned out to be a fabulously twisted novel. Betsy Ashton's ability to shock kept me from putting this book down. I gasped while I read. I gritted my teeth. I wanted to kick Whip to get his head out of his ass and I thought how guilty and torn Max must feel. Family obligation and love for her grandchildren keep her involved but who wouldn't want to just say to Whip "this is your wife, your family, your mess, you fix it"? The story read like I was watching a really good soap opera. Every turn of the story was shocking but believable, a tough task for a writer to pull off. 

If I had to pick one thing that I didn't like about the book I would choose the daughter, Em's, psychic connections. While fascinating and a great way to tie into Merry's otherwise unknown whereabouts, it felt awkward to put a "superatural" element into such a serious drama. 

***  I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

The People in the Trees

Title: The People in the Trees
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: August 13,2013
ISBN: 9790385536776
Pages: 384
How I Got It: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary: In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.

My Review: (Contains spoilers) I've been sitting on this review for quite a while. Like 2 months. I needed to really ponder it before I wrote a review. Then I got myself so worked up that I couldn't write a review that would do it justice that I sat it to the side again. But I can't let it go without writing something. So while I don't believe I can touch on everything I felt in this book in a few paragraphs, I'm going to give it my best shot. 

Hanya Yanagihara's descriptions of Norton Perina's journey to an isolated island mirrors Barbara Kingsolver's description of the Price family's journey to the Congo. Both authors transport you to a lush and uncharted world with mystery and danger around every turn. Perina learns of an island rumored to be inhabited by people living many decades longer than the average human due to eating a particular type of turtle.  He journeys to this island with two fellow scientists (a male, which pleases him and a female, which does not.) As his journey begins, memories of Norton's childhood and interest in becoming a scientist unfold. Upon arrival on the island, they learn of strange fruits and the separation of the villagers from the Dreamers. When tribe members reach the age of sixty they are allowed to eat some of the sacred turtle meat and their lives are extended. However, they are turned away from the settlement and are sent to live in the wilds of the island. The customs of the tribe are viewed and recorded by the scientists. While these rituals are shocking to the reader, it raises the topic of post-colonialism and the conversion of multitudes throughout history to "acceptable" behaviors. 

After smuggling a sacred turtle back to his lab for study, Perina is unable to duplicate the results or control the outcome. His experiments open up the topic of animal experimentation and due to his bringing some of The Dreamers back with him, the line between human and animal. The story continues into a strange, third part of the novel with Perina adopting dozens of children from the island and the chaos that ensues. Not only the physical tornado of that many people living in a single household but the relationships between Perina and the children as well as the relationships between the children themselves. These relationships are hinted at in the beginning of the novel by the narrator (who supplies footnotes throughout the story and is a topic unto himself.)

When the sacred turtles are hunted to extinction, the studies reach a dead end but the reader's imagination wanders. If a rare Amazonian flower cures cancer, who gets the flower?  How do scientists keep their experiments under wraps to prevent others from harvesting the flower to extinction? How many "cures" lie in a remote location? On and on the theoretical debate can go and then you can wonder how much is really going on right now that the average person has no idea about? You will find your imagination running away on such a variety of topics as you read this novel. 

This novel touches on so many larger topics that I can see it being a high school or college classroom assigned reading. Almost every page could be dissected and discussed at length. It would have fit right into my post-colonial literature syllabus in college.  As a matter of fact, this novel could be a course within itself. 

