Friday, December 23, 2016

Scrappy Little Nobody

Scrappy Little NobodyScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why have I read yet another celebrity book? It's an audiobook trap - oftentimes, memoirs are so much better read because they are read by the author, and I have an audible subscription that gifts me with two audiobooks a month (Yes, I pay for this, but it doesn't feel like it since it happens automatically). I was also mildly tricked into this one as its description said that it was written as a series of essays...and since Anna Kendrick has appeared in smart roles and started as a theater actress, I thought it might be good and more about storytelling rather than random anecdotes. Not quite - but I was entertained. Tina Fey still takes the award for best Hollywood memoir in recent unless you're a major Kendrick fan, stick to Bossypants.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For people who loved the Gilmores and the Bravermans, this book will be a delightful read. If you don't know who those people are, this book isn't for you. I was perfectly content to fall into the thoughts of the woman who created one of my all time favorite characters. Graham is a little spastic and seems to be trying too hard to be funny from time to time, but I still enjoyed listening to this one...and really where she leads, I will follow, anywhere....  

Happy reading and happy Netflix binging!

Small Great Things

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Jodi-- I love the way that you create individual and distinct voices for each of your characters, but some of your twists are just too much to handle. Your book had some powerful moments and some that were a bit too convenient. I get what you were going for, but I'm not sure I believe it. Either way, it was fun to fall into one of your fictional worlds again. It had been a long time... Love, Me

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Election of...

I spent the entire political season not saying anything about my personal beliefs online. I never wanted to alienate people or seem as though I am not open to other beliefs different than my own. But with the numbers pouring in tonight and the voices of Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, I feel like the American people have lost their minds. 

I was listening to Hamilton this morning (shocker, I know), and the lyrics to "The Election of 1800" suddenly seemed incredibly apropos. Hamilton says, 

"The people are asking to hear my voice
For the country is facing a difficult choice
And if you were to ask me who I'd promote--
--Jefferson has my vote
I have never agreed with Jefferson once
We have fought on like seventy-five diff'rent fronts
But when all is said and all is done
Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none."

Amen Mr. Hamilton. Just update the names, and we're in business. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hamilton: The Revolution

Hamilton: The RevolutionHamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To get the chance to read more about Lin-Manuel Miranda's writing process actually feels like a privilege. His writing in Hamilton has been compared to Shakespeare's mastery of language and composition. I agree 100% without feeling like I am over-selling or over-dramatizing Lin's gift. I have not seen words so deftly used in my lifetime. You do need to appreciate the show to appreciate the book, but who doesn't appreciate this show?! On the eve of a tumultuous election, how could you not?

Happy reading and happy singing!
I really can't wait to see this show. For now, I'll have to settle for rewatching Lin on Carpool Karaoke and the PBS Hamilton special. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia StoryThe Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Chip and Joanna. They put God and family first. They love each other. They work hard, and they create beautiful things. Of course, I enjoyed learning more about them and their Magnolia creations. This book isn't going to revolutionize the world, but it made a stressful week better and made me want to work a little harder at living a more authentic life with a clearer focus on the things that matter most to me. And bonus - Chip really is as entertaining as he is on the show.

Happy reading and happy binging on Fixer Upper before the new season starts at the end of November~

ps. If you don't watch the show, this one probably isn't for you. I think the book details really are better because I already am so enamored with the Gaines. #fixerupperobsessed #countingdownuntilIcangotoMagnoliainreallife

Just Mercy

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was 17, I wrote a research paper on how juveniles should be tried as adults. I had sobbed my way through the Columbine news coverage eighteen months prior, and I believed with every fiber of my teenage heart that there was no excuse for breaking rules, large or small. My conservative parents, religious upbringing, and strangely adult-like personality created a mindset that my teenage peers clearly should also know right from wrong. End of story.


If I have learned anything in the intervening years, it is that there is no one way to view human behavior and life experiences. What once seemed simple and clear cut is now excessively layered, nuanced, and often confusing. Some juveniles, for example, do clearly know that what they are doing is wrong. Others, however, have been so tormented by abuse, poverty, and fear that their behavior speaks instead to the failings of those around them to keep them safe or to teach them better. Mostly, I've learned that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to life, to love, or to justice.

Stevenson's book is eye opening, horrifying, and conflicting. Every section I read left me shaking my head desperate to have a second reader there to echo that yes, that egregious miscarriage of justice really happened and that only Stevenson and his team were on the side of the wrongly accused. I also just couldn't make things add up - my internal belief that the vast majority of people aim to do the right thing, that the justice system is there to protect us - alongside lying prosecutors, law enforcement going out of their way to penalize people of color, etc, etc. Stevenson does not set out to make villains of any one side or any one group. Rather he speaks to how everyone deserves justice and that sometimes mercy is necessary alongside justice.

I honestly still can't make sense of everything I read, and I've talked random people's ears off as I have tried to figure out what my core beliefs are surrounding the issues Stevenson raised. I do know that I agree with him wholeheartedly that we are fundamentally broken - an idea rooted deeply in Christianity, but there are those who are punished for their flaws in a way that denies them any humanity. I don't know how to process my desire to feel safe and protected from crime and wrongdoing and my simultaneous desire to lift those who struggle, those who don't know's all more than I can absorb or understand. I do know that this book changed the way I voted on California state propositions just this past week, and it changed the way I looked at miscarriages of justice as being mostly a thing of the past. And I do know that it is always my responsibility to try to make my corner of the world a little better - to give people the benefit of the doubt, because no action, right or wrong, should be handled out of the context of the rest of someone's life story.

I can't say that everyone should read this book because the style and topic won't appeal to most readers, but it seems like a book everyone should read - at least a part of it, because we are all affected by the justice system, whether we realize it or not. Rambling over.

Happy reading and happy November. I really love this time of year--

(These were my notes while reading the book that didn't quite make it into the book. They are not organized or filtered. Just the lines that rang true amidst all the truly engrossing stories: the opposite of poverty is justice....each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done...the true measure of us is how we treat the poor and the condemned (Christ)....fear makes us unjust and unmerciful (I really believe this one)...fear and anger are a threat to justice....status vs WE deserve to kill...mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given...)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Underwhelming: a word I have never used in association with anything relating to Harry Potter, but that's what Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is. There's too much expectation and too much hype associated with Rowling's incredible world, but she's lived up to it every single time. And honestly - this is not entirely her play. It's her ideas, but some else wrote and and adapted it, and you can tell.
The characters are not as likable and the images of who the "grown up" Harry Potter characters would be after Deathly Hallows just aren't the same.

All that negativity aside, I would watch this play. Per usual, plays really are better live. And I'm not sorry I read Cursed Child, but I'm not considering it part of the Harry Potter cannon. It's more like a really well structured piece of fan fiction. Am I allowed to say that about anything Rowling puts her name on?

As always, happy reading and let me know what you think of this one. I'm dying to talk it out with more people.
ps. Full confession that I totally geeked out when I saw the Palace Theatre adorned with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child signs as Seth and I walked through the West End in London this past June. The play was barely in previews, and it didn't make sense to drag Seth to see a show he had no interest in. My heart had an extra pitter patter for this theatre that had once been home to Les Miserables. Someday, I hope I will make it back to see another show there.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happiness is....

...seeing that it's almost the 27th when I get to download my next set of Audible books.

...watching the leaves change.

...sweet texts and notes from friends.

...sneaking episodes of Fixer Upper whenever Seth and I find 42 minutes.

...mail that is not a bill or ad, especially cards from Jenessa and new Netfix movies.

...seeing all the fall decorations in my classroom.

...actually sticking to a consistent workout plan. Six solid weeks of five nights a week with my sweetheart working out every minute of it with me.

...dinner with the adorable Partridge family (including uninterrupted time holding their baby girl).

...catching up with both Seth and my parents. We're so lucky to have them.

...seeing the Giants hold on for dear life as the baseball season winds down.

...making plans to take a day off or go on a getaway with Seth.

...seeing October get closer and closer.

...waiting for Courtney and Lorraine to come over for our monthly dinner. Tonight a change of venue to watch (or mock) the presidential debate.

Happy Monday and happy fall y'all.

Getting into the Blog Groove

Remember when blogs were a thing and everyone had one? I used to spend whole Sunday afternoons catching up on people's blogs. Then came Instagram and Snapchat, and for book nerds like myself, Goodreads. I just went through my blog list to see which friends still had one. The answer - not a lot. Very few are updating regularly, but I am glad to catch those more detailed glimpses into the lives of people who I no longer live near. I really hope I live closer to some of my dear friends someday...dare to dream.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Taking My Own Advice

If you saw my previous two posts, you know that I've been reading and pondering about living a more authentic life. It's not that I think that I am putting on a front, but I do think in an attempt to maintain an optimistic outlook on life, I don't like to focus on hard things. Lately, my hardest thing has been fertility issues. This means an endless stream of prescriptions, lots of doctor visits, disappointing results, and uncertainty. I don't bring any of this up to complain, but because I'm starting to think that I need more of an outlet and because I don't think I'm being fully myself if I don't acknowledge this huge part of my current reality.

In all cases, doctors say that stress inhibits your body. I have been reminded of this repeatedly as I have made my way in and out of the San Ramon Kaiser. I don't know how to be optimistic - to keep hoping for a positive pregnancy result after each round of treatment, and how to also be realistic. I don't know how to anticipate or handle the random bursts of hormone side effects that appear at the most unexpected times.

That said, I do know God is the details. He's in the chance meeting of a woman who is nearly eight months pregnant with her second baby who also worked with my same fertility doctors for both her girls. He's in the hug from my husband when I feel sad about the label "the couple with no kids". He's in the encouraging texts from my mom and sisters when I'm nervous about giving myself a shot. He's in the unquestionable joy I feel for other women who are having babies of their own. He's in the love of friends who listen without judgment as I talk through my fears and concerns. Even in hard times, God is there.

I know things will work out and when a baby comes, the struggle to get that sweet spirit here will be replaced by perfect joy. Here's hoping that it's sooner rather than later.

Love Warrior

Love WarriorLove Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started this book because on the same day, Brene Brown, author of the amazing "The Gifts of Imperfection", and my good friend, Anna, posted that they were reading and loving Melton's latest book. Since I implicitly trust their taste and their ideas, I was in - no questions asked. I downloaded "Love Warrior" on Audible, and I was off.

I maybe should have asked some questions. I had no idea that Melton was a recovering bulimic and alcoholic. I didn't know that she would spend a large portion of the book grappling with her husband's pornography addiction and infidelity. Basically, I didn't know how raw this book would be, and on fertility hormones, sad things can push me to more extreme emotions.

That said, I am not sorry that I read "Love Warrior" - I really appreciate Melton's candor and her overwhelming desire to tell her story without glossing over the hard things. I think we do ourselves a disservice for not telling our "whole" story. So often, we talk about the success we have after a "struggle" - never detailing why we struggled or what we struggled with. This makes us feel alone when things are hard, and Melton and so many others constantly remind us that our struggles are part of life's beauty. There is no shame in needing to relearn how to love ourselves and others. It's the disconnect between the front we present or "representative" (as Melton calls it) that we send in place of our true selves, that gets in the way of fully experiencing life and fully sharing who we are. We can't love fully if we don't share fully - if we don't put ourselves on the line and stop apologizing for our feelings, our mistakes, and our successes.

I can't say that this is a book for everyone. Melton's explicit detail might be too much for some, but I would recommend it overall. If you enjoyed Cheryl Strayed's "Wild", Melton is a good writer for you. If you thought Elizabeth Gilbert in any of her books was self-indulgent or over the top, don't start here. Either way, happy reading and happy fall--

The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book ages ago and told everyone I knew about it. I even gifted the book a handful of times because I could not get Brene's voice out of my head. I love that she encourages more authentic and whole living in such a real and natural way. Part of me instinctively reaches for a a justification for why I didn't finish the book for over a year, but Brene would tell you that you shouldn't justify your behavior - rather you should own your own story and not be apologetic for being who you are. I know that I don't need permission to be who I am, but sometimes it's good to be reminded. Happy reading and happy living--

Ps. If you haven't watched Brene's TED talk on vulnerability, I would suggest fitting it in sometime this week. It's a game changer - no question about it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last book that I can remember reading after I saw the movie was the first Harry Potter in 2001 - that's how rarely I don't read the book first, even if it means I can see the movie in theaters. Honestly, I wouldn't ever have picked up this book, except so many people recommended it. And they were right. Who knew that something that involves space travel could hold my attention?! It doesn't hurt that I could imagine Matt Damon the whole way through since so much of the story is focused on Mark Watney. Miracle of miracles, I think Seth would actually like this book. It may be his one book of 2016. Opposites do attract sometimes. :)

Happy reading--

Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I talk to people about Liz Gilbert, they have very strong, visceral reactions. People loved or hated "Eat, Pray, Love" - I was a hater who became a lover. People who love Gilbert feel inspired and liberated by her self-expression, her unapologetic dedication to pursuing her passions, and her unwillingness to settle. People who hate Gilbert find her self-indulgent and unrealistic. When I stopped seeing Gilbert as someone who was giving advice and rather as someone who just invited me along her "Eat, Pray, Love" adventure, I found truth in her experience much the same way that I found truth in Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" or Jeanette Wall's "The Glass Castle". All that to say that people who love Gilbert will like this book, but be mildly disappointed because she spends so much time actually giving advice rather than staying focused on her own anecdotal experiences and lessons with creativity. People who hate Gilbert will still find her self-indulgent, but she gets to be - it's her book, you bought it, you need to stop being surprised that she writes about her own whims and desires (too harsh?).

As for me, I was less enthralled with this book, but I still love Gilbert's honesty and I love her premise about pursuing the life you want to live without fear. So many of us wait for life to happen instead of going out and creating opportunities to be who we've always wanted to be. I can always use good reminders to be my best self, especially on the eve of a new school year.

Happy reading~

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Seth looked at me last night and said, "This is the youngest you'll ever be." What a funny concept. For the next couple hours, I'm technically still 32. And then it's 33.

I love odd years. I love double numbers even more. They seem lucky somehow. So here's to a new year. This one feels like a good one. Happy birthday to me. :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

One True Loves

One True LovesOne True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book essentially had me from "hello" - I loved the title, the premise, the prologue, and beyond. Reid writes about love in a way that makes sense to me. It feels as though she is giving words to thoughts I've never been able to articulate. I love how she handles love, loss, and how hard it is to figure out who you are and what you want out of life. That evolution is so challenging that I think many people stop trying to figure it out.

This review is more of a gush than anything articulate, so I think wrapping it up and just encouraging you to read the Goodreads blurb is sufficient.

I do think that this might be more of a 4 for most other readers. It just hit me in a way that only a good book at the perfect moment can.

Happy reading--

Why Not Me?

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was on a roll after "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" and just wanted to keep listening. Kaling really is clever and hand working and candid about who she is. She acknowledges flaws and inconsistencies and tells great stories. There are a few rambling moments in her writing, but I love that she loves her family, that she would rather stay home than party, and that she has strong personal convictions. She's a good role model for teenage girls, who I think are always lingering in the back of my mind when I read memoirs. Kaling does ramble a bit in the latter third of the book, but I still would recommend it as a good audibook.

My favorite part of her book was her shout out to her best friend, BJ Novak. She describes their friendship and working relationship so well and in a completely original way. It helps that I love Novak's writing and work, but definitely entertaining.

Happy reading--

ps. I never would have guessed that Kaling had interacted with President Obama on separate occasions. Fun to read about that too.

Six Months Later

Six Months LaterSix Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book last fall because a student of mine said it was her favorite book. Based on her comments in class and her writing, I thought she was a pretty good judge of books, and I wanted more to talk to her about. Then I misplaced the in, I, who treat books like they have feelings and am super organized, totally lost this brand new book. I never found it. This freaked the student out. Fast forward to June. I decided to purchase a used copy, and it really is ironic that I lost the first copy.

Six Months Later is about a teenage girl who wakes up and six months have passed. More than that, her whole life has changed. She has a new boyfriend, a different social group, she's a better student, etc., etc. Think of it as a creepy "Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac". This book does use some stereotypical high school characterization, but I still was engaged the whole way through. It's a great recommendation for high schoolers and for those of us who love YA lit.

Happy reading!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book for two reasons - one) I wanted to laugh and be entertained and b) life and my more recent book choices had been too full of sad things. Enter Mindy Kaling. She is smart and funny and a nerd to the core...which is a perfect fit. I think you need some exposure to her work to appreciate all her anecdotes, and perhaps you need to have ovaries. The second one isn't a must, but I think it contributed to my overall enjoyment. :)

As always, happy reading!

ps. I almost always do audio for these style of books. It's part of what makes the writing so funny.

Friday, July 22, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lately I've been fixated on the concept of time and how little we really have. I've also been obsessively listening to the Hamilton soundtrack where they repeatedly sing about Hamilton, "Why do you write like you're running out of time? Write day and night like you're running out of time?" But Paul Kalanithi really was running out of time. He knew he was going to die and wrote feverishly in an attempt to find meaning in his life, his work, and his impending death. Honestly, the book seems to end before it should - with less moralizing and conclusion than we're used to, but just as John Green's Hazel reminds us, we tend to die in the middle of a sentence with things seemingly undone and and unsaid. The one blessing of Kalanithi's end is that he had some time to prepare.

Had the book ended with just Kalanithi's writing, the book would probably just have been a 4 star book for me, but his wife's epilogue was so honest and poignant that I cried all the way through. Her discussion of love and grief and life will echo with me for years to come. And just as Eliza helped Hamilton's story come to life, Lucy has enabled her husband's story to reach so many others reminding me yet again, that the only thing that matters in this world are the people in our lives and our faith. Everything else is just details.

Happy reading--

13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a few hours to wile away waiting for my car to be fixed. I tucked in to a small cafe and started reading. Because Seth and I just returned from European adventure, I was immediately carried away into Ginny's world and her adventure following letters written by her Aunt Peg before Peg died from cancer. I only took a break to get more to drink and to pick up my car when the call came that it was finished.

This book was a perfect summer read - it's not an amazing book. There are plot details that get thrown out that never get connected back again or such serendipitous occurrences that you're left wishing that you also could magically make people appear to help you too. However, though "Blue Envelopes" lacks the depth of other teen travel adventures, it is still a fun idea that I enjoyed jumping into.

Happy reading--


Eligible (The Austen Project #4)Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like I need to start off with a disclaimer - the Keira Knightley version of "Pride & Prejudice" is my dessert island movie aka if I could only watch one movie forever this is the movie that I would choose. I know that's a controversial choice considering my obsession with the Anne movies and the BBC's most recent production of "Sense & Sensibility", and how often I turn on "When Harry Met Sally", but I could watch Darcy propose to Elizabeth a dozen times over and not be tired of it. All of this to say that I am predisposed to love things related to Austen's most famous love story.

Amazingly enough, I was not a believer for at least the first half of this book. Sittenfeld divided her book into 180+ chapters - seriously, a page is not a chapter. And the reader for the audio version, who I had previously loved in her part for "The Help", made almost all the characters seemingly unlikeable. Naturally Sittenfeld's characterization contributed to that, but I was not even liking Jane and Liz very much for how bratty their tones were. That said, I got past it as Darcy and Liz interacted more, and eventually I fell in love with their story and Jane's just like you do in the traditional versions. Not all the updates to the story are great, but the overall effect of setting Austen's classic tale in reality-tv obsessed 2016 Ohio is clever and captivating.

My two caveats to my recommendation are to read the book rather than listen to it. I just don't think this audiobook does the characters any favors, and most importantly I think you need to like Austen's original "Pride & Prejudice" to appreciate "Eligible". Otherwise, I think some of the plot details don't quite make sense. Oh, and one more - some of Mary and Lydia's behavior is so frustrating that it almost ruins whole sections. The reader may again have contributed to that.

Now if you're excuse me, I have a movie to rewatch before Seth gets home from work. I just can't help myself. Happy reading!

Me Before You

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Goodreads-

Can you please give me half-star ratings? I devoured this book - hooked, almost against my will, in to the story of Will and Lou. The preview of the movie based on this book made me think that "Me Before You" was a romance. It really isn't, and for that reason, I loved it more. Really I want to give this book 4.5 stars because I've thought of the story every day since I finished it.

Also, can you give more tags or warnings to the books? Like, this book is not made for public consumption aka no reading in coffee shops or parks. I ugly cried through the ending. I just couldn't help it. Lately, I've thought so much about living a more authentic life and not wasting time - it's too short not to live well. This story is a thought provoking look into what it means to pursue your path - whether or not people agree with that path. I may not don honeybee tights or get a tattoo with a "best before" date, but I want to look back at my days and years and be content with my choices. I am definitely content with the time I spent reading this book.

