Monday, April 29, 2019

Tackling the TBR Week 16: April 22-April 30, 2019

Each week I will be keeping track of books that I have read from my TBR. I have a huge backlog of books and often end up reading new books that are not even on my list, instead of trying to whittle down the list that continues to balloon up on Goodreads. Chuckles had the idea first, and we are going to use this as a chance to encourage each other to get those books read instead of always grabbing new ones and thus never making a dent in the physical and digital stacks we already have. It will also give us a chance to take a good look at our lists and see if there are ones we are no longer interested in. We will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month.

Previous Week's TBR Total: 3,513

Books Added to TBR This Week: 26

Books Removed from TBR This Week: 58

Currently Reading: 10

Books Finished This Week: 7

Books DNF-ed This Week: 3

Duplicates Removed: 0


New TBR Total: 3,473

Is your TBR under control, or a hot mess like mine? Though, to be fair to myself and honor my progress, this list is not nearly as big a hot mess as before Chuckles and I started this adventure!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice


Rating: 5 Stars

Wow. What a book.

I could not put this book down. I read it in a matter of a few hours and was constantly stopping to take notes. For so long I have had to try to explain how it is possible to be both pro-choice and a Christian, and here I can finally explain so articulately, because Dr. Parker has done so.

Dr. Parker did not come to his decision to become an abortion provider over night. It was a long process of evolving for him, into understanding that there is a moral argument to be made for providing women of all ages, races, social classes, religions, and so on a safe space in which they can receive the service of a doctor like Parker - services which are 100% LEGAL in the US. And the shameful state laws being passed, slowly but surely chipping away at Roe v. Wade are trying to ensure that even if abortion is legal, the poorest of the poor and the already-disenfranchised will have no way to access a safe and legal procedure they may desperately need.

The narrative here is thought-provoking, compelling, and helped me understand even better my position on the issue of abortion. I am pro-choice. Always have been, always will be. I can even recall an incident in 4th grade where a boy named Eric and I got into an argument one day during class - we were arguing about abortion, of all things for 4th graders to be arguing about. Looking back, I feel sorry for Ms. LeMay, who must have wondered what she had done wrong in order for this to debate to rage in her classroom. I clearly remember stomping into my aunt and uncle's house after school (Mom worked until 5) and shouting about how this boy said that abortion was murdering babies, and how could anyone even think that because a fetus and a baby were not the same thing?! Deep thoughts for a 4th grader, eh? I still feel as strongly about the issue now as I did then. Women must have, and deserve, to have autonomy over their own bodies.

This is our right.

You will not take it away.

It is our right to decide to have children, or not. To decide when is the right time to become a mother, and when it is not. For some, there is never a right time, and that is okay. Whether or not to have an abortion is not a decision any woman comes to lightly. I can promise you, no pregnant woman wakes up one morning and proclaims, "What a lovely day, think I'll go 'round to the clinic for an abortion after lunch."

Literally, none.

Yet this 100% LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE is so heavily stigmatized, and even women who know they made the right decision for themselves by choosing to terminate a pregnancy, are made to feel ashamed, as though anyone else has the right to judge their life and the things they've been through that brought them to that choice.

As you might surmise, this is a topic I am incredibly passionate about. I will fight tooth and nail until the end of time and do whatever I can to ensure that access to safe and legal abortions are always an option for women. But for a long while now, as I found my way back to my faith after Eleanor was born nearly six years ago, I have had to wrestle with this question, of how I reconcile my belief in a woman's right to control her own body, with being a follower of Christ. Turns out, it is not as difficult as I thought it would be, given the daily barrage of right-leaning politicians who profess that their Christian faith demands they put an end to abortion immediately.

Dr. Parker's word spoke to me in a way that had be constantly wanting to shout, "Exactly!" as I read. He was able to, as a born-again Christian who has since found that Quakerism within the last decade or so, say everything I regularly want to say and articulate these thoughts in a meaningful way that invites people to meet one another where they are at, without judgment, and understand that we each have our own story and path to follow. He firmly believes that the services he provides is something he does in order to care for the women in his many communities - unfortunately due to so many frivolous laws being passed particularly in the Deep South, he travels weekly to several states, including Mississippi where there is exactly one clinic that provides abortion services.

There are so many great passages in the text and even as I type this, I am contemplating if I will just share them and say, "See here, this is important" and be done with it. Or if I will go into detail and make this review even longeeeeerrrrrrrr. Seriously, I had so many notes it was kind of ridiculous. Even so, his words are important and the way in which he came to these beliefs, as a Christian, are so crucial to understanding how one can both BE a Christian and support a woman's right to choose.

Dr. Parker addresses the issues head-on of what he perceives to be one of the unspoken, underlying reasons that some right-leaning politicians are so in favor of ending Roe v. Wade. He does not shy away from the racial implications, particularly when talking about those who use the platform of abortion to claim it is a form of black genocide (a tactic that angers him greatly).