The Girl You Left Behind

Title: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: JoJo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books / Viking
Publication Date: August 20,2013
ISBN: 9780670026616
Pages: 369
How I Got It: She Reads Book Club October Selection

Publicist Supplied Summary:
In the small French town of St. Peronne, Sophie Lefevre is struggling under the German occupation. It is 1916, and with her husband (and most other men) fighting at the front, she is barely keeping the famiy restaurant--Le Coq Rouge--afloat under the strict and unforgiving rationing. To combat the pain of a starving belly and despite the fact that it draws unwanted attention to her family, Sophie defiantly keeps the portrait her artist husband painted of her up on the wall. Seeing it transports her back to their lives in Paris--full of good food and joie de vivre. When the painting catches the eye of the new Kommandant, Sophie becomes the object of his obsession. As he spends more time at Le Coq Rouge, Sophie is drawn in to a dangerous bargain with the German officer as she tries to protect those she loves the most. 
Almost a century later, Liv Halston is living under the shadow of her young husband's sudden death and a growing debt. She lives in the gorgeous flat he designed for them, but her lack of a steady job means she can no longer afford to keep the show place that should have been her home forever. Her prized possession, given to her by her husband as a wedding present, is the same portrait that hung on Sophie's wall in 1916. Enter Paul McCaffery; when Liv meets him during a chance encounter, she starts to feel like life may have something in store for her yet. But Paul's work lies in the restitution of art lost and the spoils of war. In a cruel twist, his next case: the portrait of Sophie that Liv loves most in all the world. For Liv, her belief in what is right will be put to the ultimate test. 

My Review: (Contains Spoilers)
I would like to say I was equally involved in each storyline but, in fact, I was more interested in Sophie's. I usually steer clear of German occupation stories and war stories in general. I respect the stories that are written to illuminate these topics but I usually can't handle them as a personal reading choice. However, Jojo Moyes created a novel with the perfect combination of hope and despair. This wonderfully complex story is a reminder of a dark chapter in history that obliterated masses of stories. 
I feel in love with Sophie at the end of the first chapter and became so involved in her storyline that I was quite shaken when the story shifted to present day Liv. I was awed by Sophie's spunk, work ethic, and her relationship with Eduord. I was humbled by her bravery and "chin up" spirit while she served the Germans. I respected her attempts to establish a human connection with her captors. I didn't judge her when she made her deal with the Kommandant. By the halfway point of the novel, I was so involved in Sophie's storyline that I didn't know if I could continue reading for fear of the outcome. 
Liv on the other hand annoyed me a bit. I wanted to just shake her and say "snap out of it" with the wallowing depression. She lit up a bit a few times but not enough for me to really cheer for her. Paul's roles as ex-cop, father, and brother give him much more dimension than Liv's defeated victim role. 
But as far as favorite characters go, I loved a secondary character in this book so much that they may have even surpassed my love of Sophie. Marianne Andrews steals every scene she is in. She slips and gives the hint to Liv about Paul's procuring of evidence for Liv's side in the court battle. Her defense of her mother's journalism work, her dismissal of her multiple marriages and her sense of humor (It's not a recipe for prawn gumbo) overshadow Liv and Paul in the present day timeline. 
I went into this novel expecting Elie Wiesel's Night but I would compare The Girl You Left Behind to  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society. JoJo Moyes focuses on love and sacrifice but doesn't sugar coat the horrors of war. Personifying the occupation and bringing to light looted art, true ownership and reparations, The Girl You Left Behind would be a wonderful book for classroom discussion and book clubs. 

Hush Little Baby

Title: Hush Little Baby
Author: Suzanne Redfearn
Publisher: Hachette
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Pages: 368
How I Got it: via Suzy Q (@SuzyQZ416) and Marissa Sangiacomo at Hatchette Books

Goodreads Summary:

If I stay, he will kill me. If I leave, he'll destroy Addie and Drew. Jillian Kane appears to have it all - a successful career, a gorgeous home, a loving husband, and two wonderful children. The reality behind closed doors is something else entirely. For nine years, she has hid the bruises and the truth of her abusive marriage in order to protect Addie and Drew, knowing, if she left, Gordon would destroy her-destroy them.When, in an act of desperation, she flees, her worst nightmare is realized, and she finds herself on the run with her two young children, no money, and no plan. With Gordon in hot pursuit, there is only one inescapable certainty: No matter where she goes, he will find her. Kill her. And take her children.A riveting page-turner, HUSH LITTLE BABY exposes the shame and terror of domestic violence as well as the disturbing role manipulation and sabotage can play in the high-stakes game of child custody. Suspenseful and unforgettably moving, it's a novel about the unbreakable bonds of family and the astounding, terrifying devotion of a mother's love.

