September 22, 2018

Essential Reading

Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand is the 4th book of his that I've read and possibly the one that's hit the closest to home. This book outlines the 12 Step Program from Russell's perspective with personal accounts from each step of his journey towards recovery. It is an excellent book for those struggling with addiction (of any kind) or those who have witnessed that struggle in others.

The emphasis made throughout the book is that you must
  • seek a Higher Power
  • attend meetings to have a community of help
  • work the program every single day
  • seek help at times when stressed or apt to relapse from a mentor who has worked the program
These excellent quotes from the book do a far better job of recommending it than anything I could say:
But in your life you've faced obstacles, inner and outer, that have prevented you from becoming the person you were 'meant to be' or 'are capable of being' and that is what we are going to recover. That's why we call this process Recovery, we recover the 'you' that you were meant to be. - pg 42
This program helps me to change my perspective when what I would do unabated is justify my perspective staying the same - 'if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got', if you want change, you have to change. You have to make amends. - pg 133
...'you can't think your way into acting better but you can act your way into thinking better.' - pg 160
The literature upon which these movements are founded describe it not as a 'cure' but as a 'daily reprieve'; the disease, the condition, is still there, you will feel it move through you, in fear and rage and irritation, beckoning you back into previous behavior - pg 212 
I cannot say enough wonderful things about Recovery. If you or anyone you love has ever struggled through addiction and the subsequent difficulties on the long road towards recovery then this is essential reading. 10/10 highly recommend

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

What I'm Currently Reading: The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 14, 2018

What a gal!

Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me covers her childhood in segregated Birmingham, her close-knit family life, education, and rise through professional, educational, and political worlds. I went into this knowing almost nothing about Condoleezza beyond her serving in the White House under President Bush but by the end of this book I felt that I knew her as one knows a friend. I think what I found most surprising is that she still teaches classes (Managing Global Political Risk if you're curious) at Stanford University. This book runs chronologically as most autobiographies do but two of the biggest focuses are her relationship to her parents (she is an only child) and her professional life as an academic and political scientist. She is an accomplished, intelligent, and ultimately fearlessly ambitious woman. She has never married but seems genuinely happy with her single life (sounds familiar). She makes no bones about her many achievements which include but are not limited to being a proficient pianist and fluent Russian speaker. I also appreciated that she included photographs, a chronology of her career, and a glossary of historic events and people during her lifetime. I'd say that this book would be good for anyone looking to learn more about women in politics and/or what it was like for this particular woman who was raised during segregation in the tumultuous city of Birmingham...and still make it to the upper echelons of government. Good for history buffs and political junkies. 

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Recovery: Freedom From our Addictions by Russell Brand

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 7, 2018

Who runs the world?

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri is an empowering voice for women. It's written as a letter to the future female President of the United States (if you couldn't figure that out from the title). To give some background, Palmieri served as the White House Director of Communications under President Obama and then afterwards as the Director of Communications for the Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Therefore, the reader will not be surprised that a large chunk of this book is devoted to behind the scenes of that campaign and its aftermath on herself and the country (from her point-of-view). From this standpoint alone, the book is interesting as we are seeing an event through the eyes of someone who actually experienced it from the inside. The overarching purpose of this book is to give advice and encouragement to women in any and every type of environment. Palmieri seeks to embolden women to allow for vulnerability and use the strengths that have historically been seen as weaknesses to launch yourself to the top. She emphasizes the importance of sticking up for yourself so that your voice is heard especially when yours is the only female voice in the room. (Did I mention this is quite a pro-female book? It is and I love that.) Remember: We cannot play by the same rules as men and we shouldn't have to. Personally, despite its shortness I think this is a necessary book for all peoples to read regardless of gender (but ladies ya'll should really try to seek this one out). I especially liked the book recommendations scattered throughout. :-D A solid 8/10 for me.

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 4, 2018

Author Interview: Jeffrey Bardwell

Good day, fellow readers! Today's post has not been written by me but is instead a guest post by Jeffrey Bardwell talking about his book The Knight's Secret which is the first in The Mage Conspiracy series. I know some of you out there enjoy a good fantasy book chock full of adventure and romance and Jeffrey promises to deliver that with this series. Take a look below for the details!



