Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling
Title: Why Not Me?
Author: Mindy Kaling
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humor
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it's falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you're constantly reminded that no one looks like you.
In "How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet's Confessions", Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, ("Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn't the land of appropriate-this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman s traditional hair color is honey blonde.") "Player" tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. ("I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.") In "Unlikely Leading Lady", she muses on America's fixation with the weight of actresses, ("Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they're walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.") And in "Soup Snakes", Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak ("I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.")
Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who's ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who've never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

Guys. I LOVE Mindy Kaling. I don't really pay much attention to celebrities and whatnot, but if there was one I was obsessed with, it would be Mindy. I've actually never seen The Office (don't hate me) and I've only seen a couple seasons of The Mindy Project, but it's just Mindy herself that I love. This book was hilarious, in Mindy's signature way, and I loved every bit of it.

I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud this much at a book. I think I may have even liked this one more than her first book, which is saying something. This book was just so... real. Mindy (we/re on first name basis duh) isn't afraid to say what she's thinking, I loved getting an inside peek at her life, from her day to her relationships (romantic and friends), to behind the scenes on The Office and The Mindy Project. But she also has a few serious essays, like the one on body image, and female friendship.

I'm not sure I can even pick a favorite essay. There's the transcript of her Harvard speech, which if you haven't seen yet, you NEED to (so worth it. You'll thank me). There was also a scene from the alternate life she imagines fro herself that had me dying of laughter.

I could gush on for hours, but this book seemed to encompass everything love about Mindy--funny, confident, poised, frank, honest. I loved this book, and I think you will too.

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Mindy Kaling:

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Shadow of the Storm {by Connilyn Cossette}

Shadow of the Storm
Title: Shadow of the Storm
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: Out from Egypt #2
Genre: Biblical retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira's gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife.
When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

I enjoyed this one more than the first book in this trilogy. Maybe because I had already gotten to know these characters, but I felt more immersed into the story. The Israelites are out of Egypt at this point, and just wandering around in the desert. Except for a few mentions here and there--building the tabernacle, moving from place to place--it almost didn't even seem like the setting, though, as this story focuses more on the characters rather than the events happening.

When Shira gets a chance to learn midwifery, she realizes this is her calling. She loves it more than the weaving her mother wants her to do. But when a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira retreats, believing that maybe she wasn't meant to do this after all. I liked Shira, probably because I felt like I could easily relate to her and what she is feeling. This story is different though, as we get a POV from someone else in the story, and I enjoyed that, the different perspective and added depth.

While the love interest/romance is a big part of the story, I would not call it the main part, as this is a story about Shira. We get to go with her on this journey, as she learns more about herself, and moves past some of these things that is holding her back. I actually was very invested in Shira. The romance was interesting too, as I was very interested in what was happening and some of the things that were revealed. I found myself wondering how the author was going to handle some of these things, and I was very pleased in how they were done.

I enjoyed this story very much, from the history, to the culture, to these characters. And I can't wait for the conclusion to this series.

 Out from Egypt #1 Out from Egypt #2 Out from Egypt #3

Connilyn Cossette:

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Counted With the Stars {by Connilyn Cossette}

 Counted with the Stars
Title: Counted With the Stars
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: Out From Egypt #1
Genre: Biblical retelling
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.
To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she's only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she's ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh? 

I love my Biblical retellings, as I love seeing stories that we are so familiar with in a deeper and personal detail. I had some mixed feelings on this one, but ultimately I enjoyed this story of the Israelites exodus out of Egypt.

One of my favorite parts is how this is actually the story of an Egyptian, Kiya, and her point of view on the events that we are already so familiar with. Kiya has been sold into slavery to pay a family debt, and it is here that she meets a Hebrew slave, Shira. Feeling abandoned by her gods, Kiya finds herself drawn into Shira's stories of a Nameless God, one above all others. When the plagues start to happen, and the Hebrews are unaffected, Kiya realizes there might be something to this God after all.

One of the reasons I liked that this was from the POV of an Egyptian is because it made it so much more personal. I feel that sometimes we don't think of the consequences of the plagues, only thinking about the end result for the Israelites, but seeing the horror of them from who it was actually happening to was eye-opening. Cossette also writes with great detail and emotion, and the horrors that Kiya and Shira go through are very real and vivid.

There were times when the book lost my interest though, a bit at the beginning, and then again after they left Egypt. But it did pick up again, and towards the end, I could not put it down. The love interest didn't originally sway me (I've had enough of alpha-male types, no matter the reasoning) but at the end, did win me over.

While this still had its faults, it was a very enjoyable read, one full of detail and surprises. I found this to be a great look into lives and events in a way different than we normally would.

 Out from Egypt #1 Out from Egypt #2 Out from Egypt #3

Connilyn Cossette:

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Spindle {by Shonna Slayton}

Title: Spindle
Author: Shonna Slayton
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Briar Rose knows her life will never be a fairy tale. She’s raising her siblings on her own, her wages at the spinning mill have been cut, and the boy she thought she had a future with has eyes for someone else. Most days it feels like her best friend, Henry Prince, is the only one in her corner…though with his endless flirty jokes, how can she ever take him seriously?
When a mysterious peddler offers her a “magic” spindle that could make her more money, sneaking it into the mill seems worth the risk. But then one by one, her fellow spinner girls come down with the mysterious sleeping sickness—and Briar’s not immune.
If Briar wants to save the girls—and herself—she’ll have to start believing in fairy tales…and in the power of a prince’s kiss.

One of my favorite thing about Shonna Slayton is her ability to flawlessly weave historical fiction with fairytales. This was just as much historical fiction as it was a fairytale

Briar Rose is a spinner girl, trying to keep her family together. But her 17th birthday is looming, and she still doesn't have a solution. That is, until a mysterious peddler offers her the most beautiful spindle she has ever seen. I thought the industrial revolution was a great (albeit obvious) setting for this story. We got to see a lot of the inner workings of having to work in a factory in this time period, and all the troubles that went along with that.

I actually really loved the female friendships in this one, and how they were a pretty big part of the story. We got to see the little parts of their day, like going to suffrage meetings and boarding together and working. I also loved how important family was, as Briar is doing all she can to keep her family together. In fact, the first half of this story had hardly anything to do with magic at all, instead being about, well, Briar, and I enjoyed that. There may have been a little too much Wheeler, but I like how that was handled, as Briar comes to her own decisions about her life and what she wants.

The beginning and middle lagged a bit, and I felt the ending was too crammed with all the things left. But I liked this story, and the weaving of history and magic together to make a unique and interesting story.

Shonna Slayton:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wonder Women {by Sam Maggs}

Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Author: Sam Maggs
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: n/a
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?
Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors—each profile a study in passion, smarts, and stickto-itiveness, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to present-day women-centric STEM organizations. 

I loved this so much. Like, the kind of book I wish I had as a kid, and will be holding on to for any future daughters/nieces/other little girls I come across.

The book is split into 5 sections: Women of Science, Women of Medicine, Women of Espionage, Women of Innovation, and Women of Adventure. The stories are told in a way that they will be enjoyable to adult readers, but I think can also be understood and enjoyed by young girls as well. I also enjoyed the interviews of current women in each field at the end of each section.

I know that having something like this, where girls can see themselves in STEM fields, is important for our growing girls. I also love how this book was diverse. Not just white/American women, but women from all over the world, at all stages and social statuses. I truly think every girl will be able to find at least one woman that they relate to in this book. I also found the sections of espionage and adventure to be interesting choices, and I think sometimes they can be forgotten about, and so it was really great to see them get some attention as well.

Science, for so long has been dominated by (mostly white) men, and it can be hard for girls to find their place. I know firsthand how hard this can be, and I hope that the dialogue we are opening up around this will make it easier for girls to come. Mostly, I am just really thankful for this book and highly recommend it, especially for preteen and teen girls.

This also reminds me of another book I just read, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky, and I highly recommend that one as well to anyone interested in this subject.

Sam Maggs: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | tumblr | YouTube | Goodreads

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fear the Drowning Deep {by Sarah Glenn Marsh}

 Fear the Drowning Deep
Title: Fear the Drowning Deep
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: Edelweiss

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.
Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return. 

I almost didn't pick this up, because it didn't seem like my kind of thing, but I am so glad that I decided to. This was a beautifully written story, one that I enjoyed very much.

Bridey is afraid of the sea, something she can't escape since she lives on an island. But since no one would believe her if she told them about the things she sees in the sea, she keeps it to herself. That is, until a dead girl washes in, and young women start disappearing from the island. Bridey sets out to prove that her sea monsters are real, before anyone else disappears.

This was beautifully written. The prose was gorgeous, capturing the haunting atmosphere very well. The sea, the island, the creatures, written in a way that will really make you picture what is happening. While I would not say this book was dark, the was a melancholy vibe around it that I loved.

The book, more than defeating monsters, was about Bridey coming into herself, overcoming her fears. I really liked Bridey, and the way she was written. I also liked the other characters, especially her sisters and parents. I loved how family was foremost in this story, and loved seeing her bond with her sisters. I did like her friends, although I wish that we got to see more of them (and that one seemed to be there only as a throwaway character for a barely-there love triangle...)(not that triangles are terrible, but he could have been a much better character on his own, instead of feeling like he was only there for that one plot point).

I did feel the romance too fast, but not enough to detract from the story. The ending had some loose ends, which some people may not like and some people will. But all in all I thought this was a beautiful story and I very much enjoyed it.

Sarah Glenn Marsh:

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