Taking Guesswork out of Finding Good Books for 2019

For a reluctant, hold-your-breath-and-swallow type of shopper, the NPR Book Concierge gives me a reason to look forward to the holidays. It’s become my go-to place for every bibliophile on the Santa list.

Satisfied reading experiences bring good cheer well into the new year.

With the ability to filter titles by categories such as; Book Club, History Lovers, Thrillers, and Graphic Novels the site makes finding what you’re looking for easy. Book descriptions are concise, not more than a few sentences…and I enjoy reading them, often saving titles on other wish lists.

I do frequent the giant South American river online retailer, but I use Smile.Amazon.com to send a portion of the sale to a local nonprofit.

May this pointer make your holiday shopping more efficient and laser targeted.

Happy Gifting and Reading!

THE POWER by Naomi Alderman

Everybody does it; toddlers, teens, CEO’s, women, and men. Everyone daydreams what they would do if they had more of it—power.

While fantasies are entertaining, rarely do they resemble reality when we’re faced with something life-changing.

Alderman’s book clutches hold of the fantasy, sears it to a crisp, and leaves us with a wretched, awful truth.

Before beginning to read, you know the author’s going to lead you through an alternate reality where the male/female power axis is flipped.

Alderman cleverly addresses reader expectations when, in pre-story correspondence, she says, “I think I’d rather enjoy this “world run by men” you’ve been talking about. Surely a kinder, more caring and—dare I say it?—more sexy world than the one we live in.”

From religious leaders modifying culture to government officials justifying actions, Alderman increases the voltage on the eclectic chair she builds for you.

We grow uncomfortable with Tunde, a college-age investigator, as he follows breaking stories.  His anxiety and PTSD symptoms worsen as he publishes insider news reports and comes to understand ‘it’s never going to be alright.’

Alderman’s story makes you feel the axiom, “If power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The emotional load is lightened with skillful wordcraft and interdimensional storytelling; illustrations, chapter titles, the correspondence, and curiosity about an unseen character.

Toward the end, the invisible one says, “I don’t know where you all think you get off labeling humans with simple words and thinking you know everything you need… It’s more complicated than that, sugar. However complicated it is, everything is always more complicated than that.”

Great job, Naomi, shaking it up!

5 out of 5 Amazon | Goodreads stars

 

 

If you liked this review and you plan to read the book, you may also like Haylee. She’s also a dangerous handed woman. Haylee’s involved in a personal struggle with power and must solve the ‘why’ of her unusual affliction before it makes her destroy everyone she loves.

 

Something Wicked by Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush

The pages practically turn themselves.

I Loved this book. It went by too fast. 

5 out of 5 Amazon stars

A women’s compound deep in an Oregonian forest protects girls with special abilities. Something’s gone wrong.

A workaholic detective in the ninth month of a surrogate pregnancy is investigating them.

Easy, flowing style. Interesting characters and scenarios.

I read this book out of order in the series. It held together and made sense.

The most interesting relationship(s) in the book —for me—was between the female detective who is carrying a child for her sister and the spark of forbidden attraction with the baby’s father.

Possibly more interesting than the book was how it entered my reading sphere. Most of my favorite books arrive through word-of-mouth, recommendations from trusted curators, or editor picks. This one, in true sci-fi fashion, was selected by Artifical Intelligence on a linguistic profile matching site for authors.

My bookshelves are now filled with Lisa Jackson books!

If you liked this post, check out Your Famous Author Match Helps Target Your Readers.

 

The Murder’s Maid, Erika Mailman – Historical Fiction Book Review

Legendary murder crime story with a contemporary edge.

Bridget Sullivan is the Borden family maid. She’s an Irish immigrant and a witness to rising family tensions before the famous Lizzie Borden murders.

I liked the contemporary timeline tie-in with Brook’s (barista) character.  Mailman does a superb job drawing parallels between people working in service sector jobs while illustrating the persistence of racism and prejudice over time.

Borden Murder Details Enhance Reading Experience

The fine details in the Borden story give evidence to the many hours the author logged while researching the famous murder, combing through trial documents, visiting the crime scene, and studying forensic photos. While details can sometimes bog down historical fiction pieces, Mailman uses them to enhance the reader experience.

If you enjoy thinking about historical events beyond what was recorded in history books and newspapers, or if you are a true crime, murder mystery enthusiast, you’ll enjoy The Murder’s Maid.

Mailman’s seamless storytelling, from the maid’s point of view, is fresh and immersive.

