Lit. Wit. Wine. Dine. is getting a new look!

I wanted to let everyone know that I’m in the process of having this site professionally redesigned to provide a better aesthetic, improved functionality, and more accurate reflection of my personal style. I’ve been blogging for a year now have been wanting to make some changes for a long while. The problem is, while I have many good qualities (okay, and some not so good…), superior technical skills are not one of them. And while WordPress has great tutorials and there’s lots of information out there, I found that I didn’t actually love learn about all of the technical stuff and I became frustrated with the amount of time it was taking away from reading – which is what I do love!

Please bear with me over the next few weeks. There shouldn’t be much down time. I will continue posting. (I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow last night. Loved it!) So now you’ll know, if there are times when the site gets wonky, we’re working on it…!

Review of “The Orphan Mother” by Robert Hicks

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Having not read The Widow of the South, I was concerned that I may have difficulty following  along with The Orphan MotherThankfully, it is easily read as a stand-alone novel and I’m now inspired to read The Widow of the South. 

Mariah Reddick is the former slave to Carrie McGavock. Since becoming a free woman, she has established herself as a competent and respected midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. Her grown son, Theopolis, is a cobbler with political aspirations.

Theopolis had told her it gave him comfort to think that he, a Negro, might soon be sitting in the legislature with his feet up on the rail and voting according to his own instincts and philosophies.” 

Though the Civil War is over, racial prejudices violent crimes against former slaves and free black men and women, especially those who rocked the political boat, are widely and publicly tolerated, condoned, and even encouraged by the men to whom they become a threat. When Theopolis tells Mariah he is going to give a speech in the town square, Mariah is fearful that Theopolis will fall victim to these men as a result of his courage and bravery. Her worst fears are realized as Theopolis is murdered before he has the opportunity to address the crowd. In the mayhem and chaos, a white grocer is also killed.

The Army is sending troops to keep the peace and investigate the events of the day. But as Mariah comes to the realization that they are being sent primarily to investigate the death of the grocer, she become singularly focused on finding her son’s killer/s on her own.

“”I will find out. I ain’t gone stop’. Mariah had not known this until she said it. But now she knew she would go on just as she formed the words.”

Along the way, Mariah becomes close with a man named George Tole. ‘Tole’ is new in town and has a difficult and troubled past. Tole is broken man; he’s seen and done more than he can cope with in the war and has turned to the bottle for consolation. He is now doing his best to become a better man. As the two grow closer, we begin to understand them on a deeper level.

Robert Hicks has written a book that beautifully illustrates the strength a mother is able to summon in the name of avenging her child’s murder. Mariah is a force. She does not have time to indulge in her grief. She’s a woman on a mission.

There were times in this book when I, expectedly, felt saddened, angry, and ashamed at the culture of racial prejudice and violence. However, I found the overall messages of strength, dignity, and perseverance to be encouraging.

At its heart, this is a book about love, loss, and coming to terms with the truth. I was especially touched by the epilogue. I think Theopolis would have been very proud of his mother.

4.5/5 stars

Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for proving a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review of “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore

 

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I do not care so much for a great fortune as I do for getting ahead of the other fellows.  – Thomas Edison

Until I read this book, I had an impression of what it would have been like to see the night lit for the first time. It was terribly romantic. It was surreal, ethereal, and peaceful. (Sort of like this book’s beautiful cover.) There were scientists and engineers of all sorts slapping each other on the back, congratulating themselves on their enormous contribution to mankind.  Thomas Edison was one of these scientists, of course, and he was a jolly good fellow. He lead this collaboration of gifted men with the grace, elegance, and credibility only natural born leaders of that period possessed.

It seems I was mistaken.

Graham Moore’s  latest novel, The Last Day’s of Night, is the story of the War of Currents. Though it is a work of fiction, the majority of it is historically accurate and all of the characters did exist including Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, and Westinghouse’s attorney, Paul Cravath. Paul, a fresh-out-school attorney in is mid-twenties is hired by Westinghouse to defend him in a law suit Thomas Edison has brought forth demanding the outrageous sum of one billion dollars.

