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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Audio Book - Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt

I guess I'm around the age now when some of the couples whose weddings I attended in my 20s are now separating or divorcing. It's sad to hear about, and even more sad when there are young children.

So, I've been thinking more about marriage and what makes it work, especially after the honeymoon period inevitably ends. And maybe not just work, because lots of unhappy couples stay together, but what makes it work so that both people and the relationship are thriving.

I read Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix about six or seven years ago. It was a challenging and sobering read about how we walk around relationally wounded, but how some of that wounding can be healed in relationship. The book also talked about how we are responsible for communicating what we want and need.

Well, this audio book is like Getting the Love You Want Abridged Light version. It goes over communication and how marriage requires work, awareness, and self-care. It's a pretty good introduction to the meat of Getting the Love You Want, but it's definitely not a substitute.

If you're looking for something about relationships, I would recommend you start with Getting the Love You Want instead of this one.