Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Catch Up! Three Book Reviews

Below are three books that I've recently read with two/three-sentence reviews:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A 24/7 San Francisco bookstore with mysterious clientele prompts the newly hired clerk to investigate into what is really going on here. A so-so book with a so-so plot, but I still read through it pretty quickly.



Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin

Notkin interviews dozens of women in their 40s who thought they would be married with kids by now. The book goes around in circles and feels like one long interview with well-dressed, articulate, successful women. I'm glad that there is a voice out there speaking up for women whose lives don't look like the "norm, but I only found this book to be somewhat interesting. Maybe just opening up the conversation is good.


Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave by Patty Chang Anker

The mother of two girls, Patty Chang Anker decides to face some of her own fears so that she could be a role model to her daughters. She takes on surfing, public speaking, and heights to name a few. Slow and contrived in parts with some clunky and cheesy transitions, this book was a bit too long and dragged out for my taste and attention span. Some chapters were interesting though.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir by Gail Caldwell

"You can't change the tale so that you turned left one day instead of right, or didn't make the mistake that might have saved your life a day later. We don't get those choices. The story is what got you here, and embracing the truth is what makes the outcome bearable." --Gail Caldwell
Caldwell contracted polio very early on in her life, so early that she never remembers life without it and its consequences. She learns to live with a limp and fights through the pain. Until one day when a new doctor finally orders a new test that reveals that what Caldwell needs is a hip replacement. And so she undergoes surgery and begins the slow process of recovery.

"The other thing I know now is that we survive grief merely and surely by outlasting it. The ongoing fact of the narrative eclipses the heartbreak within, a deal that seems to be the price we pay for getting to hold on to our beloved dead." (p. 158).

I loved Caldwell's last memoir, Let's Take the Long Way Home, and this one was pretty good, but not as good. Still, a pleasant and thoughtful book about facing life head on, not letting it get you down, but also being gentle to yourself in the process and allowing yourself to grieve.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

"No one asks, "On what is your heart set? No one asks, "What powers do you most rely on? What is the hope that gives meaning to your life?" Those are questions of faith, not belief. The answers to them are not written down in any book, and they have a way of shifting in the dark." -Barbara Brown Taylor

I LOVED Barbara Brown Taylor's first memoir called Leaving Church. In her latest book, she explores darkness in its literal, emotional, and spiritual sense.

I wasn't impacted that much by this book, not like I was with Leaving Church and An Altar in the World. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind. Perhaps the content might speak more to me at another time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild by Novella Carpenter

I enjoyed Novella Carpenter's first book, Farm City, about her urban garden in Oakland. Now, she is thinking about starting a family and wanting to make peace with her father who was in and out of her life. Well, it doesn't go as smoothly as expected.

The inside cover flap is a bit misleading. It tries to hook you in by saying that Novella gets a call informing her that her dad is missing and it suggests that this book is about finding him. Well, he reappears after a few days. She's actually going after who her dad is, what his story is, and how she can relate to him.

A short book, but it had me in its grips for two days (in between work and chores and swimming).

Monday, July 7, 2014

And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass

The only books in personal library at home are ones that I know that I'll re-read again and again. Julia Glass' first book, Three Junes, is one of them. And The Dark Sacred Night is a different story but with some of the same characters that were introduced in Three Junes.

Kit Noonan is an unemployed father of two who sets out to find his biological father. The story takes us from New Jersey to Vermont to Cape Cod and brings in characters that are rich and complicated.

I loved it! So human, real, and heartbreaking. I've complained lately about some books being too long, but this one at 379 pages was just right and I savored each word and page. This was one of those books that I wish could have just kept going.

If you're looking for good summer read, check this one out. Or maybe start with Three Junes and then check this one out!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Other Things I Read

I love to read books, but I also read other things community bulletin boards!

1. My favorite blog right now is The Simple Dollar. Trent writes posts about managing your money, living a frugal lifestyle, and making sure you invest in what and who is important to you. My friend, Grace, introduced me to The Simple Dollar when we were talking about making homemade laundry detergent. I now make my own laundry detergent (it's so easy!), and I faithfully read The Simple Dollar.

2. The local newspaper. When friends find out that we get the paper delivered, they are confused and ask, "Like the real newspaper?" Yes, although the real newspaper these days is not at all like the newspaper of my youth. Sigh. Ah well. Hearing the loud thump of the Sunday newspaper landing on my porch in the early hours and then dozing back to sleep is one of the small joys in life. I can fall asleep again knowing that there is a Sunday paper waiting to be read just outside the door. There is talk in my house about upgrading to The New York Times, but we'll see. We do like those Sunday funnies.

3. Real Simple magazine. I used to subscribe to a bunch of magazines but then I realized that The Economist stressed me out and that the Atlantic Monthly stressed Boomer out. So now I've whittled it down to just Real Simple. I am delighted when I find it in the mailbox, not stressed out like when I would see The Economist. However, Boomer is talking about subscribing to The Economist we'll see.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp

Kopp was living a double life. By day, she wrote Christian books about prayer and God. By night (and also by day), she secretly drank copious amounts of alcohol. She writes about how she hid her drinking from her husband and how she eventually hit bottom and started the recovery process. She is very honest about the highs and lows of recovery including the relapses.

Reading about how Kopp hid her drinking was particularly fascinating, and I could understand how exhausting it would be to keep the drinking secret. But then, it just became a way of life for her.

This is one book that I think could actually benefit from being longer than it actually is. I was curious about hearing even more details about her recovery and how it was for her to work through the steps of the AA program.

Kopp writes from a Christian perspective, but if that's not your background or to your liking, this book is still educational about addiction and the struggles involved in recovery.