A terrible secret. A vengeful empress. An unstable empire.

Sir Corbin, retired Hero of Jerkum Pass, dies on the eve of an urgent mission. His granddaughter Kelsa dons the old man's armor and his wrinkles and sets out to complete his last quest. She ventures to the capital of the Iron Empire. The city is in an uproar. The emperor has been slain by rogue mages. The new empress is livid. Now, every mage is suspect, including Kelsa's mother.

Hidden behind a magic ring, Kelsa infiltrates her grandfather's old regiment. As the mission leads her down a path of dark suspicions and lustful adventures, Kelsa struggles to live up to her grandfather's legacy. Yet the more she examines it, the more holes she discovers, until Sir Corbin's secret past threatens to expose her.

Unravel The Knight’s Secret, the first fantasy adventure of The Mage Conspiracy series. Discover a world of romantic entanglements and political intrigue where lies cut deeper than any sword.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Bardwell writes epic fantasy with elements of darkness, steampunk, and romance set in the Metal vs. Magic Universe. His character-driven books are guaranteed to include gritty realism, political intrigue, lurid entanglements, dry wit, and dragons in differing proportions. He devours fantasy and science fiction novels and is most comfortable basking near a warm wood stove. When not writing, Jeffrey enjoys cooking, gardening, and shooing baby dragons from the compost bin.

The author lives on a farm and in a prior life worked as a community ecologist. He is overfond of puns and alliterations. He is also an unabashed history and mythology enthusiast and would love to hear from you.
In the Author’s own words:
Many sources swirl together within an author's head to shape the overarching theme in a long form narrative and The Knight's Secret is no exception. Theme isn't usually conscious at first: it arises from the depths of your mind like Excalibur, guided by the wet, icy hand of your muse in lieu of The Lady of the Lakes. Now, many reading this will understand that allusion because we share a common history. I was inspired by that history and a nasty recurring pattern I saw there. I don't claim my book will break the pattern or even warp it a little. Time is a wagon wheel, and we're all tied to the damn thing as it goes round and round again. However, the crushing cyclical nature of history does not magically rob those living through it of their free will.

There are numerous parallels between our mundane world and my dark little fantasy realm. Oppression comes round time and time again like a wheel rolling through different versions of the same putrid puddle of muck. You may have been reminded of stories of the parading auto da fe, the nightmare of the Holocaust, the cruel political machinations of McCarthyism, or the recent draconian changes to American immigration policy. Whenever those in power encourage bigotry and oppression, using a minority demographic as a scapegoat to distract the populace from the regime's own glaring flaws, we the people have three options within the confines of society and law: wink at the regime, turn a blind eye, or let the rage bleed from our eye sockets.

I choose to bleed from his fingertips instead. We all fight oppression in our own way. Some wave placards. Some give speeches. I write books. I would be lying if I said that was the sole source of my inspiration for this series, but it played a large role, and writing these words has been very cathartic. I won't waste time repeating that old saw about those who ignore history and history repeating itself. History will repeat itself century by century on a scale of civilizations whether we acknowledge it or not.

The smaller scale of day to day human lives is more malleable, but I do not wish to dictate how you live your life. I only ask that you ponder what you've read. I seek to pose questions. The most relevant question is this: What will you do with your turn of the wheel when it splashes through the filth?
You can follow Jeffrey on his blog here

August 31, 2018

CATS. IN. SPACE.

I hope that no one is tired of reading about my jaunts through middle grade graphic novels because today I'm going to review CatStronauts: Space Station Situation CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington. (And in a few weeks I'm going to be doing a sizable masterpost on several other graphic novels so stay tuned for that!) I started with book 3 of the CatStronauts series titled Space Station Situation which follows a team of cats in space. CATS. IN. SPACE. Is it any wonder that I started this series?! Picture a world where the entire population is made up of cats EVEN THE PRESIDENT (who is only concerned with his reelection I might add). In this installment, a meteor is headed toward earth and in order to track its progress and hopefully stop it our intrepid heroes must fix the Hubba Bubba Telescope. However, one of their crewmates has abandoned his post after a traumatizing solo flight around the earth in a spacesuit and the mission is sure to fail without him. (His name is Waffles by the way because of course all of the cats have names much like the cats we are familiar with in this reality.) The book is rife with funny puns and asides as well as excellent illustrations. I wouldn't class this as the best graphic novel I've ever read but I liked it well enough to give another book in the series a shot.

Sourec: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
I think this is from an earlier book in the series but I don't care cause LOOK. [Source: nerdophiles]

And so I picked up Robot Rescue which is the 4th book in the series and revolves around a secret mission to rescue their friend Cat-Stro-Bot after he is stranded on a planet during a mission that went horribly awry. As they are not authorized to actually be on this mission, they have to leave replacements back on earth to fool their superiors into thinking they never left...and what better solution than building lookalike robots?! For the kids (or adults with childlike wonder) that like quick, funny graphic novels and/or cats and space this is the perfect series. For myself, this is the best "book filler" I've come across in ages to help to combat my book fatigue.

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night by David Mack

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 24, 2018

Booster Pack: Book Edition

Last year around this same time I fell into a bit of a reading slump (yes, it happens to everyone) and I picked up a little comics selection called Comics Squad: Detention hoping that it would revive me. I'm happy to say that it did the trick. Thinking lightning might strike twice, I delved into Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, & Raina Telgemeier which is another book from this collection. This book explores the theme of recess with the authors/illustrators charged with coming up with stories which somehow incorporated this theme. (Some accomplished this feat more successfully than others as a few barely mentioned recess at all.) I especially enjoyed the last 2 stories both visually and from a narrative standpoint. (If you're curious, the two stories are "300 Words" by Dan Santat which was a love story and "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman which was about a RPG kickball game.) I like recommending this series to burgeoning graphic novel/comics fans since it contains a variety of storytelling and art styles to give them a better idea of what they might like. This is a great idea for anyone, regardless of age, who might be interested in sampling different writers and illustrators. 8/10 overall and certainly wouldn't say no to reading more from this series (or from the two artists mentioned).

Source: Amazon

From Dan Santat's "300 Words" [Source: Santat's Twitter]

From "The Rainy Day Monitor" [Source: Graphic Novel Resources]


What's Up Next: CatStronauts: Space Station Situation & CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington

What I'm Currently Reading: El Deafo by Cece Bell

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 18, 2018

The examination of others that leads to the self

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is another title from the list of 100 books compiled for the Great American Read. (Have you voted today?) I feel somewhat chagrined that I had never heard of this classic until I checked out this list. The reader follows a nameless narrator who tells the story of his days in college while living in the South to his move to New York City. As this is set in 1930-40 the racial/social divide is still quite stark even in the North and the author doesn't pull any punches in that regard (i.e. expect violence). The beginning starts out with our narrator underground and in hiding although we have no idea why. In explanation, he weaves a story full of brutality, bigotry, backstabbing, and political machinations. He leaves college and goes to NYC where he is recruited into the Brotherhood which purports to strive for equality among all men regardless of race. Events unfold quickly and he fully believes and embraces the cause. The fomenting of racial riots are underway in Harlem (his district) and at this pivotal moment he is pulled out of his district and sent on another assignment downtown. The reader is kept on their toes and always wondering (as the narrator is) just which side is the "right" side and what is truly motivating the men he has come to trust in this (to him) foreign city. What is the "true" self and how does one embrace it? Invisible Man chews this question over while telling a story of one man coming to terms with the racism (both overt and covert) of society which is told so convincingly that you'll forget it's a work of fiction at times. This is a dense book and took me far longer to read than I expected. Several interesting points were made and quite a few powerful passages but overall it doesn't rate higher than a 6/10 for me.

A compelling and thought provoking point:
"For history records the patterns of men's lives, they say: Who slept with whom and with what results; who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards. ...only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, these lies his keepers keep their power by." - pg 439
There are quite a few covers but I like this one best.[Source: National Book Foundation]


What's Up Next: Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, & Raina Telgemeier

What I'm Currently Reading: ???

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **