My brother and I are "Irish Twins", so we were in the same grade throughout our whole school career. He got all of the awesome, tenured teachers, whos...moreMy brother and I are "Irish Twins", so we were in the same grade throughout our whole school career. He got all of the awesome, tenured teachers, whose students loved them so much that they still continued to visit them well into their middle and high school years; their classrooms had epic decor themes like "under the sea" or "summer fun."
I was a straggler kid, looking in from the outside and always longing for what he had. My assortment of teachers were either (a) fresh out of college and trying experimental forms of teaching (ugh), (b) had extreme chips on their shoulders and were organizing unions to stick it to the man, or (c) filing for divorce. This equated to bare walls and zero pizza parties. The agony!
Worst yet, we didn't read any of the cool books all the other classes were reading! I remember getting sick and tired of hearing of this baby named "Fudge" (of all the crazy names), and all the trouble that he got into, from some friends in other classes.
So now, all these years later, I finally understand what all the hype was about, and for once it wasn't overstated. I LOVED Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing! Peter Hatcher, the 9-year-old protagonist, has a pretty great setup. He lives in New York City, close to Central Park, he's loving his 4th grade class, has nice friends...except his 2-year-old little brother, Fudge, keeps ruining things. He's a the cutest little monster you ever saw.
I would have loved to have read this as a child, especially when my little sister came into the world when I was 8. I didn't like her. She was a cutie, but she just disrupted everything. I felt like no one understood where I was coming from, least of all my parents, who could see no wrong in anything that she did. That's the beauty of this book, because while it is hilarious and cute, it's not patronizing and adult. I love the relationship Peter has with his mom--she's a bit of a sarcastic wit, and I like that.
One thing that made me laugh was when Peter was describing how cautious he had to be about walking in Central Park alone because of muggers and dope pushers. I thought to myself, this is not the NYC of You've Got Mail. This is the NYC of Klute in 1972! I will definitely be continuing with the series, and very soon. (less)
I was living my carefree, ignorant life until I decided to visit my best friend last November in Kansas. What do best friends do when they get togethe...moreI was living my carefree, ignorant life until I decided to visit my best friend last November in Kansas. What do best friends do when they get together? We hunker down with slouchy pants, greasy processed foods, and keep that Netflix streaming, sugar!
I introduced her to Flowers in the Attic and other awful films, and on one cold Wednesday, she started me on Sherlock. Sometimes I don’t know whether I was better off before, when I didn’t have to wait for the next year to roll around for a new season. What kind of life is that? So for all of you who can relate, what do we do with all that time in between? We read Sherlock stories, of course!
I’m sad to say that I’ve never actually read any of Doyle’s original stories. I own them, but I just have no idea what to expect; I guess I am just a bit cautious, as with all classics. I wonder if the language will be too dense and over my head. When I heard about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I wasn’t sure what to expect, either. After all, Holmes coming out of retirement accompanied by a young, female apprentice, seemed a bit farfetched. But boy was I wrong.
I know the three star rating makes this review suspect, but I really, really enjoyed the historical elements of this book. Set in 1915, and a little beyond that, I found the references to Post WWI England enlightening and so cozy! Holmes is very much his INTJ self, and I couldn’t help but picture Benedict Cumberbatch in his mid 50s, though still as boyish as ever. I especially like Mary Russell’s character, and the intelligent duo they made. All the other characters are still present, too: dear, dear Watson and Mrs. Hudson.
No one likes to use the "B" word, and when it is used, what comes to mind are characters like the teenage "bully" in Junior's sixth grade class in the...moreNo one likes to use the "B" word, and when it is used, what comes to mind are characters like the teenage "bully" in Junior's sixth grade class in the film Problem Child 2. You remember...the one who likes picking his nose and employing the art of spitball archery. The irony is that often times, bullies are not unkempt misfits, or the posh, popular kids of the Mean Girls trio. Most of the time they're ordinary, "nice" people who were at some point close friends of yours.
