Thursday, September 28, 2017

London - Edward Rutherfurd

Title: London
Author: Edward Rutherfurd
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 1154
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read some of Rutherford's other books.
Date Completed: 9/20/17

Summary: As is his style, Rutherfurd tracks several family lines through the generations in conjunction with the history of London. 

What I Thought: I have read several of Rutherfurd's books now. I find his style so unique. Few other authors are willing to tackle a project of such magnitude, but Rutherfurd returns to this formula again and again.

I've realized that I much prefer reading his books about cities or areas where I am already familiar with the history. Since he is focusing on the lives of fictional characters living in the midst of history, it helps to have a bigger picture idea of what is going on. He doesn't use tons of space to lay a foundation, although I thought he did a bit more of that than usual in this one. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take Tuesday: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 311
Previous Readings: May 2012
Date Completed This Time: 8/30/17

Summary: In a dystopian future, women are seen as little more than vessels for procreation. The protagonist, Offred, has been ripped from her family and forced into service as a Handmaid, a nicer name for Gilead's system of sexual slavery. 

What I Thought Before: When I read this book five years ago, I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I commented specifically on the way the leaders of Gilead twist Scripture to achieve their desired results. I marveled at Atwood's writing skill. I mentioned how much more valuable it felt to read the book as a woman in her twenties because I felt I could better understand what Offred had lost and the gravity of the situation. I rated it five stars.

What I Think Now: This book has really stuck with me. I've thought a lot about its story and messages over the intervening five years. I watched the Hulu adaptation this summer (I should probably do a separate post about that some time). I have been meaning to pick it up again, so I was glad when my book club selected it for one of our fall reads.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Year of Living Prayerfully - Jared Brock

A Year of Living Prayerfully
Title: A Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis, and Revived His Prayer Life
Author: Jared Brock
Publication Date: 2/19/15
Pages: 352
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I can't recall.
Date Completed: 9/10/17

Summary: Brock circles the globe exploring a variety of prayer traditions and searching for depth in his own prayer life.

What I Thought: While my faith is deeply important to me, I've always struggled to maintain a consistent prayer life. Or, more likely, I'm doing pretty decent compared to the average believer but growing up in a conservative faith tradition set me up for a continually need to do better. If that's the case, it's not a bad thing. Our prayer lives shouldn't be compared to those of others. It's a way to connect deeper with the Creator and that is a highly individual thing. 

It seems like Brock is coming from much the same position I am. A desire to do more, to find more, to feel more within the confines of prayer. I so admire his journey around the world to spend time in prayer and learn from some of the great prayer warriors of Christian history. He remarks in the beginning of the book that he hopes readers can learn from his journey as he realizes such an expedition would not be practical for most (side note: how did he pay for this?!).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hold Me Like a Breath - Tiffany Schmidt

Hold Me Like A Breath
Title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publication Date: 5/19/15
Pages: 390
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 8/20/17

Summary: Penelope suffers from a disease which causes her to bruise easily. Thus, her family shelters her from the outside world. They cannot, however, shelter her completely from their own illegal business of black market organ transplants.

What I Thought: This is a really unique idea. Schmidt takes the loose plot of The Princess and the Pea and shapes it into something totally new. Putting a fairy tale into a modern world of crime and intrigue makes for an interesting ride.

My verdict? It was interesting enough. I liked guessing what was going to happen. Some of the book was fairly predictable while other parts definitely caught me off guard. I think Schmidt's premise here is good and interesting. I didn't love her writing and probably won't read the next book in the series, but as a one-off read, I liked it well enough. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Yes, Chef - Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef
Title: Yes, Chef
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Publication Date: 6/26/12
Pages: 337
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've seen Samuelsson on Food Network shows and am always looking for another good food memoir.
Date Completed: 8/16/17

Summary: Sameulsson's is an unlikely story. Adopted out of Ethopia by a Sweedish family, he's found himself to be a celebrity chef in America.

What I Thought: Any longtime reader of the blog knows I love me some foodie memoirs. Though we don't have cable, I'm an avid watcher of the Food Network when I have a chance. And we watched a lot of Chopped when it was on Netflix. So, Marcus Samuelsson is a familiar face to us. I knew a little about him before picking up his memoir, but reading his full story was fascinating.

Samuelsson has had a fairly unique journey. He was born in rural Ethopia and adopted, along with his sister, by a Sweedish family after his mother died. Samuelsson grew up in Sweeden and made his way into the world of cooking through European kitchens. These experiences give him a really global palate and a different perspective on things than most American chefs have. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Daily Show - Chris Smith

The Daily Show
Title: The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests
Author: Chris Smith
Publication Date: 11/22/16
Pages: 461
Genre: Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a fan of the show.
Date Completed: 8/14/17

Summary: Told through the words of the people who were there, this book goes through nearly two decades of history of The Daily Show and how it changed our news consumption.

What I Thought: Let me start from a place of transparency: I really like The Daily Show. It's not as good now as when Stewart was at its helm, but I still am a loyal viewer. I like to watch the episode from the previous night in the mornings while I get ready for the day. I especially appreciate that the show brings in such a diverse range of guests and exposes to me to books, movies, and personalities that I may never know about otherwise. 

And, of course, it makes me laugh. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seriously Delish - Jessica Merchant

Seriously Delish
Title: Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food
Author: Jessica Merchant
Publication Date: 9/2/14
Pages: 304
Genre: Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've been reading Merchant's blog, How Sweet It Is, for years.
Date Completed: 8/14/17

Summary: Merchant pulls no punches with flavor or flair in her debut cookbook.

What I Thought: I have been reading Merchant's blog for so, so long. I've made many of her recipes and loved everything I've tried from her site. My favorite salad of all time is a recipe from her blog. So, when she debuted her first cookbook a few years back, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Of course, 2014 was the year we moved to a new region of the country and everything felt in flux there for a while (in a good way). I never forgot about the cookbook, but since it came out the week we moved, I never got around to picking it up. 

Flash forward to present day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie Monday: The Circle

The Circle
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Film Title: The Circle

Book Title: The Circle
Release Year: 2017

Summary: After getting a job at the world's most influential tech company, Mae finds herself at the center of a global debate over transparency. 

What I Thought: Kevin and I both enjoyed this book. It certainly was not a perfect book, but in my 2014 review, I lauded it as being rather prescient. 

The movie, you may have noticed, has not been getting a lot of attention. Despite a really incredible cast list (I mean...Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega?), it's been practically rushed in and out of theatres. Having looked forward to this movie for a while, the lack of hype made me nervous. I get it now. It doesn't hold anywhere close to the power of the book. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything
Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publication Date: 9/1/2015
Pages: 307
Genre: Romance / Young Adult / Fiction 
How I Found It: I read it for the informal book club I have with my best friends.
Date Completed: 8/11/17

Summary: Madeline has a rare disease which prevents her from leaving the house. Anything or anyone outside could compromise her immune system and compromise her. When a cute boy moves in next door, however, her desire to leave the house becomes unbearable. 

What I Thought: The first I ever heard about this book was when I saw the trailer for the movie. It did not jump out at me as anything different from the litany of young adult romance stories on the market right now. I didn't have any intention of reading or watching it. But, one of my best friends teaches middle school reading and she wanted to read it this summer before deciding whether to teach it or not. So, being the informal book club we are, all three of us read it. 

Let me say, first, that I liked the format of this. I have a weirdly soft spot for novels that use some untraditional methods to tell their stories. This one includes emails, medical charts, drawings, etc. There's not a lot of them, but they are scattered throughout the pages and add a different flair. I always love this in books. It's not always executed well, but when it is, I find it so fun. Maybe there's a youthful part of me that misses reading picture books or something.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In Sunlight and in Shadow - Mark Helprin

In Sunlight and in Shadow
Title: In Sunlight and in Shadow
Author: Mark Helprin
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 705
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 8/10/17

Summary: Harry and Catherine seem fated to be together. Helprin explores their origin stories, their love story, and the complications of both. 

What I Thought: I've had this book on my shelf for ages. I picked it up at a used book store after hearing good things about it for ages before that. I cannot remember for the life of me where I originally heard about it, but I knew my expectations were high going in.

When I finally did sit down to read this book, I didn't even get past the cover before spending a few confused minutes on Google. At first glance, I thought this was written by the journalist Mark Halperin (of The Circus). Totally different guy, though. Don't be confused like I was.

Ok, let's talk about the actual book. From what I see on Goodreads, this book is rather polarizing. If you make it to the end (and it's a long hike there), you will understand why. The ending is bound to spark some sort of emotion. Other reviewers have also talked a good deal about Helprin's writing style. Some love his "lyrical" prose. Others find his style pretentious and too wordy.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Salt - Mark Kurlansky

Title: Salt: A World History
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 484
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: The nonfiction branch of my book club read it.
Date Completed: 8/10/17

Summary: It's a complete history of salt. Yep. Seriously. But don't run away just yet! It was surprisingly interesting. 

What I Thought: Ok, ok. I know. I read a book about salt. Like, that salt. The salt that's in all of our kitchens and in most of our food. 

When Kevin saw me reading it, he said, "Did you finish all the interesting books? You're just reading boring ones now?" Ha. Ha. 

But I get his thinking. When the nonfiction branch of my book club announced this as the next pick, I was not particularly thrilled. A book about salt just doesn't sound interesting. 

And yet...

Friday, September 1, 2017

August 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

August News 

School is back in session. And that's about my whole life right now.

The first few weeks are always crazy. It's hard to remember the first half of August when I'm mired in the fog of the start of school. However, it's been a good start and August, really, was a good month for us.

We celebrated big things in August. I turned 30, which still feels silly to say. I think it'll take me a while to mentally adjust to being in my 30s. I keep forgetting. It was a wonderful birthday weekend. I told Kevin that I every part of my soul got fed. I got wonderful alone time to self-care and indulge. We had friends over for a small party and everyone brought amazing food and we had great conversation. I went to a yoga class, which I hadn't done in forever. And, as my gift, we did a culinary tour in downtown Durham. It was all so good and I felt so refreshed in every way. Adult birthdays have, on the whole, been pretty disappointing for me, so I'm so happy this one turned out well.

We also celebrated Kevin finishing his MBA (on the same night as my birthday!). I'm so proud of him and even gushed about it on Facebook, which I never do. Though he's traveling a ton this fall, we're excited to be entering a new chapter and have a chance to take a breath and refocus as a couple.