Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi was a 36-year-old neurosurgeon just about to finish up his years of training when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Suddenly, he found himself the patient, instead of the physician, considering treatment options.

Dr. Kalanithi died while working on this book, and his wife writes a moving, beautiful, and heartbreaking epilogue. It's one of the most moving epilogues I've ever read.

Several things made this book hit super close to home. I'm the same age that Dr. Kalanithi was when he died. He died not so long ago, just a year ago in March 2015. In addition, he worked at Stanford which is not so far from my hometown. So the proximity in time, space, and age really made me think about life, death, purpose, and how life can change so drastically in just one day. Why him and not me? Why NOT me?

A sad and beautiful book. If you're up for reading something that will make you think about your life, I highly recommend When Breath Becomes Air.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I heard about this book because the author was interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. (Check out the interview here: http://www.npr.org/books/authors/466274743/sara-pennypacker)

The interviewer asked Pennypacker something like, "Why do kids start crying within the first five minutes of reading this book?" That should have been my clue to NOT read this book because I detest books that have sad animal stories. (Please read my 2008 post about asking a librarian if the dog dies at the end of Because of Winn-Dixie.) But instead of listening to my instincts, I checked it out from the library.

I took it home and sometimes Boomer will pick up a book of mine and start reading it just to see what I'm reading. Without knowing anything about Pax (I hadn't even started reading it yet), he picked it up and read the first few pages. Then, with tears in his eyes, he handed it to me and said, "I cannot read this book. It's already making me cry." Ut oh, I thought.

So yes, this book is a real tearjerker. The first part is sad, and so is the ending. I finished the book at our kitchen table with tears streaming down my face. Sigh. This is why I don't read books about animals!

Anyway, it's the story of a boy and his pet fox. It's sad. This is one book that really could have used an Epilogue. There were some loose ends and characters that I needed more follow-up on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

After reading A Fine Balance, I needed to read something lighter and so I sought out a book that would be more of a vacation read. Who Do You Love fit the bill.

Rachel grows up with a heart condition and meets Andy in the hospital emergency one night. He's come in with a broken arm. They talk as kids talk and then go their separate ways. Over the next couple of decades they are in and out of each other's lives.

Easily readable, a bit predictable with plenty of cheesiness thrown in, this made for a great vacation read when Boomer and I spent some time on the coast. (By the way, we stayed at a fantastic little cottage through Airbnb so that was super fun! I am definitely a fan of Airbnb so far.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Yay, it's another graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier! I am finding that graphic novels are fun to read before I go to sleep. The reading is easy and the drawings are fun to look at. This helps me wind down.

Sisters is aptly titled as it is about two sisters who have a contentious relationship. Eventually, when a little brother comes along and their parents seem to be having some relationship troubles, they decide that they had better stick together.

Another delightful and easy read that explores the nature of sibling relationships and family dynamics.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama is by the same author of Smile which I wrote about last week.

This one is about Callie, a set designer for her middle school musical. There is a ton of drama both on and off the stage.

If you want to take a walk down middle school memory lane, this book might be for you! Beautiful drawings and fun characters.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Last week, I went in for my every-two-year orthodontist check-up. I've been going to the same orthodontist office for so long that now the orthodontist is actually my original orthodontist's son. He goes by the same last name, so that makes it easy.

This was the first time that the orthodontist's son saw me, and he asked, "How long have you had your retainer?" I said, "About twenty years???"

Anyway, if you ever had braces, you will be able to relate to this book. Well, the author's experience with braces and dental work is way more extreme than anyone I know.

Great drawings and great story about learning to be at peace with yourself and finding friends who like you just the way you are. 

PS: I picked this up from the local Little Free Library which I visit about once a week now!

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing by Alison Freer

I am really not a fan of shopping for clothes. It feels like work and not fun to me at all. So 2015 was big for me because it was the year I discovered Stitch Fix. If you haven't heard of it, it's a clothing service for women.

You fill out a "Style Profile" indicating your sizes and preferences, and a stylist picks out five articles of clothing for you (they also offer handbags, shoes, and jewelry, but I haven't requested any of those yet) which are then mailed to you. You can try everything on home, keep what you want, and send the rest back postage free within three days. It's $20 for the "styling fee" which is applied to whatever you purchase. When you check-out and pay for the items online, you can write notes about each piece of clothing and what you liked or didn't like about it.

I used to think that I didn't really have a style when it came to clothes. However, this past year, I've branched out some with the help of my stylist, but also focused more on what I do like (so the one time I shopped for clothes this year, I found it much easier to pick out tops that I liked and that looked good on me). Anyway, if you'd like to give Stitch Fix a try, here's my referral link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4571232

Reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up prompted me to give away about 70% of my wardrobe. Thanks to Stitch Fix, I added some pieces I really like, and now my wardrobe is very small but I like everything in it.

Anyway, all of that to get to this book which was recommended to me by my older sister. It's fascinating on a number of levels. One, Alison Freer is a costume designer in Hollywood so she gives us an insider's look into what it's really like to dress actors on a set (this had me thinking about how I LOVE all of the suits that the Julianna Margulies wears on The Good Wife!). She also gives plenty of tips about how to find your style, how to care for your clothes and shoes, and how to do your laundry.

Super practical and well-written. It cleared up questions that I had like how to care for my boots and how to wash clothes by hand.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

If you spent any time around me while I was reading A Fine Balance, I'm pretty sure you heard me talk about it. It consumed me for the couple of weeks I was reading it.

A Fine Balance was sitting unread on my bookshelf for years, and I took it down wondering if I should just give it away. But then, I opened it up and started reading it and I am so glad I did.

This is one of the best books I've read in the last five years or so, and I am really not exaggerating. 

It takes place in India in 1975 and a widow, a college student, and two tailors are thrown together in an apartment.

At 600+ pages, this is quite the saga. But have you ever read a book that was super long and it felt 200 pages too long? This book never felt long to me, it was just right. I was afraid the ending would disappoint, but it was just right as well.

I picked up this book ready to give it away, but now I'm considering keeping it in my personal library.