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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review: Thornhill by Pam Smy

This book starts off with two stories, one in contemporaneous, set in 2007, and is told entirely through pictures. The other is set in the 1980s and is told through diary entries from Mary, one of the last orphans to live at Thornhill, before it is to be torn down to make way for a new development. But we can see in 2007 that never happened, as Ella moves in behind Thornhill after her mother dies, and her bedroom looks into the abandoned, boarded-up old mansion. Ella sees a girl her age over there from time to time. And she starts to find these old dolls, which turn out to be marionettes, which she fixes up. We learn those were originally made by Mary, more than 30 years ago.

The other girls go away, one by one, as they find other placements or even foster homes. Eventually Mary is left with the bully of Thornhill, who has been tormenting her for years. When it's just the two of them and almost no staff left, things go very south very quickly. And 30+ years later, Ella is drawn to the desolate and lonely girl she sees in that foreboding landscape. Has she found a new friend?

This book is pretty dark. Not scary, but certainly not for the faint of heart or for younger kids at all. It's definitely for teens. The format is clever, the story is compelling, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Sometimes it's fun to read a dark, creepy book with an ending that makes you go "Whoa!"

I got this book for free from the publisher, my employer, Macmillan.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer, narrated by Scott Brick (audio)

This book is so frustrating. Don't get me wrong--that's Mr. Krakauer's goal and he's very successful. Nevertheless, there are moments where you just wish you could reach in to the book and shake people. In particular, the members of his own company who didn't follow protocol and who didn't listen when they were told to stop firing. Argh.

You probably know, as I did, that Pat Tillman was a NFL player who joined the Army Rangers after 9/11 and was killed by friendly fire. I also sort of knew there was a cover-up, but I wasn't sure how much of that was an actual cover-up, and how much of that was sensationalism by the media for headlines. And that's the grand total of what I knew going into this book. Well that, and Mr. Krakauer never picks a dull subject.

Turns out Pat Tillman was a pretty unusual guy, very thoughtful and introspective, rather unique in the NFL and in the Army (how many other men were reading The Odyssey while in Afghanistan? I'll bet zero.) He had one bad incident as a teenager which had a very good impact on his life, and he was a very moral, very intelligent, very esoteric man. At the same time, he was a huge and successful football player who did triathlons in the off-season. He did not fit any mold, and yet he usually fit in and was well-liked. He signed up at the end of the season after Sept. 11, 2001, along with his younger brother (a baseball player) and they trained to become Rangers. On their second tour, which was when Afghanistan was already an afterthought with no funding, after Bush declared it "Mission accomplished." And the day he was killed several things went wrong. And a lot of them were stupid. And those weren't the stupidest things that went wrong either--Mr. Kraukauer also explains how Jessica Lynch's convoy never should have been where they were to get ambushed a few months earlier (they'd taken not one but two wrong turns) and that in the rescue, 17 of the 18 Americans killed were killed by, that's right, you guessed it, Americans! Yes, our own Air Force was firing on our ground troops. So what happened to Pat was by no means an isolated or unexpected incident. What I did not expect is that unlike in the Jessica Lynch rescue situation, these were guys from his own company. He knew them! (It was not malicious.) And his brother was in the same company, too.

And yes, it was very much covered up. The army hastily conferred posthumous medals on Pat that he didn't deserve and wouldn't have wanted (if deserved, fine, but he'd never want credit for something he didn't do. He was not that kind of man.) The Army repeatedly said that they didn't tell the Tillmans the truth, because they didn't want to accidentally tell them something untrue. So instead they knowingly told them untruths for quite some time, in order to not tell them the truth. Hm. Very fishy in my book and I am very glad Pat's mother was so dogged in her search for the truth. The truth was destined to get out, considering how many people knew what had really happened, and who were no only friends of Pat's but of Kevin's, his brother, and I feel confidant someone would have told him eventually. I know they were just following orders, but I do wish at least one of them had let his ethics supplant those orders earlier. And the cover-up seems to have gone all the way to the top. If not Bush himself, certainly his speechwriters knew, as his multiple public statements about Pat were expertly crafted so as to not say anything demonstrably wrong, while also not saying the truth.

I think this book would have been hard to read when it first came out, when the war was still going on, before Osama bin Laden was killed. From this distance now of 10+ years, it's still maddening, and yet it's also easier to view with some equanimity.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Book Purge

It might seem strange that in a year when I'm definitely going to set a new reading record--by a lot--and when I have a job where reading is a large part of it and where I can get any book I want from the fifth largest publisher, that I should be thinking so much about purging books. After all, I did buy a new bookcase! But, that bookcase is 80% filled with sales materials that I'm going to get rid of over the next few months. I do have one shelf of Macmillan books that are by no means required reading (they're all backlist! The horror!) but the rest are last season's ARCs, this season's ARCs (two shelves), and marketing materials.

Still, why should I be getting rid of books? And yet I am. We had a yard sale last month, and I shipped out two large boxes of books to friends. And I have been buying next to nothing.

Well, partly it really is that whole thing where I have access to any books I want from Macmillan's publishers. Yes, it's work, but when your company publishes around 3500 books a year, it isn't at all hard to find 100-150 you'd really, truly enjoy. Having to read books for work is no chore at all. And the reading of these books will only make me better at my job, make it easier, and hopefully get me more in bonuses! So that's lots of incentives. And that means I really am enjoying all the Macmillan reading I'm doing. I have motivation to do it coming at me from all sides. Is there an occasional dud? Inevitably. But that's true no matter what I'm reading--book club books, or just plain fun. Without the bad ones, we'd lose the scale to remind us how good the good ones are.

So I am looking suddenly at reading almost nothing from my shelves. For the foreseeable future. Seriously, if I read 5 non-Macmillan books from my shelves between now and the end of the year, not counting audiobooks (those often are kind of random and not exactly what I'd choose if I had access to every single book as an audiobook), I'd be surprised. Which means, the 500+ unread books in my house that I often joke about, go from being 5 years' worth of reading material, to 100 years' worth. Yeah, I'm not going to get to them all. So I should pass some of them along to people who can read them and enjoy them, and make a little space in my life (and so I don't feel so guilty.)

And it feels good. I can't read all the books in the world. I can't even read all the books in my house! But now the ones I have are a tiny bit more reasonable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

I had declared a WWII moratorium almost exactly two years ago, after reading All the Light We Cannot See. Now don't get me wrong, I did like that book. But I was so tired of WWII. It was just everpresent. With Life After Life and The Boys in the Boat and everyone pushing me to read The Nightingale, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I was so oversaturated that I was prone to dislike an otherwise good book, just because it was set in WWII. So I gave away The Nightingale and happily declared my moratorium and didn't miss them at all. I thought the moratorium would only last a year but it was instead almost two. It started to sneak back in in small doses, through The Radium Girls and Hidden Figures, which are not about WWII but do in a small part take place during the war. Technically The Port Chicago 50 is the first real WWII book I read this year, except it entirely takes place on US soil and the men involved weren't allowed to fight in the war, despite it taking pace in 1944. So I will declare Bomb to be the first real WWII book to break the fast. And then right after reading that book, I saw the movie Dunkirk, and then I just had to read this book, In Harm's Way, that my husband had recently read, and which I had seen praised highly on at least two different book lists last week of books about sharks (since it was Shark Week.)

The USS Indianapolis gets a solid mention in Bomb as it was the ship that delivered the components of the atomic bombs to the Enola Gay to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the book about the atomic bomb, the fate of the Indianapolis then merits just a passing aside. But my god, what a fate! After dropping off the bombs, it headed out for its next port, and was torpedoed by a Japanese sub and sank. Due to a terrible policy, some poor handling of various messages, fear of Japanese fake messages to lure Allies into traps, and so on, the sailors and marine who survived the initial two torpedoes and explosions, who didn't die right away but instead managed to find a life jacket or life boat and get away, then had to endure nearly 5 days at sea, without food or water or shelter, most just in the water not in a life raft, and of course, surrounded by sharks. When they were finally spotted--by accident as still no one was looking for them!--a fraction of the men who had survived the first day were still alive.

Boy, this book had a forward propulsion like few I've read. For a nonfiction, history book, it read so fast, and was absolutely unputdownable. It wasn't a short book but I read it in two days. In the end, I think the navy made a lot more mistakes and errors than they ever took responsibility for, and seriously mislaid the blame. The author also takes a half dozen men (who obviously survived as he'd obviously been able to talk to them) and uses their experiences--in different groups, in different levels of injury and danger--to demonstrate the situation for all the men, and to humanize the tale in a very effective way. This is a top-notch work of history about an often overlooked (the news of the sinking finally broke the same day Japan admitted defeat so it was inevitably lost in the brouhaha) but horrifying and gut-wrenching part of history. These men made the end of the war possible, and then were forgotten as their own lives were imperiled.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What My New Job Is Like, Part III

I am getting ready to head back out on the road! This season I am hoping to drive slightly fewer than the 5000+ miles I did last season as I have a lot less 1-store days and I think I've planned my trip smarter. We'll see. I know the planning part would annoy most people but to me, it's like a puzzle. I actually enjoy trying to figure out how to fit everyone in, in the most efficient way possible. Now, the most efficient way almost never works out. This season I had to plan my travel schedule around 2 trade shows (one is nearby but the other is in New Orleans, very far from home and my territory), 2 (now 3) family visiting me trips, 2 public holidays (yes, Columbus Day isn't a big deal in most of my territory but the further north I get, the more likely it is a factor), my anniversary, my husband's birthday, and of course trying to get it all done before the next Sales Conference. I have a couple of beach stores I can't visit until after Labor Day, and a couple of college stores when I need to avoid back-to-school time. Theoretically, with roughly 40 accounts to visit, if I can do 2 a day, that's 20 days so I should be able to do it in a month. It never works out that way, though. A few stores are just too far away (Norfolk, VA; Sylva, NC) from anything else, and some are too big to do more than the one in a day. And sometimes the store managers have conflicts. It will all get sorted of course, but it can be tricky to manage. Luckily, I really like puzzles.

I also had to get together all the materials I need. The most important thing I bring along is ARCs. It's true that I don't have to bring them at all—stores can make requests and I will order the ARCs to be sent directly from our warehouse. But they might not request a book they're borderline about. And they get ARCs from scores of publishers. It's easy for the buyers to get bogged down. But if we just talked about a book and I got them excited about it, and then I hand it to them, it's a lot more likely that they'll read it (hopefully starting that day!) Some books also really need a visual aid, whether it's a heavily illustrated adult book, or a kids' book with flaps and windows and other features that are more easily shown than described. So I have two boxes in my trunk, one of adult books and one of children's. I try to be paperless, but some things just work better in hard copy, so I print off the stock offers (those are extra discounts for a certain time frame) and a list of all the displays and signed books this season, and for this season only also a list of all the books that our publishers are promoting in the regional holiday catalogs that stores will be handing out to customers this fall. I used to have to also print off all my maps for each week and I'm sure glad that task is no longer necessary. I have to stock up on my audiobooks. I have several CDs from work, but I also like to listen to downloaded ones, especially for my week in DC where I'm traveling by foot and public transit, and not in my car. About half of the audiobooks are work-related, and then, since options are limited, I also give myself a break and listen to some from other publishers.

When I pack, my toiletry kit needs to be fully stocked. Long ago I just got two of everything (except my prescriptions) and I treated myself this spring to a whole new toiletry kit. I need pretty but practical shoes (sometimes I have to walk a bit. In fact, even when parking is readily available, I always try to park further back, leaving the good spaces for paying customers.) Band-aids and other possible first-aid items. I need an umbrella and a jacket and workout clothes (although I have a knee injury so I am not able to work out much right now.) Again, all this packing and planning really appeals to the hyper-efficient side of my personality. I blame the Germans. I've also been to the dentist and optometrist, picked up my prescriptions, gotten a haircut, and scheduled my next doctor's appointment. These are all things i need to schedule in between travel seasons. I do still need to plan my main outfits and be sure nothing needs to be dry-cleaned.

I do wish on the road that I had time to visit some of the attractions. One of these days in DC I at least want to visit the museum shops I sell to (I sell to the buyers in their corporate offices, not at the stores.) But I figure I've got plenty of time for that. I really wish I could come up with some snacks that aren't candy or other low-health high-calorie foods that can live in the car. Yes, I eat nuts (and those are high in calories) but when I look up low-cal snacks, it's entirely stuff that needs to be refrigerated/heated/prepared immediately before eating. Nothing I can just grab a handful of and munch on while stuck on the Garden State Parkway. And no, I'm not going to get a cooler for my car. That's just not practical.

I do love to travel, thankfully! I won't like it as much in two months, but then I'll get a break again. This is the life of a sales rep!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, narrated by Roy Samuelson

I haven't read much (if any) YA nonfiction, so I thought I'd give this one a go and see what it's like. I wasn't in fact, very sure what the difference was. And while I still am not 100% sure why this is listed as YA, instead of adult, I guess it is laid out in a more straightforward way and might use slightly simpler language. But for listening, those two things both improve the experience. The only moment when I was aware that I was listening to a book geared younger, was when who General MacArthur was explained. Most adult books just assume you know who that is (and in fact, it was jarring to me, to have that little appositive explaining him. Not bad, just startling.)

The book begins with the story of a spy who gave away American secrets about the atomic bomb, and then goes back to give us the entire history of the bomb. It begins with the scientific discovery of fission, of physicists' realization of what that meant (it's not many steps to get to a bomb given the amount of power given off by a minuscule amount of fission-able matter). It quickly gets to Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos. And as they worked away, the German were also racing to make a bomb, and we were racing to prevent it. They were using a different method involving something called "heavy water" and Allied spies thought they could set the German back years if they could get to their source of heavy water.

Meanwhile the Soviets were recruiting spies among the physicists. (Funnily enough, one Brit later arrested was given a much lighter sentence because, at the time, the USSR was our ally, not our enemy. American laws however were not as forgiving.) And then after Fat Man and Short Boy were dropped on Japan, the Soviets became our enemy, and the spy recruitment intensified during the Cold War.

We'll never know what the outcome of WWII would have been if either the Germans had gotten the bomb before we did, or if we hadn't dropped it on Japan, but we work with the history we have, and the scientific and intelligence race to outwit our enemies (and occasional friends) is an awfully fascinating story.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer, but I listened to the audiobook which is published by Listening Library. I downloaded the eaudiobook from my library via Overdrive.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

I don't read a lot of contemporary women's thrillers, even though they're really hot right now, but I read a few, and I've read the big ones. This novel falls squarely in that wheelhouse. One night two teenage sisters disappear. Five years later, only one of them returns. Where is Emma? What has happened to her?

This book takes place  over the course of one week (although with a ton of flashbacks) after Cass reappears, alternating between Cass telling the story of what happened (through her trauma she's got memory issues, which is why is takes a week for the family to figure out where Emma is), and the female FBI profiler on the case, Dr. Winter. Emma was a typical teenager, rebellious but also striving, who made have gotten into trouble. How did she disappear that night, how did Cass end up disappearing with her, where have they been for the last five years, and why has only Cass returned? I don't want to tell any more because all of these are important questions. The job does a good job of holding the tension taut, giving away only the parts you need to know, and keeping the reader guessing until the end. It's also a little more literary, in my opinion, than a typical thriller, mostly due to the psychologist's perspectives. Not much gets by her, although we readers don't always get her take on the story until later. It's a fun read, with twists and turns that kept me fully entertained.

I got this book for free from the publisher, which is my employer, Macmillan.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Month in Review: July

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

This was a big reading month for me as I prepare to head out on the road next month again. I had set myself a quota of 75 books this season, including books I'd already read (which were now coming out in paperback), picture books, on up. I have 9 left. Then I'll let myself read whatever I want... until the end of August. Sept. 1 I will then switch over to reading for the next season (Spring/Summer 2018) through the end of the year. And I think my goal will be 75 books again. Once I've been in the job for a year, and more of the paperbacks will be books I've already read, then I will take it up to 100. I have read a few books this season which are in paperback, so those won't help me next year, but only a few. So most of what I'm reading are 2018 books.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary
Raffie on the Run by Jacqueline Resnick
The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (audio)
The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family's Search for the American Dream by Bryan Mealer
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (audio)
The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair
In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (audio) *

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
Hm, none. My husband bought one, and we went to the local bookstore where we also bought a puzzle (for me) and a fancy set of playing cards (for him). But with my really ambitious reading schedule and with my access to everything Macmillan, and my limited budget (I'm finally making decent money after many years of just scraping by, which means I can finally start paying down debt.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

I have now read all of Ms. Rowell's books but one. And yes, this is just a short novella, but it was still delightful and I enjoyed it very much.

Elena loves Star Wars. But only the original three (now numbers 4-6). When she was a kid, that's all her father would let her watch, because they were the originals and because the others weren't the same. Even after her father left, she still didn't watch them, as a way to honor his wishes. So it's unusual that she'd decided to camp out for seats to the seventh movie (you don't even have to camp out for tickets anymore as you can buy those online in advance.) She thought it would be a fun, exciting party, but she finds there are only two guys there... and that's it (until the last day). But she decides to stick it out. So she spends most of a week with a real Star Wars nut, and a quiet guy about her age who just reads. It could be worse. They're actually both relatively nice. Although she's worried they'll find out she's only watched 3 of the 6 movies. Even if she is freezing and they don't have a bathroom at night, it's kind of fun. Eventually, the quiet guy, Gabe, starts talking and it turns out, he's a really nice guy. Doesn't she maybe know him from somewhere?

And that's all I'm going to say, because it is a really short book after all. It has Ms. Rowell's characteristically quirky and introverted characters who you can't help but root for. And Star Wars!

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer, and it was produced for Independent Bookstore Day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

I love me an agony memoir. I have loved (and sobbed over) An Exact Figment of My Imagination, Comfort, and What I Thought I Knew. So when I got this book, it seemed right up my alley except... the title seemed off. Happiness? That doesn't sound like an agony memoir, although the set-up sure does. What was going on with that?

Heather was happily in a serious relationship, living in New York, and making progress with her writing. The one down side was that her boyfriend was adamant about not wanting kids. And Heather was pretty sure she did want them. But she thought she could postpone that difficult conversation for another day. Until... she was pregnant. (Yes, someone this adamant should have done something more permanent or at least been rigorous about their birth control but that's not the point here.). And he was serious. Because he broke up with her.

Despondent, pregnant and alone, she decided to move back to the West Coast where she grew up. Her mother's tenant was about to move out of her guest house and Heather could live there rent-free while she sorted through the pieces of the life that had been so happy just a few weeks earlier. She was shattered by the sudden and dramatic end of her relationship, but she didn't wallow in her despair. She decided she had to get over it and move on, for the sake of the baby. And she was making progress in that area when the baby, Grace, was born, and had severe health issues right away. Within the first 24 hours she was med-evaced to a bigger hospital as she needed an immediate blood transfusion. Heather was shocked as nothing had ever hinted at any problems with Grace beforehand, so she was utterly unprepared. And now the doctors can't figure out what's wrong with her. But she needs another transfusion. And another.

I don't want to give more away, but suffice it to say that her positive and one-foot-in-front-of-the-other attitude was refreshing. Not that I think the authors of the previous agony memoirs I've read handling things poorly--when horrible thing happen, not all of us have the support of fortitude to proceed with such a positive outlook. And Heather is no Pollyanna either. But it still was refreshing to me to read a different take on how to handle things when everything goes in the shitter.

I got this book from free at work, because it is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Review: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin, narrated by Dominic Hoffman (audio)

This book is for middle grade readers, so it is rather short, but boy, it's so well-written, that if I didn't know it was geared towards kids, I wouldn't have known. (One other clue was at the very end, when putting this incident in the bigger context of the civil Rights Movement to come, the author explained who a few people were—Martin  Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks—who an adult author would have just assumed we knew.) And on the plus side, because it was geared towards children, it was very clear and straightforward, which I really appreciated.

During World War II, while minorities were allowed to join the armed services, they served in segregated units. And the few that didn't, were still relegated to lowly, menial, and hard-labor jobs. Most of the African-American young men signing up for the navy had no idea that meant they'd never be going to sea. The navy believed that in the confined space of a ship, any disruption could become dangerous and they didn't want to risk it. In Port Chicago, the African-Americans had to unload and load the munitions, with no training, and do it as fast as possible. In fact, often the white officers in charge would bet each other whose crew would work faster, and you can believe that if a white officer lost money because his crew of African American sailors wasn't working as hard as he thought they should, there'd be hell to pay. Additionally, there were the usual privations that came along with segregation, of shoddy quarters, eating cold leftovers, and not even being able to see movies in the local theater in their off hours.

One night there was an explosion. Of the 300+ men killed, 3/4 of them were African-American. The men from that loading unit who survived, were transferred, and told to start loading munitions again. They refused. And they were court-martialled under mutiny, which came with the death penalty. Eventually Thurgood Marshall took up the appeal. This case, now long-forgotten, was pivotal in kicking off the Civil Rights Movement and was critical in gaining unprecedented rights for African-Americans in the armed forces, even if it didn't end well for the 50 men involved.

I do think this deserves an adult full-length exploration from someone like Erik Larson or Hampton Sides, who can really dig into what happened in the explosion itself, which was not solved at the time, and therefore was glossed over in the book. (Surely we have more resources and technology today and can have more than a guess now.) But I loved this book in this version. There were an awful lot of people involved and with a cast of characters that size, and the scope of this event, it would be so easy to get very confusing. However, since this book was written for middle grade kids, it wasn't at all. It was so easy to follow, and it was nice to have the ramifications spelled out. The narrator also was great. I'd highly recommend this for any kid but also, it would be a terrific listen for the whole family, as trust me—the parents will learn just as much!

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

The print version of this book is published by Macmillan, my employer, but I listened to the audiobook, which is published by Random House. I downloaded this eaudiobook from my library via Overdrive.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris

I have rarely not just dived into a David Sedaris book and read the whole thing in one gulp. But this time, I couldn't. I had a ton of work reading to do, and also this was his largest book by far. But it was delightful instead to spend a few minutes with David, every night for several weeks. I do love getting enveloped by a book and reading it whole, but it is nice sometimes to parcel out a treat in small amounts to make it last longer. It's just when it comes to David Sedaris, I don't normally have the discipline. And I think he'd appreciate that. I should also mention I've seen him in person four times.

For people who aren't already familiar with Mr. Sedaris, I'm not sure I'd suggest you start with this book. In fact, I think I'd read his books in order mostly. Because with this book, one of the coolest things, is knowing where he's going (bestselling author) and seeing how he gets there. And seeing his sister Amy's career get off the ground. And reading about notable moments, such as when he first meets Hugh, that HE doesn't know yet are notable moments. You catch glimpses and clues along the way about his family and his career path. But as this is exactly what it says it is--his own diaries (lightly edited but he leaves the crazy and juicy stuff in), if you don't know the context of the bigger picture, I can't imagine these would do a lot for you. But with that bigger picture, it's a real treat. In particular I liked the crazy things with his sister Amy, and I loved seeing the morsels that later became big juicy stories such as all the source material for Me Talk Pretty Someday. My only annoyance was that they ended. Obviously, we're totally set up for a volume 2. I just wish I didn't have to wait! This was the shortest 500 page book I've ever read. It flew by.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore, Watchung Booksellers.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Review: In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary

Books like the Little House on the Prairie series, I think make all kids wonder about the authors of their books. We know what Laura Ingalls's life was like—who else had interesting lives? Are their stories inspired by their lives? Do they live in a garret doing nothing but write? Do they live glamorous lives? Maybe I just wondered those things because I was destined to work in book publishing (or vice versa). Regardless, it was a real treat to get to read this biography of Margaret Wise Brown, the author of hundreds of children's books, most famously, Goodnight, Moon, although my personal favorite is Runaway Bunny.

And I was not prepared for how interesting a like Brown's turned out to be! Wealthy, she went to prep schools and on to Hollins College where her grades initially would have likely gotten her turned out if the Depression hadn't hit and taken a toll on all colleges' enrollment. Afterwards, Margaret moved to New York City and got a job at Bank Street, the educational pioneer. She quickly transitioned from teaching to their publishing arm, working on textbooks in a very new style that emphasized children's experiences, multi-sensory experiences, and being sure not to talk down to kids. She never did anything by halves. She threw herself into this job, and into her own writing, and into her relationships. She was interested in a Carnegie in college but he married her friend. After a brief engagement to an Armistead , she later embarked on a long, tumultuous relationship with John Barrymore's ex-wife, Michael. And at the end of her life, she was engaged to a Rockefeller. She never married, never had kids, never achieved the literary success she'd long dreamed of, in terms of writing important, adult literature. But boy, did she leave a huge impact on children's literature. She didn't just write her books and textbooks, she helped a fledgling publisher as an editor for many years, discovering and encouraging many of the premier children's book illustrators of that era, including Clement Hurd who illustrated Goodnight, Moon.

Amy Gary had unprecedented access to Brown's journals and papers. At Margaret's sister's house, she found a trunk completely full of papers including dozens of unpublished manuscripts. (Gary is now the archivist for Brown's works.) Thanks to Brown's journals, this book feels so complete and whole, and you get her inner thoughts without the feeling that Gary is guessing at what Brown was feeling. It nearly has the feel of a third-person memoir.

Her life was fascinating, and this biography should not only be read by children's literature aficionados. It reads smoothly and trips along through the myriad adventures and books and homes and loves of Margaret Wise Brown's life, never feeling voyeuristic, but instead feeling like an unfurling of a rose, with more and more layers of petals.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What My New Job is Like Part II

So I realized that when I posted last month about what my job as a field sales rep is like, I really only talked about half of the job. Each season (and book publishing only has 3 seasons, not 4), I am on the road for about two months, but that means I am in my home office for about two months. What am I doing during those two months?

Well it all begins with Sales Conference. I went to my first one just 4 days after starting my new job. It was in Nashville (my hometown!) and it was kind of fun, although also completely overwhelming. But I was still in the stage where I didn't know what I didn't know yet, so I wasn't very anxious. I just tried to pay attention and hoped I was writing down the right things and I asked a lot of questions (not in the presentations but to my colleagues) and it was fine. I have some very nice, very helpful colleagues, thankfully, and I felt like I got up to speed fast.

This season, I was kind of scared of Sales Conference. After all, it was virtual. Which meant instead of sitting next to Anne and Ben and asking them questions, I was in my home office, on 6-hour conference calls for 4 days. Compounding that difficulty, my landlord is moving a carriage house from behind my house to next door. They were digging and pouring a foundation literally 8 feet from my office that week. But it was not bad at all, considering! It was a bummer that I couldn't speak up thanks to the construction noise, instead I had to type all my comments into the chat box, but that's not a big burden. Did I mention that PSE&G has also been jackhammering the street in front of my house off and on for the last month? So much fun. I did end up consulting a children's picture book to find out the names of all the construction vehicles, so now I know a back-hoe digger from an excavator.

In Sales Conference, the publishers present their bigger books, or books that could use more attention, and hopefully they tell us some interesting things about the books that we can then use to sell the books to our accounts. So throughout the presentations, we're all frantically typing notes into Edelweiss for every book. They're not in the same order, Edelweiss has some issues sometimes and doesn't always cooperate, and on the last day I had some problems with the presentation software and couldn't see the PowerPoint for most of the morning. But it was still much better and smoother than I had imagined.

Afterward, we then take about a month or six weeks to prepare to hit the road. Usually, the last season (Fall 2017) still has some mopping-up—I still had a couple of sales calls over the phone, and I had a half a dozen orders to enter. I had some huge expense reports to submit. I also had a ton of emails to address as while I was on the road, mostly I was only able to put out fires and everything else had to wait. And to prep for the next season, I have to plot out my calendar for when to go where (which is harder than you'd think, especially trying to squeeze in a 2-week trip to NC and VA around Labor Day, Columbus Day, two family visits, my anniversary and my husband's birthday, SIBA and NAIBA's fall trade shows, and get it all in before the next sales conference. I can't go to my college stores in VA and NC in mid-August because of back to school, and I can't go to my beach stores in DE until after Labor Day.) Then I have to send emails and try to schedule 38 appointments. Once I get those set, I have to book all my hotels, and I have to make a flow chart for where my F&Gs will go. F&Gs are Fold & Gathers, or the ARCs for picture books. They used to be just printed pages that were literally folded (not bound in any way) and just gathered together. Today they do tend to be stapled. I don't get 38 of them. I get 7. We like to be kind to the environment, stores don't like to have to figure out what to do with all of these from all publishers at the end of a season, and it is a cost savings that helps us do more for stores. So Store #1 needs to send their F&Gs on to store #8. Store #2 has to send theirs to Store #9, etc. I have to figure out the flow chart, and print UPS call tags for every shipment along the way, which I bring to the sales call, so the stores don't incur the shipping cost. I also send ARCs to my stores that I think they will like (and stores make a ton of requests which is so nice as then I know they will really want what they're getting!) Finally, I have to get back to Edelweiss and finish making my notes. See, even in four days, my publishers can't possibly present 1200 books to us. Not by a long shot. So I have to go back to book 1 and I look over the tip sheet and launch sheet (which ought to be attached) and listen to the audio presentation (these are cool—the editors talking about the books, hopefully not just rereading their copy I already have, but talking about why they bought the book, what the author is like, what inspired the story, etc.), and the catalog copy. I then distill that down and I write a 1-2 sentence description followed by 2-5 bullets of selling points for the accounts. Some accounts really only look at my mark-up notes when making their decisions, so I put a lot of effort into them. My predecessor wrote really funny ones, and I can't compete on that, but I do add fun facts and personal anecdotes and a couple of gifs. I can do 80 on a good day, but that's balanced with 10 on a bad day (when the emails don't stop coming). I pretty much max out at about 250/week. A couple of my colleagues share theirs (as do I) so I can sometimes crib from them and that can help (although it can also hurt as I won't be as familiar with those books when it comes time to sell.)

Oh, and the last thing that I do? Read. Read read read. I have a goal this season to read 75 books. Now, a bunch of those are picture books so it's not as crazy as it sounds. I managed to read about 25 of those in 2 days. I've read 53.5 so far. So 21.5 left. I am hoping the children's department will upload more of the picture books, but I'm feeling pretty good with how I'm doing. I started reading Winter 2018 books in May, and I'm giving myself through August before switching to Spring/Summer 2018 books. It's funny—I might not make my Challenge to read 31 2017 books but it's not because I'm not reading new books—it's because I'm reading even newer books than that!

So that's the other part of my job, which is just as big and important as the part where I drive around and visit stores.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas


Shelley Tougas writes such believable kids, it's impressive and yet, because she' so great at it, I think it's an overlooked skill. The most highly skilled people make the hard work look easy.

No one believes that Mary's cousin Eden is getting married, but Mary's not going to look an offer to be a junior bridesmaid in the mouth! Not to mention, it distracts from her being disciplined at school for hitting a boy, Brent. Not that her mother needs a lot of distracting lately--with her father having moved to North Dakota for work and her mother hanging on as a single parent with a low-paying job so Mary and her brother can finish out the school year, she's pretty distracted most of the time. But it finally is the end of the school year and Mary and her brother are going to live with their Grandmother and Eden, while their mom heads to North Dakota to look for a job and a place for them to all live.

Mary throws herself into being a good bridesmaid. And one of the first thing she learns is that her job is to make the bride's life easier. And considering that Eden has crippling social anxiety (as does her fiance, which is how they met--in a support group), Mary knows that trying to help mitigate the giant, fancy wedding their grandmother is planning that Eden doesn't want, should be her number one goal. But she doesn't want to hurt their grandmother's feelings either, and she's a very formidable woman who basically always gets her way. Mary has found praying to Patron Saints a lot easier lately, but she can't find a patron saint for junior bridesmaids, so she's having to navigate a lot of tricky waters with her family (not to mention the cute boy down the street), solo.

This is a great middle grade book because it's not chock-filled with Big Issues. Don't get me wrong--it's not a light fluffy novel with nothing at all bad, it's just not dark or depressing and things work out in the end. The reason that Mary punched the boy in her class, and the aftermath of that, is by far the most compelling story, although it's by no means the main storyline. It's really nice to see Eden, dealing with her anxiety in productive ways and actively working to get better, and it's nice to see a positive and empowering story with that particular issue. Mary has a close, loving family, whose biggest problem is that they tell white lies to spare each others' feelings, and there's a bit of an internal fight/joke about whether Irish or German food is better. I especially liked the neighborhood boy who is a love interest that never really gets off the ground, but as a Unitarian, opens Mary's eyes a bit to her own Catholic faith and to the wider world around her.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a part of Macmillan Publishers, my employer.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Month in Review: June

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

This month was Sales Conference, so I had to read in preparation for that, but also coming out of that I had a lot of books I was really interested in reading. I'm starting to realize that I'm going to have a problem with how I currently list my reviews. Since I'm reading so far in advance, I'm holding most of my reviews until about a week before the book publishes. I don't think it's nice or fair to tease about a book that isn't coming out for six months or longer. Not to mention, you'll have completely forgotten about it by then. But that means that a lot of books I'm reading in 2017, I won't publish the reviews for until 2018. Hmm. Not ideal. Maybe I should change my "Books Read" list to "Books Reviewed?" But I often look up a book on Goodreads to see what year I read it, in order to find t he review on my blog easily, so that will mess things up if I do that. I can post them all to my "Books Read 2017" list retroactively, in 2018. I'll have to ponder this issue a bit. If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears!

Also, it's now exactly six months into the year. According to Goodreads, not including picture books and the like, I've read 85 books. So I'm on track to set a new record, by a long, long way. My previous record was 103 in 2011. I should pass that in another month or two. Granted, I've been reading a lot more children's books than I have in past years, but I only count them if they're substantial--more than 100 pages, a chapter book with some substance. Middle grade is my cutoff, but I don't even count all of the middle grade books, if it feels too goofy or just doesn't have enough content. Counting the books below that really feels like padding. Now, between all the audiobook (20! A new record! It's weird to set a record so early in the year.) and the children's books, my total number of pages is running closer to par at two-thirds of my previously highest year.

Books completed this month:
Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Real Friends by Shannon Hale
*The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore (audio)
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy
In Search Of by Ava Dellaira
The Lambs: My Father, a Farm, and the Gift of a Flock of Sheep by Carole George
As She Fades by Abbi Glines
*Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (audio)
Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children by Sara Zaske
Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir by Dawn Davies
*Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas
Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez
Snow Lane by Josie Angelini
#Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid
Plus thirty-two picture books that I've read for work.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People by Susan Orlean
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
You know, I don't know when, if ever, I'll finish these two books given my current work, so I'm going to stop listing the Orlean and the Mitchell every single month. Rest assured they continue to live on my bedside table and haven't been forgotten.

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
I was thrilled to get these books at BEA!
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal
Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller
D'Arc by Robert Repino
Don't know when I will ever get to read them, but I have hope!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, narrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, and Danny Campbell (audio)


This audiobook did something different than others I've listened to and I liked it: it had three narrators. Now, I've had audiobooks where one voice was read by a different narrator, but this book was divided into three sections, and each section had a different focus or "main character," and the three narrators of those three sections were obviously chosen to represent those three narrations, which was very effective.

The book starts off with the story of Mollie Burkhart, an Osage Indian woman, who watched as her sisters and mother were killed off, one by one, by various means: shot, poisoned, and one's house was blown up. She absolutely had to be terrified that she was next. And her diabetes did get dramatically, and suspiciously worse for a while, until she was removed from the care of the local doctors. But her family were not the only ones being targeted and killed for their "head rights," or their rights to the oil under the Oklahoma reservation. In the 1920s, at least two dozen Osage were murdered. That kind of killing spree ought to still be in our cultural consciousness, but it isn't. It also ought to be because these investigations lead to the founding of the FBI.

That's the second half of the story, told by a gravely-voiced Westerner. The newly formed Bureau of Investigation had no power of arrest, and its members weren't allowed to carry guns. They were solely supposed to investigate. Some members went undercover to try to infiltrate the local society. Most though went in as lawmen, questioning and interviewing and doing the usual legwork. Unfortunately, most people weren't talking. It seems like everyone knew more than they were saying, but they were all awfully scared of someone.

Finally, in the third part of the book, the author David Grann, becomes part of the story as he investigates on the murders that was never solved. When the BI does "solve," them, they assume the bad guy(s) they've fingered is/are good for all of the murders, and basically just stop investigating all of them. One family gets in touch with Grann and he goes back through all of the original material in archives and pieces together the larger puzzle, uncovering some brand-new revelations along the way.

The story is riveting. It's wretched that this happened, and we make it worse by forgetting, what was one of the largest mass murders in American history. It's interesting to hear about how the BI (FBI) was changing at this time and how Hoover went out of his way to deny identifying the bureau agents who were instrumental in solving the case, as they didn't fit his desired look of an agent: young, Ivy League-educated, clean-cut. Of course that type of agent wouldn't have been able to make much headway in Osage County, Oklahoma, and these men did. Laws were changed after these murders, allowing the Osage more control over their own money, and preventing the situation that made murder so attractive for a while in this area. It's a fascinating sliver of history, and one even more important to know about as it was so impactful on the Osage people.

I downloaded this eaudiobook through my library via Cloud Library.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What My New Job is Like

I know, I've been fairly absent from my blog this month, but I've had a very good excuse. Over the last two months I've been traveling like crazy to visit all my accounts, mostly independent bookstores, and my territory is rather large: Southern NJ and Eastern PA, on down through NC. And since I like numbers and fun facts, I thought I'd pull some together for you all.

States visited: 6 plus 1 district plus drove through 1 additional state.
Miles Driven: 5641
Audiobooks listened to: 6
Times car in shop: 2 (oil change and brake light, flat tire)
Bookstores visited: 38
Additional bookstores I visited in this timeframe that aren't even my accounts: 2
What I bought at those bookstores: 1 Wonder Woman mug, 4 literary tea towels, 2 jigsaw puzzles, 1 notepad, 1 giant (joke) highlighter, 1 leather cat keychain. (Yes, I am a sucker for sidelines.)
Funniest book I saw at a store: How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety
Panera Breads visited: 11
Number of Macmillan titles to review for every order for Fall 2017: 1232
Oldest bookstore: Moravian Books in Pennsylvania (it's the oldest bookstore in the U.S.!) Founded 1745.
Youngest bookstore: East City Books in D.C. It was 364 days old when I visited, one day shy of its first birthday!

So what I do is I go to bookstores and we review their order, which hopefully they've already pulled together on the website where online catalogs live. Otherwise, we will go through the whole thing instead of just the books I want to review, and we can then take a 1 hour appointment and make it into 3. As I'm sure you can imagine, going over 1232 books is daunting and time-consuming. Luckily a lot of the books are also fun or awesome or awe-inspiring, so it's like little treats are sprinkled throughout this task. I managed to read 12 books on the list plus 40 picture books. Next season I plan to read more. I've already read 14 2018 books! Sales Conference ended yesterday so it's time to switch gears to Winter 2018 (January-April).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis, narrated by Dylan Baker (audio)

I rarely pay attention to the narrator for an audiobook unless they are really wrong for the book, and I didn't know who narrated this one, however, I recognized his voice and a few hours in (I was on a very long car ride) I finally put a face to the voice and Dylan Baker was perfect for this book. He has the right amount of practicality and everymanness that you imagine Michael Lewis to have.

Because, as in all of Mr. Lewis's books, he is not an insider (yes, he very briefly in his twenties did work in a trading company but really, he's not one of them) and instead is someone just like you and me, but who can explain really, really complicated financial transactions in a way that is clear and understandable, and even at times fun.

Here he explains the flash crash that happened in 2010, how flash trading became so important, how flash trading works, and why it really isn't a good thing for the market at all—it's just a small group of traders who are siphoning money off the top and contributing nothing. They make trading more expensive for everyone, so they can get rich. He also follows a group of men from the Royal Bank of Canada (initially) who figure this out, decide it's unethical, and set out to create a fair trading market that the flash traders can't scam. Boy, I hope they win. This is a battle still continuing to this day.

Riveting as usual, with insights and perspectives that only an outsider with insider knowledge can have, like with all of Mr. Lewis's financial books, we all ought to read them, as the less we know about financial markets, the more those in the know can scam them, making trading costs higher for our 401(k)s and pension plans, even if you don't consider yourself someone who is in the market.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from Overdrive via my library.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book Review: Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Ugh, middle school. Ugh, cliques. Ugh, complicated friendships. This book hits all of these rife topics on the head. Ms. Hale really recaptures what it felt like to be navigating the uber-complicated world of junior high (as it was called in the 1980s) and how, to quote Heathers, "Sometimes I don't really like my friends." And Shannon's friends certainly are mostly frenemies, so who can blame her?

But as the book goes on, she does find a new group of friends who are not mean girls and don't exclude people or make fun or every quirk and nuance about them that doesn't conform. It's awesome. That rarely happens in real life and I hope those two girls who were the defacto leaders of that trend know how awesome they are. It's also rough when you go home and your home life is no respite from the trauma of school. Shannon's sister Wendy is also a terror, meaning Shannon has no refuge.

Sadly, I've found friendship difficulties can even happen in adulthood. So this is a great book that pretty much every kid ought to read. Friendships mean a ton therefore there are fraught. And it's best to try to figure out how to navigate them before they get poisonous, and while there's still room to maneuver around. This book felt very real, and hopeful.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (audio)

This is a book I've owned for several years, however, I finally figured I was unlikely to ever get around to reading it, so I got the audio.

I love history books, especially ones that explain things I've never understood. Just as I still don't really understand how the assassination in Sarajevo started WWI, I also never understood why the sinking of the Lusitania was cause for the United States to join the war. Basically, it was the blatant disregard for the fact that it was a passenger ship, not a military ship, that although British, was carrying a lot of Americans, and the Germans knew that, so it felt like it was a middle finger to America and basically a way to force them in from public outcry. And that's precisely what happened.

Thanks to the sinking of the Titanic a year or so earlier, the Lusitania did have enough life boats. But they overcorrected and got new fancy life jackets which no one knew how to put on (they were complicated) and many bodies were found in a life jacket, floating upside down. The only drills that were done were for staff only, not for passengers. And the worst thing was that just before this happened, the Germans had torpedoed a military ship, and then waited and torpedoed the two other ships that came to the rescue of the first ship. Therefore, the new policy was not to come to the rescue of a torpedoed ship as it might be a trap. Also the captain got varied and conflicting direction about evasive maneuvers and timing. And he was sailing short-handed with an inexperienced crew, and all experienced seamen were conscripted into the navy. The really sad thing was that the boat was not traveling anywhere near at her full speed, despite being the fastest commercial ship in existence, because the company wanted to save money on fuel. If that directive hadn't been given, it would very likely have not been torpedoed.

But then, if the US hadn't entered the war, if might have lasted much longer and more soldiers would have been killed. So maybe in the long run, it was actually for the best? Feels creepy to talk about human lives that way but at times it's true that a small loss of life can forestall a larger one.

The book was clear, in-depth, gave real human faces to the tragedy (including to President Wilson who was courting the woman he would marry after his first wife's death), and thoroughly explained how the ship and the U-boat ended up there at that moment, and why this led to the Americans entering the war. Excellent armchair history.

I borrowed this eaudiobook via Overdrive through my library.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore, narrated by Angela Brazil (audio)

Sometimes history makes me mad. Probably the best kinds of history does that. History that killed people, and changed laws.

In the 1910s and 1920s, women in New Jersey (not far at all from where I live) and Illinois painted dials for watches and airplanes and other military instruments, with radium, to make them glow in the dark. Radium is highly radioactive, and the women were instructed to lick the paintbrushes to "point" them to make them more accurate. So they were licking radium at work all day. To no contemporary reader's shock, they all started to get sick, in strange and weird ways, pretty quickly. (The younger women were more susceptible.) Their teeth started falling out and not healing. Their jawbones started falling out. They developed enormous, frightening tumors. Their legs started shrinking. They suffered terribly, through amputations, disfigurement, and unfailing pain. What had initially been a glamorous job with a funny side benefit of making these "girls" seem to shine, quickly became death sentences for many of them.

And a few of them decided to fight back. First, no one knew what was wrong with them at all. Radium was thought to not only not be harmful, but to be healthful. People drank radium drinks for their health. When it was finally figured out what was going on, the statute of limitation for suing the company had expired. When they got around that, the law covering worker's compensation did not cover poisonings. The law was amended, and then the company argued it wasn't poisoning after all. The lead plaintiff in the final suit, Catherine, was at the end only 61 pounds, missing most of her teeth, with a tumor the size of a grapefruit on her hip, and she testified from her home as she wasn't able to continue to attend the trial. (She'd collapsed in the courtroom after she found out for the first time from a doctor testifying, that her condition was terminal and she didn't have long to live.)

Their lawsuits changed the laws. OSHA was founded as a result. Worker's compensation laws were strengthened. I shudder to think what would have been the lax working conditions of the (mostly women) workers who were dealing with polonium and other radioactive substances just a few years later in WWII in Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, if it weren't for these strong, brave women. Most of them, like Catherine towards the end, knew there was no hope, no cure, but fought on anyway for their friends and colleagues, and their families.

A compelling story, powerfully told, about unsung American victims who fought to become heroes in their own life stories. Should be a must-read.

I downloaded this eaudiobook through my library via Cloud Library.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Month in Review: May

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I'm noting the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

My original plan in May was to start reading Winter 2018 books. But, due to travel and book club (although they were so nice to pick a Macmillan book for me!), I didn't get much of a start on 2018 yet. It's a weird thing to not even be halfway through the year but really be wondering if I'll be reading any more 2017 books. Audio will be the one area where I can keep up with current books.

Books completed this month:
*Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (audio)
* Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis (audio)
Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks
Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling by Michael Cannell (audio)
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Kevin Show: Love, Mania, and the Olympics by Mary Pilon

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
*Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris
*The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore (audio)
Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (I should have finished this a while ago but the editor is still working on the final chapters with the author, so I am anxiously waiting for the end of the book.)
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People by Susan Orlean
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
On Independent Bookstore Day (which I suppose was technically in April but I didn't get organized enough to add it to my list until a couple of days later), I got Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant. Funnily, my husband picked this up, and had no idea who Sheryl Sandberg was or anything. I've read and loved Lean In. So this was a joint purchase.
I also ran out and bought Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris the day it went on sale. This is one of the few non-Macmillan books I guarantee you I'm going to read this year.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling by Michael Cannell

Why has everyone forgotten about the Mad Bomber? He planted dozens and dozens of bombs all about New York City from the 1930s through the 1950s (although as a patriotic American--and a vet himself--he paused for WWII) from Grand Central Station to the New York Public Library to Radio City Music Hall. It's amazing how much of history is lost to the wind until an enterprising author puts pen to paper.

This bomber was truly outwitting the NYPD, even though he made calls and sent notes about his bombs (he didn't really want to hurt people.) It took absolutely forever to figure out who it was. Finally what did it was the lead detective going to a psychiatrist for a profile, which was so not done in those days that they didn't even have a word for it, and a tabloid newspaper reaching for a headline and trying to engage the bomber.

The profiling didn't have as much impact on the case as the subtitle would have you believe, even though it was uncanny how accurate it was. But the newspaper's open letter that got a response, and the back-and-forth that finally lead the bomber to admit an important date when he was injured at Con Edison (he was clear from the beginning that ConEd was who he was mad at for an injury and their subsequent treatment of him.) That date allowed ConEd to find his file (even though earlier they'd sworn up and down to the police that they had no records going back to the 1930s), and put a name with the face.

Who was he? Well, you'll have to read it and find out! I'm not going to give it away! A real-life Law and Order episode from the near past.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith (audio)

I do like books about science but occasionally they can be a bit of a slog, so I like them especially on audio. While I might get a little lost, it's just easier to have someone else reading the book to me. This one, however, I found quite compelling.

Mr. Godfrey-Smith uses an octopus to explore neurology, how brains work, what we don't understand about brains and therefore about consciousness, and how much that means we don't understand of ourselves. He is a philosopher and so that's his angle, but I think luckily, he didn't dwell on that and kept the focus mostly on octopuses (not octopi) and brains. And why not as those are two truly fascinating things.

For example, only half of an octopus's brain is in its head. The other half is in its arms. It can think with its arms. How? We don't know. Illustrating how little we actually know about how thinking works. Also, octopuses can change color. They often change color to blend in with their surroundings. But, as far as we can tell, they are color blind. Since they're not magic, obviously we humans don't fully understand how octopuses understand color, showing yet another deficiency in our understanding of how brains and thinking works. If we understand this little about how octopus brains work, might we also maybe not fully understand how human brains work?

It's a truly interesting book filled with bizarre facts (Octopuses have no fixed body shape! Which means they can squeeze through a hole as small as their eyeball. See one do that here.) And a book that really makes you think about... how we think. I mean not the philosophical how but the physical, chemical how.

I downloaded this eaudiobook through by library via Overdrive. This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau

My book club in Charlotte not only moved their meeting by 3 weeks so that I could attend after having moved away last year, but they also knew I'd be under the gun about reading books for my new job, so they super-thoughtfully even picked a Macmillan book newly in paperback! That was so cool of them! I feel very loved. Also, I miss my book club.

Karl is nearly 40, owns a bar in Chicago, and used to be a band, when one day he finds a wormhole in his closet that takes him back in time. He shows it to his friend (and bar regular) Wayne, who connects computers and a generator to it, figures out a way to send people to a particular time and place, and how to get them back with their smart phone. They start a small business sending people back to old rock concerts, so they can experience an idol in person, or relive old glory days. Everything is going swimmingly until Wayne wants to go back to 1980 and prevent John Lennon's murder. They argue, after all, Karl has been dead-set against doing anything to change the past from day one. But Wayne wins the argument and in his frustration and haste, Karl mistypes and sends Wayne to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 980. Yep, 980. 600 years give or take before the locals set eyes on a white man. Uh oh. Frantic, Karl contacts Lena, a physicist at Northwestern (based on the band T-shirt she's wearing in her faculty picture) to help him get Wayne back. And Lena turns out to be much more than Karl bargained for...

I don't want to give away too much so I'm going to end the plot synopsis there. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, not too science-y (it helps that our protagonist is the bar owner, not the physicist, which also helps the author gloss over a lot of technical and scientific details), with lots of juicy topics to discuss. Alas, when discussing a book for an hour that glosses over details, you do start to see inconsistencies and gaps, however the discussions were very enjoyable and overall, it still held up for me. While reading it, I felt the plot was a little meandering and I'm not sure the author knew where she was going at all times, and yes, some threads were dropped, but I liked Karl so much and felt for his conundrums, so I happily overlooked those flaws. It deals with some issues all time-traveling stories deal with—loops in the time continuum; the ethics of changing the past, even if you think it's for the better; will you like the consequences of something you've changed, even if unintentionally or with the best of intentions? What I found the most intriguing question was, if you can love someone enough to improve things in their past that mean they won't be the same person and likely won't love you again in the present or the future? As another great music novel asks, “What came first—the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music?" (High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.)

This book is published by my employer, Macmillan.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra (audio)

I'm trying not to torture readers by telling you all about books not out for months, but I'm about out of books to review otherwise! But I do have a couple of audiobooks still left, so here is one.

Wow, this book was amazing. At the end, I just couldn't stop listening. I was so scared for Eleanor, and so proud of Park's bravery. I hope I'd be able to do what each of them did, had I been in their shoes.

Eleanor is new at school in the middle of the semester, after her new step-father finally lets her come back to live with her family (she'd been staying on her mother's friend's couch for months). There's no where to sit on the bus until Park finally lets her sit next to him. He thinks she's weird. She just wants to  get through each day. Eventually they start to like each other, bonding over comic books that they share (she starts reading them over his shoulder) and eventually, they are  boyfriend and girlfriend. But all is not good, as Eleanor's step-father is just awful. Her home life is pretty dreadful. There's barely enough food, she only has a few items of clothes, and as a big girl who started school late and is quiet and smart, she's also bullied at school. She does start to make friends, and Park helps immensely, but it's still really bad. Park's home life is pretty normal for the late-1980s. He wants to get his driver's license, and thinks his parents are too overprotective. It's jarring for Eleanor to see someone with a normal, happy home. And makes her home life looks even worse by comparison. Sometimes you don't realize how awful something is when you're in it, but Eleanor does. And then it gets worse.

This is a really powerful, and important book. Like many tragic YA novels, it helps teens mentally cope with an awful situation before they're actually in it and have to face it for real. Because unless you lived a very sheltered life, pretty much all of us had at least one friend who we thought might be being abused at home, right? But what do you do? Do you say something? To whom? What do you say? Will you just make the situation worse?

Ms. Rowell creates here a very believable and beautiful relationship between Park and Eleanor, and a sadly true situation at Eleanor's home. I truly was scared at the end of the book and couldn't stop listening. But it's definitely for older teens, and also it's an excellent book for adults who might have forgotten how rife with trauma and angst, teenagehood was all about. Bonus points if you were yourself a teen in the late '80s.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield (audio)


This was so great! I think Rainbow Rowell's books are so terrific on audio. I wasn't sure about alternating narrators, but it completely makes sense here. The main narrator is telling the story of Cath, whereas the male British narrator reads her fan fiction that she writes about a Harry Potter-esque school for magical kids, so it really works.

Cath has just started college and she was horrified to discover that her twin sister, Wren, didn't want to live with her. Wren wants to have a more normal college experience and doesn't want to be known as "the twin," and wants to have an easier time distinguishing herself. Cath wants none of these things, but she is stuck with a roommate, Reagan, an angry sophomore whose boyfriend, Levi, is always hanging out (sometimes when Reagan isn't even there.) Cath continues to write her "Simon Snow" fanfiction, partly because that's just who she is, but also partly as a coping method.

This is a wonderful book about how the transition to college can be difficult. It deals with the fact the home life (including home problems) still continue even though you're away, and a search for identity (if reluctant), and how sometimes good things can happen to like friends and--oh my, the last thing Cath expects--even maybe a boyfriend! Cath's voice really rings true, her experiences feel all too real, and it really slingshotted me back in time, to my own college days. Every high school senior should read this. And really, just everyone should because Rainbow Rowell is awesome.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Month in Review: April

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I'm going to start to note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

So in March I mostly read Macmillan children's backlist, boning up for my new job as the Mid-Atlantic field sales rep. For April, I jumped into the Fall 2017 list, which is what I started selling this month. On the one hand, I know it's kind of cruel to review books that aren't coming out for months, but on the other hand, you can always add them to your TBR lists! I will make a big effort to do the reviews for published books right away and if I stay behind on my reviewing, I will let it be the Not Yet Published (NYP) books that get delayed. Heck, that will just bring the review a little closer to the actual pub date, so that's not a bad thing, unless I completely forget everything about the book in the mean time! I'm not entirely sure what to do when I start reading Winter 2018 books that aren't even in the Goodreads database yet. I suppose I could add them and then combine them with the real book at a later date, but that's more effort and involves me remembering to do a fairly minor thing months down the road.

Books completed this month:
Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham
*American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater 
The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery
Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas
Thornhill by Pam Smy
Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out by Manoush Zomorodi
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (audio)
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith (audio)
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People by Susan Orlean
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
none! Doing better on my budget. Although I did buy some sidelines (non-books) at bookstores. Always dangerous.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Four Coming of Age novels

I'm trying to catch up on my reviews, so today I have four coming-of-age novels.

Rain  Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose has Asperger's. She lives with her father and her dog, Rain. She has an aide at school to help her with conversations or when she gets upset. She also writes lists of homonyms which calms her down. Things have been difficult since her mother died, but they're functioning, until a horrific storm hits, and Rain is lost. Rose has an uphill battle to find her dog despite washed-out roads, and simply being a ten-year-old which means she doesn't have as many resources. When her father loses his job, the difficulties come to a head. The end has a couple of nice twists. Ann M. Martin is reliable as ever, conveying the difficult emotions of Rose very ably, so at the end I feel I understand a little better what it's like to live with a difference like Asperger's every day.


Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

This is a modern classic of sorts. Set in Jamaica, it covers many years of Annie John's youth, starting when she's about ten, and going through about sixteen. At the beginning, she loves school and loves her parents and life is just pretty much fun, although she's a scamp so she does get into some trouble. But over the years as puberty hits, she gets along less well with her mother, friends come and go, her body begins to develop, and she goes through just a lot of the usual adolescent stages, but with the added bonus of the Jamaican setting, which gives a very different feel to the usual coming-of-age tropes. Annie was a pill at times, so you also have to get past that.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia is the only girl in a house full of boys in 1899. Their grandfather lives with him, but all the kids find him fairly scary. Eventually, Calpurnia gets to know him, and they end up working together, collecting specimens, doing experiments, and she even reads Darwin's On the Origin of Species which he loans her. She has to also do her chores, keep up in school, and do the usual things that any girl her age does, but she also wants to help her grandfather discover a new species. But even as she studies how the world changes, she's not happy with the changes happening in her own life, such as her oldest brother courting a young woman. This book was delightful--Calpurnia reminded me a bit of Laura Ingalls, although in a more stable situation (and fifteen years later) as she's got tomboy tendencies but still also a girl of her era, and it's universal how she can appreciate bigger changes in the environment, but doesn't want her home life to change at all. And yet, life does go on and changes are the one guarantee.

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Sasha just turned ten which means he can finally join the Young Pioneers and be a good communist and prove to Stalin how much he loves him. But the night before, his father, who works for the government, is arrested and charged with being a spy. Sasha's mother dies years ago so he is all alone in the world. He doesn't know what to do so he goes to school and tries to pretend everything is okay. He is sure his father's arrest is a mistake and that he'll show up at the Young Pioneers ceremony.

I really liked this book but I found the format somewhat confusing. It's a very graphic book--not a graphic novel per se but a heavily illustrated novel. And the language was also geared towards younger kids, and yet, I wonder what young kids in the 8-10 range would be interested in reading this story? I think if it was given to them, they would, but most of them won't know anything about the USSR or Stalin or Communism (in fact, they might not have even heard of any of these things.)

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked all four of these books out of the library.

All four of these books are published by Macmillan, my employer.