Friday, December 6, 2019

Mini Review: In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore

Title: In Other Words: An Illustrated Miscellany of the World's Most Intriguing Words and Phrases
Author: Christopher J. Moore
Illustrator: Lan Truong
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: Hardcover, 128 pages
Source: Little Library

Book Description:

"A delightful treasure house, literally a thesaurus, of linguistic marvels." --from the foreword by bestselling author Simon Winchester

A colorfully illustrated collection of more than ninety untranslatable words and phrases and the unique insights they offer into the cultures they come from.

Ever racked your brain for a word you're convinced should exist, yet is inexplicably absent from the dictionary? All languages have their limitations-should English fall short, the expression may lie elsewhere. That's where this book comes in: a quirky, international lexicon of linguistic gems that capture cultural untranslatables with satisfying precision.

Take for example the Japanese yoko meshi, “a meal eaten sideways,” describing the experience of trying to communicate in an alien tongue, or mono-no-aware, the appreciation of life's sadness. From the distinctive coziness of the Danish hygge, to the unrestrained dis of the Mayan bol (“in-laws” and “stupidity”), to the profound collectivism of the Zulu concept of ubuntu (roughly, “I AM because WE ARE"), these mots justes are grouped according to language and prefaced with insightful overviews of the relevant cultures by linguist Christopher J. Moore.

Embellished with 20 entertaining new untranslatable words and phrases and 90 characterful color illustrations by Lan Truong, and with a foreword by Simon Winchester, In Other Words is amusing, profound, and unputdownable--a gorgeously packaged gift book to entertain even the most well-versed polyglot with marvels of language from around the world.



I adore words and language. It's why I pursued degrees in several of them. It's why I have a love/hate relationship with all the articles from places like Buzzfeed called things like "25 CRAZY Words You Won't Believe Exist in Europe!!!". When I saw this little book tucked away in my local little library box, I knew I had to give it a read.

It's a short book but has a lot of information in it, as it's a collection of words, phrases, and idioms that don't have exact translations in English. It's divided by region/language/country.

Each word or phrase has a cute little illustration to go along with it, and is near the pronunciation guide, the definition, the history of how it came to exist as a phrase, as well as examples on when or when not to use it and (when applicable) the nuances of using it.

I was pleased that I knew most of the British and French ones.... But I didn't know most of the rest. It's definitely educational, but written with a sense of humor so that it doesn't just read like a dictionary or textbook.

If you're a fan of languages or Etymology, or are looking for a gift for an English teacher, this book is perfect.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

Title: The Espressologist
Author: Kristina Springer
Format: Paperback, 184 pages
Pub. Date: January 4th 2011
Source: Salvation Army

Book Description:

What's your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you're lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it's a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it's not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane's Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She's the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?



I knew what I was in for when I grabbed this book. Something light. Something fluffy. Something that wouldn't take too much time or focus. And I got what I expected. This book was okay, but not quite for me.

I love the idea of this book, conceptually. I think that the idea of matching people based on their drink orders is a really cute one. And overall, that part of the plot was okay.

Some parts of the book were just a little bit juvenile for me, even by YA standards. "Totally", "omg", and "hottie" are used so much that they don't even sound like real words anymore. Plus the chat speak of things like "c u 2".

Where it fell flat for me was the main character. To say I didn't like her would be wildly understated. She's wanted to be a fashion designer since... Before reality TV stars made it popular. ...Really? Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, and Ralph Lauren would beg to differ. Because of this love of fashion, she's judgy there too, judging her friend for having superstore shoes. Plus, she calls pretty much everyone at her college weirdos who didn't get into real college or are old people. Yikes. Oh, and her coworker as a floozy for flirting. Nice.

She also seems like a pretty terrible employee. She's writing constantly instead of doing work and gets mad when people are annoyed by it. She gets promoted and says "power is great" and uses this to shove around a coworker she doesn't like and doesn't ring up coffees. Forgets to do inventory and stock, she acts like the manager is being sooooo mean.I get that it's a fictional book but good lord.

