Bookish Tuesday

Meeting Authors

In my role as assistant manager at a local independent bookstore, I’ve been fortunate to meet some of my favorite authors, as well as be introduced to many new authors as well! Some have been lovely human beings, genuine and kind, wanting to truly get to know their fans. Others have been difficult and divas, obnoxious or rude. But whatever the case, having the chance to get to know those who have created some of my favorite stories has been a wonderful opportunity. Below are some of the highlights.

Sarah J Maas

Sarah J Maas (2)

A.K.A. The Queen! I have been reading Sarah J. Maas’ books just about since Throne of Glass first came out. I’ve introduced countless friends and bookstore customers to her works and I’m very excited that I had the chance to meet her four times before her events truly ballooned into spectacles of lots of tween girls. She has always been absolutely delightful and insightful and I can’t wait to read everything she writes in the future! Additionally, I told my sister if she came out one weekend, she had to come with me to see Sarah and that she had to at least start reading Throne of Glass. She whined about not liking fantasy and was not excited. Needless to say, at this point she’s read all of her books!

ReviewsA Court of Thorns & Roses trilogyThrone of Glass series review to come this fall

Marie Lu

Marie Lu (4)

Marie Lu is an amazing human being whom I was honored to have the chance to interview back in September. I asked her about diversity in the publishing world, as well as in her own writing and her thoughts on the gaming industry. She is a wonderful human being and I greatly enjoy reading other interviews she has done and I anxiously await the sequel to Warcross!

ReviewsWarcrossThe Young ElitesLegend

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta is a spectacularly imaginative person. I’ve had the opportunity to meet her twice and the second time, I had the opportunity to tell her about how much Laura, my sister, loves her books and that she was upset she wasn’t with me when I got to meet her. Ruta suggested sending her a message, I started routing around for a notepad, and then she insisted on recording a video message to Laura! It made her day when I sent it to her!

ReviewsBetween Shades of GraySalt to the Sea

Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo

My favorite story about meeting Leigh Bardugo – actually saying “Don’t freak out” out loud to her and not in my head. With long, wavy, silver hair and her ever present cane, Leigh looks like a modern day witch meets rock star and I mean that in the absolute best way. She has such a presence when she enters a room and her books are beloved by so many people, but she is still incredibly down to earth and even invited me to send her snippets from my own writing projects. I nearly fainted.

ReviewsSix of CrowsShadow & BoneWonder Woman: Warbringer

Sam Maggs

Sam Maggs

When I first attended BookCon in 2015 with my friend Nina, we were just walking past a booth when we were asked if we wanted to meet an author. The two of us shrugged and answered affirmatively and then Nina proceeded to freak out a bit when she realized who the author was. A loyal Mary Sue follower, she knew exactly who Sam was. She excitedly filled me in and we had a great time talking all things geek with her. When Wonder Women arrived at the store, I immediately made it a staff pick and told anyone who would listen how awesome Sam is.

ReviewsWonder Women

Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie is my feminist hero. Fiercely outspoken and unapologetic, I wish I was as brave as she is when it comes to speaking one’s mind on important topics from education to sociological issues facing our country today. She is one of the few white authors who has written about slavery and received, at least to my knowledge, little to no criticism in the “own voices” era. While I haven’t reviewed any of her books on here yet, I certainly look forward to doing so in the near future!

BooksSpeakFever 1793Voices of America trilogy (Chains, Forge, Ashes)

Marion Lazan

Marion Lazan

Marion’s story about her experiences during World War II in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen is tear-jerking to say the least. As her mother lived to 104, I truly hope that Marion lives well into her second century as well so that she can share her story with as many people as possible. She reminds me in equal parts of both of my grandmothers, she has the energy of one and the German accent and temperament of the other. If only it were possible to adopt a grandmother…

ReviewsFour Perfect Pebbles

Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli

Last year I had the incredible privilege of interviewing Jerry Spinelli, author of one of my favorite childhood books, Stargirl, at the bookstore. After a few fangirl moments, during which he told me very sweetly to calm down because he’s not that big a deal (he won the NEWBERY!), I sat down to ask him some questions about his life as a writer and his most recently book, another Newbery contender, The Warden’s Daughter.

