Levitation for Agnostics by Arne Weingart

Source: Book Savvy Public Relations
Paperback, 122 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Levitation for Agnostics by Arne Weingart, 2014 winner of the New American Poetry Prize, questions our faith, which oftentimes is passed down through families as a foregone conclusion.  In “Chopping Roots,” Weingart’s narrator is digging to move water away from the base of his home and protect the retaining wall from eventual decomposition through erosion.  If we have unmoor ourselves from the faith we’ve been brought up with, will be float without direction and is that such a terrible thing?  These are just a few questions asked in these poems.

“…you will simply give up and lean down
into the hillside tearing all your roots out of the ground with
a great explosive twanging leaving a huge and unaccountable
hole we must stare into while
we listen to the river.” (“Chopping Roots”, pg. 86)

In many of these poems the narrator is unmoored and drifting, and structures are erected only to be considered false supports. Weingart also transforms solid objects into theories and mutable things that can be perceived differently and claimed by many. There is a dissatisfaction with what has come before in terms of religious fervor and faith, but at the same time, the narrator is in awe of these beliefs and long-standing institutions. In many ways, the narrator is seeking to become more, to be the creator of “big ideas” rather than just a believer of them.

“Every scaffold is highly
instrumental but exterior to
some central purpose some
permanent intention meant to
resist time and desire and the
inevitable slide of tectonic
earth. To live in scaffolding
is not to be free exactly but” (“A Theory of Scaffolds”, pg. 27-8)

From the sacrifices of ancient people in Machu Picchu to the Jewish religion, the narrator seeks to hold up the faith of these people to scrutiny, while at the same time being respectful. Exploring how religion and faith can bring people together, the narrator also examines how it drive wedges between neighbors and even family. In “Hebrew School,” kids are taught a language that is understood by few, in the way that children do not understand how they could be the chosen people. Despite the disenchantment with religion and faith, Weingart displays a sense of humor about ancestors and their quirks and about overcoming things that can make us different, like stuttering, only to want to be different again and take steps to recapture those differences.

Levitation for Agnostics by Arne Weingart, 2014 winner of the New American Poetry Prize, is a straightforward look at faith and ancestry, the ideas and mores that bind families, and the questions that should be asked about their tangibility and their applicability to our own lives, as we live them. Like in “Recursion,” as the rocks are skipped across the lake no matter how many times they reach the shore, the poet needs to question and continue to question because there is much more to learn and be taught.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, Arne Weingart lives in Chicago with his wife Karen, where he is the principal of a graphic design firm specializing in identity and wayfinding. Recent poems have been published in Arts & Letters, Beecher’s Magazine, Coal Hill Review, Enizagam, Nimrod, Oberon, Plume, RHINO, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Georgetown Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The Spoon River Poetry Review. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his book, “Levitation For Agnostics,” winner of the 2014 New American Press Poetry Prize, will be released in February, 2015.








Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe

Source: Author Jane Odiwe
ebook, 275 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, including rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.

“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”

Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.

Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.  Check out Jane Odiwe’s blog here.

Other Reviews:

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 11 hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher — is a mystery in which a woman with low self-esteem, who is an alcoholic, continues to stalk her ex-husband, mostly at a distance.  Rachel Watson’s divorce and drinking caused her to lose her job, but she still wakes up like clockwork to take the train into London so her roommate is unaware that she’s lost her job. She has some money saved, and even though she could be moving on with her life and getting a new job, she wallows in her sorrow at the bottom of a bottle, creating perfect, imaginary lives for the people she sees out the train windows.

Jason and Jess become a couple that she can imagine lives in marital bliss, but in reality, Megan and Scott Hipwell have a marriage that has lost its appeal, at least for Megan. She desires something more than what she has with Scott, who she fails to see as controlling even as he goes through her emails on a regular basis.  She wants her life to be more than just sitting at home waiting for her husband to come home.  Like Rachel, she is dissatisfied with what her life has become.

