Anyone familiar with Jeanette Winterson (“Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit“) has heard some of her story before. “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” is a memoir of a rough time with her family that leads to a level of hope and resilience that is inspirational and satisfying to read. I knew much of the author’s story from other books of hers, but it was compelling to hear her tell her own story in her own voice. I loved her description of wanting to be a big writer and her development as a feminist.
While Winterson ultimately leaves the fundamentalist Christian faith of her family, she doesn’t look back on it with complete harshness or despair. Instead, she describes religion and religious community as infusing life with something larger than mundane daily existence and providing a forum for discussion of philosophy, ethics and politics. Has religion moved away from these goals today?
I’m so glad to have had the chance to read this one.
Three words that describe this book: inspiring, heart-breaking, literary
You might want to pick this book up if: you want to read about the power of literature to bring redemption, you want to know more about this fabulous author, or you want to listen to an author read her own memoir.
In his book “David and Goliath,” Gladwell outlines tales of the underdog and challenges the reader to view being the underdog as not always undesirable! There are advantages to being the underdog. He discusses examples of people rising from the loss of parents, dyslexia, mediocre colleges, persecution and political oppression. He uses a series of stories to outline his points. While not a scientific work, the stories are challenging to a typical worldview. Small is not always weak. Large is not always strong. Continue reading “Reader Review: David and Goliath”
“Kindred Spirits” is about a group of women who become the best of friends and establish their own society as a result of a failed Parent Teacher Association meeting. Their society (The Society for the Conservation of Martinis!) is based on their friendship and having fun together. The story follows the women through the quick death of one and a journey by her best friends to find the secret she never shared. Sarah Strohmeyer’s characters are “real women” I related to. Their journey together shows the true meaning of friendship.
Three words that describe this book: friendship, love, understanding
You might want to pick this book up if: You might want to read this book if you enjoy Sarah Strohmeyer’s writing. She has created another group of wonderful characters who are fun-loving and know the true meaning of being friends to the end.
Don’t diet. It won’t work. Okay, maybe you’ll lose a few pounds, but chances are you will gain them back (and maybe a few extra besides). In “Secrets From the Eating Lab,” Traci Mann, Ph.D. explains why and the research she used to develop her conclusions. She can also cite studies that show that losing weight does not improve one’s health. She does suggest ways to increase your intake of healthy foods, avoid the less healthy ones and increase the amount you exercise. These activities have been shown to improve health. With plenty of footnotes and a few humorous personal notes, Mann makes sense of the research and gives you suggestions of ways to improve your health without focusing on your weight.
Three words that describe this book: informative, humorous, life-changing
You might want to pick this book up if: you’ve ever been on a diet or thought about going on a diet.
Ranging from the mildly strange to the hauntingly bizarre, “Trigger Warning” is a collection of short writings that should please fans of fantasy, magical realism and (in some stories) science fiction. I enjoyed Gaiman’s nods to both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, as well as his ability to play with format (the story “Orange” is told via responses to interview questions; the questions themselves are never seen, requiring the reader to stitch the story together as the narrative moves along). In the introduction, Gaiman includes brief notes about each story. I recommend book-ending your reading by reviewing the corresponding author notes both before and after each story. It’s a rare glimpse into the author’s process and the impetus behind the stories, which I feel adds to the enjoyment of the book. That being said, it’s Neil Gaiman, so my brain still hurt at the end of some stories, and many do not end well. As the author states in his introduction, “Consider yourself warned.”
Three words that describe this book: strange, creepy, beautiful
You might want to pick this book up if: you are a fan of bizarre, intriguing narratives or would like to explore the same by starting with short stories rather than a novel.
Even as “Sleeping Giants” is clearly a heightened, science fiction reality, I found myself really appreciating the realism on display in this story. If we somehow wave a wand and bring to life all the fanciful elements of this tale, then I could see the rest of the plot playing out very similarly to the way Sylvain Neuvel describes it.
One story element that I found lacking was an emotional connection to the characters. The way I really get invested in a story is if I’m actively rooting for someone or a relationship; I didn’t find that here. These characters, for the most part, are calm, cool, collected types. Ryan lets emotion get the best of him once, but it’s a wholly negative response. I wanted to really root for Kara and Victor’s partnership, but I felt no real thrill there. Continue reading “Reader Review: Sleeping Giants”
This book is about a 20-something woman who is an elementary school teacher. She is writing a book, sort of journal entry style, documenting the time in which she and her boyfriend are apart while he is in the military in Iraq. Hence the title “Long Division,” a double meaning with her school teacher job title and her long distance relationship. The book was a touch difficult for me to get into but after a few chapters, I fell in love with Annie and all her quirks. I love the relationship she found with an elderly woman in a nursing home and the depth of the relationship she had with her childhood friend. There was just the right balance of romanticism, cynicism and whimsy for my taste.
Three words that describe this book: utterly, totally, relatable
You might want to pick this book up if: You are a teacher, you have experienced restlessness, you have ever thought about getting a pet chicken 😉
More articles and experts are recommending we get away from screens and our technology addiction. Ever had a craving to live the low-technology, Amish-like lifestyle (without the religious doctrine)? “Better Off” is about a couple that tried it and all the benefits they reaped! They were worried it would be all about survival, but the shared workload created a natural camaraderie with their neighbors and natural exercise. They realized it’s in our current world where we are running in a gerbil wheel, trying to enjoy it. This should be the next One Read!!!
Three words that describe this book: transforming, anti-technology, discovery Continue reading “Reader Review: Better Off”
Dave Barry! His newspaper columns were great, and his books are even better. Little life lessons, with that twist of humor only Barry can convey. “Live Right and Find Happiness” was more of a reflective collection, speaking on cultural differences, the World Cup tour in 2014, a trip to Russia and how times have changed in terms parenting styles. Of course, you have the random blurb letter to family, everyday observations, technology, and all packed with humor. A great, light read, with eye-opening words, humility and family.
Three words that describe this book: humorous, heartfelt, eye-opening
You might want to pick this book up if: you are looking for a fun read. Dave Barry’s books are always guaranteed to be a great read, all based on his own personal life experiences with aging, parenting, work, travel and pet ownership.
I loved “Dead Man’s Folly!” Hercule Poirot is asked by his friend Ariadne Oliver to come visit her at Nasse House. She is planning a “murder hunt” for a garden fete, and she feels that there is something not quite right, but she can’t put her finger on it. In typical Agatha Christie fashion, a murder occurs, and Hercule Poirot sets out to find the killer! I loved this book. It is one of my favorite Poirot mysteries —I’ve read several. I have found a few to be boring, but not this one! I love the setting, plot, characters — everything really! Continue reading “Reader Review: Dead Man’s Folly”