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Mailbox Monday #627

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.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

The Understudy’s Handbook by Steven Leyva, which I purchased.

Drawing heat and music (and luscious food) from a New Orleans and Houston childhood, Steven Leyva’s poetry reveals a sensibility forged by a growing awareness of race and class: child’s joy and bafflement, a black Baltimore father’s worry. These gorgeous poems sweep the reader as into a parade, of memory, sensation, rhythm, protest.

a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis, which I purchased.

In the tender, sensual, and bracing poems of a more perfect Union, Teri Ellen Cross Davis reclaims the experience of living and mothering while Black in contemporary America, centering Black women’s pleasure by wresting it away from the relentless commodification of the White gaze. Cross Davis deploys stunning emotional range to uplift the mundane, interrogate the status quo, and ultimately create her own goddesses. Parenting, lust, household chores—all are fair game for Cross Davis’s gimlet eye. Whether honoring her grief for Prince’s passing while examining his role in midwifing her sexual awakening or contemplating travel and the gamble of being Black across this wide world, these poems tirelessly seek a path out of the labyrinth to hope.

On the House by John Boehner, purchased from Audible.

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner shares colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power, and his fabled tour bus.

John Boehner is the last of a breed. At a time when the arbiters of American culture were obsessing over organic kale, cold-pressed juice, and SoulCycle, the man who stood second in line to the presidency was unapologetically smoking Camels, quaffing a glass of red, and hitting the golf course whenever he could.

There could hardly have been a more diametrically opposed figure to represent the opposition party in President Barack Obama’s Washington. But when Boehner announced his resignation, President Obama called to tell the outgoing Speaker that he’d miss him. “Mr. President,” Boehner replied, “yes, you will.” He thought of himself as a “regular guy with a big job”, and he enjoyed it.

In addition to his own stories of life in the swamp city and of his comeback after getting knocked off the leadership ladder, Boehner offers his impressions of leaders he’s met and what made them successes or failures, from Ford and Reagan to Obama, Trump, and Biden. He shares his views on how the Republican Party has become unrecognizable today; the advice – some harsh, some fatherly – he dished out to members of his own party, the opposition, the media, and others; and his often acid-tongued comments about his former colleagues. And of course he talks about golfing with five presidents.

Through Speaker Boehner’s honest and self-aware reflections, you’ll be reminded of a time when the adults were firmly in charge.

Kindle Freebies from Amazon’s World Book Day through April 24:

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #626

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 we received:

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach from Audible.

Abby Wambach has always pushed the limits of what is possible. Named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people of 2015, the iconic soccer player captured the nation’s heart when she led her team to its recent World Cup championship. Admired for her fearlessness and passion, Abby is a vocal advocate for women’s rights and equal opportunity, pushing to translate the success of her team to the real world. She has become a heavily requested speaker to a wide a range of audiences, from college students to executives at Fortune 500 companies.

In Forward, Abby recounts her own decisions, wins, and losses and the pivotal moments that helped her become the world-class athlete and leader she is today. Wambach’s book goes beyond the soccer field to reveal a soulful person grappling with universal questions about how we can live our best lives and become our truest selves. Written with honesty and heart, Forward is an inspiring blueprint for individual growth and a rousing call to action.

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise, Marcus Brotherton from Audible.

As a kid in suburban Chicago, Gary Sinise was more interested in sports and rock ‘n’ roll than reading or schoolwork. But when he impulsively auditioned for a school production of West Side Story, he found his purpose – or so it seemed.

Within a few years, Gary and a handful of friends created what became one of the most exciting and important new theater companies in America. From its humble beginnings in a suburban Chicago church basement and eventual move into the city, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company launched a series of groundbreaking productions, igniting Gary’s career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, John Mahoney, and others. Television and film came calling soon after, and Gary starred in Of Mice and Men (which he also directed) and The Stand before taking the role that would change his life in unforeseeable ways: Lieutenant Dan in the Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump.