Rachel, meanwhile, is on the outside of her ex-husband’s life with his new wife and daughter, who continue to live in the house she and he used to live in, and she’s on the outside of the world looking in, much like she’s staring out the train windows.  She’s searching for something, she needs to belong to something, but what she ends up entangling herself in is something that could lead to her own death.  Meanwhile, her ex-husband’s new wife Anna is terrified of Rachel, worried that her stalking will turn to something more.

Listening to the audio was never boring and the different narrators helped when Hawkin’s story changed points of view.  Moreover, the narrator for Rachel really put you in the mindset of a broken woman who was down on herself, blamed herself, and was unable to break out of her self-destructive cycle of drinking and blacking out.  Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is a twisted tale of the suburban lives we often perceive as idyllic, and the lives we believe we have but actually do not.  How well do we know our spouses, their experiences, their families, and how well do they know us?  Many of us have inner demons or secrets we would rather not face, so we lie about them to ourselves and those we love.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

No More Beige Food by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kugler

Source: Sky Pony Press
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

No More Beige Food by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kugler, is another winner from Sky Pony Press.  This book is told in verse in a way that kids will find funny, but also relatable.  My daughter is not much of a picky eater now, but she has been in the past, so this book is a reminder that that pickiness could return.  Parents also will want to take note of what they say to their kids in these kinds of arguments, because as illustrated by Wilma Lee Wu and her brother, those kids may take your words literally.

Wilma is sick of bland, beige food, and when her mother says to learn how to cook, she takes her brother by the hand on an adventure around the neighborhood.  While some neighbors are close, others are a bit further from home, to which my four-year-old daughter said, “Wilma and her brother are going to get in trouble.” When I asked why, she replied, “Because they went too far away from home.”  It is unclear how far these children walked or how old they are, but the book is said to be for kids ages 3+.   I promptly explained to my daughter that this neighborhood is probably small and everyone knows one another, so the kids will just be learning from family friends.

The book is a great teaching tool for kids about the different foods that people eat and the recipes they make, which can vary widely from our own.  It also demonstrates how different foods, spices, etc. can be just as tasty as the foods we eat regularly at home.  Variety is never a bad thing in food.  The only complaint, other than the distance the kids seemed to travel, from my daughter was that the finished recipes were not illustrated every time.  She was curious to see what each one looked like.  Her favorite parts were the discussion about frog legs and mousse, and how the kids popped into the playground on the way to another house.

No More Beige Food by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kugler, will demonstrate different cultures and food to children in a friendly way, and encourage them to think outside of their own daily lives for inspiration.

About the Author:

She is a humor writer, a mom to nine-year-old twins, and the author of DON’T LICK THE MINIVAN: Things I Never Thought I’d Say As a Parent (2013). My first picture book, THE CHANGE YOUR NAME STORE, will be out in May 2014 (Sky Pony Press) and my humor gift book, MOMMYFESTO: We Solemnly Swear…Because We Have Kids, hits the shelves in November 2014. I contributed to the hilarious anthology I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE (2014).

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is not only about the feminist movement, but also literally about her life as an activist and a woman on the road, who practiced the art of active listening.  Learning in India of a decentralized way of making decisions and interacting, Steinem learned that discussing different points of view on an even plane, without hierarchy, can be much more productive and diplomatic.  Debra Winger is a great narrator because her cadence is very similar to Steinem’s narration of the introductory material.

I love how her parents left their mark on her early on – a mother who wanted a different life than the one she lived and a father who had a hard time staying still, traveling and selling as much as possible.  Her early life and how she travels from one place to the next are captivating, but there are times that the narrative wanders pretty far afield, leaving readers at sea as to what time period they are in until she mentions another year or date.  Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine, has a deep fear of public speaking on her own, though she would speak before groups with others.

Among the most memorable events are the large convention she organizes for the women’s movement, her talk at Harvard University that was mostly male, and her interactions with taxi drivers and others on the streets because she does not drive.  As someone who gets that question a lot about why I don’t drive, this part of the story resonated with me.  I want to be and remain connected to my world, and separating myself in a car alone is not accomplishing that at all.  Steinem says that her adventure begins the moment she walks out the door.