"The truth, I am convinced, is that the people behind the black genocide movement, like Priests for Life and Life Dynamics, do not care about black babies and black women. These are often the same people who want to do away with public housing, I want support state-sponsored child care. Theirs is a feigned concern. they are using women of color as pawns in a much bigger game...Their goal…Is not, actually to curtail abortion services for poor women and women of color. It's to limit access to abortion for all women, including, and especially, white women because the thing all too many white anti-abortion activist really want, which they can't say out loud, is for white women to have more babies, in order to push back against the browning of America..As we march toward the reality that, by 2050, no one racial or ethnic group will hold a proportional majority in this country, racial suicide paranoia bounds. And for the white racist legislators in the red states, nothing is more threatening than a majority-brown country; it strips them of their historic power... (page 164)"

Dr. Parker goes on to add...

"The white people who are still in charge believe that if their women don't start having lots of babies, they - the white patriarchs - are going to become obsolete.

100 years ago, a white politician with the same fear who looked to exert control over female fertility would just say so...Theodore Roosevelt encouraged white women to do their duty and have at least two children, or else contemplate "race suicide." In these times, such a bold articulation of racist values is impossible. Too many of their own women are working and going to school, running businesses. running for political office, and taking birth control pills: any outward pressure on daughters or sisters or wives to have more children would be risable..And so the white men in charge have invented a work-around. They've tied their antipathy toward abortion together with civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. They understand that by curtailing abortion for black women they curtail it for white women, too. It's a slight of hand, a misdirection. The way I see it, the attack on abortion rights is nothing less than an effort to put all women back in their place" (page 165).

I don't believe he is wrong about much of this. Controlling women's bodies is ultimately what the anti-abortion movement is about. They certainly do not have the right to call themselves pro-life. Pro-birth, yes. Pro-life, hell no.

I also appreciated Dr. Parker's explanation of his personal beliefs and his professional choices. I feel like this is extremely important, because were he to not do this, it would be easy for someone to try to make a point that he performs abortions with as little regard for the procedure as the woman supposedly using abortions as a method of birth control. (Seriously, do not even get me started on people who actually think this is a thing. An abortion is an invasive and physically uncomfortable/painful procedure. Not at all something that is done without thought.) I especially appreciated his thoughts on how he proceeds if he thinks a woman is there against her will. The world needs so many more providers like Dr. Parker, who truly cares about each woman he treats, and makes sure he is doing his absolute right by each and every one who seeks out his services.

"In keeping with my commitment to abide by the law, I also comply with every TRAP regulation, no matter how unjust or discriminatory I believe it to be. I do this because it's more important to me to provide abortions than to not provide them, and because I understand that my reputation for being an excellent provider of 'safe and legal' abortion is all I have; the minute I resort to guerrilla tactics, I have given away the higher ground" (page 194).


"In my work, I abide by the consensus, established by Roe and by medical science, around "viability." According to Roe, the state has a compelling interest to protect the life of a fetus only when it reaches the point where can survive outside the womb with the aid of medical technology. I will not terminate a pregnancy beyond 25 weeks. For a million reasons, this boundary makes sense to me. For one thing, although abortion is very safe, it gets riskier as the gestational age of the fetus increases. I don't feel comfortable assuming that risk-especially if a woman's only rationale for wanting to terminate is her personal preference. I won't do it. If you're 28 weeks and you just don't want to be pregnant, or you just don't want to give birth-that's not an appropriate use of my skills" (page 194).


"I also refuse to perform abortions on women who I believe are being coerced. So many factors play into a woman's decision that this can be hard to discern. Every kind of woman winds up on my table, and I don't interrogate the circumstances of their life, because personal details are outside my purview… But at the same time, I do everything I can to explore what for me the central question, which has two parts. First: Have you made this decision yourself? And second: are you resolved about it? A woman is entitled to her own regret, as well as her own inner conflict and moral ambivalence. But I will not do an abortion if I sense that it is not her own desire" (page 195).


"When a woman tells me that her boyfriend has threatened to kill her or beat her if she does not terminate, I will refuse to perform her abortion. I have no reason to disbelieve you, I will say. But this is a legal problem, and I am a doctor, not a lawyer and not a police officer. We will help you get into a shelter. We will help you get a restraining order against your boyfriend. If, after you get yourself away from your boyfriend, you find that terminating the pregnancy is something that you want to do, well then, I am here next Wednesday through Friday and the clinic opens at seven in the morning" (page 198).


"I am sure of what my job is and what it isn't. I do not perform abortions on women who do not want them. If a mother is threatening to withhold support, or love, or shelter from her pregnant daughter, I will make sure the girl understands what that means for her. It's good for you to know now that if you want to carry this pregnancy forward, you won't have your mother's support. If you want to have this baby, we can figure out ways to get you help. We can help you find a place to live. But it's good for you to know early on that you're on your own. By framing the girl's reality in these terms, she may see her situation differently. She may consider, realistically, how it will be to raise a child on her own as a teenager and she may come to a different decision. Or she may not" (page 199).

Dr. Parker briefly touched on religious groups who support reproductive rights and I found this extremely helpful. It is kind of embarrassing that, at age thirty-six, I did not realize groups like that existed, because I guess I just assumed they didn't. But here he talks about groups that he refers to as "brave and righteous leaders for reproductive rights" who "have been so widely ignored, for decades by the public and press" (page 208). I've spent much of my time since finishing this book seeking out information about said groups, with utter fascination, really.