The military community’s embrace of the character of the disabled veteran was matched only by the depth of Gary’s realization that America’s defenders had not received all the honor, respect, and gratitude their sacrifices deserve. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, this became Gary’s mission. While starring in hits like Apollo 13, Ransom, Truman, George Wallace, CSI:NY, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gary has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country…entertaining more than a half-million troops around the world playing bass guitar with his Lt. Dan Band, raising funds on behalf of veterans, and founding the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut from the publisher, which I’ll likely giveaway when I review Kristin’s book that she signed for me.

Becoming the Enchantress is the story of a transgender parent that faces personal longing for change. Given the acceptance and encouragement of her children, the parent magically transforms from a Wizard into an Enchantress on Halloween night. The story highlights themes of acceptance and the love between child and parent. Becoming the Enchantress is unique in that it is written for children whose parent is the one discovering their dysphoria and seeking reassignment, rather than that of the child or teenager themselves.

Becoming the Enchantress fills a heretofore neglected niche in children’s literature. It conveys the struggle of a parent to find, in this case, her true identity, and the children’s loving acceptance of it. It should prove a useful resource for families with a transgender or non-binary parent.

-W. Luther Jett, retired Special Educator, Montgomery County Public Schools, author of Our Situation and Everyone Disappears

Becoming the Enchantress is a beautiful story about a life-changing transition. It uses imagery that children can understand to discuss a difficult topic. The book details the emotions of someone who is learning how to be their true self. The story shows that while children may not fully understand the issue, they are accepting and are willing to love others for who they are. -Stacy Whipp, M.Ed.

A wonderful story for all ages of unconditional love and acceptance for people! Be true to who you are and love yourself and you will feel completely fulfilled. This story teaches us that no matter what, a person’s heart and soul is what defines them. -Katherine R Stull, LCSW-C

Becoming the Enchantress is a wonderful tale for anyone who has questioned their identity or has loved someone doing so. It treats the delicate subject in the most loving way possible, with gorgeous illustrations, spotlighting the magic that positive self-image and family acceptance can create. – Michelle Zibrat, Art Educator

I am both the parent of a trans child and a therapist that supports transitioning children, teens and adults. I love Becoming the Enchantress as it is a lovely story that explains the need to transition from your sex assigned at birth to your true self. Children will connect both with the Wizard and his family in this story. Using the experience of “trying on” a different persona is a lovely way to introduce the children to the wizard and the concept of transitions. -Theresa Fraser, CYC-P, CPT-S, NSCCT, MA, RP, Trauma and Loss Clinical Specialist

What did you receive?

Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 8+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely, an audio with a full cast, was so much fun to listen to. Jason Reynolds and Truly Goodman have significant chemistry but a pact she made with her brother nearly a decade ago stands in their way of getting together, even if they had a one night of hot romance. Both of these workaholics also don’t have time for dating. Jason Reynolds is The Modern Gentleman Of New York and a best man for hire, two jobs he doesn’t want to see collide, and he needs to finish his work as a best man in order to help pay for his sister’s medical school.

While the sexual tension is palpable and the heat rises on more than one occasion, Blakely shines in her comedy. The zingers between the men and their friends, the banter between Truly and Jason is hilarious, and there is so much more fun to be had in this audiobook. There is a full cast of audiobook narrators on this one, and they clearly had a grand time making this one.

Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely is a riot, and I was laughing out loud. My daughter was dying to know what I was listening to, but sadly this is not for young ears. I needed a good laugh and this book hit the spot. The characters are well drawn and their interactions are believable — for high-end Manhattanites.

RATING: Cinquain

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 6+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon, takes a sociologists’ approach to race (which does involve generalizations). White Americans must remember that we are products of our socialization and culture, and no aspect of society lies outside the forces of racism, even if you come from a mixed-race family, had ancestors who were once discriminated against (Irish, Italian, etc.), or experienced poverty, etc. The trick is not to see our unique experiences as making us exempt from racism but to see how those experiences shaped who we are within a racist society and to see the larger picture of how racism impacts others. Secondly, she says we need to redefine the term “racist” — we’ve been taught that racists are immoral and mean and that they consciously hate/oppress others based upon their race. However, this assumption is a societal definition propagated by a racist society. White people need to first examine what it means to be white and what that has brought them in society and cost others — this examination will be a struggle for many.