Her discussion of the election process is very similar to what I as a mere voter expected, even though she had more of an insider’s perspective.  In particular, her struggle during the Democratic primary to choose between President Obama and Hillary Clinton was fascinating.  While many people voted because they wanted a woman president and others voted for a black president, Steinem’s thought process was more detailed based upon their track records and their abilities, and more.  For those interested in politics and the political process, these aspects of the book are wonderful, and for those who listen, they will see that they need to adopt Steinem’s ability to listen and examine the minute details of each candidate before voting.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is engrossing in that it provides a detailed account of the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and the political process.  How did women get the vote, how did they use and keep it, and are voices of women heard now?  Steinem is optimistic in our ability to change and evolve into a more inclusive society through careful listening toward shared solutions.

***I read this as part of Emma Watson’s Book Club on GoodReads***

About the Author:

Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine. In 1969, she published an article, ” After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”, which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.

Fudge Brownies & Murder by Janel Gradowski

Source: Janel Gradowski
ebook, 209 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Fudge Brownies & Murder (Culinary Competition Mystery #4) by Janel Gradowski, which also includes recipes that will make your mouth water, can be read as part of the series or on its own.  Amy Ridley is a foodie and food competition veteran who always seems to find herself drawn into solving local murders, using her unusual amateur sleuthing skills.  As she helps out her newlywed friends and makes sure Carla’s pregnancy brownie cravings are kept in check with new varieties, Amy has stretched herself into a foodie blog and into part-time work at the local market where other vendors from town sell their wares to customers.  What she finds, even as she’s getting better at blogging and creating new recipes, is that the local market crowd can be a deep pool of sharks waiting to take a bite, especially around the holidays in Kellerton, Michigan.

“Ester Mae’s bluish-black locks were teased and hair sprayed into an inflated up-do that a crow could easily nest in.”

Ester Mae is a brash woman who loves Southern cooking, and she has no qualms about stealing customers any way she can.  But look out if you get into her cross-hairs.  Amy only gets a small taste of Ester Mae’s attitude at the latest competition, but what she sees is a strong willed older woman who knows what she wants.  Amy is balancing all her new roles with the help of yoga and her yoga teacher and friend, Rori.  When someone ends up dead at the new culinary competition, Amy is less personally involved until her friend comes under suspicion.

“He blinked at Amy’s reasoning or Amy logic, which is what he called her ideas that were on the crazier side.”

Fudge Brownies & Murder (Culinary Competition Mystery #4) by Janel Gradowski is another fun cozy mystery that brings Amy Ridley into the middle of another murder investigation.  While she’s trying to help her friends prepare for their new arrival and keep things moving in her business venture, she also stumbles upon her own feelings about motherhood and while she tries not to think about them too deeply, she knows this is an issue she’ll have to confront soon.  Gradowski’s characters are always quirky and fun, and Amy tries to investigate murders without getting into face-to-face confrontations with suspects, but sometimes even the most careful sleuth can find themselves in a bit of danger.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

Rudy’s New Human by Roxanna Elden, illustrated by Ginger Seehafer

Source: Sky Pony Press
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Rudy’s New Human by Roxanna Elden, illustrated by Ginger Seehafer, is a great way to introduce young kids to the changes that can occur in families as they grow.  This is particularly helpful for an only child who will soon become a sibling.  Rudy has been the smallest member of the family for some time, and he’s used to getting all the attention.  But when a new bundle of joy arrives, there are some adjustments that have to be made.  Rudy needs to learn how to play new games and wait patiently while the new smallest member of the family is taken care of.

Rudy is a cute little dog with some fun facial expressions that will translate well for young kids, as they try to determine what emotion Rudy is feeling and why.  Kids will likely question why Rudy refers to the readers as fellow dogs, but it’s all in fun.  Some of my daughter’s favorite parts were when Rudy smelled the new arrival’s diaper and when he did tricks to get attention, but she also loved that Rudy opened up his heart to let someone new in, learning to be patient, being happy when his name was learned, and sharing in the fun things the new family member could do.

Rudy’s New Human by Roxanna Elden, illustrated by Ginger Seehafer, is a cute picture book that will teach kids about acceptance, patience, and empathy.  This would make a great series of books, given that the narrator is so adorable, and kids seem to love doggies.

About the Author:

Roxanna Elden is a National Board Certified high school teacher currently teaching in Miami. Her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is widely used as a tool for teacher training and retention. Elden is also professional speaker, providing humor, honesty, and practical advice to teachers and the people who love them.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, translated by Cathy Hirano, provides a step-by-step process for her KonMari Method of tidying, which she says should bring you joy and possibly lead to other life-changing moments.  The first step is to discard, and when she says discard, she means get rid of everything that does not bring you joy or has no use.  Discarding should be undertaken by category of items not by room, as many homes stash lotions and hair clips and other items in multiple rooms.  These may sound like daunting tasks, but if the entire household participates, it might take less time.  She says the entire process for tidying the house can take up to six months or more.  Crazy!

Sentimental items like letters from loved ones and photos should be kept for last, because these will be the hardest items to part with and sort through.  All of our clothes should be collected from the various places throughout the house — drawers, closets, linen closets, coat closets, etc. — and placed in piles sorted by tops, bottoms, coats, dresses, etc.  Once they are sorted, you should hold them in your hands, and think about whether they bring joy when you wear them.  They also should be examined for any wear that cannot be repaired and tossed if they cannot be repaired.  This is just one example.  Placing everything in one category into a pile on the floor ensures that you visually see how much stuff you have.  I recently did this with clothes on my own and felt much better once everything was sorted and discarded, but I did this without the help of this book.  Once everything that is to be kept is identified, it needs to be put into its place and when used, it must be put back into its rightful place.

Kondō’s method is very detailed and deliberate.  Each item is held to ensure that the person understands what the item is, what its purpose is, and whether it brings joy.  Some clothes, for example, looked great in the store but not on you when they got home — so these should be discarded.  One piece of advice about lounge wear and that women should wear elegant nightwear to bed struck me as an old-fashioned idea, given that I’ve always found those kinds of bedtime wear uncomfortable to sleep in.  But I may be out of the norm on that one, preferring my t-shirts and shorts or t-shirts and flannel pj bottoms.

While readers will see the points she is trying to make — and it may just be the translation — there are times when the book is too repetitive, which can become bothersome.  Also, there is a mindfulness here that may not translate into American culture like it does in Japanese culture.  Thanking items for serving their purpose, caressing items to ensure they are alive before you take them out of storage, that kind of thing might appear a bit wacky to some.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, translated by Cathy Hirano, has some great ideas about what papers should be saved, how clothes should be folded to maximize space, and how to rethink about the items we keep.  Attachment is something Buddhists talk about letting go of, and in many ways, Kondō is suggesting something similar in they way she focuses on discarding items.

About the Author:

Marie Kondo (近藤 麻理恵) is a Japanese organizing consultant and author. Kondo’s method of organizing is known as the KonMari Method, and one of the main principles is keeping only possessions which “spark joy.”  Kondo’s best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has been published in more than 30 countries.  She was listed as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2015.

You by Caroline Kepnes

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 422 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

You by Caroline Kepnes is creepy, obsessive, and twisted, and Joe Goldberg and Guinevere Beck are certifiable.  This thriller will pull you in and suck you dry, as Beck walks into a bookstore and flirts with the wrong man.  Kepnes has created two downright sinister characters who are perfect for each other and when circumstance brings them together, everyone around them better watch out.  Check your morals at the door with this one; these two are not redeemable, but you can’t help but watch how everything unfolds between them and how it impacts those around them.  Truly one of the unsettling novels out there.  Kepnes’ prose easily draws in the reader, making them wonder who this obsessive man is and why he’s so drawn to this particular girl.

