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.