Dr. Parker's professional choices are not without risks, as he also points out more than once. He refers to the day a fellow provider, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered in his own church as he served that Sunday morning as an usher, and how difficult that was. But on the other hand, Dr. Parker is also quick to point out that while some providers (particularly in the Deep South) go to the lengths of wearing disguises to conceal their identities as they enter the various clinics they work at, that he himself is one of the best disguises of all. While not dismissing the risks entirely, he says, "My best protection is my every day self. I can walk around in plan sight because no one on earth expects a large, bald, black man in sweats and a baseball cap to be a doctor, let alone one of the last abortion doctors in the south" (page 129).

Dr. Parker's sentiments on the current and future laws regulating abortions and providers who can perform this service are crucial. As touched on above, while Roe v. Wade is still the federal law of the land, bit by bit so many states have passed laws that are making it more and more difficult for clinics that provide abortions to remain open. He cites specifics such as mandating that these clinics have hallways wide enough to maneuver a gurney through (despite the fact that clinics have no need for using gurneys), and other requirements that are so obviously meant to cost the clinics so much money in renovations that they simply can not comply, and end up closing as a result of being out of compliance with new and increasingly over-the-top mandates. Another major obstacle revolves around the admitting privileges of doctors who provide abortions. Some states are now requiring a doctor preforming abortions to have admitting privileges at  a hospital in the area. Dr. Parker points out how this, too, is meant to curtail the doctors' abilities to serve patients who need them; many hospitals are unlikely to grant such privileges for a number of reasons and once more we see clinics closing in the areas that often need them most. And also in many cases, even if a clinic is able to comply with all of these demands, it can often be just as difficult for a woman needing an abortion to even get there in the first place.

"Increasingly, limited or no access to abortion is a reality. 89% of US counties have no abortion provider at all; nearly 40% of American women of reproductive age live in these counties. This means on average, a woman has to drive 30 miles to a clinic, more than 50 if she lives in a rural area-and more if she seeks an abortion after 20 weeks" (page 180).

This is not okay. There are a myriad of reasons why a woman might seek an abortion, and not a single one of those reasons is anyone's damn business except the woman making the decision. So when lawmakers very obviously go out of their way to throw up as many obstacles as possible in a woman's path, they are choosing to ignore the pesky little part of the law that says ABORTION IS LEGAL IN ALL FIFTY STATES. Women must band together and fight for our rights of body autonomy, no matter what walk of life we come from, another point that Dr. Parker makes: "When it comes to protecting the right to safe and legal abortion, all women are sisters. A legal threat to abortion access for a poor, African-American woman is a legal threat to a white woman, too. A state wide ban on 20-week abortions affects every woman, no matter what her income or where her kids go to school. It might be easy to look away from the plights of women like those who come to the clinics where I work but if lawmakers succeed in stripping away the rights of poor women to obtain abortions, they will also be quietly but inexorably stripping away all women's rights. Solidarity is the best defense...I have seen the solidarity at work, especially in recovery rooms. After abortions, women are frequently volatile, awash with relief or tearful at the end of a long inner journey. Frequently I have seen two women, virtual strangers, black and white, holding hands across their bed rails, one woman in the midst of her emotional turbulence and the other one helping her through it" (page 182).

There are still so many more passages I feel are hugely important and want to share, but I am also finding that this review has become wildly out of control. I realize that many I quoted were long, but I do sincerely hope that at least one thing here has given you pause to think about your own opinion and perspective. Here I will take my leave, dropping these last couple morsels for you to mull over, as I have done repeatedly since finishing this hugely important text:

"Talking openly about abortion should be something that happens in church, and not suppressed by religious authorities in the interest of preserving their own power. Women should find healing and understanding in church, not stigma and shame" (page 210).

"As a Christian, I feel that it's my job to help offer a counternarrative: that God gave every woman gifts and the agency to realize those gifts, and that nothing about choosing to terminate a pregnancy or to delay childbearing puts a woman outside of God's love" (page 69).

"The earth spun, and with it, this question turned on its head. It became not: is it right for me, as a Christian, to perform abortions? But rather: is it right for me, as a Christian, to refuse to do them?" (page 36).

"The procedure room in an abortion clinic is a sacred as any other space to me, because that's where I am privileged to honor your choice. In this moment, where you need something that I am trained to give you, God is meeting both of us where we are" (page 212).

Highly highly recommended.

Gone to New York: Adventures in the City


Rating: 5 Stars

This is a lovely little collection of essays about a city I love so deeply, I can feel it down into the very depths of my soul. Though I have never been there, I feel like NYC is where I belong (second only to Edinburgh of course), and when I finally get to visit I both fear and look forward to never wanting to leave. I fear also that the city I have built up in my head over the years could not possibly truly live up to what I think it will be - but this is NYC we are talking about. The chances are good that it will be exactly what I want it to be, and more.

I have enjoyed reading Frazier's work in The New Yorker and found this collection easy to read in a matter of an hour or two. As with any essay collection, some pieces will be stronger than others, but overall I felt like this one flowed well and there was no essay that I finished and thought, "Wow, that is so out of place among these other essays." I might be a little biased toward Frazier and his work, because I have enjoyed it for so long, but even so, he crafts his tales well.