“‘This will sound crazy, but I’m saving it.  For my nursing home list.’
‘You mean bucket list.’
‘Oh, no, that’s totally different.  A nursing home list is a list of things you plan on reading and watching in a nursing home.  A bucket list is more like … visit Nigeria, jump out of an airplane.'” (pg. 8)

Through careful manipulation of social media and a few lucky breaks, this relationship begins to take a life of its own, and while both parties have their demons, it’s clear that they cannot keep away from one another.  Even though you know throughout what will happen in the end, readers will be up late and turning pages in this psychological thriller.  Joe sees himself as a protector, someone charged with saving Beck from predators, but those predators are not who you’d expect them to be.  Meanwhile, Beck loves new things, and this love of wanting and being wanted is something that drives her incessantly.

“‘There’s no such thing as a flying cage, Joseph,’ he said.  ‘The only thing crueler than a cage so small that a bird can’t fly is a cage so large that a bird thinks it can fly.  Only a monster would lock a bird in here and call himself an animal lover.'” (pg. 47)

Joe is her opposite in that he obsesses over old things and continuously covets old books and collects old and broken typewriters.  He’s waiting for social media to overheat and die, he prefers anonymity, but is it only because he feels unworthy or is it because it enables him to stalk and obsess more freely?  He hates pretentious people who live their lives for others and share everything with everyone, but he too is pretentious in that he’s a book snob.  Dan Brown is not a good enough author, and people should be reading Paula Fox, and they should never pretend to read books.

For those who do not like graphic violence or sex, you should stay away.  You by Caroline Kepnes is riveting and disturbing.  What does it mean to be you?  What is your true self and do you share that with everyone or only a special few?  And what if the real you is scary?  Do you share that self with anyone? Lock it up? Or simply let it out?

About the Author:

Caroline Kepnes is the author of You and Hidden Bodies. She splits her time between Los Angeles, California and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Find her on Facebook.


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 6 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, was a book that was anticipated by many and vilified by others, and I honestly had no desire to read it because of the hype.  (I only picked up this audio because it was available at the library and I needed a new one.)  Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, has returned to Maycomb, Ala., and her aging father, Atticus.  As the civil rights movement gains speed and the NAACP continues to push for rights, the South balks at integration and federal government interference.

Witherspoon is the perfect choice in a narrator for the story, and it is not just about her ability to play Southern characters.  She provides the right amount of empathy, emotion, and detachment needed by each of the characters to make them wholly different from one another, and yet still share similar experiences but view them differently.  There are differences between this novel (which is said to be Lee’s first) and the previously published book (TKAM), and those differences can be stark, especially when there are outcomes in the previously published book that go very differently here. Those are things an editor should have attended to before publishing, but are not the main crux of this story.

This is not about the rape case that Atticus defended, this is about us as children and how we generally worship our parents in one way or another, only to be disappointed that they are humans and not gods.  It’s a book about a young girl who worshiped her father, took in everything he said with little examination, and continued to apply it to her daily living.  Scout has held her father to an impossible standard, and when she returns to find him at a council meeting — one in which she would expect him to protest not take part in — her images are shattered, and she is forced to not only reconcile what she thought she knew about her father but what she knew about herself.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, is a novel about finding the courage and strength to change and to help those around you do the same. The south was in the midst of heavy transitions when Scout returns, and while she was “blind” to the hearts of those around her, even when her eyes are opened to their motivations, it is clear she still has a lot to learn.  The end seems to leave things wide open and unresolved in a way, like Scout’s journey is not finished.

About the Author:

Harper Lee, known as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-50), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, “Ramma-Jamma”. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC. Lee continued as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year’s wages with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, the novel was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

About the Narrator:

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, known professionally as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and producer. She began her career as a child actress, starring in The Man in the Moon in 1991. Witherspoon quickly established herself as a talented actress in films such as Pleasantville (1998), Election (1999) and Cruel Intentions (1999). While filming Cruel Intentions. Behind the camera, Witherspoon launched her own production company Pacific Standard in 2012, which was behind the 2014 films Gone Girl and Wild. The latter, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, stars Witherspoon as a woman who takes to the road after the death of her mother. Witherspoon has earned raves for the role, receiving Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards nominations.

Lost In The Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

Source: Purchased — gift from cousin
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick is an adorable story about life in the woods for a fawn left on his own.  A doe must leave her child alone so that danger will not find him, which it won’t because he doesn’t have a scent.  Not only can kids learn about nature and why animals behave how they do, they also can see when it is wise to listen to parents.  The fawn meets a number of other young animals along the way while stretching his legs, and while he does have moments of trepidation, he remembers his mother’s words and remains calm and hides.