Helene is a young girl in Montreal, who inexplicably finds herself ostracized by a group of girls that were at one time her friends. Publicly taunted about her weight at almost every turn, she takes refuge in reading Jane Eyre. If you've ever been in this situation, then you'll understand that enduring the 30 minutes before school begins without friends to talk to, or trying to figure out where to hide during the lunch period because you're afraid to eat alone in the cafeteria, are real fears for children who are being shunned.
All of these things are captured so beautifully in both the illustrations and writing of this novel. Mostly cast in gray hues, the bleakness of Helene's situation, from her point of view, really pulls at your heart strings. No matter how bad things get though, there is always hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. This is expertly employed by Arsenault, the illustrator, in the burst of colors that surprise you when you turn certain pages, usually the ones dealing with Jane Eyre.
This may be a children's book, but while I was reading it, I had an "a-ha" moment. I realized that this was happening to me at my place of employment; the culprits--"nice" people that I had been friends with at one time. I realized that I'd been handling it as best I could, but obviously it was bothering me, especially the comments that were overtly directed at me, and said within my hearing range.
Like Helene, sometimes we don't speak up out of a sense of guilt or misplaced loyalty because these people were at one time our "friends." The irony is that we can only hope that our children will come to us directly when they're experiencing these things, and especially that they'll confront these bullies...but that is easier said than done, as I've realized myself. Anyway, I just feel like this was such a beautifully profound book! It was like a personal letter directed at me. If you ever find a copy, savor it! You can only read it for the first time once. (less)
In my youth, I had a strange list of comfort films that I would turn to both when I was happy or feeling blue. My mom never understood why I gravitate...moreIn my youth, I had a strange list of comfort films that I would turn to both when I was happy or feeling blue. My mom never understood why I gravitated to A Trip to Bountiful, Mrs. Brown, Remains of the Day, and my special favorite ‘night, Mother. I’m sure a part of me likes “sad” things, but I think that even as a youngster, I’ve always been attracted to simplistic beauty that is both deep and meaningful. It’s hard to marry these elements, especially in literature and film, but when I come across them, I have to snatch them up!
I am currently reading a literary thriller wherein the victim was murdered in such a way as to call in to question whether it was self-administered. When perusing the victim’s bedroom, the uncanny order of the closets lead one of the detectives to question whether the victim had “arranged” things in preparation for death, as is common with many people contemplating suicide. I couldn’t help but remember ‘night, Mother, which I had no idea was a play—further yet, that it garnered the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.
A one-act play spanning a few hours, this quite simply is the story of a woman, Jessie, preparing for her death, and her candid, endearing conversation with her mother, who desperately tries to both understand and dissuade her daughter from taking her life. It is such a beautifully written play, and though it’s heavy in scope, I never felt overwhelmed. You find yourself playing the devil’s advocate for both sides, as you’re forced to see how life and its disappointments can snub the life force out of some people who are too “good” for all of the bad out there.
I think the line that just made me lose it was the following, and even reading it now, it just gets to my core!
“…I didn't know! I was here with you all the time. How could I know you were so alone?”
Totally surprised that at the end of the book Raina Telgemeier was credited with many of the backdrop illustrations. She is everywhere! Great mystery,...moreTotally surprised that at the end of the book Raina Telgemeier was credited with many of the backdrop illustrations. She is everywhere! Great mystery, and amazing illustrations that lended themselves to the macabe. If you're okay with that, then you'll like it. Loved the urban feel of the neighborhood too, and that the protagonist was a fleshy, pear-shaped woman. It's the little things that count.(less)
It’s hard to escape the escalating decline in world conditions. Whether it’s refugees’ stories from far flung war-torn countries, or reports involving...moreIt’s hard to escape the escalating decline in world conditions. Whether it’s refugees’ stories from far flung war-torn countries, or reports involving the abuse of our environment and its critters, there is no limit to the different forms of media that are reporting global events non-stop. Even if the view outside our kitchen window is generally uneventful and peaceful, books like Half the Sky are a cold slice of reality pie.
Half the Sky focuses on human rights violations against women around the world, but mostly in Africa and Asia. Divided into areas of concern such as sex trafficking, systematic rape, maternal mortality, and illiteracy, Kristof incorporates statistics with personal life stories. Many of them were hard to listen to, and at one point I found myself stuck in rush hour traffic sobbing into my sweater sleeves. As “advanced” as mankind is, why are things like this still going on today? Why are these things generally unknown, although they’re not taking place in secret? I enjoy documentaries and books like these because they make me more aware of what is going on around the world. If all I believed was based on what I saw on the news, I’d be one short sighted individual.
Pee-Wee Herman summed me up when he said: “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.” I mention him because my only complaint about this book, call me a pragmatic idealist if you want, was that I don’t like being told what to feel. A compelling life story was almost always followed by a proposed plan of action that equated the group of women to monetary assets. Everything was reduced to dollars and cents. I get it, people higher up won’t focus on these women’s issues if it’s not profitable, but isn’t that the sad part to begin with? What’s a life worth? No matter how much is donated to certain causes, or how many laws are passed, it ultimately can’t change the way people think or feel, let alone how they treat others. I guess I would have prefered the journalistic touch without the agenda. Just my musings, at any rate. Highly recommended if you’re interested in current events in regards to the oppression of women, and what they do to overcome these obstacles.(less)
This book had more romantic twists than an episode of My So-Called Life! Being the drama kid that I was, I wish this had been centered more on the mid...moreThis book had more romantic twists than an episode of My So-Called Life! Being the drama kid that I was, I wish this had been centered more on the middle school stage production. It also felt rushed and 2-D, which is how I felt about Stitches. Oh well, I'm still a Telgemeir fan.(less)
I was always taught to administer my judgments with a pinch of salt, so picture me writing this out with an uncomfortable smile in place and an exagge...moreI was always taught to administer my judgments with a pinch of salt, so picture me writing this out with an uncomfortable smile in place and an exaggerated squint. Are you picturing it? Okay, good. On with the review!
*Mr. Burns steeple fingers engaged*
I was promised that this book would blow my socks off, and even now, after having had time to reflect on the ending, the socks are still in place. Are you looking at the cover? It just oozes cuteness and likability, right? And see, that’s what makes writing this a little uncomfortable, because all-in-all, Heaney seems like a nice, funny, intelligent, and somewhat awkward girl. From one awkward girl to another, it just seems like there aren’t enough of us out there to form a support group, which is why subtitles like My Life (So Far) Without a Date are so appealing.
Before I get ahead of myself, at the time of publication, Heaney was a dateless 25-year-old. She’d never had a boyfriend…ever. By way of age milestones, she relates specific examples of boy crushes, and odd drunken attempts at pairing off. There were quite a few hilarious situations, but I mostly found myself scratching my head. If I wasn’t reading this along with my best friend, (who incidentally loved it and finished it in two sittings), I would have given up on this one. Her liberal use of “like”, “literally”, “and I was all…”, “or something”, drove me nuts! I can’t even handle that in person, let alone on paper! Why?!?
"So, for example, there would be, like, a picture of the two of them in the dorm lounge, and underneath it would be the phrase, “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” in neon pink Comic Sans or something."
Lest this review seem too caustic, I will add that I started enjoying the book more when she got to graduate school, which is a bummer because it was almost over. She used pretty apt analogies about love, and being okay with who you are, regardless of how others perceive you. I hope one day a tall, handsome stranger sweeps her off her feet. I just might pay to read that book, too. (less)
Middlesex has been stacked in a pile of books I like to refer to as my "Jumanji" books. The two main child characters in the film Jumanji begin a cree...moreMiddlesex has been stacked in a pile of books I like to refer to as my "Jumanji" books. The two main child characters in the film Jumanji begin a creepy, larger-than-life board game that results in the "Little Man Tate" boy disappearing, and the the young girl running away in horror, putting an abrupt end to the game. Though stowed away in the attic soon after the occurrence and forgotten, a distant jungle drum beat still emanates from the board game, forever beckoning that someone continue the game, and finish what was started.
That pretty much sums up my avoidance dance with this amazingly beautiful book. I first began this audio book in 2007, and got so carried away in the language and pace of the narrative, that I knew I wanted to dedicate more time and attention to it, for fear of missing any details. I returned the book to the library and bought a physical copy from my local used book store. Since then, Middlesex has sat in that pile of "Jumanji" books, forever beckoning me to finish what I started. Sure it's made it's way into my purse a few times, and followed by a few false starts, but nothing lasting. Even the cajoling from well meaning friends in that "I can't believe you haven't read that yet!" voice didn't help. So finally, after 7 years, I broke down and bought the audio book and downloaded it to my phone last week, so that I could take it and the Stephanides family with me everywhere. What a journey we've had!
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."
So begins this sweeping family saga of three generations of Calliope/Cal's family beginning in Asia Minor on through to Detroit, and finally ending in Berlin spanning the 1920s to present. Through this historical narrative, we learn about the Stephanides family and their dark family secret. Told in a sort of whimsical voice, with Woody Allenesque aside interruptions, it's hard not to get swept up in the story and totally lose yourself, or to find yourself laughing out loud, or rolling your eyes incredulously. I can easily believe that this book took Eugenides 9 years to finish. It is such an epic read, and each sentence packs a sensual punch. There are a handful of books that have left me this happy and disoriented...also incredibly sad to turn the last page.
It's worth noting that the narrator, Kristoffer Tabori, is one of the best voice actors I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. How good is he, you may ask? Audible.com only has a handful of weird books for which he is credited on. The selection seems to be limited to children's horror stories, funky sci-fi, and self-help books. Oh well, that's dedication. I hope the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books are worth it, because guess who'll be listening to them here shortly.
As for the rest of my "Jumanji" books? I'm hoping to tackle a few more this year. The Time Traveler's Wife, Cold Mountain, Into the Woods, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are at the top of that pile. I can already hear you, dear friend. "You haven't read those yet? Whatsamatterwithya"? I know! I'm hopeful.(less)
If you're a lover of cupcakes, then you will likely agree that this book is so stinking cute. It's so fluffy I'm gonna die! The only sad thing is that...moreIf you're a lover of cupcakes, then you will likely agree that this book is so stinking cute. It's so fluffy I'm gonna die! The only sad thing is that I can't really tell you what the point of it was—weak story line.
Cupcake owns a bake shop in Brooklyn. He and his friend Eggplant decide to save up for a trip to Turkey to meet Cupcake's culinary idol. In order to do so, he starts experimenting with his usual recipes and selling these goods at different venues. Included are neat recipes for the customer shop favorites. The illustrations are really cute, too.
About two-thirds of the way in, things take a plot dive; the ending also left much to be desired. That being said, I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy a copy. I'd love to flip through it sometime when I need baking inspiration, or just to pass around to friends who are comic enthusiasts. (less)
Are you into personality types? I'm an INFJ, just in case you were wondering (you probably weren't, haha). My question to you is, do movie and book pr...moreAre you into personality types? I'm an INFJ, just in case you were wondering (you probably weren't, haha). My question to you is, do movie and book preferences say a lot about the person we are, our past, our fears? Too much psychology on the brain! I wish I could understand why I am drawn to movies and books like "Sleeping With The Enemy (which happens to be an amazing book, by the way) or "Enough", and more recently "Safe Haven."
Women in abusive relationships who overcome their fears and get on with their lives are so precious to me! It proves that the human spirit is outstandingly resilient. This book appealed to me more so because Catherine, the protagonist, suffers from a pretty severe case of OCD. Her daily struggles to get out of the house, and make sure it's secure upon returning, highlight her need to control her environment, and the body's natural inclinations to self-preserve.
That being said, I liked this book but I didn't love it. I wanted to so badly! In the end, it was a thrilling page turner, but I felt like the characters lacked real depth. It was also a little too graphic for me. I know! That never happens; I have steel nerves. But some of the scenes were just hard to read.
I should also add that I was (and still am) that annoying kid who would interrupt a good anecdote to ask, "How'd you get there?" or "So the car came from the west and then struck your car? That's not possible." So it was hard to stop asking those questions while reading. Yes, it's fiction...but after you've read some amazing literary thrillers and mysteries, it's hard not to expect anything but the best. I may pick up Haynes next book, which will be published this spring. Maybe like a fine cheese, she gets better with age, or in this case—experience. (less)
Smile is a memoir graphic novel that centers around Telgemeier's traumatic orthodontic experience. Although this book has been making the popularity r...moreSmile is a memoir graphic novel that centers around Telgemeier's traumatic orthodontic experience. Although this book has been making the popularity rounds on YouTube and in other YA circles, it didn't really appeal to me until a booktuber I follow, who isn't a reader of YA books, mentioned a few things that piqued my interest. Coupled with the fact that I myself have been experiencing a dental nightmare since November, I figured I was primed to appreciate this book.
First things first, you don't really need to know too much about the plot, because it really will ruin it for you. Trust me. Here are a few things that may motivate you to give this book a second glance. (1) Don't be fooled by the bright red "Scholastic" imprint on the cover. This is book that will appeal to people of all ages. In fact, it's kinda like Shrek. Anyone can appreciate it, but if you're over 21 and enjoy snarky humor, then you will love it doubly! That kind of leads to the next point. (2) If you are part of Generation Y or an aficionado of the 80s and early 90s, then you will so appreciate the trip down memory lane. The attention to fashion, technology, and pop culture was so awesome! (3) It's set in San Francisco. Hello, dream place to live. Need I say more? The good news is that Telgemeier is working on a followup to this memoir series entitled Sisters. So looking forward to it! (less)
"I don't believe in New Year's resolutions." Ever said that or heard that? I actually don't believe in making huge vows at the beginning of the year,...more"I don't believe in New Year's resolutions." Ever said that or heard that? I actually don't believe in making huge vows at the beginning of the year, and falling flat on my face a month later. I am a believer in trying to implement lasting lifestyle changes in my life that lead to a happier/healthy me. The problems usually arise after my burst of energy fizzles out, and I am back to square one, usually 10 lbs heavier and just a smidge bitter.
What I needed was a way to organize my ideas and goals, and a way to jump from goal to action. Once that was in gear, I needed help with sticking to those goals. Thus the book, which if you didn't already know, is a "self-help" book, which already was an issue for me, since I don't care for this genre (probably because I've only read a few really, really bad ones). That aside, I really enjoyed the straight forward layout and style of the book, and the practical suggestions. It served as a workbook and was divided into sections that you can revisit from time to time if you need to refocus on your projects.
While some information was repetitive and also a little contradictory, I was able to take away a lot of good points, for example, reflecting on habits that were successfully created in the past, and what I did to accomplish them. It took awhile to really hone in on past successes, but I was able to reflect on how I broke the habit of cursing (including even thinking them in my head), avoiding soda, and even when I lost 35 pounds and kept them off for two years. She also tackled awkward subjects like dealing with naysayers, especially when they're family or close friends. Made me realize that I've been that person in the past. Why do we do that?!
I read about 60% of this book last year in an effort to finally shed unwanted pounds, and then just didn't have the energy to finish it. How funny and sad, huh? Needless to say, I did not lose the weight I wanted last year. This year though, I finished the book and even downloaded the audio book so I can listen to certain areas again when I need to get reenergized. My three main goals this year are to run a half marathon by the end of the year (I am not a runner at all), adopt a cleaner way of eating (including buying organic meats, fruits, and vegetables), and to review all of the books I read this year. I'm actually doing pretty good!
So what about you? What are some things that you've wanted to implement or change in your life? If you're feeling a little stuck and need some direction on pinpointing where to get started, you'll probably really enjoy this little book. (less)
I've sat around and had discussions with friends about the genius behind the show Seinfeld: how can "a show about nothing" have run for so many season...moreI've sat around and had discussions with friends about the genius behind the show Seinfeld: how can "a show about nothing" have run for so many seasons, and still manage to maintain its freshness and hilarity to this day?
That's exactly what I asked myself after I finished reading Miss Mapp. This is the third book in a series of six books (Make Way for Lucia) written by E.F. Benson spanning the early 1920s and ending in the late 1930s. A few times when I was asked to describe what I was reading as of late, I would get flustered about how best to explain it because...it really is a book about "nothing in particular." Boring, you say? Far from it! I'm going to try to get my bearings in gear so that after reading this review hopefully you're not scratching your head, and wondering what the heck that was all about.
Benson effectually peels the cover off of the town of Tilling, an idyllic English village on the coast, and lets the reader peer directly onto the comings and goings of the townsfolk. At its core is a group of genteel society folks living quiet lives that revolve around delicate routine: "...the days would scurry by in a round of housekeeping, bridge, weekly visits to the workhouse, and intense curiosity as to anything of domestic interest which took place in the strenuous world of this little country town."
Miss Mapp runs this town like a true queen bee, and it's hilarious to watch her quash any attempts at revolt, and monopolize the town gossip and use it to her advantage...always. Mapp is a pretty ruthless character, and though not my favorite, I felt uncomfortable that a lot of her feelings and thoughts resonated with me. I always wonder how Benson knew so much about women. There are so many rules that are never said, just understood. When are these things ingrained into us?
I especially loved the secondary characters, and how they added so much to the flora of the town. Diva, Miss Mapp's arch nemesis, is one of my favorite characters. She is equally as cunning as Mapp, but she has more of a heart. Quaint Irene, the town bohemian who wears men's clothes, and Mrs. Poppit, the rich widow throws her money in everyone's faces with her fancy dinners, are just a couple of the folks that liven up the town. If you're ever in the mood for a good laugh, you will definitely be in for a treat with this book and series. I can't wait to crack into the next book. (less)
Prions. Before reading The Family That Couldn't Sleep, I had no idea what those were. Since finishing this book, I've developed an equal sense of resp...morePrions. Before reading The Family That Couldn't Sleep, I had no idea what those were. Since finishing this book, I've developed an equal sense of respect and fear of them. "Prions are ordinary proteins that sometimes go wrong, resulting in neurological illnesses that are always fatal. Even more mysterious and frightening, prions are almost impossible to destroy because they are not alive and have no DNA." How's that for a mouthful?
At the center of this book is a Venetian family with a deadly legacy of Fatal Familial Insomnia dating back to the 1700s. FFI is a disease that strikes its victims in middle age, and causes complete insomnia, exhaustion, and eventual death within a matter of months. Max, himself a victim of a degenerative neurological disorder, expounds on the history of prions, theories on their origins, and the culminative affects on peoples and lands throughout the world. Cast your mind back to the Mad Cow Disease scare in Europe, or even the first cases of scrapie among sheep in Europe in the 18th century; these can be linked back to very bad little prions.
I really enjoyed the break down of scientific terms and I especially loved the history part. I find that I almost always enjoy the style and flow of books that are written by journalists, which is probably why it put me in mind of Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan and Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff. A great read whether you're scientifically inclined, or just along for the adventure ride! Another plus: I now kinda understand the scientific references Amy Farrah Fowler, a fictional neurobiologist on the show The Big Bang Theory, periodically makes to her research work. Winning! (less)