Monday, December 29, 2014

My Favorite Books (and Recipe) of 2014

In 2014, I did not read a ton of books that I loved. I know this because as I looked over all of my book reviews from 2014, it was easy and quick to figure out my favorite books of the year. In years past, I had 10+ titles and had to whittle it down. Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles! Hopefully, 2015 will hold more books that I will love along with lots of cookies!

Thank you for reading my blog this year! I hope you found some good books to read and I hope that I steered you away from some that were not worth your time. Happy new year!

Favorite Fiction:

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
I LOVED this book, and fell in love with June. It's one of the few books this year that I actually bought to add to my home library.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty 
This book had the best Epilogue that I've ever read. Really! Again, please do not be fooled by the fluffy cover. It's a good read.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The most challenging thing about this book is that I was supposed to be studying but wanted to read it instead.




Favorite Memoir:

Motherhoodwinked: An Infertility Memoir by Anne-Marie Scully 
Why did I read this book twice this year? It was the most honest book about infertility that I've come across. 

Best Recipe I Came Across While Reading This Year:

The vinaigrette from How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas.

Here it is: (add in order listed!)
1 part vinegar
1 part water
2 parts olive oil

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Three More Quick Reviews

I'm trying to squeeze in reviews for all of the books I've read by the end of this year. So here are three more quick reviews about the last three fiction books I've read.

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
A well-written downer of a book and also a primer on Huntington's Disease. There are two stories in this book, one about a wife and mother with Huntington's Disease who is ready to call it quits, and another story about a soon-to-be-father whose heart belongs to his temporary foster son. There are lots of issues explored about in this book, but because it is such a downer, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
I really, really liked this book! It's about six friends who meet at a high school performing arts camp in the 70s, and it follows them through mid-life. I LOVE books that follow the lifespan. I was absorbed in this book.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Told from the point of view of Mia, a talented 16-year-old cellist, who is in a car accident in which all of her family members are killed. Mia is watching herself in the hospital as she recounts her life and decides whether or not to stay or to go with the rest of her family. The book was dull in some parts and dragged in others, but I liked it enough to put myself on the waiting list for the sequel.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings by Sheridan Voysey

I've read some memoirs about the struggle with infertility, but never one written from the husband's perspective so this is a welcome book.

After ten years of wanting a child, going through several rounds of IVF, and starting and stopping the adoption process, Sheridan and his wife decide that it is time to give up their dream of having a baby. They embark on a "resurrection year" in order to rest and heal emotionally and physically. They quit their jobs, relocate to Europe, and spend some time in Italy and Switzerland. Gradually they process what they've been through and how they feel about God.

At first, the bouncing to and fro from present to past makes for a disjointed narrative, but once Voysey fills in the gaps and just stays in the present, the story is more enjoyable. I liked reading their story because although it was sad, it goes into territory that other books on infertility avoid, and that is the territory of What now?

Resurrection Year is full of hope and mess and encouragement, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of couples who find themselves desperate, hopeless, and wondering what is next for them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Four Quick Reviews

The year is quickly coming to a close, so here is a catch-up post with some of the most recent books (two fiction and two non-fiction) I've read with two or three-sentence reviews.

Next week, I will post some more quick reviews on three other fiction books I've read recently.


When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Twenty years after his parents were kidnapped, a London detective returns to Shanghai to get to the bottom of their disappearance. I am NOT recommending this book to you because I found it unsatisfying and quite boring. Written by the same author as one of my favorite books, The Remains of the Day, I have to say that I prefer The Remains of the Day over this one.

The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexi

This is the story of a Native American teenage boy living on a reservation who decides to make a change in his life and attend the mostly white high school 22 miles away from the reservation. A total teenage boy book (beware of boner jokes!) but with lots of heart and tension between sticking with the status quo and wanting to make a future for yourself.




Motherhood Smotherhood: Fighting Back Against the Lactivists, Mompetitions, Germophobes, and So-Called Experts Who Are Driving Us Crazy by JJ Keith

JJ Keith offers her take on all of the talk and blogging out there about the "perfect" way to be pregnant, give birth, nurse a baby, and to parent. I am wondering who I could give this funny, witty, and down-to-earth book to as a gift, but I think that some of my mom friends might be offended.

