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Mailbox Monday #518

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha for review in May.

“I live in a coastal town in the deep south of the Mekong Delta. During the war this was IV Corps, which saw many savage fights. Although the battles might have long been forgotten, some places cannot forget.”

Thus begins the harrowing yet poignant story of a North Vietnamese communist defector who spends ten years in a far-flung reform prison after the war, and now, in 1987, a free man again, finds work as caretaker at a roadside inn in the U Minh region. One day new guests arrive at the inn: an elderly American woman and her daughter, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese girl adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in the Mekong Delta before the war ended. Catherine Rossi has come to this region to find the remains of her son, a lieutenant who went missing-in-action during the war.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream tells the stories of two men in time parallel: Giang, the thirty-nine-year-old war veteran; Nicola Rossi, a deceased lieutenant in the United States Army, the voice of a spirit. From the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, the stories of these two men shout, cry, and whisper to us the voices of love and loneliness, barbarity and longing, lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life: the tender adolescent vulnerability of a girl toward a man who, as a drifter and a war-hardened man, draws beautifully in his spare time; the test of love and faith endured by a mother whose dogged patience even baffles the local hired hand who thinks the poor old lady must have gone out of her mind, and whose determination drives her into the spooky forest, rain or shine, until one day she claims she has sensed an otherworldly presence in there with her.

In the end she wishes to see, just once, a river the local Vietnamese call “The River of White Water Lilies,” the very river her son saw, now that all her hopes to find his remains die out. Just then something happens. She finds out where he has lain buried for twenty years and how he was killed.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown for review.

The stories in this collection are set 1980’s and 90’s Ireland. A by-pass around a small village has rid the residents of their once busy traffic. They feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later and the woman whose dreams are shattered because of a married lover. Treading the Uneven Road introduces us to a society that is unraveling and we cannot help feel for Brown’s characters who need to make a choice on how to carry on.

Nanopedia: Poems by Charles Jensen, which I purchased and can’t wait to dig into.

Taking the form of “the world’s smallest encyclopedia” of American culture, the prose poems in Nanopedia explore concepts coined in or corrupted by (or both) America from vantage points that are both deeply personal and politically charged.

Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos. 3 of my poems are in this anthology and there’s a giveaway for it here. Purchases support The Trevor Project.

Love_is_Love is a collection of poems, short stories, and visual art for LGBTQIA+ teens. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project, an organization that has been saving the lives of LGBTQIA+ teens since 1998.

 

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field for review.

“It’s the end of the world,” said a gloomy voice.
Bear looked all around. “No it isn’t,” said Bear cautiously. “It’s a lovely sunny day.”

In this laugh-out-loud funny story, a rabbit and bear discover that things are always better when they’re shared with a friend.

Bear wakes up early from hibernation. If she can’t sleep, then at least she can make a snowman.

Rabbit has never made a snowman, but he definitely wants to make one that’s better than Bear’s.

However, with an avalanche and a hungry wolf heading his way, Rabbit soon realises that it might be nice to have a friend on your side. Especially when it comes to building snowmen.

A tale of friendship, gravity, and just a little bit of poo.

What did you receive?

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (audio and print)

Source: Purchased
Paperback and Audible, 447 pgs. or 14+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which was a book club pick from last year and took me more than the month allotted to read, is a look at Chicago’s endeavor to build a World’s Fair to rival that of Paris. Larson attempts to contrast the beauty of the white city created by some architectural greats with the dark serial killings of  H. H. Holmes. The story is one of a city growing up and expanding, which generally brings with it the darker elements of crime. As women began to seek out jobs and not marriage, many were preyed upon by criminals, including Holmes. These comparisons are easy to see, but the main bulk of this book is focused on the political issues of the 1893 World’s Fair and its construction.

“Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago’s Hull House, wrote, ‘Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs.'” (pg. 11)

“To women as yet unaware of his private obsessions, it was an appealing delicacy. He broke prevailing rules of casual intimacy. He stood too close, stared too hard, touched too much and long. And women adored him for it.” (pg. 36)

Like the previous book I read by Larson, the narrative is big on detail — too much detail in some places — and this often bogs down the narrative and leaves the reader wondering if the book is about the fair or the serial killer. To finish this pick, I ended up reading along with the audiobook to keep my attention focused, as I found it wandered too much just listening to the audio and too much when reading the book — I started scanning pages rather than reading them.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were those short chapters about Holmes, and it makes me wonder if Larson had a hard time finding enough about him and his crimes to write about him alone — hence the need for the World’s Fair and its comparison with the darker side of Chicago. This was less boring than the previous Larson book I read, which isn’t saying much.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a mixed bag for me. The World’s Fair parts of the book were interesting but too long winded, while the parts about Holmes are too little throughout the book until the end. Saving the show-stopper for last is a detriment for this book. These subjects are not really related to one another, and the only thread holding them together is Larson’s slight juxtaposition of them and the fact that they both occurred around the same time. It would make readers wonder if Holmes would have been as successful as a serial killer if the World’s Fair had not distracted the police, officials, the government, and tourists alike.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #517

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

National Geographic Kids: Make This! by Ella Schwartz and Shah Selbe for review.

This book is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and supports all kinds of kid creators: those who prefer guided instruction, those who prefer to dream up and design objects on their own, and everyone in between. With thoughtful text and bright illustrations, kids get the tools and the know-how to tackle all kinds of exciting projects: building a kaleidoscope, designing a fidget spinner, planting a rain forest, creating a musical instrument, and more. Unconventional scenarios inspired by real National Geographic explorers give kids a chance to think outside the box and apply their maker skills to real life. Chapters are divided up by scientific principle, such as simple machines, energy, and forces. In each chapter, kids can start by following step-by-step activities, or get creative by tackling an open-ended challenge. Helpful sidebars explain the science behind what’s happening every step of the way.

Make This! is perfect for curious and STEM-loving kids, families looking for a fun way to play together, and anyone else who’s ready to get creative and start tinkering!

Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester from the poet for review.

Carefully crafted, beautifully written, these poems are a bridge indeed between this world and the one that shimmers just beyond us. In one poem, the narrator is a small child trying to capture the moon in her mirror; when that fails, she catches it in a net of words, and that is what Nester does throughout this book in poem after gorgeous heart-breaking poem. These are poems that “sing for the joy of being heard.” ~Barbara Crooker, author of Les Fauves and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems

In Robbi Nester’s Narrow Bridge, we are urged to be more open and fearless— Consider how a mirror tipped toward the sky captures the moon, if fleetingly; how “The voice of the bird/ in the maple/ is bigger than his body.” There are still passageways we can widen, if only we allowed wonder to make a bridge between our sense of fixity, and that refuge and home we could make again in each other. ~Luisa A. Igloria, author of The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis and Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser

What did you receive?

Giveaway: Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos

This anthology contains a wide range of art from essay to poetry (including 3 of mine) to story, as well as drawings and other art to spread a message of love and hope. Each sale of Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos are donated to The Trevor Project. We are […]

Logan and Luna Find the Magic Tree by Cristina Hanif, illustrated by Murray Stenton

Source: Author Paperback, 34 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Logan and Luna Find the Magic Tree by Cristina Hanif, illustrated by Murray Stenton, is a delightful exploration of imagination for children, and it reminds adults that there is a time to slow down and spend time with their kids. As I did a preliminary […]

Knock, Knock: The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever

Source: Purchased Paperback, 352 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Knock, Knock: The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever from Highlights for Children is a book my daughter received from Santa Claus, and if we are taking a trip in the car, she will take it with her. We started telling her knock, knock jokes a […]

Mailbox Monday #516

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it. It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and […]

Mother Earth’s Lullaby by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Heyer

Source: Media Masters Publicity Hardcover, 36 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Mother Earth’s Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Heyer, is a delightful bedtime story read for younger kids. The rhymes make it easy for kids to be lulled into sleepiness. Each page has a cuddly illustration of […]