Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sports Books

I have a really hard time writing reviews of sports related books. They are among the hardest reviews for me to write, maybe because sports are something I love so much and I just can't quite express all the wonder and loveliness and enjoyment they bring. That being said, I love to read and at least rate them, and highly recommend the following:

1. Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary: Follows the fledgling little network of ESPN from its early days up through the giant it has become today. Great read - who doesn't love SportsCenter?!

2. The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball by Gene Wojciechowski

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary: What else can be said about the greatest college basketball game ever? Follows both teams through the tourney (March Madness, or the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for those of you not familiar with my language) and ends, naturally, in the greatest 2.1 seconds ever played. (GO DUKE!)

3. When March Went Mad by Seth Davis

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary: More March Madness talk, looking at the lives, teams and eventual meeting of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of England's Lost Colony

Author: Lee Miller

Rating: 1 Star


This is a subject I've been interested in for such a long time but this book is so poorly written, I am sad to say I can't even bring myself to finish reading it. This has never happened in my entire life; I've never met a book I couldn't muddle through, but this one has bested me. The author's interspersing of source material in italics in the middle of a sentence was so frustrating, not to mention the fact that the author's own interpretation of said material is sometimes confusing as to how the conclusion was even reached in the first place. I don't know how this book made it past an editor. While the subject itself is interesting and the author seems to have done the research, it's so difficult to get past sentence fragment upon sentence fragment. Too bad really, I was looking forward to this one.


Since abandoning this abysmal book, I have found myself a little more at ease with doing so. As my to read list has increased exponentially, I am coming to accept the fact that there are too many books and too little time. I simply can not be bogged down by books that are truly terrible, as this one was. This book is badly in need of a good editor, and a writer who understand the difference between history and historical fiction. 

The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome

Author: Christopher Kelly

Rating: 3 Stars


The title can certainly be a bit misleading, but the problem with tackling a subject like Attila is the lack of recorded history of the Huns. The entire first half of the book was about the Roman empire in the generation before Attila lead his people. Even the second half of the book that actually focused on Attila is shaky at best, given that the information comes from a Roman historian - though he appears far less biased than those who were content to simply label Attila as a barbarian and leave it at that. Decent read, but sluggish in some places. Not really anything new to add to what is already known.

Anne Frank Remembered

Author: Miep Gies

Rating: 5 Stars


I had not done a review of this book on Goodreads, much like Anne's diary, because I find it hard to do that and not feel like I am reviewing someones life and actions for them. But this is an important book, as important as Anne's diary, because it shows that what Anne felt was really still true - that there were still good people, willing to risk their own lives, because what the Nazis were doing was wrong. Mrs. Gies said time and again after the story came to light that she and her husband were not heroes, but they were doing what was right, because it was right. But they are heroes, just like the thousands of others across Europe who acted in the same manner, helping hide their friends and neighbors, doing whatever they could to help. Highly, highly recommended.

Auschwitz: A New History

Author: Laurence Rees

Rating: 4 Stars


Very well-researched and well-written, this would be a quick read if the subject matter itself wasn't so heartbreaking. WWII and the Holocaust have always interested me, and while I didn't learn anything new in general about the time, I did learn a lot more about Auschwitz, which of course is the intended purpose. There is a lot of additional information of what occurred outside the death camp, but that info is important in helping to see how Auschwitz evolved into what it became. I also find myself angry all over again, as I have been in the past when finishing other texts about the Holocaust, when reading how few perpetrators were ever punished for their crimes against humanity. While I'm not normally an advocate of 'an eye for an eye', this is one case where I'm more than willing to support just that.

Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 3 Stars


First, I have to say I was really, really looking forward to this one.

And yet...I don't get it. I fell for the hype (after abandoning Fangirl because it just was NOT good), because every once in a while I'm in the mood for an easy read in the realm of YA fiction. I read this over the course of one afternoon and am left wondering what others saw that I don't.

So, it's not a terrible book by any means, but not so wonderful either. With all the constant references to Eleanor having to take her bath when Richie was gone, it was pretty easy to figure out super early on that he was the one writing that nasty stuff on her school books.

I guess part of the issue for me is how Park could go so fast from telling her to sit the fuck down the first day on the bus, to being in love with her. Their romance never really clicked for me, just like it never made sense to Eleanor herself. I did find myself not ready for the book to end though, because I WANTED it to make sense.

The part that was most heartbreaking for me ended up being Eleanor's home life in general, and that of her siblings. Her mom had a choice to leave or not, but the kids didn't. They were stuck and the line toward the end when Ben and Maisie want Eleanor to take them with her because they want to get out of the house too, but Eleanor tells them there are no other kids to play with, just heartbreaking because it is hopeless for all of them. Even they recognized how awful it was, and Ben was 12, Maisie only 9, maybe 8, I don't remember. I just wanted them to all be okay and thinking as Eleanor and Park were driving to Minnesota, that I hoped the rest of her family would be okay too.

Speaking of, seriously, Park's parents just let him up and drive Eleanor to Minnesota? I did appreciate the line that driving in St Paul was not like driving in Omaha - understatement of the year. I am a Minnesota girl and believe me, there is no comparison between the two. Omaha has NO IDEA what traffic really is. (And I know this, because I have driven extensively in both places. Seriously, Omaha, you are not as big and bad and wonderful as you think you are.)

I liked the alternating point of view, but the writing itself was just disjointed. And it wasn't because of the switching back and forth, even mid-chapter. I think it just comes down to the fact that I don't really enjoy Rowell's writing style. (I'm still holding out hope for Attachments, even when I couldn't make it through her other adult novel, though I forget the name already - in addition to putting aside Fangirl).

On a positive note though, I love that for once, Eleanor of Aquitaine is referenced when their English teacher talks to Eleanor about her name. Usually when people hear my daughter's name, they reference Eleanor Roosevelt. Now, I have no problem whatsoever with Eleanor Roosevelt and admire her quite a bit, but please - my daughter isn't named after the wife of a president, she's a QUEEN. I'm just glad someone besides me knows who Eleanor of Aquitaine is.


Author: Tina Fey

Rating: 3 stars


I did not actually write a review for this on Goodreads but I am writing one now. Truthfully, it is because I was really disappointed in the book, which I realize goes against my rating system. I LOVE Tina Fey. She is hilarious and awesome and I adore her. But I did not adore this book. I don't know what it was, but it just wasn't quite right for me. I certainly did not expect it to be funnier, because one can not expect to laugh all the time through everything. I don't know, there is just something I can't quite put my finger on that made this less than stellar for me. But alas, because I do love her work as a whole so much, I couldn't bring myself to rate it lower than a 3. If I am being objective and pushing adoration aside and not thinking about Liz Lemon and Weekend Updates and Sarah Palin impersonations, then it is a solid two-star rating. But since I am human and not a robot, those characters, among others, come into play. The best I can say is, give it a try yourself and see what you think if you find Tina as funny as I do. You might easily come away with a different impression.

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Author: Thomas Cahill

Rating: 3.5 Stars


I'd give this 3.5 stats if I could (Edit for blog: here I can, because this is my blog! Yay!), as I did like it, and having been to Ireland and seeing some of the ruins makes the book more vivid. It was an easy read and I enjoyed it, as it is difficult to find much on the history solely of Ireland. People seem to be very bothered by the title of the book, but how can you look at the work that was done to preserve the literature and not agree? I especially found the sections in St. Patrick interesting, as so little is known about him and this is the first I've read of anything beyond, "He was a slave, then he became a Christian".


I am forever fascinated by the histories of England, Ireland, and Scotland. I don't just mean medieval times, but the Dark Ages and even before. The problem with this is, there is little to no information about these times in these far-flung places that were so far from the 'civilized' worlds that we do have information about. 

