Spring 2017 Book Haul

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After a crazy-long period of time, I’m finally set up to start filming videos again and to continue with my book hauls.  These books were actually from Fall 2016, but it’s taken me this long to be able to share them with you.  Let me know if you’ve read any of my new books and what you thought of them!  Have a lovely day!

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Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

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Title: Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

Premise:

The author seeks to shed light on the meth epidemic and the effect that it has on small-town American life, following the fortunes of the small town of Oelwein which is gripped in the clutches of methamphetamines.  Through interviews, research, shadowing, and by reaching out to others for their wisdom, Nick weaves a complex and disturbing tale of how meth became an epidemic in the United States, how it is affecting small towns, and why it just won’t go away.

My thoughts:

If you ever wanted to learn about methamphetamine and the way it impacts peoples’ lives, this is the book for you.  I thought this would be a mostly anecdotal book, but it turns out that the author shares a lot of background information about meth, as well.  Of course it makes sense to educate readers about how meth affects the brain, the effects it has on the rest of your body, and how it changes your brain functions even after you have stopped using, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting to get so much background information.  I really appreciated getting to know more about the drug and what it does physiologically to a person.  That knowledge makes it all the more scary, but it’s better to be well-informed than ignorant.

It’s rather disturbing to learn that the spread of meth could have been prevented were it not for powerful lobbyists and the interference of a pharmaceutical industry who was looking out for the bottom line.  It’s hard to understand how they could feel justified in blocking legislation that would prevent illegal drugs from being made so easily, but then again, when has big business ever shown itself to have a conscience?

The unfortunate result of the government not taking stronger steps to crack down on the drug problem is that thousands of small town police officers, social workers, mayors, and doctors have to continually put out fires (sometimes quite literally).  They are on the front-lines and have to deal with the day-to-day consequences of a lax system which allows meth to proliferate.  In my neck of the woods (the Midwest), meth is a huge problem.  Kids are entering into the foster care system all the time because their parents are addicted and/or cooking up meth at home and the children are being exposed to the toxins (not to mention the neglect and sometimes abuse that accompany it).  Our social worker told us that they really can’t keep up with the increased need for foster families.

One thing that I find highly satisfying about Methland is that the author looks at the problem from so many angles and really tries to get to the root of the problem.  He doesn’t take the easy way out and blame it on a couple of factors, but shows readers how it is really a complex weaving-together of many factors: drug distribution routes, illegal immigration, Mexican DTOs, lax laws, pharmaceutical lobbying, loss of living-wage employment, the profits to be made from meth, and the mental impact the drug has on its users.  There is no easy answer to the meth epidemic and it would require many different agencies working in tandem and putting forth their strongest efforts to make a dent in the problem.

The author did an admirable job of tying together all of the different threads of the story, though the anecdotal stories were not always strictly related.  For that reason it sometimes felt like I was picking up with a soap opera, revisiting a scene which had been left off during the previous week’s episode.  I suppose that couldn’t really be avoided, though.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters in the book.  They were real people, just like the rest of us, trying to make a difference in a world gone mad.

I recommend Methland to adults who would like to learn more about the meth epidemic.  It’s a fascinating and enlightening exploration of a terrible problem that we are facing in the United States right now.

A favorite quote:

“In 2005, when I called Dr. Clay Hallberg, the Oelwein general practitioner, and asked him to characterize the meth epidemic in his hometown, Clay had told me that meth was ‘a sociocultural cancer.’  What he meant, he said, was that, as with the disease, meth’s particular danger lay in its ability to metastisize throughout the body, in this case the body politic, and to weaken the social fabric of a place, be it a region, a town, a neighborhood, or a home.  Just as brain cancer often spreads to the lungs, said Clay, meth often spreads between classes, families, and friends.  Meth’s associated rigors affect the school, the police, the mayor, the hospital, and the town businesses.  As a result, said Clay, there is a kind of collective low self-esteem that sets in once a town’s culture must react solely to a singular–and singularly negative–stimulus.”  (p. 73)

Possible Objections:

  • some disturbing descriptions of violence, injuries, bodily functions & sexual stuff
  • some adult language

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

City of Light

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Title: City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

Premise:

During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, a man named La Reynie was appointed as the first police chief in Paris.  La Reynie worked tirelessly to bring the city’s crime under control, installing so many street lamps that Paris came to be known as the City of Light.  The police chief also uncovered a complicated web of crime which brought to light the poison, witchcraft, and murder taking place even in the upper echelons of society.