My daughter enjoys photographs, particularly ones that are vibrant and have animals.  This is a good book for her because it has a simple story with a lesson, but also eye-catching images that will keep her riveted to the story.  At the back, there are more surprises, as the authors have created a game of find our lost friends, challenging kids to go back through the photographic pages to find animals hidden among the flowers and trees.

Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick is beautifully rendered.  It’s a wonderful story with sounds and sights to behold, and there are games afoot in the tall grasses for your own young fawns.

About the Authors:

Carl R Sams II and Jean Stoick are professional wildlife photographers from Milford, Michigan. Their images have appeared in hundreds of national and international publications. Honored recipients of the People’s Choice Award for the best of show 11 times at major wildlife exhibits, Carl and Jean were also the first photographers ever to be honored as featured artists at a major wildlife art event.  Find out more about them on their Website.

Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 136 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo, which includes a foreword by former Washington Post war correspondent Jackie Spinner, is dedicated to the brave men and women who serve the United States, which also includes those war correspondents who risk their lives right alongside those with the weapons to uphold freedom.  Their weapons may be different — pens and cameras versus guns and grenades — but both serve their country and the cause of freedom with devotion.  In the foreword, Spinner indicates that when Dickey Chapelle died in Vietnam, she died as a Marine because that’s how the marines who were by her side thought of her.  She started her career young, present at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in WWII, experiencing the reconstruction of Europe after WWII, and traveling to nations in which rebellions were bloody and devastating before she reached the front lines of the Vietnam War in her 40s.

“I grew up in the heartland of the United States.  I believed that I could do anything I really wanted to do and I still believe it. … But I am going to condition it.  You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it so badly you’ll give up everything else to do it,” Dickey Chapelle said. (Fire in the Wind by Robert Ostroff)

Georgette Louise Meyer, later known as Dickey, was born in Wisconsin and she dreamed of flying.  While she did eventually take flying lessons against her parents’ wishes, she wasn’t that great at it.  She was great at telling stories and seeking out those stories around military installations.  Her passion for stories led her to flunk out of MIT, and while she did return home and later moved to Florida, she soon found herself in New York City at age 18, writing for Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) in the publicity bureau.  Taking photography lessons on the side with Tony Chapelle led to a new career and husband.  She soon became a war correspondent during WWII so that she could travel with her husband, a WWI veteran who re-enlisted.

“The wreckage resulting from man’s inhumanity to man … was the litany I wrote and the subject I photographed.  And the magnitude of relief devised never matched the magnitude of the suffering caused,” said Chapelle in What’s a Woman Doing Here?

Garofolo has selected and organized Chapelle’s photographs in such a way that they will have readers running the gamut of emotions.  Among the WWII photographs, Chapelle captures not only the immense suffering of a solder caught in a fire during a mine explosion — he was severely burned — but she also highlights some of the happier moments for soldiers, like when they received mail from home or were able to finally shave after gunfire stopped.  The moments when soldiers are smiling or doing mundane activities are those that remind us that these soldiers are people, not machines.  Not all of her work was on the battlefront, Chapelle also found herself drawn to relief work in a variety of countries, and this work still placed her in a great deal of danger, including her own capture by Russians near the Austria-Hungary border.

Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo is a book dedicated to the memory of not only Chapelle’s body of work, courage, and dream of flying, but also to the women and men who suffered greatly in wars and conflicts across the globe — whether they were soldiers, nurses, or refugees.  My first book for the Best of 2016 list.

About the Author:

John Garofolo is a former entertainment industry executive and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A commander in the US Coast Guard Reserve, he has more than twenty-five years of active and reserve military service and taught at the Coast Guard Academy. Thanks to a grant from the Brico Fund through the Milwaukee Press Endowment, he has written a stage adaptation of Dickey Chapelle’s life. John earned a PhD from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.








I’m calling this my Nonfiction Book about WWII: