Wow, was this ever engrossing! I'd read about the author a few years ago, when the news covered the story of how she broke her neck in an accident atWow, was this ever engrossing! I'd read about the author a few years ago, when the news covered the story of how she broke her neck in an accident at her bachelorette party and was left a quadriplegic. Her name was mentioned on the news again recently, talking about her new memoir, and I was very excited to read her take on the accident, her friendships, her marriage, and day-to-day life in general.
While the writing in here may not have been the most "polished" it was obviously very heartfelt. I was drawn in almost immediately; the author was such a positive person (although she didn't gloss over the hardships) and she was very easy to relate to, making her seem almost like a friend. I loved the descriptions of her relationship with her now-husband and how their relationship changed significantly after her accident, although not necessarily for the worse. This reads, in parts, very much like a love story because of how devoted they are to one another.
Her friendships with the four girls around her at her bachelorette party was also nicely described. It was very obvious why they all got along so well and how close they became. She shared some funny times they had together, both before and after the accident, as well as some really sweet moments, and it was easy to understand why they're so protective of each other. I can't imagine the guilt her friends felt, despite the broken neck being a complete accident, and I can completely understand how all of them felt worse when reading rude comments made by strangers on the internet. It was really amazing to read about how they all sort of comforted each other while trying to get into the swing of what regular life turned into.
This entire book was remarkable. I was amazed by everything Rachelle had to go through after the accident and inspired by how her little victories suddenly seem big. Her message of making the most of each day because you don't know what the next can bring was perfect. I loved her positive tone because, regardless of how difficult things were, she realized that the situation couldn't be helped but the outcome could.
So many great observations about life in here and about people, both good and bad. This book was so powerful and such a wonderful tale of the power of (like the subtitle says) love, loyalty, and friendship to help one get through hard times. What an inspiring and touching tale. ...more
This book was pretty amusing, split up into chapters that each relayed a different story from the author's life, complemented by illustrations. The stThis book was pretty amusing, split up into chapters that each relayed a different story from the author's life, complemented by illustrations. The stories didn't seem to always tie together well but instead felt like completely separate short stories, threaded together only by the people featured and not arranged in any particular order.
My favorite stories were the ones about the author's dogs. I laughed out loud multiple times at her descriptions of situations they got into, and the illustrations definitely brought the point home. The best illustration, to me, was the one that illustrated "dog science" and how if a dog wanted to do "a thing", they'd do the thing, something bad would happen, repeat, repeat, repeat... and the obvious conclusion is that they weren't doing the thing enough times. I can just picture a dog coming to this conclusion!
There were a few chapters about depression, which weren't exactly funny but were definitely interesting and enlightening. I think the author did such a particularly great job breaking down the feeling of depression and making it easier for others to understand what it feels like. The remaining stories were mostly about weird events in her childhood, none of which were especially entertaining but were instead just kind of awkward and slow to get through. I could have done without those stories.
Although I didn't love every single story in here, when the chapter was good, it was great! It was a really quick book to get through and I liked enough of it to share some of the illustrations with others, making them laugh as well. Not a book that will change your life, but it will definitely make you think about depression and laugh about the crazy antics of animals....more
I've wanted to read this book for a while, since it combines two things I enjoy: Russian/Soviet history and food! Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this nI've wanted to read this book for a while, since it combines two things I enjoy: Russian/Soviet history and food! Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as I'd hoped. I was excited to read about the way that memories of food while living in the USSR brought back memories for the author and how that upbringing turned her into the woman she became. What an interesting contrast, being a food writer as an adult who regularly eats amazing food, while still having the memories of what it was like to grow up in the USSR, where a banana was a rare treat.
The writing in here was very "literary" (for lack of a better word, and I'm pretty sure that the writing style, coupled with the author's contrasting adulthood/childhoods, helped the book receive so many accolades and blurbs. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, but then it began to kinda wander. The writing was all over the place, going back and forth in time and telling stories from the author's childhood, her mother's childhood, history in the USSR in general, and then back to the present day when the author and her mom were cooking Soviet dishes from a certain decade. It felt like stream-of-consciousness writing, and I had a really hard time keeping up with where/when the story was, much less really caring.
There were little bits of information in here that I found fascinating, but I also felt my mind wandering more often than not. I felt like much of what I read lacked heart. I put this book down this book when I realized I was skimming more than I was reading. It felt like the author was trying to include too much in here, personal stories, food history, country histories, politics, etc. The parts I enjoyed the most were when she relayed actual things that had happened during her childhood, like her mother apologizing to her (black market-dealing) neighbor about eating one of his thrown-out chicken nuggets; the neighbor dismissed this, since he considered the food a scrap, whereas the author and her mother thought it was amazing. But the majority of the stories seemed to lack emotion. I didn't connect with this enough to finish. ...more
This is one of those books that's not necessarily easy to read, yet the story is gripping enough to make you feel compelled to read on. I figured thatThis is one of those books that's not necessarily easy to read, yet the story is gripping enough to make you feel compelled to read on. I figured that, based on the publicity alone, I should read this, all about the author's kidnapping and nine months in captivity.
I'm not exactly sure what I expected, beginning this book. Words in it were definitely used to good effect, focusing on how she felt and the basics of what was happening rather than going into details about all the horrors she endured. I liked the fact that enough was said to give a picture of the squalor and awfulness but the details weren't dwelled upon; it definitely made this easier to read. The author comes across as very strong and put-together now, showing how she felt like she endured this ordeal because there was no other choice but wasn't letting her life be ruled by it.
What I felt this book was lacking was more about her recovery. Yet that wasn't the focus of this book at all; her rescue came near the very end of the book, leaving little time to describe how she put her life together again and how smoothly she transitioned back into her old life. I would have liked to read more about that, and I think it could have helped bring the story full circle, instead of the short 1-2 chapters about her life post-rescue. ...more
This is a food memoir about the author's experience growing up as the product of an Italian mom and an American dad, born in West Berlin. After her paThis is a food memoir about the author's experience growing up as the product of an Italian mom and an American dad, born in West Berlin. After her parents divorced, she spent time traveling between Germany to be with her mom and Massachusetts to be with her dad. Food was what made a place truly feel like home to her, so this book is basically divided up into short chapters about various experiences in her life (with a chronological overall narrative of her trying to figure out where she belonged and her love life at the time) and recipes to make the foods that she most identified with during those periods of time.
I heard about this book through a couple of food blogs and websites online, all with very positive things to say about this book and the recipes in it; I guess the author has her own popular blog, which I'd never actually heard of before reading this (although I have, of course, since checked it out). Perhaps if I'd been a fan of her blog prior to reading this book, I might have enjoyed it more. As it was, it was a pleasant, easy read, but it definitely did not blow me away.
The most interesting parts of this novel were, for me, some of her descriptions about living in West Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down; it's obviously an experience that cannot now be replicated, and I found some of her insights fascinating, especially as this was seen through a child's eyes. The rest of the book was mainly about her trying to figure out what she wanted to do for a job, where she wanted to live, and who she was dating and how they connected. It was well-written and easy reading, but I didn't get overtaken with emotion at any point, probably because it felt like I was just reading about some random person's life - which I was. There wasn't anything in particular that stood out as, this is why I care! It never felt like she had to really overcome anything big, and all her problems were kind of superficial ones (parents were on different continents so she had to constantly travel between them; dating someone who wasn't interested in traveling all over the world as often; debating about taking a job that'd move her across the country; making food for a party that didn't turn out properly; etc.).
The recipes contained in this book were quite plentiful and, for the most part, sounded delicious. Perhaps it's the recipes that make this book as popular as it is - or perhaps it's simply that the author did a good job describing how food shaped her vision of "home" and then brought it to life with recipes for the reader to recreate. The descriptions of the food, however, didn't always seem to flow seamlessly with the narrative; other descriptions, such as how Germans celebrate Christmas to excess, got bogged down with way too many details.
This book wasn't bad, but it was a pretty average read overall. It didn't take long to read, especially with the number of recipes included, and I ended up skimming some of the detailed descriptions that didn't interest me. I felt like this book was written more because the author already worked in publishing and decided she wanted to write something than because it was a gripping narrative on its own. Still, the author did come across as generally likable and I did enjoy parts of the book. It just wasn't a book that spoke to me....more
4.5 stars. This memoir covers a little over a year in the author's life, from the time she decided to have a baby through about the first year of her4.5 stars. This memoir covers a little over a year in the author's life, from the time she decided to have a baby through about the first year of her daughter's life. The author is an English professor with a fascination with watches and time, and she uses thoughts about both to help explain why people act the way they do. In her case, cancer was highly probable for the female members of her family, and as she felt her own clock ticking to the time when she would have to take preemptive action, she continued to try to live her life fully despite constant anxiety and fear.
I never would have picked up this book had I not read an article by the author detailing her time ghostwriting Sweet Valley High novels while in grad school. Then, after I checked out the book from the library, I renewed it time after time, unsure whether I really was interested in reading it, until I couldn't renew it again and had to read it. And I'm so glad I did! This was a surprisingly engrossing and moving read.
One thing that immediately struck me about the book (and one of the reasons why I was hesitant to begin reading it) was the fact that the author hadn't done some incredible feat or was a public persona. There was really nothing that would particularly draw me to pick up such a memoir... and yet it was wonderful. Her writing sucked me in from the very beginning, and I found myself tearing through pages faster than I expected. She covers a lot of her family history, and I really enjoyed the way her family sprang to life on the page. What an amazing tribute to her relatives, giving her family's next generation a glimpse of what their lives were like and the strength she, her sisters, and her parents all found in each other. Despite the overarching threat of cancer, this was not a depressing book (something I feared). Instead, it turned out to be quite a thoughtful narrative about how there are constant threats to our futures and whether this is really reason for anxiety - something the author struggled with.
The author's professional work didn't feature quite as much into the story - the majority of it was simply about her family and its dynamics - but I did love the occasional inclusions of the history of time, clocks, watches, and how our idea of "time" influences our lives. One of my favorite parts was when she thought about moving to Boston and was so excited, yet she realized that she was excited not because of what Boston itself held but because of the memories she had, from 1989, of being in Boston and how magical that time was in her life. As she explains it, we often think we're wishing for a place when we're actually wishing for a time.
I definitely enjoyed this memoir overall, and I appreciated the fact that the author did not fall into a "poor me" refrain despite facing hardships (something that drives me crazy - especially in memoirs, when the reader is being manipulated into feeling pity). There was beautiful focus on the importance of family and the importance of making the most of time. Not a book for everyone, but wonderful for those it speaks to....more
I saw the author being interviewed on The Daily Show and was immediately interested in picking up her book. She's a Parliament speaker in AfghanistanI saw the author being interviewed on The Daily Show and was immediately interested in picking up her book. She's a Parliament speaker in Afghanistan and 2014 presidential candidate. In this, she documents what her life was like under Afghanistan's continually changing rulers and constant wars, how each change impacted her life, and struggles she's overcome to be a female politician in what is a changing, but still very much male-centric, country.
It was amazing to hear everything that the author has lived through, and even more amazing to think that all this happened so recently. What a completely different world she grew up in - a culture where traditions often outweigh real medical advice (because access to health care is so limited), where boys and girls have very defined and very different roles, and where domestic violence is almost always expected. It was depressing to read a lot of this book, simply because regular humans were treating each other so poorly and violently; some people obviously have no respect for the lives of others, and too many incidents the author relays illustrates this point all too well.
Thankfully, the hopeful parts of this book were also powerful. Even in the midst of war and crimes against people simply because of their sex, their tribe, or whatever - there were still acts of kindness shown. Reading about the way ordinary citizens went out of their way to help the author (or someone else) despite the fact that they could be tortured or killed if discovered was beautiful. After all the atrocities committed in the name of religion or culture or country or whatever, it was reassuring to know that despite what horror might be found in day to day life, one can also find hope.
It was interesting to see how Afghanistan had changed through the author's life. She seems more hopeful for her country's future than one might expect, after reading about all the terrible things she's witnessed, and it's nice to know someone like her is so dedicated to improving her country and slowly changing people's perspectives in life. Not the easiest book to get through because of all the atrocities that were committed over the years, but it was a worthwhile read that will no doubt stick with me....more
The summary of this book didn't make me want to read it - a blogger compiles crazy stories from her childhood into a memoir - but it was my book club'The summary of this book didn't make me want to read it - a blogger compiles crazy stories from her childhood into a memoir - but it was my book club's pick for the month. I'm extremely glad I borrowed the book instead of buying it.
There is good material in this book. The author's childhood sounds like it must have been crazy, living in rural Texas with a dad who loved animals and taxidermy and a mom who was waiting for Xanax to be invented. The problem wasn't the material; she clearly had funny stories to share. But for all the potential these stories had to be funny, I didn't laugh a single time. I cracked a smile once (despite having read this book today, I can't remember why I smiled - not a good sign). And considering the fact that there is seemingly no other reason for this book to have been written at all if not for the humor, that's sad. It made this book extremely forgettable and just plain lifeless.
The main problem with the book stems from the writing. The author comes across as trying so hard to be funny. When someone has to try so hard to be funny, they rarely are. Even when I smiled during the book, it wasn't from the writing; it was from the situation itself. There were also so many dumb footnotes and parentheses in which the author tried to be witty. There were short prefaces to chapters quickly followed by a statement of something like "My editor says this chapter needs more, so here's another story!" It wasn't amusing and simply made it seem like the author really needed prodding to turn this into a book instead of a blog entry. There was a chapter filled with nothing but hypothetical post-it notes left for her husband. There were diatribes in which she'd talk about writing this book (in one example, she makes something up and says something like, "Hold on - let me check the internet for that." She'd go on tangents that had nothing to do with her point and tell stories that weren't in chronological order and point these things out as if her acknowledgment of it was hilarious. So many of her jokes were overdone and quickly grew old. I kept asking myself, why should I care?
This wasn't the worst thing I've ever read, but it was not good. The author tried so hard to be funny and came across as absolutely desperate for laughs. Her "quirky cuteness" (I cant think of a better way to describe her persona) got annoying fast. Perhaps her blog is entertaining (after reading this book, I won't be checking it out), but this book lacked cohesion, humor, and a point. I'm giving it 2 stars because there were a few parts that were okay, but it's definitely an unfunny mess overall....more
The author was the secret service agent tasked with protecting Mrs. Kennedy during her husband's presidency, and in this book he describes the years hThe author was the secret service agent tasked with protecting Mrs. Kennedy during her husband's presidency, and in this book he describes the years he spent working with her. It's far from a tell-all, and there are no scandalous family details mentioned here; instead, he describes the day-to-day experiences working with the family, the friendly relationship that developed between him and the first family, and describes memorable events from his point of view - from his initial assignment to guard the First Lady to the aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination.
Mr. Hill's perspective was fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing the political scene through his eyes, and I feel like I gained a deeper appreciation of the Secret Service because of this book. Clearly his own personal life was massively affected by his round-the-clock job, but he didn't focus on this and instead just accepted it as part of the job. He was obviously closer to the president and family than most of the country, and his stories brought the family to life in an inimitable way - they suddenly became a regular family instead of larger than life figures.
Some of the most memorable parts in the book were the stories from more casual events, the sort of things that the general public did not see. One chapter described a 50-mile hike that the author was spontaneously assigned to, tailing a pair of the president's friends who had basically been dared to complete it and needed a security detail along the way. Obviously, this was not in the regular job description, but it made for an engrossing story; I imagine that the actual experience, however, was less than pleasant.
My only complaint about the book is that some of the conversations, especially near the beginning, felt rather stilted, keeping me from becoming completely lost in the narration. The dialogue became better written as the book went on (or perhaps I was just more engrossed in the story), and it wasn't enough to keep me from really enjoying this book.
For anyone looking for a fascinating look at the Kennedy years in this White House, this is a book to pick up. It was interesting, not a sordid read, and gave a nice look at the relationship between the Secret Service and the First Family, as well as the relationships within the First Family. After reading this, I understand why it took the author 50 years to tell this story - some of the events are obviously ones he wishes never happened - but I'm glad he finally wrote it. ...more
4.5 stars. I had actually heard about the author of this book years ago, after a news story mentioned her surviving an accident that left her with sev4.5 stars. I had actually heard about the author of this book years ago, after a news story mentioned her surviving an accident that left her with severe burns on over 80% of her body. She's a prolific blogger, detailing what used to be her normal family life and, now, her new life; however, I don't think anyone needs to have read her blog to be amazed by this book. I was a little unsure what to expect in this book, wondering if it'd have a strong religious bent to it - especially based on the title (the author is a Mormon) - but it didn't come off as preachy and only mentioned religion as a pillar of her life and how she drew strength on difficult days.
The book opens with Stephanie explaining how perfect her life used to be. She came across as optimistic and naive; she dreamed of love as if it were a fairy tale, and her only goal was to become a wife and mother. She married young, had four kids, and then came the accident. Months later, she emerged from a medically-induced coma and tried to adjust to the constant pain, the near-constant surgeries, her scarred appearance, and how her family had been affected.
Although the beginning of the book was interesting, it really only set the stage for the powerful parts the followed. By far the best parts came in the middle sections, when she detailed her slow recovery, the way she struggled to accept herself, how she and her husband had to work hard to forgive themselves and grow close again, and how the entire identity she'd previously crafted for herself needed to be reexamined. It was intense reading about everything she went through, both mentally and physically, to even become strong enough to leave the hospital. Even more powerful were the mental evaluations she put herself through: how long it took her to even look at herself in the mirror, being unable to help her kids with the most simple tasks, the way outsiders treated her, and how completely dependent she was on everyone else. None of this was told in a pitying way; it was simply stated and explained.
I loved the insights in this book and how hope continually shone through. The descriptions felt honest and thoughtful, and it was almost uplifting to read, as strange as that may sound. Reading such an amazing tale of hope and strength, and having the story told with such a positive outlook on life, made this memorable. Although her personal goals may not be relatable for everyone, she does come across as a strong person, one who's learned to have confidence from within.
My only complaint is that some of the dialogue felt stilted, especially at the beginning and at the end; I think I was so drawn into the middle of the book that I stopped noticing. However, I'd still easily recommend this book to others. It gave me a lot to think about, and I'm sure it'll stay with me for a long time....more
This is a book covering the author's sabbatical. After she and her husband sold their house in New Jersey, they headed for Paris with their two kids,This is a book covering the author's sabbatical. After she and her husband sold their house in New Jersey, they headed for Paris with their two kids, ready to experience the life of someone else there. There, she wrote books she had under contract, ate more than her share of French food, and tried to enjoy every moment of life there instead of waiting to experience it all through the lens of a camera.
I began this book expecting the usual narration about her travels, but it was framed in quite a different way than I'd imagined. Instead of chapters filled with long narratives, the bulk of the book was comprised of short musings that were originally posted on - or inspired by - her Facebook page. It was slightly jarring at first, especially because her writing in the opening chapter was beautiful and I wasn't sure how short, stand-alone paragraphs would hold up to this stands, but the more I got into the book, the more I liked this format. The short snippets gave enough detail to draw you into the moment without over exposing details or dwelling on unimportant events. I felt as if I were almost reading someone's diary as events unfolded, giving the book a nice touch.
It was fun to see how much energy could be captured in short snippets about their day-to-day life. Her children (11 and 15) had personalities that leapt off the page, and the author and her husband both seemed very personable and relatable. I loved the descriptions of the food and all the short pieces of soap opera-like drama that seemed to seep out from both her daughter's school days and in the life of her husband's friend - all told about secondhand, of course, but it allowed the author to provide entertaining commentary about it all.
So many times books like this come across as pretentious because, really, how many people can afford to move to Paris for a year, as wonderful as that sounds? But nothing in here was extravagant or outside the realm of what could be possible for others with enough planning and saving. Instead, it was a very charming story overall and filled with snapshots of a memorable year in which nothing big happened but lots of wonderful small moments did. I also really liked the fact that it wasn't full of life lessons but simply took the reader on a journey throughout the year....more
3.5 stars. This memoir follows the author's experience moving from New York City to Beirut, Lebanon, for a year. She had fond memories of her childhoo3.5 stars. This memoir follows the author's experience moving from New York City to Beirut, Lebanon, for a year. She had fond memories of her childhood in Beirut, and since nothing was holding her back, she headed there again as an adult to see whether it still felt like "home" to her. There, she becomes reacquainted with her Lebanese relatives and friends, explores the country, debates the meaning of "home", eats lots of food, experiences some of the "Arab Spring" firsthand, and tries to figure out what she wants in her future.
The best parts of this book were definitely the descriptions of food. The author's bio notes that she's been both a travel and food editor of magazines, and this definitely showed; her descriptions of all the Lebanese food sounded delicious and made me want to go to Beirut simply for the food! Recipes for many of the meals described were included at the back of the book, and I'm very curious to sample a few of them.
Similarly, the descriptions of all the places she visited, especially this beautiful yet peaceful home of a relative along the Israeli border, made the sights comes to life in my mind. Her love for Beirut shone on every page, and it was easy to understand the lure of the city - and country - for so many people. Although technically in the Middle East, it's not quite the sort of country you imagine when thinking about the Middle East; there were a number of striking descriptions of nightclubs, hangouts, and even the disparity between women clad in burkas and women wearing miniskirts. Over the course of the year, she visits many places around the country that sounded fascinating: a war weapons museum, an empty park no one's allowed to go in, sites mentioned in the Bible, and many more.
Despite enjoying the descriptions of places and meals, I never found the narrative between the travel parts and the internal monologue (uncertainly about where her long-distance relationship was headed and debates about whether New York City or Beirut felt more like "home") fully cohesive. They seemed to be two completely separate narratives, only joined together to make this book have both an internal and external journey; they rarely intertwined. I also never felt like the internal journey was nearly as "big" of a one as it no doubt seemed in her mind. There was no giant realization at the end of the book or thoughtful ideas here and there; instead, she ruminates about the meaning of "home" and how that is so open-ended. I'm sure this internal journey was personally a lot bigger, but I didn't feel like it worked as a "big" part of the book, especially since the lack of giant realizations made much of this internal narrative grow repetitive.
I enjoyed the book overall but because it lacked a strong, propelling plot, it wasn't nearly as powerful as it could have been. The writing was polished and elaborate, and it made me curious to visit Beirut someday, but there wasn't a specific scene or plot that will stick with me long after putting this down. Ultimately, this was a pleasant but unmemorable read.
I received a free copy of this book through the First Reads program.
Jai Pausch, the wife of Randy Pausch who gave the speech and then wrote the book The Last Lecture about fulfilling childhood dreams, wrote this memoirJai Pausch, the wife of Randy Pausch who gave the speech and then wrote the book The Last Lecture about fulfilling childhood dreams, wrote this memoir about her experience falling in love with Randy, going through his cancer diagnosis, being his caregiver, and then trying to reestablish herself after his death. It's not necessary to have read The Last Lecture to appreciate this book; it's not a follow-up so much as it is a complementary memoir, showing Jai's perspective throughout the entire ordeal and how her life continued after his.
I found this book quite inspiring and think those who've served as a caregiver could definitely find comfort in it. She does an excellent job explaining how her life changed after he was diagnosed and the stress it put on their relationship, their family, and even impacted her own identity. She doesn't dwell in self-pity but makes it clear just how difficult this was for everyone. Neither Jai nor Randy comes off as perfect - they were very different people with different approaches to life - but their strong bond was evident throughout the book, even during stressful times, and it's easy to understand why she misses him so much. Many of the beautiful parts bringing Randy to life came near the beginning: Jai notes that to Randy, giving gifts isn't about spending money but about putting heart into it, and she later describes their weekend routine of making pancakes with freeform shapes, letting their kids decide what the pancakes resembled.
Probably half of the book (perhaps slightly more) covered her time with Randy, mostly after his diagnosis up until his death, and then it covered her time trying to adjust to life without him. This build up helped give a good overview of what her life as a caregiver had entailed and how difficult it was, yet how she was still not ready for him to die. Once he's gone, she no longer has the difficult task of caring for her husband along with their three young children but has the even harder task of taking care of three kids on her own without him, his absence looming large over everyone. Her struggle to tell their kids about Randy is particularly sad to read. Though she clearly has more resources than others in the same sort of situation (a paid-for home, a nanny, family and friends, financial support), she is not unaware of this and even notes within the pages that she's aware of how not everyone is so lucky.
Some of the strongest chapters were about her trying to adjust immediately after Randy died, wanting to reclaim the "magic" that he'd brought into her life and that seemed to disappear along with him. It was both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about her solo and family trips to places they'd talked about. She also details opportunities that she'd seized after his death: redecorating, trading in a car she never liked, etc. - all trying to find hope where there didn't seem to be any.
Although I wish there had been a little more detail about her life without Randy and more details about her struggles (and the struggles of those around her) to adjust, this is such a hopeful and insightful book. The writing is beautiful, topics are handled gently but powerfully, and I believe it could give comfort to many people, just to know they're not alone in their struggles.
I received a free copy of this book through the First Reads program....more
I received an advanced copy of this book for free through the FirstReads program. I didn't know much about Jim Abbott before starting to read his memoI received an advanced copy of this book for free through the FirstReads program. I didn't know much about Jim Abbott before starting to read his memoir, other than the fact that he was a one-handed pitcher who played for both the Angels and the Yankees. In this book, he chronicles his childhood life and how having one hand influenced the person he grew up to be, and he also describes his baseball career in detail. The narrative jumps back and forth between his childhood, young adult life, and the no-hitter game he pitched in 1993, which was clearly the pinnacle of his career.
I liked the casual tone of the narration. It made for an easy read and held my interest. I was more captivated by stories from his childhood than I was by the play-by-play account of the no-hitter game he pitched. His passion for baseball is very clear throughout the book, but the no-hitter game description broke it down by inning, by batters, and by plays, and although it was a nice look inside his mind during the stressful game, it also did not provide the same emotions as stories from his childhood. A die-hard baseball fan fascinated by every moment of a game would probably feel differently, however, as that's the reader these parts are obviously aimed at!
What made this memoir so strong is the fact that he doesn't complain about his missing hand or let it define him as an entire person, despite the fact that he can't get away from being known as the "one-handed pitcher". Instead, he writes about difficulties he faced growing up, the questions he was constantly forced to answer, and the ways in which he was forced to adapt (switching his baseball mitt from hand to hand when pitching and catching, for example), constantly trying to prove to himself as much as anyone else that he could do anything. He noted that, growing up, when he wouldn't be picked for a sports team or the like, his parents would not coddle him and instead told him to get back out there. I liked the fact that he could point back to this approach and say that feeling different but wanting to be treated like anyone else and actually being treated like anyone else paid off in the end. He talks about wanting to be a good role model for kids with disabilities, and I'm sure this memoir would be quite inspirational for people suffering through their own issues.
Parts of the book described events he was not around for - his own birth, for example. Though these parts were obviously recreated with help from his parents, the tone felt different. The jump in time took me out of the rest of the story. I liked the background this provided; I just wasn't crazy about the manner in which it was told. Thankfully, this only accounted for a small portion of the book and, once past, the narrative definitely picked up.
I wish there had been a little more focus on his personal life outside of baseball as he grew older. Instead, the book describes his early years, and then doesn't dwell on much of his personal life outside baseball once he begins playing professional baseball; for example, his relationship with and marriage to his wife is barely described, and I feel like even a slight bit more emphasis on his personal life as an adult would have made the book more rounded and all-encompassing. The scenes he did include definitely made him more of a relatable, likable person - missing the last bus to the stadium, for example.
If you're looking for a tell-all book, this is definitely not something to pick up. However, if you're a baseball fan or looking for a story of triumph despite a disability, this is quite an inspirational story. The book is fairly short and definitely bounces around in time, but the story is extremely interesting, and you can't help but root for him throughout. ...more
4.5 stars. I won this book through the First Reads program and started reading very soon after I received it. The authors are former CIA operatives, t4.5 stars. I won this book through the First Reads program and started reading very soon after I received it. The authors are former CIA operatives, telling stories from their time in the CIA and how this work affected their lives - few lasting friendships, family lives a mess. Eventually, their work led them to each other, and they fell in love, got married, and tried to start new lives together outside of the CIA.
This memoir definitely covers a much different situation than most memoirs you can find. I loved the rotating viewpoints, from Dayna's experiences to Bob's, and how they eventually came to intersect. It was fascinating to read about the work that they did overseas and the potential problems they continually ran into, such as driving around in a very obvious car instead of one that'd blend in, or finding someone taking photos of what they thought was a safe, anonymous house from which to conduct surveillance. I also enjoyed the descriptions of all the training that Dayna went through. Both authors did an excellent job conveying the tension in these situations, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, as I was completely caught up in their stories and wanted to know what would happen next. There were so many stories included in here from around the world, and I was enthralled by them all.
The parts in this book about their personal lives outside of the CIA were less drawn out, and I felt like this aspect of the story was overshadowed by stories about their work and stories about the two of them together. I definitely got the sense that relationships they'd formed outside the Agency were a mess, although this wasn't dwelled upon. I think it was most telling during a part where one of them describing returning to the U.S. after a long stint overseas to find out that life simply went on for everyone here; no one seemed to care what they'd been doing or where they'd been. This simple sentence was so powerful and summed up so well the detachment and disorientation that they must have felt.
Near the end of the book, the narration shifted focus to their lives after leaving the CIA to be a family together. This part was much slower than before, as there was not nearly as much "action" going on. I was still interested and invested in their lives, but it definitely had a different feel to the writing, and was not nearly as exciting, especially after such a stellar first part of the book! The slower pace is what threw me off, as narratives usually move in the other direction.
Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously and was easily recommend it to anyone interested in world politics or the CIA in general. The authors did an excellent job making their day-to-day lives come alive, showing how their work could sometimes be mundane yet still carry this overlying tension because of their line of work. Not every single "mystery" or story you see part of in here is fully explained or solved; the authors note that in the CIA, there's simply not enough time or manpower to figure out every single detail of every single case. This is definitely not a book for someone who likes everything neatly tied up. But if you're looking for a book that gives you a great look at what a spy's professional life could be like and the ways it influences their personal life, this is a great book to check out!...more
This is such a crazy book that it's hard to believe it's a true story. The author makes it clear at the beginning that she's writing this because sheThis is such a crazy book that it's hard to believe it's a true story. The author makes it clear at the beginning that she's writing this because she wants other to know what happened to her in an effort to make them feel less alone and know that you can survive just about anything if necessary, and also because she doesn't feel like she should have to hide or feel ashamed of stuff she had no control over. I thought that was a really great way to start off and set the tone well.
Her voice shines through the entire book, sounding young (as expected) but also filled with reflections now that she's looking back on it all. Even while reading, it was difficult to fully imagine what she went through and how she stayed as a prisoner for so long, not attempting to escape, but I suppose that's something that can't really be explained to others. She does, at the end of the book, make mention that something she's working on is being more assertive.
Although it was definitely difficult to read through this book because the events are so awful, she doesn't ask for pity, making the book really a tale of her resilience and perseverance. This is a very sad story but it seems as if writing it must have been somewhat therapeutic and helped her feel a little more normal instead of as if she should hide in shame. She came across as remarkably well-adjusted and hopeful/positive for everything she's been through. It's terrible to realize everything she had to go through for years, but it's amazing to read about her strength throughout it all. ...more
This was a very interesting look at memory. The author became interested in memory training after covering a memory competition for a magazine articleThis was a very interesting look at memory. The author became interested in memory training after covering a memory competition for a magazine article. Under the guidance of a memory champion, the author begins training for the following year's US memory competition, seeing what might be accomplished if he truly puts his mind to it and testing the idea that memory champions don't simply have better minds but better techniques and tricks with which to memorize information. Along the way, he speaks with people who have either notably bad or notable good memories, explaining how memory works, and describes some of the science behind various studies about memory.
I found the entire book quite fascinating. The author does a good job weaving together the facts about memory, interviews with people, and descriptions of his own training; it was well-rounded in this sense, as it didn't skip over certain parts or exclusively dwell on others. While this was far from a how-to book, it did include some techniques for memorization that are employed by memory champions, something that you can test out while you read to see how it works.
This is a quick read, though it covers a lot of ground, and held my interest throughout. I think anyone interested in memory would find this book fascinating, as it starts to shed light on something that is not fully known about or understood....more
This is a memoir about the author's experience losing her husband in the 9/11 attacks, trying to then raise two young children on her own, and eventuaThis is a memoir about the author's experience losing her husband in the 9/11 attacks, trying to then raise two young children on her own, and eventually dating someone but struggling to reconcile the past, present, and future.
I found the story compelling and interesting, although it wasn't nearly as emotional as it could have been. I think the book was the most moving at the parts where she worries about how her new boyfriend will fit in the life she's created and whether she's letting anyone down by pursuing a relationship with him. The book truly is more about the author and her eventual second husband than about the relationship she had with her first husband, making this really a story about coping with loss and moving on from it. That said, I didn't get much of a feel for her husband anywhere in the book, which is sad, as that could have made the story deeper and richer. The fact that she missed her husband was obvious, since she told the reader she did multiple times, and it's easy to understand this feeling. However, this was told more than shown, as he never really got much page time and the author lived such a rich, privileged life that it was hard to actually "see" her struggle with the weight of it all. For example, she has full-time help with her kids, owns an apartment by Central Park, is rich enough to not have to work yet still have seemingly plenty of money, spends her summers getting away from it all at her custom built house in the Hamptons... I guess the problem was that her struggle was mainly internal and therefore difficult for a reader to really see among all the luxuries that surrounded her.
The book is well written, although the dialogue felt stilted throughout, perhaps because real conversations were being recreated instead of fictional ones made up. Reading conversations definitely pulled me a little out of the story because they felt awkward at times, but the story was interesting enough to keep me interested and reading on. I enjoyed it overall and found her perspective on everything quite interesting. ...more
3.5 stars. This memoir follows the author's journey after making the decision to move to Delhi and experience life in India. She rents an apartment th3.5 stars. This memoir follows the author's journey after making the decision to move to Delhi and experience life in India. She rents an apartment that's dingy by American standards but nice to the average Delhi resident, makes friends and acquaintances who are almost exclusively Indian, and sees her own outlook on life and love change as she stays there.
The book is not so much about Miranda's life as it is about the lives of her Indian friends and acquaintances. Geeta, who's unmarried and "old" by Indian standards, is Miranda's neighbor who's struggling to reconcile the modern girl she wants to be with the desire to also be a traditional wife and mother. There's also Miranda's housekeeper, Radha, who has a bad attitude and little education, but wants the best for her children and bosses Miranda around because she can get away with it. Finally, there's Miranda's friend Parvati who has a boyfriend, which is practically unheard of by Delhi standards, and prides herself on being different. Geeta's story is by far the most prominent in this book, as Miranda traces her experiences from "dating" to marriage. Radha is also discussed quite a bit, probably because she's constantly at Miranda's apartment, but Parvati only seems to make an appearance when convenienct to round out the narrative. This is probably for the best, as Parvati's the least endearing of the characters.
I enjoyed Geeta's story the most. She came across as a sweet, if at times naive, girl who's trying to be both a modern and traditional woman. The book definitely picked up quite a bit when Geeta started heading toward marriage, as there was so much going on and so many discussions about traditions and expectations. Another highlight of the book was when the author described problems she encountered while living there, especially since she came from an American background and did not always understand Indian customs or viewpoints. For example, she had a difficult time trying to rent an apartment as a single woman and ended up having to pretend she was married. There was also a section about how she came to hire both a housekeeper and a garbage collector; at first, she was insistent that she could handle the duties herself, so I liked discovering how she was roped into hiring help and thus supporting the caste system. Likewise, I loved the author's experiences joining a ladies "gym", where she would work out but everyone else seemed to just show up so they could chat. It was a fun look into female friendships and conversations, especially since this seemed to be the most common way that news was shared.
There were a few things that prevented me from enjoying the book more than I did overall. First, the author had a tendency to go into detail about the history of Indian traditions or describing the plots of various Bollywood films. This certainly provided interesting backstory so the reader could better understand where cultural things came from, but it also went on for so long that I was taken out of the narrative and felt like I was instead reading a textbook. It made the book a drier read than it would have otherwise been overall.
Another frustrating thing about this book is the fact that, although this is a memoir, it's definitely not about the author. She wrote very little about her own life or work experience while there, instead preferring to focus on the life experiences of her Indian friends. She referenced her personal life in the vaguest of phrases (she used the phrase "I had a love affair" or its equivalent multiple times, always in passing) and also failed to give much description about her professional life, though she did mention traveling to other countries to cover disasters. Also, the book jumped around in time, so I was never quite sure when things were happening or how long she'd lived there or known a certain person. Miranda never came across as particularly endearing, and there was very little self-reflection or personal growth. The changes in Miranda's personal life are noted almost as an afterthought, thrown in randomly here and there.
There are definitely things to like about this book. I really enjoyed parts of it, as the author did a great job giving Western readers a glimpse of what living in Delhi is like and all the oddities that come with daily life there. Although the awkward asides and the lack of a strong central narrative prevented me from ever being fully absorbed in the book, this was a worthwhile read overall. Readers looking for a glimpse into the lives of modern and traditional Indian women will probably enjoy this....more
2.5 stars. This is a memoir about the author's experience getting laid off from her job and, trying to save money, learning to cook by going through h2.5 stars. This is a memoir about the author's experience getting laid off from her job and, trying to save money, learning to cook by going through her grandmother's old recipe file. Interspersed with the (short) stories about the author's kitchen adventures are tales about her grandmother and other relatives coping with hard times.
This was an extremely quick read. The book was only a little over 200 pages and had fat margins, large spacing, and a lot of old recipes taking up even more space. It felt like I was reading one long magazine article that was somehow stretched into a book.
The author's lifestyle before getting laid off is one that most people can't relate to - she spent hundreds of dollars on haircuts from "stylists", not "hairdressers"; splurged on expensive coats; ate out almost every single meal; never cooked; etc. With her newfound free time, she learns more about how other women in her family handled economic and personal setbacks, coming out fine in the end.
I felt like the stories didn't fully intertwine with each other, and the book overall read more like an abbreviated family history than a memoir of learning to cook and survive from her grandmother. I never got much of a feeling for the author, whose own recipes had directions that appeared to be trying for humor but were repetitive and predictable enough (all about her failure to be much of a cook and frustrations about her current situation) to make me skim them. The stories about her grandmother came to life a little more, as it was interesting to read about her life on a farm and how she made it work. But, overall, I felt like this could have easily been condensed into a magazine article and been none the worse - in fact, it probably would have been better, since all the nonessential information would have been trimmed out.
It took me about an hour to read the entire book, and while it wasn't a waste of my time, it also wasn't the kind of book that made me glad I finished it, nor was it memorable enough for me to recommend. This wasn't really a memoir about food, like the title and synopsis suggests, but about the author learning a little - or at least sharing a little - about her family history. Although the family history was interesting in a historical sense, I never got a sense of urgency that would set it apart from another person's family history, and I also didn't finish feeling inspired to cook or try any of the recipes included. It was an okay snapshot of the past but I never fully connected or cared about what was going on. Overall, a light read and pretty forgettable; it's not a bad book, but it never set itself apart from other family memoirs or getting-laid-off stories out there, resulting in me wondering why this was turned into a book at all....more
I was surprised when a librarian recommend this book and even more surprised to discover that it was actually pretty good. In this autobiography, RonI was surprised when a librarian recommend this book and even more surprised to discover that it was actually pretty good. In this autobiography, Ron Jeremy comes across as funny, likable, and as more than just the famous porn star that everyone's heard of. He's very educated, passionate about animals, plays piano and violin, never touches drugs, barely drinks, and is constantly striving to be considered a real actor.
Although the stories in this book go back to his childhood, the majority of its pages are spent on stories from his time in "the biz". Nothing is described in exceedingly graphic detail, but he definitely gives a good overview of how he found himself doing porn and what he finds so entertaining about the whole business. One of my favorite parts in the book came when he was describing what it took to actually be an actor - being an idiot - and relates a conversation in which a producer asks if he's interested in doing some show and he immediately says yes, not wanting to hear anything more about it because chances are, it'll fall through, but on the off chance that it doesn't fall through, he's definitely interested in being in whatever it is. His tone throughout the book is extremely personable and casual, and you don't have to like the business that he's in to see him as likable.
There was a lot of name-dropping in this book, which threw me off at first, but I think it overall helped give a fuller picture of the author. He has clearly met a lot of famous people, and although some of the name-dropping could have been deleted without affecting the rest of the book (such as times when he said a certain house would later be owned by so-and-so), the stories he told about incidents involving himself and other celebrities were entertaining.
I'd say this is definitely not a biography that everyone would enjoy, simply because of the subject and his career choice, but it was definitely a better read than I was expecting. I didn't know much about Ron Jeremy before starting this book and I finished it feeling like I understood him fairly well. A surprising recommendation, but a surprisingly good book....more
This is such a great memoir, covering a very sad situation but managing to be inspiring and uplifting instead of completely and utterly depressing. ThThis is such a great memoir, covering a very sad situation but managing to be inspiring and uplifting instead of completely and utterly depressing. The author's wife died the day after their daughter was born, and this book chronicles his relationship with his wife and then his struggle to get through the first year of their daughter's life as a single parent.
The author has a very relatable writing style that drew me in almost immediately. I was unsure about this book before starting it, not wanting to get sucked into something filled with nothing but sadness, and although there are definitely very sad parts (or at least one sad part), the fact that the majority of the book is spent focused on his love for both his wife and daughter and the way his daughter helps him get through each day makes this a wonderful read.
The struggle he faced to raise a child on his own is very apparent, but his desire to be the best parent instead of the weaker of two (since he no longer has that option) is inspiring. I loved the way he drew strength from others, first family and friends and then strangers, and the ways he found humor in situations. I'm sure that when his daughter is old enough to read this book, it will be a wonderful gift to her, filled with memories that she never had. ...more
This is the true story of the author's adventures trying to relive some of her happiest childhood memories, when she'd the Little House on the PrairieThis is the true story of the author's adventures trying to relive some of her happiest childhood memories, when she'd the Little House on the Prairie books and wanted to live alongside Laura, who she considered a "friend". As an adult, she rediscovered the books; began reading all she could find about the books and about the characters, places, and events that inspired them; and eventually decided she wanted to visit most of the sites mentioned in the books. Although she can't actually step into the Little House world, she did her best to try and immerse herself in it, as if surrounding herself with all things Little House would somehow make all her old childhood dreams come true.
I've had this book on my to-read list for a few years now, but didn't want to read it until I'd finished reading (or perhaps rereading - I can't remember how many, if any, of the books I read growing up) the Little House on the Prairie series. Having read the books recently definitely helped me better understand some of her references throughout this book (at the very least, it helped me care about the references and allowed me to understand the feelings that the author referred to), but having recently read the series is definitely not required in order to dive into this.
I found a lot of the author's tidbits about the series inspirations to be fascinating. I knew, of course, that the LIttle House books were based on the real childhood of their author, but I hadn't realized all the ways in which real life differed from the fictional version so many people have read! I liked the way that the author of this book briefly touched upon much of this, providing suggestions of books for those wishing to read more, and kind of delved into how she felt these decisions about what to include - and what to exclude, or perhaps exaggerate - changed the reality and the way prairie life was perceived by readers. Surely these books wouldn't be nearly so endearing had they accurately reflected every hardship!
The descriptions of the author's visits to the various Little House-related sites were interesting. I had no idea how many of the sites still existed, nor did I realize what a big tourist industry some of them are! I found much of the narration charming, and I especially enjoyed the dynamic between the author and her boyfriend, who tagged along for many of these adventures. There was a very funny chapter that included a stay at a homestead where they ran into people preaching about the end of times, and there were also touching chapters in which the author suddenly felt close to what she was searching for because of her surroundings.
It did take me a bit of time to get into the book, but that's due to the fact that the early pages set the stage and explained why she decided to really up the bar for diving into the LIttle House life and go from churning her own butter to visiting the sites and sleeping in a covered wagon... but once the narration began describing these various journeys, alongside descriptions of what made the Little House books so meaningful to her, I was hooked. Definitely a fun look at how books can get under our skin as children and how, later in life, we want to revisit their magic....more
I won an advanced copy of this memoir through the FirstReads program. The author, who grew up in New York with a circle of friends that included JFK JI won an advanced copy of this memoir through the FirstReads program. The author, who grew up in New York with a circle of friends that included JFK Jr., details her friendship, and later relationship, with him. She is a wonderful writer; her descriptions of people and places sucked me right into the tale. I could easily picture the settings ad the situations as they unfolded, and the details she provided brought people to life. The narrative flowed between the years with little warning; this is a story that moves across time fluidly, not a narrative arranged chronologically. Because the story moved so smoothly, I didn't mind, although I did notice.
It took me a little while to get into the story. This is a memoir about her time with JFK Jr., and the book opened with details about the author's family and childhood. I enjoyed these parts, as it allowed the reader to glimpse her while young, but because of the book's focus, there were occasional bits about her glimpsing JFK Jr.'s mom or something, just to show how their world were beginning to overlap; it sometimes felt like a reach, an attempt to make their stories even more intertwined. Some of the name dropping also got to be a bit much, as it seemed like the author knows many famous individuals, which definitely kept the story from having the feel of "this could happen to anyone".
I did find most of the book to be quite fascinating and a fairly light read. Clearly she has quite a unique viewpoint to share, and I definitely came away feeling like I knew much more about the author (who I'd never heard of before) and JFK Jr. (who I had of course heard of). The ending of the book is a bit odd, but as the main story is over, it works. I feel like this book will sell and a lot of readers will love it; I certainly enjoyed it!...more
This is the first book by Stephen King that I have read, and boy can he write! This is a "writing memoir", beginning with stories from his childhood tThis is the first book by Stephen King that I have read, and boy can he write! This is a "writing memoir", beginning with stories from his childhood that influenced him becoming the writer he is today, followed by tales of how he writes and pointers for those who want to follow in his footsteps. I loved a lot of the stories about him growing up, and he tied this all in seamlessly to the parts about the plots and characters that have sprung to his mind.
He makes great arguments for including different facets of people, places, and plots in his books, and even includes descriptions of his novels that make me want to read them - even though I know they're not the type of books I'd typically enjoy! Based on the beautiful way that this book was constructed and all the thought that goes into creating his novels, I can understand why he's such a popular author. What a fascinating read....more
This memoir tells the story of Malika Oufkir, who was adopted by Morocco's king as a child, then, as an adult, imprisoned with the rest of her familyThis memoir tells the story of Malika Oufkir, who was adopted by Morocco's king as a child, then, as an adult, imprisoned with the rest of her family for twenty years by the king because her father attempted to assassinate the ruler. It was quite a jarring contrast between Malika's privileged upbringing and the squalid conditions of their desert jail, especially since the man who'd sentenced her family to survive such horrible conditions is the same one who'd raised her like a daughter.
I had never heard about the Oufkir family story before this book, although it seems to be a fairly well-publicized one, especially after their release, which was largely due to international pressure. So much of this tale amazed me for the sheer mental strength that was needed to survive and thrive, to the point of formulating escape plans and dreaming about life after imprisonment. Malika Oufkir clearly went through a lot, as did her other family members, and it is shocking that an entire family could be punished so harshly for a father's actions.
Despite being interested in the story told, I feel like the writing did not fully convey the urgency or full depth of the situations described. I never felt fully riveted by the story, which is unfortunate because it truly is an amazing (though terrible) tale. Perhaps this is because the narration jumped around a little to show comparisons between life before and after, but this ended up making it a little disjointed; I was never fully sure when in time it was, and the conditions didn't seem so deplorable for so long because of it. ...more
Instead of focusing on his upbringing and how he got into bounty hunting, etc., which was the focus of Dog's first book, this one describes how thingsInstead of focusing on his upbringing and how he got into bounty hunting, etc., which was the focus of Dog's first book, this one describes how things have changed in his life since his TV show began. It was interesting to see the way his TV show and fame have impacted his life, and I think he came across as sympathetic but also a little cocky (not necessarily a bad thing, considering that I doubt he'd be as good at his job if he lacked confidence). A lot of the content was inspirational, with Dog giving examples of how he and his family have turned their lives around, giving hope to others that they can do the same thing, no matter how bad things seem. It was a quick read but a fun one, and it was great to read about all the ways Dog hopes that he can help and inspire people; I especially enjoyed his thoughts on how to more successfully fight crime. ...more
The title of this book sums up the content pretty well. In a dozen or so chapters, the author describes what it was like to grow up on her grandparentThe title of this book sums up the content pretty well. In a dozen or so chapters, the author describes what it was like to grow up on her grandparents' Iowa farm during the Great Depression and how they managed to have fun and flourish despite the hardships this life brought. Each chapter was about a different subject - education, holidays, or being thrifty, for example - and contained a number of short tidbits and stories related to the topic.
This reminded me a little of Little House on the Prairie, as both are autobiographical and set in the Midwest, although this took place later and the author grew up with more neighbors and a little more modern technology (or at least a little semi-modern technology was introduced as she grew up). I really enjoyed the first chapter or two, as it gave a good vantage point into the life she led and explained where these recollections were coming from, but some of the later chapters felt a little jumbled because they contained so many stories relating to the chapter's subject instead of going in depth about one or two. Also, because the book was set up by subject and not chronologically, the action sort of jumped around and prevented me from comprehending the full timeline of events.
The author did a great job bringing life on this farm to life. It's clear she has many vivid, wonderful memories of her time growing up there, and I appreciated the note she included near the end about her sister not finding the same period of time so enchanting and how her sister never wanted to return because of it. It's fascinating how two people can go through the same experiences and yet their memories make them think of the time differently.
I also really liked seeing how hard life there must have been, yet the kids on the farm were still able to enjoy themselves. Some of the stories were very memorable, especially one about the author getting blood poisoning and how her mom used a home remedy to treat it, and another story about the kids trying to get bumblebee honey. Other parts were not nearly as well told; the chapter about cooking with only what they could grow was interesting, but it also felt almost like a list of various recipes they used to enjoy.
It might be due to the fact that the author was a kid when all these stories took place, but there was actually very little discussion about the Depression going on and how this specifically impacted their lives. I think this may be also why I enjoyed the introduction more; she author related how neither kids nor adults could comprehend what was going on. This was about it, however, and the rest of the book was more about life in the "good ol' days."
While parts of this book were interesting, and the author did a good job explaining all their hardships and how they coped, the message of "it's a hard life, but it's survivable" got lost when she included generalizations speaking to the reader along the lines of "These days, people don't..." or "Kids today don't understand..." Though this did detract from my enjoyment, I'm sure that the author's relatives will treasure this book, as it allows them a better understanding of their family history....more
This memoir is pitched as "inspirational," and while I don't exactly agree with that description, I do think that the sentiments in this book were uplThis memoir is pitched as "inspirational," and while I don't exactly agree with that description, I do think that the sentiments in this book were uplifting. Obviously, Elizabeth Edwards has gone through a lot - her son's death, her cancer diagnosis, her husband's affair - and she details how she coped with these things in this book. It was definitely not a tell-all book, with no sordid details of anything, but she did a wonderful job telling her story and conveying her emotional journey through all the problems.
To round out her own journey through bad experiences, the author also shares stories from the lives of others. One of the most memorable stories is from when she lived in Japan as a child and took dance lessons from a Japanese woman whose dreams of being a geisha were shattered after she was disfigured in the bomb blast at Hiroshima; apparently, the woman's continually pleasant and polite demeanor, even after having suffered so much, was memorable enough that even decades later, she feels inspired by that response to tragedy.
There are also good parts about adjusting to life and how memories can be deceiving. This is a great quote I got from the book: Nothing of any size or duration is as magical as our memory of it. How true! And isn't it great that we have such magical memories?
Overall, I thought this was a nice book. Certainly some parts were better than others, and there were a few too many long quotes for my liking, but it was still a good read. It wasn't political (thank goodness) and simply focused on the author's life and how she got through (and continues to get through) the tougher moments in life. I imagine many people could relate to the messages in here....more
I won this book on Goodreads and was looking forward to reading it. The author's husband, a police officer in Minnesota, was killed while on duty, andI won this book on Goodreads and was looking forward to reading it. The author's husband, a police officer in Minnesota, was killed while on duty, and this book tells the story of their relationship and marriage and how she tries to cope after his death. I definitely got a good sense of the love between them and I understood the depth of her grief after he died. Despite the sadness in this book, it was also somewhat uplifting too, blending the sad parts of her new life with memories from happy times with her husband. The author described days when she struggled to just get out of bed, other days when she got by moment to moment, and then things that helped her feel a little better.
I was not aware before I read this that there was a religious slant to this book, so that was a bit of a surprise to me, with quotes from the Bible peppered throughout and the author occasionally talking about how some church trips helped her. However, for all the religious writing that was in this book, I don't think it was overly religious, and in fact the best parts of it had to do with the author's story and not her beliefs.
There were some very nice messages in this book. The main one is probably my favorite, to try to be here in this moment and enjoy it as much as possible. The other thing that really stood out to me was when the author went through old receipts, tossed the receipts from after her husband died and kept the ones before that. She didn't know the reason for this at first but then realized that she'd kept those receipts to see what had been purchased because those were important memories, things that may not have seemed important at the time but the sort of "everyday moments" that she treasured afterward. What a nice thought.
My only complaints about this book are that occasionally the dialogue sounded stilted and the events in the book sometimes jumped around in time to the point where I'm not sure when the events were taking place. These complaints are minor, though they did occasionally bother me, so I thought I'd mention it.
Overall, a very nice book that I'd recommend to others. It's not one that you could read the entire thing in one day because it's heavy and there's a lot to think about. Very heartfelt and thought-provoking....more