Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What Alice Forgot...Again

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

July 19, 2017
I don't usually reread books so soon after reading them the first time, but I really loved this book and I just needed to fall into Moriarty's well told story again. I love these characters and both Alice and Libby's conflicts resonate with life right now. If you haven't picked one of her books yet, you really should. They are exactly what summer ordered.

Happy reading--

ps. I would definitely suggest the Audible audio version. The Australian reader is fantastic. I wish she narrated my own life.

Textbook Amy and Wandering Powell's

Textbook Amy Krouse RosenthalTextbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dear Amy--

After revisiting your Encyclopedia over the fourth, I decided that I wanted to make your Textbook Amy my "Powell's purchase". That simply means that when my husband and I were going to Powell's City of Books in Portland, I was going to let myself buy one book. Sounds ridiculously arbitrary, but I have a book buying "problem", and I liked the idea of going with a book in mind. As I'm sure you know, Powell's is delightfully huge, and we wandered the store for ages....

Here's the best part though: in the kids section, Seth and I were studying all sorts of books. There are so many talented illustrators that you can't help but want to touch each cover. We stopped though and laughed at a book called "Duck! Rabbit!" because of one of our favorite "How I Met Your Mother" episodes about the very same debate. And then the book was by you, and it seemed too seredipitous to leave behind.

So I left Powell's that day with two books. One about you and one about a creature that I tend to think looks like a duck. I read "Textbook Amy" on the plane ride home from that trip while Seth slept beside me. And I cried knowing that you had died and felt more poignantly your wonder and appreciation of the simple and the grand. You make me want to be more appreciate of people and the little things that make up our days.

Anyway - thought you'd appreciate the random anecdote. We miss you and appreciate all the pieces of your infectious spirit that you left behind. Can't wait to read your thoughts on heaven.

Love,
Jaclyn
ps. A book store that takes up a city block really is a wonder. Counting down until we can go back. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, I have to say that I feel so proud of myself for getting through this book. Am I allowed to say that? I never read straight historical non-fiction, and I never would have expected to enjoy this book as much as I did, despite the fact that I love history and Chernow is clearly a gifted historian. But this is a remarkable book that only makes me think more highly of Hamilton's vision and work ethic, not to mention my increased awe of Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. To see how many lines and details of the musical were drawn from real letters and speeches was just awesome.

One of the big takeaways for me, besides being even more obsessed with the musical, is how astonishing it is that the American experiment was successful. With unbelieveable hamartias in each of the founding fathers, Hamilton included, and just so much ego, I am blown away by what it took for the United States to come into being. The complexities and nuances of how every bit of the constitution, the financial system, etc came to being seem miraculous. It was a stark reminder that no individual history - hero or villain - is just that one great or one horrendous moment that they are most remembered for. Just as I do not be judged for one day or one trait, the founding fathers and their often overlooked wives, were not perfect. Far from it from Chernow's descriptions, but they still did build this great nation that I am so proud to be a part of.

I was surprised to find myself tearing up in the conclusion of this epic book. I've known since that "Got Milk" commercial from the late 80s or early 90s, that Burr was going to kill Hamilton, but it felt so tragic and so unnecessary as I lived the final days and hours with the Hamiltons. More so, I felt weepy as the details of Eliza's fifty years as a widow unfolded. She was an amazing woman, and I'm glad for the chance to have gotten to "sit with her" as she told of her Hamilton.

Happy reading-- It's worth it!

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life - Round Two

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeEncyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

July 17, 2017
I picked this book up again because it was sitting on my mom's nightstand in Tahoe. After finishing another book that I loved and that had a happy ending, I wasn't quite ready to get into my other books with much darker, more intense themes. And so, I revisited Amy and her encyclopedia. I loved her book just as much as I did the first time, though I found myself almost in tears a few times thinking about how she had recently passed away.

