Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Help...Round 3

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started rereading The Help right as I started reading Harper Lee's new book. I knew I would need a story I loved about 1960s Southern living to counterbalance how unfulfilled I was going to be by the new version of Maycomb. The Help did not disappoint. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite books. Rereading The Help is like revisiting old friends. I love Skeeter, Celia, Abileen, and Minny. Stockett created women whose lives and stories seem to walk off the pages, and I find myself standing next to Minny cooking a caramel cake and friend chicken or writing prayers with Abileen. I even find myself giggling with Celia as she tries to make a home for her sweet husband Johnny. Mostly I find myself feverishly typing with Skeeter, and my heart is happy. Life may not be perfect, but it is worth living with passion and ideals. If you still haven't read this book, it's a must. Happy reading!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoy books that inspire me to be a better version of myself, whether the book helps motivate me to try voice lessons or to purge items from my closet. Kondo's writing style may be overly flowery, but her principles are sound. The idea that all of our possessions should spark joy has really stuck with me - why own things that make us feel badly about ourselves, our past, or the space we live in. I also appreciate the idea that things we own have a true shelf life - things, just as phases in life, are not always meant to last forever. We should grateful for purpose the item served and then move on. Honestly, I'm not willing to go through the full KonMari tidying method right now, but reading this book helped me let go of things I've been saving forever...this is essential since Seth moved in a few weeks ago and I had to give him half the closet and dresser. Happy reading and happy tidying!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dear Harper--

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dear Harper--

I anticipated the release of your book almost more than any other book that I have read. In fact, I preordered it just to ensure that it appeared on my doorstep the very day it came out. The only other book I have preordered is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and everyone knows how much I love Harry Potter. Go Set a Watchman makes me both happy and sad. I'm so grateful for the chance to have walked the streets of Maycomb again with Scout, but I am disappointed by how unfinished this book is. With what little detail we know about your writing, it's been said you wrote this book before the heralded To Kill a Mockingbird, and despite how unfinished and unrefined it is, the concepts are powerful and the issues worth debating. I just wish your publishers had wanted to release this book when you were younger and more interested in telling the story. I truly hope that you were not taken advantage of in your advancing years just so they could make a splash and sell a few more books.

All that said, you are still one of the greatest writers I have ever read. Your chapter about how Scout feels about her dad is so incredible that I have thought of it every day since I read it. That chapter may have been tucked in the middle of the book with little to no plot advancement, but the words resonated with my soul and I knew, yet again, why To Kill a Mockingbird touched so many hearts. Your writing profoundly affected our American identity, not to mention your writing's affect on the literary world. I can't thank you enough.

A Girl Who Still Loves Atticus

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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know a book is good when you're so invested in the characters and story that you have to close the pages and just take a moment to absorb what is happening. "All the Light We Cannot See" is wonderful, and I, over and over again, had to close it to take a breath and steel myself for what was to come. The story is tragic and beautiful and full of simple, vivid detail that suck you in so deeply that you want to sit alongside Werner and his sister as they listen in rapt attention to the Frenchman's stories on the radio or hold Marie-Laure's as she walks over cobblestoned streets to make sure she doesn't fall on her way to the bakery.

I, like many others, did not love the ending, but I loved the book overall. I read this overlooking the ocean on my honeymoon in Maui. I kept looking to my new husband and whispering my concerns about what was about to happen in the story. "The Nazi's are about to march into Paris." "I think they're going to make Werner a soldier...." He'd smile and listen to his overly invested wife and try to remind me that the characters weren't real. Then repeatedly my hushed voice would rise and say something to the effect of "but there were people like them and it's just so sad...." We'd return quickly to "I love you's and "I'm so glad I married you", but I realized when I finished the book how good it had been simply because it had held my attention so completely even with my handsome new husband by my side. Read it - definitely the best book I have read this year. As always, happy reading!

I Feel Bad about My Neck

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a WomanI Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nora Ephron makes my heart happy. As the brilliant and witty woman behind some of my very favorite movies (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia, You've Got Mail, etc.), I was happy to slip into Ephron's musings on aging, cooking, and finding an apartment in New York. Her wit and candor help make her genius more subtle - in the little details you realize how talented she must have been to gain such a strong foothold in the movie world as a woman in the 80s and 90s. This book isn't for everyone. Ephron doesn't tackle major life issues except as she closes her book, but that doesn't make her writing any less interesting for me. I love her and made sure to watch When Harry Met Sally the day after I finished reading.

*Disclaimer: This book may suffer from over-rating: a condition known to affect its sufferers when they have read a book in extremely happy times aka sitting by a pool overlooking the ocean a few days after getting married. The over-rater may not even notice they are suffering from the condition and what's worse, they may not care. Happy reading just the same.

Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary UnderbellyKitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (Technically, a 2.5, but no half stars on Goodreads)

Anthony Bourdain is an ass. There's no other way to say it. He relishes in the salacious, over-dramatic, shock factor details of his work in a way that seems to be trying to make up for the fact that he grew up in a "silver spoon, spend your summers in the south of France" kind of family. But he's a chef, a really good one. And he wrote a book that an app on my phone let me listen to for free. And, despite the fact that I wanted to quit listening to Bourdain because he seems like such a punk, I couldn't stop. I wanted to hear about the sauces, the knives, and the perfectly crafted dinner service. I wouldn't recommend this book to most people. You really have to love the food world and be able to get past ego - major ego. Either way, happy reading and, of course, happy eating.

The Great Gatsby...Again

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know you're an English teacher when you start to miss books taught at the levels you haven't taught in a while. For the first time I listened to Gatsby with Jake Gyllenhaal reading. While his female voices were a little special, his portrayal of Wilson was haunting. I love this book and am so glad to have stared at the green light once again.