Superficial differences between races and genders are a result of geographical location and evolution, but biologically we are all the same. The race construct is just that – made up. White supremacy has taken that construct and divided resources based on a false hierarchy, hence the accessibility gaps for non-white groups and non-male groups. Many of these discussions are ones I’ve had before in college with courses and other groups — open dialogue is essential about things that are not “fact” even though they were credited as such. She does touch on exploitation as the catalyst for racism (I would read Stamped From the Beginning for more on this).

Imagine going to court to proclaim you are white because you were misclassified as another race! This actually occurred and scientific experts were called into these cases to provide “expert” testimony. DiAngelo indicates that those European immigrants are the only ones who were successful in becoming “white” after assimilation, etc. Assimilation — think about that — casting aside their customs, speaking English only, and eating only American foods, etc. Those assimilated people now benefit from their whiteness. DiAngelo also points out that if poor and working class Americans across all “races” worked together – they could become a powerful force against the upper “white” classes. However, many perceived as “white” also tend to look down on other poor and working class peoples because of their “whiteness” and the system that oppresses them both. The irony!

“Scholar Marilyn Frye uses the metaphor of a birdcage to describe the interlocking forces of oppression.16 If you stand close to a birdcage and press your face against the wires, your perception of the bars will disappear and you will have an almost unobstructed view of the bird. If you turn your head to examine one wire of the cage closely, you will not be able to see the other wires. If your understanding of the cage is based on this myopic view, you may not understand why the bird doesn’t just go around the single wire and fly away. You might even assume that the bird liked or chose its place in the cage.

But if you stepped back and took a wider view, you would begin to see that the wires come together in an interlocking pattern—a pattern that works to hold the bird firmly in place. It now becomes clear that a network of systematically related barriers surrounds the bird.

Taken individually, none of these barriers would be that difficult for the bird to get around, but because they interlock with each other, they thoroughly restrict the bird. While some birds may escape from the cage, most will not. And certainly those that do escape will have to navigate many barriers that birds outside the cage do not.”

We all have prejudices (it is the way our brain operates) or a sense of discomfort around certain people or groups — acting on those prejudices is discrimination. Racism is a structure (white supremacy) and we need to remember that we have a role to play in that structure. We need to learn to recognize our prejudices and work toward not acting on them and dismantling the structures that employ discrimination against groups different from white males. This is a tall order because many of these ideologies are reinforced in our daily lives.

One notion that came to mind, however, is the “kafkatrap” by which an accused is guilty by merely being silent. Many of us are silent, many of us fail to stand up and point out discrimination (even subtle discrimination), and does this mean we’re all complicit in racism? While this may be true, I prefer less circular arguments and prefer that we work as a human race to improve our systems for all of us. THIS will require us to have discomforting conversations and require actions that run counter to our normal daily actions. It will require us to reform and dismantle white supremacy. We’ll need to widen our view of history, particularly in schools, to acknowledge both the good and the bad, highlighting those who have exploited and committed racism to obtain the upper economic hand, among other things.

My only complaint is that DiAngelo was very repetitive toward the end. She would bring up examples she already used and talk about them again in the same manner she did in the previous chapter. I wouldn’t have noticed it as much if it wasn’t back-to-back repetition. Perhaps she believes repetition will stick with readers more and help them to see the situations she discusses in a new light. I’m unsure.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon, asks us to recognize our faults, work to fix them, and to question ideologies that are considered the norm. There is much work to do. Challenging racism starts with recognizing your own prejudices and being conscious of how to modify/change your reactions and behaviors going forward. This is a very academic look at racism, which some may find too high-brow for them. Racism is real and present today (across the globe) — it is not a thing of the past, and we need to tackle it head on and in a multitude of ways. While some of her arguments are circular, she provides a good overview of racism in today’s society and the reactions that white people have when confronted with its subtleties.

RATING: Quatrain

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith

Source: Purchased
Audible, 2+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, read by the author, is read in that dreaded “poet voice” that’s been in a number of articles, and it drove me crazy. I had to look past that cadence to hear Smith’s words clearly. So if that cadence bothers you, you’ll want to read the book, as opposed to listen to it.

Beyond that, this book offers notes on loss and grief of a recently divorced woman who is continuing her life journey in a way she never expected – without a life partner. It is clear that “keep moving” was a mantra she used to get through the loss of her marriage and the deaths of others. She speaks about living in the present each day and not dwelling in the past that can pull you deep into sadness and make you immobile. Her notes and stories can help those facing similar losses move forward, but in many ways it is like Smith is speaking to herself. We’re getting a sneak peak into her diary.

I love that she focuses on post-traumatic growth in one section of this memoir. This helps us to see beyond the darkness to see the positives in our trials and losses. I liked this the most about the book. Focus on that beginning, push past our fears and explore new avenues for growth. You can even think about professional growth as a way to fill the emptiness left behind.

There is, however, very little about being creative during this time. This is more of an emotional journey and there are snippets of some creative pursuits and nods to the literary community, but no advice on that front, which is what I wanted when I decided to check this out.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith is about moving forward after irrevocable change, and we need to learn to move beyond our expectations and sadness to see the good, the moments for growth, and how small steps can lead to great, gratifying changes. She also speaks about how you can snowball that movement into helping others. Moving toward living, not just coping.

RATING: Tercet

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 1+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, is an adaptation of Joan Didion’s memoir of the same name. It has been transformed into a one-act play. The devastation felt by Didion is immense but the undulating way in which this story is told is as disjointed as her emotions must have been during this time in her life, losing a husband and daughter. This shattering loss propelled the author into a world of magical thinking.

There’s an examination of marriage and its push and pull and the motherly promise that you’ll never leave your child. There is that magical thinking that your own motherly focus can keep things moving forward into the future as you’d like them to be.

Redgrave is the perfect narrator for this play. Her voice lulls you into the story and breaks your heart when Didion’s is broken. But Didion’s narrative is also very factual and linear in some parts. I honestly think this is probably best viewed as a play, rather than on audio because my mind would wander away from the story when it was a bit too clinical. I might read the memoir at a later date.

RATING: Tercet

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (audio)

Source: Purchased

Audible, 6+ hours

I am an Amazon Affiliate

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by himself, is a look at his 50 years of life and his outlaw code and how he’s lived his life and what he’s learned by living it. If you’re looking for gossip, this is not the book for you. I did like his approach to Hollywood and rebranding himself as an actor — that was definitely a risk and it panned out for him.

His career is one of luck, perseverance, hard work, and self-examination. Unlike many people, he pauses to think about where he is in life and analyze why he feels stagnant or unsatisfied when he seemingly has everything he could ever want. Like those of us who strive to learn and grow, he pauses to examine his life and make changes he thinks will lead him where he wants to go. As he says, sometimes there are red lights in life and sometimes there are yellow and green lights — he notes that a red light at one point in your life might turn green eventually later on. You have to be aware enough to know why the lights are red, move forward and return to those lights to see them turn green when it is the right time.

His early years with his family and his stay in Australia were very eye opening and I can say I applaud him and his upbringing for tolerating that Australian family like he did. I think I would have lost it. He does include some “prescriptions,” bumper stickers, and poems. These are what he considers some insightful advice, which it could be for those who haven’t experienced these teachable moments or who need something to articulate what they’re feeling in a succinct way. It seemed like he was shouting these sections at you in the audio, which got more obnoxious as I listened (but it might be less annoying if you don’t listen to it too long in one sitting). My one main issue here is people will probably take this as life lessons for them, and these will not work in every day people’s lives because they have obligations that are bigger than these seemingly easy fixes he talks about.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is a series of stories that are likely a bit inflated (at least one had to be hyperbole). It was entertaining, but not life affirming or life changing. And while the stories are fun and sometimes outrageous, they are by no means that deep and tell us little beyond what we know about McConaughey and his “outlaw” look at life. I use the “outlaw” term very loosely here. Judging on his performance alone (which was stellar) would be a disservice to the content. I do admire his self-awareness, and that’s something others should take note of and try to incorporate into their lives.