Amy's candor and ability to describe the often mundane details of life with humor and wonder are just delightful. Cliche as it may be to say, rereading Amy's book was like revisiting an old friend who is dearly missed by many. Not to mention that Amy's writing makes me want to be a better journaler and writer myself - her seemingly random selection of details shows that the simple elements of life really are some of the most beautiful aspects of life. After finishing I started my own alphabet of potential entries. So far it includes Fire Sign, Tahoe, baby dreams, IUI, and book critic. I haven't added to it again, but I like the goal of looking at my days and weeks with more simple wonder and awe. It really is a wonderful life--

Happy reading--

The Sun Is Also A Star

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Things that I love about this book in no particular order:
*the cover - its colors and textures specifically
*the shared narration
*the insights into passing characters
*the various formats Yoon uses to tell the story (aka not all straight narrative prose)
*the specific visual details that make the story all the more tangible
*the resolution
*the well-expressed raw desires of each of the characters
*the fact that I can recommend this book to adults and teenagers without questioning whether either group will like it
*the whole story takes place in a day

Things that I didn't love about this book:
*it ended

Happy reading and happy summer--

Ps. It is one of great joys of life to read in the summer...especially when I finished this book on the couch in Tahoe with Seth fast asleep beside me. Perfectly delightful.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Delirium

Delirium (Delirium, #1)Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In seven sentences: Dystopian YA fiction is meant for summer reading. It's escapism at its best. This book was fast paced and intriguing. The book might have even been a four star read, but the ending was just not what I expected or wanted. And I can't tell if I 'm mad because I feel manipulated into the next book or because I somehow expected more positive outcomes despite this being clearly marked as a dystopian book. Either way, Oliver is clever and worth your time.

As always, happy reading and happy summer!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short and simple: I was blown away by this book. Noah's life experiences are extraordinary and his candor remarkable. I think the audio is essential because of how many languages and accents that Noah can share and how true and natural his voice is. This is one of those stories that summing up any of the details does not do justice. Truly his life story is stranger and more powerful than fiction.

One more thing- I only knew vaguely of Noah as the new Daily Show host. I have maybe watched two or three clips of him speaking ever. You don't have to know his work to appreciate this book.

Happy reading and happy risk taking- Noah wouldn't have it any other way.

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Hate U Give

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

George Eliot said, “The only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings, is that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from them in everything but the broad fact of being struggling, erring human creatures.” It's interesting to note that George Eliot was only Mary Anne Evan's pen name, and that she perhaps understood better than many why empathy and appreciating others' differences were essential to the human experience.

Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give" is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Every step of the way, it challenged my assumptions and my life experiences and gave voice to issues that demand our attention. I'm not sure I would have read it had I fully known what the subject matter was, but I am so glad that I did. Thomas' main character Starr comes to life in a way that I felt like I was with her as she walked through Garden Heights and listened to her incredible mom navigate an impossible parenting situation.

Raw, poignant, and brilliantly alive, "The Hate U Give" will stay with me for a long time. Describing it in more detail would not do justice to the impactful narrative, Thomas has created. It is almost better to go in with no expectations. That said, the language and the violence are jarring and may not be to everyone's tastes, so I add that caution as you're making your own reading selections.

It's perhaps corny to say, but I am exceedingly grateful that we get to hear other people's voices through reading. C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we're not alone." While I 100% agree with Lewis, I also would add, we read so we can help others not feel alone. This is our blessing and our responsibility.

As always, happy reading and happy living--

Monday, June 5, 2017

What Learning Leaves

What Learning LeavesWhat Learning Leaves by Taylor Mali
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taylor Mali puts into words how teaching and education feels - something that I often try and fail to do. I love him for that. His word play is exceptionally clever, and I'm glad to have finally started working through my "to be read' shelf at home. There are really good books I've had tucked away for ages.

Happy summer and happy reading--

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 3

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bird in Hand

Bird in HandBird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really good writer. Really sad subject matter. Really need to read up on what my books are about before I dive into them.

The plot is probably a two star rating because I seriously don't want to read about selfish people having affairs, but the writing is a four. If you haven't read Kline before, read Orphan Train instead.

Either way, I'm thrilled to have had a three day weekend to read this book and start another couple.

Happy reading-

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 2

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's be honest, I read this book for three reasons:
1) I really like the cover and the title. The juxtaposition of the two title words is startling and intriguing.
2) A few of the readers I trust most recommended it.
3) Last but not least, I, like so many, was completely caught off-guard by November's election. All the media I consumed had positively assured me that he who must not be named could never win. Clearly, we all missed something. I knew that reading Vance's book wouldn't be able to fully explain that, but I needed to make an attempt to understand other voices in this country.

Vance's book left me shaking my head in disbelief. It is unthinkable that we live in the richest country in the world, and yet, so many of our people suffer and struggle unnecessarily. Even harder to grasp is how those problems are made worse by personal choices, and then, of course, it's the children that suffer most. Vance offers some theories about why it happens and what can be done, but mostly, this is just his story. He survived a hard childhood and rose above his struggles to attend Yale law among many other successes. And yet, I don't feel a tremendous sense of resolution. His success pales against the vast majority that still struggle with no end in sight.

