Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Book Review: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

David and Sarah are two students at a prestigious arts school. Over the summer they embark on a hot and heavy affair. But when school starts back the pressure of being boyfriend and girlfriend breaks them. Mr. Kingsley, their acting teacher, knows what's gone on between them and uses it in a trust exercise in the class for weeks on end. But neither David nor Sarah will be the first to give in.

Meanwhile, a troupe of British student actors come over for an extended visit and infiltrate the groups in the school, and embark on romantic relationships. Relationships are twisted, pulled, snapped, and then...

Twenty years later, Sarah has written a novel about a teen at a prestigious arts school. And a friend who was a minor character in the first part is standing outside City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco as Sarah gives a reading, trying to decide whether or not to confront her. And tell her that she's now working on a play with David.

I know this book is supposed to be amazing and oodles of people I respect are raving over it, but it just didn't work for me. The first half felt icky and gratuitous. Then the narrative shift was so abrupt and I saw the ending coming from a mile away. Overall it didn't work for me. However I seem to be in the minority. Decide for yourself.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book Review: The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes

Gideon has just moved from New Jersey to Nevada at the beginning of summer. Since school is out and he's not even allowed to cross the street on his bike, his only friend option is his next-door-neighbor, Roona. She's nice but a bit odd--wearing a baby blanket tied around her neck as a cape and rainbow-colored knee socks even though it's stiflingly hot. Very soon, Gideon and we readers realize Roona's got bigger problems and Gideon and Roona might be in over their heads in trying to solve them.

Overall, this is a wonderful, albeit somewhat difficult novel, perfect for kids who like realistic and heartbreaking stories. There's an element of magical realism in the book that doesn't really go anywhere--Roona's mother bakes for the whole town and when she's upset, her feelings go into her baked goods--and it's primed to be a major plot point at the climax, but that is literally dashed to pieces and isn't mentioned again. But this is a minor quibble.

It's very realistic in the best ways. In other middle grade books I've read recently, even ones that are ostensibly realistic, I knew everything was going to work out. Everything would slot into place and at the end (or close enough to the end that you could see it), everyone would be happy. This book isn't like that. Readers have a serious worry that things won't work out. And a couple of really, really not-good things do happen. And in the end, even though there's a satisfactory resolution, and you know things will in the very long run probably be okay, nothing is tied up neatly in a bow, and several people are not happy or have a strong chance of being not happy. Sorry for all the vague-ness but I don't want to give away spoilers.

As with a lot of great middle grade books dealing with difficult subjects, the main character, Gideon, is a step removed, giving us perspective and safety in the reading. In the meantime, through his worrying over Roona, he understands his mother better and her worrying over things like him biking across the street. While the book isn't perfect--the little sister doesn't have much purpose and the cover is too cheerful--its heart is enormous and its issues are important and its insights are powerful. It might cause some of the most sensitive kids anxiety, but it's also easy to argue that since you can't protect them from bad things forever, this is great exposure in a safe, discussable way to some problems they or their friends might face down the road, and it's very important for kids to be prepared emotionally and intellectually, to deal with the inevitable bad stuff. I sometimes wish I could have a magic cape when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I hope Roona gets the support she and her mother desperately need.

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 Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Book Review: Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story by Peter Bagge

You should know by now that I am a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. HUGE. I've taken a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on her, I've been to her house, and my youngest sister is named Laura (not a coincidence). I haven't known much about Rose until more recent years, and this is a fun, odd, and much-needed graphic biography of her. After reading Prairie Fires by Caroline Frasier, I was pretty well convinced that Rose was a grade-A nutjob. I'm glad this book tells things from her perspective, as rarely is a person just a crazy basket case without more to the story.

First of all, her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was a difficult mother: demanding, cheap, and grumpy. And as an only child, she had no one to share the burden with. Then her own life didn't go remotely as expected. From an early marriage that didn't work out to losing a baby and having a hysterectomy, meaning no children ever, to becoming a famous writer and friends with influential people across the twentieth century, I hadn't given either the difficulties or achievements in her life much weight. In her lifetime, she was the highest-paid woman journalist/writer with many bestsellers. She even went to Vietnam in her 70s to write about that war. Very well-traveled, she kept trying to get away but was always inextricably pulled back home to Mansfield, Missouri. She was inspired by, helped with, and felt sidelined by her mother's books. Even though she unofficially adopted several young men, she never seemed to fulfill her maternal drive. A famous contrarian and libertarian, she hung out with Ayn Rand.

Graphic biographies are, by their nature, accessible and concise. If you're a Wilder fan and/or have heard of Rose and want to know more, or just want to see what life was like for a famous woman writer from the Midwest in the first half of the twentieth century, this is a great book.

This book is published by Drawn & Quarterly, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Book Review: Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw

When I picked up this book, I thought it was going to be a light, fluffy, Sweet Valley High type of book about kissing and flirting and boys, and so on. Boy, did I underestimate it!

I mean, on the surface, that is how it starts out. Mads and her best friend Cat are seniors at the local Catholic school and they party and hang out--especially Cat who is always somewhere fun (her home life is a mess and she's always wanting to not be at home.) Mads loves to hang out with her dad, play video games, and go to the minor league baseball games with family friends. Adam, the brother of another friend, has a big crush on Mads, but she doesn't feel the same way... or does she? Well, if she did, why does she also kind of have a crush on... Cat?

