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 names...in my house.