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 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!