BooksStargirlManiac MageeThe Warden’s Daughter

Patti Niemi

Patti Niemi

A truly inspiring feminist who encouraged us all to take the great leap of personal determination to break into a male-dominated profession. As a professional musician, especially one who is a percussionist, she knows a thing or two about what it’s like to face sexism in the workplace. I just wish I had a picture of her looking up! A review of her debut book, a memoir about her experiences, will be coming soon.

BookSticking It Out

Robert Sabuda

Robert Sabuda

Meeting Robert Sabuda was the highlight of my coworker (and work mom’s) time at the bookstore. She’d been hoping he would come to the store and in 2016, shortly before Christmas, he came to visit to celebrate his Christmas book, Christmas Story. The process of making pop-ups is absolutely fascinating! If you have a chance, watch some YouTube videos or something, it’s so cool!

BooksPeter PanBeauty and the BeastAmerica the BeautifulA Christmas Story

William Daniels

William Daniels

a.k.a Mr. Feeny, hero to all teachers and aspiring teachers. While I would have loved to have met him back in the late ’90s, early aughts when I was obsessed with Boy Meets World and thought it was actually filmed in Philly and therefore I could go visit the school and meet Mr. Feeny (I totally thought he was a real teacher). But I’m eternally grateful to have had the chance to meet him at his wonderful age of 89.

BookThere I Go Again

Other Authors I’ve Enjoyed Meeting

  • Erik Larson, author of Dead WakeIn the Garden of Beasts, incredibly knowledgeable history author
  • Anthony Horowitz, author of Moriarty, very lively British mystery author and screen writer
  • L. E. DeLano, author of Traveler, my favorite, local YA author who is always quick to jump in and help me with our young adult writing group at the store
  • Marieke Nijkamp, author of This Is Where It Ends, inspiring author writing in her second language
  • Mo O’Hara, author of the My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series, actress and author, full of funny stories
  • Adam Lehrhaupt, author of multiple picture books, lively and exciting kid’s author
  • Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, TED Talk alum and inspiring personality
  • Kwame Alexander, author of Crossover, who reminded me to call my dad more often
  • Elin Hilderbrand, author of Blue Bistro and women’s fiction, reminded me that you can only be a writer if you actually sit down and write
  • Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella, authors of comedy essay collections, tell the funniest mother-daughter stories that I can certainly relate to
  • D. J. MacHale, author of Sylo series, with whom I had very enjoyable political discussions
  • Richard Peck, hero to elementary school me, author of the Grandma Dowdel books, Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder among others
Biography, History, Non-Fiction

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Looking for an interesting historical book about Nazi Germany, and knowing that my book club was going to read Dead Wake, I decided to read In the Garden of Beasts. Downside, it is a difficult book to get into, upside, the audiobook is well done and enjoyable.  

Synopsis

The time is 1933; the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance, and – ultimately – horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Review

In the Garden of Beasts is a bit dry. Even for those who are very interested in the time period, and Americans’ experiences in early Nazi Germany it can be a bit difficult to get into. Therefore, I recommend pairing it with another book that covers an alternate perspective during the same time, or close to it. And listen to the audiobook.

In the Garden of Beasts is less the story of the Dodd family and more the story of what was really going on in 1933 Berlin, and Germany as a whole. Even most people with an interest in the time and subject matter do not know of just how atrocious that actions of the Brownshirts/Stormtroopers/SA/SS were at the time. The concentration camps? Already in existence. Jewish purges? Already happening. Americans threatened? Yep. Already hating the Soviet Union? Check. To the point where the US didn’t even want to acknowledge it’s existence. Hitler lying repeatedly? Absolutely. Dissidents disappearing mysteriously or being shot point blank? Anyone who denies any of this, and the war atrocities and Holocaust happening? Remind them that the Nazis gave us one small means of confirming their despicable actions – they were meticulous record keepers.

Like all populist revolutions, the German revolution started off with charismatic leaders and promises that most people could support. As mentioned in my review of Four Perfect Pebbles, however, this seemingly perfect revolution can quickly become dangerous. The same thing happened in Iran as recounted in Persepolis. No one should think that they have to destroy an entire group of people.