RATING: Tercet

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd (audio)

Source: Publisher

Audiobook, 10+ hours

I am an Amazon Affiliate

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is a delightful collection of short stories written by some of the best Jane Austeneque writers — Joana Starnes, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Karen Cox, Christina Morland, Elizabeth Adams, Beau North, J. Croft, and Leigh Dreyer. From historic pieces and those set during the time of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to modern stories in which Elizabeth is an electrical engineering student in a male-dominated field, these authors explore the inner workings of Elizabeth. We see her prejudices and preconceptions, but we also see her flaws, as well as her self-analysis of her own actions and those of others.

Elizabeth Grace is a wonderful narrator, breathing light into each of these Elizabeths and situations. She’s an admirable narrator who becomes a one-woman cast.

“Resistive Currents” by Karen M Cox is one of the more modern tales. Here, we see conundrum of a teaching assistant Mr. Darcy drawn to an intelligent electrical engineering student, Elizabeth, bent on proving to the male-dominated field that she’s a capable student who just wants a fair shot — the same as her male colleagues. First, the title of this story is brilliant given the content, and I love how it plays on the electricity between Elizabeth and Darcy as they navigate the relationship of student and TA in a world where Elizabeth feels she has to continually prove herself worthy. Like this story, Christina Morland’s “Atmospheric Disturbances” explores the tensions that are bound to rise up between two passionate and strong-willed people in love. Every moment of the drawing room is meant to build the tension between these characters that barely know one another — a tension borne of a lack of knowledge between them.

Elizabeth Adams’ “Something Like Regret” brings to life the thoughts of Elizabeth on her visit to Pemberley after her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposal at Rosings. It’s a time when many have speculated that she would accept Darcy because of his fortune or because his housekeeper praised his disposition, but as a rational and passionate creature, Elizabeth must make a more intelligent and deeper examination of her rejection of him and many of their exchanges. I love this introspection as she walks about the house and the gardens and how Darcy appears. It is a beautiful story. I love her observations of the changes in him upon first seeing him. She’s so observant here, despite the shock of seeing him. “The Last Blind Date” by Leigh Dreyer is a delightful modern story that reminded me of those awkward dates you have and the tentative exchange you have as strangers until you realize there could be something more. Darcy is not talkative, and Elizabeth is quick to judge, but rather than call the blind date quits, they move ahead with it, tentatively.

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is another anthology winner, hitting the stories out of the park with a range of angst, love, prejudice, and pride, but what I loved based about these sweet stories is that we see Elizabeth in all her turmoil and introspection. She’s forced to rethink her past actions, her current actions and behavior, and she forces herself to apologize on more than one occasion. These stories are deep, emotional, and about the roller coaster ride of young love when it is first budding.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #605

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 we received:

1932 by Karen M. Cox, purchased from Audible.

During the upheaval of the Great Depression, Elizabeth Bennet’s life is torn asunder. Her family’s relocation from the bustle of the big city to a quiet family farm has changed her future, and now, she must build a new life in rural Meryton, Kentucky.

William Darcy suffered family turmoil of his own, but he has settled into a peaceful life at Pemberley, the largest farm in the county. Single, rich, and seemingly content, he remains aloof—immune to any woman’s charms.

Until Elizabeth Bennet moves to town.

As Darcy begins to yearn for something he knows is missing, Elizabeth’s circumstances become more dire. Can the two put aside their pride and prejudices long enough to find their way to each other?

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, purchased from Audible.

I’ve been in this life for 50 years, been trying to work out its riddle for 42, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last 35. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights”. So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is 50 years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops. Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears. It’s a love letter. To life. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green, too. Good luck.

Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt, borrowed.