In this set, we see New York in all her glory - quirks, oddities, curiosities, and all. That is in part what draws me to the city, and perhaps it was best said in the final season of F·R·I·E·N·D·S (I know, I know, not an entirely realistic portrayal of life as a twenty-something in NYC, blah blah blah) when Chandler and Monica are leaving the city and this doesn't sit well with the others:

(only the first two minutes is really applicable)

We see New York from Frazier's perspective, so in this instance the book is as much about him as it is the city he loves. We see how he sees the city, but also how this place has impacted him, how it has changed him over the years. It is a strong message, that we become part of whatever place we inhabit, and it becomes part of us. Sometimes home is not the place where you are born, it is the place where you truly live.

My favorite essay in this collection was "The Morning After". In it Frazier writes of September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath with such truth and clarity even in the face of such confusion and terror. He watched his home, under attack, and the emotions are all right there at the surface. I could really picture it all in my mind, over and over, images made even more real with his words accompanying them.

Frazier loves New York, that passion is obvious. From his minute observations in one essay, to his grander vision in others, he writes powerfully, and well. He is someone who you would want to take you on a tour, to show you some of those quirks, and point out all of the things that make New York, well, New York. Frazier does not give undue praise or criticism, the city is his and he loves it, warts and all. It is gritty and real. Imperfect and wonderful.

Highly recommended.

Fire Lover: A True Story


Rating: 3 Stars

It has taken me quite a while to figure out how to review this book, as at the time it left me rather unsettled. Not by the content, but mainly from the perspective of, this book was not great, but the story was - if that makes sense. This is the only book I have read by the author, and was I was reading up on him I found he is formerly of the LAPD and writes both fiction and non-fiction of the thriller/mystery persuasion. I think that is where I figured out what was not quite sitting right with me - this is not a True Crime book in the classical sense, nor is there any mystery to it. We know from the beginning who is setting these fires and that he will be apprehended. But the author's writing style does not change in order to more fitfully tell the story, as there is still that fictional/entertainment flair he employs that I think does the book a disservice. It is not a bad book, and I still remained interested in learning about this case, but the tone definitely could have used some tweaking. And I will say, he also needs to relax on the italicized words and exclamation points. Seriously.

In this book we meet a man named John Orr who has been obsessed with fire from a young age, and would watch eagerly as a child as firefighters out out fires with little regard for themselves when duty called. He became a fire fighter as an adult, going on to become a fire captain and eventually a top-notch arson investigator who was well-known and highly respected.

Not coincidentally, he was also the giant d-bag who happened to be "the most prolific American arsonists of the twentieth century", deemed as such by a slew of government profilers. For years the area was plagued by an arsonist who always managed to slip through this fire chief's fingers. And make no mistake, these were not little campfires. Four people died during his rampage, and millions and millions of dollars worth of property was damaged or destroyed. I can't even imagine the shock that his colleagues must have felt when they discovered the arsonist was one of their own. We are not talking about a weekend volunteer firefighter here, but a man who started at the bottom and rose up through the ranks to become the Glendale Fire Department's lead arson investigator.This was man entrusted with a very important job, a man who wrote articles about his career field, who taught classes, who by all outward appearances was fully committed to his job. That's what makes his betrayal all the more difficult to reconcile, I suppose.

It is quite possible that Orr might never had been caught, had it not been for a few key breaks - and the fact that he literally wrote a book about a firefighter who was also an arsonist.


So Orr wrote a novel called Point of Origin and though he always called it fiction, once you know of his crimes it is pretty easy to see art imitating life. He called it fact-based fiction. The prosecution called it otherwise. They point to the certain details in the book that mirrored an unsolved arson case that he could not have known even through his own work as a lead investigator. Not so smart after all, hmm?

The story itself is incredibly frustrating, in that the case was actually solved FOUR YEARS before Orr was arrested. Marvin Casey, another arson investigator, put the evidence together and concluded it was none other than John Orr. Yet, no one bothered to listen, because it was preposterous that someone so good at their job, and so dedicated to their career could actually BE THE BAD GUY. In so many instances, Orr was seen at the scene of the fire and it was often chalked up to, "Wow, John Orr is super dedicated to his job and is always the first to arrive!" ...except we all know now that the real reason he was on the scene first is because he didn't leave after SETTING THE FIRE. Casey came to his conclusions in 1987. Orr was not arrested until 1991. In all likelihood, according to ATF agents, it is possible that John Orr set over two thousand fires in the seven years he was going around proving what a great investigator he was (there's some serious cop-envy here inside Orr's twisted mind. He wanted to be a police officer but didn't pass the test. Something in that test showed he was not fit to carry a gun. I'm shocked. SHOCKED).

