Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Notorious RBG: The life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

The book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik is the literary extension of the internet sensation #NotoriousRBG that celebrates Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The internet movement was spawned by Ginsburg's impassioned dissents that followed the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and left Ginsburg as the sole female justice until the appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  There's a tumblr, merchandise, hashtags across multiple social media platforms, and now a book.  

Carmon and Knizhnik put forth a well researched book that includes photographs and interviews with Ginsburg herself as well as her family and friends.  In addition to following Ginsburg's life, the book also illuminates the justice's career, including her work with the ACLU prior to her appointments to the D.C. circuit Court of Appeals and subsequently the U.S. Supreme Court.  Excerpts from several opinions and dissents written by Ginsburg are featured with commentary provided by legal experts.

This is an off beat, highly readable, hard to put down biography and account of Ginsburg's life and professional career.  In addition to the fascinating details of Ginsburg's biography and career, insight into the inner workings and personal dynamics of the Supreme Court, and a portrait of the loving partnership between Ginsburg and her beloved, late husband are also provided.  I highly recommend you check out this book from your library--you won't regret it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reader, I Married Him edited by Tracy Chevalier

I mentioned this short story collection in my previous review of Fall of Poppies.  Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre is edited by Tracy Chevalier and features stories written by many of today's popular authors, such as Audrey Niffenegger, Francine Prose, Emma Donoghue, and others.  All of the stories are inspired by the British classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, specifically by one of the most famous lines in English literature: "reader, I married him."  While most of the authors have read Jane Eyre, at least one or two had never read the novel before penning the short story for this collection, which I thought was interesting.

I have also never read Jane Eyre; however, I have seen the 2011 adaptation that starred Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (you know, because British period drama).  I'm not as familiar with the story as I am with Jane Austen's novels (via the film adaptations; we all know I'm a Jane Austen fan), but I thought I would like it because British period drama.  But I didn't.  I think if the stories had been inspired by Jane Austen or one of her works, I would have been all over it.  Many of them just didn't hold my attention--and some I just skipped over.

If you've read and enjoyed Jane Eyre, I think you might enjoy this short story collection.  I think you would probably get more out of the collection than I did.  Having never read Jane Eyre and only viewed the adaptation once, I wasn't that familiar with the story, and I felt that I may have been missing a lot in the short stories.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fall of Poppies (No author)

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War is a short story collection to which multiple popular authors, such as Jessica Brockmole, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and others, have contributed stories.  It is an engrossing read that I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction and/or love stories will enjoy.  The title itself is pretty much self explanatory regarding the common threads connecting all the stories: they are all love stories set against the backdrop of World War I.  Many of them are tied to the end of the war and/or Armistice Day.

I enjoyed this short story collection more than the previous one I read (and will review next); however, I was reminded why I'm usually not a short story reader while I was reading Fall of Poppies.  Generally short story collections do not keep my interest because of the brevity of the stories and, for me, reading story after story gets tedious after a while.  At one point in the middle of this collection, I was thisclose to losing interest, but the next story sucked me in, and I finished the collection.

Considering that Great Britain observed the centennial of World War I in 1914 with special events and TV programming, this is a timely collection since the centennial of the U.S.'s entrance into the war is coming up in 2017.  By the time America sent troops, Europe had been enduring the ravages of war for nearly 3 years.  It would be another year and a half before arms were laid down on November 11, 1918.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Miss Shayne returns with a review of the first book of the Endgame trilogy.  Stay tuned for her reviews of the rest of the trilogy later this summer!

This is the first book in the Endgame trilogy. Years ago aliens enslaved humanity and left them with a message: one day, they will return, and the world will end, and only one of the original 12 bloodlines will survive. In the present day, twelve people from the ages of 13-20 compete in a worldwide scavenger hunt by solving riddles in order to find three keys. The winner of the scavenger hunt will save their bloodline, and everyone else on the planet will die.  

Because the premise of this book sounds ridiculously close to The Hunger Games, people have refused to read it. This book has taken a lot of heat from people who haven’t even read it, which makes me sad. Though there are minor similarities, this book is completely different from The Hunger Games. It is different from most of the other books that I’ve read because it follows the individual journeys of all of the players involved. We don’t have a clear protagonist or antagonist because there seem to be several of each. We get to see how the relationships between the characters shift, how alliances form and crumble, and what everyone’s true intentions are compared to what they’re telling everyone else. This wasn’t a part of The Hunger Games.

The only negative thing about this book is how confusing it can be sometimes. The characters have to solve puzzles and crack codes in order to find the keys that are essential to win the game. The puzzles are given to us, but they seem impossible to me. (I’m glad I’m not a player in this game . . .) There also seem to be a lot of unexplained events that I’m hoping will be explained in the second book. So I’ll try to be patient.

I finished this book sooner than expected. I don’t know if it was because the pages are sometimes set up with only fragments, or because I spent hours on my couch reading. Regardless, this book could have had a couple hundred more pages, and I wouldn’t have complained. Upon completing it I thought, “that’s it?!” The authors left us with such a cliffhanger! It almost seemed to cut off in the middle of the climax.

Overall, I love this book. I cannot wait to read the second book. I heard it’s better than the first. I can’t wait to read the conclusion, either. So, if you are into sci-fi scavenger hunts, I highly recommend this book to you!

--Reviewed by Miss Shayne

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Is Acting (Music) by Sia

Miss Shayne returns to review an item from her list of what she was looking forward to this year that was featured in her 2016 Staff Picks.  She previously reviewed 1000 Forms of Fear earlier this year on the blog.

Sia’s newest album, released in January of this year, was an album I was looking forward to being released. Her last album, 1000 Forms of Fear, was one of the most magnificent musical masterpieces I had ever heard, and it left me wanting more. This is Acting consists of songs that Sia wrote for other artists but were rejected. It is different from its predecessor, but it is still a pretty good album.

Like Sia’s previous album, this album has some masterpieces that will not be heard on the radio. “Alive,” “Bird Set Free,” and “Reaper” all blew me away, but I had to buy this album in order to hear them. These songs, as well as some others, highlight some of the struggles that people face throughout their lives. Not only are these songs catchy, they’re inspirational.

Though I would recommend this album to anyone who asks me for a recommendation, there is one drawback. Because this album is comprised of songs that were intended for other artists, new sounds have been integrated into it; some that I think should have been left out. I think she tried too hard to make her music sound more like the music that is currently being played on the radio. When her song “Cheap Thrills” (originally intended for Rihanna) is played on the radio, it features Sean Paul. However, I am glad the album version is solely her, because, in my opinion, Sean Paul ruins it. In addition to these new sounds, two or three of the tracks are just plain boring. And I find myself skipping them to get to the good ones. However, don’t let these negatives deter you from listening to the album! I think this was a good purchase.

--Reviewed by Miss Shayne