Also, Erik Larson does a terrific job of differentiating between the German people and the members of the Nazi party. The Dodds were in Germany at a time when the German army still held loyalty to the president, Hindenburg, not the chancellor, Hitler. The actions of the Nazis were not the actions of all of the German people. As the granddaughter of a German woman who, while not Jewish, still suffered greatly during the war, my sister and I appreciate the distinction being made. My grandmother faced enough adversity in coming to the US without needing to be blamed for killing people, she was only ten years old when the war ended.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $17.00 • 9780307408853 • 448 pages • originally published May 2011, this edition published May 2012 by Broadway Books • average Goodreads rating 3.82 out of 5 stars • read March 2018

Erik Larson’s Website

In the Garden of Beasts on Goodreads

Get a Copy of In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts

Essays, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I can’t say I’ve ever seen an episode of The Office and I’ve probably only seen 3 or 4 episodes of The Mindy Project. I can’t even really say that I’m a fan of Mindy Kaling. But I can say that my sister, Laura, is and that on her recommendation, I decided to read one of Mindy’s books.

Synopsis

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believe that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

Review

I didn’t laugh at all while reading Why Not Me? and I was expecting to. But I did enjoy it which I think proves that Mindy Kaling’s strength is in her writing, more so than her acting. When I first decided to listen to the audiobook I figured she would read it – most television/movie personalities read their own book, like Anthony Bourdain and Neil deGrasse Tyson. And I had reservations – I find that the register of her voice and my personal listening tastes are not always compatible. But in this case, they learned how to play nicely together.

I love the fact that my library participates with Overdrive – free audiobooks! As I approach what I hope will be a career related life change, I find myself becoming more and more anxious, fueling my insomnia, leading me to find something to listen to each night to fall asleep to. And that’s where Mindy Kaling comes in. And I realize the audiobooks I actually like, I start playing over the next day when I’m trying to stay awake, something I was surprised I did with Why Not Me?

Kaling’s essays are witty and insightful, so long as you understand that they are not serious suggestions or ruminations. There are a few deeper moments folded into the lighthearted content, but for the most part, even if it doesn’t make you laugh, it will still bring a smile to your face. Along with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I have a feeling Why Not Me? will be my summer read staff pick at the store this year.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780804138161 • 240 pages • first published September 2015, this edition published September 2016 by Three Rivers Press • average Goodreads rating 3.9 out of 5 stars • read March 2018

Why Not Me? on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Why Not Me?

Bookish Tuesday

Good Little Feminist

The Inspiration

On Saturday, I almost got into a fight. I rarely say such things, or even contemplate turning to any sort of violent behavior to settle a disagreement, but hear me out.

My husband and I went to a concert in Philadelphia, something that we often do but that frequently causes anxiety for me. I don’t want to say that I attract any sort of trouble, this doesn’t seem to be the case. But I seem to frequently find myself in a position of discomfort with another concert goer with whom I was not previously acquainted. Last time, I guy kept bumping into me from behind every time he would go to the bar behind me, then would turn around and lear at me afterwards. After this happened for the third time, my husband and his two friends made a ring around me and then magically, the next half dozen times this man came up, I was left alone. After the concert, he was escorted from the building by security for harassing another female concert goer who spoke up. But I had kept quiet.

On Saturday, a man continuously backed into me from the front row of a standing room only concert. I asked him politely once to step forward because I didn’t want to spill a beverage on him, and a second time to stop backing into me when he repeatedly swayed back into me, clearly intoxicated. I finally put my hands up in a fist in front of me so that he could tell each time he did so. When I asked him to stop a third time, he turned around and screamed at me saying he was doing no such thing. Instead of doing something productive, I froze. We live in a country of concealed weapons and mass shootings. How did I know that this man wasn’t about to pull a gun or knife on me if I made a scene in regards to his behavior? When did I become so terrified? Eventually I found a different place to stand and this man continued to do the same thing to three men who were behind me, all of whom became clearly annoyed. But, given the society that we live in, I had a double edged sword in my pocket.

My word to any member of security would have carried more weight than any man’s. If I had punched him, I would have been defending myself, if my husband had done so, he would have been arrested for assault. But again, I did nothing, this time out of fear. Out of fear of retribution or anger.