So overall, it is not a terrible book and the story itself is engrossing. Some reviews have noted that they felt like the last parts of the book, regarding the trial, dragged on for them. There are sections that get pretty technical but I still found them useful and was not bothered by the trial aspects. What I am bothered by is that this horrible excuse for a human being could walk into a place of business and see families shopping, young children, the elderly, people just living their lives - and he did not care. He was on a mission to show everyone just how great he was, how smart he was, how much smarter he was than everyone else. He did received life in prison without the possibility of parole, and for a guy like this, I think it is a more fitting punishment than the death penalty would have been. Sociopaths think they are smarter and better, so the fact that he was caught and will live the rest of his life in a tiny cell is the worst punishment that could be doled out. Now he has to live with the knowledge that he didn't get away with it, that there is someone - a lot of someones - out there living their lives, who were smarter and even better at their jobs than he was.

State of the ARC #15

State of the ARC is a monthly feature hosted by Avalinah's Books. I am so glad I stumbled upon it, because it helped me so much in tackling my ARC list in 2018. Now things are under control, and this post doesn't cause me as much worry as it used to. Links go to Goodreads, unless I have finished the review, in which case it goes to that. All ARCs are from NetGalley unless otherwise noted.

Pending = Zero

Not Started = Zero

Started = Two
Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom, 9-17-18 (received two days after publication, author request/digital from publisher)

Hacking Darwin, 4-23-19 (received two days after publication)

DNF = None

Finished/Review to Come = Zero

Review or Feedback Sent = One
There you have it! What does you ARC situation look like for this month?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2


Rating: 5 Stars

Okay, so I STILL find the title problematic, but I gave this one five stars anyway, just like I did the first one, because the stories truly are what matter. For me the title is an issue because, if we want to normalize the success of women (for fuck's sake, it is 2019 and we still have to work at this shit!), we can't refer to these successful and brave women as rebels - and the little girls who read the stories as rebels also. I understand that yes, we are rebelling against the patriarchy and in that sense the title works. But I dream of the day when my daughter won't be thought of as a rebel or an anomaly because she does something fucking amazing for the betterment of humanity. Even so, I hope they continue the series, because there are so many women who I am learning about, and Eleanor has taken such an interest in so many of them.

One new feature that Eleanor and I especially liked about this book is that it included a world map to show where each woman was from. Eleanor loved finding the name and number each time we read, and always had to make sure she had found the location before we began reading. This gave me a great opportunity before or after to them discuss the place that woman was from, and their place in the world as a whole, and compared to where we are located. I hope future editions continue to include a map.

There were more contemporary women in this volume, which I appreciated because it gives Eleanor a sense of, these women are alive now, I can look up more information about them and continue to learn about them as they achieve even greater heights. One drawback to the book and the inclusion of 100 women per book is that their lives have to be carved down to one page for text, with the opposite page for a likeness of the woman. This means that sometimes it makes these accomplishments that are so great, seem as though they were achieved with little difficulty. However, this is not too big of an issue for Eleanor and I personally, because even though she is only five, once she is interested in someone or something, we find many books about that topic/person. As she grows, she will have the opportunity to read of these mighty girls in more details. For now, these bite-sized morsels are perfect.

Highly recommended.

NetGalley ARC: The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King


I received a free digital ARC from the publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating 3 Stars

Scotland is endlessly fascinating, especially when we get down to how Scotland became Scotland, right on up to about the time ol' James VI said "See ya!" and left for London, never to return. (Kind of foolish if you ask me. I like London, but I LOVE Edinburgh. I don't think I would have liked either, however, in the 1600s.)

This book centers on a James who did stick around - until he was killed in battle at Flodden in 1513, at least (and may have hung around even longer than that, depending on what whispers you believe). It is not about his life, however, but about his afterlife, his legacy. It deals with a variety of aspects, dealing with both historical facts and legends/folklore about the dead king.

I should make clear from the start that this book assumes the reader has some knowledge already of Scottish history, which luckily I have, but the book might be off-putting for those who have none. I don't mean to imply that you must have read #ALLTHEBOOKS about Scotland, but some knowledge is helpful - at least about this period. It makes so much more sense when you understand the dynamic between Scotland and England at the time. New readers of the period might find it odd when they learn that James IV's wife Margaret is the sister of Henry VIII. You know, the same guy who sent the army to fight at Flodden after both kings had agreed not to attack one another (as part of the marriage agreement) - but then James goes and does it anyway because Henry was at war with France, causing not Henry, but his true queen and wife Catherine of Aragon to command the military to engage the enemy (Henry was actually in France at the time and left Catherine in charge - obviously because she was a badass who got shit done.) The era was complex and dangerous and confusing. Some previous knowledge is necessary.

Coleman explores the myths, legends, and conspiracy theories that abounded after James IV supposedly met his end in battle against the English at Flodden, as did many of his nobles. While the nobility was pretty well decimated in the rout, there was always a lingering question about whether or not James actually survived. The reaction to the news of the king's death makes sense to me - especially a king who was well-liked among his people. Not only did this traumatic event occur, once again having to battle with the English armies, but to lose your king - it would certainly have provided comfort and hope to believe that maybe, just maybe, he lived and will return. Of course, that didn't actually happen - or at least, he never returned.

There were some problems for me within the text, and part of it has to do with the writing itself. It felt like it started off very well, with the historical bits, but as it went on it took me a bit longer than I anticipated to actually get into the story once the lore started to appear. There were some parts I ended up skimming, as it felt like kind of overloaded, and certain parts felt bogged down and repetitive.

