Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Summer Before

The Summer Before The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been years since I've read a BSC book, and this one brought it all back. It takes place the summer before the original series began, and it explains how the BSC almost never became a club because of all the dynamic shifts with the friendships of Mary Anne, Claudia and Kristy. It also introduces Stacey into the mix, even though she's not yet a friend of the rest of the group.

I don't think the BSC series necessarily needed this prequel, but I found it interesting as I already started reading book #1 that this whole book is summed up in one long paragraph in the first chapter, like the story had already been written thirty years ago, just not published until 2010. And I found it really interesting that the book is careful not to give away any clues as to what year it really takes place in, keeping the series just as timeless as it has been.

Personally, I would have liked to see a fast forward instead of a prequel, because I cannot imagine what all of these characters are doing as adults, and I would be interested in finding out.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York by Sari Botton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“There is the ache of not having another place in the world where I might ever feel so alive and alone, invisible while visible, ever again. Alone in exactly the right kind of way.”

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York is a collection of essays from writers who have loved, left and maybe still long for those days when they could write and live in New York.

(This review combines this essay collection with the second collection Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York because both collections are so similar.)

The essays in both books represent a wide range of writers, from those who have always called the city their home to those who felt a pull or a calling to move to New York just to write, in many cases because pop culture has long established that “it's just what you do.” They explore their lives, loves, random jobs to pay the rent, terrible places to live, and the love affair that they feel with the city—with a few referencing the movie Manhattan as to give some sort of a visual representation of that type of infatuation with a place.

What becomes clear in both collections is that most of the writers participating entered New York at a vastly different time than it appears today. Many talk about moving to the city in the seventies, eighties and nineties (almost all essayists arrived in the pre-9/11 era) when there were still a few reasonable rents to be found and Times Square was a danger zone. It is not at all surprising that many of these writers ended up leaving some time after 2000 with skyrocketing rents and a somewhat harder time breaking into and keeping your head above water in the writing industry.

In both collections, there are a mix of those who left and never came back, those who still visit, and those who have stayed the course because New York is the only place to be. But every single essay seems to present a longing, even if the writer stayed. There's a longing to have that first feeling again of putting your feet on the sidewalk. There's the longing for all-night food delivery or being able to walk to any type of establishment you want to without ever seeing the same face twice. There's a longing for that one moment where the stars align before the city changes again.

These essays represent every reason why writers all over the world think that New York is the only place to be, but also wishing there was someplace more affordable or more forgiving than New York to thrive as a writer. Detroit keeps being recommended for those who want to have similar experiences to New York in the eighties, with just one problem—Detroit will never be New York. As one essayist puts it: “These days, being a creative person in New York is, in many cases, contingent upon inheriting the means to do it.”

But still I think these essays make a point that writers of all types should probably throw caution to the wind and have a New York period—whether that's a decade, a summer or one really good weekend. It needs to be explored an observed to be believed, because very few people on this earth come from a place as crowded, diverse, and amazing as New York. And you can't miss out on something like that.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

The Perils of The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage by Phoebe Maltz Bovy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Perils of Privilege is a deep study into the current culture's obsession with privilege, and more than that, the obsession over everyone deciding that when any argument arises, we must acknowledge our own privilege or out someone else's privileged stance to support or refute an argument.

This book does a good job as covering all aspects of what society now claims as being privileged, beyond economics and including privileges of race, gender, education, cultural status and more. But with any of these types of books, what happens is one problem is split into dozens of different angles, with no real proposed solution to tackling any of it. Most readers may not even know what side the author stands on until the very end, when she lists a number of possible ways to back off of the privilege pointing towards others and squash this new cultural norm, but I'm not sure a lot of readers will make it to this point in the book. The main reason? There are three major sources where the author quotes from to make points throughout the book: anonymous comments on online articles, random Twitter feeds and essays that, while coming from reputable publications, don't seem like anything that would be read by those without somewhat elevated levels of privilege in their lives. I think many readers will have a similar reaction to what I did—getting angry every few pages, while nodding in agreement while reading the next few.

The other aspect of this book is that it's existence is a privilege within itself, which may turn off some people from reading it. The author does a decent job of acknowledging the areas of her life which may be deemed 'privileged' and led her to the place she is now with a book all about privilege, but the idea that she had to acknowledge this is the first place negates some of her points in the book, especially the argument that so many face when writing memoirs or essays of immediately acknowledging how privileged they are (or had been during childhood) to explain to readers how well they understand or fail to understand the subject they chose to write about.

