Tag - reading

Show us your Books – April 2019

Oh hey, I’m late to the books party. I was in warm, gorgeous (and gnat-filled) Savannah for a work conference and WHOOSH. Gone went the blog. Thank heavens I actually smartened up and wrote a lot of this as I reviewed each book, like so many on the linkup do. I am a SHINING example of a kid who was Talented and Gifted and ended up a completely average adult.
On to the books! I use the Goodreads reviewing system, 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
The library stack plus Becoming, on loan from Mom.

Over the last few years, I’ve been striving to read more works by women and women of color. I’m not trying to exclude books by men, but some months it just works out that way.

Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting over — Nell Irvin Painter

Celebrated Princeton History professor Nell Painter retires in her 60s and decides to go to art school! It’s about as difficult as you can imagine, with professors who kept trying to tear her down and say she’d never be a ‘real artist,’ poor treatment because of her race, and classmates who practically shun her because they’re not comfortable with her age. The age thing is something I experience now at 46 — I can’t imagine how much worse it will be in 20 more years.

Nell, like all of us, is far from perfect. She’s willing to enter the art school world on the ground floor but expects the art school world to respect her past career. She disparages her classmates’ artwork, ages, body sizes, and fashion. Everything that’s slung at her, she slings at other people. Either she can’t see what she’s doing, or she gives no craps about it.

Complicating matters is the decline of her parents. As an only surviving child, it was 100% Nell’s burden to make sure her parents were taken care of. And as we all know, there is never a good time for a medical issue to crop up in the family.

Three stars! I enjoyed the memoir parts, but I really became bogged down by the art history parts, because I’ve never been interested in art history. She also LOVES New Jersey, and I’m proud to share a state with her.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant — Beatriz Williams

A lovely book with 2 stories told in parallel: Vivian Schuyler trying to become a magazine writer in 1964 and her great-aunt Violet Schuyler Grant trying to become a physicist in 1911. Hold on, let me get this out of the way…

The Schulyer Sisters

Had to.

This is a story of love and independence and passion and murder and whoa hey, war and espionage? That came right out of nowhere, but I loved it all. I had to reread the final few chapters just to make sure I got the espionage part down.

Four stars, with a trigger warning for sexual assholiness and what today we call rape but back in the 19-teens would be called men being men and women being loose. Consider Walter Grant canceled.

Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World — Kirsten Gillibrand

Saw this on display at the library, and thought maybe it won’t be a bad idea to read up on some of the candidates that aren’t getting attention because the media is in love with men-who-lost-their-Senate-races-yet-think-they-were-born-to-run-for-president.

This book was written long before she entered the 2020 fray, but is probably a part of her long-range plan to enter the race. Gillibrand comes from a strong local-politics matriarchy back in New York. She’s part of the private-school-and-Dartmouth part swath of middle class. She was raised Catholic which informs her desire to help and give back, but she’s very pro-choice. She used to have an A-rating with the NRA, but has shifted her views on gun control. (Being friends with Gabby Giffords helps.)

I enjoyed this book because she often touches on the human side of the campaign and political grind. She talks candidly about how hard it is to have young children and hold her Senate job. (Some of those senators are assholes.) She has a chapter about fluctuating weight. She touches on her difficult relationship with her father without flogging us with it.

Three stars. I wish her well and wouldn’t mind if she won.

Dear Mrs. Bird — A.J. Pearce

In WWII era London, Emmy Lake applies for a job at a publisher, thinking it will put her on the path to her dream job as a Lady War Correspondent. After an interview where Emmy fails to ask what, exactly, the job is, she takes the job and finds herself instead a typist for Henrietta Bird, an “agony aunt” at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs. Bird has VERY outdated and strict standards for what kind of questions she answers, and insists that Emmy throw out letters that don’t reach those standards. But the letterwriters are women Emmy’s age who are in very modern circumstances. What is Emmy to do but answer them herself, but as Mrs. Bird?

At the same time, she is trying to navigate a very sad and sticky situation with her best friend Bunty. I love that nickname.

