Monday, December 30, 2013

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole is a British teenager who records his life happenings in a diary. He writes about his mother's affair, his acne, bullies at school, and his crush on a girl at school. Funny, sad, and smart but also angsty as only teenage boys can be (and sometimes a bit gross). Although this book was written about 15 years ago, it's surprisingly timeless. I guess the angst of teenage boys is the same throughout the ages?

This was fun, light, Christmas vacation reading.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter

In the mornings, I'm mostly a NPR Morning Edition listener, but if the TV is on, Good Morning America is the show of choice in my house. However, at one point, I was a Today show fan.

This book goes behind the scenes of morning shows and talks about the relationships and race to win at the ratings game. Specifically, it covers the ouster of Ann Curry from the Today show and how Good Morning America became the more popular show.

Some parts were slow and boring, but if you are a morning show watcher, this book might be of interest to you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Red Rain by R.L. Stine

Life and work and schedules were all chaotic during the last several weeks, so I needed an easy, mindless fiction book to read in those few free moments I had. This fit the bill. Spooky, creepy, and gross. Not super creepy, but creepy enough for me to scoot it over to my husband's side of the headboard every night so in case the book gave off bad dreams, he would have the bad dreams. And then I felt bad, so I just started leaving it downstairs every night instead.

Anyway, not recommending this book at all. If you need a mindless book, it's okay.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn

Alcorn tells her own story of working full-time while also raising two young children. She writes about the challenges and the anxiety that comes along with trying to keep everything together.

Wow, just reading this book stressed me out, but I could not put it down. Alcorn is an excellent writer. The story she shares about her life is deeply personal. She comes across as very down-to-earth and humble. At the end of most chapters she includes short sections with research about working mothers and ways to improve life for families. She also cites examples from other countries that provide benefits like shorter work weeks, paid maternity and paternity leave, quality daycare, etc. that support families.

I really liked this book. It was engaging, well-written, and made me think about the ways that families could be better supported.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Short List of Other Books

Along with those books I've recently reviewed on death, parenting, and cooking, I've finished a bunch of other books as well. I don't feel like writing separate posts on each of them, so here's a list with a two-sentence description of each.

 Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
Lucy Fisher dies and comes back as a ghost with unfinished business. The story starts slowly, but it picks up speed, and ends up being an original, delightful book. (Thanks for the recommendation, Rebecca!)

 Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel
What if you could still communicate with a dead loved one via video chat, emails, and texts? Would you want to?? Another original fiction plot, but a bit slow at the end. (Again, thanks for the recommendation, Rebecca!)

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg  Mrs. Sookie Poole finds out that she is not who she has always thought she was. An entertaining story with two tales interwoven together, but I thought the ending could have been more gutsy and bold.

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman The author wanted a handbook to read when she was dealing with cancer, and so she wrote her own. A short gem of a book with little chapters on what really matters in life.
The Widow Waltz by Sally Kowlow Georgia Waltz is suddenly widowed at age 50 and finds out that her husband was leading a double life. A bit weird with SAT or GRE words randomly thrown about, this is not that great of a book, but interesting enough to be perfect for a plane ride or a lazy afternoon.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Books To Read in Paris

A good friend, Lisa, sent me a Christmas card telling me about her upcoming plans to visit Cambridge, England and Paris, France. She'll be there for the holidays. What a lucky duck!

In her card, she wrote, "In Cambridge I plan to re-read C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, but I am at a loss for what to read in Paris. Do you have any suggestions on a novel or easy-to-read memoir set in France?"

Thanks for asking, Lisa! I do have some suggestions! Ah, the idea of reading a book about Paris while in Paris while eating a chocolate croissant or some Camembert is such a happy one. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Below are my favorite books that take place in Paris. Click on the title for my blog post about each book.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

 The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn 

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz 





Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman

I thought it would be good to take a break from all of the death related books I've recently read and to read something not about death. So this one is about prison.

Piper was sentenced to a 15-month stay at a women's federal prison on a drug-related crime from ten years ago when she was fresh out of college. She writes about her time spent in prison, her fellow inmates, the endless number of rules, and the humiliations. She stands out from her inmates as she's white and educated.

