After reading many depressing and/or starkly edgy memoirs over the years for book club, this one, dealing with the author’s struggle with dieting, was...moreAfter reading many depressing and/or starkly edgy memoirs over the years for book club, this one, dealing with the author’s struggle with dieting, was a huge (get it?) breath of fresh air. Jen Lancaster’s raucous humor reminded me how to laugh out loud again, and every time I sat down with it, I felt like I was spending time with my best friend. How nice that I had it in paperback, so I could carry her everywhere with me for many unexpected moments of dishing (get it?)! Dieting while writing a book about the process of writing a book about dieting is sheer genius (though if I were her, I might have chosen to write a book about something more fun, like the process of tasting every stout beer made in Ireland, or the quest for the best half-caf-double-shot mocha in Paris, but I guess that wouldn’t have been quite as intriguing to read. After all, the premise of this book is that she’ll lose weight in time for her book’s release, and that certainly carries more suspense than finding a satisfying drink), though the last few chapters sounded suspiciously like a commercial for Weight Watchers. Will she disclose her secrets of successful weight loss right here in these funny pages for all to emulate, or will she fall flat (fat) for her family and friends to mock mercilessly? Pick up your copy today to find out! (less)
“’The storm,” she said, and she looked down at her feet. “The tormenta changes everything.’
‘Yes,’ said Felipe. ‘The tormenta changes everything.’”
This...more“’The storm,” she said, and she looked down at her feet. “The tormenta changes everything.’
‘Yes,’ said Felipe. ‘The tormenta changes everything.’”
This is an historic fiction of two children whose social circles would normally not have intertwined: she is a rich white girl, daughter of a bank magnate, with everything she could ever want; he is an orphaned Hispanic boy who must work for her father for his meager existence, saving his wages in the hopes of bringing his Grandparents to live with him in America. Set in turn-of-the-last-century Galveston, Texas, a devastating hurricane blows in that will destroy much, yet will give birth to a friendship that will transcend culture, race and social norms. I found this a fast and cathartic, tear-jerking read, especially since I spent childhood weekends sailing and fishing in Galveston Bay. I was also ironically/perfectly on vacation at a beach while reading it.
“’Some things are easier to see when there is nothing but darkness around you.’”
One reads McEwan expecting brilliance, and this novel of a man’s Saturday, just 24 hours of distilled life, like Blake’s “world in a grain of sand,” f...moreOne reads McEwan expecting brilliance, and this novel of a man’s Saturday, just 24 hours of distilled life, like Blake’s “world in a grain of sand,” fulfills this promise. It is the story of a man in middle age who sees his life narrowing, whose inner thoughts and dialogue with friends and family throughout the day reveal the repeated themes of Nature versus Soul, and the pressures of democratic process in a world of terrorist factions, where “certainties have dissolved into debating points…and however murky American motives (for war), some lasting good and fewer deaths might come from...it” In a single day he sees in his own life the terrifying ramifications of his own weakness and ignorance on a small scale and fears for nations whose actions “leap away from your control and breed new events, new consequences, until you’re led to a place you never dreamed of and would never choose—a knife at the throat.” At the end of the day, there is no solution for him, no peace, other than to enjoy those he loves, to find beauty in a transcendent poem or song, a brisk swim in uncomfortably cold water or a rousing squash match—or in a lovely, thought-provoking novel such as this. (less)
The Good Earth, 1932 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, portrays life before and during the Chinese Revolution of the last century through the perspective...moreThe Good Earth, 1932 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, portrays life before and during the Chinese Revolution of the last century through the perspective of a poor Chinese farmer Wang Lung who scrapes enough money together to first buy himself a wife, then over the years, the land holdings that will eventually give rise to his prosperity. Famines and hardship drive his family away from the land temporarily, but due to his obsession with his land, along with the faithful and shrewd wisdom of his wife O-Lan, the family not only survives, but thrives to the point of taking the symbolic place of the wealthiest family in town, from whom Wang Lung procured his humble and ugly slave-wife so long ago. Ms. Buck lends much insight into the broad human psyche, as well as to the history and politics of that era in China--wisdom that can be applied to any age, any society.(less)
Black and Blue portrays the plight of an abused wife who, after years of living in domestic terror and shame, finally decides to flee with her son to...moreBlack and Blue portrays the plight of an abused wife who, after years of living in domestic terror and shame, finally decides to flee with her son to a new, anonymous life. As the bruises from her most recent, most violent, encounter heal, her new life provides the peace and safety for her to heal emotionally, to discover who she really is underneath the trauma she’s been surviving. In particular, she uses the time to bond with her son and to watch carefully for signs that he, too, will become an abuser like his father, like his father’s father before him…Can they break this tragic cycle? Quindlen’s chilling tale explores the complexities of obsessive love, how it seeks to own and subdue another person in order to satisfy horrible and insatiable inner needs. Though most couples agree to premarital counseling before getting married, I wonder if reading a book like this might give women insight into what the seeds of abuse look like before it blooms after the honeymoon is over. (less)
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people is the enduring self-help classic, written originally 1937 to wild acclaim, that keeps on givi...moreDale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people is the enduring self-help classic, written originally 1937 to wild acclaim, that keeps on giving charmingly charismatic advice for success in both work and society. Focusing on other people’s strengths and striving to genuinely like and show interest in them, we win their admiration and trust. Then we can make them do stuff! It’s not really that easy, of course, but this book is a refreshing reminder to use encouragement rather than the intimidation which only engenders resentment, to deftly nudge others around you into becoming the best they can be, which is, let’s admit it, your minion!
While reading this, I often thought to myself that it was like a paraphrase of so much of Jesus’ teachings, that we should love others unconditionally (sometimes requiring extensive use of our imaginations), that the first would be last, that we should give of ourselves to extremity without thought of what we would gain, and that others would follow and do even greater things as a result. By applying these principles, which still seem to go against to our natural negative inclinations despite evolution and modern science and all that, we all would win, wouldn’t we? If yes, then click like on this review! (less)
I finally finished last month’s book club selection, Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, the amazing memoir of Fuller’s childhood s...moreI finally finished last month’s book club selection, Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, the amazing memoir of Fuller’s childhood spent in a Caucasian English family struggling to live in Africa in the 1960s and 70s. As you can imagine, there were enough hardships to endure, considering the war-torn political system and the economic ravages inherent there; but add these to Fuller’s honest portrayal of her family’s own psychological instability and racism, and you get a very interesting read indeed. One comment I made at our book club was that compared to her family, our looks like Leave-it-to-Beaver even on our worst days. So, in a way, though the book takes on some of the “gently manic” characteristics of her mother, Fuller’s tale is cathartic enough (once finally finished) to almost be inspirational in that we are not there, in that family, thank God.
Though Fuller now lives in the U.S., she always considers Africa her home and weeps copious tears of joy when she visits her family there, despite – or maybe because of -- whatever hardships it may embody for her personally. In her memoirs, she doesn’t just describe Africa, she brings that land to throbbing, fragrant life for us in all her staggeringly dangerous beauty that will:
“absorb white man’s blood and the blood of African men, it will absorb blood from slaughtered cattle and the blood from a woman’s birthing with equal thirst. It doesn’t care.” (less)
This “novel of war and survival” is not your typical fairy tale, nor is it your typical WWII historical novel. Imaginative yet realistic characters co...moreThis “novel of war and survival” is not your typical fairy tale, nor is it your typical WWII historical novel. Imaginative yet realistic characters combine with a magical setting in the primordial forests of occupied Poland in this retelling of the familiar fairy tale through the adult lens, infusing the original story with redemptive love, magic and beauty that can rescue us from the worst horrors mankind can imagine. Engaging and lovely.