Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened
Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publication Date: 9/12/17
Pages: 512
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Duh. 
Date Completed: 11/24/17

Summary: Clinton reflects on the 2016 campaign and what led to its surprisingly outcome.

What I Thought: I planned to post this review yesterday, but, ultimately, decided I needed another day to think about what I wanted to write. In our fraught political times, writing anything about Clinton feels like stepping into a minefield. She is a polarizing figure and I know nearly everyone has some sort of strong opinion about her and her place in our political zeitgeist. However you feel, though, you must admit she is an influential and historic figure. She has blazed a trail for women in our country and taken a beating along the way - some of which she brought on herself. 

I don't want to dive too deeply into my own thoughts on Clinton, but I do think we have lost our nuance in talking about her. She is imperfect, of course. She has made mistakes and they have played out on the national and international stage. She has made powerful friends and enemies. She also has had an incredible career and advanced a lot of important work. We have to stop seeing her as exclusively evil or exclusively good. She is complex, as are we all. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts
Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope this day finds you with people you love, eating good food, staying warm, and filling your heart with gratitude. In a only slightly contrived coincidence, today's book is all about practicing gratitude on a daily basis. 

Title: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Author: Ann Voskamp
Publication Date: 1/26/2011
Pages: 232
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've heard several people recommend it. 
Date Completed: 11/16/17

Summary: After facing some challenging circumstances in her life, Voskamp set out of on a mission to document one thousand gifts in her life. They range from simple to profound. Along the way, the challenge became a way of life. 

What I Thought: Voskamp's writing style was not what I was expecting at all. It is so beautiful and lyrical. She weaves stories in and out of her prose focusing more on the emotional experience of each moment than the plot details. As I was not expecting it, this approach took me a bit to adjust to, but I could not help loving it from the start. You must read expecting poetry, not straight-forward prose.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

10 Books I'm Thankful For

Every once in a while, I like to jump in and join The Broke and the Bookish family for Top Ten Tuesday (these are the same friends that do #TBTBSanta in December!). It's an opportunity for book bloggers around the Internet to talk about the same thing once a week. It's a fun way to connect and also to talk books with you Read.Write.Repeat. readers. Please jump in with your additions to my Top Ten list!

10 Books I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I know that's a controversial stance, but I'm holding to it. I love Christmas, but there just seems to be more stress around that holiday. Thanksgiving is much more relaxing. Although, I'm likely making the full meal this year again, so maybe relaxing isn't the right word. I enjoy the challenge, though, so don't take that as a complaint. 

I also just love the emphasis on gratitude. I believe strongly that increased gratitude in our lives leads to increased joy. While we should be practicing gratitude year round, it's nice to have a calendar catalyst, a time to purposefully contemplate the blessings and privileges we have. 

Among a litany of other blessings, I'm very thankful for books and the role they play in my life. There are so many people around the world who will never have access to the information and adventures that I do through literature. The ability to read and unlimited access to books are privileges so easy to take for granted. Also, I can't write this post and not acknowledge how incredibly thankful I am for family and teachers who encouraged me to read voraciously and made sure I had plenty of material to work with. 

I love this week's Top Ten Tuesday challenge because I've never really thought through what specific books I'm thankful for. This was a fun exercise! This certainly isn't an exhaustive list, but here are some books for which I'm especially thankful, in no particular order. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Origin - Dan Brown

Title: Origin
Author: Dan Brown
Publication Date: 10/3/17
Pages: 482
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read all of the Robert Langdon series.
Date Completed: 11/1/17

Summary: Robert Langdon once again finds himself entangled in a dangerous race against the clock. This time, he's out to avenge a friend and reveal research about the origin and destiny of humanity. 

What I Thought: Anyone familiar with Dan Brown's work knows he's waded into his share of controversial topics. Ever since The Da Vinci Code, people expect him to be edgy and world-shaking. I have been an avid reader of his work since about that time and I do really enjoy his books. A few thoughts, though...

First, Dan Brown is not a great writer. He has an awesome ability to research, a great ability to weave together a thrilling story, and a decent imagination. All of those are fabulous qualities, but they don't always correlate to a high-level skill with the English language. I, and likely most of his audience, come to him for something other than Faulkner-esque prose. Still, I'd love to see his story-telling ability combined with the linguistic and character mastery J. K. Rowling brings to the Cormoran Strike series

Second, ever since Da Vinci, I think he feels the need to really lean into controversy. It's his niche. I get that. But, honestly, I found this to be his least controversial book. I know everyone was out there hyping it up as his most controversial since Da Vinci, but it's just not. It does directly tackle the age-old "conflict" of science vs. religion and try to play off of that, but it's end game was just not that controversial. Ok, I'm gonna use some spoilers here...

Seriously. Spoilers. Beware. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies
Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publication Date: 7/29/2014
Pages: 460
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I heard a lot about the Emmy-winning miniseries based on the book.
Date Completed: 10/30/17

Summary: Little people, little problems. Hardly the case when it comes to a group of Australian kindergartens and, more importantly, their parents. School and family drama leads to murder at a school parents' event. 

What I Thought: Wow. I don't know why I was not expecting anything amazing when I picked this up. I've been dying to watch the miniseries because I love both Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who star in it, but I knew I wanted to read the book first. Kidman spoke highly of it while accepting her Emmy and that clinched it for me.

Yet, I was expecting chick lit. I don't like chick lit that much. I don't read much of it for a reason.

Shame on me. I should have known better. First of all, chick lit can be deep and powerful and important. But, also, just because this is a story mainly about three women does not by any means mean it is a story for only women. This is a story about parenthood, marriage, friendship, bullying, domestic violence, and more. This is a story for everyone. I'm going to put it on my list for Kevin to read and I think he'll really enjoy it despite overarching lens of "mommy perspective." After all, I read stuff written from and about the perspective of men all the time and enjoy it. Why do we get it in our heads it can't go the other way? Even those of us who are most ardently against gender bias fall victim to its pervasive presence in our culture. Consider me repentant and self-scolded. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Forever Chic - Tish Jett

Forever Chic
Title: Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance
Author: Tish Jett
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 240
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR list forever.
Date Completed: 10/28/17

Summary: French women seem to possess some undefinable, elusive quality which keeps them eternally chic. Jett sets out to uncover their secrets and make them accessible to her readers. 

What I Thought: When I started this book, I did not realize it was targeting mainly toward "women of a certain age," as Jett calls them. I turned 30 this year, so I don't think I fall in Jett's idea of that category yet. I contemplated putting it down early on because of that, but I figured there would likely be some valuable tips for me even now. 

Jett covers a variety of categories: skin care, makeup, hair styles, fashion, diet, and more. She is an American ex-pat who married a Frenchman and has consequentially lived in the country for many years. Her research for this book seemed to largely consist of conversations with her French friends and observation of the women around her. Some chapters were certainly more interesting and practical for me than others.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing
Title: The Kind Worth Killing
Author: Peter Swanson
Publication Date: 2/3/2015
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: Young House Love talked about it on their site and their podcast.
Date Completed: 10/25/17

Summary: Lily and Ted meet on a transatlantic flight. Ted has just discovered his wife, Miranda, is having an affair. Lily offers to help Ted kill Miranda. He accepts. 

What I Thought: There have been so, so many books hailed as the next Gone Girl. Few live up the to the hype. This one comes as close as I've seen.

Kevin and I listened to it the weekend before Halloween as we drove to Savannah to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Listening to a book about marital infidelity and murder is probably not a super fabulous way to mark a celebration of years of love, but, hey, we enjoyed continually asking the other person if they were planning on murder being a part of the trip. We're fun like that.

I was really impressed with Swanson's execution (no pun intended) of the plot. He keeps you guessing and is totally willing to expectedly turn the tables on the reader. For the whole first part, I did keep saying to Kevin, "This is going too smoothly. A big twist has to be coming." I was right. And it was a great twist. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Welcome Home Diner - Peggy Lampman

The Welcome Home Diner
Hey! Thanks for reading my blog! Make sure you make it to the end of this post, because I'm giving away a copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours!

Title: The Welcome Home Diner
Author: Peggy Lampman
Publication Date: 10/10/2017
Pages: 352
Genre: Chick Lit / Food / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: Two cousins start a diner in Detroit with the hopes of invigorating the local community and economy. They end up facing both internal and external obstacles on the way to their goal. 

What I Thought: This was a sweet little book. Even though Lampman deals with some heavy topics (gentrification, race, sex trafficking), she does so in a way that still feels friendly and relatable. Those issues are pieces of the puzzle but the book is not really about them. Rather, it's about relationships: family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, workplace relationships, and community relationships. 

I always love when the theme of food is so closely intertwined with a plot. Here, it is inescapable, as the central location of the story is a diner and one of the main characters is the chef. Though I would not classify this as a food-centric book, there are wonderful descriptive morsels (no pun intended) throughout the story that will leave wishing the Welcome Home Diner was around the corner. Thankfully, Lampman does have some recipes in the back of the book if you find yourself craving one of those Heartbreaker cookies. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Title: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Publication Date: 5/30/2013
Pages: 321
How I Found It: From this list of books with unreliable narrators
Date Completed: 10/24/17

Summary: The Cooke family has three children: twins Rosemary and Fern and their older brother. Rosemary shares their story.

What I Thought: I went into this book completely blind as to its plot. That's what was recommended and I recommend the same for you. Basically, this is a story about family and sibling relationships and how those within a family can live the same experiences very differently. It's about what it means to be a member of a family and how families fall apart and stay together. You don't need to know more than that. In fact, the fewer assumptions you have about the Cooke family going in, the better.

Ok, so, go read the book and come back and let's talk...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October 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 my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

October News 

Fall is here.

There's no doubt. We've begun our annual battle regarding the appropriate time to turn on the heat in the house. I'm losing right now, so I'm at my desk writing this while wearing a big chunky sweater, thick pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and an electric blanket wrapped tightly around my lower half. And I'm still cold. I'm contemplating digging out the fingerless gloves I used to wear at my first job because my office there was so frigid.

October was good here. We went to Boston and I loved it. I could definitely see myself living there. The vibe of the city felt instantly familiar and in line with mine...or at least what I want mine to be. Kevin liked it fine but definitely would never want to live there. Our anniversary trip south, however, yielded different results. We both really enjoyed Savannah and ate some incredible food there. Our stopover in Charleston on the way home reminded us both that we would happily live in that city. We both like it quite a lot. That whole trip was such a blessed break. It was wonderful to shut everything off and relax. We spent some time having thoughtful conversations about our marriage and goals for the future. We spent lots of time laughing. We both got sunburnt at the beach, an autumn reality that still thrills us Midwesterners. And we ate. It turned into a food-centric vacation and we had zero regrets about that. I seriously gained about five pounds back and every one was delicious.