I appreciated that this was not simply ghost stories and far-fetched lore. There is plenty of historical fact to ground the reader, before the legends and stories make their appearance. I think that aspect is always crucial for books like this, as it makes the historical figure a much more real person, not simply someone who died so long ago that we can't even imagine them being a living person anymore. It is obvious that the author has done his research and knows his subject well, both the facts and the folklore.

The reason for all the hubbub about the possible afterlife of James IV comes down to a chain of iron. You see, James IV essentially became the figurehead of the rebellion against his father, who was murdered in 1488. It is said that though he did not murder his father or have a direct hand in it - even that he had forbidden any harm come to his father - James IV felt a deep guilt for the death of James III, and that every year during Lent for the rest of his life, he wore a heavy iron chain around his waist, and added weight each year. Yet, when James IV's body was supposedly recovered at Flodden, the corpse wore no iron chain. This gave rise to many rumors - that he escaped and was killed a short time later, that he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, that he became a hermit, and so on and so on. There are plenty of stories on the other side of the spectrum though too, those who believe he was killed on the field, or a short time later, and involving the final resting place of the battered corpse. (Hint: he was buried multiple times in multiple places, often at the same time. Because, of course.)

In the end, I still recommend this read, though it took me longer to get through than I first anticipated.

Review Bomb: Jersey Shore Edition

Image may contain: text that says 'If you think for a single second that I'm gunna subject my grown ass to yet another season of Jersey Shore you're absolutely right it's fucking Tee shirt time'
(graphic is not mine, found online)

I love Jersey Shore and I ain't ashamed of it one bit. I wouldn't even call it a 'guilty pleasure'. Leading up to show time every week, my friends and I would send each other obnoxious text messages and call each other just to shout, "Cabs are HEEEEEERE!" and hang up. The first seasons were my most favorites, though I watched the whole series. I did not get as into the spin-offs, because the strength of the show was these seven ridiculous people living together and being ridiculous and I loved it. Without cable, I have not been able to see the episodes of the new series, Family Vacation, but I still keep up with what is going on.

9636127 Rating: 3 Stars

I wasn't reading this one for any of the 'shore-tested secrets' as advertised on the cover, but because it is Jersey Shore-related and it occurred to me that these books have been sitting on my TBR for ages and I should get to it, especially considering my new TBR goal I have going on. I figured it would be an easy read and I was right. It's not because it is terribly written or anything like that, it's put together pretty well. JWoww has always seemed like the realest one to me (and Pauly, too. Pauly just wants to have fun ALL THE TIME), and it was definitely her personality coming through in the way she writes. The book was exactly what I expected, nothing more and nothing less. There were some some really good solid bits of advice that, were I childless 20-something hanging out at The Shore, I'd definitely keep in mind. Then again, I am still the target audience even having a child, because as fans know, JWoww, Snooks, and Ronnie are married and/or have children now. It's kind of weird to 'grow up' together, but also kind of amusing. I am just glad all my drama has not played out on national television (cough*Ronnie*cough). I suppose this qualifies as a self-help book, but I more so looked at it as yet another way to get to know one of my reality faves, despite being a few years old.

I also find it amusing when people automatically assume because these people have become famous for being drunk and loud and hungover on said national television, that they must be stupid. This is not actually the case, and believe me, partying hard and being intelligent are not mutually exclusive. And if you don't believe me, please allow me to show you tons and tons of photos from undergrad and grad school where I am a hott fucking mess on the weekends, while busting my ass working two jobs and going to school for time, earning both a Bachelor's and a Master's in education.

In addition to the expected sections about hair, make-up, clothes, etc, Jenni adds a lot of thoughtful advice as well. If you've seen her on the show, you know she is pretty upfront - she will say what's on her mind, even when no one else will (except the time with the note in Miami. That whole situation was so messed up for everyone involved. What a clusterfuck!) She included a lot about healthy eating habits, work-outs, self-respect, staying safe when out for the evening, body positivity, and even some yummy Italian recipes - plus cocktails as well. She also shared some pretty personal stuff about a particularly unhealthy and abusive relationship that she had been in, and I think this story is especially important for those who look at JWoww as this super strong and confident woman. She is, but she also went through some shit, and it's part of her history but she is not trying to hide it. Her voice is authentic and she is by far one of the most relatable 'reality stars' in general.

11349877 Rating: 3 Stars

Aw, Snooks.

Obviously this one was written long before Snooki was married with three children, but much like JWoww's book, I was not exactly reading it for all the insider secrets. Also like JWoww's book, this was exactly what I expected: a look at the life of earl-seasons Snooki. This also reads very much the way she talks, and she is funny and ridiculous and someone who would be fun to hang out with at The Shore. We're not talking great literature here, but that's not its intention anyway, so why judge it like that? It's a fun summer/beach read, though like I said it is a bit dated now, seeing as how Snooki is now a wife and a mom. Still, it's a light read and a change of pace and was a good way to spend an hour or so.

18995165 Rating: 3 Stars

Here's another shocker for you: Vinny isn't a dumdum either.

This book differs from the other Jersey Shore fare, because it is a genuine, serious self-help book. I don't mean that the others were inauthentic in any way, but the others more so capitalized on the Shore connection and the guido/guidette life, whereas Vinny shares his struggle with anxiety and how he works to control it.

