Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things
Have you ever read a book that is so filled with emotion, ending on such a note that you need time to fully digest? That's Small Great Things. All of the hate, anger, frustration, turmoil, love, hope, redemption, and pride in accomplishing dreams amidst adversity are apparent in this socially and politically relevant novel. Jodi Picoult has a phenomenal talent for charging her stories with making the reader think and feel for the characters as if they are people you know.

Ruth Jefferson has over 20 years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse at local Connecticut hospital. As a single mother, whose husband was killed while serving in Afghanistan, she's worked diligently to provide for her teenage son and tries to teach him the ways of being a black man in a white world. But her world is turned upside down when she's told not to treat a newborn of a white supremacist couple. When the baby goes into cardiac arrest while she's the only staff member in the nursery, she's caught between trying to save his life and obeying orders from her boss. The outcome of her decision sets the stage for the rest of the novel.

The hospital was caught between protecting their senior L&D nurse, and protecting the hospital from a lawsuit. In what the administration thought was the hospital's best interest, they also sent a message to Ruth and all other black members of their staff they were in deed, second class citizens regardless of their loyalty. No one is safe.

In turn, despite the twists and turns of the story (based on true events), the epilogue has a bittersweet message - an ending that I had hoped would happen.

Jodi Picoult writes another novel that is to be made into a movie, which I will see in the theaters someday. The release date is TBD, especially since they have yet to decide on a screenwriter and a full cast. Other books of hers that have been made into films are Salem Falls, My Sister's Keeper, The Tenth Circle, Plain Truth, and The Pact.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Hardcover, 470 Pages - also listened to an audio version simultaneously
Published October 2016 by Ballantine Books
Dates read: June 19-July 30, 2017

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Five More Books About Infertility

On April 29, 2017, I wrote about a selection of books about living with infertility and published it during National Infertility Awareness Week. I had wanted to include more books and chose not to at the time because I was feeling emotionally burned out from the topic. It's an emotionally draining subject in of itself, and even more so because I was so strongly surrounded by it for a week, even though it was because of my own doing. Now that quite a bit of time has passed and I've been able to process my emotions and come back to this topic feeling refreshed, I'd like to share another list of books covering infertility.

Collection of Poetry by Jennifer Jackson Berry
Paperback, 96 pages
Published Nov. 2016 by YesYes Books

Recommended to me by a friend with primary infertility who also writes book reviews. The Feeder is a book of poetry that one Goodreads reviewer describes as "refreshing," and another as "brave."

Timons Esais left this in his review on Goodreads: "There is also some joy in here, but the collection as a whole brings one word to mind: brave. All poets risk self-esteem when publishing, all poets risk exposure, and it is very common for confessional poets (in these days of confessional poetry) to armor themselves against the risk by being defiant in their voice, being in-your-face, being I-can-say-this-and-you-can't-you-turd. Berry seems not to do that, at all. Here, too, she refuses to resolve. She asks, "How did I fall today?" and leaves us with that."

Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World

by Liza Mundy
Genres: Nonfiction, Science, Feminism
Available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle
432 pages, published 2007-2008 by Knopf

Liza Mundy is an award-winning journalist who wrote Michelle Obama's biography, Code Girls, and The Richer Sex.

In Everything Conceivable, per Goodreads she, "captures the human narratives, as well as the science, behind the controversial, multibillion-dollar fertility industry, and examines how this huge social experiment is transforming our most basic relationships and even our destiny as a species.

Skyrocketing infertility rates and dizzying technological advances are revolutionizing American families and changing the way we think about parenthood, childbirth, and life itself. Using in-depth reporting and riveting anecdotal material from doctors, families, surrogates, sperm and egg donors, infertile men and women, single and gay and lesbian parents, and children conceived through technology, Mundy explores the impact of assisted reproduction on individuals as well as the ethical issues raised and the potentially vast social consequences. The unforgettable personal stories in Everything Conceivable run the gamut from joyous to tragic; all of them raise questions we dare not ignore."