My Review:

     I have never read such a heart-pounding, stomach-wrenching, nail-biting, edge of my seat, can't put down thriller! I had to force myself to slow down because I was tripping over every word to get to the next.
     Just like the husbands we see in Sleeping with the Enemy or Enough, Gordon is a powerful man who is viewed as a pillar of the community.  His expectation of perfection manipulates every situation to his advantage while putting up a perfect facade. His wife, Jillian,  believes she can control his rage by being perfect, but as a working mother, things fall through the cracks. A forgotten lunch, a missed pick-up, a child's public tantrum are all chalked up to a bad day for a regular working mom. But Gordon's keeping a list, retaliating, and leaving no loose ends. The fact that he is a cop lends an extra layer of protection to his cruelty. He has created a perfect image of himself and a very tarnished image of his wife.  His abuse knows no bounds whether they be physcial, emotional, financial, or reproductive.
     Society often blames the victim, asking "Well, why doesn't she just leave?" She can't leave because she is painted into a corner. When well meaning outsiders exclaim "But, there is always a way out" rarely do they know of the full set of circumstances surrounding the situation.  It is impossible to make that statement if you have not been in the situation yourself. While Redfearn's novel is fiction, Jillian is walking around right under our noses every day. She's a friend or someone in your family. Sometimes her struggles come to light and she is able to change her environment, but often times when these situations come to light it is with a tragic ending.
     I feel it is important to disclose that this work contains detailed accounts of abuse that may be a trigger for those with close or personal accounts of abuse.  That being said, I also believe that not only was this an amazing novel but it also illuminates the unfortunate situations that many women face every single day.  How you would fare if you were in Jillian's shoes?

**I received this novel in exchange for an honest review**


Title: Grounded
Author: Angela Correll
Publisher: Koehler
Publication Date:  October 1, 2013
ISBN: 9781938467561
Pages: 262
How I Got It: contacted by publicist

Back Cover:
New York City flight attendant Annie Taylor is grounded, putting a halt to her weekends in Rome and jet-setting lifestyle.  Soon her boyfriend's true natrue is revealed, and to make matters worse, she loses her apartment. In the midst of her crashing life, Annie leaves the city for the family farm in Kentucky, a place she's avoided for years. She finds a shotgun-wielding grandmother, a farm in disrepair, and a suspicious stranger renting the old stone house.
The country quiet haunts Annie with reminders of a past that can't be changed.  She tries persuading her ailing grandmother to sell the farm, but is met with stubborn refusal.  Childhood friend Jake Wilder is contemplating a leap off the corporate ladder to follow his passion for sustainable farming. Nearly ready to propose to Camille, a girl who wants more, not less, Annie believes Jake is making a terrible mistake. After all these years, does she have the right to tell him?
As the summer heats up, so do Annie's unexpected feelings for Jake and her love for the land. She sees a glimmer of hope for a second chance. But just as she is finding common ground with her grandmother, a phone call from New York forces her to chose between the past and the future. 

My Review:

Too often the word "simple" is used in a negative context. In today's hustle and bustle world the line between consumerism and over-consumption is constantly challenged. But every trend has a tipping point and we now see a rise in sustainable agriculture (how things were done for years prior to demands of spot free apples and overplump chicken breasts.) We see an uptick in organic farming versus GMOs and mass production of inferior crops and animals. Angela Correll incorporates this "new" trend into her her novel by demonstrating that these practices are how family farms were run for generations. She juxtaposes Jake's passion of returning to "simple" agricultural practices with Annie's desire to travel the world working as a flight attendant based in New York. 

