'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. 

'White Houses' Review

Eleanor Roosevelt had an affair with a woman, who knew? Apparently, it’s not so common, common knowledge. In White Houses, Amy Bloom tells a fictional story about the real-lif romance between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. White Houses fascinated me, but not it the way you might guess.

The Ultimate List of Book Recommendations

Who’s got “read more books” as a new year’s resolution? Did you set a goal on Goodreads? Are you excited to get started? The trouble is, now you have to decide what books to read. You’ve got a whole year though. You can decide as you go. But goals man, they’re easier to achieve with a plan. So, to help you make your plan, I’ve put together a list of lists. The following is a list of 6 of book recommendation lists that combine to form a comprehensive, master book recommendation list.

'Carnegie's Maid' Review and Discussion Questions

Pam Jenoff’s quote on the front of Carnegie’s Maid says it all: “Downton Abbey fans should flock to this charming tale.” I’m a Downton Abby fan, and I loved this book. Like pretty much every book here on Picking Books, Carnegie’s Maid contains a wealth of accurate historical information. And within its pages you get a good sense of who Andrew Carnegie was and a loose outline of his rise to prominence.  Benedict also touches on the struggles Irish people continued to face after the famine in 1840 and the difficulties immigrants faced both on their way to America and once they got here. What I love most about Carnegie’s Maid, however, is how Benedict delves into Pittsburgh’s rich cultural history.

Breakfast Burrito Recipe

A recipe on a book review blog? Yes! You won’t see these often, but we readers always need more time to read! The best way I’ve found to squeeze in a few extra moments with a book is to make breakfast quickly. By making breakfast in a cook-once-eat-for-a-week fashion, I have more time in the morning and my mornings are less stressful.

'The Nightingale' Review

A review of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah as well as a discussion about Hannah’s inspiration for ‘The Nightingale,’ Andrée de Jongh. The Nightingale is about how two French sisters, Viann and Isabelle, survive World War II. It has everything a good World War II book should have: pain, suffering, strength, hope, and bravery.

I Learned More about World War II from 'When My Name Was Keoko' Than I Learned in School

I have no recollection of learning about World War II in high school. I took AP U.S. History, so you’d think it would have come up, and it might have, but I don’t remember it. So, before I read When My Name Was Keoko, all I knew about Japan during World War II was that we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I knew nothing about Korea. 

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park came out in 2002. The book follows a young Korean girl, Sun-hee (Keoko), and her older brother, Tea-yul (Nobuo), during World War II. By the time we get to Sun-hee’s story, the Japanese have occupied Korea for thirty years. When My Name Was Keoko begins with Sun-hee having to choose a Japanese name. “Graciously allowing”—as the Japanese Emperor’s official order phrased it—Korean's to choose Japanese names was one tactic Japan used to indoctrinate the population of Korea.

'Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk' Review and Women’s History

It’s 1931  and The New York World-Telegram declares Lillian “the highest paid advertising woman in America” (p. 24). Lillian, though proud of her achievement, confronts her boss: “But woman, Chester. It says woman. Why not person? I’ve come in here to ask for a raise. We both know I bring R.H. Macy’s more business than anyone else on the thirteenth floor, woman or man. Why not pay me what I’m worth?” Of course, it’s 1931 and Lillian doesn’t get the raise, “…this is just how it is,” Chester says (p. 27). In Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, author Kathleen Rooney explores women's issues. She explains the state of maternity leave and the glass ceiling in the 1930s and 1940s with historical accuracy.

So You'd Like to Learn More about History, but Reading Isn't Your Thing

In my first post, I said that reading is a privilege that too many of us take for granted. Reading is hard. Like exercise, and most other habits that are good for us, the urge to procrastinate too often prevails. Add to that our overwhelming schedules, and reading never happens. I get it. I do. And I'm not going to sit here and judge you for not reading. There have been points in my life where I've gotten out of the habit of reading for a while, but I always get back to it the same way: by reading children's books. This isn’t some great new idea that I came up with. Many people encourage would-be readers to pick up easy, fun books. Children’s books are entertaining because kids are harsh critics. Reading children's books, whether they are novels or picture books, fiction or nonfiction, is a good way to ease yourself into a reading habit. Give it a try.