Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Travel

Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick

This weekend my father came out to visit and stay with my husband and I in our new house to help us do some outdoor work. He was the first overnight visitor to the new abode, and he slipped and fell, injuring his shoulder. I blame myself, and was reminded of all the other times he’s told me not to worry about him, and one that stands out is when he flipped his little Sunfish sailboat over in the lake. I gave him Second Wind for Christmas last year and now that we’ve both read it, it felt time for a review.


From the Inside Flap:
In the spring of 1992, Nathaniel Phibrick was in his late thirties, living with his family on Nantucket. Feeling stranded, he longed for that thrill of victory he once felt after winning a national sailing championship in his youth. Was it a midlife crisis? It was certainly a watershed for the journalist-turned-stay-at-home dad, who impulsively decided to throw his hat into the ring, or water, again.

With the bemused approval of his wife and children, Philbrick used the off-season on the island as his solitary training ground, sailing his tiny Sunfish to its remotest corners, experiencing the haunting beauty of its tidal creeks, inlets, and wave-battered sandbars. On ponds, bays, rivers, and finally at the championship on a lake in the heartland of America, he sailed through storms and memories, racing for the prize but finding something unexpected about himself instead.


My father has loved sailing for as long as I can remember. As a builder and contractor, he’s had the opportunity to build many houses, but the one that made him happiest was his own, lakefront house in south central Pennsylvania. And with said house, came the opportunity to sail. And for just as long, it’s been my favorite pastime of his, and one to share. Just don’t ask me to get in the boat with him – the aforementioned flipping was done for fun.

Second Wind seemed like a logical book to give him for Christmas, now that he’s starting to slow down with the building a bit (though this recent injury may lay him up for longer than he would like) and take some more time to pursue leisurely activities. The sailboat is no longer one of them (he no longer resides on a lake), but can vicariously live through Nathaniel Philbrick.

If looking for a leisurely story about one man’s journey to find himself and reclaim some lost youth by reconnecting with nature and the seemingly distant past of sailing, Second Wind is perfect. It’s not my favorite Philbrick, but it certainly like the breath of fresh air that powers his sails – the perfect recovery book – one to be read after heavier fare or finishing a long series. It asks little of the reader’s brainpower and seeks only to share a story. As I’m also reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I can definitely recommend it to readers who enjoyed his adventure of the Appalachian Trail.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Second Wind

Blog Information

Blogiversary #2!

It’s been 2 years since the launch of the present incarnation of Celebration of Books! And while the past 6 weeks have included a pitiful amount of reading, I’m still going to celebrate!

A Huge Thank You!

The fact that anyone reads anything I have to say still surprises me, so thank you to everyone who has taken even a passing glance at one of my reviews, every view means a great deal to me!

The Stats

From the beginning, we’ve grown in followers, likes, and views! Our nonfiction numbers are slowly but surely catching up with our fiction numbers, 107 fiction reviews to 85 nonfiction. And while my two year kick of nonfiction is still going strong, I have started jumping into fiction once more! My current read (and present favorite) is The Lost Queen by Signe Pike. The image above is from my favorite book of the past review year, In Extremis: The Life and Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum – I’m still obsessed these 9 months after reading it!

So once again, a big thank you, and I promise reviews will start again TOMORROW!

Bookish Tuesday

Moving 32 Boxes of Books…

Last week was moving week – which meant all sorts of chaos ensued, including, the moving of many, many, many boxes of books. 32. I counted. It’s probably way too many and I haven’t even gotten them all out of our old apartment. Downside to moving, less time for reading. My new nonfiction book club met mid-week, which meant mid-move, and I was the embarrassed leader who hadn’t finished the book. But I promise, reviews and other bookish wonderfulness to follow upon completion of moving and cleaning! As well as a gorgeous shot of my new bookcase wall!

