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Review:: Supercharge Your Life: How to Put Real Food at the Heart of Everything by Lee Holmes

Supercharge Your Life: How to Put Real Food at the Heart of Everything by Lee Holmes  (1/15/19 from Murdoch)
I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I failed at getting a great photo for this release but this book did not fail to grab my attention. So much more than a book of recipes and menus, Lee Holmes inspires readers with her love of real food and its connection to living a "balanced, mindful, connected, and supercharged life." Her tips and ideas focus on choosing nourishing food, presenting it in a beautiful manner, sharing it with family and friends and acknowledging its "connecting force in every aspect of our lives."

I have grabbed this book several times since I've added it to my cookbook collection in my kitchen. The photography and writing style are absolute perfection and I think I would compare it to Vogue's September fashion issues where every page is gorgeous, inspirational, and mouth-watering. I definitely recommend it to anyone with a love of cooking or someone who wants to be more connected and informed with their food choices. This would also make a gorgeous gift to give someone special. 

Review: Voices of Powerful Women: Words of Wisdom from 40 of the World's Most Inspiring Women by Zoe Sallis

Voices of Powerful Women by Zoe Sallis (releases  2/26/19 from Watkins Publishing)

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. 

A fantastically inspiring collection of interviews with 40 successful and empowering women, including Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, Mary Robinson and Shami Chakrabati, exploring their challenges and achievements.

In this empowering book, 40 amazing women who have exerted an influence on others in many different ways discuss their work, their achievements, their hopes and their fears, offering women everywhere inspiration and optimism for the future through their fascinating explanations of what they have achieved. Featuring politicians, environmentalists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, actors, world leaders and Nobel Peace Prize winners, this book encourages readers to believe that they can achieve their greatest ambitions and help change the world for the better.

The book is structured around ten questions, with the 40 interviewees providing a pithy and insightful answer to each one. Topics range from influential early experiences, inspirations in life and most admired female figures to causes of anger, greatest fears, how to change the world and advice for the younger generation.
The full list of powerful women featured in the book is as follows: Isabel Allende, Christiane Amanpour, Maya Angelou, Hanan Ashrawi, Joan Baez, Benazir Bhutto, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, Emma Bonino, Shami Chakrabarti, Jung Chang, Kate Clinton, Marie Colvin, Marion Cotillard, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Carla Del Ponte, Judi Dench, Shirin Ebadi, Tracey Emin, Jane Fonda, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Dagmar Havlová, Swanee Hunt, Bianca Jagger, Nataša Kandić, Kathy Kelly, Martha Lane Fox, Dame Ann Leslie, Professor Wangari Maathai, Mairead Maguire, Mary McAleese, Soledad O’Brien, Sinéad O’Connor, Yoko Ono, Mariane Pearl, Kim Phuc, Paloma Picasso, Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Paula Rego, Louise Ridley, Mary Robinson, Jody Williams.

My Review:
The cover and the title of this book caught my eye while I was searching Netgalley. Once I began reading I realized there were some serious formatting issues that were causing problems with the flow of reading. I try not to let these issues distract me because lots of ARCs (electronic and physical) have formatting and spelling errors that are corrected before the final version of the book is released, but this one was really tough. The concept of asking powerful women to answer the same handful of questions to hear all of their different responses sounds like a great idea, but without context to to their answers I was unable to make the connection as to why they felt that way.  Even looking beyond the terrible formatting, I wouldn't recommend this one. 

Review:: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (October 27, 2015 / Dey Street Books)

Goodreads Summary:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame she was just trying to make the world a little better and a little freer. But along the way, the feminist pioneer's searing dissents and steely strength have inspired millions. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, created by the young lawyer who began the Internet sensation and an award-winning journalist, takes you behind the myth for an intimate, irreverent look at the justice's life and work. As America struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stays fierce. And if you don't know, now you know.

My Review:

Yay and nay. 
I found the book extremely informative about almost every aspect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life, but I have serious problems with this books presentation and format, so I feel that I need to divide my review. 

In a society that praises youth and minimal intelligence, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a beacon of light, both in her judicial outlook and in her personal accomplishments. She struggled and fought her way to the top because she never believed she was less smart or qualified than a man. She learned to sharpen her arguments, points, and dissents with phrases and facts that slice right through the layers of sexism and racism. I personally don't agree with all of Ginsburg's decisions, most importantly her decision to not retire under the Obama administration. However, I respect her decision because no one has forced previous male judges of her age to retire and no one could have predicted the most recent presidential election. 