The Cold Moon occurs in late December, auguring the arrival of the winter solstice. Approaching the winter solstice of his own life, Roger Rosenblatt offers a book dedicated to the three most important lessons he has learned over his many years: an appreciation of being alive, a recognition of the gift and power of love, and the necessity of exercising responsibility toward one another. In a rough-and-tumble journey that moves like the sea, Rosenblatt rolls from elegy to comedy, distilling a lifetime of great tales and moments into a tonic for these perilous and fearful times. Cold Moon: a book to offer purpose, to focus the attention on life’s essentials, and to lift the spirit.​

Now We’re Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizio for review.

An essential companion to your practice of the Finnish art of kal-sarikännit—drinking at home, alone in your underwear, with no intention of going out—Now We’re Getting Somewhere charts a hazardous course through heartache, climate change, dental work, Dorothy Parker, John Keats, Outlander, semiotics, and more. The poems are sometimes confessional, sometimes philosophical, weaving from desolation to drollery. A poet whose “voice lifts from the page, alive and biting” (San Francisco Book Review), Kim Addonizio reminds her reader, “If you think nothing and no one can / listen I love you joy is coming.”

Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley for review.

In her fourth collection, acclaimed poet Sandra Beasley interrogates the landscapes of her life in decisive, fearless, and precise poems that fuse intimacy and intensity. She probes memories of growing up in Virginia, in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow, where liberal affluence obscured and perpetuated racist aggressions, but where the poet was simultaneously steeped in the cultural traditions of the American South. Her home in Washington, DC, inspires prose poems documenting and critiquing our capital’s institutions and monuments.

In these poems, Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows up at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s show of Kiss Me Kate; Albert Einstein is memorialized on Constitution Avenue, yet was denied clearance for the Manhattan Project; as temperatures cool, a rain of spiders drops from the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. A stirring suite explores Beasley’s affiliation with the disability community and her frustration with the ways society codes disability as inferiority.

Quintessentially American and painfully timely, these poems examine legacies of racism and whiteness, the shadow of monuments to a world we are unmaking, and the privileges the poet is working to untangle. Made to Explode boldly reckons with Beasley’s roots and seeks out resonance in society writ large.

Space Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond published by National Geographic Kids for review.

The updated and expanded edition of the hit Space Encyclopedia presents the most up-to-date findings on space exploration and research and breathtaking views of the universe, as captured by the latest and greatest technology, including the recent first ever image of a black hole. This complete reference contains everything kids need to know about our sun and planets including the new dwarf planets, the formation of the universe, space travel, the possibility of life beyond Earth, and more. Authored by David A. Aguilar, an internationally recognized astronomer and former Director of Science Information and Public Outreach at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it is an authoritative and beautifully illustrated must-have for every family, providing both accessible information for school reports and compelling reading on the mysteries beyond our planet.

Nerdlet: Animals published by National Geographic Kids for review.

Sometimes big nerdiness comes in a small package–and this little book is an animal nerd’s dream! Meet animals of all kinds–from sharks and moles to orangutans and okapis– in this quirky, jam-packed original from National Geographic Kids. If you thought you were brainy, take a look at the incredible critters in this book. Inside, you’ll find a spider that spends its whole life in a bubble and birds that build nests so big, they’re like avian apartment complexes! (And we’re just getting started!) In this little animal “Nerdlet” you’ll learn about the weirdest, coolest, most amazing creatures in the animal kingdom–and what makes them so complex. Plus, you’ll have some of your most burning animal questions answered, such as What’s the deal with crocodile tears? And you’ll meet people who get to be around animals for a living and travel to animal destinations around the world. You’ll also find personality quizzes, fun facts, animal superheroes, and even a Star Wars reference … or two.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #604

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 we received:

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd from Audible.

Each anthology in the Quill Collective series is a stand-alone book.“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, the heroine of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Elizabeth Bennet has enchanted and inspired readers by being that “obstinate, headstrong girl” willing to stand up to the arrogance and snobbery of her so-called betters. Described by Austen as having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal. In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too! Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.

Drawing Mr. Darcy: Sketching His Character by Melanie Rachel from JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

When Thomas Bennet’s childless aunt and uncle ask that one of his five daughters come to stay with them, he knows just which girl to send. Bright, energetic, and endlessly inquisitive, his little Lizzy is poised to become the apple of her father’s eye and the target of her mother’s fears. Neither will promote family harmony.