If I ever have a daughter, I want to make sure that my husband and I raise her to be a feminist. And if we have a son, I want to make sure we raise him to be a feminist too. But ultimately, I hope that by the time I’ve reached the point in my life that I’m having these conversations with my hypothetical children, the world has come far enough that I don’t have to teach said hypothetical daughter about sticking a key between her fingers when walking by herself at night, or how to unlock pepper spray, or use her ice hockey skills to injure a potential attacker. I don’t want to know these things, but I do, despite my fear to utilize them. I don’t want to have to pass such knowledge on to my offspring. I want to share with them all the wonderful things that women have contributed to this world. I want to share with them my favorite anthologies of great women below this, my favorite feminist picture!

picture_20180316_1240191631455157141.jpg

Books I’ve Reviewed

  1. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
  2. Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky
  3. Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker
  4. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  5. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
  6. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Guide to Love & War by Lynsey Addario
  7. Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors & Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs
  8. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics by Jason Porath
  9. Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum
  10. The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont & Manjit Thapp
  11. Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  12. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
  13. Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias
  14. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  15. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Books I Love But Haven’t Reviewed Yet

  1. Why I March: Images from the Women’s March Around the World by Abrams Books (pictured above)
  2. Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee & Petra Eriksson
  3. Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope – Voices from the Women’s March by Artisan
  4. The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits by Mihaela Noroc
  5. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu
  6. The Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner
  7. Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen
  8. Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels & What the Neighbors Thought by Kathleen Krull & Kathryn Hewitt
  9. The Secret Loves of Geek Girls edited by Hope Nicholson
  10. The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History by Hope Nicholson

 

Memoir/Autobiography, Middle Grades, Non-Fiction

Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl & Marion Blumenthal Lazan

One of my grandmothers grew up in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, specifically in Nürnberg and the surrounding countryside. She doesn’t talk about it. As such, I have spent my entire life fascinated by the stories of German children between 1933 and 1945. I don’t remember the first book I read that fit the bill for learning more about that time and people’s experiences, but Four Perfect Pebbles was a book that quickly caught my attention. And when I found out that Marion would be coming to the bookstore I work at, I knew it was going to be a moving moment.

Marion Blumenthal Lazan (r) & I (l)

Marion Lazan

Synopsis

Marion Blumenthal Lazan’s unforgettable and acclaimed memoir recalls the devastating years that shaped her childhood. Following Hitler’s rise to power, the Blumenthal family – father, mother, Marion, and her brother, Albert – were trapped in Nazi Germany. They managed eventually to get to Holland, but soon thereafter it was occupied by the Nazis. For the next six and a half years the Blumenthals were forced to live in refugee, transit, and prison camps, including Westerbork in Holland and Bergen-Belsen in Germany, before finally making it to the United States. Their story is one of horror and hardship, but it is also a story of courage, hope, and the will to survive.

Review

Marion describes her story as the one that Anne Frank might have told had she survived past March 1945. Both Anne and Marion spent time in Westerbork and later Bergen-Belsen. Of the 120,000 Jews detained in Westerbork, 102,000 perished before the end of World War II, 18,000 survived. Anne fell into the former group, Marion, the latter. While Anne’s story is typically read by pre-teens and early teenagers in the world today, Marion’s serves as an introduction for those who are just starting to ask their parents and teachers how people can be so mean and intolerant of one another.

In a society that is quickly becoming more divided and more intolerant, Marion’s message of hope, faith, and family strength, is even more important than it was when she first started discussing her experiences a couple decades ago. While most may brush off the striking similarities to the current president’s rise to power and the Nazis, it is hard for those who truly know their history to ignore. It is even harder for those who know that atrocities of WWII still ring loud in their older generation’s ears, and yet their younger generations engage in racist and destructive behavior.

Marion’s story is one of compassion and hope during one of the world’s worst times. My only reason for giving a less than superb rating is that brevity of the book. While written with young children (9-11 years old) in mind, there is only so much that one can remember about those years themselves, particularly 50 years later, as was the case when Marion & Lila wrote Four Perfect Pebbles and Marion recounted her childhood to Lila. Everyone always wants more from a good book, but at 160 pages, Four Perfect Pebbles is incredible concise.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $6.99 • 9780062489968 • 160 pages • originally published March 1996, this edition published October 2016 by Greenwillow Books • average Goodreads rating 3.92 out of 5 • re-read March 2018

Four Perfect Pebbles Website

Four Perfect Pebbles on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Four Perfect Pebbles

133-Four Perfect Pebbles

Essays, Non-Fiction, STEM

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

When my husband was studying physics, all he wanted to focus on was astrophysics. We watched all of Cosmos as it aired (a rarity for us) and frequently attended talks on the universe and astrophysics at planetariums in Philly. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has blown up in popular culture and his books become bestsellers, I figure it about time I read one.