My thoughts:

This was such an ambitious book!  Not only was it a monumental task to write, but it’s a challenge to read, as well.  It’s like trying to take five loosely associated soap operas (with all their complicated drama), and trying to form them into one cohesive story.  Not easy.  I think the thing that saves the book from becoming totally unmanageable is that the subject matter is so juicy and interesting.  Even if you have to keep going back to check who the characters are and what they did, you do it because you want to understand the intricacies of this twisted tale.

While reading this book, you may doubt that it’s non-fiction because of how fantastical the events are, but rest assured that this is authentic French history at its finest!  I told my husband when I got done with the book that I was so glad that I wasn’t alive back then.  Those were some majorly messed up people!

So, the gist of the story is that La Reynie was appointed the first official police chief of Paris–a city positively drowning in crime.  The book talks about some of the general improvements and goals La Reynie had for the city, but the bulk of the story centers on a strange period of time called the Affair.  In a nutshell, it was La Reynie’s investigation into some very high profile poisonings and other crimes, and the extremely tangled web he tried to unravel.  You will be quite shocked by the lengths some of these nobles went to to get what they wanted.

I found the book highly interesting, but I’ll warn you that you need to be mentally on your toes to follow the story.  The author necessarily had to give a lot of back story and weave together many threads, and it can be difficult to follow.  There are also a few parts that might be rather uncomfortable to some readers.  Most of it is towards the end of the book when the interrogations take place.  Some of the things they described are just gross and offensive.

I recommend City of Lights, City of Poison to adults who enjoy history and are not afraid to hear all the ugly details.  Even if you’re not a history fan, this book reads like fiction, so you would probably enjoy it, too.

Possible Objections:

  • some grotesque descriptions
  • some semi-explicit sexual stuff
  • violence

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Printable “Pride and Prejudice” Word Find Puzzle – Places

Here’s my second word find puzzle for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!  This time I focused on place names, though some of them are merely mentioned in the book and don’t feature prominently at all.  It’s time to grab your highlighter and get going!

Simply click on the link below and either print, or save it to your computer and then print.  Enjoy!

“Pride and Prejudice” Word Find Puzzle – Places

Printable Pride and Prejudice Word Find Puzzle – Places

Here’s my second word find puzzle for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!  This time I focused on place names, though some of them are merely mentioned in the book and don’t feature prominently at all.  It’s time to grab your highlighter and get going!

Simply click on the link below and either print, or save it to your computer and then print.  Enjoy!

Pride and Prejudice Word Find Puzzle – Places

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Walk in the Woods

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Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Premise:

This is a humorous memoir about Bill’s quest to hike the Appalachian Trail, a good portion of it with his friend Katz.  Additionally, Bill shares his observations and opinions on topics which are pertinent to the story, such as, the National Parks Service, invasive species, conservation, mining, etc.

My thoughts:

It would not be an understatement to say that I LOVED this book!  It wasn’t a page-turner that I just couldn’t put down, but more like an old friend that I would return to for shared jokes and just to appreciate being together.  I wanted to savor my time with this book.  Bill’s wry humor really suits me and I appreciate the way he uses it to draw attention to and poke at issues he cares about.  Sometimes it’s more effective to criticize something through sardonic humor than by railing against it in an angry tirade.

When I picked up the book, I didn’t really think it would be all that exciting.  How can you make an exceptionally long walk entertaining?  Well, Bill figured it out and delivered beautifully.  His comedic timing is like strawberries and whipped cream: perfect.  Let me state again that I am in love with his writing style and I look forward to reading more of his works.  How can I have gone so long without reading any of his books?

