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Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Extraordinary Life of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 - 1962

Unfortunately, this weekend is the FINAL section of the FINAL volume of Eleanor Roosevelt’s biography.  But, I DO promise you lots of fun, because I have included a special extended intro, a few new notable women that I learned about, and some inspirational words from OTHER women with whom you will be familiar.  It has been such a pleasure taking this journey with you.  I have learned SO much and I hope you have, too.  

The clip within the episode entitled “Eleanor and Jackie and Barbara and Hillary and Michelle” includes sound bites from the following events:  

  • Hillary Clinton - 4th women’s conference in Beijing China

  • Barbara Bush - Commencement Speech at Wellesley University in 1990

  • Michelle Obama - various speeches, including ‘Let Girls Learn’

  • Jackie Kennedy - In Her Own Words (recorded after JFK’s assasination)

  • Eleanor Roosevelt - Nationally aired radio speech given the night of Pearl Harbor

Eleanor Roosevelt flying with Tuskegee Airmen

Eleanor Roosevelt holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
at the United Nations

Mrs. Roosevelt addressing the nation
after the attacks on Pearl Harbor

To keep the fun times rolling, I have included here a couple of great videos I found on YouTube.  One is a song called “Suno Suno Meri Aawaaz” by Anandmurti Gurumaa.  The title loosely translates to “Listen to My Voice”.  It is a beautiful song, and it is also an important message of education, empowerment and enlightenment for the future of womankind.  The other, as you can see, is a song about all of the First Ladies by Dot of the Animaniacs.  We’ve got a little something for everybody!  Enjoy, and as always, Happy reading!  

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Roosevelts to the Bidens: A Path Well-Traveled

Hello, Brookworms!

Eleanor Roosevelt and Geraldine Walker

     I am so proud of this series of episodes covering the illuminating, fascinating, and empowering life of Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  I hope you are, too!  This episode has taken me down quite the rabbit hole, and I wanted to share with you some of the discoveries I’ve made!  

     This new episode of Brook Reading coincides with the Inaugural Ceremonies of the 46th President of the United States, and a new wave of positivity, change, and excitement is in the air.  I discussed many of the feelings that I was having about that in this week’s episode, as well as many interesting facts that I discovered.  That rumination is shared below.  I also wanted to continue the challenge that I posed for you involving a Dreamcast of our fantasy biopic of this iconic and influential political couple.  Check out episode 117 for more on that!  

     “Eleanor Roosevelt - The Defining Years (Volume Two, 1933 - 1938)” by Blanche Wiesen Cook has been such a wealth of information - I hope you’ll stick around for Volume Three and the conclusion of Mrs. Roosevelt’s life in politics, activism, and fame.  

