Sunday, January 28, 2018

State of the ARC 1

This is my very first State of the ARC post, hosted by Avalinah's Books, and I'm super excited to be participating. One of my 2018 Reading Goals (also find a related Top Ten Tuesday HERE) is to catch up on all the galleys I fell behind on when I began writing my own book last year. I am still trying to figure out how best to go about displaying the information, so please be patient with me.

I have been a member of NetGalley for almost three years now and I love it. I have read so many amazing books, and of course a few not-so-amazing books, but I am very happy with my experience so far. I just joined Edelweiss yesterday, and am a little more hesitant. I think that is going to be one I will have to play around with a bit more to see if I like it. That, however, did not stop me from requesting two ARCs anyway.

I am very behind on my NetGalley ARCs, and that pains me. A lot of the books have already been published and I hate that I did not uphold my end of the bargain in the end of 2016/through 2017. It is my goal this year to split my time more evenly, as these publishers and authors still deserve the reviews after they so kindly granted my requests. All links go to Goodreads.

(Format equals = title/% complete, pub date)

Pending Approval/Denial = Five
1. The Secret Poisoner, 3-22-16


5. The Black Prince, 5-1-18

Not Started = Six

Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln, 4-15-16 (Received three days after publication)

Failure, 7-1-16 (Received three months after publication)

The Poison Plot, 5-15-18

Educated, 2-2-18

Started = Twelve

Whose Promised Land (8%), 10-15-15 (Received four months after publication)

The Witch of Lime Street (12%), 10-6-15 (Received three months after publication)

Queens of the Conquest (4%), 9-26-17

The First Congress (12%), 2-9-16 (Received one month after publication)

American Gothic (22%), 10-4-16

Scars of Independence (8%), 5-9-17

Muslims, Christians, and Jesus (4%), 11-7-17 (Received two months after publication)

1932 (32%), 10-1-15

Lincoln Reconsidered (20%), 3-22-16 (Received one week before publication)

Thieves, Rascals and Sore Losers (9%), 5-8-15 (Received 15 months after publication)

Finished, Review To Come = Two

No Justice, 1-9-18 (Received a week after publication)

I know this list looks kind of ugly right now, believe me I understand. Not only is it ugly because of the looooong overdue dates on some, but because of the format. I am still working those kinks out and hopefully this will be more aesthetically pleasing in future posts.

Let me know what you think and leave a link to your post as well.
Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Now, with Edelweiss!

In a kind of ironic turn of events, just a few weeks out from my 2018 goals being set - goals in which I explicitly stated I am going to get caught up on my NetGalley ARCs - I may or may not have signed up for Edelweiss. And by that I mean, of course I did.

For those of you who use both NetGalley and Edelweiss, how do you feel they compare? Do you prefer one over the other and if so, why?

Stacking the Shelves 4

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, whether it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in-store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks! To find out more, visit the official launch page.

I never realized how many books I truly procured on a weekly basis until starting this little adventure with Stacking the Shelves. Oi. No wonder my mom says I need an intervention.

NetGalley ARCs

35099638 37938322
33135584 36747918

Author Gifts


I have already finished No Justice and will be posting the review this weekend. I also just finished The Day Sonny Died, and will be reviewing it shortly as well. I even used it as my contribution to First Line Friday this week.

What goodies did YOU find this week? Leave me a comment and a link to your haul so I can check it out.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

First Line Friday: The Day Sonny Died

Lord, have mercy. Thank goodness Friday is just about here! It's time for another round of #FirstLineFriday, hosted by Hoarding Books.

My line this week comes from such a heart-breaking, but ultimately hopeful, story which sounds strange to say when considering the title. But I promise, it will be worth a read to understand what I mean. 


"There was still blood on Sonny's shoes when the detective came to interview him."

I discovered this book two weeks ago via Remembrancy when Suzie posted about it. Something about the story just called to me, and I was so lucky that one of the authors, M. Simone Boyd (who co-wrote the book with her father, Onnie I. Kirk, Jr) offered me a copy. Not even asking for a review, just straight up offered me a copy (no worries, there will be a review!) Despite having my own plate full with research, writing, reading, and raising a human, I plowed through the book in just three days. The ultimate story is of God's love for us and the options He presents us so we can live out our purpose - which because of our free will, we can choose to accept or reject.

Leave a comment or a line of your own, then head over to Hoarding Books to find the other lines waiting for you this week.

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Imaginary Dinner Party

I have talked about this a time or two in some Top ten Tuesday posts and probably First Line Friday also.

Seeing as how I have heaps of reading and writing to do, it seems like a good time for a game, no?

Right then. So, as I am reading and writing and wishing for a significant part of my day that I had a time machine, I'm giving more and more thought to who, in a perfect world with no constraints on logic or possibility, would I invite to a dinner party and why?

Let's say you can invite up to five guests and they can be real people or book characters, no limits except to try to keep this somehow bookishly-related. Naturally my picks involve either modern or historic figures I enjoy reading about, or authors I enjoy reading.

My Picks

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Kind of a given. I only have about seven-hundred and fifty-eight million questions to ask her about every aspect of her life, such as about her childhood up to the time she married Louis VII and left for Paris (and what she really thought of Abbot Suger and Bernard of Clairvaux). I'm also keen to know about the fifteen years ol' Henry kept her locked up in various castles for her part in their sons' rebellion and whether they ever actually came to love one another in the first place, long before that all went down. I'd also like to know the date of her birth so that debate can be settled once and for all. In general I'd like to meet Eleanor because she was a BAMF who kept shit together while Richard was on Crusade, then locked up as a prisoner himself by Duke Leopold of Austria. AND I want to know what she REALLY thought of John and whether or not it terrified her as to what might happen to the empire once she was gone. It would also be cool to know what she really looked like, as no portrait has survived as far as we know that shows he likeness. There are portraits and paintings purporting to be her, but there is no agreement or even evidence to fully confirm one way or another. Her effigy is the only face we can unequivocally say is Eleanor, and it was likely not even added to her tomb until after her death.

Pope Francis

Ah, Pope Francis, the pope the world needs but does not deserve. I'm not even Catholic, and I heart this guy. While I realize that no actual church doctrine has changed, and likely won't, the statements he has made on his own opinions of contentious issues within the church make my heart so, so happy. Plus, he must be doing something right for certain members of the clergy and some Catholic scholars to say he is supporting heresy. As far as I know they have been very careful to not call Francis himself a heretic, just that he is supporting it. Go, Francis.

Dan Jones

I mean, yeah okay so I met him back in September of 2017 and he signed all my books and personalized them and let me hug him and say ridiculous things and then talked to me about Eleanor of Aquitaine long after the crowd had left and my friend Roxy and I were the only two who remained. But we could also talk about tattoos and the Plantagenets and which UK castles are our favorites and why that damn top shelf in his library can't just be fitted with another board so that the white space is filled up. This last sentence will make no sense if you have not seen any of his Facebook Live chats, so go watch them, they're hilarious.

Bernie Sanders

Easily two of the most unpopular candidates in US history squared off to become President of the United States, when it did not have to be that way. Bernie would have beaten Trumplethinskin, no question. Unfortunately instead of that reality we have this one, where I wake up every day thankful that I woke up at all and we were not all killed overnight in the launching of all the nukes in the world.

William Marshal

The greatest knight to ever live? Hell yeah, I want to meet him. If you do not know the story of William Marshal's life, I highly suggest looking for his biography, the original one written in the years following his death. William Marshal is the first known person from the era who was not a king to have such a work written. Not too shabby. Plus, he and Eleanor knew one another well, so it might help them not freak out by their sudden transplant to a world unlike anything they knew in their own lifetimes.

Honorable Mentions Because I Can't Even Follow My Own Rules

Alfred the Great

The only king in the history of England to be know as 'the Great'? Yeah, let's meet please. Then we can talk about the Danes and their tomfoolery, and the whole biscuit-burning thing and why that legend has persisted for over a thousand years. I'd also like to discuss his contributions to education and literature, and what impact that really had on the populace, if he saw results within his own lifetime.

Harold Goodwinson

Mostly I want to ask him why he did not wait for reinforcements before marching to Hastings, and give him a good shake for not doing so. I mean, I know why, because they had just won such a decisive victory at Stamford Bridge that saw the demise of Harald Hardrada, the last great Viking warrior, and they were buoyed by that success. But it seemed like such a mistake, even before the arrow-in-the-eye thing, because his men were not only worn out from THAT battle but were then exhausted from the march itself. I also want to know what REALLY happened to Edward the Exile (son of Edmund Ironside) on his return, and just exactly how he managed to die before meeting up with Edward the Confessor - you know, since he was the rightful heir and everything. I suspect Harold, or his family, had something to do with it.