The actual match making parts were cute, as was her building success. It was cute and fluffy and because of the cozy setting of a coffee shop, that plot works really well. I also appreciate that she stands up for herself against her bullies. As much as I may not like her, I appreciate that she's no doormat and that she can hold her own.

I also know this isn't how you're supposed to judge a book, but the cover is super cute. I'd be lying if I said it's not what drew me into the book in the first place. It sums up the book and the tone of the story really well.

Ultimately, I think this book is just too young for me, even if I am a fan of YA books. If you're looking for something short that's easy to get through, this is a good choice. I'm not mad that I read it, but I won't be reading it again

Monday, December 2, 2019

Review: Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

Title: Caging Skies
Author: Christine Leunens
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: August 6th 2019
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi

An avid member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Vienna, Johannes Betzler discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home. His initial horror turns to interest—then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house and he alone is responsible for her fate. Drawing strength from his daydreams about Hitler, Johannes plans for the end of the war and what it might mean for him and Elsa.

The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi, Caging Skies, sold in over twenty countries, is a work of rare power; a stylistic and storytelling triumph. Startling, blackly comic, and written in Christine Leunens’s gorgeous, muscular prose, this novel, her U.S. debut, is singular and unforgettable



I really liked this book. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, having read the synopsis and also having seen the trailer for the film based on it, Jojo Rabbit.

Leunens has a really developed sense of writing. She's good at delivering emotion and tone, even when you don't really want to be feeling the things you're feeling. For example, that you feel bad for a devoted member of the Hitler Youth, and that you continue to feel bad even as he's supporting the Reich and as he's continuing to keep a Jewish girl in his walls for his own personal fulfillment.

Johannes is flawed and in a lot of ways, just not a good person. But in other ways, he seems so aware and so caring. He takes care of his family and his home with one hand, but lies and bullies with the other. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him a lot of the time, but he was never a dull character. The way the author describes his hometown and what is happening after Hitler's regime is over, it felt like I was transported. When his feelings were hurt I felt them, even if I thought he deserved it (and he often did). Elsa too is well written. Leunens does a good job of making her hopeful and sad and appreciative and rebellious, all in one. There's a lot of complexities and sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's sad, and sometimes you find yourself laughing and then feeling like a bad person.

It would have been 5 stars for me until I started to hit the end. Then it seems to have turned into a completely different book. The tone changed, and the pacing wildly changed. It went from well paced (and maybe even a little slow) to zooming by, and then abruptly it was over. I actually reread a bit to see if I had missed something but, no, it wasn't me. It almost felt like when you are writing an essay for an exam and the proctor calls five minutes so you just write like mad. It's a shame that it ended on a rough note for me.

That aside, this book was well written and I am glad I read it. If you're easily offended, this might not be a good fit for you as there's a fair amount of dark comedy. If you're a fan of WWII or Holocaust books, than I think it's worth reading.

I have not seen Jojo Rabbit, so I have absolutely no idea how the two compare but going off of the trailer, I'm going to say that they seem like completely different animals, so, keep that in mind if you liked the film and are considering reading the book.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: The Upside of Iris by Helen Rose

Title: The Upside of Iris
Author: Helen Rose
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: September 9th 2015
Source: Netgalley

Book Description:

What does love look like to you?

For young Iris, the whole world looks upside down, and the only person who truly understands and appreciates her perspective is her new friend Charlie, who has his own unique trait: he cannot speak. His silence, her precociousness, and their acceptance of each other make the two a perfect match.

But happiness is fleeting, as Iris’s new stepsisters, skeptical and jealous (as conventional folks often are of those who dare to swim against the tide), manage to drive the two apart. Iris and Charlie are separated for the remainder of childhood.

Grown-up Iris never forgets about Charlie, though, and her love for him influences the charming art gallery she now owns. But despite the visually magical environment she inhabits, Iris finds herself doubting Charlie once again, thanks in no small part to those pesky stepsisters of hers.

Still, before she decides to give up hope altogether, she decides to do one small thing for the other lonely souls around her . . . with wonderful consequences.

The Upside of Iris is an illustrated love story for all ages, and for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. It is a whimsical, touching reminder that perspective is truly everything, and that a change in perspective can make all the difference in the world.



This book is so charming and cute, I loved it. The whole plot is summed up really nicely in the blurb, so thankfully I don't have to rehash it here.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are stunning to look through, and are really the heart of the book. It's what makes the book work, and make it worth reading. Between the quirky story line, and these illustrations, it very much put me in mind of the film Amelie. Surreal, bright and colorful, but ultimately lovable and endearing.

It's a story of being yourself, and being happy. A story that tells you not to give up on what you're looking for, and when you might find it. It encourages uniqueness and tells you that it's okay to be different, that some people just see the world differently. In Iris's case, literally.

This is a great book to read with your child together, to go over the lessons learned as well as the vibrant illustrations that perfectly match the corresponding texts.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: I'm Not Missing by Carrie Fountain

Title: I'm Not Missing: A Novel
Author: Carrie Fountain
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: July 10th 2018
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.



I was absolutely blown away by this book. I was shocked to learn that this is Carrie Fountain's first novel. It's beautiful, haunting, and just straight up well written.

However, I definitely wasn't surprised to learn that her first two publications are books of poetry. It's clear that Fountain has a way with words. The way that the writing flows is beautiful. It's a bit slow paced, but I liked that. This book is set in the desert area of the US, so for me the tempo of the writing matched the slow, low heat of the setting that the author drew me into.

I like that all of the characters were multi-faceted and had depth to them. You learn who Miranda is both at the side of her best friend Syd, and rediscover her along the way when Syd is no longer there. You learn who Nick is both through the eyes of Syd, who hates his guts, and through Miranda, who yearns for him even after he makes some questionable decisions. Even her father, who isn't really a main character, you learn to see the fatherly, put together side that Miranda sees and the scientific genius version that the rest of the world sees.

I like that Miranda was a little weird, and that she's relatable. She's flawed, like all of us. She respects prayer because of her family roots, but she isn't into the praying thing herself. So when she needs to sleep, she recites a historical speech to herself aloud instead. She breaks a romantic tension moment by laughing. She struggles with friendship and loss in a way that I think is just so human.

And then there's the case of the missing friend. Well, "not missing" friend. I actually wasn't sure where this plot arch was going, in a sort of a "who done it" type mystery style. I won't give spoilers, but I will say that I did not see the book taking the twists that it did, and it took me by surprise. But in a good way.

My only real criticism of this book has to do with the ending. I felt like there was still a few loose ends left frayed by the time the book was over. I'm a little disappointed that Miranda's mother wasn't a bigger part of the plot line. I would have really liked to have followed that path to learn more about what happened and why.

This book is gritty and emotional, but also full of twists and even quite a few laughs. Reading the slow paced, flowing language made it very relaxing and soothing to read, despite all of the drama and issues that are presented in the book. Be warned, there's some hard to swallow for some topics, like sex, abuse, and abandonment.

I hope this isn't the last novel by Carrie Fountain, and I recommend this to anyone who likes realistic fiction with a darker, problematic side to it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: Moribund by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge

Title: Morbund
Series: Circuit Fae #1
Author: Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
Format: Paperback, Print, 300 pages
Pub. Date: October 24th 2017
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

Dark Fae. Romance. Evil Plots. High school.
Our heroines could be in for the greatest adventure ever.

If only they could decide whether to kill or kiss each other.

High school sophomore Syl Skye is an ordinary girl. At least, she’s trying to be. School photographer and all-around geek, she introverts hard and keeps her crush on sexy-hot glam-Goth star Euphoria on the down-low. But when a freak accident Awakens her slumbering power, Syl is forced to accept a destiny she never wanted—as the last sleeper-princess of the fair Fae.

Suddenly hunted by the dark Fae, Syl’s pretty sure things can’t get any worse. Until she discovers her secret crush, Euphoria, is really a dark Circuit Fae able to harness the killing magic in technology. Even worse, she’s been sent to destroy Syl. With mean girls and magic and dark Fae trying to kill her, it’ll take more than just “clap if you believe in fairies” to save Syl’s bacon—not to mention, her heart.



I wanted to love this book, really I did. It has a lot going for it, but unfortunately for me it just fell a bit fact.

Plus, the cover is beautiful. I would love to have a print of it on my wall.

I love books with gothic/punk characters. And this book definitely has one. Euphoria seems so cool. She's a gothic musician and a dark fae, and she's pretty bad ass. She has a great sense of loyalty and of sticking up for what she wants. Plus, she's LGBT. So, I absolutely love this character. I love the idea of taking faerie magic and combining it with technology and a cyber punk type style. It's an original idea, and I think it's a cool one.

The main character, however, fell flat for me. I found Syl pretty irritating and I didn't really care for her. I love that she loves girls. I love that she has a sense of fighting for what's right. But everything else about her just bugged me. She makes so many emo jokes, and self depreciating jokes about herself to the point of annoyance. There's a bunch of catty mean girl drama that's forced and eye-rolling. Her vocabulary also really bugged me- I'm not sure who this book is written for. The whole bad ass saving lives and being in love with rock stars in night clubs thing feels high school to me, but the way Syl talks is definitely more junior high, but it all seems confused. One quote is "so darn sexy".... So she's old enough to be thinking about sex and sex appeal, but can't say damn? It's weird. She can also "sure as heck try" and "holy cats". Not to mention she knows her true identity for all of 3 seconds before she somehow solves a problem that none of the other faeries have thought of.

It's also really hard to differentiate these voices at times. The chapters alternate, but the two characters are written very similarly to the point of confusion.

This book also has what I like to call Batman Syndrome. Remember all those old episodes of the Batman tv show, where while Batman was tied up, the villain would narrate his whole master plan while Adam West struggled to undo the ropes? And the whole time, you're thinking "Why are you telling him all this, just do the plan!" That's what happened here. There's a ton of dialogue and narration but not enough actual story telling and world building and actions. I got kinda talked out.

All in all, this book was a mixed bag for me. I totally understand why people love it, and I definitely love parts of it. But parts of it were just a bit too disappointing for me. I'd be willing to reread this in the future to see if I still feel the same way, but for now I'm going to hold off on continuing the series.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mini Review: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Title: James and the Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Format: Paperback, 144 pages
Pub. Date: April 1st 1996
Source: Goodwill

Book Description:

A little magic can take you a long way...

Roald Dahl was a champion of the underdog and all things little—in this case, an orphaned boy oppressed by two nasty, self-centered aunts. How James escapes his miserable life with the horrible aunts and becomes a hero is a Dahlicious fantasy of the highest order. You will never forget resourceful little James and his new family of magically overgrown insects—a ladybug, a spider, a grasshopper, a glowworm, a silkworm, and the chronic complainer, a centipede with a hundred gorgeous shoes. Their adventures aboard a luscious peach as large as a house take them across the Atlantic Ocean, through waters infested with peach-eating sharks and skies inhabited by malevolent Cloudmen, to a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

This happily ever after contemporary fairy tale is a twentieth-century classic that every child deserves to know. And Lane Smith's endearingly funny illustrations are a perfect match for the text.



I was feeling nostalgic, and what better way to cure that than to read books that you remember from your childhood. This book will always have a special place in my heart, but it is a wee bit more problematic than I remember it.

First, the illustrations. I love them. They're in that distinct style that I associate with Roald Dahl. It's dark, almost creepy. And yet somehow, endearing and charming. It's exactly how I remember it.

The story is just as silly and fantastical as I remembered, but it's a little bit darker than memory served. For example, the bugs have a casual conversation about killing James's aunts. There's also some questionable racism, which was probably okay in the 60s when it was published but reading it again in 2018 ho boy is that troubling.

All in all, I don't know that I'll read it again, but it still made me smile and it still holds its own from when I was young, albeit a bit more concerning.