Happy reading and happy living!

Love, Me

ps. Seriously, where are we on the half stars? Not all fours are created equal.

The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hesitated to read this. I admit it. One of Hannah's previous books was far from my reading preferences, and I wanted the hours I spent reading that book back for something else. Yet, some of my favorite people promised that I would like this book, and true to my historical fiction loving heart, I cannot resist a WWII story for long.

Nightingale is a really good book. It's not as well crafted as "All the Light We Cannot See" or "The Book Thief", but it tells a beautiful story. It's captivating and set up with unlikely and flawed heroes. I most enjoyed that Hannah took on a different side of the war - focusing on the French resistance and giving that delicious taste of French pride and determination a la Les Miserables.

The book gets a 4 star rating instead of a 5 star because sometimes you can see Hannah's work - meaning she is trying so hard to evoke a feeling or a setting that you can see the effort. It distracts from the flow of the story, and I'm left feeling annoyed at the delicate roses growing along the arbor instead of feeling the despair at the character's husband being sent off to war. This means too that some of the twists are evident for chapters, and I would rather be so caught up in a story that I can't see things coming...I should acknowledge though that I was left sputtering by the twist at the ending.

Lastly what keeps circling around in my brain is not the most common takeaways of the bond between sisters or spouses, what it means to be a parent, or what stories lay buried in a person's past. Rather, I am struck by how brave people had to be in the face of life threatening danger. I am so content with my small life, but I imagine that I would not quietly go into the night if someone or something threatened my life and the people in it. What would that look like? Would I collaborate with the enemy under extreme duress? Would I go out of my way to protect strangers? These are questions, of course, that thankfully can't be answered because of the safety I enjoy in my small corner of the world. But with a 24 hour news cycle forever blasting the uncertainty and tragedy that fills the lives of others, I am left hoping that I am never given the chance to know how I would behave.

As always, happy reading and happy summer!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Midsummer - Year Four

A Midsummer Night's DreamA Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love stories that end well - with love winning the day and all the characters getting what they hoped for (whether they should or not is the next question). I wish life worked out like a Shakespeare comedy more often. Good should triumph and all stories should end with weddings and feasts. I think the world would be a happier place.

P.S. Can you tell that I'm still teaching sophomores by the books I read on an annual basis?

The Fault in Our Stars...Again

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nearly four years to the day, here I am again. While I really liked The Fault in Our Stars when I first read it, I didn't love it until months later as the book stayed with me in the way that only truly great books do. After four years of knowing them, I adore Hazel and Augustus so much that they and the other characters in this book, seem like people that I've potentially encountered in my day-to-day life. That's John Green's way. He catches my attention with his wit and cleverness, and I unconsciously give his stories my heart. You just can't fight it. [cheesy, non-objective post over]

Happy reading~

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Yes Please

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life and my reading choices have been a bit intense lately, and I needed to laugh. Since I feel too exhausted to run, and I still don't drink, my solution was to sign up for Audible and listen to Amy Poehler tell her stories. While Poehler's "Yes Please" is self-indulgent and not nearly as witty as Tina Fey's "Bossypants", it was exactly what I needed. And for that reason, it gets the three star rating instead of the two. There are some brilliant anecdotes and one liners, and it made me laugh, so I'm happy. Mindy Kaling, here I come.

Happy reading~

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To be honest, I had no intention of reading this book. Then my sweet husband who has no interest in the literary world heard my talking about this book with a friend. Unfortunately Seth missed the part where I said "The Girl on the Train" wasn't my type of book and went to four stores trying to find a copy to give me for Christmas. How could I return it after he tried so hard to get it? I got my book club to choose it for April's book, so I'd be forced to read it....

And then when I finished the book last night, there were not enough lights to turn on or doors to lock to make me feel comfortable. I really am not conditioned to read stories where none of the characters are likable and where the conflicts seem so based in real people's problems. Hawkins did a fantastic job setting up an unreliable narrator that still captivates her readers. I can't recommend this book because twenty-four hours later, I'm still so anxious just thinking about it...but wow - what a ride.

Happy reading--
ps. Emily Blunt has been cast to play the main character in the movie version. Even with how much I love her, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to go see this movie. "Gone Girl" was way too much for me to handle...and for the record, casting Emily Blunt as someone who is supposed to be unattractive is a little unkind. ;)

An Open Letter to Ginny and Hermione

Dear Ginny and Hermione-

I read a disturbing commentary recently that women are appreciated for two main things: being beautiful and being mothers. While being beautiful is, of course, not a bad thing and being a mother one of my greatest desires, neither of those things should define a woman's worth. Thank you for being much more complex that - for being smart, fiesty, strong, and passionate. Thank you for fighting for what's right and for never backing down from a challenge. I can't wait to introduce my daughters to you. You're exactly the type of girl I want them to grow up to be. 

Love, Me

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...Round 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to write something that does justice to how much I love the conclusion of this series and to the series overall, but it all comes out in "fangirl" and I just don't want to do that. So, today the short version is that I love the detail in this book. I love that Rowling pays attention to little characters and nuanced detail as much as she does the title characters. I love that there are stories within stories and that I notice new things every time I read. Few reading experiences leave me feeling as satisfied as the Harry Potters. Rereading the series over the past six months is no exception. There is always a perfect blend of nostalgia and magic - I can't get enough of it.
Image result for harry potter and the deathly hallows part 1
Happy reading to all the muggles who are also still waiting for their letter to Hogwarts--

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someday when my fantasy dinner party convenes, I will sit with Jo Rowling and ask her how much of the Harry Potter story she knew from the first book. This time through these books, I am captivated by the nuanced details - the layers of character motivation and descriptions that seem like they are just flavoring the story, but are actually setting up major plot and character revelations. My only disappointment with this book is that I can't actually go into the pensieve with Dumbledore and Harry.

As one of my students says, Harry Potter isn't just a book, it's a way of life. Freshmen are dramatic, but somehow this one rings true...and somewhere in other room, Seth is rolling his eyes. :)

As always, happy reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Current Loves & Obsessions

*I cannot get enough of Peter Hollens. I put his youtube channel playlist on every chance I get. If you haven't heard him, stop what you're doing and look him up. LOVE.
*I started listening to the Harry Potter books again in the fall. I'm now nearing the end of the sixth one. I am so content to get lost in Rowling's world of Hogwarts, unlikely heroes, English phrasing, etc, etc. Plus Jim Dale's voice is now so familiar that I start to miss it if I haven't heard it in a long time. I will be sad when the final pages of book seven are over. Then I think the next time I go through the books will be with a future son or daughter...if I can wait that long.
*I should probably be over this, but I am obsessed with our wedding photos. We still are trying to figure out which to hang in our apartment and which to include in a wedding album, so I use that as an excuse to pour over our pictures and relive our blissfully happy day.
(All wedding photography credits go to the amazing Kristina Curtis)
*My sophomores are studying "The Book Thief" right now. I love watching them appreciate Zusak's master storytelling. I could not love this story or Zusak's writing more.
*Henry got glasses, and he's beyond adorable. He chose black frames to be like Batman. 
*March 8 was International Women's Day. Amidst all the horrible political rhetoric, I was inspired by the hope and message of the day. One of my sophomores, a petite Indian girl who will be an extraordinary woman someday, came dressed very subtly as Rosie the Riveter. These girls really will change the world if only given the chance. #onedayIwill
*That, of course, leads me to Emma Watson's work on the HeForShe campaign. I love this campaign, particularly Emma's work, because it has not focused on women's rights at the detriment or chastisement of men. It's about people being treated fairly, not because they are men or women, but because they are human. Empowering others doesn't take away from our own strength, but rather increases our own potential. 
*My sisters and I went to Disneyland last weekend with Seth, Chad, and Mae. One of my favorite (although uncaptured) views were Mae's little arms stretched as high as they would go whenever we were on any sort of roller coaster. She really is a powerhouse in the making.
*Wouldn't be normal life if I didn't include something about Seth that I am currently loving...not that I could ever choose one: that guy's smile just melts my heart, his earnest desire to see me happy, the fact that he chooses my company over everything else he could be doing, that he goes on adventures with me, and kisses me good night and first thing every morning. I love my Mr. Mann. 
Happy spring. Happy life.