I loved this book! It's insightful, thoughtful, and full of humanity. Piper is funny and sensitive, and her inmate friends really come alive. This book also made me pause and think about the correctional system and how it really works and if it's effective or not.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

A friend of mine is likes to recommend books to me. It took me awhile to realize that he actually hasn't finished all of the books he recommends.  He starts them and tells me about them. Then, after I finish the book, I go back and say, "Thanks, that was a really good book!" And he'll say, "Oh, was it? Okay, I'll finish it then." Anyway, this is one of those books that this friend, Matt, has recommended to me.

Dr. Alexander falls into a coma after contracting a rare disease. He's in a coma for seven days and as his family and doctors discuss ending treatment, he regains consciousness. He writes very vividly about where he was for those seven days. Before this experience, he was not a believer in the soul, God, or heaven, but this experience changes him.

This was a strange read. He writes about the spiritual landscape he entered into, and it is just way beyond our human knowledge that it was challenging to understand and grasp exactly what he witnessed. 
It reminds me of the end of C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle: "All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin Yalom

Yalom is a Stanford psychiatrist who believes that anxiety about death is the root of our fears, but once we come to terms with impending death, we can learn to fully live life. He uses case examples from his clinical work and from readings to explain death anxiety and how to work through it.

The case examples were particularly fascinating. Overall, a thoughtful and thought-provoking book, but definitely not light reading.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When Someone Dies: The Practical Guide to the Logistics of Death by Scott Taylor Smitth

This author and book was featured on NPR and I listened while I was making some granola. It was a really informative interview about a topic that we tend to stay away from. I checked out the book shortly after and it was not a fun read, but provided some good information.

This book really breaks things down into what needs to be done practically to go through the business of closing out a loved one's life. It includes some helpful check-lists and is written in really accessible language.

The last chapter is about what you, as a still living person, need to do in order to make things easy for those you leave behind.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (With Recipes) by Luisa Weiss

I mentioned that I noticed myself reading books on Parenting, Death, and Cooking. So here's one that falls under the Cooking category.
Luisa grew up with an Italian mother and American father in Berlin until her parents divorced. She spent some time living with her father in Massachusetts and then more time in Berlin with her mom. She lives in Paris and then New York before heading back to Berlin where she finds love.
A pretty solid book but slow at times. The recipes, especially the German ones, sound tasty but didn't seem easy enough for me to try. I did make a tomato sauce with carrots that she writes about and it made for a pretty tasty dinner.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Embrace the Coming Light: Daily Readings and Prayers for Advent by Eddy Ekmekji and Tyler Watson

I don't know if you observe Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, but if you do, I have a book of daily readings for you.

This year, Advent begins on December 1st, so I haven't actually used this book yet, but I am very much looking forward to it. The copy that I ordered arrived last week, and I flipped through it and it looks good. I have a feeling that it will be a good companion during these next weeks.

I must say that I went to college with the gentlemen who wrote this book, so I know that they offer a great combination of heart, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. Plus, all of the proceeds are going toward World Vision's relief efforts in the Philippines.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breeding in Captivity: One Woman's Unusual Path to Motherhood by Stacy Bolt

The title makes it sound like Bolt and her husband lived in a zoo. Bolt underwent years of fertility treatments, and then decided to pursue adoption. The book is split up equally about the fertility treatments and then the adoption process. Both were grueling and full of ups and downs.

I learned some stuff. Like about all of the online message boards out there providing support for women trying to get pregnant. They sprinkle virtual "baby dust" on each other to wish each other good luck.

A short, compact, and very readable memoir with lots of humor and honesty throughout, this book had me rooting for Bolt and her husband throughout the process. They are seem like very cool and grounded people.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood edited by Henriette Mantel

I had just finished checking out some books at the library and was putting them in my backpack. There was a little boy a couple of feet away screaming and swinging on the library check-out ropes.

A librarian said, "Ma'am, ma'am, please control your son!!" I slipped the last book into my backpack and I heard the librarian again say in a very exasperated voice, "Ma'am, ma'am, your son!!" I looked at her and put on my backpack and walked away. It wasn't until I was headed toward the door that I thought, "Oh, she thought that kid was my son!" That did not connect at all.

Hahah. Yes, I guess the boy could have been my son as we were the same ethnicity. Anyway, I looked back and the librarian had realized that I was not the mom, but that this other lady was the mom. And the boy's mom looked at the librarian and exclaimed, "But I don't know what to do!"