I never in a million years would have guessed that anxiety and stress were factors in Vin's life. He's always been the one who is so calm and wants no drama. (He was also one of the 'good boys' until Pauly corrupted him!) Here he shares his experiences starting in high school when he would have panic attacks come on out of no where. It became such a problem that he ended up moving back home during college because it got so bad, and was also with him throughout filming the first five seasons of the show.

There's nothing groundbreaking or new here, and Vin discusses at length the books and resources he has used in order to help keep the anxiety and stress at bay. He does not claim to be an expert, and is simply sharing a plan he has developed for himself that is working. So many people struggle with stress and/or anxiety in general (myself included - I get pretty intense a-typical migraines from stress and have meds to help control those migraines), and even to the point of officially being diagnosed with a stress or anxiety disorder. Don't be surprised by this book. Vinny is highly intelligent and explains a process that works for him. Wanting to share that so that he can help others is a great thing, and given his visibility in pop culture, it might encourage those struggling to seek help when knowing someone 'famous' deals with the same kinds of issues. We are not talking world-changing here, but there is enough room at the table for everyone to share their truths and shouldn't we all be trying to help one another, anyway?

17836509 Rating: 3 Stars

Ah yes, back to Snooks again.

Much like I said with Vinny's book, and Jenni's too, it is possible to be more than one kind of person. It apparently horrified some people when Nicole and her boyfriend announced they were having a baby, as though they actually expected her to continue going out and partying while pregnant. Let's be realistic here, folks. Not everyone you see on television is exactly one thing all the time. Babies make people grow up, thankfully, and that's what happened here. Make no mistake, she is still Snooki, but she also became a mom and got married, and that became part of who she is now.

Truthfully I wish I would have read this when I was pregnant with Eleanor. I feel like I would have been less irritated by some of the less comfortable parts of pregnancy, and the first few months afterwards had Snooki's voice been playing through my head, telling me what was to come. At least things would have still been funny. Okay, so cracked and bleeding nipples will never not hurt, so forget that part. Still, it would have been a kind of comfort anyway, had I read this then. We can always count on Snooki to be brutally honest, and that is exactly what you get here. Again, not groundbreaking, but kind of like talking with your pregnant BFF about all the things your non-pregnant BFFs wouldn't understand.

Stacking the Shelves #44

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc. Never has my addiction been more obvious than when I am now keeping track of every single book I acquire.


Library Treasures
37638072 40226213 38256745 39404423 40046136 37822613 40766384

What did you add to your stash this week?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Three Weeks To Go!

The school year is slowly but surely coming to a close. I love my kiddos, but I am very much looking forward to two and a half months of being a stay-at-home-mom to my little lady! I am also looking forward to making significant progress on my own book, as well as getting caught up on the 100+ reviews I have to write.

21 days to go!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tackling the TBR Week 15: April 15-April 21, 2019

Each week I will be keeping track of books that I have read from my TBR. I have a huge backlog of books and often end up reading new books that are not even on my list, instead of trying to whittle down the list that continues to balloon up on Goodreads. Chuckles had the idea first, and we are going to use this as a chance to encourage each other to get those books read instead of always grabbing new ones and thus never making a dent in the physical and digital stacks we already have. It will also give us a chance to take a good look at our lists and see if there are ones we are no longer interested in. We will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month.

Previous Week's TBR Total: 3,525

Books Added to TBR This Week: 0

Books Removed from TBR This Week: 0

Currently Reading: 12

Books Finished This Week: 10

Books DNF-ed This Week: 0

Duplicates Removed: 0


New TBR Total: 3,513

Is your TBR under control, or a hot mess like mine? Though, to be fair to myself and honor my progress, this list is not nearly as big a hot mess as before Chuckles and I started this adventure!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Stacking the Shelves #43

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc. Never has my addiction been more obvious than when I am now keeping track of every single book I acquire.

Library Treasures
13539495 11161726 7760816 15833693 13573505
448487 188512

What did you add to your stash this week?

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Dead Queens Club


Rating: 5 Stars



That is how I felt in the ensuing hours after I finished DQC and even now, two days later, I am not sure I will do much better than I did then. I thought about writing the review in those hours after I finished the book, when all the feelings were raw and right at the surface. But I thought better of that and it is a good thing I did, seeing as how I am still pretty all over the place with this.

I know, I am also shocked. Not only did I read another YA that struck my fancy because it is about one of my favorite dysfunctional families, but I LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.


My heart truly was actually racing as I neared the finale of the book. I had no idea how it would turn out for one character in particular, because of the end that her real-life counterpart met, but I was at least somewhat comforted by the fact that somehow, all of the others would come out on the other side.

I should back up a little bit though, and let anyone not familiar with the story know a little but more about it. Basically, what the author has done is taken all the drama from the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, as well as the old grouch himself, and transplanted them smack-dab in modern-day high school. A recipe for disaster, right? There's no possible way that the complexities and seriousness of the that period can be properly conveyed in modern language with a bunch of teenagers, right?