The last thing I wanted to comment on was how Bill brought little nuggets of history into his story.  I love history when it’s presented in an engaging manner, and Bill incorporated it seamlessly.  I was particularly intrigued by the opulent hotels which once existed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the sad history of the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania.  I had previously studied Centralia when I was on a kick about ghost towns, and it is a haunting setting to be sure.  If you’ve never heard of it, do a bit of research.  It’s fascinating.

I recommend A Walk in the Woods to adults and mature teenagers who enjoy a humorous adventure story.  If you like wry humor, you’ll especially appreciate Bryson’s writing.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“’Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.’  When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.”  (p. 63-64)

“The forest we walked through now was really just a strapping adolescent.  In 1890, a railroad man from Cincinnati named Henry C. Bagley came to this part of Georgia, saw the stately white pines and poplars, and was so moved by their towering majesty and abundance that he decided to chop them all down.  They were worth a lot of money.”  (p. 68)

Possible Objections:

  • a decent amount of swearing

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu

California Dreamin'.jpg

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A special thank-you to :01 First Second and Goodreads for providing me with an ARC to review!

Title: California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu

Premise:

Explore Ellen Cohen’s (Cass Elliot’s) artistic development before she became a part of The Mamas & the Papas.  Cass’s larger than life personality and talent take her to some very interesting places, but it isn’t until she joins with her now famous bandmates that she truly experiences the fame she’s been seeking since she was a child.

My thoughts:

The format of this book is very interesting.  It’s an adult graphic novel, not in the sense that it’s full of garbage, but because it’s an adult-oriented story.  Through Bagieu’s whimsical illustrations, we follow Cass from her early years growing up in a Jewish home in Baltimore, when she dreams of someday becoming a superstar.  At a young age Cass decides to leave home and strike out on her own to see if she can make a go of her dream in New York City.

This takes her to some interesting places and she encounters a lot of unique characters.  Though Cass performs with several different groups, she doesn’t get a big break until she hooks up with her final bandmates — Denny Doherty, and John and Michelle Phillips.  Unfortunately, their success was not to be long-lived because of in-fighting, jealousy, and a weird love triangle sort of thing.  Really, it was rather tragic that a group that had such a unique and cohesive sound should implode quite so spectacularly.

But really, the focus of this book is on Mama Cass and her journey to stardom, along with the final painful moments when her dreams seemed to have fallen completely apart.  Though the book necessarily left out a lot of details because of its format, I think it was successful in conveying Cass’s personality, her hopes and dreams, and who she really was as a person.  This was a really nice book for letting readers get to know Cass a little better and more fully appreciate her life.

I recommend California Dreamin’ to adult fans of The Mamas & The Papas.  It’s fun to look at the early years of Cass’s development, but because of the language and drug use, I can’t recommend it to younger readers.

Possible Objections:

  • lots of bad language
  • a bit of cartoon nudity (fairly tame)
  • some drug use
  • a couple of homophobic slurs

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

When You Find Out the World is Against You Book Giveaway — CLOSED

My Bookshelf Giveaway: When You Find Out the World is Against You: and Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

Read my review here

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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When You Find Out the World is Against You Book Giveaway — OPEN

When the World is Against You.jpg

My Bookshelf Giveaway: When You Find Out the World is Against You: and Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

Read my review here

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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Entertaining for a Veggie Planet Book Giveaway — CLOSED

My Bookshelf Giveaway: Entertaining for a Veggie Planet: 250 Down-to-Earth Recipes by Didi Emmons

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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Entertaining for a Veggie Planet Book Giveaway — OPEN

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My Bookshelf Giveaway: Entertaining for a Veggie Planet: 250 Down-to-Earth Recipes by Didi Emmons

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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A Walk in the Woods Book Giveaway — CLOSED

My Bookshelf Giveaway: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (Sorry, the teddy bear doesn’t come with the book.)

Read my review here

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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