While the storyline appears basic (maybe even scary and depressing?) --Girl moves home after break-up and job loss to settle into life on family farm, Correll hits the mark by exemplifying Annie's resistance. Annie's growing comfort and gradual ease into daily farm life parallels the the return of "simple" and sustainable farming. Changes are slow and sometimes not initially understood. But once one becomes open to possibilities, great things can happen. And some of the greatest things are the simple things. 

The Historian (October Read-Along)

After telling fellow book lovers that I re-read The Historian every October, I found that some people were interested when I brought up the idea of a read-along.  I've not done a read-along on my blog yet so I think it is a perfect time to start. If (when?) I add to / edit this post, I'll be sure to label / highlight the changed / updated section. Bookmark this page so you can check-in, comment, or post an update.


  • The book is 642 pages so I've divided the book into 5 sections for the 5 weeks of October (and the first few days of November)
  • Schedule is Week #1: Chapters 1 thru 17, #2: Chapters 18 thru 34, #3: Chapters 35 thru 46, #4: Chapters 47 thru 65, #5 Chapters 66 to end
  • We will read each section at our own pace Tuesday thru Saturday
  • We will discuss the section on Sunday and Monday (I think dividing the posting time between a weekday and a weekend would allow everyone to post at their convenience) 
  • Discussion will be by posting comments below and / or Tweeting (using hashtag: #TheHistorian)
  • If you are interested in reading along with me, say hello in the comments box below.

The Husband's Secret

Title: The Husband's Secret
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date:  April 1, 2013
ISBN: 9780399159343
Pages: 394
How I Got It: SheReads September selection

Goodreads Summary
The Husband's Secret is a funny, heartbreaking novel of marriage, grief, love and secrets. When her husband announces he's in love with her best friend, painfully shy Tess picks up her young son and returns to her mother's house. There she begins an unexpected affair with an old flame. Rachel is a woman in her sixties consumed by grief and anger at the loss of her daughter twenty years earlier. When her son announces he is taking her beloved grandson overseas, Rachel begins a descent into deeper bitterness and pain. Cecilia is the quintessential "I don't know how she does it" woman. A devoted mother to three daughters, she runs her household like clockwork, is President of the P&C, owns an extremely successful Tupperware business and is happy in her fifteen-year marriage. Until she discovers a letter in their attic labelled: "To my wife Cecilia, to be opened in the event of my death"... Her husband's secret is a bombshell beyond all imagining with repercussions across the lives of all three women.
My Review
I love being a member of SheReads book club because I get a chance to read books that I probably wouldn't have picked up. I've been recommending this to a lot of my friends that ask for recommendations because they don't read as much as I do. A lot of my mommy friends are loving it because of the short chapters.  They can put it down and pick it up according to their schedule. Problem is (or is it?) that no one wants to put it down! It's one of those "just one more chapter" sort of books. With three storylines, the first few chapters took me a bit to straighten out all the characters and I found myself asking "How are these storylines going to merge"? I was also impressed that I was equally invested in all the storylines. No slugging through a slow storyline to get to the one I wanted to read.  
The story centers on Cecilia and her husband.  Cecilia is a Type A mom that stumbles across a letter her husband wrote for her to open in the event of his death. At first she thinks nothing of it and sets it aside. Then her husband's reaction causes her to rethink ignoring the letter. Opening the letter and discovering her husband's secret shakes her world and prompts readers to ask "What would I do?" and "How far would I go to protect my husband?"
Some of the previous SheReads selections have not been my cup of tea but this selection is a hit on my list! 

What I Learned in My 1st Year of Book Blogging

Instead of a review, today I wanted to take a minute and reflect on the last year. Today is the first year blogiversary of Ivory Owl Reviews and I have learned a lot! By no means do I consider myself a pro yet but I feel much more confident than I did when I jumped in. I had been blogging for a couple of years before I created IOR, but was all over the place with my topics and posts.  Last year I snagged my first freelance article with Buckhaven Lifestyle magazine to review Kimberly Brock's The River Witch. I reached out to Kimberly on Goodreads and she was gracious enough to grant me time for an interview after she spoke on the 2012 Decatur Book Festival Emerging Authors stage. Imagine my surprise when she not only gave me great responses to my questions but proceeded to give me advice on moving forward with my passions of books and writing. She was so warm and friendly but very serious when stating that a book blog was a MUST! I went home and went to work. Here are a few pointers and things I've learned this year:

  1. Choosing a name for your blog-- I wanted something easy to spell. Misspelled words make searching for your blog difficult (1Luv, OneLove, 1Love, etc)  I also wanted my title to reflect the type of blog I had. I wanted it to include books, reading, or reviews. After much deliberation (and availability checking) I decided on Ivory Owl Reviews, named after the porcelain owl that guards my TBR pile.
  2. Plan your reading schedule--I originally thought you just post a review as you read, but once I received more requests for reviews and then discovered NetGalley and Edelweiss, I found myself to be overwhelmed. Starting out, I had accepted any and all ARCs and had to figure out how to streamline. I fulfilled my obligations and drafted a review policy. As I read I found it easier to revisit the policy and update it with what I was and wasn't interested in reviewing. I also found that I had accepted ARCs that I was unable to post a review of by the release date. I now know that I only want to accept ARCs releasing after a certain date (a couple months from now.) 
  3. Plan your posts--I was very sporadic at first but have become more constant. My goal is to have 4-5 reviews/week. You can save your posts as drafts and publish as you wish so I can easily start an outline of a review and return to it to dig in.
  4. Statistics--You can dissect and analyze which posting times and topics work best for you by checking your blog statistics. I get super excited if a post gets over 100 views. But to get those views you need to probably have another outlet you are promoting them on. I put links on Twitter and Google+. Maybe three or four times /post. You want it to be seen but you don't want to bombard your friends and audience.
  5. Interaction--I couldn't figure out how to get comments on my blog. I was getting views but no comments. What was up with that? Then I began commenting on other blogs and whaddayaknow...I start getting comments. Simple really. Interaction. Blogger allows you to compose your own reading list and you can post this on your site as a "blog roll."  After checking out someone's blog I decide if I want to keep visiting it. If so, I add them to my list. 
  6. Press all the buttons--"What does this button do?" "What about this one?" I tinkered with all the links and widgets to find what I liked. 
  7. Google it--"How do I add social media buttons?" "How do I change my template?" Anything you want to do with your blog, someone has probably already done it...and written a handy how-to tutorial.
  8. Ask your new friends--Once I started having constant interactions on my blog and social media, I could reach out to one of them and ask "How'd you make that picture look like that?" or "Where'd ya get that widget?'
These are just a few of the things I've learned this year but I feel they are good groundwork. Hopefully I can grow my readership and social media circles in the coming year as well as establish a more punctual posting schedule.

Do you have any blogging advice that you live by? What did you learn in your first year of blogging?

Mrs. Poe

This book review is published in the October 2013 issue of Buckhaven Lifestyle magazine as 
"Meet Mrs. Poe." Click here to view online version. 

Title: Mrs. Poe
Author: Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Pages: 336
How I Got It: NetGalley