Because I have similar interests in re-examining historical events, Brook’s statement, “If you had been killed in a barbaric way, would you want strangers tramping through your house in 150 years and looking at photos of your brain spilling out of your skull?” struck a powerful chord.

When pop culture glamorizes horrific historical events, what does that say about society?

Additional Resources

The Irish filled the most menial and dangerous jobs, often at low pay. They cut canals. They dug trenches for water and sewer pipes. They laid rail lines. They cleaned houses. They slaved in textile mills. They worked as stevedores, stable workers, and blacksmiths.  – History.com – When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis

Gold Rush Stories Book Review & Video Series

Gold Rush Stories; 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss and luck by Gary Noy

“History, warts and all,” is the essence of what Gary Noy delivers. Noy’s meticulous research, ferreting through dusty archive boxes for photos and first-person accounts, makes his gritty, sometimes enormously disturbing, and often entertaining Gold Rush story vignettes radiate with life.

In the lawless immigrant melting pot of California dreams, “accidents, disease, murder, natural disasters, [and] mob violence, … took a heavy toll during the era. Some estimates indicate 20 percent of all forty-niners died within six months of reaching California,” Noy writes.

I had the pleasure of attending a lecture Noy delivered at a writer’s conference.

An introduction after the conference led to the creation of a series of videos featuring several stories from this book – https://followingdeercreek.wordpress.com/interviews/

From the extinction of California’s Grizzly Bear, environmental destruction, and racist atrocities to situations engendering multi-cultural cooperation, Noy links California’s haunting past to contemporary issues still playing out today.

 

tuesdays with Morrie Book Review

Our culture sells concepts. If we make lots of money, have a beautiful house, send kids to good schools, and travel we’ll be successful. This will make us happy. But does it?

In tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom, a sportswriter on life’s fast track, slows down to visit his dying college professor.

Morrie Swartz has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He’s spending his last moments sharing lessons for a meaningful life.

Keeping a supply of tissues at hand, I read this book in two sittings. It touched tender spots; missing loved ones after relationship breaks, forgiveness, the meaning of family, grief and loss, the decision to have children, and saying good-bye.

[Scroll to the end for still images with quotes for social media sharing.]

“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” ~ Morrie Schwartz.

In a series of interviews with Ted Koppel and audio recordings taken by Mitch, Morrie gifted his wisdom to people who never knew him. He wanted to bring dignity to death.

Morrie accomplished what he set out to do. Wherever he is now, I thank him for it.

Note: I remember where I was and what I was doing during the O.J. trial, the time when tuesdays with Morrie first came out. It wasn’t until after the book celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I’d run Phases of Gage (historical fiction novella) through the ScoreIt! linguistic analysis program that I finally read Albom’s book. Gage and Morrie are a match.

Perhaps I’m too close to my work to see similarities beyond neurological challenges and giving death dignity, but I’m glad to have read Morrie’s story no matter how it happened.

Full-length movie

Resources

ALS Association

 

Filling Her Shoes by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder – Book Review

A Care-Full Mother’s Memoir Lights a Path of Enlightened Parenting.
Betsy Graziani Fasbinder author of Filling Her ShoesFilling her Shoes a memoir of an interited family

If we are open to the intricate, and sometimes surprising, facets of love, and strive for healthy relationships, we make can make contributions toward elevating our village, one family, and one child at a time.

When I was a step-kid, I first became conscious of the words Betsy talks about in her memoir. ‘We,’ ‘us,’ ‘ours’ is positive and binding. While, ‘me,’ mine,’ and, ‘you’re not my real ____,’ painfully divide.

As a young woman, coming into a family with teens, I shared Betsy’s anxiety and musings about belonging while co-parenting.

From Fasbinder’s special crafting of her name (and her second son’s name) to her sensitive handling of changes and losses experienced by her oldest son, Betsy shows how love and mindfulness have the power to heal.

Later, when I was widow and mother of a toddler, I experienced the incredible blessing of a wonderful step-in parent joining our family.

Betsy is right again; grief and loss are the flip side of the coin that also holds joy and gratitude.

I like thinking that Max’s first mom has always been a huge fan of Betsy’s. What greater gift could there be than knowing a loving someone picked up where you left off?

With a thoughtful approach to the vulnerability of parent-child relationships and a strong commitment to unraveling a legacy of domestic violence and adverse stepfamily stigmas, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder wears her own shoes while showing others how to walk a path of enlightened parenting.

Read more about Besty Graziani Fasbinder and her books.