Meanwhile, she overhears her father in a conversation and misunderstands a big secret. She figures out the secret isn't what she thinks... but then what is it? She starts to do research after finding a photo and a check, and is astonished by what she finds, and how it might change her family forever.

This was a powerful book. There's a lot to unpack. It's really layered and there's a lot going on--a lot of emotions, confusion, betrayal, trust issues, some of it going back before Mads was even born. There's nothing inappropriate here--a younger kid flipping through this book won't see anything that would shock them, but it certainly is for more mature teens who can understand the complexity. I absolutely loved it.

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 First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Book Review: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

I wasn't sure about micro-memoirs. I love memoir but hate short stories. I haven't read Ms. Fennelly before but I love her husband Tom Franklin's books. Finally a friend raved about it so it went on my shelf. And in a spurt to finish my goal at the end of the year, super-short books are a boon.

I'm so glad I read it! If it were longer it likely would have gotten annoying. But it's cutesy, quippy little bites of life. Mostly funny, occasionally eye-opening, and one or two surprisingly sad. I do wish for the more serious ones that she'd not held so firmly to her form as a few more details (when her sister died and how) would have provided much-needed context. But I loved it! That is a minor complaint. My favorite is the one about marriage and love that is only a few lines long, and is about how she bumps into her husband's hand with her own, as they each reach to turn on the other's seat warmer. That is true love!

I bought this book at McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore in Manhattan.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Book Review: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

Oliver loves the Mexican wrestler, Tito the Bonecrusher, who has gone on to have a wildly successful action movie career (while still wearing his mask). Oliver's dad moved to Florida recently to help a friend open a restaurant and... he has been arrested for some confusing things Oliver doesn't fully understand but might have to do with illegal loans. And of course Oliver knows it's all the friend's fault and his dad didn't do anything. Which means he shouldn't be in jail. And who is great at breaking people out of places impossible to break out of? Tito the Bonecrusher! Who is going to be in town soon as a guest at a charity fundraising event! Oliver just knows that if he's able to sneak in and talk to Tito, he can get his dad out of prison and save the day!

Along the way Oliver makes some new friends, finds his own resourcefulness, and might figure out his father's not quite as innocent as he believes, but that life will go on nevertheless and things will work out okay. But the hijinks to get there will be pretty hilarious!

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 Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, March 1, 2019

My Month in Review: February

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

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

Books completed this month:
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
The White Darkness by David Grann (audio)*
The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister,  Candace Thaxton (audio)*
Amazing Decisions: The Illustrated Guide to Improving Business Deals and Family Meals by Dan Ariely
The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling by Jeanne Safer*
Twenty-one Truths About Love: A Novel by Matthew Dicks
Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America by Steve Sheinkin

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern

Books I did not finish:
The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre (audio)* Even though I was 3/4 of the way through this, I couldn't follow the narrative line and just didn't find it interesting. So many other people love it, I wonder if audio was just the wrong format.

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
None! Doing well with my budget!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

A memoir about sexual assault is never going to be easy. And I wasn't sure about reading a book in verse--I'd never tried one of those before. But I heard such good things about this, that I figured I should give it a whirl. After all, last year when I first heard about the Reading Without Walls program (it's in the summer but what the hey), I scoffed at it, saying "I read so broadly I can't possibly need to stretch myself." Well the third thing mentioned as a possibility was "a book in verse." Oops. Well now I can say I've ticked that off my list.

This book was good. It was powerful. Anderson really got a lot off her chest. And it's good for teens--memoirs aren't just for adults. However, it hasn't stuck with me. Not like Speak did. I think Shout was more elusive because of its lack of a single narrative thread throughout and the multiplicity of topics. I did love it while I was reading it and it will be beloved by many, but Speak was still such a harrowing the visceral experience that it stands head and shoulders about all its peers. This is a good companion book and will lead to discussions and much thinking, especially in teens.

I got an ARC of this book for free from the publisher at SIBA.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book Review: The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson

Faith is starting at Middle School and doesn't know anyone. When a popular older girl asks her to join the soccer team, the Bloodhounds, on the first day, she's elated. Only to find out she's on the C team full of kids who don't really care, aren't any good, and don't like soccer. She never even sees that popular 8th grader until the end of the season. But over time, Faith figures out that the girls on her team are good at something else--being friends. No, they're not perfect. A couple of longtime friends have a falling out that lasts for a while, and a couple of the kids are certainly teased/bullied by other kids, but overall, they're pretty supportive and nice to each other. And that's much more important than winning soccer games you don't care about.
This book would be so good for kids who like to play games/sports just because they like them, not because they're good or want to win. Also good for kids going to a new school or struggling to make friends. And Faith draws her own graphic novel, so perfect for more artsy kids. Also kind of meta, since this is a graphic novel.

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 First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book Review: Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I really enjoyed this graphic memoir. But I don't know who to recommend it to! Lucy and her husband wanted to have kids, and they got pregnant. But she lost the pregnancy. And then another. And before they became on of those tragedies you sometimes hear about with miscarriages in the double-digits, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a condition that was causing her pregnancies to fail. She had to have a minor surgery, and it was corrected.

She became pregnant and did not miscarry! Although of course that was a worry for a long while. Instead she had deep, debilitating "morning" sickness. She couldn't keep anything down, couldn't sleep, could only barely function as a human for months and months. Eventually, towards the end of her pregnancy, that finally passed. And she was having some uncomfortable symptoms, like being really swollen, which she did tell her doctor. But he didn't put two and two together, and so after she had a healthy baby, she nearly died of preeclampsia. That was so unforgivable--she pretty much had every symptom, like a textbook case, and he ignored her complaints.