On "Notorious RBG"
I liked how the authors were able to find parallels between Christopher Wallace/Biggie Smalls/The Notorious B.I.G., and those could have been presented as a section or chapter, but this cover image/title/meme and the use of The Notorious B.I.G. lyrics is blatant cultural appropriation. I understand that the intended point of the juxtaposition is to mash up what would be viewed as two opposites: a young, Black, male rapper and an old, white, female judge to get a tongue in cheek laugh, but beyond the play on the  names (one self-given, one bestowed), what do people see? Do they know that the RBG illustration is a play on photographer Barron Claiborne's "King of New York" photo, taken of Biggie Smalls wearing a crooked gold crown just 3 days before he was fatally shot? If they are aware of this photo, do they realize the hypocrisy of applying it an image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and then praising her for her legally tough demeanor while demonizing the tough decisions made by those who are structurally impoverished? When they buy a product with this image, what exactly are they embracing? What are your thoughts? 

Review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu (February 13, 2018  / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 

Goodreads Summary:
A group of young girls descend on Camp Forevermore, a sleepaway camp in the Pacific Northwest, where their days are filled with swimming lessons, friendship bracelets, and camp songs by the fire. Filled with excitement and nervous energy, they set off on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. But before the night is over, they find themselves stranded, with no adults to help them survive or guide them home.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore traces these five girls—Nita, Kayla, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan—through and beyond this fateful trip. We see them through successes and failures, loving relationships and heartbreaks; we see what it means to find, and define, oneself, and the ways in which the same experience is refracted through different people. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can't escape.

My Review:
Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies. 5 young girls at sleep away camp are stranded in the woods. They are not friends and their wilderness knowledge is minimal. The storyline jumps back and forth between their time at camp and their present lives to show how this experience affects them all differently. The structure of the book was a bit difficult with the back and forth timelines and different characters all presented with no pattern. I liked this book but I didn't find anything about it that was particularly praiseworthy. I read it on a flight and it was nice to pass the time.  

Review:: "The Gig is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs are Obsolete and Freelancing is the Future" by Olga Mizrahi

"The Gig is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs are Obsolete and Freelancing is the Future" by Olga Mizrahi (Greenleaf Book Group Press / February 27, 2018)

Goodreads Summary:
Win in a world of increasing choice by becoming the clear, unique fit.

The gig economy is made up of project-based, or on-demand services, that can be provided by anyone. The common denominator in the gig economy is technology, so our modern online-lives provide the perfect marketplace for the ever-diversifying opportunities in the gig economy. By some estimates, 2020 will see half of all workers involved in the gig economy. Are we ready for this seismic shift in our work lives?

​Freelancers need to clearly answer “Why choose you?” so that they stand out in the new economy. Because all workers in the gig economy need to bluntly pose this question to themselves, The Gig Is Up is designed to answer this one key point head-on, giving readers innovative tools like Unique Value Proposition to confidently step up. The Gig Is Up offers the best boots-on-the-ground methods for success, by evolving the reader’s perspective and process. Many books on the gig economy focus on letting people live out their dreams, instead of looking at the realities of what it truly takes to win in a world of increasing choice. People need to understand how to compete and how to put the best version of themselves up front and center. The goal in competing today is to not only be chosen, but to move toward becoming the only choice, over and over again

My Review:
Need some freelance inspiration and some tools for success? I recommend "The Gig is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs are Obsolete and Freelancing is the Future" by Olga Mizrahi. Full of statistics from McKinsey Global Institute’s 148-page report “Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy” and Freelancers Union studies, author Olga Mizrahi identifies the pros and cons of freelancing and offers lots of tips on how to be better. She poses questions that had me thinking, like "What are you willing to do that others cannot or are unwilling to?" and offered tips on customizing profiles, elevator pitches, boundaries, bookkeeping, taxes, references, referrals, contracts and so much more...all in just 174 pages!

Review:: Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Goodreads Summary:
Let Me Tell You brings together the deliciously eerie short stories Jackson is best known for, along with frank, inspiring lectures on writing; comic essays about her large, boisterous family; and whimsical drawings. Jackson’s landscape here is most frequently domestic: dinner parties and bridge, household budgets and homeward-bound commutes, children’s games and neighborly gossip. But this familiar setting is also her most subversive: She wields humor, terror, and the uncanny to explore the real challenges of marriage, parenting, and community—the pressure of social norms, the veins of distrust in love, the constant lack of time and space. For the first time, this collection showcases Shirley Jackson’s radically different modes of writing side by side. Together they show her to be a magnificent storyteller, a sharp, sly humorist, and a powerful feminist.

My Review:
Believe it or not, OCD me is going about my Shirley Jackson experience backward. I'm starting with this collection of (mostly) previously unpublished stories. Co-edited by two of Jackson’s children, this volume was compiled from Jackson's papers at the Library of Congress.

