Read This, Watch That: Nonfiction on the Page and Screen

March 3, 2015 2015, lists, nonfiction, Read This Watch That, tv and movies 11

After spending one of last week’s snow days watching Citizenfour (which I can’t recommend enough, especially now that it’s streaming online for free), I started thinking about some of my favorite documentaries and similar nonfiction. So grab a book and some popcorn, these are all available to stream right now!

skies belong to us

The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan I. Koerner & The Weather Underground (Hulu)

While the hijackers in Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us took action for numerous reasons, The Weathermen at the center of The Weather Underground laid out specific, detailed grievances and plans for going to war against the U.S. government in the 1970’s.


After Tiller

Pro by Katha Pollitt & After Tiller (Netflix)

After going crazy for Katha Pollit’s book, which ended up being the best piece of nonfiction I read last year, I couldn’t help but watch After Tiller on Netflix. Though they stand on their own, the documentary is a perfect, heartfelt companion to the fierce arguments in Pro.


brookyln castle

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough & Brooklyn Castle (Netflix)

Paul Tough’s fantastic book focused on changing the education landscape actually mentions the chess program at the center of Brooklyn Castle. The students of I.S. 318 are a fantastic example of the “hidden power of character” and they’ll charm their way into your hearts.


gideon's army

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson & Gideon’s Army (Netflix)

The heartbreaking, eye-opening subject of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is brought to life on screen in the documentary Gideon’s Army. Following the young lawyers of the Southern Public Defender Training Center, the film looks at the grueling, but priceless, work of public defense.


Do you have a favorite documentary?

It’s Monday, March 2nd. What Are You Reading?

March 2, 2015 2015, it's monday, what are you reading? 24


Okay, March. Let’s do this. Last week was slow on the books, so I’m still working on Galileo’s Middle Finger. It’s crazy, y’all. Crazy as in there’s a ton of finger (ha!) pointing and I’m not sure who to believe, but my brain is packing in the info—both from the book and all the Wiki wormholes I’m falling down. I also just started reading Know Your Beholder by Adam Rapp, which seems like a perfect way to use the last bits of cold weather here in Virginia. Beard with a house!

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Reading Wrap-Up: February 2015

March 1, 2015 2015, monthly wrap-up 31

feb 2015

Oh, February…you were a strange one. The reading definitely picked up, but things just felt very unsettled. With the crazy weather, traveling, a weird blogosphere, and a short month, I had a hard time getting into a good groove. Still, ten books seems to be average for me lately, so that didn’t change. I’m still kind of jumping around, reading what I feel like based more on mood than publication date and it seems to be the best way to go for me. The good news is there are SO many great books to look forward to in March!

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen
Gold Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
This House Is Not for Sale by E.C. Osondu
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Slim and the Beast by Samuel L. Barrantes
Spinster by Kate Bolick
My Sunshine Away by M.O.Walsh
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Best Book of the Month

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum


How was your February reading?

Reading in Threes: Southern Comfort

February 27, 2015 2015, ARC, mini reviews, Reading in Threes, reviews 23

I grew up in the Midwest, but reading about the South always feels like going home. This time, Reading in Threes takes a walk into the dark corners of the American South.

Slim and The Beast by Samuél L. Barrantes
Published by Inkshares on February 3rd, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 200
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads

Slim, a former solider, and his best friend The Beast are heading for Milwaukee in hopes of jump-starting The Beast’s NBA career following his dismissal from UNC’s basketball team. Before they make it out of their small town, a fierce hurricane forces them into a small bar and closer to a man who has been following them both.

Though his novel is titled Slim and The Beast, Samuél L. Barrantes first introduces readers to Slim and Dykes, the Sergeant at Stoke Ridge Military Academy who eventually stalks the pair of friends through the hurricane. Each of the novel’s characters has a vastly different background, which allows the story to expand from its small focus in the bar. Though Dykes comes across as perfectly mythic, over exaggerated and almost larger than life through the eyes of Slim and The Beast, I struggled with the way his sexuality was similarly characterized. But as a whole, Slim and The Beast is an interesting intersection of controlled character study and wild ride unlike anything I’ve ever read.


where all light tends to go
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Published by Putnam on March 3rd, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads

Jacob McNeely has never lived up to the expectations of his ruthless father, who runs a meth ring in the area surrounding their small North Carolina town. Still, he drops out of school and throws himself into his father’s world in hopes of someday earning enough money to leave town with his first love, Maggie.