Here's a whole book of essays written by women who don't have children by choice or circumstance. Some are funny and some are more serious. An excerpt:

"They [people with children] always want to know if they can bring them [children] when they visit me...I always say 'No' because I don't want to live through another afternoon of: 'Put that down. DOWN. SO how's your...PUT THAT DOWN. What did I just say? Put that down. Is that a new couch or did you...PICK THAT UP. Pick that up right this instant. Pick that UP.'" --Suzy Soro in You'll Never Babysit in This Town (Again)

Amusing and frank. One common thread was that although these writers don't have children of their own, they all mentioned lots of nieces and nephews that they are involved and invested in.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu

I liked Lin-Liu's Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China about how she learned to cook in China. She's thoughtful and a great writer.

On the Noodle Road is her second book, and I found it to be less successful. Lin-Liu has started a Beijing cooking school and is now married. She wants to figure out the origin of the noodle. Did it come from China? Or Italy? She decides to follow the Silk Road from China into Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, and ends up in Italy.

Lin-Liu's conversations with women and the descriptions of some of the meals were interesting. However, some of the descriptions were too long and boring and I found myself skimming some pages, especially as the book went on and on and on through its 400 pages.

My biggest complaint about the book is that the "love" part did not work. Lin-Liu tries to make this book into both food writing and memoir, but it just didn't work. Lin-Liu's husband joins her on some legs of the trip so she writes about their travels together. In other chapters, she reflects on their courtship, relationship, and future, but it was just a tie-in that really did not work at all.

Not gonna recommend this one to you, but I will encourage you to read Serve the People if you're looking for something about cooking Chinese food.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reading Flight Patterns

I've noticed that the books I've read lately fall into three categories: 1) birth/kids/parenting 2) cooking and 3) death.

Does this sum up life?? Well, I guess you don't have to cook. Or have kids.

I'll write about the books I've read in each of these categories in the upcoming weeks. Also, if you have any good recommendations for books in these categories, please let me know.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins

"Most growth happens this way: slowly, over time...When it comes to waiting, we have a choice. We can try to bypass the delays to get immediate gratification. Or we can embrace the 'long game' of life and invest those days, months, and years in the slow but intentional growth that leads to lasting change." --Jeff Goins

This book is all about waiting and the times in between those big moments of life which is where real life actually happens if we can pay attention. Goins writes about slowing down and learning to live and enjoy life as it unfolds right now.

This was mostly a memoir with reflections on what Goins has learned. I thought it was an okay book with a good message. Only okay in that the book seemed to lose some cohesion as it went on. But overall, an okay read.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris

I love exchanging favorite book titles with friends who read. Mia listed David Sedaris as one of her favorite writers, so I checked out his latest book. It's a series of short essays about...well, everything. For example, one essay is about getting a colonoscopy. Another is about the pet turtles he kept as a boy. My favorite essay in this book was titled "#2 to Go" all about China, phlegm, and Chinese food which was disgusting and spot-on.

Overall, I thought this book was hilarious, crass, thoughtful, and sometimes touching. But not recommended if you're easily offended!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais

I've had multiple friends who are moms tell me, "Oh, Elaine, I'm not going to tell you about (fill in the blank) in case you do decide to have kids." They don't want to scare me off by telling me stories of pregnancy, labor and delivery, nursing, diapers, etc.

The most honest report I've had from a mom was from my cousin. When I visited her in the hospital after her first baby was born, she told me, "Elaine, if you ever think that having a 'natural birth' sounds good, pull out all of your toenails first and see if you like how it feels." Okay, so that was several hours after her boy was born. But now that I think of it, just a couple of weeks ago, when she saw me watching her son, she said, "Elaine, stick with the shih-tzu." Hum.

Anyway, this book goes into the nitty gritty of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, diapers, and sleep deprivation. The author is very likeable, down-to-earth, and funny. I think it's gonna make a great baby shower gift.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri's newest novel features two brothers born 15 months apart with very different destinies. Udayan is an activist committed to fighting poverty in Calcutta. Subhash chooses an academic life and moves to the US. When Udayan dies, Subhash returns to India and tries to pick up the pieces of his brother's life.

This novel spans generations, and is different enough from Lahiri's other books but thoughtful and beautiful enough to be similar.

Personally, I didn't enjoy The Lowland as much as The Namesake or Unaccustomed Earth, but I'll read anything that Lahiri writes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton

"...we don't love people and animals because we will have them forever; we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer. Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways. Even if animals and people leave, even if they die, they leave us better." --Glennon Doyle Melton

Melton writes the blog I heard about her book through another blog that I read, The Messy Middle. Melton has a history of alcohol, drug, and food addictions. She's now a mom of three and a writer. She writes about her past, her recovery, struggles, and moments of triumph. Life is messy, and Melton isn't afraid to write about it.

This seems like a book that would really speak to me if I had read it at exactly the right time. But I don't think that exact time was right now. I enjoyed her essays, but it was not a life-changing read which I think it could be for some people at the right time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

Thank you to Boomer for writing a Guest Post on The Cuckoo's Calling since I was unable to get through it!

Here's what he has to say:

Set in modern day London, The Cuckoo's Calling is an almost protoypical murder-mystery novel about a down-on-his-luck private eye named Cormoran Strike.  The book details Strike's investigation into the murder/suicide of a fashion model named Lula Landry.  Over the course of the investigation we're introduced to numerous characters, each of their twisted stories and secrets and how or why they may be involved in Landry's death.

For those who don't know, The Cuckoo's Calling is written by Robert Galbraith, which is actually a pseudonym for the famous author, J.K. Rowling!  Like Rowling's other books, The Cuckoo's Calling is rich with descriptive detail about modern day London.  She also does a fantastic job building up to a suspenseful and exciting climax of the story!  Unfortunately, like the first half of Deathly Hallows, she does hit a rut in the middle third of the book where it seems like it's just dragging on and on.

The book tends to follow the prototypical storylines with murder mysteries.  It reads a little bit like an extended game of Clue; here are all the suspects, and for each one, here are their alibis, their motives, their involvement with Landry, their dirty secrets, etc.  For those interested in solving the mystery on their own based on the clues, it's a rather interesting puzzle.  However for those more interested in just enjoying, it's rather a bit dull going through all the details.

Ultimately I'd call it a decent read, but it could have done with a bit more editing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler

Sandler is an only child, and the mother of an only child. This is a part investigative work and part memoir, and she weaves in her story with facts and studies that claim that only children do just as well (if not better) than those children with siblings.

An interesting section was about how parents usually have more children so that the first kid has siblings rather than because the parents themselves actually want more children.

This was an okay book. It took me awhile to read it, and sometimes the organization of the book didn't quite make sense. If you're thinking about how many kids you want, or considering having just one child, or if you're an only child yourself, you might want to check it out.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Here's some conclusions to questions, ideas, and projects written about in the past:

1. Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
I did not finish it! I read 150 pages (out of 455) and found the plot to be uninspired and boring. I could not read any further. However, Boomer picked it up after I tossed it aside and proceeded to read it all the way through. Now, after having read The Casual Vacancy and half of Cuckoo's Calling, I am feeling discouraged about Rowling's move into books for adults.

2. The Summer of the Re-Read
Well, the summer didn't hold much re-reading for me, but September did. I re-read a favorite, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. In addition, I re-read The Tiger Rising, also by Kate DiCamillo (which was as disappointing as it was the first time around).

If you're newer to this blog, please read my post about asking the librarian if the dog dies at the end of Because of Winn-Dixie. It contains some valuable lessons about 1) making sure the animal doesn't die at the end of the book and 2) how helpful librarians are!

Also, in anticipation of Jhumpa Lahiri's newest book, The Lowland, I re-read her collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth. I am also in the middle of re-reading Interpreter of Maladies, another collection of short stories by Lahiri for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

"I obviously wasn't thinking like a lawyer yet. If this was what it meant to work in a prestigious law firm, I clearly was not ready." -Sonia Sotomayor

Sotomayor is one of the Supreme Court Justices, and her story is quite remarkable. She grew up in the housing projects in the Bronx. Her father was an alcoholic who died when Sotomayor was only nine. Sotomayor also had juvenile diabetes and learned to give herself insulin shots at a very young age. Nevertheless, she graduated from Princeton (she applied there when someone suggested she consider the "Ivies" although she had no idea what that meant), and then Yale Law School.

There were a couple of surprising things that I learned about Sotomayor. I didn't know that she had been married briefly. I was also surprised that she struggled as a young lawyer learning how to think and write like a lawyer. I found it encouraging that even Sonia Sotomayor at one point was a newbie.

Sotomayor also writes about an attorney who was quite rude to Sotomayor about affirmative action when Sotomayor was still a student at Yale. Where is that attorney now? I don't recognize his name, so I know for sure he's not sitting on the Supreme Court. Hah, I hope he reads about himself in this book.

My Beloved World was sometimes slow reading at times, but overall it was interesting to read how someone's life was shaped by family, circumstances, and determination.

Thanks to Amy G. for this recommendation!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Do you ever think about where you want to be as you're finishing a book? I don't want to be sitting in a waiting room when I read that last page. I want to be at home in a comfy chair or sitting on the stairs (yes, sometimes I read sitting on the staircase because there's a great window above the stairs that provides great light).

Anyway, I was thinking about that all as I headed home on a Saturday evening because I knew that I was nearing the end of this book, and I was hoping to finish it that night. With some hot chocolate in hand, I settled down on the couch to finish this book. Whoah, this book had me on my toes until the very end.

Louisa is 27 years old and sailing along, living at home, and working at a little cafe. She's been dating her boyfriend for seven years and will most likely marry him. Her job at the cafe suddenly ends and she  takes a very well-paying job as a caregiver for 35-year-old Will, who is in a wheelchair after an accident ended his high-flying, extreme adventure lifestyle.

This book has twists and turns, and a plot like nothing I've ever read before. Very original, and it prompted me to think about life and what's worth living for.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton

"...I saw in her face all the hope and enthusiasm and future heartbreak of a new cat owner." --p. 159

Caroline Paul was in an accident, and spent much time at home recovering. Her two cats loved having her around all of the time, but then, one of them, Tibby goes missing. Caroline consults a psychic who believes that Tibby is being cared for. Caroline visits the local animal shelter to look for Tibby, and plasters the neighborhood with signs.

Six weeks later, Tibby finally returns but there's something different about him. He doesn't look like he's been lost on the streets for six weeks. In fact, he looks a bit more plump and now he walks with a swagger in his step. Furthermore, he stops eating the food that Caroline serves him.

Caroline wants to figure out where Tibby went and where he continues to go to eat. She fits him with a GPS tracker, and then a camera (there are some really cute photos included which show things from the perspective of a cat's collar, whiskers included!). She, with help from her girlfriend, Wendy, narrows down the area that Tibby frequents, and they finally figure out where he's been going.

This is a fun book. It has illustrations by Caroline's girlfriend which are also very fun. There's also sadness in here as well which is always true when we love a pet. However, if you like cats or pets and want something fun to read on a Sunday afternoon, I would recommend this to you.

Thanks for the recommendation, Rebecca! =D

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

A lighthouse keeper and his wife live in isolated Western Australia. The wife longs for a child of her own, but has had two miscarriages and one stillbirth. One morning, the couple finds a small boat shipwrecked with the dead body of a man and a very alive baby girl. The couple decides to keep the baby and raise her as their own child.

This book contains a lot - the effects of war, what makes up a marriage, longing for children, lies, secrets, and jail time. The writing is simple but the themes are complex.

Make sure you have some free time when you start this book because you won't want to put it down.

Thanks for the recommendation, Rebecca! =D

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

15-year-old Thea Atwell is involved in a mysterious, scandalous act that causes her family to send her away to riding camp. She thinks that it's just for the summer, but they've actually sent her away for the school year.

This is a coming-of-age story that goes back and forth between present and past as the secret that sent Thea away is gradually (a bit TOO gradually) revealed. Thea experiences some change in her character toward the end, but not nearly enough to make this book worth reading. It was lackluster at times, dragged at others, and lacked something. Just a so-so read.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill

Cassandra and Abe are sailing on the San Francisco Bay with their daughter, Elizabeth, who's about to head off to Harvard. Life seems pretty good until Cassandra admits her infidelity. Abe jumps off the boat and swims to shore.

Fast forward to about ten years in the future when the family reunites for a funeral.

The book goes back and forth between the present and the past, basically dissecting Cassandra and Abe's marriage throughout the years. However, such flipping back and forth got kinda confusing, and sometimes I'd be a paragraph or two into a section still wondering if we were in the past or present.

Also, the book became dull at times. When I start flipping to the end of a book to see how many pages I have left, that's a sign that things are a bit dull. I liked the ideas behind this book, and the beginning seemed promising. There were some nice moments, but I think it could have been about 100 pages shorter.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lost in Suburbia: How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs by Tracy Beckerman

In my profession, August is the start of the year cycle, so there's extra trainings and meetings. I knew that the last several weeks would be especially busy which meant that I'd have less time to read. I wanted something light and easy to read in the spare moments I did have, and this book fit the bill.

Beckerman worked in television in New York City before having kids. When the kids started coming, and her family needed more space (and more than one toilet), she and her husband decided to move to New Jersey. She quit her job and became a stay-at-home-mom. After she's pulled over while wearing a bathrobe, she becomes determined to find her "cool" once again and reclaim herself.

The "finding her cool" part was a bit thin. The story was much heavier on the self-deprecation.

Well, I needed something light, funny, and distracting from the busyness of the last weeks, so this book worked well. However, not something I would highly recommend or anything.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World by Nancy Jo Sales

A group of teenagers, the "Bling Ring," robbed the houses of celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, and Paris Hilton. They admired the clothes and accessories of these stars, so they did their research with Google Maps, tracked when the stars were out of town on TMZ, and made plans to rob their houses. Surprisingly, it seemed quite easy as the teens usually entered through unlocked windows or doors, and the security systems were not enabled. They would take their time and basically shop around the house, and take what they wanted.

This is a true story, and the book is categorized as "True Crime." We get to know each of the teens, especially the ringleader. The book also goes into celebrity worship and why people strive to look like celebrities and want their lifestyles.

This book was recently made into a movie starring Hermione Granger aka Emma Watson. I'm curious about what the movie is like. Plus, I've only seem Emma Watson in the Harry Potter movies, so I'm interested to see her in a different role.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist

I appreciated Niequist's Bittersweet, and I also liked this collection of essays as well.

Sometimes Niequist writes a bit too much in detail about how wonderful her friends are and how delicious the food is that they eat, but maybe I'm just jealous.

Like Bittersweet, I read an essay a day and that was a good pace in order to digest it all.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox

Did Amanda Knox kill her British roommate when they were both living abroad in Perugia, Italy?

Well, I guess the jury is still out on that one since another trial is set to start (although Knox will not be attending).

Knox tells her side of the story including her arrival in Italy, finding her roommates, the night of her roommate's murder, and the years Knox spent in an Italian prison. The last trial acquitted her, so she immediately flew home to Seattle, but that verdict was overturned in March 2013 which is why another trial is going to begin.

Is she guilty? I don't know, but Knox did make say some foolish things and act stupidly in the days and weeks after the murder, so I can understand why she wasn't thought to be exactly innocent.

If you're curious at all about Knox, this book might be interesting to you. But if the name doesn't ring a bell, then forget it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah

Anna and her husband, Tobias, are excited about the arrival of their first child. However, when Freya is born, they find out that she will not develop normally. They move from England to France, to an old run down house (where there are mice in the kitchen) and try to start out a new life there with their daughter.

An uneven read with some weird and impractical plot twists. It ended up being a so-so book with a bunch of undeveloped characters. Not recommending it to you.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

We start off on the coast of Italy, the Hotel Adequate View, and an American actress who believes she is dying. Fast forward to Hollywood and Claire who has a bum boyfriend and unsatisfying job.

I really enjoy books with unrelated characters who somehow end up connected, and this is one of those. Fun!

And, a lot of the book takes place on the coast of Italy near Cinque Terre. So that's an added bonus. =D

A great choice for a holiday read. Not a super excellent book, but definitely an above average read, and I liked it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Winger by Andrew Smith

Welcome to the world of adolescent males! Based on this book, it's a messy, crude, rough, and gross world. The narrator is Ryan Dean West, a 14-year-old junior at the boarding school, Pine Mountain. He's on the rugby team, has an awful roommate (who has a totally hot girlfriend), and is in love with his best friend, Annie.

Whoah. This book really threw me into the world of adolescent boys. It was crude at times. However, I kept reading. I also kept saying, "This book had better have a redemptive ending..." because I almost stopped reading several times. Luckily, the ending is redemptive.

Not sure if I'd recommend this book to you all. If you can handle reading about peeing into Gatorade bottles and lots of references to certain male body parts, then go ahead. But if you'd prefer not to, then don't pick this one up!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

What a little gem of a book! It's small and easily readable in an afternoon.