So there you have it! What do you think of my picks, and who would yours be?

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Luck Favors the Prepared


I received a free copy of this book from the author, Nathaniel Barber. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 Stars

This is an interesting collection of short stories ranging from observations on death, family, high school, divorce, and a variety of other topics. At times I could not seriously believe that all of these things could have happened to one person. And that's coming from someone who has had her own share of experiences that also border on the comically devastating. This is not a linear memoir of Barber's life, but moments in time that have at least partially defined who he is, or is not.

I have a couple favorite stories from this collection, though all are strong in their own ways. I don't want to spoil too much so all I will say is that one of my favorites is that of the author's first attempt at being a landlord. The home he and his ex-wife shared is the home he offers up as a rental property for a family who turn out to be the exact nightmare I envisioned, were I ever to attempt it myself. Things start out normal enough, but quickly take a turn for the weird - and worse. The wife turns out to be a total psycho and you can't help but both cringe and chuckle at her insanity. Of course, were I the author, I definitely would not have been laughing. But that is the beauty of the author's writing, the way he presents them are at least in part, an attempt at humor and he is most often successful. It may not always be a laugh-out-loud humor, but readers will appreciate the wit and dry humor to be found in this collection. As the stories are snippets of his own life, that humor often comes at the author's own expense, and you will be glad that many of these experiences are not your own.

As mentioned before, the stories are not told in a linear fashion. Barber jumps around back and forth in his life, sharing these stories that all have one thing in common: him. There are loose threads tying some together, but for the most part they are stand-alones, stories you might share sitting around the table with your friends, recounting some of the more embarrassing or oh-my-gosh moments in your lives.

Barber is a gifted storyteller, in the most frustrating of ways. In some of the stories, I was waiting for the punchline, thinking surely it could not end the way I perceived it was ending. Yet I ended up swiping the age with no resolution at all. I wanted to know more, I HAD to know more, and I was left hanging. The difference here is that the stories were strong enough that I still cared to know what happened, after the initial WTF passed. In the past I have read stories told in a similar way. Sometimes I cared to know what happened after the words on the page ended, and some I did not. For many of these stories, these tales of family and friends, an ex-wife, a brother who was both a friend and a foe, I had to know more. It is his use of silence that is as powerful as the words he does give, that keeps drawing the reader in.

These stories are real, and real-life is messy. There is not always a happy ending, with sunshine and roses and puppies. You might find yourself questioning how all of these misadventures could happen to one person, but the way in which they are told confirms that they indeed did. Perhaps some of the stories contain embellishments, perhaps not. In the end that does not matter, because even at their tamest, some are still bordering on unbelievable. You'll laugh, cringe, wonder how the hell some of these people function in daily life, and then want to give Barber a hug. Highly recommended.


As a Minnesota girl, I love this time of year. I love winter and snow and snow and winter and it is glorious. As a teacher, I also love snow days; we are on our third day in three weeks. Sadly, it is not so much due to actual snow, but ice and too-cold temps/wind chills.

What's the weather like in your part of the world right now? Here it is a good day to curl up with my baby girl and a few good books.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Stacking the Shelves 3

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, whether it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in-store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks! To find out more, visit the official launch page.

I had no intention of procuring any new books, aside from the pending requests I have still lingering on NetGalley, which I hopefully will be approved for soon.


I had a couple coupons to one of my favorite bookstores, Divine Truth. And since I am trying to be an adult, I thought it would be a good idea to go get this book:

17591758 help further my progress in being a better money-manager. The book and workbook were on sale, so it was perfect timing. Until ten other books demanded to be purchased as well...

34460577 34460521
26449739 21816685
28637699 27066885
22638848 25816427
30649313 27177626

Clearly, I am Ramsey's target audience but so help me if he tries to cure me of this compulsion to buy books constantly, we will have a problem.

And then when I was at the register, the owner of the store, Mr Rod Mackrill, made a comment about me liking to read and asked if I had read his wife's book. I said I didn't know and asked who she was; he said, "Hold on a minute", then returned about a minute later and gave me a copy of her book.


I am pretty pleased with this unexpected haul, and so touched by the generosity of Mr Mackrill for the gift of his wife Susan's book. Let me know what gems you found this week and what you think of mine.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

First Line Friday: Cecily Neville Edition

Hello again and welcome to another edition of First Line Friday, hosted by Hoarding Books.

This week my line is from a book that I am destined to enjoy because it is by one of my favorite historians, Amy Licence.


"On 31 May 1495, an old lady was putting the finishing touches to her will."

That 'old lady' is none other than Cecily Neville, who lived through an era of great turbulence in England. As mother to both Edward IV and Richard III, she could do little but watch as her sons destroyed one another - either physically or reputation-wise. She came close to being queen herself, and ended up out-living her husband and most of her children.

If you've not read anything by Amy Licence and love the drama of Lancaster vs. York, the Tudors specifically, or the Medieval period in general, you are missing out.

Leave a comment and then head over to Hoarding Books to see what other lines are waiting for you this week.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Speaking With the Spirits of the Old Southwest: Conversations With Miners, Outlaws and Pioneers Who Still Roam Ghost Towns


I received a free ARC via NetGalley from Llewellyn Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 Stars

One of my favorite things about NetGalley is that I have been auto-approved by Llewellyn so I can immediately read any book they've posted. This tends to make for some spooky reads, because they of course publish a lot of material related to all things paranormal. I believe in ghosts, I have had experiences of my own, and I love reading about the experiences of others. When I saw this book available, it was doubly exciting because there is something so tragic and romantic and, well, haunting, about the Old West. Despite its historical inaccuracies, Tombstone is one of my fave movies and I was hoping that some investigations would be made into the lives of the real men and women the movie represented. I was NOT disappointed in that respect at all.

One author, Dan Baldwin, has several years of experience using a dowsing pendulum to communicate with spirits who have not yet crossed over. I am kind of glad that I did not know ahead of time about this tool that he uses, as it might have made me hesitate. Prior to reading this one, I had no idea what a dowsing pendulum even was. I have to admit much skepticism to start with and I am not entirely convinced of its work yet, but it certainly gives one much to think about.

He was joined with a husband-wife team, Rhonda and Dwight Hull, who are both psychic mediums and can communicate with the dead. Something I really liked from the start is the team's goal of helping these spirits cross over. I also liked the fact that they did not attempt to force a spirit to cross over - though of course forcing a spirit to do anything would be impossible. More than once the author mentioned that the team did not feel right attempting to suggest the spirit move on if the spirit seemed content and happy to stay where they were. They came across a few spirits like this, who knew there was something beyond our plane of existence, but were happy to be where they were and wished to remain so. There were others who were afraid to cross, such as a young girl they encountered who was afraid she would not find her family. Perhaps the story that stuck with me the longest is the one of the supposed encounter with Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife who he abandoned in Tombstone when he met Josephine Marcus. Mattie's story is a sad one and she died of a laudanum overdose, though whether it was an accident or suicide is still debated. The team here falls on the side of believing she committed suicide and in their communication with what they believe is her spirit, they conclude she has remained behind because she is ashamed of the way she died and is afraid she can't leave the place where she is in self-imposed exile. The team encourages the spirit to move on, that she is forgiven and she is allowed to leave, then end the session.

Each chapter is set up the same way: background information of the place or subject the team is investigating, then the transcripts of the sessions. I feel like those are important, as well as the commentary within the transcripts to help the reader know what is going on. with books like this, I feel like one of the most crucial things an author can do is give as much background information as possible in order to place their subjects in the proper context. Perhaps this is even more true in regards to those who are famous or infamous. Everyone knows stories of the Old West but it is important to go beyond the legends and discover who these people actually were. It also shows me that investigators have done their homework so to speak, prior to beginning. This could also partially have to do with the fact that I love non-fiction and history in particular, but I think we can agree research is an important aspect in this line of work. Not only do they give the background information, but at the end of the chapter, when available, they list follow-up/further reading information

Despite my caution still in regards to the pendulum use (I have to learn more about it, possibly see one in action for myself in this kind of situation before rendering a verdict), another point where this team and I agree on is that we all believe spirits can return to a place where they were happy. I have been incredibly lucky in being able to spend a couple nights at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado and I can say 100% that there are spirits there. Between the audio and visual confirmations, you can just FEEL the energy. I never felt anything negative, it was happy and peaceful - though, I could have done without whoever was in the room above us stomping around all night on hardwood floors, dragging furniture about. Also, none of the floors have been hardwood for decades, it's all carpeted. And yet both nights I was woken up by very loud, heavy shoes on hard floors. But that aside, yes I believe the spirits of the little boy and girl are happy to be at the Stanley, a place they must have loved very much in life. On the reverse side, I also believe that it is possible for the doer of evil deeds to return to the scene of his or her crime. I've been to the Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa and there is definitely some negative/bad mojo coming from that attic. I think it is possible that whoever murdered the Moore family and Stillinger girls is still in the house, along with at least a couple of the children.

All in all I definitely recommend this one to those who have an interest in the paranormal. The multiple locations they visit have made me want to set up a vacation in the southwest, ASAP. The transcripts of their sessions at various locations in these ghost towns are truly interesting. I admire their commitment to the field and will you leave you with this quote that I feel like really sums up their mission (at 27%):

"You will notice in reading the transcript of the session we were not collecting EVPs like someone would collect stamps, coins, or arrowheads. Rather, these efforts are aimed at building a relationship with those who have crossed over and in gaining a better understanding of their individual situation."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday!

The Broke and the Bookish officially closed on January 11th. Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's topic is 'Bookish Resolutions/Goals'. I pretty much already did this in my New Year's post, but I will share update and add another goal that I meant to but forgot.

1. 2017/2018 Presidential Reading Goal

I set the goal for myself last year to read one book about each president. Then in February I started writing my book about Eleanor of Aquitaine and I have been distracted ever since. I started 2018 off pretty solid and knocked a few out within the first couple days. Only 30-some more to go! You can check out my progress HERE.

2. Goodreads Challenge: 150 Books

Quality over quantity is a must this year. Last year I set my goal to 150 but reached it pretty quickly, so I continued upping it. Buuuut I also kept reading these short little books from a smaller publisher that were a little lacking at times. The books were not great or in-depth, but I mainly use them to either gauge my interest in a topic, or to see how a topic I know very well is being presented. I am not going to do that this year, and will read a better mix of longer and shorter texts.

3. Give NetGalley Attention

In 2017 I really let my digital galleys fall to the wayside and that was not fair to the authors and publishers waiting on feedback or reviews. This mainly had to do with my own book, again, but it will not happen this year. I have finished up a few galleys already and gotten myself back over the 80% mark, woohoo!

4. Write a Damn Book Already

I am. I'm working on it right after typing up this post even. It has been my dream since I was very young to be an author. In 6th grade I had an English teacher named Kevin Hanzlik who one day told me, "Sarah, you are a writer." I took those words to heart and never looked back. He still encourages me to this day and this book is as much for him as it is for my little Eleanor. I can't think of a better gift for a teacher (and I say this as a teacher myself) than to go out and do the thing he believed I could do all along.

5. Buy Less, Read More

I have a serious BookBub addiction, but have refrained from even looking at the deals for over a month now. The Kindle is seriously out of control. Plus all the physical books I own, due to Half Price Books and Amberley Publishing, make it necessary for me to stop buying and start reading. I had a slight stumble on Saturday and purchased some new books at my fave Christian bookstore, Divine Truth, but other than that I'm doing fine, this goal is fine, everything is fine.

6. Be a More Active Blogger

I am making a better effort this year to visit blogs that I follow on days besides Top Ten Tuesday, First Line Friday, and/or Saturdays for Stacking the Shelves. I am really trying to be more engaged in what others are reading and to be part of and start conversations about all kinds of bookish delights. I am also going to get back to reviewing a bit more too, when time allows.

Do we have any similar goals? Leave a link to your TTT, I'll be sure to stop by.

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stacking the Shelves 2

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, whether it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in-store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks! To find out more, visit the official launch page.

NetGalley ARCS

This week was super hectic with winter break ending on Sunday. Students came back Tuesday and it is safe to say no one is ready yet! So, my book accumulation was rather slow. I picked up two ARCs on NetGalley from publishers I am auto-approved by.


I'm always looking for fun ways to introduce kids to non-fiction (big surprise). I found this one, and was psyched to see there are others in the series. It was a fun, informative read that I would love to use in my classroom.


I am almost never going to turn down a book about paranormal experiences. This was one I was a bit skeptical of at first, because of the use of the pendulum and my unfamiliarity with the way it is supposed to work. Even without that aspect though, this is a really interesting look at a very specific time in our nation's history, and there is some great historical information included about the sites they visit, as well as additional readings available.

I also had two requests approved for books I am interested in.

I am endlessly fascinated by religion. I myself am a Christian, but my quest for knowledge of Judaism and Islam in particular knows no bounds. I think this is largely due to the fact that all three groups worship the same God in very different ways, and sometimes not-so-different ways.


I'm going to start by saying that I am not a Clinton supporter by any means. I was all-in for Bernie Sanders and I will never regret that for one moment.

However, I do recognize the fact that Clinton as president would be infinitely preferable to Trumplethinskin, yet here we are. I long for the days where, if I did not hear the president's name for a few days or even *gasp* a whole week on the news, it was okay. That meant there was an adult in the White House, being an adult and doing the adult job entrusted to him. One can not deny the impact of Comey on the election, but let's also remember this: there were some people who were never going to vote for Clinton no matter what, and a lot of those people were not going to vote for Trumplethinskin either. I am very interested to see what the author has to say and look forward to finishing this one.

Author Review Request


I also had a review request from an author this week and I've already finished the book. It was a shot, breezy read and I am still figuring out what I would like to say about it - seeing as how I did not stop to take any notes as I was reading.

What did you stack this week? Have you read any of these? Lave a comment and a link to your weekly haul; I'll be sure to check it out.

Happy Reading!

The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills


I received a free copy from the author, Patrick Rogers, in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 Stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I know very little about India, and even less than that about the slice of Earth that the author was exploring. I did not even know that these living root bridges were a thing. I'm a prime example of what Jack Dawson would refer to as an "indoor girl".

I'm going to get the negative out of the way right now, since I genuinely enjoyed this book. The format on my Kindle was not the best for the photos included. It did not do them justice one bit. I want to see these bridges in color and recommend that option for anyone else who picks up this text. That's really my only complaint - though I will admit I did not read a single word of the sections devoted to bug-eating. I will vomit if I think about it any further. Feel free to read it for yourself.

So, here we have this giant white guy lumbering about in India, traveling around in search of these root bridges. The author's humor about the situations he found himself in was fantastic. Early on he writes, "When she saw my huffing and puffing up through the village she laughed, though I wasn't offended. It's no use taking yourself too seriously when you insist on being the one sweaty foreigner in the jungle." Here he is describing being passed on a trail by an elderly woman, who is much-amused when he arrives in the village later than she did, after having passed him on the trail in.

There is so much to touch on from the text, I hardly know where to go next. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the randomness of the cultural exports from the US, and how the WWE manages to infiltrate every last corner of the earth. The author writes much of a man named John Cena who became a companion of sorts on his various treks. Names in general were highly interesting, as parents often named their children with words we in the US would never in a million years consider a name. Yet the parents chose those names because they liked the way they sounded.

There was one point in the story that just about gave me serious heart palpitations. I am someone who hates getting lost. I can not stand the thought of a wrong turn and I get panicky just thinking about it. Even in the city where I live, sometimes. So you can imagine my vicarious experience when the author literally got lost in the jungle on one of his treks when he was confronted with the fact that the map he had was incomplete. He had to decide then on his own, with no guidance, which path to take. I could hardly stand it. Luckily, things worked out of course, or we would not be discussing this book right now, would we?

I was not entirely sure what to expect from this text and was also keen to learn about these remote villages, people who live lives so different, yet very much the same as you and I. When one thinks of farming in the Midwest, it is easy to imagine row after perfect row of crops, stretching out to the horizon, carefully tended and cared for under the watchful eye of the farmer. This could not be further from the truth in many of the locations visited by Rogers. He describes their farming methods as very simplistic, and very successful. Some crops are deliberately planted in the forest and left on their own until it is time to harvest. Other foods necessary to the villagers' diets grow naturally in the surrounding forests and they harvest when it is time. Something else I found of interest is the fact that those naturally-growing crops are protected by the locals sometimes at the expense of other species' sharing the same space.

Besides interacting with the vegetation, we are also treated to several interactions with many villagers. Rogers points out very early on (16%) that a "Good way to determine if you're welcome or not, and how many other outside visitors have been there before you - the way the kids react to you." He also discussed how word spread so quickly of his presence (and purpose, when known). He talks of how word spread quickly, "...sometimes to villages I've not even heard of, that a big white man is lumbering about in the vicinity" (14%). But, much like here in the US, those villages were not always friendly to one another, and Rogers found himself getting quite a lot of information from one group of villagers about another. "Exactly like neighbors the world over, nearby villages in Riwar don't always get along. In traveling from settlement to settlement, one often gets an earful of inter-village resentments; lengthy descriptions of territorial disputes that have never been truly resolved, suspicions that neighboring villages may harbor insurgents or be conducting human sacrifices, accusations that the next settlement is corrupt, and that its headman is cheating the state government out of grant money, etc, etc" (19%).

To say that the author took the road less traveled is an understatement (recall the map scenario from above, as I try not to freak out about it all over again). He set out on this mission to see and photograph these amazing natural wonders, and found such additional treasure along the way, in the form of the people and the places, the ideas, languages, and traditions, of a world so wholly removed from our own. I can not imagine an adventure more terrifying or amazing.

I appreciated the fact that the author in no way considers himself an expert on these root bridges or the world he encountered on his many treks through the jungles. He mixed his own experiences with factual information about the places he saw, which is especially important for those who have never even heard of this part of the world. I would have been so much more lost, had I not had that information, guiding me as to what I needed to Google, and what I could figure out from the narrative. I feel both parts flowed together well and this was very much a travelogue of a breathtaking adventure. It was easy to picture those far-off places, with his descriptions (and Google) of the hills and valleys, mountainsides, waterfalls, swelling rivers, and of course the root bridges. They are, after all, the whole purpose of his adventures. Rogers refers to them as being "among the world's exceedingly few examples of architecture which is simultaneously functional and alive." he goes on to describe a bit about them, while also stating he is by no means an expert. He leaves the title of expert to his guides, who we find can not fathom why an outsider would do what the author is doing - trekking through thick jungles with a huge backpack, trying to find something that the locals do not particularly value. This part saddened me, as we learn over the course of the book that the practice of growing and cultivating these magnificent structures is dying out and thus that is the reason for so remarkably few photos, despite Rogers' best efforts to find as many as he can. I feel like there is a great need for attention to this, and preservation of these bridges needs to be a priority. But on the other hand, these remote villages have existed with little outside interference for centuries, do we really think as outsiders that we know better than the people who have grown up around these bridges? It is a a complex idea and one I am glad I am not in charge of solving - if indeed there is anything to solve.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read with a good blend of fact and personal experience, as well as plenty of humor and amazing photos along the way.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

First Line Friday: Ghost Ship Edition

grab button for First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

Time for another round of First Line Friday, brought to you by Hoarding Books.

This week my line is from a book that, for some reason, my four and a half year old is OBSESSED with, and has been for quite some time. I'm not even sure why, but whenever she looked through the stacks of books on my shelves, or my desk, or the floor, this is always the one she sought. Now I make it super easy for her and it pretty much sits on the shelf at her eye level so she can grab it whenever she wants. Which is often. Whenever I am sitting at my desk working on my own book, she will always ask to play 'book fair', where she for-pretend hands me money and I for-real hand her this book. It makes us both giggle because we know that over and over, this is the book she will "purchase" when she comes around asking, "Do you have any books for me, Book Fair?" I have no character name, I am simply Book Fair. Then she sits on the couch and "reads" it, asking me about the ship and why it got lost. I should clarify, this is because I told her the story of the Mary Celeste, not because she is already reading adult non-fiction history books.


"The ship drifted restlessly through the whitecaps, like a lost soul wandering among tombstones."

Leave me a comment or a first line of your own and check out some of the other lines over at Hoarding Books.

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday!

This is the final Top Ten Tuesday to be hosted by The Broke and the Bookish (for now, hopefully not for good). Starting next week it will be hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (Jana, a contributor to Broke and Bookish).

This week's topic is Ten Books We Meant to Read in 2017 but Didn't Get To (and totalllyyy plan to get to in 2018)

Oh, boy.

I kind of feel like I have been talking about that darn presidential reading goal for the last week, and er'body knows I am bound and determined to get those read, so lets look at something else instead. Here are my picks, in no particular order:

11742238 23248162 2465562 16248031239186 30259182 11137 21926753 31742371 12101738 28999810 6497458 

The worst part is, I have every single one of these books sitting on my shelf right now, staring at me - surrounded by heaps of others taunting me with their un-read-ness.

I'd love to hear from you, let me know what you think of these titles and leave a link so I can check out your list too.

Happy Reading!