At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott

I liked Scott's previous book, Lessons from Madame Chic, and here she brings her thoughts about creating and running a home that is a refuge from the world and about living a life at home that brings you joy. I like Scott because she is practical and inspiring without being pretentious. This book actually flowed better than her first.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

There is a song and dance number with Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) and Hugh Jackman from the Tony Awards when NPH hosted in 2011 that I watched almost daily for quite awhile. It was so funny. I watched it so often that Boomer got tired of watching it with me.

I think NPH is so funny and talented, so I was happy to read his autobiography in this creative Choose Your Own Adventure format. Heheeheh. He is funny in print, but also quite crude, so consider that a warning to my young readers out there. I was hoping NPH might show a little bit more thoughtfulness in how his fame and career has affected him, but alas, it's mostly an amusing memoir with some magic tricks included. I liked the book, but not as much as I thought that I might.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found by Rebecca Alexander

The author was born with Usher Syndrome Type III, a very rare genetic disorder that is causing her to gradually lose her sight and hearing. However, that has not stopped her from becoming a psychotherapist (with two Master's degrees) and a spin class instructor. She lives in New York City with her dog, and her spirit and determination to thrive is quite inspiring.

She is very open about the challenges of her life and the fear and anxiety she feels. Along with that, her great personality and humor really shine through. I really liked her and her thoughtfulness and reflections on her own life about what is under her control and what is not, her thankfulness for what she has (which includes a supportive group of friends and family), and her honesty about the parts of life that really suck as well.

Initially, I thought that this would be a tough book to read. I was wrong. I could not put it down.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Please let me know...

The end of 2014 is coming and later this month I will be posting a list of my favorite books of the year. I would like to know what your favorite books have been too! So please let me know the best books you've read in 2014 so that I can add them to my reading list!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Two very different books: Mother Hoodwinked: An Infertility Memoir by Anne-Marie Scully and Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

I read these two books within weeks of each other. Mother Hoodwinked (already reviewed on this blog, so this was a re-read) is written by a woman who desperately wants a child and has difficulties with fertility. She is heartbroken and shares her struggles and the emotional and physical roller coaster of receiving fertility treatments. I like the author's voice and honesty.

Cracking Up is written by a woman with two children. She is ready to focus on her writing when she finds out that she is pregnant with twins. She complains quite a bit about how physically uncomfortable she is during her pregnancy and about the sleep deprivation after the boys are born. The most meaty part of the book is the last quarter as she describes her post-partum depression and her decision to seek out medical treatment to stabilize her body. The author of Cracking Up was more difficult for me to like, but I liked her more toward the end of the book.

Two different problems (infertility vs. unwanted children) both leading to depression and despair and struggle. There are all kinds of struggles in life.

As I read Cracking Up after Mother Hoodwinked, I imagined more than once what would happen if these two authors sat down for a cup of coffee and shared their experiences. I wonder how they would relate and if they could be friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This was one creepy book! I could not read it while I was home alone in the evening. Then I realized that Boomer is really no match against a vampire anyway.

I found myself curious about vampires about a year ago, so I thought I would go to some primary source material to understand more about them. They are scary.

One of Boomer's friends unexpectedly came over one evening so I was sitting at the kitchen table with him while we waited for Boomer to come home. I told him that I was reading Dracula so we started talking about vampires. He said, "Remember, vampires can't come into your home unless you invite them in." And then I started wondering if Boomer's friend was actually a vampire and I had just invited him into my house, and then I started really hoping that Boomer would come home soon...and then remembered that Boomer could not protect me against a vampire anyway.

So if you want more information about vampires, I recommend Dracula. But be prepared to be creeped out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Books, books, books.

Here are the latest books I've read with a short review.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
Written by the same author as The Art of Racing in the Rain (which I really liked), A Sudden Light is a dark coming-of-age story complete with ghosts and family secrets. A neat setting (outside of Seattle) and some interesting characters. I did like The Art of Racing in the Rain better though.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
My therapist recommended this book to me which was weird. Now I have an idea of what my therapist reads. Double weird. This book is about a man looking for the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The narrator is an English learner who seems like he uses a thesaurus to find the right words to use. The words are close, but not exactly the right words. Original in some ways, but to be honest, sometimes I just didn't get what was going on. But I pay my therapist too much to ask him what the heck this book was about. Hahaha.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
It's 1922, after the war, and 26-year-old Frances and her mother are forced to take in some boarders when their finances are tight. I was deeply engrossed in this book. The only slight disappointment was the end. I thought that someone else needed to die (!).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies is about three mothers with kids at the same school. One mom seems perfect, another is trying to deal with her teenage daughter and ex-husband, and the last is a single mom looking to start anew. At the beginning of the story, we find out that there's been a death, but it takes the unfolding of the stories to figure out who it is that died and how. Throughout, there is the theme of the little and big lies that we tell ourselves and others about who we are and how we're doing.

I LOVED The Husband's Secret by Moriarty and was afraid that she would get stuck in the same formula. But no, this book was different from The Husband's Secret. Different, but not quite as good. Still, I read it in a couple of days and really liked it. It's definitely a runner-up to The Husband's Secret.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Have you ever read O magazine?? At the back is a montly column written by Oprah titled "What I Know For Sure." In her column, she writes about life lessons about all sorts of topics. This is a collection of all of those columns.

This is a book to read slowly. It's full of life wisdom and encouragement to enjoy life and to become who you are meant to be.

If you are needing some positive energy in your life right now as the darkness of autumn falls upon us, I encourage you to check it out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I hesitated before starting The Secret History because it is by the same author as The Goldfinch. I read The Goldfinch under the heaviness and craziness of jet lag and so I wasn't sure if it was the book or the jet lag, but I felt pretty punchy.

I read The Secret History anyway, and it is some heavy duty reading. It's the tale of a group of college students at a small liberal arts college who are in on a secret. Keeping this secret tears them all apart physically and emotionally in different ways. Psychologically insightful and deftly written, I would recommend this if you're looking for a solid book to read, but I actually did like The Goldfinch better. Make no bones about it...this is not lighthearted beach reading fare.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy by Lacy Crawford

College admissions have become so competitive. I actually don't think I could get into the university I attended for undergraduate again with the grades/essay/activities I had. Good thing I finished up all that undergrad business in the 90s!!! :)

Anyway, Early Decision is a fictional tale about Anne, a 27-year-old who works with high school seniors on perfecting their personal essays for college applications. She works with five students as they write and re-write their essays. The essays give a view of what it's like to grow up privileged and under the rigid and high expectations of parents.

A so-so book. It could have used some editing as it rambled at times and dragged.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

What a sad, somber, heartbreaking story. The author's son was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease which means that he stopped developing at six months old and gradually regressed until he passed away before he turned age three. She starts the book with the day of his diagnosis.

This is a different kind of memoir (and it's actually more of a long reflective meditation rather than memoir) than I've ever read because she seeks to find comfort and meaning in literature and weaves all sorts of literary references throughout the book. I actually wish that she wrote more about her son's decline and what it was like in terms of the practical ways she had to care for him. Her vagueness about the end of his life left me unsure about what it was like for her and her husband.

If you're looking for an uplifting and happy book, you are not going to find it here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

I re-read My Name is Asher Lev every couple of years, but I've never written about it on this blog. I just finished reading it again for an online book club that I sometimes join in on, and it was as wonderful as it was the first time I read it (which isn't always the case with re-reads!).

Asher Lev is a boy growing up in a Ladover Hasidic Jewish family, but he is also an artist. Not just any artist though, an artist who has the potential to be a great and famous artist. How does he reconcile his art and his religion? It's a constant source of tension inside of himself, with his father, and between his father and mother.

Rich and wonderfully written. I will probably read My Name is Asher Lev quite a few more times in my life.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Heya, thanks for reading my blog! Some of you asked about the vinaigrette recipe I mentioned in my post about How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are.

Here it is: (add in order listed!)
1 part vinegar
1 part water
2 parts olive oil

Thanks to the authors, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas, for sharing this recipe and the tip about the order to add the ingredients. It's my go-to vinaigrette now!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Never Eat Alone And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazi

This book stressed me out.

On one hand, I understand what Ferrazzi is saying which is basically that being successful requires us to not just know a lot of people, but to have quality relationships with them. Ferrazzi writes about practical ways to keep in contact with people, to know who they are, and to find ways to help them succeed. One section about how being vulnerable first allows others to also open up was especially helpful.

There was a lot of food for thought but, like I wrote at the start, it kinda stressed me out.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas

I've only been to Paris once (this needs to change!), but I had one of the most delicious meals of my life there (thanks, Jerome!) and also had a really difficult time finding the Eiffel Tower (Boomer kept looking at the map saying, "It's got to be around here somewhere!")

Anyway, after reading this weird and shallow book about how to be a Parisian, I'm really not that interested in being more like a Parisian! There's a bunch of short essays and lists about food, men, decorating, etc.

There was one redeeming thing about this book. There is a recipe for vinaigrette that says you MUST put the ingredients in the order listed (salt, vinegar, water, oil, pepper). I tried it last night, and yes, it was an excellent vinaigrette, the best one I have ever made at home. Hum, at least when it comes to vinaigrette, these Parisians know what they are talking about.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Jessica and Rachel are two recent college graduates who promise to write each other weekly emails about their work and love lives. Jessica moves to Beijing and Rachel moves to New York City. Over the course of three years, Jessica moves to Melbourne and Rachel also moves to Paris. They have jobs, find other jobs, apply to graduate schools, meet guys, dump guys, and get dumped. Oh, and there are pregnancy and STD scares all in there as well.

The book is comprised of emails going back and forth. I thought that it was going to be cliche and self-absorbed, but I was wrong. Their personalities come out clearly and they are funny as they try and find their way in post-college life. They encourage and support each other.

Funny, light, and entertaining. I read it in a day!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life by Sarah Boston

It is not unusual for friends and family to warn me about certain books or movies. Someone will say, "Elaine, PLEASE don't read/watch _____________." They know that I don't like offensive movies (especially about ethnicity), movies with squalor, or books/movies when an animal is killed or dies. By the way, I don't think I'll ever read Where the Red Fern Grows again.

I wish someone had warned me about this book. I cried three times!!

Dr. Boston is a vet. More specifically, she a surgeon who operates on cancer in dogs. This is the story of how she found a lump in her neck which turned out to be thyroid cancer. She goes back and forth between stories about her patients and her own process in getting treated through Canada's free health care system (her patients get treated much faster!).

Dr. Boston is a very likable lady and I really enjoyed her writing and her humor. She also has some thoughtful insights about life throughout the book as well. Even though it was painful and sad at times to read, I did like it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson

An "unremarried widow" is the designation given to widows whose husbands have died while serving in the military.

Henderson never thought she would be an Army wife, but then she met Miles. They start dating, marry, and move around from base to base until Miles is sent to Iraq. And then he is killed in a helicopter crash. They had been married for four months.

I haven't read much about military life or about the experiences of spouses and military life. I thought that Henderson's writing was easy to read. However, I didn't get much of a sense about who Miles was or what their marriage was like...maybe because they were not married for long. I did get a better sense of what happens in the aftermath of a soldier's death and the support (or not support) that is in place to care for their family.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant by Scott Haas

Haas is a food writer AND a clinical psychologist. He spends about two years in the kitchen of Craigie on Main, a restaurant in Boston, following around Chef Tony Maw. He finds answers to questions like: What does it take to be a chef? What does it take to lead a kitchen? Who are the people behind the scenes in the kitchen? And what makes a kitchen work well?

Back of the House really gave me a good look at what goes on back there while we wait for our food to arrive. I found Back of the House to be slow in some parts, and it took me quite awhile to finish the book.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

Wizenberg writes the blog, Orangette, and I have given her first memoir, A Homemade Life, to many friends as gifts. In fact, I gave a copy to everyone who helped in any way at my wedding! It was a sweet memoir full of accessible recipes (the Lemon Yogurt Cake is one of my standbys). All that to say, I was very excited that Wizenberg wrote another book! And then....I read it. It was disappointing.

The subtitle is misleading. Delancey, the name of the pizzeria that Wizenberg and her husband open up in Seattle, is not about A Man or A Woman or about A Marriage. It's really just about A Restaurant. So if you want a primer about what it takes to start a restaurant from scratch, Delancey is your book because that is what this is. I missed the Wizenberg from A Homemade Life in which she shared her personality, heart, and warmth. All of that was missing from Delancey.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is my book club's choice for November. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of science fiction, but I really enjoyed The Martian!

A crew of six astronauts hastily evacuates Mars when a dust storm arrives. During the evacuation, Mark appears to be killed, so the rest of the crew leaves without him. But he's still alive and now he's stranded on Mars! He is not going to give up though and begins to figure out a way to re-establish communication with NASA and a way to keep himself alive.

Right from the beginning, Mark is a very amiable character with a fun sense of humor. The book starts off with his log entry from Sol 6: "I'm pretty much f*****."

There is technical stuff in here but the drama really drew me in. Make sure you have some room in your schedule to settle down with this book, because you will not want to put it down.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Zusak also wrote The Book Thief which I liked very much. I am still undecided about whether I liked The Book Thief or I Am the Messenger better. It's okay. That means that they were both good!

Ed Kennedy is a young guy who works as a cabdriver and lives with his smelly dog, Doorman. He's in love with his best friend, and his mom seems to hate him.

One day he unintentionally stops a bank robbery...and then he starts receiving mysterious clues about people that need his help. Who is sending him on these caring missions?

A thoughtful and fun book. (Warning: it's also a bit crude in some parts.) It has a much bigger message than what I expected.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

I recently visited some friends and their brand-new baby boy (three weeks old!) and while I was holding the baby, I asked the dad how he (the father) was doing. He said, "I honestly don't know how I feel." I appreciated his honesty and told him so! I also told my friends, "Your son has the cutest face I've ever seen!" And dad replied, "That's why I don't think he's ours." Hehehehe.

Anyway, onto the book. Parenting books usually address how parenting styles can affect the emotions, behaviors, and values of little ones. All Joy and No Fun looks at a different question: What is the effect of having kids on parents? Senior walks us through how marriages are affected, and then through each developmental stage and its effects on mothers and fathers. She uses research, case studies, and interviews to illustrate her points.

I found this book to be engaging and a good look into how parenting affects marriage relationships, professional life, personal identity, and social life. I did get a bit bogged down about 1/3 through but I did end up finishing it. Not really sure who I would recommend this to...people expecting a child?? Hum...people who already have children?? Not sure...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

Widower A.J. Fikry lives on Alice Island where he runs a bookstore. He's a grump. One day, a baby is mysteriously left in his bookstore, and this marks a new beginning for A.J.

I liked the literary references in the story and the mini-book reviews by A.J. interspersed throughout the book. However, the story was better at the beginning and fizzled on its way out and this was disappointing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cadence, a member of a wealthy yet broken old-money East Coast family, spends each summer on her grandfather's private island. Life isn't perfect no matter how hard the family tries to make it seem.

That's about all I can write without giving too much of the plot away.

I raced through this book in a day, but was actually left feeling unsatisfied. Everything seemed a bit thin.

A so-so fast read. I think you can do better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Three Short Reviews

This summer, my work schedule has been lighter while Boomer's has increased. This has meant that I've been reading a ton this summer. Here are the three books that I read last week followed by three-sentence reviews.

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
Back in high school, I thought it would be neat to work as a line cook. Now I know that I could never stand the heat (and fast pace and stress) of a restaurant kitchen. This book walked me through 24 hours in the life of a sous chef, and definitely confirmed that I would never ever make it in a restaurant (in the back or front).


Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
This is the third time I've read Leaving Church, and it still spoke to me. Barbara was a professional pastor until she burned out and left church. She writes, "I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was...and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness."


Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self by Alex Tizon
I heard an interview with Tizon on NPR and was intrigued because I had never heard an Asian man talk in a public forum about what it's like to be an Asian man in America. The book jacket describes the book as "a searing, brave look at the experience and psyche of the Asian American male." I skimmed over some of the long history parts, and also skimmed over some of Tizon's TMI experiences, but I appreciated Tizon's growth in his own understanding of what Asian-American men have to offer and what obstacles still remain.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

A new pancake house is coming to town, but not everyone is happy about it. Especially the kids who know that the land where the future pancake house will sit is the home to little burrowing owls.

Hoot is a fast-paced mystery with original characters, plenty of humor, and pro-environmental lessons.

Although Hoot is classified under Young Adult, I think anyone would enjoy this very readable tale.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Double post

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
I read the play and then watched the movie. One word for you: depressing!! But if you're feeling down because you think your family is dysfunctional, check out this play or movie. You might feel better about your own family afterwards.

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings
A so-so book about grief and family from the author of The Descendants. After I read it, I realized that this is a sequel to The Descendants which I did not read. Hum, maybe I would have liked it better if I had read the first book first?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Ordinary Mabel finds her college freshman roommate, Genevra, to be beautiful, mysterious, and super wealthy. And to think that Genevra wants to be friends with Mabel and invite her to spend the summer with her family!

This summertime book has everything - romance, dinner parties, skinny dipping, and family secrets.
The only things that take away from the book are a weak ending and some unsatisfying answers. But if you're looking for a book to read by the pool or on the plane (this would be an excellent choice for a flight to Asia or Europe!), consider this one. Not the best book, but it is engrossing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

Dee was diagnosed with a heart condition at age 41, and she decided to make some major lifestyle changes. Her big house kept her working hard in order to pay the mortgage and she spent her weekends working on the house. What if she didn't have this big house to take care of and pay for? So she downgraded to this little itty-bitty house (84 square feet!).

I liked Dee's counter-cultural ideas. There was something meandering about the book though and it could have used some tighter editing.

I did start thinking about how I could downsize my life and house. I'm happy to say that in the next week or so, we're giving away one of the three beds in our house. Why do we need three beds? It's a start!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

I had heard and read about Behind the Beautiful Forevers for awhile, but I really don't like squalor (living in it, seeing it, or reading about it) and I thought this book would contain squalor (it does) so I did not read this book for a long time. I finally did check it out when an online book club I follow chose it as their July book.

Katherine Boo follows life in Annawadi, a slum near the Mumbai airport. There, amidst the rapid development of the city, are people who are struggling to improve their prospects through various means like collecting/selling garbage or getting involved in political corruption. We get to know some of these individuals, their hopes, and setbacks.

A detailed, painful, sometimes stomach-churning look into a life that most, if not all of us, will never see unless we choose to. Also, it's a reminder that all of us are striving for similar things - safety, security, and opportunities for our families with hopefully some happy times thrown in. Read, if you dare! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works- A True Story by Dan Harris

In our house, we get our news from the print newspaper, NPR, and World News with Diane Sawyer. David Muir is taking over anchoring World News starting in September, and this was big news in our house! David Muir seems like a brother to me. Lately, he's been anchoring the news more, so he's in our living room almost every night, and I trust him. When I told Boomer that I think of David like a brother, he said, "You don't know what it's like to have a brother." No, I don't. But I imagine it's like being friends with David Muir!

Anyway, we watch ABC and Dan Harris is one of the reporters. (Sorry, Dan, to start this post out talking about David Muir.) I like Dan and his quirkiness. He comes across as a relatable guy.

His recent book is about his search for help after suffering from an on-air panic attack. He tried drugs (didn't work that well) and ended up finding meditation. In his book, he writes about his search for peace, his interviews with meditation teachers, and his own experience in making friends with the noise and criticism in his mind. He backs it all up with scientific evidence about how meditation actually produces changes in the brain.

I really liked the behind-the-scenes look at the news reporting at ABC especially since all of the reporters are household my house.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

HRC: State Secrets and The Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Every once in awhile, I like to pick up a hefty political memoir or biography.

 This one follows Hillary Clinton from her 2008 defeat in the Democratic primary and through her time as Secretary of State. (Did you know that she visited 112 countries during her time as Secretary of State??)

An ever-present question is: Will Hillary run for president in 2016? This books bats this question around. Maybe and maybe not.

A fascinating look at Hillary, her team, her husband, her relationship with Obama, and the factors that would help and hinder her possible presidential run.

A dense 400+ pages, and not for the mildly interested.