Inauguration Day Musings

“I have been swarmed with feelings all day.  Mostly wonderful, obviously.  I’m reading all of the articles, I don’t even care what they’re about.  As long as they’re not about the reject that left the White House this morning, who I won’t even call ‘the former president’, I will read ALL of the updates and articles about the inauguration ceremonies, the traditions, and about President Biden and Vice President Harris.  I did wonder if President Biden was a veteran, so I had to look that up.  He would salute along with the military figures during the reviewing of the troops, and when they visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while everyone else placed their hand over their hearts.  But I discovered that his son was a veteran.  He didn’t die in battle, he died later on in life from brain cancer.  Then, I was starting to see the post going around, “A Catholic, a woman of color, a teacher, and a Jew walk into the White House.  This isn’t a joke.  This actually happened.” Or whatever it said.  So, I asked my lady, which are the teacher and the Jew.  She said that VP Harris’ husband is Jewish, so not only is he the first “second gentleman” (instead of second lady, which I also found out is what you call the wife of the vice president), but he is the first Jewish person.  So THEN I was like, who is the teacher?  Turns out Dr. Biden has her doctorate in Education and has been teaching for like a million years.  AND, she’s from New Jersey!  What??  So many cool things that I was learning.  And Wait!  I’ve got more!  An article popped up from Marie Claire as to why so many influential women who were present were wearing purple.  First of all, I felt like an idiot because I thought Vice President Harris was wearing blue.  Secondly,  I almost let myself get up in arms by screaming, “Who cares what they’re wearing??  There are more important things to focus on!  And, why do we always have to focus on clothes when there are women involved?”  But, as I said, I’ve been so pleased to read all of these articles and absorb myself in all of this excitement that I read it.  I’m SO glad I did.  The reason that Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Harris all chose to wear purple coats and outfits (and Senator Elizabeth Warren wore a purple scarf) was because the color of the suffragette movement was purple.  This is a typical choice for women attending inauguration ceremonies in the past (I guess I just never noticed).  ALSO, though, many people speculated that, especially in the case of Vice President Harris, purple was worn to signify the mixing of red and blue and the fight for bipartisanship in the upcoming term.  VP Harris also wore her pearls from Alpha Kappa Alpha, in solidarity and celebration of all women, standing together, and working towards a better future.  These pearls specifically (because, you know, I had to look up the history of them) had 20 pearls in the necklace which signified the 20 women who founded the organization.  All of these images and icons flashed through my mind at lightning speed.  Womanhood, feminism, friendship, solidarity, class (I don’t mean upper or lower, I mean like having class, propriety), purple, violets, pearls, Eleanor.  It made me want to run out and buy a string of pearls for all of the important women in my life.  Similarly, my best friend had this same thought process when she sent me the loveliest gift of a book of gothic stories written by women with a beautiful handwritten note and a bookmark made of flattened violets.  That I will treasure forever.  It is quite a struggle to find so many women with whom we can forge real friendships, real relationships, since many women are catty, or untrustworthy, or generally concerned with more trivial things.  I am so lucky to associate with the women that I do.”

Tales of Weird Women

Nightmare Flower

Marie Claire - Purple on Inauguration Day

The Eleanor Roosevelt Story - Amazon Prime

“In 1935, ER exchanged flowers with six-year-old Geraldine Walker in Detroit. In 1988, the U.S. Post Office celebrated the same event with a commemorative stamp.”

Eleanor and Mary McLeod Bethune

Television Adaptations of the lives of Eleanor and FDR

Eleanor, FDR, and Annie

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Riley's Excellent and not-at-all Fake Exorcism Service by Sophie Queen

Welcome back, Brookworms!

Episode 116 is special for multiple reasons - one, it is the first episode of Brook Reading for 2021, and TWO, I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sophie Queen, a debut author whose first book is one of my new favorites!  I will also review ALMOST all of her novel, Riley’s Excellent and not-at-all Fake Exorcism Service.  I have NOT spoiled it, and I highly recommend you pick yourself up a copy and check it out!  Happy New Year, and welcome back to the Brook!

Author Information for Sophie Queen

Debut author Sophie Queen has been telling fantastical stories from the time she was a little girl. A ravenous reader of classic gothic novels who has an unhealthy obsession with cheesy horror flicks. She has written a collection of unique short stories and even a poem or two. This is her first novel, though certainly not her last. She lives with her husband, cat, dog, and sixty-five fish in an old (haunted) Victorian home.

Website:  Sophie Queen - ALL her links!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Links to Pitney and Amelia's Bitchen' Boutique LIVE New Year's Eve Party!

 Hey, Brookworms!

I am so excited about this weekend's episode, where I conclude my review of Volume One of Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, but I am also gearing up for Pitney and Amelia's Bitchen' Boutique LIVE New Year's Eve Extravaganza!  

Join Pitney, Amelia, and all their pals at 10:25PM CST on December 31st to ring in 2021 and officially kick 2020's ass out!  I will be joining them at 11:55PM EST and I can't wait to see you there!  The link to join, as well as their Twitter handle, is below.  Come celebrate with us!  

Pitney & Amelia's LIVE NYE Show on Facebook

Bitchen' Boutique YouTube Channel

Twitter:  @bitchenboutique

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Jennifer Valenti and The Maverick

     On this week’s episode of Brook Reading, I had the honor to speak with Jennifer Valenti, a tremendously talented author, about her debut novel, The Maverick. We spoke in depth about her story, her work in technology, and her courageous journey telling the stories of women affected by all sorts of challenges. Her characters, based on real women, portray perseverance, determination, and the eternal bonds of sisterhood as they seek out their own personal paths of healing. 

