Maria Shriver – I’ve Been Thinking and Ten Things

Title: I've Been Thinking...: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, Author: Maria Shriver  vs. Title: Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World, Author: Maria Shriver

I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life VS Ten Things I Wish I’d Known-Before I Went Out into the Real World

Titles – Both way too long, but accurate.

Author – I’ve Been Thinking- Divorced mom facing an empty nest.  Ten Things- Working married mother of young children.

Purpose – I’ve Been Thinking Bite sized chapters addressing a multitude of life’s issues always ending with a prayer.  Ten Things– An extended form of a popular graduation speech she gave at College of the Holy Cross.

First and last chapter titles – I’ve Been Thinking- I Am Who I Choose to Become and Hope.  Ten Things– Pinpoint Your Passion and Laughter.

Page Count – I’ve Been Thinking– 225 pages.  Ten Things– 125 pages.

Best Advice – I’ve Been Thinking- “I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives, to stop and be quiet and truly listen.  I know it’s hard to hear other people’s pain, frustration, anger, and loneliness without internalizing it ourselves or letting our judgments get the best of us.  But when you do listen deeply, you realize that while out experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not”  page 47.  Ten Things– “The love and the laughter are what you need most in your life.  They’ll fill out all the potholes in the road.”  page 115.

Final Analysis – Stick with I’ve Been ThinkingTen Things is a bit dated.

I’ve Been Thinking.  5 stars. Finished 2-28-19.

Ten Things.  3 stars.  Finished 3-15-19

Nature’s Best Remedies by National Geographic

 

IMG_5538 (2)Nature’s Best Remedies.  Finished 3-4-19, rating 5/5 stars, health/food, 320 pages, pub. 2019

A guide to the world’s most therapeutic foods, herbs, spices, and essential oils will allow the healing power of nature to energize your body and enrich your life, providing a surefire path to good health and well-being.

This authoritative guide to the foods, herbs, spices, essential oils, and other natural substances that alleviate common ailments will enhance your life–from treating illness to sharpening the mind, losing weight, cleaning the home, enhancing pregnancy, and reducing the effects of aging. Divided into two sections–Nature’s Cures and Nature’s Pharmacopoeia–this beautifully illustrated guide provides up-to-date information on such timely topics as the perils of packaged foods and the benefits of phytochemicals, how to achieve major results with minor alterations in your food choices, the soothing benefits of essential oils, and the most effective methods for maximizing such natural home helpers as salts, vinegars, oils, and more. Innovative recipes offer easy, effective dishes that utilize multiple herbs, spices, and fresh foods for powerhouse results.  from Goodreads

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  Hippocrates

This book is gorgeous, very informative across a wide array of healthful choices, and I think it’s necessary for every home.  Some information you may already know, but much of it you won’t and it is organized to be used as a reference when needed.  Not ready to make your own cleaner or don’t have the need for GI information right now?  This beautiful book will be on your bookshelf drawing you back again and again.

This will, of course, appeal to those interested in a greener life, but I think most people might make better choices if they knew what they were.  So many people take pills these days without first taking a look at what has worked in the past, before pharmaceuticals became the go-to treatment.  Want to know what herbs and spices will help with a specific ailment or what to do for joint pain?  How about what essential oils really do or the benefits of the natural foods we eat?  All the herbs, spices, oils, foods all have their own page with facts and pictures. The whole first section is remedies for common ailments and there was a much needed section on aging 🙂

So, I looked up some of the foods I used for the photo and found some surprising things.  The avocado gets its name from the Nahuarti word meaning testicle, referring to the shape.  You’re welcome for that visual.  Twice as many strawberries are produced worldwide than any of the other berries combined and may help prevent macular degeneration of the eyes, so eat up, dear reader.  And that apple a day keeping the doctor away? There’s a lot of truth in that.  This year Gage has taken an apple every day for his school snack and we’ve had good luck so far this winter.  (Seriously, it is 7 degrees.  I thought we were supposed to have an early spring?)

I really can’t even tell you how much information is packed into this book.  It is so well done and I plan on gifting it a lot this year.  Do yourself a favor and buy a copy.

I was sent a copy from the publisher for TLC Book Tours.  I’ve participated in these tours for years and this is my favorite one of all.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Title: Becoming, Author: Michelle Obama Becoming.  Finished 2-23-19, rating 5/5, memoir, 421 pages, pub. 2018

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.   from Goodreads

What can I say that hasn’t already been gushed over by countless others?  Michelle Obama was a normal, yet accomplished young woman with a lucrative career and two Ivy League degrees when she was introduced to a hot shot intern who would change her life forever.  She is real and warm and selfless in so many ways.  I always respected her strength as first lady and was happily surprised to have her exceed any expectation I placed on her.