Essays, History, Non-Fiction, Sociology

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee

Back in November I joined as they provide advance listening copies (ALCs) for booksellers. is the indie version of Audible with similar terms and selection. I finally put my free membership to good use and listen to Kristen R. Ghodsee’s book.


From the Inside Flap:
Unregulated capitalism is bad for women. If we adopt some ideas from socialism, women will have better lives – and yes, even better sex.

American women today are encouraged to lean in and pursue professional success, all while juggling relationships and the responsibilities of raising kids. But they face a rigged economic system that makes “having it all” impossible. What if there’s an alternative?

Kristen R. Ghodsee has spent years researching what happened to women in countries that transitioned from state socialism to capitalism. She found that, when done right, socialism can lead to economic independence, better labor conditions, and a better work-life balance.

Capitalism, it turns out, is the enemy. In the workplace, capitalism creates the wage gap between the sexes so that female employees are underpaid and overworked. it reinforces gender stereotypes at home, too, where women are tasked with a second shift as caregivers.

You are not a commodity. It’s time to improve women’s lives, and Ghodsee’s book is a spirited guide to reclaiming your time, emotional energy, and self-worth.


I hate the title of this book, I ranted against it every night I read it to my husband. Who eventually decided to pick it up himself and start paging through it to see what had me so angry. And he said, “I thought you’d love this book.” And I do, goodness yes, I love this book. But I hate the title. I feel like the entire premise and point of the book is lost in the sensationalist nature of the title. It’s like a click bait-y headline in my newsfeed, not the title for a book about feminism and socialism.

While I cannot begin to understand what living under state socialism was really like, I doubt it was quite as rosy as Ghodsee paints it. But this book is not really about what Soviet socialism was like, but merely uses it to compare and contrast the experience of women in the west under capitalism (primarily in the USA) and that of women in the Eastern Bloc in the days of the Iron Curtain. And while the primary argument gets a bit repetitive, it is, at its basis, the root of feminism.

Capitalism is built on women’s unpaid labor. Because women work primarily in the home, they have consistently been dependent on male family members, especially spouses, for all their basic needs, from income to health care. Under socialism, when women work outside the home and receive a fair wage, more government and public funds are put into their support with public day cares, and other facilities to assist families in care taking responsibilities. The Scandinavian system of public welfare and socialism is held up as the supreme ideology that all nations should strive for.

Whether this is feasible or not in the US, I honestly don’t know. But it certainly and intriguing point and line of questioning that Ghodsee undertakes to explore and I would be interested to see how, after the next election cycle, our system of governance might change and evolve.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $22.00 • 9781568588902 • 240 pages • published November 2018 by Bold Type Books • average Goodreads rating 3.95 out of 5 stars • read in April 2019

Why Women

Bookish Tuesday

Books That Made Me Laugh

As spring approaches, I look forward to books that bring not only a smile to my face, but a laugh as well. Below are some of my favorite books that genuinely made me laugh out loud.

1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

As the anniversary of his death approaches, I think long and hard about Robin Williams – he who laughs loudest and longest is usually in the most pain. Tony made me laugh, and I will forever be grateful for that.


2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I laughed so hard I was crying. Though my laughter here has been tampered a bit by the fact that Allie Brosh has rarely been seen either in public or online for 5 1/2 years now and her second book is indefinitely postponed. Allie, wherever you are, I hope you’re okay.

Hyperbole and a Half

3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I didn’t realize the mental health theme here until I started writing these descriptions. One way of combating depression, which each author thus far has always been transparent in discussing, is humor.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

4. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

After recently finishing her disappointing follow up, I wanted to remind myself why I love Alyssa so much. She truly is a most relatable woman.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

5. Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Princess Margaret was a very unique character and while her life was clearly sad, the way she handled being the Queen’s little sister offers a great deal of humor.

Princess Margaret2

Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology

So Here’s the Thing… by Alyssa Mastromonaco

I begged and begged our publisher rep for an advance copy of this book because I loved Who Thought This was a Good Idea? And when she didn’t send one, I was devastated, but of course, still read it when it arrived on the shelves for sale!


From the Inside Flap:
Alyssa Mastromonaco is back with a bold, no-nonsense, and no-holds-barred twenty-first-century girl’s guide to life, tackling the highs and lows of bodies, politics, relationships, education, life on the internet, pop culture, and spontaneous motorcycle trips along the Japanese coast. Whether discussing the future of diplomacy or high-profile dance-offs, working int eh West Wing or working on finding a pair of underwear that doesn’t make her look like a Teletubby, Alyssa leaves no stone unturned… and no awkward situation unexamined.

So Here’s the Thing… brings a sharp eye and outsize sense of humor to the myriad issues facing women the world over, both in and out of the workplace. Along with Alyssa’s personal experiences and hard-won life lessons, interviews with women like Monica Lewinsky, Susan Rice, and Chelsea Handler round out this modern women’s guide to, well, just about everything you can think of.


I love Alyssa Mastromonaco. I did not love So Here’s the Thing… Which is upsetting to me. As a bookseller, my goal is to bridge the divide between readers and authors and also help to expose readers to something new and different. When I loved Who Thought This was a Good Idea? so much, I shared it with a middle aged woman who once walked into the store wearing a MAGA hat. She loved it. Bridging the divide, one step at at time. When she asked for So Here’s the Thing… I had to think long and hard about whether I recommended it or not.

The publisher’s marketing is misleading. Alyssa spends the first quarter of the book rallying against our president. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I wouldn’t be such a big fan if I didn’t find myself often agreeing with her. However, I feel there is a time and a place for such rhetoric. And based on the marketing of this book, I felt the publisher tried to hide the truly divisive language found between the front and back cover.

Additionally, the non-political parts felt like a rehashing of anecdotes from Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? I loved it, but this felt like the fat that was trimmed from the first one. And trimmed for a reason. I understood the point of the book to be on offering helpful advice to twenty-first century women, and while I still respect Alyssa and look forward to any further books she may write, I was left incredibly disappointed by So Here’s the Thing…

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $27.00 • 9781538731550 • 240 pages • published March 2019 by Twelve • average Goodreads rating 3.92 out of 5 stars • read March 2019

So Here's the Thing

Diary of a Bookseller

Meet the Press

Diary of a Bookseller, Day 3

I support the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I work in a local bookstore, one of the last bastions of free speech. I’m also lucky enough, that in my role as the assistant manager at a local independent bookstore, I’ve been featured in local publications three times in as many years, the most recently this past weekend.

My favorite books of the last few years have been the memoirs and biographies of journalists, specifically those of Lynsey Addario, Marie Colvin and Martha Gellhorn. So when a local Philadelphia journalist approached me about writing an article about the store a few weeks ago, I said yes. Not just because I wanted to be in the paper and online, but because I want to support our journalists in reporters in their efforts to tell the truth. Why so important in this particular instance? Because she wanted to talk about my least favorite shelf space in the store: the politics section.

My boss and I sat down with Maria Panaritis, and talked about how that section has changed since the election of 2016. And admittedly, I had some sleepless nights before hand, agonizing about what I could say that wouldn’t alienate any of our customers. Because even the customers with different political ideologies than me, still choose to support a local bookstore and I vowed not to forget that. I love our customers, and I want to represent them, just as much as the store. And thankfully, the feedback so far has been positive. For your reading pleasure, if you so choose, are the three articles I mentioned at the start.

Saturday, March 30, 2019 in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Friday, May 5, 2017 in the Norristown/Pottstown Times Herald

Monday, January 9. 2017 in the Chester County Daily Local News

Bookish Tuesday

My Favorite Celebrity Memoirs

I alternate back and forth between loving and hating celebrities memoirs. The hate, from the fact that they often are approached by a publisher to write a book, or their agents have very little difficulty finding a buyer for a proposed memoir. Whereas the rest of us aspiring writers have to grind our teeth writing query letter after query letter. The love side, comes from the content. They offer a mostly safe palate cleanser read, best read between heavier books from which one needs to recover. So here are my top choices, in no particular order:

1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle

While full of more name dropping than I typically care to endure, it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard at a book. I loved Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and will read anything and everything now that Eric Idle chooses to write.

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (2)

2. As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I’ve loved The Princess Bride for most of my life and when my coworker told me how wonderful As You Wish is, and I discovered the audiobook is narrated by almost the whole cast, I was completely hooked.

As You Wish-1

3. Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

Part memoir, part self-help, Iliza’s book is both helpful and humorous. I love everything she does and, along with Lucy Knisley, I feel like she’s my big sister author.


4. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

More a collection of essays, and not quite a fair assessment of celebrity memoir as it was Tony’s writing that made him famous in the first place, I will love and defend this man for the rest of my life.


5. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

When I was first introduced to her on screen, Mindy annoyed me. I think it was mostly her speech patterns on The Office. But I loved The Mindy Project and my sister raved about her books so I figured I’d give them a shot. She really is an inspiring person and role model.


Diary of a Bookseller

The Art of the Author Event

Diary of a Bookseller, Day 2

One of my favorite parts of my job at a local independent bookstore is hosting author events. Sometimes, this is also the most stressful part of my job. We’ve hosted events for everyone from our local self-published picture book authors to national, and international, bestsellers. And each and every event is different, based on the author, audience, and publisher. Sometimes things go incredibly well, and sometimes we weather complete catastrophes.

The Debut or Little Known Author

On Tuesday we hosted debut novelist Mathangi Subramanian to discuss her book, A People’s History of Heaven. I was super excited to have her come to the store, as the bookstore is one of very few independent bookstores owned by an immigrant, my boss, the owner, is from India. As Mathangi’s book is set in India and the area around the bookstore has a sizable Indian population, it seemed like the perfect fit. But no one RSVPed to attend our event. We’d had a few people buy the book, but we were nervous we’d be asking her to speak to an empty space. It’s a fine line to walk with events – do you cancel? Do cross your fingers and hope for the best? Rarely do we cancel, though we have had to do so before, especially if the author was traveling a great distance, we don’t want to waste their time.

Thankfully, a debut or little known author is usually grateful for any and all exposure we can offer them and no one has ever gotten upset with me for no one showing up. These events can either be boring, or exciting. If we don’t have other projects to work on at the store, we can spend the allotted time chatting with the author, their family, and learn more about them and the book and we can help spread the word about it. Often, if the turnout is disappointing, we’ll revisit having an event later, if possible, once we’ve had a chance to spread the word.

Community Member, Co-Owner, Owner, Mathangi & Me

The Local (Celebrity) Author

These events make up the bread and butter of our in store events. Being in the Philadelphia area, when Ray Didinger released the updated edition of the Eagles Encyclopedia, we hosted his book launch. This was an exciting event, a, because I’m an Eagles fan, and b, it was sure to be a popular event. With a popular event, but a small publisher, there’s a greater chance of something going wrong. In this instance, we discovered about a quarter of the books had a printing error, and had to scramble to get the books in stock, given how many we had pre-sold for the event. Thankfully, Ray was delightful and the event went smoothly.

Often with a local (celebrity) author, they think they’re hot sh*t and that they’re doing us a favor by gracing us with their presence at the store. Oftentimes these are authors who do not have agents, publicists, or event editors and have self-published their own books. We had one man hound us repeatedly to put his book on the counter, would re-arrange all of our displays, drive away our customers by standing at the door and shoving his book in their face and follow them around the store, and then called us incompetent for not bringing in hundreds of people to his signing after he changed the date three times.

The local author is the most difficult event to predict how it’s going to go – it can be lovely and delightful, or it can be a nightmare, along with anything in between.

The Bestselling Author

Lisa, Francesca & Me
Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella (her daughter) & Me

I think it’s almost like celebrities, some are wonderful, some are ones you don’t want to meet because you’ve heard stories about them ahead of time. We’re lucky to have two wonderful bestselling authors who call us their home bookstore, Lisa Scottoline & Elin Hilderbrand. They are both absolutely wonderful human beings and delightful to work with (they’re books are pretty good too!), they bring in hundreds of people to the store which is always a logistical challenge. This summer will be my 4th event with each of these two ladies (they both come by the store every summer), and I’m just starting to find that I’m finally getting the hang of it. For those who love attending events, here are some frequently asked questions I get in the lead up to a big event and immediately after, and the answers I normally provide:

Question 1: Do I have to buy the book from your store?
Answer 1: Yep! The publishers send their authors on tour and pick our store as a stop because we promise them a certain number of sales. If the event is at a local independent bookstore, you should buy your book from them anyway to support your local economy. Often other markets will charge more for the book to be signed. At an indie, you’re getting a book and the opportunity to interact with someone you admire, for the sticker price of the new book.

Question 2: Can I bring my mom/dad/sister/best friend/co-worker with me?
Answer 2: Of course! The more the merrier! However, if they don’t share your enthusiasm for the author, please consider the other fans when saving seats, standing in line for the signing, etc.

Question 3: Will the author personalize my book/take a picture with me/have a 20 minute conversation with me?
Answer 3: Authors are generally incredibly kind and gracious people – they know that they wouldn’t be in the position they are if not for their loyal readers like you! However, each sets their own rules on pictures and personalization, and when you want to have a lengthy conversation, please be considerate of the people waiting in line behind you, and the staff who have to stay longer than the last person in line who have usually already been working for 8 hours by the time it’s your turn in line.

Question 3: Why did you do this particular thing this particular way?
Answer 3: Because the author/their publicist/publisher/etc. wants it that way. We are often asked why we don’t move our two biggest events out of the store and to a bigger venue – we get complaints that the store is overcrowded, we should just close for the event, we ran out of seating, etc. It’s hard to explain to people that we know our limitations and we do our best to accommodate everyone, but that if we more the event outside the store, we can’t utilize our new wine bar. Trust me, the staff want you to have an enjoyable time.

Bookish Tuesday

Moving… with 1,000 Books

I have always been a collector of books, but a few years ago, when I started working at an independent bookstore, I was introduced to these magical things called…

Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)!

For those unfamiliar with the concept (and I was before attending my first BookCon shortly before starting my job at the bookstore, they are paperback copies of books that are to be released in the next 1 to 9 months pre-bound by the book’s publisher for distribution to booksellers, librarians, and in today’s world, book bloggers and Instagram influencers. While some bloggers blog to get these coveted free books, I am lucky enough to be inundated with them at work. I’m a book blogger to help me keep track of everything I have read.

But now, gentle readers, my husband and I are moving into our first house. Yay! A house! I thought this would automatically mean more room for more books, dream come true, right? Wrong. The house we fell in love with is lacking one major thing that I wanted – a wall that I could easily convert into faux built in bookcases to achieve my dream of a Belle-esque library, complete with sliding ladder to reach the higher shelves.


The lifelong dream of three year old me is not to be. At least not yet. I still hold out hope. But now, what do I do with my

1,000+ books?

Aside from taking all the extra book boxes from work (which are, of course, perfect for transporting books), what do I do? I’ve already donated some 300 books to various organizations, schools, and charities, my shelves are all double stuffed, and I’m going to have to get rid of one of them due to lack of space… I thought moving from apartment to house would mean more space, but I digress.

While Unf*ck Your Habitat has been a helpful guide in paring down other things and establishing productive cleaning habits, I don’t want to forgo bringing home lots of books! So while I pack and donate those books I no longer have room for and can bear to be parted from, I shall continue to brainstorm ways to avoid bringing more home… three weeks to go!