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

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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 — OPEN

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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 — 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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When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

The World is Against You

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A special thank-you to Dey Street Books and Goodreads for providing an ARC for me to review!

Title: When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

Premise:

This book is a memoir detailing a variety of especially awkward and/or funny episodes from Kelly’s life.  The stories run the gamut from childhood social gaffes to raising her own children, divorce to sexual assault.  Whatever the circumstances, Kelly’s keen observations, wit and humor shine through to help give perspective to each story.

My thoughts:

There were parts of the book which were very entertaining and I found myself getting quite wrapped up in them (like when Kelly went to camp!).  There were a couple of chapters, however, which kind of fell flat for me.  For some reason they didn’t pull me in and didn’t seem to add a lot of value to the book.

With that being said though, overall I enjoyed the book very much.  I read through it fairly quickly and it was easy to digest each chapter as a separate anecdote.  Some of Kelly’s antics are so socially awkward that it’s difficult to read about them.  The story about her husband and the guy he meets in the gym comes immediately to mind.  Yikes!!!  I’m too embarrassed to even tell you what it’s about online–you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Probably the chapter I appreciated most was the last one about Kelly’s reaction to the Trump and Billy Bush recording when they were talking about sexually assaulting women.  I had to psych myself up to the read the chapter after I skimmed it and saw all of the tweets by other women who had experienced sexual assault.  It was right before bed and I put the book down, deciding that I had better wait to read that chapter until the morning when I’d have the whole day to process it and work through the unhappy feelings before trying to go to sleep.  The way that Kelly helped so many women to feel connected and heard was amazing!  Quite frankly, I think it was necessary at the time, especially since the behavior and language of those men was being justified by so many.  For all of the women who’ve been on the receiving end inappropriate behavior or language, it’s like a slap in the face seeing it brushed off as “locker room talk”.  So on behalf of all of the women who were feeling marginalized by that recording and the ensuing justification of it, thank you Kelly for putting yourself out there to start the conversation on healthy attitudes towards women.

I recommend When You Find Out the World Is Against You to adults who like funny and/or awkward memoirs.  Kelly is an entertaining lady and you just might enjoy exploring some of her more memorable socially awkward moments.

A Favorite quote:

“The loudest drunks are groups of sober teenage girls.  They think all their jokes are hilarious.  All their drama is the biggest deal in the whole wide world.”  (p. 259-260)

Possible Objections:

  • lots of swear words (not used offensively, but sprinkled generously as potpourri)
  • explicit talk about sexual stuff (particularly in reference to sexual assault)
  • a bit of drug use

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Grieving the Loss of a Loved One Giveaway — OPEN

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My Bookshelf Giveaway: Grieving the Loss of a Loved One: A Devotional of Comfort as you Mourn by Kathe Wunnenberg

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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The Mists of Avalon Giveaway — CLOSED

Giveaway 6

I’m starting something new in terms of my book blog giveaways.  In an effort to share the books I’ve read and keep my own bookshelf under control, I will start giving away some of the books which I’ve already read and reviewed.  This month I’ll be offering three such books.  They will be given away separately so that you can sign up for only the books you’d actually like to read.

My Bookshelf Giveaway: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Read my review here

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on May 31, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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Printable Pride and Prejudice Word Find Puzzle – Characters

I had the genius idea the other day that it would be fun to start developing word puzzles based on literary works and posting them for others to use on my blog.  Of course I had to start with one of my absolute favorite books — Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

I’m a big fan of word find and crossword puzzles, but for the first one I wanted to keep it simple and start with a word find.  It highlights the main characters in the book.  In future I will probably do other puzzles which feature place names or some other aspect of the book.

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 – Characters

Celtic Journal & Bookmark Giveaway — CLOSED

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This month’s giveaway is this really neat Celtic journal which you can fill with all your secret dreams and aspirations–or anything else you want to write down.  Also included is the bookmark beside it with a pertinent quote about life.  I just really like both of these items and wanted to share them with one of you!

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

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4 Favorite Children’s Books #3

4 Fav. Kids Books #3

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Four more fun children’s books that we really enjoyed!

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

This is a really cute story about a boy who brings home a penguin from the zoo as his new pet.  His father is oblivious to the arrangement until the very end of the book.  The illustrations are unique and remind me of the 1970’s for some reason.  It’s a Caldecott Honor book, too.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Stellaluna is separated from her mother when she is just a baby bat.  A mother bird raises Stellaluna alongside her own babies, but she struggles to fit in.  One night Stellaluna encounters other bats and discovers the wonderful things that she’s capable of.

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden

This is a really interesting book which chronicles the journey of planning and building the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.  Kids will enjoy reading it because it’s chock full of informative tidbits and wonderful photos.  It’s astounding how long it took for this museum to come into being!

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Here’s another charming and simple book from Janet and Allan!  The text is very simple rhyme and the pictures are an I Spy game featuring well-known nursery rhyme characters.  I’ve always loved the illustrations in the books by the Ahlbergs–they are so quaint and adorable!

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