6 mini-reviews from my 30 day challenge

Title: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks, Author: Bruce BartlettThe Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett. Finished 9-2-18, 4/5 stars, current affairs/reference, pub. 2017.

It’s only 136 pages and reads fast.  I assumed by the title that this was about Trump and his loose grasp of the truth so I was surprised when I realized it was written by a Republican who had worked for both Reagan and the first Bush.  This is a nonpartisan book and it was good.  He touches on many things…why the traditional media no longer serves our needs, differences between primary and secondary sources, trusting academic sources, using your local libraries, numbers must be put into context, polling, using Wikipedia, fake news, and more.

“President Trump has used the term (fake news) as an accusation against news organizations reporting accurate news that he doesn’t like.” (emphasis mine)  The book isn’t about Trump, but he is mentioned when talking about his obsession with what he calls fake news.  Bartlett gives a list of credible sources and gives you tips on how to not fall for the lies.

“In the end, the best defenses against fake news are critical thinking; taking in news from a variety of sources, including those that don’t confirm your own biases; being skeptical about information that sounds too good (or bad) to be true; and other self-defenses.” page 126

I think everyone should read this book.  It’s short enough and provides great historical context and sources.  If in doubt, go to your library.  They can show you what resources they have to help you.


Title: ScandiKitchen: The Essence of Hygge, Author: Bronte AurellScandikitchen:The Essence of Hygge by Bronte Aurell. Finished 9-3-18, 4/5 stars, culture, pub. 2017

I chose this as I was browsing library books for short books (this one clocks in at 160) and saw that it was about something that I was completely clueless about.  It’s a Scandinavian term that suddenly hit the mainstream in the past few years. It’s all about being present in the moment, a perfect companion to my love of mindfulness.  It included great quotes from the likes of Gandhi, Epicurus, and Julia Child.  It is beautifully done with quality paper and gorgeous photographs.  The recipes she included look so yummy I’m to try a few (gluten & dairy free adapted, of course).  The small square size makes it a perfect book to give as a gift – maybe even to yourself!  I have at least one person in mind who will be getting it for Christmas 🙂 It’s about something real and important and inspiring.


Title: Wishful Drinking, Author: Carrie FisherWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. Finished 9-5-18, 5/5 stars, memoir, 163 pages, pub. 2008

What a hoot!  I loved her snark and stories and our shared love of Cary Grant.  This is a memoir, complete with pictures of her life growing up with famous parents (she calls them the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston of their day).  Considering that she also married someone famous, expect lots of people you know.  I won’t say name dropping, because this just felt like her life and it all seemed relevant.  I know she also wrote novels and I may have to add them to my reading list because I enjoy her writing and sense of humor so much.


Title: The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Monster's Guide to Life, Author: Cookie MonsterCookie Monster’s Guide to Life. Finished 9-5-18, 2/5 stars, humor, pub. 2018

Today after school Gage and I read a book together. I found Cookie Monster’s Guide to Life The Joy of Cookies in the 818 section of the library.  Really?  The high ratings on Goodreads make me think I missed something, but as I page back through the 160 pages of Cookie Monster screaming about cookies, I think maybe they got it wrong.  Well, anyway, G laughed a lot when I did the Cookie Monster voice and he even tried it out himself when he read, but he’s a kid.  This book was in the adult section.  I don’t get it.


Title: God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God, Author: Jennifer BerneGod: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God by Jennifer Berne. Finished 9-10-18, 3/5 stars, pub. 2017

Quite a mix of believers in math and science mixed in with those who embrace the unknowable.  I returned the book to the library this morning or I’d offer a few quotes.  Illustrations for every quote.


Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeastern OhioCleveland A-Z by John J Grabowski. Finished 9-7-18, 5/5 stars, local history, pub.2017

Perfect for new Clevelanders and old.  A fun pictorial history lesson for the storied city of Cleveland.

 

 

Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare

Title: Forks, Knives, and Spoons: A Novel, Author: Leah DeCesareForks, Knives and Spoons. Finished 5-17-18, rating 2.75/5, fiction, 392 pages, pub. 2017

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond. Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves and not to settle in love or life.  from Goodreads

So, we read this for our book club and all of us being of a certain age connected with the 80’s early 90’s references.  We discussed the UTC system of rating guys as a utensil and a few thought it was fun, but the rest of us complained that it was mentioned on almost every one of the 392 pages, or at least it seemed.  It was not something anyone liked (save one!) for different reasons and to different degrees.  For me, the biggest issue was the writing itself.  I wasn’t the only one with this problem although a few thought it was better in the second half.  But four of us agreed that we never would have made it to the second half if we hadn’t read it for book club.

I will leave you with the awards it won last year so you can make your own decision.

2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for New Adult Fiction
2017 IAN Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Women’s Fiction

Kathy Smith’s Getting Better All the Time

Title: Kathy Smith's Getting Better All the Time, Author: Kathy SmithKathy Smith’s Getting Better All the Time. Finished 4-29-18, rating 2.5/5, health, 277 pages, pub. 1998

Reveals seven keys to success with a step-by-step program.

When I was younger I would turn to Kathy Smith videos and audios to help me lose weight.  And I was always successful!  I’m not sure when I acquired this book, but probably when it came out and I was still working at a bookstore.  It’s part bio, part self-help and some recipes and plans to get you started.

The seven steps for getting started were good. One-Make it a priority (my #1 problem since becoming a mother for sure).  Two-Be consistent.  Three-Shift Your Mindset.  Four-Find a passion.  Five-Manage stress (another problem area for me).  Six-Keep a diary.  Seven-One step at a time.

The next section on the complexities of food were nothing new. I do plan on trying some of the recipes, but I’m more concerned about using real food as opposed to shortcuts.  I did like her section on where the reader is at on the optimal eating scale. (hint-I’m not does so well)

The last section was about exercise and had some pictures, but it only made me want to track down her videos again.

Overall it was fine but nothing special in the diet/exercise genre.  I do think it’s always worthwhile to be reminded of healthy practices so I’m glad I finally read through it.

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

Title: Strange Bedpersons, Author: Jennifer CrusieStrange Bedpersons.  Finished 1-22-17, rating 2.5/5, romance, pub. 1994

Unabridged audio read by Madison Vaughn. 7 hours 26 minutes.

Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn’t the right guy for her. He’s caviar and champagne; she’s take-out Chinese pot stickers. He’s an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants…him. But there’s no way Tess will play second fiddle to his job.

Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancée on a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick’s career. And while he’s trying to convince Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her opinions to herself and her hands off Nick.       ftom Goodreads

I realize this was published in 1994 but it really stretched the limits of realness (Is that a word? Why doesn’t that feel like a word?), but I’m sticking with it.  Hippie Dippy Liberal Crusader Tess versus Uptight Ambitious Chauvinist Right Winger Nick.  They broke up because of their differences, but Nick needs her back for a weekend so he can land his dream job, partner at his law firm.  The weekend takes place at the home of a famous writer and the interplay between Tess and the author was the most fun to be found in the book.

It felt formulaic and dated.  I love Crusie but not this one.

 

Tinkers, Seven Spiders Spinning, Discovering Ohio

I read these three books during my 30 books in 30 day challenge in September.  Since they were all just okay I thought I’d group them together.


Title: Tinkers, Author: Paul HardingTinkers. Finished 9-25-16, 2/5 stars, fiction, 191 pages, pub. 2009

Tinkers by Paul Harding is a Pulitzer Prize winner and I did not care for it. I was mostly bored out of my mind, with a few pages here and there that gave me a half-hearted reason to continue. If I taken another book I would not have bothered to finish it.  But at 190 pages it was an easy plane book.


Title: Seven Spiders Spinning (Hamlet Chronicles Series #1), Author: Gregory MaguireSeven Spiders Sinning. Finished 9-23-12, 3 stars, young readers, 132 pages, pub. 1994

I read Seven Spider’s Spinning by Gregory Maguire Friday night after we were back to the room for the night (Boston trip).  I must have picked this up at a book sale after I read Wicked and it was a perfect, easy choice for the trip.  Seven huge, tarantula-type spiders escape and try to take out the girls at a local elementary school.  There were spiders drawn on the margins of the pages and it was creepy, but at 132 pages I wasn’t going to complain.


abad26Discovering Ohio. Finished 9-25-16, 3 stars, travel, 95 pages, pub. 2001

I’ve had this in my unread stack for years, at least since 2008 when I started taking a yearly picture, so it’s good that I finally got around to reading it.  I think, the problem for me at least is that when you read something about a place that you know and love you are overly critical.  The pictures were great and I do like how the author tried to paint a picture of Ohio through the years, all the way back to when white settlers came here, but she made a choice not to focus on the cities which I think does a major disservice to the state.  Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland are top 50 cities in population. I know from living in Cleveland just how much history there is here.  Yes, Ohio is full of farms and mining and industrial places, but that is really only half of the picture.  Reading this I think you’d get a fairly one-sided picture of the state.

 

Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook

Title: Best Staged Plans, Author: Claire CookBest Staged Plans. Finished 9-16-16, 2.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2011

Sandy Sullivan is a professional home stager who lives and works in the Boston suburbs. So getting rid of her own house and downsizing should be a breeze, right?

Well, best staged plans and all, Sandy’s husband, Greg, is dragging his feet and their son, Luke, has returned home and moved into the “bat cave” in the basement.

Sandy reads them both the riot act and takes a job staging a boutique hotel recently acquired by her best friend’s boyfriend. The good news is that she can spend time in Atlanta with her recently married daughter, Shannon. The bad news is that Shannon soon receives a promotion and heads back up to Boston for training, leaving Sandy and her Southern son-in-law, Chance, as reluctant roommates. And Sandy finds herself in another delicate situation when she suspects her best friend’s boyfriend may be seeing another woman on the side. Fixing up houses may turn out to be easier than fixing up lives.    from Goodreads

Sandy has a husband and two grown children and is living in an old house in the Boston suburbs that she wants to sell.  Her daughter lives in Atlanta and miraculously her best friend’s boyfriend just bought a hotel there that could use a home stager?  Yeah.  She heads off in a huff, telling her husband not to call until their house was ready to sell, and maintains the attitude for much of  the book.

Sandy did talk a lot about staging, not anything you didn’t know if you’ve watched any HGTV, but it’s always good to be reminded. She even listed her top tips at the end: de-clutter, scrub, move things from the wall, rotate accessories, lights, mirrors, warm and neutral paint, decorate in groups of three, drop the frames.  All good reminders if you want to freshen up your house.

Well, maybe it lost something in the narration because I did listen to the first half in the car, because I have Goodreads friends who really liked it.  The intended audience would be midlife women who like to see their stories told with humor, so I fit the right age group, I just could not get myself to like Sandy and her perceived troubles.

 

The Lovers by Vendela Vida

Title: The Lovers, Author: Vendela VidaThe Lovers. Finished 9-12-16, rating 2.5/5. fiction, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio read by Suzanne Toren. 7 hours.

Twenty-eight years ago, Peter and Yvonne honeymooned in the beautiful coastal village of Datça, Turkey. Now Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown. Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time—as well as sand and sea—Yvonne returns to Datça. But her plans for a restorative week in Turkey are quickly complicated. Instead of comforting her, her memories begin to trouble her. Her vacation rental’s landlord and his bold, intriguing wife—who share a curious marital arrangement—become constant uninvited visitors, in and out of the house.

Overwhelmed by the past and unexpectedly dislocated by the environment, Yvonne clings to a newfound friendship with Ahmet, a local boy who makes his living as a shell collector. With Ahmet as her guide, Yvonne gains new insight into the lives of her own adult children, and she finally begins to enjoy the shimmering sea and relaxed pace of the Turkish coast. But a devastating accident upends her delicate peace and throws her life into chaos—and her sense of self into turmoil.       from Goodreads

I listened to the majority of this in the car but followed along in the book.  I admit I didn’t felt a twinge of interest until page 68.  There were many discussion worthy storylines, but overall it just didn’t speak to me.

Yvonne is a recent widow who decides to go back to the place of her honeymoon, Datca, Turkey.  She rents a house and meets a few people who help her heal in different ways. As the days unfold we get the whole story on her marriage and children.  I enjoyed learning a little about the Turkish culture.

This might appeal to readers who like introspective international stories.

Bleachers by John Grisham

Title: Bleachers, Author: John GrishamBleachers.  Finished 9-11-16, rating 2/5, fiction, pub. 2003

Unabridged audio read by the author.

High school All-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.

As Coach Rake’s ‘boys’ sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, still struggling to come to terms with his explosive relationship with the Coach, his dreams of a great career in the NFL, and the choices he made as a young man, the stakes could not be higher.     from Goodreads

Last month I started listening to this audio for my 30 books in 30 days challenge.  After a slow-moving cd or two I went to Goodreads to mark it as currently reading…and found out that I read it in 2003!  Honestly, I thought it sounded familiar but I thought that maybe I just hadn’t finished it.  Well, when you are reading a book a day and are halfway through a book already it’s easy to make the decision to soldier on.  And, to be honest, it did feel a little like I was sacrificing myself for the sake of the challenge.  I really didn’t like this one.  I’d have to check but I have to think it was one of my least favorites for the month.

Neely, a has been high school football player, comes back to his small football crazed town when he hears his legendary coach is dying.  He meets up with other football alumni doing the same thing.  I couldn’t find one character to care about or plot point to keep me interested.

 

How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis

Title: How To Be Happy, Author: Eleanor DavisHow To Be Happy. Finished 4-23-16, rating 2.5/5, graphic novel, 145 pages, pub. 2014

Eleanor Davis’s How to be Happy is the artist’s first collection of graphic/literary short stories. Davis is one of the finest cartoonists of her generation, and has been producing comics since the mid-2000s. Happy represents the best stories she’s drawn for such curatorial venues as Mome and No-Brow, as well as her own self-publishing and web efforts. Davis achieves a rare, subtle poignancy in her narratives that are at once compelling and elusive, pregnant with mystery and a deeply satisfying emotional resonance. Happy shows the full range of Davis’s graphic skills — sketchy drawing, polished pen and ink line work, and meticulously designed full color painted panels– which are always in the service of a narrative that builds to a quietly devastating climax.

from Goodreads

I am not a graphic novel fan, but I tried this during the readathon and it was a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed the illustrations in this short story collection, but didn’t quite get the point of all of the stories.  Davis tells you right from the beginning that this book has nothing to do with ‘how to be happy’ but I wish the stories had leaned a little more in that direction.  But, again, not a regular graphic novel reader, so I could be way off in my assessment.

 

Tempest in Eden by Sandra Brown

Tempest in EdenTempest in Eden. Finished 3-24-16, rating 1.5/5, romance, pub. 1983

Unabridged audio performed by Renee Raudman. 5 hours 39 minutes.

A renowned artist’s model, Shay Morrison thinks nothing of exposing her body to inspire great works of art. Hidden inside her, where no one can see, is the pain of a failed marriage. Then she accidentally walks in on Ian Douglas as he steps from a shower. Every gorgeous bit of him is immediately apparent — as is his disapproval of Shay. What isn’t so obvious is his profession: Ian is a minister in a very staid community. Challenged and hurt, Shay decides to seduce him. But waiting for her are the traps of her own weaknesses and the potent force of sexuality …  from Goodreads

I’d been reading some heavy things lately and thought this quick romance by an old favorite would be a fun, light listen.  Well, it was light and fit my needs in that area, but I spent at least half of the book rolling my eyes at the characters.  Shay was insufferable and every time I thought she’d turned a corner I was disappointed.  A minister and nude model fall in love over a weekend, after finding themselves in bed together?  Of course. 

There were one or two nice moments, so it wasn’t a total loss.