Paul is a thoroughly likable young man who quickly finds himself in over his head. He is, however, determined to win at all costs. He is ambitious, driven, and singularly focused. As time goes on he morphs from naive rookie to shrewd, calculating, savvy attorney. But that’s not to say there aren’t a few SNAFUs along the way… (Though I’d never heard of him, he is apparently quite well-known in the legal world. In fact, the firm he eventually started is still in existence and continues to use the Cravath Sytem which has been credited with changing the way lawyers practice and law firm are structured.)

This book is more intriguing that I could have imagined. All of the same components of modern corporate conflicts and greed existed then. And these scientists we’ve come to hold in such high esteem where not exempt from engaging in all manner of unscrupulous behavior in their quest to be the first and best. From patent infringement to character assassination, from corporate espionage to arson, nothing was off limits.

The author tells this story in such an amazingly engaging, page-turning way that I was fully entertained while being educated. That, I think, is the pinnacle of happiness for those of us semi-obsessed with historical fiction.

There is already a movie in the works. Moore has done the adaptation. My expectations are admittedly very high after having seen The Imitation Game which he adapted from the book Alan Turing: The Engima  by Andrew Hodges.

5/5 stars

Many thanks to Random House for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review of “Stranger, Father, Beloved” by Taylor Larsen

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The book begins with Michael seeing his wife, Nancy, talking to another man at a party. He decides that this is the man who should be married to Nancy. He promptly begins working on his plan to make this man Nancy’s new husband.

This is a strange book in the sense that a decent writer (clean, articulate language, etc.) has written a bad story about mostly bad, unlikable characters. My instinct about twenty per cent through the book was to put the book down, mark it DNF, and move on with my life. I didn’t do that for two reasons. The first is that it’s a fairly short book and I knew it would only take me another day or two get through. The second is that I appreciated the author’s writing style enough that I kept hoping that the plot would change, that something would happen to make it a more pleasant to read. Sadly, this did not happen.

We learn that Michael has some behavioral health issues. He suffers from a neurotic paranoia that has been difficult for him to mask/control for most of his life. He also has some other issues but I don’t want to give too much away. These issues, however, do not explain why Michael has such utter contempt and disrespect for women. With the exception of his precious mother, that is. I found his personality to be offensive and didn’t feel it had anything to do with his legitimate diagnosis. He was simply a thoroughly unlikable man.

As for the other characters, I found most of them to be very stereotyped and one-dimensional. Nancy is too timid, too self-sacrificing, too compliant. NO ONE is that nice, that wholesome. I understand that she feels a little inferior because of her lack of education but it was all too much. John, the would-be husband, is too pure, too salt of the Earth.

1.75/5 stars

I would like to thank Gallery Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review of Sober Stick Figure: A Memoir by Amber Tozer

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Amber Tozer is super-funny, brutally honest comedian who has bravely chosen to share her story of alcoholism and recovery with the world. If you’re thinking this is another super-heavy memoir that will leave you feeling  nothing but depression and pity, just take a look at the cover. That sick figure version of Amber makes frequent appearances throughout the book…

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In a very real and funny way, Amber Tozer shares how and why she first began drinking, how her drinking became out of control, her struggles to gain control, and finally, how she was able to get sober. And there are also several funny stories about urine. And a few other funny (funny haha and funny odd) stories that have little or nothing at all to do with urine.

It’s refreshing to hear another human being share their insecurities and worst moments with such candor and humor.There’s no blame game being played here (though the author did have some difficult moments in her childhood). And though I got the sense that she definitely had some regrets about some of the things that occurred while she was drinking, this isn’t a preachy book about redemption or regret and self-loathing.  I got the sense that she was sharing her story to make people smile and to help others who may be having a difficult time.

Sober Stick Figure was a quick, page-turning, one-day read for me.

4.5/5 stars

Thanks to Running Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review of “Esther the Wonder Pig” by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter with Caprice Crane

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“Every amazing and wonderful thing that happened to us was because of an animal that most people don’t think of as more than a barcode in a grocery store.”

It’s hard to not to go all fangirl when I think about Esther the Wonder PigI’ve been a Facebook fan of Esther’s for a long time now. Her substantial physiognomy and wry sense sense of humor (not to mention her wardrobe!) have never failed to put a smile on my face. Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard there was to be a book written about Esther, her dads, and their journey. I even had an idea of how the book would go:

  1. Esther’s dads find that there’s a pig that needs a home. (I did know they initially thought she was a micro or mini pig.)
  2. After much research on the rearing of pigs and much discussion and thought, they agree to adopt said pig.
  3. The aforementioned pig grows slightly larger than they’d anticipated but it’s all good because she’s super cute and was so easy to train.
  4. They love having a giant pig so much they purchase a farm so they can have have even more pigs.
  5. Everyone lives Happily Ever Esther!

WRONG!!

Esther’s story is so much more than I ever realized. First, there are the small details of how Esther came to live with Steve and Derek. Which I can totally relate to because I currently have 5 dogs living in our home (one is a foster) and sometimes you just have to sneak one in under the radar. But I don’t like spoilers so I’ll leave it at that.

Then there’s all the things they went through as they learned to adapt to life (with what would turn out to be a 650lb) commercial pig. And it’s a lot. As it turns out, raising and training Esther was no easy job. And not exactly glamourous. But there is a one-word explanation for why it ultimately worked: COMMITMENT.  Sure they loved her, but that was the easy part. Who wouldn’t? Steve and Derek stuck it out when the going got really, really tough.

Then, on a totally uncharacteristic whim, Steve decided to give Esther her own Facebook page. And that’s when life became even more exciting. Esther became an overnight celebrity. Steve and Derek gave Esther a voice and she began to use it to communicate with kindness and humor. As it became painfully obvious their family had outgrown their modest home, Esther used her voice to help her dads raise some of the necessary funds to relocate to the farm which is now the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

Esther the Wonder Pig is a fantastic, fun, quick read that will make you laugh and cry. I loved the honesty and humor!

5/5 stars

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

A New Reason to Love Goodreads

I’m always amazed at the number of avid readers who haven’t yet created a Goodreads account. If you need one more reason to join, here it is. Goodreads has announced a new program called Goodreads Deals which will offer members discounts on e-books based on the members’s preferred genre and/or books on your “want to read” shelf. When you sign up to receive deals, you’ll be asked to edit your preferences which, in addition to genre, and your “want to read” list, can include authors you follow, and even allows you select the type of device you are using.

As for all of the “old” reasons to love Goodreads (and there are many, I’ll keep it very basic here.), here are my top 5:

5) I can keep track of books I’ve read. This may sound simple to many of you but over the years I often forget which titles I’ve read. Especially if I’ve read multiple titles from the same author that have a similar feel or themes. (Think Dean Koontz.) I can then give it a star rating, write a narrative review, both, or neither.

4) Recommendations! Ever feel like you want to read something but you don’t know what? (Even when you have a shelf or library full??) Goodreads can provide you with suggestions based on what’s on your shelf, genre, etc.

3) Goodreads Giveaways! Who doesn’t love free books? In addition to the link here, Goodreads will send you an email every time a book on your “want to read” list is being given away. Personally, I don’t ever go through the general link, opting only to enter if there’s a giveaway for a book I will actually read. Giveaways are limited to a certain number of copies so why have a book sitting around your house when someone else may have been truly lusting after it??

2) Goodreads Community. There are groups for online book clubs, upcoming book events, and every tiny niche in reading and publishing you can conceive of. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for you can create your own group!

1) Friends, friends, friends! I’ve saved the best for last. You can invite friends from your Facebook account, send emails to your friends, and meet new friends on Goodreads. Some you may know personally, others you may not, (there’s a “compare books” button on each user’s profile that allows you to see how much you have in common with a potential friend) but it’s amazing how many people you can truly connect with. When you are friends with someone, most of what they do shows up in your feed (similar to Facebook). I can’t tell you  how many times something a friend is reading ends up on my “want to read”, aka TBR, list. Any many times I wouldn’t have even known the book existed otherwise.

Have I forgotten anything? I’m sure I have. I’d love to hear about your experience with Goodreads. I know there are other similar sites so please feel free to recommend/comment on those as well.

Next up: My first BEA experience.