Non-fiction book by Beth Kohl
Available in hardcover, 288 pages
Published 2007 by Farrar Straus Giroux

This book was also recommended to me by a friend who went through IVF and surrogacy. Since I have not read the book myself, I am sharing the description from Goodreads with you:

"Injections + Appointments + Egg Retrieval + Embryo Transfer = Resources (Energy x Time x Emotion)" That's the equation that was projected onto the screen when Beth Kohl and her husband first showed up at the in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic. "Good evening," the program's psychologist told the gathered infertile couples. "Before you begin your treatment, you should know that this program is emotionally and psychologically stressful."

And how. In this marvelously unconventional account of her struggles to bear children, Kohl leads the reader on an oh-so-up-close tour of fertilization in America, and the ways in which science and miracle, technology and faith, converge to create life in the twentyfirst century. Along the way, Kohl wrestles with a new world of medical ethics: Should she "selectively reduce" the number of embryos successfully implanted in the womb in order to prevent a potentially complicated pregnancy? How much genetic testing of fertilized eggs is too much? What is she supposed to do with the seven embryos left over from the IVF process? When Andrew Solomon wrote "The Noonday Demon," he opened the world of depression to readers as no writer had done before. And when Stephen L. Carter wrote "Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby," many readers were forced to completely rethink race and prejudice. Kohl's spirited and rich exploration of "embryo culture" will completely revise how we see modern motherhood.

by Geoffrey Sher, Jean Stoess, Virginia Marraige Davis
Available in paperback, hardcover, and ebook formats
222 pages, published 1998 by Facts on File

Another book recommended by several friends who went through IVF or are considering the process so I am recommending it to you.

As Goodreads states, "In Vitro Fertilization is a comprehensive guide to this increasingly common and successful practice for the 3.3 million couples in the United States seeking alternative means of conception. It discusses everything you need to know about IVF, including how to find and choose the best in vitro programs, what to expect as you go through the process, and what your chances are of achieving a successful pregnancy. The book is designed to prepare couples for the complex and emotional process of IVF, and it has been specially updated to cover the latest developments in the field. No one considering IVF should overlook this indispensable reference."

Fiction by Jodi Picoult
Available in paperback, hardcover, audio, and ebook formats
496 pages, published in 2011 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

The only book of the list I've personally read, I highly recommend this one, especially for book club discussions. Written by one of my favorite authors (I literally have a whole shelf dedicated to her books!), Sing You Home follows the ups and downs of a marriage tormented by miscarriage after miscarriage.

Max plummets into alcoholism, yet somehow is able to heal again after his failed marriage with Zoe. A newfound unexpected romance brews for Zoe, with the opportunity for a baby. This scenario could include Max if he's willing, but he balks at the prospect, clouded by his religious beliefs and the financial costs.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Mongtomery

Anne of Green GablesThis is the start of a new favorite series, and I can't believe I never read this before now! I would've loved this as a kid and enjoyed re-reading it as an adult. Thank you to my book club for choosing to read this for January discussion. This is one of the few books I've managed to finish in time for the discussion (the horror, I know!) and also finish in 2 days! Considering I have a few books that I've been on my currently reading shelf for more than a couple years, it's astonishing I've been able to finish a book this quickly.

I am thankful to L.M. Montgomery for writing something that has inspired me to keep reading, and wish I could thank her. I was in such a reading slump trying to find something I could get lost in and this was it!

Ms. Montgomery did an amazing job developing characters with personality, especially Anne. She may have had her quirks, but she was also so lovable because of them! I enjoyed "watching" her grow up and develop her own interests and dreams as if she were a dear friend. There were times I literally rolled my eyes at Anne being so imaginative and especially dramatic when Marilla would try to scold her into behaving. I love Marilla's tough love, and Matthew's quiet and soft demeanor, yet hardened by years on a farm. Anne managed to win her way into their hearts and finally found her forever home. It's a heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking, story that has transcended generations to prove itself worthy of being a classic.

Occasionally, I smiled or laughed at the vocabulary L.M. Montgomery used because a few words are not commonly used in the same context 100 years later (i.e. she ejaculated for she exclaimed!).

My rating is 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not read it yet. If I ever have a daughter or niece, I will make sure this is on her read list. And I will most certainly be reading, or listening to, the rest of the series!