October brings chilly weather, changing leaves, thoughts of Halloween and spooky stories told around a campfire. This October, fans of Edgar Allan Poe are in for a treat with the release of Lynn Cullen's Mrs. Poe. Set in 1845, Frances Sargent Osgood has been taken in, along with her two young daughters, by the Bartlett family after being abandoned by her philandering husband.  Determined to provide an income from her writing, Frances is advised by a newspaper editor to transition from writing for ladies and children to instead focusing on "shivery tales" like Edgar Poe. The Raven is all the rage and newspapers are trying to duplicate its success. Desperate for inspiration Frances focuses on Poe during local salon gatherings. Fawned over by all of the ladies, and praised by his readership, Poe dismisses and degrades a majority of his peers causing many rivalries. Suspicions arise when he praises Frances and rumors begin to circulate that they are lovers.  As this friendship grows so does the suspicion of Mrs. Poe. Married for ten years, since Virginia was thirteen and Edgar was twenty-three, the marriage has become strained by Virginia's consumption and Edgar's long hours at the paper.  Aware of her husband's change in demeanor and lack of drinking since meeting Frances, Mrs. Poe desires a friendship with Frances as well.  Out of guilt, Frances caters to Mrs. Poe's requests but Virginia's social ineptness and provoking demeanor unsettle her. Virginia's constant need of praise and sharp tongued judgements become too much t bear. Believing she is contributing to Virginia's decline in health, Frances vows to stay clear of the Poes and cuts off all correspondence. Unhappy with this turn of events, Mrs. Poe and her mother begin calling on Frances at the Bartletts as well as Poe himself, under the pretense of conversing with Mr. Bartlett. Strange coincidences become more common as Frances and Poe's friendship progresses to an affair. This love triangle between Poe, his wife and his mistress becomes more complicated as Frances attracts a suitor, her husband reappears and Mrs. Poe's health deteriorates.
The backdrop of great technological progress (gas lighting,) and construction (the building of a "central" park for New York) parallels the artistic advancements (daguerrotypes replacing painted portraits,) of the time. Lynn Cullen layers the social advancements and expectations of the time with these technological and artistic advancements to tell a story bursting with creativity. Incorporating the style and suspense of Poe's work, Cullen weaves a tale of macabre delight with Poe and his social circle as characters in late 1840s New York. Lunatic asylums, affairs, and accidents build the story to a climax and ending as heart stopping as anything Poe could have written himself.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has previously chosen Cullen's The Creation of Eve as one of the best fiction books of 2010 and Reign of Madness as a Best of the South selection in 2011.

Maxed Out

Title: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink
Author: Katrina Alcorn
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: August 28, 2013
Pages: 392 
How I Got It: NetGalley

Goodreads summary:
Katrina Alcorn was a 37-year-old mother with a happy marriage and a thriving career when one day, on the way to Target to buy diapers, she had a breakdown. Her carefully built career shuddered to a halt, and her journey through depression, anxiety, and insomnia—followed by medication, meditation, and therapy—began.
Alcorn wondered how a woman like herself, with a loving husband, a supportive boss, three healthy kids, and a good income, was unable to manage the demands of having a career and a family. Over time, she realized that she wasn’t alone. As she questioned other working moms, she realized that many women were struggling to do it all, crashing, and feeling as if they were somehow failing as a result.
Mothers are the breadwinners in two-thirds of American families, yet the American workplace is uniquely hostile to the needs of parents. Weaving in surprising research about the dysfunction between the careers and home lives of working mothers, as well as the consequences to women’s health, Alcorn tells a deeply personal story about "having it all," failing miserably, and what comes after. Ultimately, she offers readers a vision for a healthier, happier, and more productive way to live and work.

My review:
I usually stick to fiction but I'm always interested in overworked family non-fiction. I loved my Gender and Work class at college and find it so fascinating that there are so many problems facing today's working families and so few solutions.  Katrina Alcorn provides readers with her own first person account of a growing career and family. Even after reading other similar accounts it is still always reassuring to read yet another woman's struggle. It validates most women's internal thoughts with the relief that "I'm not alone" and "Someone else feels this way?' or simply "Ok. So I'm not crazy."Alcorn quotes Arlie Hochschild  and Anne Marie Slaughter and references  many previous works that mothers have read in the hopes that there is a secret in there somewhere of how to make it all work. How to have it all. Alcorn provides several suggestions such as a "GI Bill" for parents wishing to reenter the workforce and list of ways each personal can individually work to bring about changes. So many mothers are struggling that they rarely have a free moment to pee alone, let alone bring about radical changes, but Alcorn provides small steps that can affect a big change. 
One quote from the book really stood out for me and I feel it encompasses a large demographic of mothers. When Katrina is negotiating with her boss, Sonya, (who is also a mother) over her maternity leave, Sonya states "I never had the luxury of working four days a week." But Katrina hears that "she didn't get this time; why did I think I was entitled to it?" The resentment of and jealousy among mothers is rarely discussed and instead the media turns out Mommy Wars pieces. If a mom had to pump breastmilk sitting in a bathroom it is understandable why she would resent that her company now provides lounges. Or when she's juggled child care for years and now the new mothers are able to bring their babies into the office. I would like to say that I would be thinking "Good for them" and "glad these changes are coming about" but I know that I would be silently seething and thinking "how unfair" because that was not an option for me. Ugly truth, but when you have been desperate for a break of any kind, and are "maxed out" it is going to be difficult to look at the big picture.  This demographic of women could be just as difficult to get on the side of change as the patriarchal corporations.
While this book does focus on mothers, it is important to acknowledge that changing family dynamics do not limit the maxing out of parents to mothers exclusively. However a family is structured, it needs support and flexibility to balance work and life. While families have changed, corporate practices have not and everyone is suffering. The current models are deficient. It is time to look to successful models and decide which policies can be incorporated.

I will definitely recommend this book to the multitude of mothers I encounter everyday. Maxed Out is an important contribution to the discussions of gender and the work/life balance and will become as referenced as its predecesors.

DragonCon Newbies 2013

My mom, me, and my daughter (we don't look AT ALL alike or anything)

My mom treated us all to DragonCon tickets and flew in from St. Louis to stay with us for a week. She wanted to meet some of the authors, my daughter wanted to check out the cosplays (which is when you not only dress as a character, you ARE the character,) and I am fascinated by people's obsessions. These are not just fans who list a TV show or book as a "like." These fans fully integrate themselves into an alternate world, which allows this event to take my people-watching pastime to a whole other level. You get to see things like this:

 and this---> 
DragonCon spans 6 hotels in downtown Atlanta so this is Every crosswalk. Every light. All weekend long. Masses of people but everyone happy and well-mannered.

 Thursday night Mom got her advanced copy of Sherilyn Kenyon's "Styxx" and then when migrated over to the Sheraton to pick up our badges. Sounds simple right? Suuuuure. We got in a line that wrapped around the entire block before proceeding into the hotel and entering a partitioned maze that can only be described as part Six-Flags and part hell. I had decided by this point I could easily justify paying an outlandish amount for a bottle of water. If a cart would have rolled up with $20 bottles of water I would have happily peeled off a bill and chugged that water like a not so Southern lady. (Note for next year, buy drink cart. Capitilize on parched attendees)  But after 2 hours spent with hundreds of our smelliest friends we make it to the badge counter.  I get my badge. Yippee!  Daughter gets her badge. Woohoo! Mom gets the computer that breaks down. WompWomp. But if there is any type of person in abundance, it is the computer geeks so we are printed and on our way. 

Mom and I took turns taking Daughter to events on Saturday and Sunday. She knows all the characters but I'm afraid I do not. I'll attempt to name them but they may be wrong. Here's a few of our highlights:

This is "Death" somebody ?          These guys were from Medieval Times
An Avenger? X-Men? HIs glasses lit up.     This girl was "Dave" from Homestuck
Daughter thought these girls were cool (Poison Ivy and ?)   Girl dressed as Mad Hatter

But this was Daughter's jump up and down squealiest moment: meeting "The Queen of Cosplay" Yaya Han.

All in all we had a lot of fun. We even rode MARTA (which could be a whole other blog post)