I am not sure that I am glad that I read this, but it's a good dialogue to join. It seems essential that we all become more aware of what is happening around us. The more informed we are, perhaps the more likely we are to find ways to support those who need it most.

Happy reading--

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Orphan Keeper

The Orphan KeeperThe Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's no surprise that I love to get lost in a good book. The story of a young Indian boy taken from his home and then illegally put up for adoption in the United States is a fascinating one. This novel is based on the life of a real person from Utah who eventually really did return to India to find his family. The real story is so compelling that I wanted to disappear into the contrasting tastes and sounds of an Indian village alongside the stoic grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. But I couldn't.

The writing is distracting and uneven. The story telling is unevenly paced and important details glossed over while others brought to the forefront when they don't really matter. I wonder if part of the issue is that the author made the stylistic choice to skip over much of the religious life of the real person. This meant that the two year mission the real Taj Rowland went on became a study abroad. The details don't entirely make sense, and I think that a non-fiction version of this written in Laura Hillenbrand's style might have been better.

Long story a bit longer: I 100% get why so many people love this story. The story really is amazing. But the writing leaves much to be desired. Truth be told, I would probably give this book two stars, but because so many people I love loved this book, I am giving it three so as to not start any drama...and I have just joined a new book club and this is their second book choice. I'm not connected with any of them on Goodreads, but in case they do join, I don't want to be ousted so early on. ;)

Happy reading and happy almost summer--

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Little Prince

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know what you're thinking-- that only a person without a soul could not like "The Little Prince"...that I probably hate bunnies and sunshine and the sound of children's laughter too. That is definitely not the case, but I did not love The Little Prince. Perhaps my expectations were too high. People rave about this book and how it profoundly affected their outlook on life. And don't get me wrong, the message is beautiful, but I forced myself through every page. It just did not speak to me as it has spoken to others. Anne Bogel who writes the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and runs the "What Should I Read Next" podcast, recently referenced W. H. Auden and his belief that there are some books that we as readers, can acknowledge are good, but they are not good for us. This is one of those books. I can see why people love it, but it will not make my list of must-reads.

With that less-than-popular opinion said, as always, happy reading--

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 1

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life is a series of goals, dreams, and expectations - some of which are met, and some of which are left woefully behind us as we grow out of the dream or face a harsh reality. Some are simply forgotten because new dreams and aspirations take their place. "Everything I Never Told You" tells the story of a family whose individual dreams and experiences are a messy knot of failure, disappointed expectation, or false contentment. While some of the story is a little too coincidental, I really liked how Ng captured the uncommunicated barriers that people face or put up. Sometimes, I think, it's the lack of communication and not the failed dream that really trips up the characters (us too in real life).

Quality read with subtle details that required my full attention. I was happy to give it.

Happy reading--

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It Happens All the Time

It Happens All the TimeIt Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am all sorts of conflicted about what to say about this book. I need to preface my comments with the fact that Amy Hatvany is not a bad writer. In fact, she sets up a compelling narrative, but this book was not what I expected: an entire novel based on sexual assault. I didn't need a play-by-play of what happened and then I didn't need to re-live it over and over with the character. The tone was preachy during the last few chapters, and while I think this is a really important topic, I do not (and did not) want to read an entire novel about it.

That said, sexuality and sexual assault is something that we need to start talking about more candidly. It's the very taboo nature of the topics that lead to so many women not reporting what happens to them. Open dialogue is the answer to so many of our society's current problems. I wish instead I had read a book about that. Glennon Doyle Melton, for example, would have been a much better read for me.

Totally your call on this one, but as always, happy reading--

ps. Should't I have known better from the title?!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Everything, Everything

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a perfect light read after finishing such a gut-wrenching book earlier in the week. It was the last thing I read before bed and first thing I picked up all weekend.

The premise of Yoon's book is fascinating, albeit a bit far-fetched, but I loved the creativity of her writing style. The illustrations, the "book spoilers", charts, descriptions of color, and email/IM correspondence were so fun. The book lost me with the big twist, but I enjoyed the overall narrative, and I would recommend this book to YA lovers and, most definitely, my students.

Gotta run because I need to get to my next book.

Happy reading--

Ps. It is rare to have diverse main characters, so I was thrilled to have a part Asian, part African-American main character. Teenagers need to see themselves in their books, and I love finding them quality characters that look more like them than what is found in a lot of mainstream fiction. Just a shout out for my other educator friends who are looking for books for their students.

Pps. Thanks to Ness for sending her book all the way from Utah, so I could read it. Sharing books with my favorite people makes me excessively happy.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Underground Railroad

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have spent the week debating what the purpose of a ratings system is. Do we say a book is worth five stars because it's an amazing read? One that carries us away to somewhere we all wish we could go with lyrical words and fascinating characters. Or do we say that a book is worth five stars because the story is powerful and allegorical and one that must be told? This is the debate of books that I love to actually get lost in versus ones that have the power to change the way a society sees an entire era.

The Underground Railroad is one of the latter. Whitehead's narrative is deeply scarring and unconventionally told, and yet it captures the life of a runaway slave in a way that I will never forget. Like Holocaust stories and other tales of struggle, it is not one that I will readily return to, but I can see why Whitehead's book received so much notice and why it will continue to be talked about for decades to come. It is a haunting reminder of slavery's impact on our nation, and why the race issue isn't one that we can just "move on from" as so many are apt to say when racial tensions boil over. This book is a reminder that our assumptions must always be challenged and that when we help others rise, it helps everyone rise.

Happy reading--

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lilac Girls

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I pick up and put down books all the time, so to say that it took me nearly six months to complete Lilac Girls doesn't have to be some dramatic commentary on the novel itself...except that it was. I wanted to love this book. It came highly recommended by people whose opinions I trust, but the book's structure and style were too predictable. The story itself was powerful and the characters compelling. It was fascinating seeing into the lives of women in World War II, whose experiences were far from the traditional war epic that we so often read. That said, without knowing anything about the story ahead of time (two of the three book perspectives are real people), I could see the twists coming and the forced chapter cliff hangers were frustrating.

I would absolutely recommend this book to people who read a lot and love historical fiction, but if you're short on time, there are other stories I'd choose first - All the Light We Cannot See, Nightingale, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Unbroken, etc, etc just to name a few.

Whatever you choose, happy reading~

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly GuiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liane Moriarty's books have been like Tostitos for me the past couple months. Once I start, I cannot seem to stop. "Truly Madly Guilty" was my fourth Moriarty book in that short window of time, and if there were another dozen of her books, I would move on to my next right away.

That said, I wanted to love "Truly Madly Guilty", but I just didn't. Maybe it's the same when you've realized you've eaten half the bag of chips...I still loved the different perspectives and the way Moriarty wove the lives and plot lines together, but I didn't love the characters. That took away a level of the avid interest that the other books have had for me. I did love the thematic discussion of marriage and the little girls of two of the main families. Moriarty's ending was satisfying, but it took until the last quarter of the book to identify well with the main characters.

In a sentence, underwhelming, but Moriarty is a great writer and Caroline Lee is a great narrator. Audible for the win (again).

Happy reading~

ps. This is book ten for the year so far. Really hope I can keep this up for the year. Life's too short to not read a lot.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What's Saving My Life Right Now

Recently, my friend Meg said I had to start listening to the Modern Mrs. Darcy aka the wonderful Anne Bogel. In Anne's Groundhog's Day post, she wrote about a borrowed sentiment of "what is saving my life right now". I like the drama of it over the previous trend of gratitude journals. With the highs and lows of life lately, I love this idea.

So, what is saving my life right now?

1. Liane Moriarty books: Seriously on my fourth book of hers in a few weeks. I've needed the distraction, and the Australian narrators are fantastic. If you've never read her books, start with "What Alice Forgot". It's excellent.

2. Audible subscription: Best $22 I spend each month.

3. Minimalism game: The Minimalists have a game where you get rid of the amount of items that match the date for a month. You can donate, sell, or trash the items. I have already finished all the March dates both at home and at school(let's be honest - it was mostly paper items for school). It helps that we're moving. I pick up almost everything and say, "do I want to pack this and carry this into a new home?" Works wonders. I'm hoping to do a major purge when I'm moving in too.

4. Candles: They really do make any space feel more cozy. I can't get enough.

5. Caffeinated beverages: So, so many of these.

6. Random check-ins: Friends and family randomly texting, calling, or stopping me to ask how things are going. Talking through some of the madness is helpful.

7. Green hills and warm sunshine: I love being on the edge of spring, even if rain is in the forecast for the next few days.

8. My parents: They really do go out of their way to still make sure I am being taken care of.

9. No grading: As in, I actually am 100% caught up. That won't be true tomorrow, but it's so rarely true ever that it's a miracle.

10. Videos of Jewels' kids and group texts/snaps with my sisters: They really do make every day better.

11. Seth: He's been working like a crazy person the past five plus weeks, but when I wake up next to him, I know that everything will be okay. We really are so blessed.

After pondering my list, I can't wait to ask people what they would put on theirs. Happy living and happy almost spring!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's SecretThe Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seriously though - I start Moriarty's books, and I cannot stop. I was so into this one, I almost forgot what I was doing while listening. "What Alice Forgot" is still my favorite, but this is my third of Moriarty's books in the last couple months, and I already have started my fourth.

This one was different than "What Alice Forgot" and "Big Little Lies" in that Moriarty doesn't wait until the last 10% to reveal the main twist, but still a really powerful story. Just like her others, she really makes you wonder what you would do and challenges the roles and patterns we so naturally fall into without question. This story is saucier than her others, so not for everyone, but I can't help myself.

Happy reading--

ps. I really want to hang out in Sydney after all these stories. Field trip anyone?

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to understand why everyone was so in love with Ove. He's cranky and seemingly unyielding, but when you see him through his sweet Sonja's eyes, you can't help but fall in love. This isn't my usual genre, but I am so happy to have met Ove and the crazy cast of characters that live in his neighborhood. Perfectly delightful-

Happy reading--

Big Little Lies

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really like Liane Moriarty. She weaves a web so deep that I can't see my way out to actually work on things that I am supposed be doing. I love that Moriarty doesn't give everything away up front. Her characters are interesting and the twists surprising. I had actually stayed away from this one because of the hype, and can't believe I did. So good. Really loved falling in to Celeste, Jane, and Madeline's world.

ps. This is probably only a 4 or 4.5, but it gets a bump because I could not stop listening. Audible and Caroline Lee's Australian accent for the win.
pps. Can't wait to see HBO's miniseries production of this. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Leave Me

Leave MeLeave Me by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something about Gayle Forman's writing style that grabs me every time. It's the type of book where I think I should put it down and get back to real life, and I just can't. What I also love about Forman's writing is how her characters are so engaging. I don't have to understand the characters' background or condone their choices (which I definitely don't in this one), but the I would follow their stories wherever they go. Forman makes flawed characters relatable and likable. She does ask you to suspend reality sometimes, but I'm always willing to do that for a Forman novel.

Is this book for everyone? No. Most people will get too hung up on the premise of Maribeth Klein backing a bag and leaving her family. But I loved how authentic the characters' emotions and motivations were, especially Maribeth's and her husband's. Will I read Forman's next novel, be it another foray into adult writing or another YA book? Of course. Already counting down the days.

Happy reading-

"I imagine it's like most things in life. You sacrifice something for the knowledge, be it peace of mind, a sense of invincibility, or something less quantifiable."

Monday, January 30, 2017

What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think sometimes we underestimate how much we change from year to year, let alone what happens to us over the span of a decade. After all, ten years ago I was 23 and in my first year of teaching at a rural high school in Utah. I had been in two recent car accidents and was struggling to deal with the constant pain I was in. My younger sister was about to get married, and I was distracted by memories of a boy that I'd been involved with moving on so completely. I was happy overall but felt like I didn't belong where I was and was unsure where to go. Fast forward ten years - I'm 33, living in California, and I'm in my ninth year of teaching having taken a couple years in the middle off for grad school. After another car accident five years after the first two, I found someone who helped alleviate pain from all three accidents. Now, there are whole days and weeks that I don't think about my neck and back hurting. My sister has been married for ten years next week and has had four beautiful babies. I have now been married for a year and a half to my own sweetheart and am undergoing fertility treatments in hopes of babies of my own. All of those things are just the beginning of what happened in the last decade. They hardly cover all the day-to-day experiences, the people I've met, and the people I no longer talk to, the changes that technology has made, the election of our first black president, and the election of a horrible reality tv star...not to mention the people who have died or the lessons I have learned. Where would I even begin if I had a chance to chat with my 23-year-old self?

"What Alice Forgot" is like that conversation for Alice Love - only she is is 39 with three kids and living in Australia but thinks she's 29 and pregnant with her first baby. I don't know if I would have loved this book so much if the epilogue hadn't been so fulfilling, but I was literally holding my breath waiting to know how everything would turn out. I thought Moriarty's characters were clever and well spoken without being inauthentic. The world she created was relatable, and I wouldn't be surprised if she had spent time in the community I teach in.

Like Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife" and Asher's "The Future of Us", I will think of this book over and over again because of how much it has made me wonder at the passage of time and how life can be both so predictable and unpredictable at the same time. I also will keep thinking about my 43-year-old self and whether she would be happy with the way her younger self is living. I wouldn't want her to be disappointed.

Happy reading and happy remembering--

The Storyteller

The StorytellerThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it too early to say that this is my favorite book of 2017? You're probably right that it's too soon, but man, I want to say it. This book was captivating and well written. I fell into this story and had the hardest time stepping away from it to do normal life. I can't do justice to why I liked it so much without gushing or using ridiculous amount of hyperbole. The short version is that I loved the character development, and frankly loved the characters. I appreciated that people weren't clear cut villains or heroes and that the smell of baking bread was woven all throughout the story. I loved that there was a fictional tale told alongside the character's narratives. So, so good - already, I'm wondering if it's too soon to read it again. And I'm really hoping this book gets optioned for a movie. It has all the makings of a great one. Better stop now, the hyperbole is creeping in....

Happy reading and happy January--

I Remeber Nothing

I Remember Nothing: and Other ReflectionsI Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Nora Ephron - a lot. But I didn't love this. Some of her segments or one-liners were smart and clever, but for all her wit, most of this felt over-the-top or self indulgent. I would still pick up any of Ephron's writing. I think she was one of the most creative and brilliant women of our time, but I just wouldn't recommend this one. Instead, put "When Harry Met Sally" in the DVD player, sit back and relax. Then when that's over pull out "Sleepless in Seattle", "You've Got Mail", and "Julie & Julia". Her distinct storytelling will win you over one magical cinematic moment at a time. Perhaps I'll go start of those myself right now....

Happy reading--
(I seriously could not love "When Harry Met Sally" or any of the above mentioned movies any more. They're some of my absolute favorites."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I need you to know that I love John Green. I love him for his wit, his candor, and his ability to portray teenagers so brilliantly. I love his one-liners and the way he mixes tragedy and comedy so smoothly that you miss where one emotion ends and another begins. But I did not love this John Green book. Perhaps it's because I didn't read it a decade ago. Perhaps it's because I already knew what was coming in the book (student book report spoilers from nearly a decade ago). Or perhaps it was all the smoking (I really hate when teenagers smoke in real life...so maybe I just couldn't get past it??). Either way, there were moments where Green held my attention and others where I put my audiobook on a faster reading speed so the book would be over sooner.

I'd still recommend the book. As I said, I love John Green, but if you're only going to read one of Green's novels, The Fault in Our Stars is by far my favorite.

Happy reading--

Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A MemoirLove, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In an effort to spend less time on social media and to read more books, I preview books on my phone and then choose ones to read while Seth is still asleep on weekend mornings. This way, I'm still warm and cozy next to him, but not staring at the ceiling or trolling randomness on Facebook. I chose this book because I liked the title (something she got from the delightful Nora Ephron) and I love Top Chef.

The book itself is a bit like a fancy restaurant - moments of deliciousness with lots of things that aren't quite my taste. The details of Laksmi's life are fascinating, but her storytelling was uneven and some of her life choices border on ridiculous. I had no idea she had been linked to a famous author and a billionaire, so those respective experiences were interesting to read, though again - not exactly a someone to pattern your life after. I think I would have liked the book better had it been an audiobook, but I still read it more quickly than I would have guessed.

I'm glad to have read it for a few reasons - 1) Like I said, I really do like Top Chef. After watching her host it for so many seasons, I like knowing that beyond her hosting career, she's a cookbook author, an actress, a mother, and an activist. 2) I don't read lots of books written by people of color. I'm thrilled to have read another Indian author that I can talk about with my female Indian students. While not as funny as Mindy Kaling or as eloquent as Jhumpa Lahiri, Lakshmi is still working hard to make a name for herself and trying to improve the lives of other people through her philanthropy work. 3) And lastly, the hours spent reading this book were spent reading. I'm always happier when I have a recent answer to the question, "What have you been reading lately?"

As for you, happy reading and happy eating...and of course, Happy 2017!