I think what struck me the most is how regular life continued on as best it could while London was being bombed. People brought gas masks to work, couples still went to dinner, young people still went to shows. Four stars.

The Library Book — Susan Orlean

This is the kind of non-fiction book that I EAT UP. I know the phrase “this book is a love letter to…” is vastly overused. HOWEVER, this book is a love letter to libraries and the people who love them.

The main topic is the fire that burned the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It completely destroyed over 400,000 books and the smoke and water damaged 700,000 more I was a teen in 1986, but had never heard of the fire because the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened at the same time which stole most of the news coverage. Not knowing if nuclear winds were going to destroy Europe makes for a big story.

Orlean is an amazing writer, and weaves into her book the history of the Los Angeles Public library and its librarians (including the amazing Mary Jones), the services that libraries provide, her warm memories of the library visits of her childhood, the AIDS crisis, and how libraries are adapting to the future.

Five stars, it’s a must-read if you love libraries and I know many of you do.

Currently reading: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

January | February | March |April | June
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

Show us your books — December 2018

And just like that, the end of the year is upon us. And just like that, the month flew by and I only read 2 books. Reach the goal and slack off, that’s how I roll. No biggie! (except for drop cap abuse)

For the last time this calendar year, onto the books! I use the Goodreads system to rate books, 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

Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants — Herb Freed

I saw this on other SYUB links last month – it was available free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a series of (fictional) short stories about Rabbi Ben Zelig. In the first story, we meet Ben as a rabbinical student. In the last one, he is a middle-aged man. Each story touches on love and loss and how Ben’s faith informs his feelings and decisions. The author is a rabbi and I appreciated learning more about the Jewish religion, which often gets obscured in media by Jewish culture. Most of the stories hit home, a few didn’t grab me.

Three stars and I will keep the phrase “A dollar’s worth of grace for a nickel’s worth of faith” with me.

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope — Anne Lamott

A brand new book by Anne Lamott which was on my Christmas list for a hot second until I saw a signed copy at Barnes & Noble on Black Friday! And now it’s mine.

Still life: book, blanket, boneheads. iPhone 6s, 2018

Let’s be honest, I will always like Lamott’s writing. She hits my middle-aged, Christian-ish sweet spot. This book is about how to pull hope back into your life when life seems … hopeless.  And hey! Things are pretty bleak, right?

She writes this book under the guise of trying to write down everything she knows for the younger people in her life. She touches on the usual topics: faith, love, addiction, loss, and her dead friends & relatives. It’s pretty much an Anne Lamott trope at this point that if she tells a story about a person, there’s a 85% chance they’ll die of a horrible disease by the end of it.

Four stars. If you hate Anne Lamott books, you’ll hate this one too.  If you’re me, you’ll sigh and reread it under blankets every year.

I did not finish You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Maybe I’ll come back to it another time.

Currently Reading: Eric (Discworld #9) — Terry Pratchett. I’m halfway through and hope to finish tonight because the eBook loan expires on Thursday and tomorrow is TNP’s holiday party.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

What are you reading?

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November

Show us your books: October 18

Happy Fourth Anniversary to the Show Us Your Books linkup!

kindle on airplane tray table

Airplane reading.

And yes I’m a day late but last night I had dinner with SMD herself. We ate at the Continental Midtown and I had a bangin’ lobster macaroni and cheese dish. I had a great time and the evening was well worth the (non-existent because you’re not the boss of me!) tardiness penalty.

It was a darn good reading month and I enjoyed every one of these books immensely! And look at this!

goodreads goal 55 of 50


Now that the goal is taken care of I can play Diablo until the end of the year. I mean…read longer, more difficult books.

Onto the books! I use the Goodreads system to rate books, 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

Enchantments: A Modern Witch’s Guide to Self-Possession — Mya Spalter
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review. Once upon a time I was into crystals and spells, so I was quite interested in this book, which covers how modern witches practice. This book has a very conversational tone to it and not only did I learn, I laughed. Three stars!