Synopsis

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Review

Lately I have come to discover that I cannot fall asleep without listening to an audiobook and my library Overdrive app has become indispensable. Thankfully, there is no shortage of wonderful books to listen too and, following the recommendation of one of our publisher reps at the store, I decided to listen to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry as Neil deGrasse Tyson reads it himself. I’ve previously discussed how certain author’s voices ring in my head when I read their work (namely Anthony Bourdain and David Attenborough) and Tyson is one of them – if I was going to hear him in my head, I might as well actually listen to him read his own book.

I enjoyed listening to this collection of essays covering pretty much any physics topic having to do with astrophysics, however, as has always seemed to be the case with me and physics, since high school, I don’t remember any of it. My mind wanders – less so when listening to a book than when actually reading it, I can only read for half hour bursts – and I am a highly tactile learner. Visuals and auditory learning just aren’t my thing. So while I am the intended audience for Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I am, simultaneously not, thank you ADD.

Additionally, while listening, I realized that Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is really Cosmos in book form. Which is great – it’s now been four years since it first aired, people probably need a refresher course at this point. All in all, I enjoyed listening to Astrophysics, but I really wish I remembered it better.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $18.95 • 9780393609394 • 224 pages • published May 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company • average Goodreads rating 4.13 out of 5 • read March 2018

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Website

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

History, Non-Fiction

The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont

Welcome to Women’s History Month! This month I will try to focus my reviews on books that discuss women in history and as I’ve read quite a few, it shouldn’t be too hard!

Synopsis

In this luminous volume, New York Times bestselling writer Julia Pierpont and artist Manjit Thapp match short, vibrant, and surprising biographies with stunning full-color portraits of secular female “saints” champions of strength and progress. These women broke ground, broke ceilings, and broke molds including:

Maya Angelou – Jane Austen – Ruby Bridges – Rachel Carson – Shirley Chisholm – Marie Curie & Irene Joliot Curie – Isadora Duncan – Amelia Earhart – Artemisia Gentileschi – Grace Hopper – Dolores Huerta – Frida Kahlo – Billie Jean King – Audre Lorde – Wilma Mankiller – Toni Morrison – Michelle Obama – Sandra Day O’Connor – Sally Ride – Eleanor Roosevelt – Margaret Sanger – Sappho – Nina Simone – Gloria Steinem – Kanno Sugako – Harriet Tubman – Mae West – Virginia Woolf – Malala Yousafzai

Review

Julia Pierpont starts off The Little Book of Feminist Saints with a story in her prologue about playing Peter Pan as a young girl. Immediately I knew I was going to enjoy reading little stories about the women she included in the book because of that story – I always played Peter Pan. Always.

Each of the women included are given their own day, just as Saints are, and the information on each page includes unique and inspirational information. The women included are a fairly diverse bunch and I enjoyed learning more about each of them. It is the perfect gift book for your favorite women!

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $18.00 • 9780399592744 • 208 pages • published March 2018 by Random House • average Goodreads rating 4.18 out of 5 stars • read in March 2018

The Little Book of Feminist Saints on Goodreads

Get a Copy of The Little Book of Feminist Saints

Little Book of Feminist Saints

Biography, History, Non-Fiction

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

I found this book on my very first visit to the Strand in New York City right after I finished student teaching. I’ve always loved multi-story books about historical women. Additionally, while reading this book at the Greyhound station in New York City while waiting for my bus back to Philadelphia, I stumbled upon my new heroine in my latest writing endeavor!

Synopsis

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power – and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets.

Review

Princess Behaving Badly is one of my favorite types of books – a nonfiction book that is written in a series of short vignettes, each focused on a different woman of aristocratic birth. What I really enjoyed most about this book versus some of my other favorites, like Doomed Queens and Lives of Extraordinary Women is how the author uses a very loose interpretation of the word “princess.”

The 30 “princesses” of Princesses Behaving Badly are grouped into 7 categories: Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies, and Madwomen. Each little story about the princess of choice is written like a tabloid entry which some people might not like, but I thought it a great way to poke fun at the media’s obsessions with princesses and the aristocracy. Some notable women are excluded, i.e. Lady Diana Spencer, but for the most part, I loved learning about different women who are not so widely covered by my extensive collection of notable women books.

Overall, I take books like this lightly and do not interpret them to be in-depth and extensive portraits of trouble maidens or explanations for the princesses’ often weird and strange life choices. That’s what biographies are for and this book makes no pretentions about trying to be a serious piece of deeply researched literature on the lives of 30 women who caused a stir in the lives of others over the course of the last couple of millennia.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.99 • 9781683690252 • 304 pages • first published November 2013, this edition published March 2018 by Quirk Books • average Goodreads rating 3.61 out of 5 • read in December 2013

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie’s Website

Princesses Behaving Badly on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Princesses Behaving Badly

Princesses Behaving Badly

Bookish Tuesday

For the Love of the Independent Bookstore

Over the past 10 months I’ve been posting reviews of both books I’ve finished recently and those that I’ve read in years past. Since I know I cannot keep up a reading pace to continue to post new reviews three times a week, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature to the blog called Bookish Friday (yipee!) where I’ll talk about bookish things that bring me great joy, or share lists of characters, authors, etc. from my reading journal that I’ve been keeping for the past ten years. Either way, it’ll be focused on fun bookish things, starting with why I love independent bookstores so much.

My Bookstore

Towne Book Center
Collegeville, PA

Towne Book Center

This right here is my favorite bookstore and just happens to be the one I work at. When I first moved to the area in the spring of 2011, one of the first questions I asked my then boyfriend, now husband, was “Where’s the bookstore?”

Growing up in south central PA, our closest bookstore was in a mall – we didn’t have a local independent bookstore that carried a great selection. There was an art gallery with a small children’s section and the battlefields of course had visitors’ centers with specialty books, but it wasn’t the same.

When we first walked into Towne, the employees and owner greeted my husband by name – the store had been around in some way since he was a very small boy and he and his brother had spent countless hours browsing the shelves. When an opportunity came up to work here, I jumped at the chance. I love recommending books to people and when they come back in and tell me they loved it, it just makes my day – especially with kids. It’s hard to ignore the teacher side of me and I love when young readers enjoy the books I’ve picked out for them.

Nearest Neighbor

Wellington Square Books
Exton, PA

Wellington Square

I love Wellington Square – it’s about half the size of Towne Book Center but has a wholly different vibe and collection.

Wellies, as I call it, has a curated collection of both new and used books and the used books offer up something unique to the store – they’re not your typical used books, they’re unique editions of old and classic favorites. I’ve had my eye on a special edition of Peter Pan that’s been on the shelves there for awhile.

Additionally, the second room features law library bookshelves and a sliding ladder, something I’ve always dreamed of having in a bookstore or library of my own. The cafe is lovely, though expect a more European over American approach to the espresso drinks.

Philadelphia Phavorite

The Book Trader
Philadelphia, PA

Book Trader

One of my favorite things to do is to go into Philly for a weekend for a concert or a show, and my favorite theater, the Arden, just happens to be across the street and down the block from my favorite used bookstore.

The Book Trader is a store you go into when you have no idea what you want to read. The selection is so extensive and eclectic that you have to go in with the mindset of simply being surprised with what hidden treasures and gems you might find.

The NY Classic

The Strand
New York, NY

Strand

In a city of what feels like a million bookstores, there is only one Strand and no trip to the big apple is complete without a visit.

When my best friend moved to NYC after college, we agreed to visit each other as often as possible and more than once, the Strand has been our meeting place. Four floors, 18 miles of shelves, and a very cool rare book room tops off the store that has been a cultural institution in the city for nearly a century (it’s as old as my grandmother!) If you leave the Strand without buying anything, you’ve done it wrong.

Home Away From Home Bookstore

M. Judson Booksellers
Greenville, SC

M Judson Booksellers

Most years, my husband and I go down to Greenville, South Carolina to stay with his aunt and her family for Christmas. Me being me, I always have to know where the local bookstore is, and they directed me to M. Judson. A few years ago, they moved from the suburbs into the city proper and now live TWO BLOCKS from the bookstore! The last time we were down, I went into the store daily for my morning coffee and to browse around. The staff are awesome and I love talking with them each time I visit.

Anthony Bourdain Recommends

Book Soup
Los Angeles, CA

Book Soup

When getting ready for a visit to Los Angeles which is, admittedly, my least favorite city I’ve ever visited, I figured I would feel better about having to go if I had a bookstore I knew I could visit. And when traveling, who do I turn to for recommendations? Why Anthony Bourdain of course. Book Soup is featured in the Los Angeles episode of The Layover.

Book Soup’s collection is what you would reasonably expect of a bookstore on Sunset in West Hollywood – a nice mix of contemporary and popular titles with a healthy dose of music and film coffee table books and popular entertainment bios.

Most Unique = Books + Wine

BookBar
Denver, CO

BookBar

On a recent trip to Denver, I took a bookstore tour and found myself at the very unique BookBar. It reminded me a lot of one of my favorite breweries in Ardmore, but if it were a bookstore as well.

The collection features both books on wine, and your typical options, current hot sellers, childrens books upstairs (yes, kids are welcome, just not at the actual bar), and a nice mix of nonfiction works.

University Evolution

The University Store
Pittsburgh. PA

Pitt Bookstore

The Pitt Bookstore has come a very long way since I graduated in the spring of 2011 but while I was there, I was always thrilled that we had our own independent bookstore and we were not a Barnes & Noble college store. The selection has increased greatly in the past few years and is certainly not limited to text books and professor’s own publications.

Boulder Bookstore

Boulder Bookstore
Boulder, CO

Boulder Book Store

For a time my husband was considering going to graduate school at the University of Colorado and, as I do whenever travel opportunities arrive, I suss out the local bookstore environment. And while a move to Boulder is no longer seriously on the table, I would love to get back to this wonderful bookstore sometime soon. It has a great selection of new and used books, all in great condition.

History, Non-Fiction, Political Science, Sociology

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

I’ve decided I might as well just go ahead and start calling 2018 my year of nonfiction. Two full months in and I’ve only read one traditional work of fiction out of the 10 books I’ve read. Also, I’m prepared to lose friends and alienate certain groups of people over this review and if that’s the case, so be it. I’ve accepted it and made my peace with it.

Synopsis

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

Review

I will never support the current president of the United States. He is not the person that I voted for and he is not the person that the majority voted for. I woke up the day after Election Day 2016 in tears, not because we didn’t elect our first female president (yes, I was bummed about that), but because it seemed that a man who lied and connived his way into the top office managed to hoodwink a bunch of my fellow Americans into supporting him. I couldn’t believe it. I cried foul. Because they failed to notice the overt similarities between his campaign and those of the Nazi party and fascists of Europe in the twentieth century.

Now, let me make myself clear – I have nothing against Republicans, hell, most republicans I know do not like our current president. I do, however, have something to say to all those who let themselves be dragged into the media circus that was his campaign. It’s taken me a full year to finally come to terms with my feelings on the whole matter and I’m pleased to report that when I did finally settle into how I feel about it all, after many panic attacks and moments of depression and despair, I realized that this is not solely a gender issue. I’m not a whiny woman sad that Hilary does not sit in the oval office simply because I wanted a female president (someone I had once considered a friend accused me of this). It is, as Timothy Snyder outlines, an issue of tyranny and group behavior that leads to tyrannical leaders landing in power – and staying there.

Those who voted for the current president are supporting a man who acts against just about everything that the Founding Fathers sought to safeguard our country against. Snyder points out repeatedly that we have ignored history. And when we ignore history, especially recent history, we find ourselves doomed to repeat it. When we ignore nationalistic behavior, when we ignore propaganda and language that subverts our freedoms and democracy, when we turn on our neighbors and judge them by their race, religion, sexual identity, etc. we find ourselves screwed.

I absolutely refuse to sit idly by and watch that happen. I will not stay quite in the face of people who cannot manage a well reasoned argument or defense and simply resort to shouting the same mantra over and over. I refuse to let people degrade others by using harmful stereotypes to prejudge or discriminate against them. And I refuse to be silenced by those who would rather I say and do nothing at all.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $8.99 • 9780804190114 • 128 pages • published February 2017 by Tim Duggan Books • average Goodreads rating 4.26 out of 5 stars • read March 2018

Timothy Snyder’s Website

On Tyranny on Goodreads

Get a Copy of On Tyranny

On Tyranny