    I also reviewed The Maverick, but I DID leave out the ending, so you’ll definitely need to pick it up and find out what happens for yourself! The read is certainly worth it, you won’t regret it! Stay tuned for more from Jennifer in Spring of 2021, when Book 2 of the Jane Valiante series is released. You can find out more about Jennifer, as well as links to get yourself a copy of The Maverick, at her website:  Jennifer Valenti Home Page

Author Biography

     Jennifer Valenti is a debut author with her first novel, The Maverick, launching in 2020. The Maverick is the first in a series of seven novels entitled “The Jane Valiante Series,” which crosses multiple themes within the women’s fiction genre, particularly focused on stories reminiscent of the “Me Too” movement. Miss Valenti is an Emmy award-winning technology executive whose most recent career success has been in the field of artificial intelligence. Prior to moving into technology, she had a successful career in film and television as a Producer and Assistant Director with credits such as The Waterboy, Men in Black II, and Dawson’s Creek.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Message to the Brookworms:


I wanted to write you all and explain, well, my life in the past couple weeks.  On November 22nd, yeah, oddly, the day JFK was assassinated, my father passed away.  I still can’t write it or say it and actually accept it, but it’s true.  It was incredibly sudden and possibly why I still feel like I can’t wrap my brain around it.  I can spend the rest of this post talking about him -  he was the best man that ever lived.  He would be mad at me, however, if I didn’t get back on the horse and continue my normal life.  I tentatively returned to work this week and luckily, I work for a very understanding and kind woman who has given me plenty of wiggle room.  Other than needing to get back on track and knowing how proud my dad was of me and this show, I miss you all.  I miss putting out episodes.  

     That said, below is a calendar of the remainder of Brook Reading episodes for the year.  I don’t know yet if I will create any special holiday or New Year’s Eve episodes, because honestly, I don’t have it in me.  But there were still many episodes that I’ve worked very hard on, and I can’t wait for you to listen.  In closing, thank you for your understanding, thank you for listening, go call your loved ones, and, as always, I will talk with you soon.  

Love always, Melissa

December 6th, 2020

Re-release of Ep 52 - Bust 20th Anniversary featuring Courtney Love

December 13th, 2020

Episode 113:  Jennifer Valenti Interview, Review of "The Maverick"

December 20th, 2020

Episode 114:  “Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1:  The Early Years, 1884 - 1933” by Blanche Wiesen Cook - Part One

December 27th, 2020

Episode 115:  “Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1:  The Early Years, 1884 - 1933” by Blanche Wiesen Cook - Part Two

Saturday, November 14, 2020

bell hooks, Laverne Cox, and Mr. Nikoli!

Hello, Brookworms!

Tonight’s episode included lots of exciting extras for you to peruse at your leisure, the first being this amazing discussion between bell hooks and Laverne Cox at the New School.  This video was shared with me by Vic of the Horror Academic, and I am incredibly appreciative!

Next, if you’re hungry and looking for something new to create in the kitchen, check out Mr. Nikoli’s kitchen!  Nick, the former host of the Epic Film Guys podcast, decided to branch out and tell us all about his other love, cooking, and share some of his favorite episodes!  Check out Mr. Nikoli’s Kitchen on Apple Podcasts and go follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

bell hooks & Laverne Cox: Transgression

Everything Mr. Nikoli's Kitchen

Thank you so much for all of your support!  Subscribe and check out my other episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Radio Public, Castbox, Player FM, or download directly from Spreaker  

You can also leave comments, questions, or novel requests on Twitter @brookreadingpod, on Instagram @brookreading or email me - 

If you use the hashtags  #wlipodpeeps  #ladypodsquad #podernfamily on Twitter or go to the No Phony Podcast Network’s website, you’ll discover other awesome podcasts.  Happy reading!