Friday, June 28, 2013

The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Koofi

I am joining a neighborhood book club. However, in the last email, the leader wrote that the reading was optional. =D From what I've heard, it's more of a social club. It'll be nice to know more people in my neighborhood.

This is the book assigned to the first meeting that I will attend. It was very s....l.....o.....w going, and I even thought about not finishing it and just going to the meeting anyway. That went against all of who I am. I read every single assigned page in graduate school. Every single page. I am a reader, and I am an excellent student. So I plugged away, and I did finish the book. It picked up, but it took quite awhile for it to do so.

Fawzia Koofi was born and raised in Afghanistan, and she's considered one of the future Afghan presidential hopefuls. Her story gave me an inside look into life under Taliban rule and what everyday life looks like there. It's eye-opening to say the least. Some parts made me cringe. This is an uncomfortable book to read, but informative.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

I recently watched Silver Linings Playbook, and I was very interested in learning more about bipolar disorder from which the main character suffers.

This is the first memoir I've read about someone with bipolar disorder, and it gave me a better understanding of what a manic episode looks and feels like and what the following (or preceding) depression is like as well.

Well-written with a nice balance of memoir, medicine, and life happenings.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies) by Jill Smokler

I read Confessions of a Scary Mommy by the same author and it was very funny.

She's back again confronting "lies" that we all hear about motherhood such as:
Lie #5 Having Kids Keeps You Young
Lie #9 You'll Get More Sleep When They Are Older
Lie #12 Going from Two to Three Kids is a Breeze
Lie #17 A House Without Children Is An Empty One

A very funny book that I read quite quickly. It seems like some of what she writes is pretty extreme, but then she includes comments that anonymous readers have left on her website confessing to their own "scary mommy" thoughts, and it makes me wonder how true it all is.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

I have books that I like to buy friends for wedding showers, and now that those friends are having kids, I have a set list of books that I buy for baby showers.

One book that I like to buy for couples about to marry is Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It's a wonderfully informative book about reproduction and includes everything you need to know in order to get pregnant or NOT get pregnant. It's amusing when I give this book as a wedding shower present because usually the gifts consist of Tupperware, baking pans, lingerie....and then this book gets unwrapped and there is nervous giggling all around by grown women. Hhehehe....fertility??? Hehhehehe. We can giggle about lingerie, but fertility??? Now that's just uncomfortable.

Anyway, one woman said to me, "It's funny that you've read a book about fertility, especially since you're not sure if you want children." Heavens to Betsy! Isn't that the BEST time to know about fertility??? Knowing how to NOT get pregnant can be just as important as knowing how to get pregnant depending on what you want.

Couples who I've given or recommended this book to have actually thanked me later on. One friend pulled me aside to tell me that she was expecting. She added, "And thanks for that book really helped." I said, "'re welcome!" Glad I could be of reproductive help!

Okay, so now I am invited to baby showers. And I'm gonna start giving this book along with the bundle of kid board books that I usually give.

It's about the brain. It's about how a child's brain develops, and how to help your child where their brain is at. It clearly and simply explains how different parts of the brain work and how to help a child use both sides (their emotional and logical brains) in order to make more sense of their world and relationships. It also includes a section at the end of each chapter that you can read to your child to help them understand more about what's going on in their brains. (It's drawn like a comic.)

Highly, highly recommended if you have kids, are thinking about having kids, work with kids, or just want an easy-to-read book to understand more about the brain.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison

The author suddenly found herself with an empty nest after her youngest son moved out to finish high school in another state. She finds herself at a crossroads, wondering about who she is in this stage of her life. She reflects on the passage of time and the sudden loss of the everyday tasks that make up motherhood. She also begins to reconnect with herself, who she is, and what she wants.

I read this book very slowly because I didn't want it to end. It's thoughtful and carries a message that we don't hear very often at all about just being ourselves, being true to ourselves, and not chasing after what everyone else is chasing after just because.

Recommended if you want to be in a thoughtful place about where you are in life and what you want.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

The title refers to the name of the hotel that Natalie Marx's family inquires about only to receive a response that Gentiles feel most comfortable at their resort. Natalie's family is Jewish and it's the 1960s. The response from the hotel is not the end of the story though as it Natalie finds herself intertwined with the hotel and its owners throughout her life.

A fun, smart, fiction read. This is perfect for your next Saturday afternoon at the pool. (PG-13 for language!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Janie is a Korean-American woman whose younger sister, Hannah, disappears and Janie is told to go and find her. There's a lot of unraveling of family secrets, etc. in this book, but some things are revealed and then never followed-up on.

This was just a so-so read. It was dull at times.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman

I am doing research on Forgiveness. I did a search in my local library catalog, and this kid's book came up.

Mrs. Merz asks her class of sixth graders to write apology letters. These letters make up the first half of the book. Kyle writes an apology to Reuben for hitting him too hard during a dodge ball game. Jose writes an apology letter to his dad for breaking the garage window. Tenzin writes an apology poem to his deceased dog, Einstein, for having to euthanize him. This one, by far, is the saddest poem in the book.
Tenzin writes:
"...Is death ever right?
I don't know, but I hated having to choose it.
And I hate the quiet in our house
without you."

The second half of the book includes responses from the recipients of the apology letters. Some people stand in for those who can't write a letter back.
For example, the custodian, Mr. Johnson, writes back to Tenzin:
"...You were loving him, and he was loving you back.
That's how he went.
And that's how a dog should go."

This is a fiction book. It is touching and sweet.

I think I have some Apology letters to write. If only I could get some responses back.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu

I usually don't read books about China's Cultural Revolution. Besides being totally horrifying and excruciating to read about the torture and violence that people endured, some mom always eats the kid's pet.

And yes, in this book, it is horrifying at times to read about what went on in China. And yes again, the mom demands that the author kill her pet chicken because guests are coming for dinner.

So anyway, I picked up this book because it's the July book selection for a book club that I'm thinking of checking out. It's written by Ping Fu who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and then immigrated to the United States when she was 25. Two totally different worlds with very different struggles.

The book alternates between Ping's life in China and her life in the United States. The way that it's written makes it a pretty fast read. It gets a bit slow at the end when she writes a lot about her company's growth, but overall, it's a pretty amazing true story. Except for the eating of her pet chicken.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year by Kjerstin Gruys

There's a lot of books out there now written by people who have tried something out for a year. I thought about what I could try out for a year and then write a book about. What hasn't already been done? I came up with going to therapy for a year. Not just your once-a-week, 50-minute session, but the intensive 50-minute, five days a week psychoanalysis. That would be interesting, and tiring. Is anyone out there willing to fund this for me? Is there any psychoanalyst needing a patient for a year? I do have a lot of dreams that we could talk about! Leave a comment, and I'll get back to you.

Back to this book .This is yet another memoir about doing/not doing something for a year. In this case, Gruys didn't look at herself in a mirror or other reflective surfaces including the day of her wedding. She covered up the mirrors in her house, practiced avoiding her reflection, and came up with outfits and a beauty routine that she could do mirror less.

What made this book a bit different from other year long experiments/memoirs is that Gruys is also a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UCLA so she has the academic research and education to intelligently and clearly discuss culture, media, and its influence on women and their body image. She combines her own experience with research to make for a pretty thoughtful and entertaining book.

While reading this book, I realized how often I look in the mirror at myself. Those little glances in the bathroom at work or just walking into my room to grab something really do add up! I started asking myself if I really had to look at myself before I washed my face, during the face washing, afterwards, AND after I dried my face. Hum!

I thought the book dragged a bit at the end, but overall, it was an eye-opening read. Gruys comes across as a smart, aware, and friendly woman, someone who would be neat to talk to over a cup of coffee.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

On the surface, this seems like a fun, easy-going novel. Seven pairs are on a reality show (kind of like Amazing Race) traveling the world and searching for clues in an attempt to win $1 million. They pick up clues and objects along the way that they must carry with them (including a live parrot).

But there's deeper stuff going on in each of these relationships as well. As the race goes on, we learn about the deep secrets that these pairs carry with them.

I liked this book. It was fun, but it also very human as well. A good vacation read.