Why I'm Starting to Read More Fantasy

Fantasy gets a bad rap for being predictable genre fiction. But The Key to the Half Worlds by Andrew Chaplin surprised me. It’s time to put our prejudices against fantasy aside and read more of it. Included in my review of The Key to the Half Words is a fun side note about the history of washing machines and a discussion of why we should stop using the term “guilty read.”

6 Ways to Avoid Fake News (Infographic)

I realize now that my essay, “How to Spot Fake News Despite Your Filter Bubble,” however informative, is LONG. So, I created a simple infographic outlining six easy ways to avoid fake news. I’ve also included a few recommended reputable news sources. At the end of the article, you’ll also find book recommendations on the subject of fake news, journalism, rhetoric, and truth. 

A Bookish Blog Inspired by History

I started Picking Books as a book blog inspired by history. I’ve since expanded to include additional cross-disciplinary book reviews that look at how society and culture also relates to the books I read. Showing others how to learn about history through enjoyable books was my original intention though, so let’s talk about how we can learn about history through books and why learning about history is important even (especially) for adults.

The Ten-Year Nap Review

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer resonated with every fiber of my being. Never have I read a book that spoke so poignantly to all the thoughts swirling around my brain. Read my review of The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer to learn why I whole-heartedly disagree with the bad reviews of The Ten-Year Nap on Goodreads. Do not overlook or underestimate The Ten-Year Nap because of the bad reviews.

Father Divine's Bikes Review and History

 Father Divine’s Bikes introduced me to a historical figure I had never heard of, Father Divine (though Father Divine is more of a character in spirit). Father Divine was an African-American religious figure who rose to prominence in the 1930s. PBS calls his International Peace Mission Movement, “one of the most unorthodox religious movements in America.”

How to Spot Fake News Despite Your Filter Bubble

We are in the midst of an epidemic of hatred. Or filter bubble, fake news, and rhetoric are three of the many reasons we have stopped using our critical thinking skills and lost our ability to empathize with one another. If the news and politics has driven wedges into your relationships, read on and learn what good journalism is and how to spot fake news despite your filter bubble.

Four Ways to Counteract “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”

The internet is affecting our memory and concentration, and not in a goodway, according to Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. But for better or worse, the internet is here to stay. So how do we live with technology without sacrificing our brains? In The Shallows, Carr offers a few suggestions, which I’ve outlined in this article along with one suggestion of my own.

La Befana and 'Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer': A Book Review

After finding out he’s the descendant of a witchslayer, Frankie and his friends are transported to medieval Italy in order to save a young girl from the evil Strega. In my review of Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer by M.J. Rocissono I explore Rocissono’s entertaining fantasy adventure and take a look at the history of the Italian tradition of La Befana.

'Destroying Their God' by Wallace Jeffs: A Book Review

Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother to Save My Children by Wallace Jeffs is a fascinating and moving story of Jeffs’ struggle with FLDS. He is still facing the consequences of leaving the insular FLDS community, and he has an interesting perspective on polygamy. In my review of Destroying Their God, I take a look at the technical merits of the book and delve into the ways Rulon and Warren Jeffs manipulated their followers.

'In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills’ Review and History

After a miscarriage, Rachel feels the urge to seek out her estranged photojournalist father, Henry, who she learns lived in Rwanda. She travels to Rwanda 10 years after the genocide to meet Lillian. Originally from Georgia, Lillian operates an orphanage in Rwanda that she and Henry built together. During her stay, Rachel learns about her father while witnessing how Rwandans are coming to terms with the genocide. Continue reading my review of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills for more information about both the genocide and the book.

Review of ‘Your Creative Career’ by Anna Sabino

Your Creative Career is not for every gig worker. It’s for creative entrepreneurs as Sabino calls us. Creative entrepreneurs include web designers, handmade product designers, writers, painters, bloggers, vloggers, etc. Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino is part memoir, part self-help book, and part how-to guide written in a stream-of-consciousness style. If you’ve read other books about using your creativity to make money and have a solid grasp of basic business principles like cash flow, you can skip this one, not a whole lot of new information here. But if you’re new to creative entrepreneurship, you'll want to read Your Creative Career because Sabino covers everything you’ll need to know to get started. Although there might not be a whole lot of new how-to information for the rest of us in Your Creative Career, Sabino does share some wisdom worth contemplating.

'Alias Grace' by Margaret Atwood: Summary, Analysis, and Canadian History!

Alias Grace is a novel by Margaret Atwood based on the real-life 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Grace Marks and James McDermott were convicted of the crime. McDermott was hanged, and Marks had her sentence commuted and ended up in the Kingston Penitentiary. No one knows for sure whether or to what degree Grace Marks was involved in the murders.  Alias Grace gives readers a chance to decide for themselves whether this “celebrated murderess” was guilty or not.

5 Reasons Why I Love Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. I always have one "regular" book and one audiobook going at the same time. It's not cheating, I swear! It's seizing an opportunity. I have a little kid at home along with a blog, a freelance business, and a part-time “day job.” Sitting and reading books for hours during the day is not a luxury I have. It’s not that I don’t have the time per se. It’s that I have other things to do that keep me from sitting down with a book, which brings me to the reasons why I love audiobooks.

‘Full Circle’ by Regina Timothy Review

From the prologue, which takes us inside the collapsing World Trade Center on 9/11, to the end, Full Circle lays bare many of the political and social issues the United States has been grappling with since before the 9/11 attacks. Despite its seriousness, Full Circle reads like a television drama. The cast includes Samia, an Iraqi refugee; Melissa, a faltering fashion mogul; and Susan, Samia's hapless friend who also happens to be Melissa's assistant. Continue reading my review of Full Circle by Regina Timothy to find out why I’m not completely in love with this one.

A Mouth-Watering Ezme Recipe That Will Make You Forget Salsa

Recipe review of Peter Sommer Travels’ ezme. Although ezme is reminiscent of salsa, it’s also bruschetta-like. It’s a simple recipe that tastes like so much more than the sum of its parts. Ezme makes an excellent condiment for Cooks Illustrated’s almost no-knead whole wheat bread, and I enjoyed it more than fresh salsa. Like Sommers says, the flavor is complex.

A Story of Romance and Espionage in World War II

Because historical romance isn’t usually my favorite genre, I didn’t think I was going to love this book. As with Carnegie’s Maid, however, I was wrong. Searching for Gertrude is satisfying in a way few books are, and I enjoyed it. Searching for Gertrude is well written and tidy. There are no loose ends or trying to be more than it is: a sweet love story set in World War II. Haggerty's writing style is to-the-point, no flowery language or overblown setting descriptions, which helps make Searching for Gertrude a light read as far as World War II novels go.

Time-Saving Cleaning Tricks Inspired by ‘Get Your Sh*t Together’

Cleaning sucks. I'd rather be reading. But I want to live in a clean home. I do not want to spend a lot of time cleaning it. Ergo, with the help of Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight, I've developed a few cleaning tricks, hacks, cheats or whatever you want to call them, so I have more time to read. I’m not proposing that you live some sort of hyper-scheduled life where you rush through your day and reading is just another task on your to-do list. That being said, if I can borrow time from a monotonous task like cleaning so I can spend a little more time doing something I love, I’m going to and you should too.