Shirley Jackson's humor is unparalleled in any modern stories I have read. It's so subtle and smart. I think some writers have tried to bring the humor of being a wife and mother to their stories but they sacrifice subtlety in favor of in your face "realness" (see Honest Toddler or Scary Mommy). I see Jackson's influence in some current writers like Helen Ellis, but I wish it was more prevalent. Jackson cracks me up and inspires me. Here are 2 of my favorite examples: 

from The Ghosts of Loiret:
"I have never liked the theory that poltergeists only come into houses where there are children, because I think it is simply too much for any one house to have poltergeists and children..."

from How I Write: 
"One of the nicest things about being a writer is that nothing ever gets wasted. It's a little like the frugal housewife who carefully tucks away al the odds and ends of string beans and cold bacon and serves them up magnificently in a fancy casserole dish. A winter who is serious and economical can store away small fragments of ideas and events and conversations, and even facial expressions and mannerisms, and us them all someday."

Next up in my Shirley Jackson readings is Ruth Franklin's biography, A Rather Haunted Life.  

Review: Selected Poems of Carl Sandburg

Growing up in towns surrounding Galesburg, Illinois I was aware of Carl Sandburg but I never studied his work. The mall, colleges, roads, and landmarks were named in his honor but in my mind he was simply another old white man writer who I just couldn't relate to. A couple of years ago I happened across his poem "Mag" and loved its shocking honesty so I ordered a selection of his poems. Reading these selected poems alongside doing some of my own research into his life and achievements gave me a greater appreciation of my hometown's literary hero. Many of his poems feature the prairies, trains, and poverty I still associate with the area and his Chicago poems contain the bleak and hopeful juxtaposition of a booming city. I marked several of my favorites but I think "Mag" might still be my favorite. I also liked (click on each title to read the poem on Carl-Sandburg.com) Mill-Doors, The Shovel Man, Onion Days, Population Drifts, To a Contemporary Bunkshooter, Buttons, Under, Between Two Hills, Young Sea, Bones, Poppies, Poems Done on a Late Night Car, Trafficker, Soiled Dove, and Government

I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. 
I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. 
I wish we never bought a license and a white dress 
For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister 
And told him we would love each other and take care of each other 
Always and always long as the sun and the rain lasts anywhere. 
Yes, I'm wishing now you lived somewhere away from here 
And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away dead broke. 
     I wish the kids had never come  
     And rent and coal and clothes to pay for 
     And a grocery man calling for cash, 
     Every day cash for beans and prunes. 
     I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. 
     I wish to God the kids had never come.

Review: The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (2/5/19 from William Morrow)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher

Goodreads Summary:
The New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl explores the lives of four siblings in this ambitious and absorbing novel in the vein of Commonwealth and The Interestings.

“The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them.”
When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

My Review:
I'm going to start with my only problem of this book...the title. The Last Romantics is not the best title for this book. As a matter of fact, I almost didn't read the book because of the title (I am not a fan of romance and I certainly don't want to read about romantics--no offense to readers who enjoy the genre, just not my jam) which means I would have missed out on a great reading experience. To be fair the title ties to one of the character's creative projects and author Tara Conklin tries to integrate it at the end, but I just don't feel like it fits. 

The story opens in the year 2079 with poet Fiona Skinner discussing her work to an audience. The book then switches back and forth between the speaking engagement and the progression of her family's life between the years of 1981 and our present day. While Fiona is the narrator, Conklin's characters are all complex, layered, and well written. As I ponder the story and try to figure out how exactly to describe it I keep returning to the line in the provided summary "A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family" and as simple as that statement is, it is truly the best description. As simple as the concept is, this book is a total gem. 

I got some The Immortalists and We Were the Mulvaneys vibes but I found this to be waaaaaay better. I definitely will be recommending The Last Romantics to family members and just about everyone else. 

What I'll Be Reading February 2019

I read 11 books in January. Here are the 12 on my TBR for February. Click on the titles to check out their Goodreads page. 

  1. Savage Conversations by LeAnne Howe (Coffee House Press)
  2. The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (William Morrow)
  3. Voices of Powerful Women by Zoe Sallis (Watkins Publishing)
  4. The Feminine Revolution by Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors (Seal Press)
  5. Woman 99 by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks Landmark)
  6. Homeland Maternity by Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz (University of Illinois Press)
  7. Supercharge Your Life by Lee Holmes (Murdoch Books)
  8. The Women’s War by Jenna Glass (Del Rey Books)
  9. The Wrong End of the Table by Ayser Salman (Skyhorse)
  10. The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee (Scribner)
  11. Outsiders by Lyndall Gordon (Johns Hopkins University Press)
  12. Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward (Park Row)

I'm excited about a lot of these, but I'm really looking forward to Woman 99 and The Women's War. What are you reading this month? Which ones are you most excited about?