Thanks to my book club, Vermont Books N Brews, for this selection!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Genre: Fiction>Children's Fiction and Historical Fiction, Classics, Young Adult
Audiobook, 10 hours, 20 minutes
Released: June 24, 2008 by Penguin Random House Audio
Narrated by: Kate Burton
Dates Listened: January 1-2, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

How-To: Be a Book Lover On a Budget

Are you a book lover, but are on a budget and can't afford to always be running out to get the latest new release? The new year is a great time to start implementing some new good habits, like living on a budget. Here are some tips I've learned over the years to feed my reading hunger while not being able to afford to keep buying books.

While this is not a comprehensive list, I hope it's helpful to you! Happy searching and reading!

1. Library Membership
Many public libraries offer free membership to community members who live in the same town or county, depending on the size of the territory they cover. Sometimes they charge a reasonable fee for those who live in other towns not serviced by a local library. A library membership gives you access to so many options, including books for all ages, magazines, DVDs, music CDs, audiobook CDs, newspapers, e-books, and a reference section for research.

Hoopla is a digital media service that may be offered by your local public library. It allows you to borrow materials like movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows on your electronic devices. You will be able to stream them immediately or download them to mobile devices.

OverDrive is an app/website where you can borrow ebooks and digital audiobooks from your library. Simply create an account, find your library, sign in using your library or OverDrive credentials, and borrow books!

2. Audio Books
As mentioned above, you can borrow audio books from your library through your Hoopla or OverDrive account.

LibriVox is a site where volunteers have recorded books that are in the public domain, which are available for free or inexpensive prices.

Sometimes a local thrift store will have audio books for sale in different formats, including cassette tapes if you happen to own a tape player! More on thrift stores below.

3. Get an e-reader, or e-reader app on your phone
E-books are cheaper than the physical copy of the book, and you can have thousands of e-books on your device when you don't have a lot of shelf space for your physical books. The device is also a lot easier to transport than several physical books.

Don't have an e-reader? Download the Google Books app, Amazon Kindle app, or other preferred e-reader app on your smartphone or other mobile device.

If you have an e-reader, sign up for NetGalley, which is a site where book reviewers and other professional readers can read books before they are published, in e-galley or digital galley form. Members register for free and can request review copies or be invited to review by the publisher.

JustKindleBooks is a website where you can find free and bargain priced e-books for your Kindle.

4. Peruse thrift stores, local used book sales, and/or used book stores
Shop your local thrift stores and garage sales (aka yard sales or tag sales). Many local libraries will have used book sales to benefit the library or other causes. Also, search for books at your local dollar stores or Wal-Mart!

There is also an online thrift store just for books at where you can find discounted titles.

Check your local Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay.

5. Borrow from friends and family
Does this require an explanation?

6. Ask for them as gifts for special occasions
Be specific about the genre(s) you like, or even get as specific as the author or titles you'd like to have. Also specify to the gift giver if you'd prefer it in audio format, as an e-book, or a physical hardcover or paperback. Sometimes the giver will know the answer, but it's a nice gesture if you can give them some guidance.

7. BookBub Membership
Already have an e-reader or e-reader app on your phone? Simply visit to create an account and sign up for email alerts on e-book deals that you can download right to your device.

8. Email Alerts About Book Deals

Kindle, Nook, Goodreads, and Bookperks all have deal emails that they send out daily. Visit their respective websites, create an account, and signup for their email digests.

For the Goodreads Deals, visit to sign up by filling out your profile, and click Save at the bottom of the screen. You'll get emails notifying you of deals for the books, authors, and genres you selected. You can also check the page again to see what is recommend for you and purchase inexpensive e-books.

9. Additional Resources - A website for finding inexpensive books to fill your shelves! You'll find used books, the latest bestsellers, and sometimes signed copies and first editions. It's not just for books either - you'll see listings for fine art and other collectibles for decorating your home or gifting. - Pass on your gently used titles you no longer want by listing them here for other readers to request. Once it's requested, you pay for shipping! Then you have the option of selecting from millions of other titles for free!

Half Price Books - This site has many titles available at, you guessed it, half-price or even less! - may not be as inexpensive as some of the resources listed below, but it has a massive amount of titles available that are less expensive than other places, including local bookstores. I advocate strongly for buying local, but also understand that sometimes it's not an option to pay the higher prices.

Barnes &Noble Bargain Books - in store or online

Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments!