Tag - books

Show us your books: September 2017

So far I’ve read 27 books this year, which SOUND fantastic until you realize I’m 7 books behind schedule for reading my goal of 50 books. Boo! This summer has been … problematic … but I’m getting back into the swing of things. I refreshed my ebook hold list at the Philadelphia library and making trips to the hometown library every few Saturdays to try and pick up hard copies of older books on the TBR list.

The pile by my sofa.

For reviews, I use the Goodreads scale, which is:

One star: did not like it
Two stars: it was ok
Three stars: liked it
Four stars: really liked it
Five stars: it was amazing


Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This is a memoir of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s life, ordered alphabetically like an encyclopedia. It reminded me of a child’s encyclopedia I had in the 70s, and it was charming. Her life is pretty darn normal, in her words, “I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.” That’s pretty much me. It was funny, poignant, and beautiful. Amy and I could have been fast friends and I’m sorry she’s gone. I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but time has warmed that rating up to 5 stars.

My Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor

This is Justice Sotomayor’s story from before she was born (thanks to some family history) until she became a judge. I was a little frustrated the story didn’t continue to her Supreme Court confirmation, but I can kind of understand why it didn’t. Justice Sotomayor came from a poor, working-class Puerto Rican family that experienced a lot of hardships, both financial and emotional. It was Sonia’s mother’s value for education that helped Sonia excel. That and some affirmative action along the way. If you know of someone who’s against affirmative action, they should read this book to see, “Hey, THIS is the person these programs are aimed at.” I appreciate a well-told story of a smart, career-minded woman. Four stars. Trigger warnings for what we today call child abuse (but back then it was called discipline) and angry, screaming families.

The Animators – Kayla Rae Whittaker

This is a messy and gorgeous book. There is so much going on sometimes that it’s hard to keep track, but honestly, life is exactly like that. I didn’t want to put it down, to the point where I’d be pissed when my train commute to work ended. This is the story of Sharon and Mel, two broken people from messed-up families who meet in their college art program. We see them meet, and then we flash forward ten years. Sharon and Mel become (work) partners, best friends, and each other’s chosen family. But success can’t knock out the (figurative) demons that have chased them their entire lives. Sharon is the narrator.

Whether you’re an animator or a cubicle worker, life is a seies of things falling apart, how you reassemble those things, and the mistakes you make along the way.
This book is chock full of triggers: off-page child rape and on-page aftermath, child porn, child abuse, medical emergencies, death, drug use, off-page violence, angry families, screaming from said families, etc. Five stars.

How Italian Food Conquered the World – John F. Mariani

The lone dude author this month. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, which went into Italian food and the origins of Italian-American food, which is (as we are beaten over the head with for the rest of the book) what most of us in the USA think of when we think of Italian food.

And then the author begins a chapter with a story of his honeymoon when he and his wife took a leisurely three weeks to drive across the country and eat at restaurants and American restaurants were so bad that his wife literally cried out that she didn’t know how she could do this for the rest of the trip. Poor doves. From then on after, he became a minor recurring character in the book, talking about the chefs he met and the high-end restaurants he went to, with a minor detour into the fashion world which seemed like padding.

Mezza mezza. Two stars.

Leave Me – Gayle Forman
A 44 year old mother of IVF twins has a heart attack because Life Is Hard and decides to run away because she’s unable to Use Her Words. She pulls $25,000 out of the savings account set up by her dead father’s trust fund (as one does) and heads to Pittsburgh to convalesce, canoodle with a doctor, have fun with some college kids, learn to swim and tepidly search for her birth mother. I am a 44 year old childless woman; therefore I have zero personal, professional, or financial problems and cannot relate to this book at all. I do have many peers who are working mothers, though, and although it’s a tough row to hoe, I REALLY don’t think they’d just effing run away. I wondered hard why Maribeth was acting like a precocious 16-year-old in a highly unrealistic situation. And then I read about the author’s YA background and it all clicked.

Two stars, and I only finished it because I am very behind on my reading goal for this year.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie – Wendy McClure
I gobbled this book up like the first loaf of bread made with white flour after a long winter. I used to think I was a Little House on the Prairie fan, mostly because every depressing January I say “February is short and March is Spring!” and because as a child I used to watch the show while wearing a sunbonnet bought for me in Lancaster, PA. But in reading this book I realized there are hundreds of people who have me beat. The author is one of them, and I enjoyed her wacky obsession with trying to find out everything about Laura World that wasn’t in the books.

This is not an Academic book so if you are a Learned Person looking for Cited Historical Sources, you’re not going to find them here, and you should probably find another book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the story of a passion project, that’s all. Four stars, because trying to shoehorn this whole project into the framework of a woman grieving her mother’s death was awkward.

On Tap:
A Hundred Summers – Beatriz Williams
The Folded Clock: A Diary – Heidi Julavits

You can find all of my reviews on Goodreads and more reviews by other bloggers by clicking on the link below or by vising Jana Says and Life According to Steph.

Life According to Steph

Show us your books: April 2017

During the months that I wasn’t blogging but thinking about what I would do once I relaunched the blog, I realized that I miss the blogging community at large. Most of the people I used to follow and comment on are no longer blogging regularly or at all. I get it, it’s tough to keep trying to tell new stories. I also found myself reading blogs but not commenting on them, which makes me part of the blogging community problem. (I am usually my own biggest problem.)

Found in the Philadelphia Free Library sexuality section. VERY clever!

In that spirit, I’ve decided to start participating in some more bloggy linkups. And rather than dribbling out book reviews as I read them, I’m going to do the monthly Show Us Your Books linkup hosted by Life According to Steph and Jana Says. Two blogs that I read but rarely comment on because I’m a problem.

Read in March:

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Gah. Just … ugh.

I *thought* it was going to be a more restaurant-centric story. Or at the very least, we’d see main character Tess’s growth from New Girl to Server. But those stories which could have been compelling were tucked deep in the background behind all of the characters getting drunk, high, drunk and high, screwing each other, and screwing up. Including Tess, who spends the entire book making very bad decisions. I’m too old for that book.

Nicotine by Nell Zink
This was a batshit-crazy book filled with really troubled people who are just trying to do the best they can in strange situations. It was a fun read, and had a few laugh-out-loud moments with regard to “activism.” It hints at child rape/molestation but not in a violent way, so if that’s a trigger for you, maybe not pick this one.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
I read this book in almost one sitting, when I happened to be sitting in a plane on my way to vist Dad in Florida.

Imogen Tate is the 42 year old Editor in Chief of Glossy, a popular fashion magazine. Upon return from a medical leave, Imogen finds out that her whole magazine has been turned digital, and the woman who was once her assistant is now her boss. When long-forms are replaced by listicles (spell check wants that word to be testicles), can Imogen hang or will she be forced into early retirement?

After reading Sweetbitter, this book was a balm to my soul. It’s a fun, fluffy, revenge story with a lot of snort-out-loud references to how bizarre new media is.

Currently reading
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
I’m enjoying this so far, which is interesting since I am not a poetry person. If you close your eyes and picture a woman named Edna St. Vincent Millay, you’d likely picture a dour matron. Hoo boy, she was not.

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler:
I have been reading 5 pages at a time since December, which isn’t getting me anywhere because this is a huge book. I think I’m at peak Walt Disney biography saturation, having read at least a dozen of them in the last 15 years.

Where do I find my books?
Savage Beauty was an ebook on sale for $1.99 that I found through the BookBub daily email newsletter. It’s damaging to your pocketbook, but only a little at a time.

I find other suggestions via Book Riot’s All the Books podcast, which I listen to every Sunday while I prepare lunches for the coming week. For books I can’t check out for my Nook ereader, I walk my ass to the Philadelphia Free Library every few weeks from Spring – Autumn.

I keep track of all of my reading on Goodreads.

What are you reading?

Life According to Steph

Reading catchup

Thanks to my 30-minute train commute each way and my lazy, lazy ass, I read 48 books in 2016.

2016 books

The longest book I read was Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. It was a nice cherry on top of my Hamilton-fixation sundae last year.

I rated 8 books as five-star books:

  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest
  • Hamilton: The Revolution
  • Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History
  • Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space
  • The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2)
  • Love Walked In
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person
  • The Light of the World

A whopping THIRTY of those 2016 books were written by female authors. This isn’t something I initially aimed to do in January of last year, but once I started seeing the trend, I tried to continue it as best I can. I’m pretty proud of that.

I’m learning about new books via the All the Books podcast from Book Riot.

My goal this year is to read 50 books, which seems ridiculously high to me.

All of my reviews are on Goodreads, and if you’re a more visual person, I’m kimberussell on Litsy!

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