Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens
Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Publication Date: 9/23/14
Pages: 496
Genre: Fantasy / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 6/2/18

Summary: A retelling of Rapunzel, with two quasi-related plots woven in as well. 

What I Thought: I've had this book on my TBR list for a very, very long time. I've known it was a retelling of Rapunzel, but not much more than that. It ended up being much more detailed and involved than I expected.

Forsyth weaves together the stories of three women across decades of Italian and French history. It takes a while to understand their connection to each other. Admittedly, this grated on me a bit in the beginning. Even though I knew Forsyth would likely bring them together in the end - and she did - I struggled to build connection with three separate sets of characters and plot lines. 

The book is also a lot longer than I expected. Because I was reading a digital version, it wasn't until about a third of the way through that I really looked at the length. It clocks in at nearly 500 pages and it felt it to me. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but having three full stories in one book does feel long. It wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that the stories started to really coalesce and the pace picked up. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I'm Still Here - Austin Channing Brown

I'm Still Here
Title: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: 5/5/2018
Pages: 192
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I was given an advance copy at the Why Christian conference.
Date Completed: 6/1/18

Summary: Brown reflects on life as a Black woman in modern America and how the undercurrent of racism persists in our country.

What I Thought: In my welcome bag for the Why Christian conference back in the spring, hiding among the general conference detritus, was a galley of this book. They gave a galley to every person at the conference. Talk about a marketing push. Being the voracious reader I am, I'm always thrilled to be handed a free book.

The next day, when Brown spoke at the conference, I went from being generically excited about a book to being very excited about this book. Brown spoke with grace and humor, but also with truth and a loving ferocity. I am sure it was not the most comfortable thing to speak about race to a room full of mostly white people in North Carolina, but she did and it was awesome. The book is an extension of that conversation. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sourdough - Robin Sloan

Title: Sourdough
Author: Robin Sloan
Publication Date: 9/5/2017
Pages: 262
Genre: Fantasy / Food / Science Fiction / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Sloan's work before.
Date Completed: 5/31/18

Summary: A young tech worker has her life changed when the men behind her favorite local restaurant leave her their sourdough starter. 

What I Thought: This book was perfectly charming. It's a light, quick read and one that will leave you hungry, too. 

I desribed Sloan's previous novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, as "a fun adventure that blends old world solemnity and reverence with modern attitudes and ideas." That same sentiment applies here, albeit with an eye toward food and not books. Sloan is masterful at bringing together respect for tradition and modern advancement. He does it well, without becoming ham-handed in his approach. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Thought It Was Just Me - Brené Brown

I Thought It Was Just Me
Title: I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
Author: Brené Brown
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 305
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a big fan of Brené Brown's work.
Date Completed: 5/31/18

Summary: Brené Brown's research about shame will be seminal. Her influence is already wide-reaching as so many people resonate with what she's learned. 

What I Thought: I've been exposed to Brené Brown's work through a lot of avenues, but I've never actually read any of her books before this. Somehow, that seems kind of insane to me, but it's true. My goal is to read through her recent work, starting with this one. I heard her say once in an interview that her work makes the most sense in order because it follows the path of her own growth, so that's what I'm doing. 

When I taught Critical Thinking, we spent a chunk of time talking about emotional intelligence and also about moral sentiments. Included in those conversations were discussions about shame, guilt, and how those sentiments affect us. Brown's work around these ideas totally changed how I taught those subjects. In fact, I incorporated a lot of content from this very book into my last semester because I started reading it in February and then didn't finish before my library loan ran out and I got sent to the back of the waiting list again.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Good as Gone - Amy Gentry

Good as Gone
Title: Good as Gone
Author: Amy Gentry
Publication Date: 7/26/2016
Pages: 273
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 5/29/18

Summary: Julie was kidnapped from her bedroom at thirteen. The only witness was her younger sister. When Julie shows up on the family doorstep nearly a decade later, the Whitakers are suddenly thrust back into a world of intensely mixed emotions. 

What I Thought: For whatever reason, I've been on the hunt for another really good thriller for awhile. I got on the kick around Halloween last year and has continued. Perhaps because I put a lot of thrillers on my TBR around that time and now I'm reading through them in my efforts to slim down that list this year. 

All that to say, here's another one.

And I'm getting worn out on this genre. It rarely succeeds in thrilling me. 

This book has been all over the place lately. It sold well and lots of people liked it. Kevin and I both read it while on our Italy trip. I knew I wanted easy reads on that trip. This certainly fit that bill, but I couldn't help feeling a little let down by it. Kevin felt the same.

Monday, June 11, 2018

May 2018 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.  

May News 

I don't know where to start today. There's so much to share! First of all, let me acknowledge the weird blog schedule for the last month. I barely posted at all in May. I had a massive reading slump this spring. Compile that with a slow reading year in general and I just didn't have enough content to post on a regular basis. So, I gave myself three weeks off and just didn't worry about it (much). Plus, the slow May I had planned where I would lounge around and read books was suddenly...not that.

Why not, you ask? Well, I got a job!

Today is actually my very first full-time day in the office, but I did several training days in May so that I could hit the ground running. I'm no longer teaching, which is a big switch for me. However, I've remained in the higher ed world and joined a consulting firm which works with mainly private colleges and universities. The firm offers consulting on a range of issues from enrollment management to student success to campus planning and architecture. I'm working as a Project Manager and will be mainly focused on projects we do with faith-based schools. From the moment I read the job description, I knew it was going to be a great fit. I'm so excited to be starting a new chapter professionally. This has been a long time coming.

Suffice it to say, that consumed so much of my life and thought in May. Even though I didn't do that much actual working time, I suddenly felt the urgent need to fit a whole summer of productivity (teachers know what I mean) into 2 weeks. Add in getting us ready for our big trip and it was not the deck-sitting, book-reading time I anticipated. But it was a good month.

And speaking of that big trip, we just got back on Thursday! Hence, this delayed monthly recap post. We spent 12 days away from home, which might be a record for us (outside of time with parents). We hit NYC, Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, and a bunch of small towns in Tuscany. It was an amazing trip and we came home utterly exhausted, but so happy. If there's interest, I may do a post here recapping our trip a bit. Otherwise, I have just a few posts on Instagram.

The great thing about the trip is it gave me dedicated reading time like I haven't had in ages. Planes and trains ferried us around the world and afforded me hours to indulge. I set aside most of the heavier reading I've been doing this year and just read fun stuff. I can't wait to share it with you in the upcoming weeks.

For today, the lists below are short, but a good reflection of time spent elsewhere last month.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cooking for Jeffrey - Ina Garten

Cooking for Jeffrey
Title: Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Author: Ina Garten
Publication Date: 10/25/16
Pages: 272
Genre: Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 5/20/18

Summary: A collection of Barefoot Contessa recipes, purportedly gathered because they are her husband's favorites.  

What I Thought: I liked the concept of this book - that Garten was gathering all her husband's favorite recipes. As someone who does 99% of the cooking in my own household (because I like to, not because I'm the woman in the house), it's an idea with which I'm quite familiar. I love treating Kevin to his favorite meals.

While there are some great recipes in this book, I didn't really get the sense that it's true to its title. In the introduction, Garten mentions that every recipe is Jeffrey approved. Yet, references to the titular personage appear rarely after that. I guess I was hoping for more personal discussion in the recipe introductions. Doesn't make the recipes less good, but it did make the book less engaging.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Unbelievable - Katy Tur

Title: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History
Author: Katy Tur
Publication Date: 9/12/17
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I heard about it from a lot of places.
Date Completed: 5/20/18

Summary: Tur recounts her days on the campaign trail with Trump. She started reporting on his campaign shortly after the infamous announcement at Trump Tower in which then-candidate Trump referred derogatorily to Mexicans. She share the details of her life on the road up through election night 2016.

What I Thought: This book was hard to read at times. Not because it was poorly written. On the contrary, Tur did a wonderful job capturing the tumultuous emotions of the 2016 campaign season. That's exactly what made it hard to read at times. It's hard to emotionally reinsert yourself into that era, particularly knowing how it turned out. 

Tur was one of the earliest reporters to join Trump campaign and, perhaps consequentially, developed an odd relationship with the candidate. His hot-and-cold relationship with the media is exemplified perfectly in his treatment of Tur during the campaign. He would favor her and then immediately turn around and insult her and her work. Tur does a decent job of explaining the emotional effect this had on her, although I think she is still fairly guarded in what she chose to reveal about her own feelings. That reporter instinct to conceal personal feelings must be hard to kick in some aspects.