David Joy writes with the sense he’s intimately familiar with every corner, scratch and screen door he conjures up in his debut novel. Without reading like overworked dialect, a long drawl threads itself through the pages and knits together the characters’ well-worn relationships. Jacob’s internal conflict over the morality of his work gradually turns external and brings Where All Light Tends to Go to a close with an absolutely gut-wrenching conclusion.

“Those days alone were the first time I ever remember praying, and that’s the thing about folks who aren’t used to offering words to God. Praying’s easiest when you need something, selfish kinds of prayers, and that’s the type I prayed.”


My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
Published by Putnam on February 10th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads

In the summer of 1989, a Baton Rouge neighborhood is rocked by news that fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson had been raped outside her home. Several suspects surface over the next  few years, but with little evidence, Lindy, her family and her neighbors attempt to return to life as usual. My Sunshine Away examines the years just before and after that summer through the eyes of a teenage boy both enchanted by Lindy and haunted by the unsolved crime.

My Sunshine Away‘s unnamed narrator quickly hooks readers with his candid confessions and gradual release of information regarding the suspects in Lindy’s rape, including himself. Through this, Walsh creates a tense atmosphere of suspense without losing the heart of the novel. Though I was a little disappointed by the neatness of the ending, the story itself is one full of honesty and nostalgia with the power to grip readers from start to finish.

Feed Your Feed Reader

February 26, 2015 2015, book blogging, lists 63

book blogs


Monika from A Lovely Bookshelf wrote a fantastic post earlier this week highlighting five book blogs that make her happy. With the negativity we’ve been wading through lately, the post was a great push to get back on track and connect with one another. At the same time, it also reminded me this is the perfect opportunity to think about expanding our circles to include new blogs, whether they’re new to us or new to the blogosphere. Here are a few great book blogs I recently started following:

Bookishly Speaking

April’s blog is lovely, her taste is great and she has some serious library skills. I love seeing what she has checked out each week.

Books, the Universe & Everything

I don’t know how I didn’t find Emily’s blog sooner, but I want to make sure no one else is left behind! She will give you a serious case of wanderlust and rock you with some really thoughtful posts.

Gun In Act One

It takes a special set of sisters to handle the work of book blogging together, but Holly and Amanda have it down. Sometimes they split the work and let us see their different tastes, but they also bring it together for some sisterly snark.

Malcolm Avenue Review

After following her on Twitter and seeing her great taste in books, I was super excited when Lauren started blogging last year. Little did I know her reviews would be so incredible AND she’d share positive posts with pictures of her sweet pup each week.

Outlandish Lit

If you read the first paragraph of Julianne’s About Me page, you’ll know why I had to follow her blog. But not only does she make me laugh (every time!), she’s reading some amazing books to boot.

Shaina Reads

Shaina started blogging late last year and has jumped right into it with really creative ways to share her reading, like a chat/review with Julianne from Outlandish Lit.


What blogs have you added to your feed reader recently?

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

February 24, 2015 2015, ARC, reviews 8

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo JohnsonWelcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Published by William Morrow on February 17th 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 384
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads


When D’aron Davenport chooses to leave the small, Dixie-loving town of Braggsville, Georgia for his freshman year at UC Berkeley, he imagines the world will open up before him. Instead, he finds himself thrown into a hyper-sensitive landscape where people jump to answer questions he never thought to ask. D’aron eventually finds solace in a group of friends, dubbed the “4 Little Indians”, who bring him comfort and challenge him in equal measure. But that comfort is shaken when D’aron brings the group to Braggsville to protest its annual Civil War reenactment.

“They all wondered, he knew, especially hearing his Friday-night accent, youfermented—becoming a long y’all, and ain’t rearing it’s ugly head before, worse yet, being distilled intoant. He could reckon the direction of the wheels turning in their heads: budget cuts plus more out-of-state fart-sniffer students equals lower standards. They were wrong, and if they dared ask, he’d say so. Unlike some of them, he’d done it on his own.”

At the start of the novel, Johnson’s words flow in slam poetry waves that beg to be read aloud. Though he eventually settles into a more traditional narrative voice, the poetic, abstract roots regularly reappear and give Welcome to Braggsville its distinct style; one which may not appeal to all readers. Fortunately, the novel’s merit goes well beyond the order of words on the page to make it a rare blend of style and substance.

Though it sounds like a book aimed squarely at taking down the long history of racism in the South, nothing is safe from Welcome to Braggsville’s biting satire. Political correctness, social media and Berkeley’s outlandish liberalism are mocked and held under a microscope alongside Braggsville’s close-minded residents. Fiercely funny, sad and incredibly timely, Welcome to Braggsville will have readers with solid, long-held beliefs tilting their heads and looking closer.