The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi WaxmanNina Hill is my spirit person. She is single, thirty, has a cat named Phil, and works in a book store. Her mother is a photographer who is never home. Her nanny, Louise, raised her. Nina likes her life. It’s planned to the minute. She is in four book clubs and competes in pub trivia. Her life is perfect…

Then Nina gets a visit at work from a lawyer who says that her father (whom she has never met) died and she has inherited a family she didn’t know about, including brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. She also meets Tom, a competitor from pub trivia, who she denies liking, but everyone around her knows she does.

Nina has to navigate all of this craziness with her anxiety and a boss whose hiding from the landlord, a co-worker who pushes Nina to date Tom, and a brand new family who wants to be part of Nina’s life.

This is the third book of Abbi Waxman’s I have read and I have loved all three. This book is sweet and funny and sensitive. I love Nina. I love her cat, Phil, as anyone who owns cats can attest, Phil is the real deal. The book is a celebration of love, trivia, family, and books. I recommend this book to anyone who loves books, cats, complicated family stories, and awkward dating.

I won this book and did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained in this review are mine and mine alone.

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Educated Is Not That Educating

EducatedI bought this book a while ago and have been meaning to read it. Then it got picked for book club so I had to read it. This book was a struggle for me from start to finish. I equate it with Wild, in that people went crazy about that book and after two readings, I still didn’t fully understand why. I’m getting the same vibe about this book – it’s so highly spoken about that you’re supposed to like it. Then I question myself for not finding it likable. Here are my problems with this book.

First and foremost, I think information is missing. Whether that was omission by choice or by accident, I do not know. But it doesn’t feel complete. Example: her fellowship at Harvard. She says that shew as watching television 20 hours a day. She says she thinks she was failing. Then, she’s back at Cambridge and getting counseling. There is no discussion whether she passed or failed her fellowship and if she did pass, how she did it. I do not like loose ends when there is an easy an obvious answer to be had.

Second, the footnote that appears every time she talks about a discussion in which she has paraphrased the discussion. She has email, for example, that she paraphrases and says that it’s paraphrased, but the meaning has been retained. If you have an email conversation, why not print verbatim, the relevant parts? Why do you have to paraphrase it? If you do have to, explain why? To me, it indicates that, for reasons we are not told, she doesn’t not want the original language in the book. I have issues with that.

Third, and this is probably not a fair criticism, but things just seem to fall into her lap. She just so happens to be talked into applying for, and receiving, a grant. She gets talked into and wins the fellowship to Harvard, etc. I’m positive there are more to all those stories. And yes, I realize that if you discuss every detail of every event you will have a thousand page book that no one will read. But. In order for me to buy into this story, I would like to have heard more detail about these things.

Fourth, her language. She’s very flowery and uses way too many attempts at foreshadowing, that, to me, did not pay off. I did not appreciate lines like, “as I would find out years later.” Get to the point. Don’t keep telling me something is going to happen. That gets old and annoying.

I appreciate what Dr. Westover went through and how hard she worked to get where she is. And I generally don’t like to negatively review books. However, were I to give this book a good review, I wouldn’t be honest about what I thought and how I felt about it. I did not like it. I can’t change that I did not like it. I can only try to explain why I didn’t care for it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I am sure I’m in the minority here and if you feel you need to check it out, by all means, do so. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

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No Time To Read

I’ve been in a serious rut with time to read. I have had none. Very long story short, I have had a ton of things going on the last couple of weeks and haven’t read very much. This happens to me a couple of times a year. I have finals to grade, picked up a photo gig, and had the usual stuff, plus a couple of additional things that have prevented me from reading much. I have book club this Sunday and am not sure if I will finish the book by then.

I do not like it when the only time I have to read is my lunch hour. I like to read more than an hour a day. Unfortunately, I have to accept that right now, I can’t. I don’t force it, though because i won’t like the book I”m forcing myself to read. Anyway, this is a short post, but I haven’t posted in twelve days and that’s too long. Forgive this short and complaining post. I will try to be back later this week with more bookish discussion.

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Becoming

Becoming by Michelle ObamaI’m sitting at my computer, trying to think about what I want to say about this book. I listened to the audio, which Michelle Obama narrates. I love her voice. She reads with excellent pacing. The only thing I thought was missing was emotion in some places. However, that being said, it was an excellent audio book.

The book starts with her childhood and continues to the beginning of the Trump administration. I found her perspective on things to be refreshing and interesting. I liked Michelle Obama before I listened to this book. But now, I love her. She’s smart, educated, independent, and thoughtful. Her writing style is familiar and friendly, yet somewhat reserved.

I especially appreciated her honesty about raising children in the glare of the public spotlight, issues with her husband’s idiosyncrasies, which we can all relate to, and the stamina and courage and thick-skin you need to do those things with such grace and dignity. I cannot even fathom how hard that must have been.

The chapters dealing with the Obama administration were my favorite, only because I was wondering what the Obamas thought about the media glare, politics, etc. of being in public life. I’m sad that Michelle Obama said at the end of the book she doesn’t ever want to run for office because I think she is the type of the person this country desperately needs in leadership.

I have not read books by other First Ladies, so I don’t have a frame of comparison for this book, but I really did enjoy this book.

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Choosing Books

A book is a gift you can open again and again – Garrison Keillor

untitledBetween 600,000 and 1 million books are published in the U.S. every year. Even if you could read at birth, you would never be able to consume all of those books in your lifetime. And that’s just one year. Everyone who reads has preferences about what they read. I have been thinking lately about how I choose the books I read. In thinking about that, I have realized it’s kind of a complicated process.

I read several mystery and thriller series, so the first consideration I have when buying or reading a book is whether it’s part of a series I read or a new series I’m going to try. I read roughly 20 different series. So, when those books come out, I pick them up and read them as quickly as possible.

The second consideration is whether the author is someone I’ve read before, who doesn’t write a series. Abi Waxman, Susan Reiger are examples. I like their writing and will read just about anything they write.

The third consideration is subject matter. Is it something I’m interested in reading? My reading topics vary. I like mystery/thriller, chick lit, legal thrillers, good stories, history, true crime, etc. If it is a subject I’m interested in, I’m likely to pick up the book.

If it’s an author I’m not familiar with, I look at all of the following: the cover art; the blurbs from critics, authors, etc;  the first paragraph; and the last sentence. To me, those are good indicators of whether I will like the book. It’s not foolproof, but most of the time, it works. I have discovered some really good books and authors that way.

I enter to win a lot of books. And I win a lot of books. Sometimes, I read them and don’t care for them and sometimes I read them and find a new author to add to my growing list of people whose books I will read no matter what. But I try to read and review them all. It keeps me in books and reading and busy. Busy is good.

So, how do you choose what you read? What considerations do you have when choosing books? I’m interested to hear how other people choose their books.

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Girl, Read This Book

Girl (2)I really, really wanted to hate this book. In fact, I’m not sure why I entered to win it. I am always leery of “lifestyle” gurus. (Martha Stewart messed me up!) And I hate Gwenyth Paltrow. But. I decided to read this with an open mind. I decided that I would give it a fair and honest review. So, here goes….

I did not read Girl, Wash Your Face, though I saw it everywhere. But this book. It did something to me. I have probably sticky-noted half this book. If you are planning something big for your life. If you want to reach a goal you think is impossible. If you want to feel better about being human, then you need to read this book. Yes, there were things about it I found … presumptuous. That having been said, Rachel Hollis provides some really, really good advice on how to achieve your goals. Some of the advice is obvious – have a clean house because chaos breeds chaos – and some advice is not so obvious – stop making to-do lists and use a list that has goals, steps and mile-markers.

I am in the process of planning something that I think will be big in my life. I have been working on it seriously for a few weeks. This book came along at the right time. It has give me some excellent advice about how to make this new project truly successful. So this book came to me when I needed it and I have taken to heart a lot of the advice in it.

Things I like about Rachel Hollis: she is honest about the fact that she cannot do what she does without help. She has a nanny, a housekeeper, and a staff who help her. Most lifestyle people want you to think they “do it all” and do it by themselves. This is bullshit and she says how damaging it is for women who read and buy into these “lifestyles.” They feel incompetent and unable to succeed because they don’t see the behind-the-scenes that really goes on. I respect and like that fact that she is honest about how she does it. I also like the fact that she admits that she doesn’t like volunteering at her kids’ school and, therefore, doesn’t do it. She is kind but firm about saying no.

Things I don’t like: the folsky, aw-shucks thing. I don’t know if it’s genuine. But it annoys me. To no end.

I still think that this book is a book EVERY WOMAN should read. It is filled with good advice. It is practical and helpful in most ways. I banked a lot of really good information from it. It’s short – 200ish pages. It’s well-written and easy to read. So I suggest you pick up a copy and pursue your dreams.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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So Here’s The Thing…This Book Is Funny

So Here’s the Thing… by Alyssa MastromonacoI did not read Alyssa Mastromonaco’s first book. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I just haven’t gotten yet. This book is a collection of essays and stories that are informative and entertaining.

Ms. Mastromonaco worked in the Obama White House. She went on to work at Vice and A&E TV. Her stories are funny and sweet. I particularly liked her essay about not having children and being a cat lady. She is honest and refreshingly funny.

If you are interested in politics and women and funny stories, this is the book for you. Word of caution, if you are a Trump person, you may want to skip this book. And if you follow my reviews, I highly doubt you are a Trump person. But just so you’re warned.

I won this book from goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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Walk This Way…

Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music ForeverI was in high school when Run-DMC hit the mainstream. I was a member of the MTV generation. I vividly remember when “Walk This Way” hit the airwaves. I’d never heard anything like it. I was vaguely aware of Aerosmith, and I knew who Run-DMC were, but I didn’t realize you could mix rock and rap until I heard this song. I remember sitting with my best friend, watching MTV on a Friday night, and loving the video. Run-DMC was on one side of a wall and Aerosmith on the other, each trying to play music and each being annoyed with the other…until Steven Tyler broke through the wall and then they hit the stage…together. Cheesy? Yes. But back then, it was revolutionary.

Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever is the story of the making of that song. But this book is more than that. It’s about the beginning of a massive cultural shift in America, that continues to this day. Prior to Walk This Way, rap was not getting a lot of radio play. Radio was reserved for the likes of the Eagles, Foreigner, and other rock bands. MTV followed radio format and largely played rock and new wave music. It wasn’t until this song hit that rap became mainstream and invaded the public consciousness. It made stars of Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J.

The story is told in alternating chapters. One chapter is about Run-DMC and the other about Aerosmith. It also includes such supporting characters as Russell Simmons (brother of Run) and Rick Rubin (record producer legend). It tells so many stories, aside from the making of the song. It talks about culture, race, records making, radio, video. The story was engaging and the book is well-written. You learn things that you may not have known before – that Jam Master Jay wasn’t on Run-DMC’s first three album covers, but he was the glue that held the guys together and was the most “musically” oriented of the three, or that Joe Perry and Steven Tyler weren’t so fond of each other and the other members of Aerosmith were referred to as LI3 (the less important 3). The book charts the rise and fall and rebirth of everyone involved. The story is fascinating.

Geoff Edgers has written a really good book, capturing an important moment in this history of American music. This is the song that made Jay-Z, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar possible. This is the song that brought rap music to mainstream America. This is the song that was polarizing to the hip-hop community and even to each band, themselves. The book lays all of this out and is immensely readable. I recommend this book if you want to learn more about the beginning of rap supremacy in American music, the rebirth of Aerosmith, or just an entertaining read about the making of a song.

I won a copy of this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

 

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3 Books 40s Edition

Well, we’ve reached the end of my three books experiment. Three books that have been formative in my 40s, thus far. It’s been interesting to look back on the more than 2,000 books I have read to find the three books that helped formed me through each decade of my life. It was really hard to narrow it down to three for each decade. I don’t know how people narrow it down to three in my life. So, here we go with the 40s…

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams. Okay it’s a tie. I said there was a tie. Both books deal with similar subject matter. Both writers were diagnosed with fatal cancers in their 30s. Both were highly educated professionals. Both had spouses and small children. Both decided to write about their journey through life and into the process of dying. It sounds morbid, but it’s really not. There are meditations on what is important in life. What matters. How easy it is to lose track of The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes Afterwhat matters. Both books have had a profound impact on me.

These books bring some humanity to dying. They are also a reminder that as much as we in the West don’t want to think so, dying is as much a part of life as living.

 

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book is labeled as YA, but I honestly believe that EVERY SINGLE PERSON should read this book. It has supplanted To Kill A Mockingbird for me. It is a perfect encapsulation of America right now. This book hit me like a sledge hammer. I have read it twice and I will be reading it again. I cannot overstate how important I think this book is.

 

 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionJust Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The true story side of The Hate U Give. Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI fights against people wrongly convicted or sentenced to massive amounts of prison time for minimal crimes. He is passionate and amazing and this book was another one that completely blew me away. It is another book I think EVERYONE SHOULD READ. Period. We need to do something to restore our humanity and this book can help. It’s emotional and if you can’t find sympathy or empathy for the people Stevenson discusses, you have issues.

So, there you have it.  All the books that have been formative to me thus far in my life. I hope that you got some inspiration to read or found some of your new favorite books.

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3 Books – My 30s

Picking three books that formed my thirties was harder than I thought it would be. I read a lot of great books. But I was able to narrow it down to three.

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle EastThe Great War By Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk.  I turned 30 when the GWOT was a year old. I was a political science major in college and had always been interested in history and specifically, the cold war and the middle east. This book sets out a complete history of western involvement in the middle east. This book is a monster (1,366 pages), but it is a comprehensive history of western involvement in the middle east.

Fisk writes chapters describing the all sorts of different events and places. Two that stuck with me was his description of the Algerian war for independence when the guerillas put the heads of French sympathizers on a pike. The other chapter was the chapter about the arms bazar and the arms dealers working in the world. I kept thinking that chapter would make a particularly good Cohen brothers movie.

Aside from that, the book is extremely well-written and Fisk pulls no punches in his criticism of how the west has dealt with the middle east and terrorists throughout history.  “Who would ever say a word in favour of terrorists? What cause could justify terror? So our enemies are always ‘terrorists’. In the seventeenth century, governments used ‘heretic’ in much the same way, to end all dialogue, to prescribe obedience.” That is some pretty deep thinking. This book went a long way to form my world view about the middle east.

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing by Stephen King. I could have picked any number of writing guides. I could have picked legal ones. But, I chose this book because I think it’s the best book on writing I have read. Stephen King is a damn good writer, whether you like his subject matter, he writes well. His advice should be heeded. I recommend this book to my students because I think they need to broaden their horizons and good writing is a dying art.

Stephen King manages to discuss his life, but also the craft of writing in a way that is engaging and entertaining, but also educational.

 

The Quiet AmericanThe Quiet American by Graham Greene. Oh, man do I love this book. I went through a phase in my 30s where I read almost everything by Greene I could get my hands on. But this particular book resonates with me so much. The story of a young American CIA officer and an old British agent in Viet Nam prior to the U.S. war. It’s such a well-written and compelling story. I love this book so much. It’s another book I reread every so often because I always find a different perspective.

Graham Greene is an author who has a gift for using language to paint pictures. He is eloquent and literary, but accessible, a talent that not too many writers have. I love the story and I love the writing.

Tomorrow my little 3 books experiment comes to an end with 3 books 40s version. Keep in mind I’m only half-way into my 40s, but I have four books chosen. Two are the same topic, so I’m doing two. I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am.

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