The story takes place all in one day. Isabel is single, 20-something, and a lover of thrift stores. In one day, through her thoughts and conversations, we learn all about her, her family, her dreams, and her losses.

Sad and quaint. This book would go well with some tea and some Digestive crackers on a rainy afternoon. (What? You haven't tried Digestives? Digestives also make for an awesome pie crust instead of graham crackers.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

Ava Lark, a divorcee (and therefore, outcast in the neighborhood - this is the 1950s), rents a house in the suburbs. Her son, Lewis is best friends with the neighbor siblings, Rose and Jimmy. One day Jimmy goes missing, and Ava is treated suspiciously. Years later, Lewis and Rose reconnect and figure out what really happened.

The word to describe this book is "solid." Solid story, solid characters, and solid writing. A great pick for these last days of summer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger

What is enough? This question is the focus of this book. Shinabarger challenges us to define what is enough and what is excess.

For example, in the case of food, he writes about how he and his wife decided to not buy groceries for an entire month, and to eat what they already had in their fridge, freezer, and cupboards. They were able to go seven weeks without going grocery shopping. Of course, they ran out of fresh fruit and vegetables pretty early on, but they had enough food for 147 meals already stored in their house.

I appreciate that Shinabarger starts off with asking about what defines us and how we can go about understanding that we are enough, and that we don't need to have the best clothes or gadgets or shoes in order to try and prove that we are somehow enough. He then tackles clothing, transportation, time, etc. When we decide what is enough, this can allow us to be much more generous.

Recommended if you want to be challenged and want to read about a different way of looking at things and life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I loved French Milk by Knisley, so I was happy to hear that she had another book out, this one about food. It's a graphic novel/memoir (just like French Milk) meaning that it's kinda like a comic book. I loved her detailed and colorful drawings.

Knisley tells her story of growing up as the daughter of a chef and caterer, and how she discovered the joy of eating and cooking. She also includes the most delightful illustrated recipes. I'm looking forward to trying out her chocolate chip cookies.

Delightful is the best word that I can use to describe this book. I'm thinking of buying it as a graduation present for a cousin who is headed off to art school this fall to study animation.

Here's a funny story about this book: Before bed one night, I was kneeling on the floor with my elbows on the bed, my hands holding this book, and my eyes taking in all of the wonderful drawings. Boomer walked in and said, "I thought you were praying, but you're really reading a comic book." Ha!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

"The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness." --Shauna Niequist

Written as a series of separate but inter-connected essays, this is  a lovely, beautiful book. Niequist writes of life's joys and heartbreaks, and the importance of community and good food.

Hopeful and inspiring, this book is best read slowly. An essay a day is a good amount.

I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Guest Review: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Welcome to guest reviewer, Boomer!

Food, not having enough food, and how half of the world lives on less than $2/day have been hot topics in our household over the last several weeks. Boomer has been reading books about what we can do to make a difference, and I asked him to write a guest post about the last book that he read.

From Boomer:
This book is about a tireless American medical prodigy named Dr. Paul Farmer and his work to bring medical care to the poorest people in the world.  Delving both into his extensive medical care giving in the central plateau of Haiti, the book also delves into his global impact through the World Health Organizations in places like Peru and Russia.  Most significantly though, the book repeatedly delves into Farmer's worldview that medical care is a human right, and citizens of first world countries have a moral obligation to provide it to those that need it most.  There's basically two key points to the book:
1.) We (as first world citizens) owe it to the people living in destitution and extreme poverty to help them.  You probably don't know exactly how, but the comfort you enjoy is in some way derived from having screwed them.

2.) Don't give up or make excuses about how it's a big problem or how you have scant resources/talents.  Look at what one person (Dr. Farmer) can accomplish.  While you don't have to do what he did (which is really quite remarkable), the work needs to be done one way or another.
The book is inspiring and thought provoking about injustice and how looking at the bigger picture is sometimes less productive than just getting up and taking action (no matter how small).

I've taken an interest in the related subject of world hunger recently, and while I do want to contribute to the solution, I was glad to find an absence of guilt trips or over-the-top calls to join the Peace Corps.  I appreciated an anecdote about when Farmer's primary financial backer expressed a desire to leave his high income job and go work with Farmer in Haiti.  Farmer's response was, "For you, that would be a sin."  It was nice to hear that while we are all called to take action, each action has to come out of who we are and there's room for that to look different.