Thursday, October 11, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1)Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that I like to read current fiction, I avoid books that are trendy. The Twilight phenomenon just seems too easy to repeat. But this book just kept being talked about...and then they made a movie of it, and I have to read a book before I see the movie version, so here we are...

I am blown away by the level of detail in this book. The tangible specifics about what the characters are wearing, driving, and buying must have taken an incredible amount of research. What's more impressive is the amount of characters Kwan deftly wove together. Sometimes books lose their grip on reality because the characters all seem to be only children with four people who come to holiday gatherings. This book showed the aunties, the cousins, the neighbors that become family, etc in all their messy glory.

My main issue with this book lies with the cruelty of some of the characters. The unfortunate existence of the Real Housewives shows is proof that people scheme their way to the top, but in book form, it made for entirely unsympathetic or hateful characters. I inwardly cringed over and over again at the lengths that some of the characters would go to in order to reach their own selfish goals. Still the story is well told.

This book gets a mixed recommendation from me. On some levels, it is great, but the language is rough and some will find it hard to keep the families in order. That said, if this doesn't make you want to go to Singapore and Paris (especially if it's Astrid's couture version), you're missing the luscious imagery of the book.

Happy reading and happy street food eating--

Persuasion

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am late to the game when it comes to Austen's lesser known stories. I, of course, have watched the movies many times, but most of my "Persuasion" knowledge comes from references in other books and films. It's fun to get lost in Austen's stories - to walk the streets of Bath or to sit in a quiet library with her characters. It's comforting to know that her heroines will get what they most desire by the end of the story and to be a part of a world that is so blithely unaware of the world at large.

That said, this is not my favorite of her books. It's solidly good. I just get too frustrated with the side characters, especially her father and sisters, being so unlikeable. A woman in my book club pointed out that having unlikeable characters is part of Austen's own maturation, but in this stage of life, I need the balance of good people to negative, back-biters to be on the side of the good. Still like I said, Austen is faithful to her heroines ultimately winning the day. I love that about her.

Happy reading and happy fall--

ps. I never thought I'd say this after her convincing portrayal of the horrible Mrs. Elton in "Emma", but Juliet Stevenson is a great reader for all things Austen. If you haven't fall in love with a Jane Austen book yet, try her version of "Emma" or Rosamund Pike's version of "Pride and Prejudice". They're wonderful.

Friday, September 28, 2018

I'd Rather Be Reading

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading LifeI'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love books about books and reading. Bogel, who is best known for blog "The Modern Mrs. Darcy", writes a series of delightful essays on the wonders of being a reader. What I loved most were here reflections on how she has evolved as a reader throughout her life. I was hoping for a little more depth or detail, but overall, perfectly delightful. Happy reading-

ps. Probably more of a 3.5, but the cover is so pretty and I love Anne. Can't wait to meet her at a speaking event next month.

Girl, Wash Your Face - Round Two

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to BeGirl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't usually do rereads just a couple months after reading for the first time, but this new momma needed something uplifting and engaging for late night feedings. Hollis' chapters on being a mom were exactly what 3am needed. Still one of the highlight books of the year. Happy reading--

ps. Hollis has a whole section where she talks about giving up Diet Coke. Guess who also has done the same? Miracles do happen. 

Some favorite quotes from this time through-
"Forward momentum is the only requirement."

"I figured out what makes me happy and did those things."

"The only thing standing between achieving my goals is the ability to build on past success."

"You can't fail a job you were created to do." (On motherhood)

"Envision a very specific future."

"I'm still here and so are you." (On our hardest or most traumatic moments)

"I do believe it's possible to find purpose in the absence of explanation."

"But what if?"

Friday, August 17, 2018

Olive Kitteridge

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before I get going, I need to say that I finished this book almost against my will. It was like a documentary on an important, but enormously depressing subject - the kind where you should as a person know about the topic, but really don't want to. So why finish the book, especially considering that life is to short to read books we don't want to? Because the writing is so good. Strout is a fantastic writer capturing well human frailty and disappointed expectations, but in her writing, there is almost no hope. She has a gift for capturing the bleak and the raw realities of life, but she leaves out what makes life worth living.

I think I would classify this book as a book that felt like it was assigned in school. After all, Strout won the Pulitzer for this short story collection. I can see its merit, its strengths, and why people talk about it - hence the high rating. But I would not recommend it to most people. There's too much beauty and hope in life and literature to stay bogged down in cruel realities. I don't mean that literature shouldn't take on hard topics, but opposition demands that the light be included alongside the darkness. As a person who strives to seek out the light, I need stories and writers that do the same.

So as always, happy reading, but maybe not this one? Your call, of course.

Chasing Slow

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten PathChasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard Erin Loechner interviewed on a podcast, and as soon as I finished listening the interview, I downloaded "Chasing Slow". I clearly continue to be drawn to writers who explore living a more authentic life that isn't dictated by societal norms or social pressures. Loechner has some great things to say, but there were whole portions of her book that lost focus for me or were too much of an attempt to be clever or to push a metaphor. This book felt a bit like Shauna Niequist's "Present Over Perfect" for me where I loved some sections and totally could have done without others.

Still, I'm glad for the chance to have read this book - the idea of the title will actually be the most lasting takeaway. That we so often are chasing ideals or aspects of life that we don't even realize we're seeking...Attempts to live a better life can also thwart actually just living life. Good food for thought, and you know how hungry pregnant women are for all sorts of food.

Happy reading--

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

My Oxford Year

My Oxford YearMy Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps it's because I traveled with my sister when she went to study at Cambridge or perhaps it's because I harbor a not-so-secret fantasy to disappear to Derbyshire someday, but "My Oxford Year" fits perfectly into that dream life so many of us, Anglophiles, have. A whole year to live in England - to study, to read, to immerse yourself in the history of one of the great universities and towns....not your fantasy? Then perhaps not your book, but this one was perfectly delightful for me, albeit, a bit more saucy and surprisingly serious than I expected. I can't say I always loved the heroine, but Professor Davenport and Maggie had me from the first pint. Happy reading and happy England dreaming--