Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows

Fallows is a linguist, and this book is about how she learned and studied Chinese during her three years of living in Shanghai and Beijing. She writes about how learning the language gave her insight into Chinese culture. For example, foreigners use "please" and "thank you" much more often than the Chinese when they speak Mandarin. However, Chinese people rarely use these niceties because it indicates that you are speaking with a stranger or someone not very close to you. By omitting the "please" and "thank yous", you're actually saying something about the relationship - that we're close so there's no need for all that. It's not rudeness in the context of Chinese culture.

This book would had been really helpful when I was attempting to learn Mandarin and trying to understand some about the culture.

As a memoir, however, this book is pretty shallow. But as a supplementary tool to learning Chinese, I think it would be pretty valuable.

Recommended if you've ever tried to learn Chinese or if you're thinking of trying.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Looking for some book suggestions?

Check out this website called Whichbook! It asks you to put in what you're looking for in a book, and then it will give you book suggestions!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

The author decided to follow the rules in the Bible as literally as possible for a year. He started by growing his beard, buying many versions of the Bible, and enlisting the help of religious consultants (pastors, professors, rabbis, etc.). He researched a lot and asked questions when he didn't understand a rule and its history and context. He found that there are many interpretations of the rules in the Bible.

Jacobs begins his journey as a Jewish agnostic. He ends the year by describing himself as a "reverent agnostic."

This was a really funny book. There are some moments of deeper thoughtfulness (like when he accidentally gets locked in his bathroom for four hours until his wife comes home, and he finds that being away from technology and the rush of life was actually quite nice). Overall, a very entertaining book that made me laugh out loud.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I wasted too much time reading this book. The first 100 pages or so were good and then it just became horribly awful.

I'm not going to waste more time thinking about this book and writing a blog post about what it's about and all that.

All I have to say is: Skip this book. Don't even pick it up. Move on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch by Keith Dixon

I've reviewed a bunch of cooking memoirs, but this one is different. This is from a father's perspective during the first year of his daughter's life as he cooks for himself and his wife, and indirectly, their newborn baby.

The recipes sounded great, but the ingredient lists were way too long for me, so I doubt that I will try any of the dishes described.

Touching and honest. Another title for this book could have been True Confessions About Being a Parent.

My only complaint is that the book ended rather abruptly. It could have used an Epilogue.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

William & Catherine: Their Story by Andrew Morton

I felt kinda embarrassed that I read this and was debating about whether or not I should post about it.

Then I remembered that you all already know that I read all of Tori Spelling books, so what's the big deal about admitting that I spent a good chunk of time on the sofa reading about William and Catherine? They are quite a bit classier than Tori Spelling. (But, Tori, let me know when your next book is coming out...)

I didn't know much about William and Catherine, so this book provided some good information about their lives and upbringing. There are also lots of pictures. I'm not sure if this was an "official" biography- I thought it was because Morton also wrote a biography about Princess Diana...and if it was "official," I was surprised that Catherine wasn't written about in a more favorable light, especially when it came to her 20s. She apparently didn't really have any real career/job to speak of as she waited around to get engaged? Is that true? That's what this book reports.

Anyway, I did like reading this one, and if you want to know more about the royal couple, then check it out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

101 Things I Hate About Your House: A Premier Designer Takes You on a Room-by-Room Tour to Transform Your Home from Faux Pas to Fabulous by James Swan

James Swan, a designer, goes room by room through your house and writes about how to decorate/what not to do. Some of the hints are very helpful, but the writing was so ridiculous and flowery that it was tough to find the hints in the long paragraphs. 
A good one to skim if you're interested in some decorating tips. But check it out from the library and DO NOT BUY this one.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

The only other Joan Didion book I've read was The Year of Magical Thinking about her husband's death. I must have read it before I started this blog because it's not reviewed here. Anyway, I remember liking it, so I was excited to hear that she just wrote another book.

This one is about the death of her adult daughter. But it's more than that as well. Didion shares her thoughts about motherhood and growing older.

It's all done in a rambly kind of way which can be confusing. This book didn't feel very cohesive to me although I did end of mildly liking it, sort of. It's okay, but don't take that as a very strong recommendation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Story of My Life

I have a mug with this saying on it. It's so true!!!

There are so many books out there I want to read. I have the maximum number of books on my Waiting List at the library.

I was actually a bit grumpy this past weekend because I wasn't in the middle of any books. A trip to the library solved that fast.

Let's keep reading, my friends!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation by Abigail Carter

Abigail Carter lost her husband, Arron, who was in the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center on 9/11. She writes about her grieving process in the years after as she raises her two children and tries to orient herself and them to life without their dad.

Grueling but honest, this is probably one of the best books I've read about grief.

This book was in stark contrast to A Year and Six Seconds that I recently reviewed. I know that the writer in A Year and Six Seconds was dealing with divorce, not death. But reading these two books back to back made it very clear how much more in-depth The Alchemy of Loss was and how much more Carter let the grief process take its course. There's no happy ending per se, just movement in her grief. She's willing to confront and feel her grief (all forms of it, including anger), and that makes this book very real.