The Year of Less and Road Trips

Title: The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store, Author: Cait FlandersThe Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Finished 9-9-18, 3/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy-only keeping her from meeting her goals-she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year. The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life-and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.    from Goodreads

I was disappointed with this one.  There’s nothing wrong with Cait’s story, but there isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before.  I realize it was her journey so it’s different, but I wanted more about living with less and the shopping ban and way less about boyfriends and her job.

Road Trips: A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own PathRoad Trips:A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own Path by Jen CK Jacobs. Finished 9-11-18, 3.5/5 stars, travel, pub. 2018

Road Trips is the ultimate guide to inspire wanderlust and spark new adventures. From coming-of-age solo journeys to romantic weekend getaways, friend-filled road trips, and more, Road Trips features eight travel stories packed with photos and personal experiences that bring the adventures of the road to life. Inspiring and practical, this book also has key tips for enhancing every part of your trip, from getting out the door (with essential tips on packing and eating on the road–including recipes for road snacks) to taking in new experiences (with creative ideas for journaling and photographing) and bringing experiences from the road back home (through creative collecting). We are all drawn to adventure. Whether you’re a road warrior or you have a hard time getting out the door, Road Trips is the perfect way to inspire a life of travel.  from Goodreads

I love road trips and this would be a great gift for anyone who likes to pack up and hit the road when they can.  There is nothing earth shattering, but the layout, photography and good ideas make it a fun one to read through.

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.

 

 

I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: I've Got You Under My Skin, Author: Mary Higgins ClarkI’ve Got You Under My Skin. Finished audio 10-2-18, 2.75/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Jan Maxwell. 7 discs.

A Manhattan ER doctor is brazenly murdered in front of his young son in a city playground. Five years later, his killer is still at large.

Meanwhile his widow, Laurie Moran, is now an award-winning TV producer. Still haunted by her husband’s murder, she has been raising their son alone. Laurie and her TV crew have just received the green light to produce a new “cold case” series. Revisiting unsolved crimes one at a time, she and her TV crew will gather a victim’s friends and family, who have lived under suspicion of guilt for many years. By getting paid to reenact the crime on TV, each will have the chance to clear their name—unless, of course, someone is guilty… The first case centers on the murder of a wealthy Westchester matron, who was killed overnight while her college-aged daughter and her three best friends were having a sleepover following their celebratory graduation party… Now grown, the four women reunite to re-create the scene of the crime…    from Goodreads

I read a lot of Mary Higgins Clark back in high school and occasionally I’ll pick up one her recents to listen to in the car, like I did this one, but she’s one of those authors who I feel like I outgrew a long time ago.  Maybe it’s because I found this one so disappointing.  The first chapter really grabbed me as it was told from the perspective of the man who shot a doctor in public right in front of his son and got away with it.  I liked the ex-cop grandpa and his few scenes, but other than that it was just blah for me.  There were way too many other characters to try and connect with and none of them had to do with the first chapter so it was just a let down.

Maybe this was just one that was not her best, but it’ll be a while before I pick up another.

Two memoirs you could safely skip – Everything Happens For a Reason & Pedigree

Title: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, Author: Kate BowlerEverything Happens For A Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Finished 9-15-18, rating 3/5, memoir, 178 pages, pub. 2018

Thirty-five-year-old Kate Bowler was a professor at the school of divinity at Duke, and had finally had a baby with her childhood sweetheart after years of trying, when she began to feel jabbing pains in her stomach. She lost thirty pounds, chugged antacid, and visited doctors for three months before she was finally diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.

As she navigates the aftermath of her diagnosis, Kate pulls the reader deeply into her life, which is populated with a colorful, often hilarious collection of friends, pastors, parents, and doctors, and shares her laser-sharp reflections on faith, friendship, love, and death. She wonders why suffering makes her feel like a loser and explores the burden of positivity. Trying to relish the time she still has with her son and husband, she realizes she must change her habit of skipping to the end and planning the next move. A historian of the “American prosperity gospel”–the creed of the mega-churches that promises believers a cure for tragedy, if they just want it badly enough–Bowler finds that, in the wake of her diagnosis, she craves these same “outrageous certainties.” She wants to know why it’s so hard to surrender control over that which you have no control. She contends with the terrifying fact that, even for her husband and child, she is not the lynchpin of existence, and that even without her, life will go on.   from Goodreads

I won’t waste too much time with a description of the book because you can read that above.  What I will say is that I’m surprised that this slim memoir was nominated for a Goodreads award this year.  I don’t really get it.  I thought the book was all over the place touching on one thing and then flitting on to something else, leaving me with questions (although they were few because I just didn’t care that much).  I’m glad she survived Stage IV cancer, because as a mother of a young child I cry when I read stories of mothers who have died way too early and leave children behind.

Title: Pedigree: A Memoir, Author: Patrick ModianoPedigree: A Memoir. Finished 9-29-18, rating 3.25/5, memoir, 130 pages, pub. 2015

In this rare glimpse into the life of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano, the author takes up his pen to tell his personal story. He addresses his early years—shadowy times in postwar Paris that haunt his memory and have inspired his world-cherished body of fiction. In the spare, absorbing, and sometimes dreamlike prose that translator Mark Polizzotti captures unerringly, Modiano offers a memoir of his first twenty-one years.  a personal exploration and a luminous portrait of a world gone by.

Pedigree sheds light on the childhood and adolescence that Modiano explores in Suspended Sentences, Dora Bruder, and other novels. In this work he re-creates the louche, unstable, colorful world of his parents under the German Occupation; his childhood in a household of circus performers and gangsters; and his formative friendship with the writer Raymond Queneau. While acknowledging that memory is never assured, Modiano recalls with painful clarity the most haunting moments of his early life, such as the death of his ten-year-old brother.    from Goodreads

I chose to read this not because I knew the author, but because it was short and I knew I could finish it in a day.  I’m not going to lie, if it hadn’t been so short there is no way I would have finished it.  It was both fascinating and tedious.  His parents were…colorful makes their neglect too superficial, as humans they were colorful, as parents they were just awful.  But somehow their self absorption made for great fodder for Modiano in his work and his memoir.

 

The Breakdown by BA Paris

Title: The Breakdown: A Novel, Author: B. A. Paris The Breakdown. Finished audio 9-2-18, rating 3/5, thriller, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio narrated by Georgia Maguire

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

from Goodreads

It didn’t take me long to become annoyed with Cass.  She was such a weak character that it was hard to be sympathetic, even when the occasion called for it.  The story itself was okay.  Lots of coincidences, but none were too much.  Is Cass going crazy, suffering from dementia or is someone truly trying to shake her up?  I figured it out by halfway through but don’t want to spoil it for you.

Jason listened to this one too and he wasn’t as irked by Cass as I was, but he also didn’t have any problem figuring it out pretty early.

Alice Hoffman’s Water Tales (Aquamarine & Indigo)

Water Tales: Aquamarine and...Water Tales. Finished 4-29-18, 3/5 stars, YA, 198 pages, pub. 2003

If you haven’t encountered Alice Hoffman’s watery fairy tales of modern magic, dive in! Aquamarine The tide brings in something unexpected that will change best friends Claire and Haley’s last summer together. Indigo Martha and her friends discover that running to follow a dream is the only way they’ll find the true meaning of ‘home’.   from Goodreads.

It’s been over a month since I read this and as I sat down to start typing I only remembered the first of these stories, but in great detail so that’s something.  As I skimmed through the second story I realized that the one I had completely forgotten was the one I liked best.  I’m not sure what that says about the accuracy of anything I say here.

I love YA fairy tale books and these two novellas revolve around the water and mermaids.  In the first story the two soon-to-be-separated best friends meet, set up on a date, and rescue a mermaid.  They are resourceful girls and it is one demanding mermaid.  In the second story, two strange brothers need a flood to see who they truly are.  I think I liked this one because it felt more mystical to me, whereas the first felt more matter of fact.  I feel like mermaids deserve some magic.

If your preteen likes a good bizarre mermaid story then you have found the right book!  Come back on Friday and I’ll be giving it away 🙂

 

The Art of Friendship: 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections by Roger Horchow & Sally Horchow

Title: Art of Friendship: 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections, Author: Roger HorchowThe Art of Friendship. Finished 4-28-18, rating 3/5, self-help?, 144 pages, pub. 2005

Seventy brief essays present simple but effective “rules of connecting” with action points to help you put each rule into practice in daily life. Woven throughout are personal anecdotes from the Horchows, sharing their experiences of friendship.
Recognizing that friendships take many forms, the authors offer practical, proven advice that demystifies the process of making friends.
The rules include:
How to create rapport– even in a crowd
How to transform an acquaintance into a friend
When to e-mail, pick up the phone, send a note, or meet in person
How to maintain long-term friendships –and even when it’s time to quit
The book opens with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) that explores the Horchows’ special talent for making and keeping friends. Whether your goal is to start a new relationship or reinvest in a longstanding friendship, this inspiring book will reveal how you can build more meaningful connections in your life.  from Goodreads
I don’t remember bringing this book home, but I wasn’t surprised to find it on my shelves.  It’s the perfect little hardcover size with nice paper and bite sized suggestions for how to make meaningful friendships.  It was written by a father/daughter team and there was quite a bit of name dropping.  This isn’t necessarily bad, it did add extra interest for sure, so I was okay with it.  Were there a few nice ideas and encouragements?  Yes. Was there anything profound? No.  But no matter how many friends in your circle it’s always nice to think about adding to it or deepening existing friendships.

 

Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

Title: Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay Series #1), Author: Jill Shalvis

Sweet Little Lies. Finished 2-13-18, 3/5 stars, romance, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read by Karen White. 9 1/2 hours.

Book 1 of the Heartbreaker Bay series

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

I was able to meet Shalvis at this event last year with her own hottie husband and and she was lovely.  I bought this first of the series expecting to love it because some of my blogger buddies who love romances have raved about her for years.  I think my expectations were too high.  I also wish I had read the paperback I have instead of listening in the car, because I didn’t like the narration.  There were definitely sweet moments but not enough of them compared to all the sex.  She introduced a bunch characters who I’m sure will be fodder for the series and they all seemed interesting but I’m happy that I don’t feel compelled to read more of the series.  Maybe I’ll try another of her books.

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

Title: Turning Angel (Penn Cage Series #2), Author: Greg IlesTurning Angel. Finished 1-24-18, rating 3/5, thriller, 644 pages, pub. 2005

Penn Cage books # 2 (1-The Quiet Game)

After winning the most dangerous case of his career, prosecutor Penn Cage decides to remain in his Southern hometown to raise his young daughter in a safe haven. But nowhere is truly safe — not from long-buried secrets, or murder….When the nude body of prep school student Kate Townsend is found near the Mississippi River, Penn’s best friend, Drew Elliott, is desperate for his counsel. An esteemed family physician, Drew makes a shocking confession that could put him on death row. Penn will do all he can to exonerate Drew, but in a town where the gaze of a landmark cemetery statue — the Turning Angel — never looks away, Penn finds himself caught on the jagged edge of blackmail, betrayal, and deadly violence.    from Goodreads

It’s been five years since we met Penn Cage and he’s settled back in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi with his daughter and his parents.  He’s a prosecutor turned best selling author, but when his best friend is accused of murder he must step back into his lawyer role.  But his friend, a respected doctor, is accused of having an affair with a 17 year old golden girl and Penn knows innocence will be a hard sell.

Greg Iles knows how to tell a story, but geez, this one felt like he was working through some serious mid- life issues.  Penn’s best friend, 40ish, had a wife and small child and decided to embark on a sexual relationship with a 17 year old.  He also allowed her to go to notorious drug dealers to score drugs for his wife because she was an addict.  Oh, and she was valedictorian, cheerleader, two-sport starter, headed to Harvard in the fall and was into kinky sex with lots of partners, but ‘fell in love’ with Drew with her mother’s consent.  Okay.  So, after you swallow all of the justifications for sex with a minor BY HER DOCTOR, you must then come to terms with Penn’s high school babysitter being in love with him and he quite liking it.  He called her at all hours, at one point sat and scrolled through porn with her at a hotel in the middle of the night.  She, of course, came on to him, but he resisted…for a short time at least.

Anywho, the town was full of hot high school girls lusting after respected middle aged men (there were more) and it felt icky, like some sort of sick middle aged fantasy.  Iles is a skilled thriller writer and I like Penn and his family but this one did take the shine off a bit.  And I’m not even going to get into the drugs and those liberal Yankees.

Now that I’ve got all that off my chest you may wonder how I rated it a 3.  Well, Iles is good and I read over 600 pages of a book that make me roll my eyes more than once.  I’m just hoping that Penn can come to his senses in the next book.

 

 

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Title: Heat Wave (Premium Edition) (Nikki Heat Series #1), Author: Richard CastleHeat Wave. Finished 1-19-18, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2009

Unabridged audio read by Johnny Heller

Nikki Heat series book 1

New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy.
   Mystery sensation Richard Castle introduces his newest character, NYPD homicide detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, and professional, Nikki carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City’s top homicide squads. She’s hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York’s Finest. Pulitzer Prize winner Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. But his wisecracking and meddling aren’t Nikki’s only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.
   Castle, the hit ABC television series, premiered in March 2009. The main character, Richard Castle, is the bestselling mystery author of the critically acclaimed Derrick Storm novels. The hard-nosed but sexy Detective Kate Beckett, with whom Castle is paired up, provided the inspiration for Nikki Heat.    from Goodreads

I’ll keep this one short and sweet.  If you, like me, loved the TV show Castle (2009-2016) then you will most likely enjoy this mystery written by the fictional hero of the series, Richard Castle.  The mystery was good, but I had the most fun picturing the beloved cast as I listened.  It was perfect car listening since it was easy to follow along but also entertaining.  I see the series continues and while it wouldn’t be my first choice I’m not against giving book 2 a listen someday.

  Miss seeing these two onscreen together.