The Queen of Hearts — Kimmery Martin
THIS BOOK. I read it in 2 days during my work trip to Kentucky. Part of it was read in a hot tub, which was just plain decadent. It’s the story of Zadie and Emma, two accomplished doctors who met in medical school. I couldn’t put it down — each chapter ended on a little cliffhanger that made me continue onward. Zadie and Emma are balancing work, marriage, friendship, and motherhood. And then a person from their past reappears (okay it’s a guy) and a secret is revealed. Oooo! The point of view shifts between Zadie and Emma, and the timeline hops as well. Yet, I managed to stick with the storyline. I loved it! Five stars!

Also, Kimmery is the quirkiest Kimberly derivative I’ve seen yet. It’s like how I say my own name when I’m drunk.

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know — Retta
I loved Parks & Recreation and shortly after the show ended I found Retta on Snapchat. I eventually followed her on Instagram instead. Retta is very smart and very funny, as is her book which is somewhat a memoir, but mostly essays on her obsessions. Including designer handbags, fashion, coffee, and the musical Hamilton. It was her passages on how lazy she can be that had me cackling.

Four stars because her humor resonates with me. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway — people actually win! — but I think if I had listened to the audiobook, it would have garnered the fifth star. This book is meant to be heard in Retta’s voice.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — John Carreyrou
This is the actual, NONFICTION story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos. At its highest point, Theranos was valued at one BILLLLLLION dollars because of its invention of a mini blood lab that could perform an entire panel of blood tests on only a drop or two of blood. The machinery was small enough to install in pharmacy wellness centers and even homes! Except, you know, the technology never worked. Demonstrations were faked, lab results altered, inaccurate test results were sent to actual human beings, etc.

This is a well written, scathing, soup-to-nuts account by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou. It’s the kind of crazypants nonfiction book that I adore. These people! Silicon Valley meets Dynasty. Another five-star book! Many exclamation points!

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence — Ray Kurzweil
I put this on my to-read list and it magically appeared on my desk at work a few days later! It’s good to have friends who read…thank you JG!

It wasn’t an easy book for me to read but by then I had made my goal of 50 so I dove in. I enjoyed his theories on how evolution is speeding up while the changes in the universe seem to be slowing down. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around it, but I appreciated it. He lost me in the philosophical sections but that’s on me – I’ve never been into philosophy.

But! His predictions are pretty solid. I mean, I’m not eating things so that people can track my movement, but I do carry a tiny computer that pings out my location if I allow it to. And probably even if I don’t. Throughout the book, Kurzweil converses with Molly, a stand-in for the reader. Molly moves through time as Kurzweil remains in 1998 and she reports back the changes that are happening around her and to her.

Three stars. I liked it, but did skim some parts.

The Female Persuasion — Meg Wolitzer

I don’t know why I thought this was a nonfiction book. Much like her previous book The Interestings (two stars), this follows a handful of privileged young people over a span of time. But because this group is younger, it’s mostly set in the present-ish era. Our main character is Greer, a very smart woman who is a college freshman when we first meet her. She and her boyfriend Cory are the smartest kids in their high school and possibly their town. She and Cory end up at different colleges. The first weekend at college Greer meets Zee, who quickly becomes her best friend. Zee takes Greer to see Faith Frank speak in the college chapel. Faith Frank is an outspoken feminist and activist in her 60s. She runs a feminist magazine and Greer falls hard for Faith’s message and medium.

We go back in time sometimes to see how Greer, Cory, Zee, and Faith came to be who they are. And we move forward to the present time. Along the way, they all make choices and mistakes. But they’re honest, stupid, human mistakes. Like we all made and probably still make.

Their stories are so real it could be nonfiction. The book takes a hard look at feminism the movement and Feminism the product.

Highlighted quote:
I think there are two kinds of feminists. The famous ones, and everyone else. Everyone else, all the people who just quietly go and do what they’re supposed to do, and don’t get a lot of credit for it, and don’t have someone out there every day telling them they’re doing an awesome job.

Four stars.

Currently reading: I’m dipping back into Discworld for Guards! Guards!, which is book #8.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

What are you reading?

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September

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