In the end, she has a happy healthy baby, but her road there was harrowing. It was life-threatening, and not a path many would choose to go down, if they knew what dragons lay in wait. But it was a fascinating memoir and as a graphic memoir, her changing body and the baby growing inside her, were skillfully rendered in a way that made them very real.

That said, I just don't know who this book is for? Someone who wants to have kids? Yikes! Someone pregnant? No way! Someone with little kids? Too soon. Someone who doesn't want to have kids? Well, why do they want to read about someone struggling to have them? Anyway, I fall into the last category and I did like it, but it's a tough story. You need to have a strong stomach and a strong heart to get through it. Like many memoirs with tragedy in them, be careful who you give this book to, but it's an important story nonetheless.

This book is published by First Second, a division of my employer, Macmillan.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review: The White Darkness by David Grann

This is Into Thin Air crossed with Endurance. It is short (I think it was originally published in The New Yorker) but I really appreciated that it wasn't chock full of filler. It was exactly long as it needed to be and no longer, which was perfect.

Henry Worsley idealized Ernest Shackleton all his life. It was great when he was in the military, but otherwise, it was mostly just a fun quirk. Until he decided to recreate Shackleton's infamous attempt to get to the South Pole. And then emulate his attempt to fully cross the Antarctic continent. It's riveting and harrowing. And I'm not going to give away the ending. But it's great.

Here is Henry's favorite Shackleton quote: "better a live donkey than a dead lion." Good advice.

I downloaded this audiobook from my local library via Libby/Overdrive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Review: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr

Before the hurricane hit it last year, did you know Puerto Rico was a part of the United States? How many other US territories can you name? Just one or two? The US Virgin Islands are fairly easy because they have "The US" in the name. And Guam is often listed with them so you might get that too. But there have been hundreds of others. Does that surprise you?

We try to pretend that the US is unique among superpowers in that we never had colonies. But we kind of did. The Philippines. The Guano Islands. It's true that large parts of our former territories are now states: The Western Territory, Indian Territory, Alaska, Hawaii. But some still aren't. Like DC (which oddly is never mentioned, I guess because it's a "district" and not a "territory") they have taxation without representation. And without representation in Washington, it's not too shocking when natural disasters aren't adequately prepared for or repaired, as just one example.

But how and when and why did we get all of these territories? And what fun facts can we learn along the way? Two of my favorites: In 1940, an American was more likely to be living in a territory than to be African-American. 1 in 12 Americans were African-American but 1 in 8 Americans lived in a territory. And how long was the United States totally and completely just the "logo map" of the lower 48 states? No more, no less? In other words, how long after the 48th state did we get our first outside territory?

Learn these fun facts and many more, while also learning why we have territories, what has happened to them in their history which isn't taught in US history classes, and what is to become of them?

[answer: 3 years]

This book is published by Farras Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Book Review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

This graphic novel centers around Ari. He's just graduated from high school and wants to move to Baltimore from his beach town with his best friends and fellow band-mates. But his sister has just gotten married which leaves him to help out his parents with the family bakery. He really doesn't want to do that, so he advertises to find someone to replace him, so he can escape.

Enter Hector. He is in town temporarily to sort through his grandmother's belonging and sell her house before resuming college. And he loves to bake. Really loves it. He's a pretty happy guy, easy-going and mature, but his love for baking really and truly comes through on every page. And eventually he starts to remind Ari that he once loved baking too. And his presence also serves as a counterpoint to Cameron, the band's lead singer and lead asshole. Will Ari ever see the light in front of him? Or will he keep being is own worst enemy, in getting his life together?

This is a charming graphic novel about love, friendship, figuring out how to adult, adjusting to more grown-up relationships with your family, and love. Yes, I did say it twice. And sourdough.

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 First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

I've mostly not read sci-fi, except for the occasional cross-over book like The Martian or The Sparrow which are most definitely written for a more mainstream audience. Even those are pretty few and far between. But with my new job, I have to sell a whole line of sci-fi, Tor Books, which luckily is one of the best in the business. And this year I gave myself a challenge: to read 3 Tor books. And I am done, and it's only June! (I know it's February; I hold my reviews until right before the books publish, but I read this one in June 2018.) And I enjoyed them all!

I didn't know anything about this book but one of my buyers had highly recommended the author, Charlie Jane Andrews (and initially I didn't know if the author was male or female as that name could be either, but she is female. So it turns out all three Tor books I read are by woman.) Before Sales Conference I read the first 10 pages of about 35 books and this was one of them. And I decided to give it a go.

Initially it didn't feel very science fiction-y, but more post-apocalyptic, even though it's most definitely way in the future and on another planet. At some point in the 25th century humans had to leave Earth and we found a planet we called January which seemed habitable. But seemed is a key word there. The planet must turn in parallel with its star and not perpendicular, because half the planet is always a black winter, half is a glaring desert, and in between there's a thin strip of livable twilight. We have two main cities, one very regimented and the other more Vegas-like.

Mouth is the last of her kind, from a people of nomads. She now is a member of a band of smugglers operating between the two cities, navigating the Sea of Murder, and the terrifying creatures we have named with our old Earth names, even though they don't very much resemble crocodiles or squids.