Anyone who talks with me for five seconds about books knows that I have a very low regard for most (not all) historical fiction, especially when it strays too far off track and into the Twilight Zone (EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT YOU, PHILIPPA GREGORY. LITERALLY. EVERYONE.) I was hesitant to read this one only for the most fleeting of moments because I did not see how it could possibly end well, given the material, but I am so glad I went ahead and read it because...


It's also awful, because Henry is awful. But Parker and Jane and Lina and Cleves are not. And Katie. Sweet, naive Katie, who didn't deserve what happened to her - in real life or in the book. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Catherine Howard and her depiction here tugged at my heartstrings even more. The compassion she was shown, both by Cleves in particular and by the author in said depiction, I was so grateful for. I found that the author came to many of the same or similar conclusions as Gareth Russell did in his biography of Catherine, Young and Damned and Fair (which is also amazing and you should read ASAP).

While I am not typically a fan of historical fiction, I am also not a fan of revisionist history when it comes to certain topics/historical figures. BUT, this book really is neither of those things. It is literally these historical figures transplanted to the 21st century and made into teenagers and I'll be damned if it is not one of the most accurate depictions of the events, with a modern twist. I am not saying this in jest, the author truly did her research and managed to fit all those pieces of the puzzle from 500 years ago into a new frame. If you are well-versed in Tudor history, you will find endless Easter eggs, such as when one of the characters exaggerates that Lina and Henry were together for 25 years. We know, of course, that in reality Catherine of Aragon and Henry were married nearly 25 years. Also, Henry's football number was 8, and that's how he was referred to (though in the VIII form) as Parker, Cleves, Lina, Jane and Cat plotted to bring him down.

One of the things I loved most about this modern telling is how each woman was given her voice back. Even though we are viewing them with a modern lens, we see what they said or did, and why they may have acted as such. We see this even with Henry, in his charming, manipulative glory. Time and again we saw him spin his tangled web of lies to Cleves, making her doubt herself and those around her. One has to wonder if the real Anne of Cleves ever had thoughts such as those - though obviously she never would have voiced them, otherwise she might not have outlived all the others. Henry was exactly what you expected - intelligent, witty, charming. The way we imagine, and was more or less documented, the real Henry existed as, when he was young and newly crowned, a true Renaissance Prince. Long before the paranoia, rage and madness set in.

I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book. The author knows her stuff, really truly. It would be impossible to write this book without such a background. I also enjoyed the fact that all of the historical facts flowed with the narrative. It was not extra material that the author shoved in here and there, it was 100% a showing, not just a telling.

The only bit that was remotely jarring to me was some of the names. Eustace Chapuys was changed to Eustace Chapman (and a gossip columnist for the school newspaper at that, wink wink) but Hans Holbein (a photographer/artist) remained...Hans Holbein. And this is not even anything negative, or that I really had an issue with. It was just odd to see some names the same, but others marginally changed.

Just writing about the book has kind of made me emotional all over again. There is so much else I want to say, but I can't really do so without giving away key points. All I can say is this is a must-read - ESPECIALLY if you are a Tudor fan. You will not be disappointed.

Highly Recommended.

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves


Rating: No rating, DNF

It's not often that I bother with a review of a book that I DNF, but I could not be quiet about this one. All I can really say is...

Fucking hell. A book about profanity should be much more interesting.

Sunday, April 14, 2019



On this beautiful Palm Sunday, I start the book I read every year in this Holy Week, the last week of Jesus' earthly life.


I love this book for many reasons. There are maps and diagrams, in addition to the most important content of all: the details from the Gospel regarding what Jesus and His followers did each day of the week. It starts with Jesus' triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, His movements throughout the week, through the Crucifixion, then the empty tomb, and the revelation that He is Risen. I am especially thankful for a book like this, because it lays out side by side what each book of the Gospel says in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I think this is incredibly important, and am so grateful that is something my pastor spoke at length about at today's sermon. All of our perspectives are different, we each have our own reality as it fits into the larger world. That the four books of the Gospel all contain different and similar details makes sense, as each person paid attention to different goings-on. That is so important to remember, particularly when someone tries to say it did not happen because the stories are too different. In reality, they are not that different, each is focused on different aspects of the Resurrection and what those witnesses saw.

Happy Palm Sunday!

Tackling the TBR Week 14: April 8-April 14, 2019

Each week I will be keeping track of books that I have read from my TBR. I have a huge backlog of books and often end up reading new books that are not even on my list, instead of trying to whittle down the list that continues to balloon up on Goodreads. Chuckles had the idea first, and we are going to use this as a chance to encourage each other to get those books read instead of always grabbing new ones and thus never making a dent in the physical and digital stacks we already have. It will also give us a chance to take a good look at our lists and see if there are ones we are no longer interested in. We will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month.

Previous Week's TBR Total: 3,549

Books Added to TBR This Week: 17

Books Removed from TBR This Week: 35

Currently Reading: 9

Books Finished This Week: 7

Books DNF-ed This Week: 1

Duplicates Removed: 0


New TBR Total: 3,525

Is your TBR under control, or a hot mess like mine? Though, to be fair to myself and honor my progress, this list is not nearly as big a hot mess as before Chuckles and I started this adventure!

Happy Reading!