When she returns to Longbourn as a young woman, Elizabeth Bennet Russell has had an unconventional upbringing. She is in possession of an important name, a fine education, a good fortune, and a love of drawing. When her parents ask her not to use her Russell surname while she is home, she reluctantly agrees. After all, nobody she knows will meet her in Hertfordshire.

She’s mostly right.

Drawing helps Elizabeth to literally sketch people’s character, and she’s become rather good at it. But she’s about to face her greatest challenge yet. Netherfield Park is let at last, and her good friend’s much older brother–whom she has yet to meet–has arrived as a guest.

It will take Elizabeth more than a drawing to help her understand Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Surprise by Debra-Ann Kummoung from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

Mr. Darcy is grieving and a young lady is desperate to cheer him.

Can Elizabeth Bennet help Mr. Darcy with the assistance of friends and a puppy in time for Christmas?

Previously released as part of Most Ardently – A Jane Austen Inspired Christmas Anthology.

The Long Road to Longbourn by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has nearly everything a gentleman could want. Looks, wealth, connections. He lacks but one aspect of a perfect life, a bride. He’s chosen Miss Elizabeth Bennet to fill the role but when he proposes, to his utmost chagrin, she refuses him in no uncertain terms. His heart stomped on by a country miss who is by no societal measure his equal, he can’t imagine a worse moment.

Elizabeth Bennet does not care for Mr. Darcy and his highhanded, supercilious ways and wants nothing more to do with him. She hopes, in view of her vehement refusal of his proposal, to never set eyes on him again. After all, a man with Mr. Darcy’s pride can hardly be expected to bear her company after the strong words she’s issued.

Fate, however, has more plans for Elizabeth and Darcy. The moment before they mean to separate forever, both are abducted and whisked away on a harrowing journey. To save themselves and return home, they must band together to surmount perils, overcome obstacles and decide whom to trust. Join Darcy and Elizabeth on their journey as they take the long road back to Longbourn… and to love.

From Ashes to Heiresses by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

With the rest of their family gone and their home destroyed, Elizabeth and Jane are taken in by their aunt and uncle in Meryton. Concerned about the two surviving Bennet sisters’ situation, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley come to Hertfordshire, but not before Mr. Wickham attempts to use the situation to his advantage.

What did you receive?

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (audio)

Source: Purchased

Audible, 11+ hours

I am an Amazon affiliate

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang, is a ghost story from the beginning to the end, but Judas Coyne (formerly Justin Cowzynski) is an unlikable character with a penchant for collecting macabre items. This penchant is what gets him into a big mess — all of his sins come to roost as he battles the unseen man tied to a suit he buys online in a heart-shaped box. He has effectively retired from public life after his bandmates have either killed themselves or died, but little else has changed with his life — still moving from woman to woman and collecting oddities on the underground web.

Lang is a decent narrator no matter the character and he has the timbre to create a creepy atmosphere.

Jude and his latest woman (like all his women are called by their former state of residence) find that they are locked together in a battle against a ghostly man who is out for revenge. It’s clear this ghost hasn’t had a lot of practice with revenge from beyond the grave, but Jude gets some help from his former girlfriend who has been dead for some time. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang, is a dark tale of beyond-the-grave revenge.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #601

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 we received:

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis, purchased on Audible.

A tempestuous acquaintance and disastrous marriage proposal makes it unlikely Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet will ever reconcile. Despairing of their own reunion, they attend with great energy to salvaging that of Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth’s sister Jane. People are rarely so easily maneuvered in and out of love, however, they follow a series of misunderstandings, both willful and unwitting, that complicates all four star-crossed lovers’ alliances more than ever before.

A witty and romantic novel that delights in the folly of human nature and also honors Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice and holds appeal for listeners of all genres.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, purchased at Audible.

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is widely known. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, a thing so terrible-strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet.

I will sell my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder.

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn’t afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts: of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What’s one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost. It’s the real thing.

And suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door…seated in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang…standing outside his window…staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting – with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand.

What did you receive?