Sophie, a student at university, takes the blame when her friend steals and is busted, and the she is dragged out to die on a mountain in the night. One of the crocodiles finds her, and she is too exhausted and sluggish to fight it off. But instead of attacking her, the creature warms her and shares knowledge that these scary beasts have built an amazing city in the middle of the cold, dark night part of the planet, which we humans are endangering.

Mouth and Sophie will cross paths and change the entire future of the humans on this planet, and themselves as well. I am not sure if this is the first book in a series as it ends with a lot of loose ends which could easily be picked up. The ending was still satisfying, but if I could find out more, I would.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Book Review: Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America by Kyle Swenson

A few years ago my youngest sister moved to Cleveland, which many people find a surprising move. It has a thriving foodie scene, a world-class art museum (where she works), and of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, since The Drew Carey Show, its only media hits tend to be about crime. So when I saw this book was about a wrongful murder conviction in Cleveland, and using that as an extrapolation point from which to look at the issues with the criminal justice and policing systems writ large, I jumped on it.

A sales rep who worked for a money order company was on his rounds of convenience stores, and had an unusually high amount of cash on him. Outside one store, he was jumped, had acid thrown on him, and was shot and killed. Three teens were convicted of the murder on the bases of a sole eyewitness, a small child. Dozens and dozens of other eyewitnesses were there, none of which described these three boys as being on the scene. The boys had alibis. And the kid also was demonstrably not in a position to have seen what happened. And yet, they were convicted.

Almost 40 years later, they were released. Kyle Swenson tells their story. And he tells the story of Cleveland. How a city that was once proudly fully integrated, which scoffed at Jim Crow laws and refused to uphold them, later became one of the most segregated cities in the Midwest, and how its once-vaunted infrastructure and government crumbled at the hands of corruption, mismanagement, and social ills. By the 1970s, African-Americans in the city were pushed into smaller and smaller neighborhoods, which were crumbling and not maintained, but overly policed. And three teens had a very, very bad day which wasn't rectified for decades.

If you are enjoying the current season of Serial, you must read this book. It truly goes hand-in-hand with Sarah Koenig's reporting and Cleveland really isn't a bad city--it's like dozens of other cities across the US. This could have happened anywhere. In fact, stories just like this have happened everywhere. Luckily, these three men were freed. Not all are. And the murderers were never caught.

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

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Review: Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

After her father dies, Ruby and her mom move from DC back to her mom's hometown in Vermont, where she swore she'd never return. She gets a job at a local diner and on her first day is sexually harassed by her boss and stands up for herself. And gets arrested since he's best buds with the sheriff. Despite how right she is, Ruby is mortified. They've been in town for one day and her mom is arrested, and she has to start her new school like this? It's the worst.

She tries to lay low including not really speaking with or interacting with anyone, especially not Ahmed, the nice Syrian immigrant boy who wants to be her friend. The one person she reaches out to is the "bird lady" who lives in a shack at the end of her street. Ruby's mom has expressly forbidden her from talking to the Bird Lady, and the kids at school say she murdered her family, and even if that isn't true why is she living in a shack in the middle of winter instead of in the boarded up house she owns? Ruby finds out Abigail is actually a fascinating person and a true friend. She starts to open up and get along better in school, but then a big school project where everyone has to participate in a "wax museum" makes her clam up again. Meanwhile her mother's court case is proceeding, and the town is trying to force Abigail off her land.

It's a middle grade book so despite the difficult subject matter, it's handled thoughtfully and all comes together in the end. I wish Ahmed hasn't been rather cookie-cutter of a character, but otherwise it was a good read. It's not too difficult, either with the writing style or the content, for even kids on the younger end of range, but a little emotional maturity wouldn't hurt.

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 Farrar Strauss and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Month in Review: January

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

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

Books completed this month:
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks (audio)
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
War in the Ring: Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and the Fight between America and Hitler by John Florio,  Ouisie Shapiro
Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
In Pieces by Sally Field (audio) *
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Kingdom of Lies: Unnerving Adventures in the World of Cybercrime by Kate Fazzini
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (audio)*

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre (audio)*
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
none! Another win in the war against clutter!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Book Review: The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick

A quiet, contemplative novel about an old (101!) woman in New York, remembering her life, meeting a long-lost relative she never knew existed, uncovering some family secrets, and giving us readers some dirt on late-Gilded Age Louis Tiffany. This book put me in mind of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk or a sedentary A Man Called Ove (with less drama).

Prudence was born at the Tiffany estate out at Long Island. Not because she's a member of that family oh no! Her mother is a maid and her father is a gardener. The family eventually moves into Manhattan to Hell's Kitchen and her father still works for Tiffany in his Manhattan mansion. One day, Dorothy Tiffany gives Prudence a gift of drawing paper and pencils.

Prudence's life changes as she goes to college for design, becoming an interior designer in the very early days of that field (pioneered by Louis Comfort Tiffany), meeting a man, getting married, being torn over her decision about children, eventually leading a solitary life, until one day, in her 101st year, a grand-niece she didn't know existed, Grace, shows up at her apartment. Prudence's brother Randall had left to try his luck in San Francisco as a teen and quickly lost touch with the family. They never knew what happened to him and vice versa. Grace and Prudence will uncover secrets, find out truths, and redevelop a family they didn't know they still had.

This book is about family and loss and love and memory and art, and I enjoyed it very much. It is on the quiet side without a lot of action, but I found it an easy read.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Book Review: The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Delightful! Funny, brutally honest, fascinating, and eyebrow-raisingly straightforward, this is the celebrity memoir that all others should be held up to.

Granted, few celebrities have been through as harrowing a childhood as Tiffany (thank goodness) but even after her mother was in a car accident that caused brain damage that lead to physical and emotional abuse, and to Tiffany eventually landing in foster care, she had the backbone and strength to fight for herself. Trained to take care of others and not think for herself, she's had wretchedly awful relationships with men, but she's gotten out of all of them (often inflicting more pain than she received. Do not wrong this woman!) And all along, her humor has helped and even saved her. And she is now one of the funniest people in entertainment. She told a judge, whom she had to get permission from to appear on TV as a comedy up-and-comer at 15, that she was going to be a famous comedian one day, and while it took longer than she'd figured (she had to quit that and get a real job for most of her twenties to get by and support family members). Boy, was she right.

I've rarely listened to an audiobook that kept me so riveted. Even on  long car rides, I never zoned out or worried I'd drift off. She had be guffawing throughout. And it's really, really hard to be funny about physical abuse. Don't get me wrong--she never took it lightly. But she saw the humor in it, in a gotta-laugh-or-I'll-cry kind of way. Listen to this right now. Don't read it--she does all the voices, and sings a song at the end. The audio is the way to go.

I got this book on Libby (Overdrive) via my local library.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Theo, a psychiatrist who works with the criminally insane, applies for a job at a different hospital, in order to work with the infamous Alicia Berenson, a famous artist who shot her husband, a famous fashion photographer, in the face and never spoke a word afterward. Theo is convinced, he can get through to her. yes, others have tried, but he just knows he can make the inroads. Along the way, somewhat unethically, he contacts her family and friends to find out more about her, to try to understand her as a person and what lead her to this moment.

This was a fun thriller that I read in less than 48 hours. I know books with big twists are getting harder and harder to pull off, but this one I didn't even see coming (I honestly didn't know if it even had a twist or if it was a more straightforward old-school kind of thriller). Just a couple of pages before the reveal I suddenly was clued in, suddenly small things I'd overlooked loomed before me, and suddenly I was thinking, "Wait, could it be.... no, that can't be!" And I was still surprised. Up to that point, the book has tension but it doesn't have fake fear throughout. It's not trying too hard like some I've read. The read felt effortless, and as someone married to a social worker, the little details of the therapy were very accurate (including Theo getting "supervision" from a colleague which means something different in this field--getting advice on a client's situation--than it does to us laypeople who aren't counselors.)

The scenes at the hospital feel like an updated One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from the other side of the desk. Theo's backstory pulls you in as well. And slowly, the layers of the onion are peeled. Until the heart of the story is revealed.

This book is published by Celadon, a brand-new publisher that is part of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review: Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks

I don't have kids. So when a bookstore manager I know well pushed this book on me (published by my own company!), I protested. She said no, I have to read it. We have similar taste, so I took a gander. And I'm so glad I did! I listened to the audiobook and I finished it in three days (on 1.25 speed. She talks slow!)

You may remember hearing about Kim Brooks. She was about to leave her hometown in Virginia after visiting her mother with her kids, and she stopped at Target to replace her son's lost headphones, so he wouldn't throw a fit on the flight to Chicago. He refused to go in the store with her, after having begged to come along on the errand. Faced with him throwing a fit here and now, when she was on a tight schedule, in a safe suburb, on a lovely mid-50s afternoon, outside a Target, in a minivan, she did what millions of parents did in the 1970s and 1980s without thinking twice: she rolled down the windows a bit, locked the doors, and ran in the store for five minutes. While she was in there, someone saw her son in the car (happily playing on grandma's iPad, strapped in his car seat), filmed it, and called the police. But Kim's errand was so fast, she left before the police arrived and the stranger did not make themselves known to Kim when she came back to her car. She picked up her baby, went to the airport, and got on the plane. While in the air, the police contacted Kim's mother, from the license plate, and when Kim landed, her husband was there to meet her, looking grim. Kim eventually faced charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (that's all they could pin on her since it isn't illegal to leave your child in the car.)

As she's facing this nightmare situation, she researches, contemplates, reaches out to others, and eventually writes an article about How Did We Get Here. She (and I! and everyone I know!) was left in the car harmlessly dozens of times as a child. Kidnappings weren't rampant back then and have dropped precipitously in the decades since. Kids are safer than ever. And parents are more fearful than ever. What has caused this?

You'll have to read the book to find out, but one fun fact for you: in order for there to be a statistically significant chance that your child will be kidnapped, you would need to leave her alone out on a street corner for 600 years.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Review: Off Season by James Sturm

This graphic novel shows a family of four (they are drawn as dogs but otherwise sure seem very human-like.) Lisa, the wife and mom, has moved out. After the election she has been shaken to the core and is rethinking a lot of things including her marriage. The story is told from the POV of the husband/dad. He works as a carpenter for a jerk who lies about work and paying him on time, his kids Suzie and Jeremy act out, and Lisa is alternately angry, withholding, and there are moments of tenderness. It is a difficult "off season" for all of them. Will they make it out the other side together?

I really wanted the book to continue. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt. I had really gotten into the characters and the story then and it seemed like there was a lot more to explore. This seems to be a recurring problem with me and graphic novels of all stripes, so I'm starting to wonder if the problem is me, not the books. That was my only real issue with it. It took a bit to get into it, but then I really identified with him, as an adult living in a post-2016-election world and with all the difficulties therein.

This book is published by Drawn & Quarterly, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Book Review: In Pieces by Sally Field (audio)

I've always liked Sally Field. I appreciate that she both is in very good movies and TV shows, but also sometimes just takes the work she can get because it's a job. As she's always seemed very real and down-to-earth. I'd heard this was great, and as I always like an audiobook memoir read by the author, when the author is a professional entertainer (and sometimes non-entertainers, but those are much more reliable), I went for it!

It is great. She had a harrowing childhood though, and it is awkward and cringeworthy for this listener to hear her reading about her step-father's repeated molestations of her. However, that's not the majority of the book, so I was able to move on. (It does, of course, impact her entire life, but the details which made me squeamish are only in the beginning.) She had mostly not-great relationships with men, but she obviously adores her three sons. She was lucky that The Flying Nun didn't completely ruin her career. And I was shocked to hear that Gidget was only on for one season!

At one point I realized, there's only about an hour left of the audiobook, and she's only now done Norma Rae, so we're not going to get through everything. And she really sped through the highlights after that. Her life was more stable and I suppose she didn't want this to be a chronicle of her children's ups and downs. But what was really interesting, especially at the end, was her relationship with her mother. She eventually confronted her about her step-father's molesting and they worked that out. But Sally always struggled with reconciling her image of her mother with reality. Since she had her first child, she really leaned on her mother's help with her kids, her entire life (her third child is 20 years younger than her first so she had child care needs for several decades.) And when her mother was in poor health and fading, Sally thought about how reliable and helpful and loving her mother was, and how she could always count on her. But what she seems to have never truly understood is that she was only those things when Sally was an adult. When Sally was a child, she'd invited a child molester into their home, she'd drunk heavily, and ignored her children. But Sally has a lovely way of understanding that your relationship is what is IS, now, not then. And it's going to always be different and changing. And while she has trouble not idealizing her mother when she was younger, she does intellectually understand that her mother really let her down, but that's not who her mother was anymore.

I also found it refreshing to finally get a memoir where the subject doesn't have perfect memory. I have a dreadful memory for details for the most part and am always rather flummoxed by people who write about things decades past with nuance and detail, when I can barely remember last month. Sally, having been in the public eye, did have the benefit of an aunt who kept scrapbooks, and an agent who mailed publicity notices and reviews, to help jog her memories. But it was kind of nice to hear someone for once say that she was looking at a photo of a house she'd lived in, which she had no memory of at all. Partly though that might be due to some mild dissociating due to the molesting. Playing Sibyl wasn't as much of a stretch for her, unfortunately. (And hence, the title of the book.)

A really enjoyable memoir of a woman who is pretty relatable and ordinary--someone you think you might be friends with if she lived next door--and the rather unordinary life she lead.

I listened to this book via Libby, the Overdrive audiobook app from my library.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Review: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (audio)

So last year I listened to a different octopus book, Other Minds, and I was afraid this would tread a lot of the same ground, but I love Ms. Montgomery's writing so I was willing to give it a chance anyway. Luckily, they cover very little of the same material, so if one book interests you, you should pick up the other.

This one does tell you A LOT about octopuses (no, they are not octopii. You can't put a Latin ending on a Greek word.) But it's more about Sy's personal relationship with a series on octopuses she befriends at the New England Aquarium. From Athena to Octavia to Kali, these octopuses have very distinctive personalities and are whip-smart. They love puzzle boxes and taking things apart and they can squeeze through bizarrely tiny openings, making them particularly difficult animals to contain. While light on science, Ms. Montgomery's background is in studying animals and she understand that these few specimens aren't a large enough number to study, they do have some striking similarities that must inevitably lead you to believe in their intelligence and individualism in a way that makes me uncomfortable to ever eat octopus again (luckily, it's not a favorite food at all, so easy to cut out. Sorry, Penny.)

If you're interested in the lives of animals, as opposed to the science, and if and how they can have relationships with humans, but are tired of all the dog and cat books, this book is perfect for you. If you also want to know the science, pick up Other Minds as well. It's a great companion. I found this book a delight.

I listened to this book through Libby/Overdrive via my local library.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Book Review: Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring by Richard Gergel

In 1946, Sergeant Isaac Woodard was on a Greyhound bus heading home from having served in WWII. He asked to step off the bus to use the restroom. He and the bus driver had words. Police were called. The police chief beat the tar out of him and drive his nightstick into both of Woodard's eyes, blinding him. More than a decade before when we think of the Civil Rights Movement beginning, it had already begun. This case galvanized the NAACP, taught a young lawyer named Thurgood Marshall a thing or two about trying politically charged cases, and most importantly, it changed the mind of a young judge named J. Waties Waring in South Carolina. Waring couldn't change the outcome of this case. But the shocking things he learned about the treatment of African-Americans in America made him look into it further, made him an activist, and his dissent in a public school segregation case in 1951 was pretty much quoted word for word a few years later by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

We often see the big events only, without context, without understanding of what lead up to them. We don't understand the decades of anguish and servility and mistreatment that lead up to them. And we also don't understand what events lead great men (and this era, it was mostly men) to buck the trend and to stand up for what was right instead of what was accepted. Woodard and Waring's names have been mostly lost to history, except for those who study the Civil Rights movement in the United States. We ought to remember them. What might seem like solitary incidents of brutality and incivility can later lead to great change. One can find much inspiration in stories like these today.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Review: Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Coyote and her dad are driving all around the country in a converted school bus. She's home schooled, and they see the whole US. But there's one place her dad won't take her--home to Seattle. See, a few years ago Coyote's mom and two sisters all died in a terrible car accident. Coyote was supposed to be in the car that day too. And it's just been way too much to deal with. So they don't. They drive around to cool places, Coyote reads, she adopts a kitten named Ivan.

One day she calls her grandmother back home, and gets some bad news. There's a park in their old neighborhood that's going to be torn down for a developer to build something. In that park, a month or so before they died, Coyote and her two sister and their mom buried a memory box. Coyote can't tell her grandmother where exactly it is although she knows she can find it. But that means she has to get her dad to drive back to Washington. And she has just over a week to do it. They're in Florida.

So first she meets a boy her age. He and his mom are trying to travel to St. Louis where his aunt has a better job for his mom but their car broke down, so she offers them a ride. That will get her halfway home. Then she figures out they need another driver to spell her dad so she overhears a man in a diner talking about needing to get out west and she offers him a ride too. Eventually they pick up a few other people, and this motley crew of strangers becomes friends.

But will Coyote get to Washington in time? Will she and her dad finally deal with the grief they've been running away from? Will she ever have stability in her life?

This was a wonderful story about friendship, about family, about how family can be the people we surround ourselves with, about trust and love, and ultimately about dealing with grief. It's a very positive fun road trip story, with the grief part only being a bit at the end. It's handled very well and Coyote is a wonderful girl who is having an unusual life but who you just know will turn out great one day.

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 Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Review: The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot Against George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Since I've moved to New Jersey, I've been reading a heck of a lot more books on the Revolutionary War than I ever did before, and not just because of Hamilton. The topic of this book really intrigued me, but I knew it was written in a style I wasn't so sure about, but I gave it a try. And it was fun!

It's about a conspiracy by British Governor Tryon (yes, my North Carolina friends, the same guy your streets are named for) to turn American colonists to the British side during the early days of the Revolutionary War, including members of George Washington's personal body guards, who were plotting to assassinate Washington. When I mean early days, the climax of the book takes place one week before the Declaration of Independence was signed. One reason we've never heard of this is, aside from the very public sentence which was meant to be a lesson/warning to other soldiers, this was intentionally kept secret, and not publicized, so Washington in particular and the American army in general wouldn't look weak or vulnerable. But this was one of the first instances in modern times of counter-espionage, and when we (and the British and quickly after, everyone else) realized how counter-espionage was pretty much just as important as espionage. In that regard, this incident lead more or less directly to organizations like the CIA and Secret Service.

I don't want to give away too much. But I will say this is written in a very different style than other history books I've read. In present tense with short, choppy paragraphs which all end on a cliffhanger, the style of this book is much more in he vein of a thriller. It certainly does keep the action moving the the pages turning, even if it is not as straightforward, there's some repetition in all the foreshadowing, and present tense in a history is a bit odd. But it's fun, it's an easy read, and you will learn a lot.

This book is being published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Book Review: The Widows: A Novel by Jess Montgomery

This is a historical novel that feels like a Western. It's set in rural, Appalachian Ohio in the 1920, but it feels older and more Western than that, as this neck of the woods was a bit behind the times. And like you sometimes get in those old Westerns, this is a story of the gumption of two strong women, both lightly based on real historical women.

The first one, Lily, is married to the town sheriff, and she runs the jail, which is in the back of their house (think: The Andy Griffith Show.) Until one day he is shot and killed, transporting a prisoner from the mine back to the jail. Except Lily doesn't believe that prisoner killed him. And luckily, she's appointed his replacement, so she's in an excellent position to look into his death further. (Based on the real first female sheriff in Ohio.)

She meet up with Marvena, whose husband was recently killed in a mining explosion. Marvena had been a good friend of Lily's husband, and rumored to be more. But they ignore the rumors and band together to find out what's really going on behind the scenes in their town. Marvena is organizing the miners into a union (she's based on Mother Jones) and they both want their town to be a place of honesty and justice, not backstabbing and exploitation. They will come up against some powerful forces, but these stubborn, angry women with little to lose, are happy to demonstrate how tough they are despite their long hair and dresses. Especially when it comes to defending their kids.

These women are inspiring and really define the word gumption like no other. In a time when the strength of women was in question it's refreshing to read about women who stood up to the boys' club and men's power plays even when it was life-threatening. and if that's not enough, the mystery about what really happened to Daniel will keep you guessing.

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

2018: The Year in Review

In 2010 I got this meme, I think from Boston Bibliophile. It was a fun way to summarize the year, so I now do it every year. This year I've added a couple of new categories (how many books for work and how many different publishers). 

How many books read in 2018? 120. Hit my goal, barely!

How many fiction and non fiction? 58/60. I thought this was going to be skewed more towards nonfiction for a while but fiction caught up. It's interesting, I feel like the NF books have been more consistently reliable. The novels have been more of the disappointments, but also more of the ones that blew me away. Riskier but more payoff.

Male/Female author ratio? 57/66. 

Favorite book of 2018? This one's easy. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. It's kind of crazy to read a book just one month into the year and know, this is going to be the best book I read this year. And the next 11 months bore that out. It was just so great, nothing else could come close. (Except, you know, the sequel.)