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Rating: 5 Stars

With my first review I am already breaking my code that I outline in a previous post, 5 stars, meaning I would read it again. I have read this book exactly one time in my life and can not ever read it again. It is too heartbreaking.


Having been to the Annex myself, seeing the bookcase, the stairs to the attic, the wall where Anne pasted her photos, I can't even fathom writing a real 'review' of this diary. Because that's what it is, the diary of a child who recorded her thoughts and feelings as any other child might, who faced a horrible situation and ultimately did not survive. Her legacy, however, will live on - as long as people are willing to listen to the message. 

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again."


I first read this book in middle school. I was obsessed with all things related to the Holocaust and World War II, and read anything and everything I could (age-appropriate, usually). My family is largely of German heritage and I just could not wrap my head around how these atrocities were allowed to happen. Perhaps I knew more than I should have at an early age, but that's neither here nor there now. I often imagined what it would be like to be Anne, to live in the Annex and to have such an internal struggle in regards to her relationship with her mother, especially. Once I got the opportunity on a visit to Amsterdam a few years ago with my mom and cousin, it was almost too much to handle and I cried my way through the rooms until we reached the end of the tour.

In many ways Anne was wise beyond her years, and in others she was very much still a child, living a horror that she would never escape. But still her words echo, long after her death: "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."


Good morning!

I am beginning to move reviews from Goodreads to my blog today. I will of course continue to use Goodreads - it is a wonderful site that has lead me from one book, to another, to another, and that is why my 'to-read' list is over 2000 books now. But I have also heard some not so great things about reviews being deleted (don't know how much truth there is to this, or for what reasons reviews might have been deleted, but better safe than sorry). Plus, sometimes it is nice to just have your own little corner of the Internet where you can make your own rules.

A few things about reviews:

1. I will rate the books out of five stars (unless I come up with something more creative than a 'star'). I may use half stars as well, though not often, if I just can't make up my mind.

5 Stars -loved it, fantastic read
4 Stars - good, worth the time
3 Stars - okay, nothing spectacular
2 Stars - didn't much care for it
1 Star - awful. How was this published

2. I will always specify if I received the book free as an ARC. This happens two ways for me (though I am sure there are other sites that offer free ARCs, I think I have enough books on my plate right now!) I get ARCs from Netgalley, another awesome site that allows you to browse the catalogue and request directly from the publisher and if approved, you can download a digital copy to your computer/iPad/etc. I also have won copies of books from various Goodreads giveaways and the publisher sends a hard copy.

3. Some of the review posts might have a few books grouped together, such as if it is a series I am reviewing, or several books by the same author (like if I decide to review every single Dr. Seuss book that Eleanor and I have read). I will always specify when this happens.

4. I will try to include pictures of the book covers as well, if I think it has a particularly interesting cover. Cover art is pretty important to me, and I love that Netgalley recognizes this because when you request a book from them - beneath the cover is the option to vote on what you think of the proposed cover.

5. I will be as specific as possible with labels for each review. It will be labeled by rating and subject matter, so hopefully if you are looking for something in particular, this will make it easier to find.

So, here we go. If you have read a book that I review, I would love to know what you thought of it as well, whether you agree or disagree. Leave a comment and let's have a discussion!

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Just A Quick Update...

No, I have not forgotten about my book blog already! I will be working on it this weekend, along with a myriad of other projects, including my own children's book that I am very excited about.

I plan first to move my Goodreads reviews here as well, so those will be available in more than one location. I don't generally review books for children unless I get an ARC from Netgalley, or Eleanor and I REALLY REALLY love it. I try to review everything I read, but sometimes it is just not possible with a very active 19 month old.

Happy Reading!


Sunday, February 22, 2015


So it has been a minute since I have blogged, but I am ready to start again. This is where I will be reviewing books I read for myself, or that I read to Eleanor. I will also give updates on my own writing projects - which are coming along slowly but surely. I am excited to get started again!