After reading this book, I'm still not sure what I think about the whole idea that this privilege shaming we all seem to give as good as we get is ever going to fade away. In fact, it's probably only going to get stronger because now the idea that you have privilege for others to shame is quickly becoming a status symbol in itself, whether you truly embody any type of privilege or not. It's a complicated topic and needs continued discussion.

*Book provided by NetGalley

View all my reviews

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Spotlight: The Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm -- Win an Autographed Copy!



Teen Unicorn Fantasy


Everybody loves unicorns! OK maybe not everyone but those who do will enjoy The Blue Unicorn's Journey To Osm illustrated book for teens and older readers. It is a short, fun story with lots of fanciful pics. Follow this book's Facebook page to learn more about it.

Sybrina is running a contest for a chance to win an autographed copy of her book. Contest ends July 28th, 2017.

This book is available for purchase at:
Amazon (ebook / audio book)
Barnes & Noble (ebook)

About the Author:

Sybrina Durant is the author of several children's picture books and one big illustrated book for teens and older readers. All of her stories include songs and most were inspired by her children and grandchildren.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Spotlight: The Birthday Party



Juvenile fiction / Celebration / Birthday


This is a great story for young readers, a delightfully fanciful picture book that appeals to kids and adults alike.

The Birthday Party is a book about a young Hebrew boy who turns twelve, but he believes everyone has forgotten his birthday including his parents and friends. He is disheartened by his friends and family not caring about his birthday, having to go through a hectic day while his friends are avoiding him in school, not knowing they are planning to throw him the best surprise party ever!

Can his parents, Johnny and other friends pull off the best birthday party ever? Or will their surprise party turn to disaster?

Find out in this stunning story with an unforgettable reading experience that readers will want to pass on to others.

Pick up your copy today!

The Birthday Party (available July 29) can be purchased at: 
Destra World Books Publishing

About the Author:

Ronald Destra is a children book author, illustrator, publisher, entrepreneur and husband who resides in Florida. Destra's passion is to help younger children learn that they do have a purpose in life and to never give up. 
Ronald Destra is the author, co-author and illustrator of the following books: Best Friends, Santa's Little Helper, The Birthday Party, Hoppy the Frog, Tommy the Giraffe, The Little Hero, Fluffy the Bird, The Tattoo and Scrappy the Dog. Ronald is also the co-founder of Destra World Books Publishing.

For more information, follow Ronald Destra on Facebook and Twitter

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: A Journey Into Dorothy Parker's New York

A Journey Into Dorothy Parker's New York A Journey Into Dorothy Parker's New York by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York is an excellent primer to those who are not entirely familiar with Parker, the Algonquin Round Table or New York in the writer's heyday between the wars. Although the book only touches on a wide range of topics within the writer's life and within the ever-changing landscape of the literary side of New York City, fans of Parker will get just as much enjoyment out of this book as newcomers to her work.

The book's layout provides plenty of room for photos, maps, postcards and other notes of interest in Parker's life, though it does seem at times the layout is reminiscent of an elementary school social studies book. The key highlights of this book is that it not only gives you Parker's place in her own timeline, but her place in the current events that were swirling around her, whether it was while she lived in New York or wrote screenplays in Hollywood.

Although this book is a celebration of a beloved figure in twentieth century literature and how the city shaped her life and career, it also presents the way that New York is always trying to reinvent itself, moving out the aged and in with the latest trends. More than half of the locations in this book that play a pivotal role in Parker's life no longer exist, and much of the rest have been repurposed to fit a more modern lifestyle, one that doesn't have as much of a need for residential hotels or tiny theaters with less than 200 seats. But it shows that as much as it seems transformed now, the city was doing the exact same thing in Parker's time, and her work was influenced both directly and indirectly by it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: Sweet Memories

Sweet Memories Sweet Memories by Steena Holmes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a lot going on, Tessa is putting full focus onto a party for her in-laws, even though she hasn't seen her husband in months. She's also on the brink of starting a new business, so when her husband returns, will she cut ties with him or see if their happily-ever-after still exists?

Sweet Memories in a nice, quick novella that lets you get a peek into the lives of these characters and see a pivotal moment in time. It makes you want to keep turning the page so you can see what happens next.

View all my reviews