Least favorite? A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman. If it wasn't for my bookclub, no way I would have finished it. I seriously wonder if something was lost in the translation. Not just in the actual language translation, but something about Israel and being an Israeli that most non-foreign readers bring to their experience of the book, and i do not. This is a book screaming for an introduction by an American about some of the stuff we Americans just will not get. An academic well-versed in Israeli literature and culture, but who works in America or England would be perfect. Not an author's introduction. And it should be longish. I don't think I've ever wished for that before.

Any that you simply couldn't finish and why? I had two DNFs: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson and The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan. They really weren't holding my attention. For the first one, the problem might have been that I was listening to it. For the second one, it turns out building The Biltmore was the only interesting thing George Vanderbilt ever did. Once it was built, it became a bit tedious. For In the Garden, it was more that I was so irritated by Martha Dodd, the idiotic daughter of the US embassador to Germany, who never met a Nazi she didn't like--the more evil, the better--and by her wildly ineffectual father, that trying to keep up with who was who felt like a chore. These were both on my list of 10 books I really wanted to read this year, so they were surprising, but I really have raised my standards for my non-Macmillan reading. I have so little opportunity, I can't squander it.

Oldest book read?  Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, published in 1959. Reads like it was published yesterday.
Newest?  Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner, comes out August 20, 2019, in 8 months.

Longest and shortest book titles? (not including subtitles)
Longest: If You're in My Office, It's Already Too Late (45)
Shortest: Less

Longest and shortest books?
Longest: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow 818 pages
Shortest: The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal 19 pages. Anything called a "novelette" is a shoe-in for this slot.

How many books from the library? 34, mostly audios.

How many audiobooks? 26. That's a lot but five fewer than last year.

How many graphic books? 16. I haven't tracked this one in previous years. I didn't call them "graphic novels" because I have plenty of nonfiction mixed in as well. I know that category is considered good for both but it bothers me.

Any translated books? One. And sadly, it was a disappointment. Based on the foreign reviews for this book (A Horse Walks Into a Bar), I do wonder if something wasn't lost in the translation.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author? Three by Mary Robinette Kowal, the first three in the Lady Astronaut series, although the first "novelette" actually takes place at the end. But books 3 and 4 haven't been published yet, and that one was actually published first. Three by John Lewis, the March trilogy about the Civil Rights movement.

Any re-reads? 
Calypso by David Sedaris. I read it when it first came out. Then I reread it on audio a few months later. I miss a lot of the jokes when I read it myself, although fewer than I used to, as now when I read it, David's voice is in my head. 

Favorite character of the year? Constable Twitten from A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? Antarctica (technically, not a country, but still kind of feels like one), Cameroon, Australia, England (and Scotland), Israel, Florin and Guilder (fictional), Canada, Denmark, the Philippines (and other U.S. colonies/territories), France, Germany, Morocco, India, Japan, Greece, 

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? I absolutely take recommendations! I have so much I have to be, I need to be really judicious in my choices
Sadie (Annie among others!)
Impossible Owls (Ben)
Heartland (Leora)
Black Klansman (Jamie)
Popular Crime (Jake)
March (Nicole)
Manfried the Man (Fuse#8 Plus Kate podcast--Betsy Bird)
Shout (Mary Alice and Maria)
An Unexplained Death (Rebecca)
Bad Blood (Penny)
Heating & Cooling (Kristen)

Which author was new to you in 2018 that you now want to read the entire works of? Mary Robinette Kowal

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read? Only one. Ask a Manager: Clueless Coworkers, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and Other Work Conversations Made Easy by Alison Green. I'll get around to it! I own it. 

How many books did you read for work? 76. Now, for this number I don't count the picture books or the early reader books. Basically, a book must take me at least an hour, or it doesn't count. If I include all of those, I have read about 200 more books than I record in Goodreads!!

How many different publishers (not imprints) did you read? 12, including Macmillan. I know, it's not much, but considering how much that I read MUST be Macmillan, it's not bad. The big 5 of course, some mid-level publishers, and one small.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read? 
If "always" means for the last 3-4 years, then:
We Should All Be Feminists, As You Wish, The Princess Bride, Endurance, The Soul of an Octopus, On the Move, Call the Midwife #2

2018 TOP FOUR Book Events in Carin’s Book Life (this used to be 8 but that was always very difficult to do, and will be more so when I have a steady job and am no longer on the WNBA board):
4. Hosted book club for the very first time ever! I know this doesn't seem impressive, but after being in various book clubs for a couple of decades, it never worked out. Everyone had fun, everyone fit, I got compliments on our apartment, and I hope to be able to host again!
3. Met Tan France, Rick Atkinson, and James Comey. My job is so cool!
2. Finished being on the WNBA Board! It was fun, important, exhausting and I learned a lot. I am so glad I was able to be the WNBA VP, President, and Past-President, but after years of service to the organization, I'm very glad to just be a regular member again.
1. Was pleasantly shocked to find my name towards the top of a couple of PowerPoint slides in a presentation by the EVP of Sales in a year-end presentation, as I seem to be doing very well at work!

My Month in Review: December

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

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

I start traveling for work again next month, so this month I really had to read a lot for work. Next month the audiobooks will kick back into high gear again.

Books completed this month:
The Pennypackers Go on Vacation by Lisa Doan
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman *
Hawking by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
The Unabomber: Agent Kathy Puckett and the Hunt for a Serial Bomber Bryan Denson
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (audio) *
When I Was White by Sarah Valentine
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Naturally Tan by Tan France
Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich
Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly *
All of Me by Chris Baron

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks (audio)
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
none! No one gives me Christmas books. And I somehow didn't buy any either.