Michelle grew up in a South Side Chicago neighborhood in the upstairs of a house that her parents didn’t own, even sharing a bedroom with her older brother until the teen years. She watched as her once diverse neighborhood became segregated and she was forced to travel over two hours on city buses each day to reach a school that could provide a good education. She went off to Princeton and Harvard and said this “This is what a control freak learns inside the compressed otherworld of college, maybe above all else: There are simply other ways of being.”  She moved back home after college and buried her father.  She received a hilarious proposal from that hot shot intern and thus became part of the political machine that she never really wanted or participated much in until Barack wanted to run for President and even then there was this, “Barack was a black man in America, after all.  I didn’t really think he could win.”   But even before his momentous run she was essentially a single working mom of two during the week while  Barack worked in the State Legislature.

Apparently I’ve found a lot to say, haha, but I want to make sure I mention the one thing I loved most about this book.  I loved getting an honest, inside look at the Obama marriage.  They are both fiercely independent people with unquestionable love and respect  for each other.  She humanizes Barack in a way that no one else can, and that isn’t to say he’s put on any pedestal.  And although this covers their years in the White House it rarely becomes political.

I was a fan before and I’m even a bigger fan now.

 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expury

Title: The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book (with audio), Author: Antoine de Saint-ExuperyThe Little Prince: Deluxe Pop-Up Book, Unabridged Text.  Finished 2-3-19, 5/5, children’s classic, 63 pages, pub. 2015

After being stranded in a desert after a crash, a pilot comes in contact with a captivating little prince who recounts his journey from planet to planet and his search for what is most important in life.

For over sixty-five years Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic, The Little Prince, has captured readers’ hearts. The whimsical story with a fairy tale feel has sold over 3 million copies in all formats. This exciting pop-up edition includes the complete original text accompanied by Saint-Exupery’s beautiful illustrations brought to life through paper engineering. Perfect for longtime fans and those meeting the little prince for the first time!   from Goodreads

Oh, how I loved reading this classic for the first time with Gage.  This pop-up book with all of the original text was amazing!  The three of us read a chapter at night for family reading time and I don’t know how we’re going to top it with our next family book.  Here’s a pic of one of the pages.

IMG_5442

Some of them just popped up and some of them had more interactive features.  It was well done and I plan on buying a copy since this one is from the library.

As for the story itself.  Jason and I laughed at the making fun of adults and sometimes Gage didn’t get the joke, but otherwise the story was a fun adventure story of a young prince from another planet. Well, it was fun until the end.  For some reason I was not prepared for the end.  It led to good discussion with Gage, especially since he’s been asking me very specific questions about Heaven these days.

I don’t know what took me so long to read this, but this is a fun book to read with your child and the pop-ups will only bring it more to life for the both of you.

This was my 25th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

 

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.

 

 

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Title: Faithful: A Novel, Author: Alice HoffmanFaithful. Finished audio 10-30-18, 5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read by Amber Tamblyn (love her!).  7 discs.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.  from Goodreads

I fell in love with Shelby and her journey of guilt, grief and forgiveness.  This was not an easy read (or listen in my case) since Shelby was such a lost soul, but little by little, as she survived and discovered her value, the emotional pull ultimately satisfied.  Do yourself a favor and give this bald, young adult who believes she doesn’t deserve to be here a chance.

I could go into more detail, but I really don’t want to.  I want you to discover it on your own. Jason listened to it after I did and he loved it as well.  This is probably my favorite Hoffman so far (although I’ only read a handful or so) and I LOVED the audio narration by actress Amber Tamblyn.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Title: Number the Stars 25th Anniversary, Author: Lois LowryNumber the Stars. Finished 9-26-18, 5/5 stars, YA, 137 pages, pub. 1989

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.  from Goodreads

I adored this 1990 Newbery Medal winner.  I really had no idea what this was about and I’m not sure why I added it to my Classics Club reading list (must have been one of you bloggers gushing about it!).  What a joy it was to discover a children’s book that could entertain, engage and educate.  I was hooked from the get go.

Ann-Marie and her best friend Ellen are making the best of growing up with Nazis on every corner of their town, until one night the unthinkable happens at the local Jewish synagogue and now the Nazis have a list of Jews.  Ellen’s parents leave her with Ann-Marie’s family as they flee and what happens next is so emotional and horrifying that I became attached very quickly.  Ann-Marie and her family take extraordinary risks to do the right thing.

I didn’t know anything about the Danish Resistance that smuggled almost their entire Jewish population (7,000) across the sea to Sweden under the noses of the Nazis.  I was fascinated and in awe of the great things that ordinary people did to fight the good fight, even if the fight wasn’t theirs.  After this week’s shooting in the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh I was struck with the parallels when I sat down to write my thoughts about this book.  We must all stand up to hate. This is a perfect example of ordinary people doing the best that they can to do the right thing.  If you have a child in your life and you are struggling to explain what happened, reading this book together might be a good starting point.  And as a bonus you’ll probably learn something new.

This was my 23rd selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

 

The Battle For Paradise:Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein

Title: The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists, Author: Naomi  Klein The Battle for Paradise. Finished 9-16-18, rating 5/5, non-fiction, 80 pages, pub 2018

In the rubble of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans and ultrarich “Puertopians” are locked in a pitched struggle over how to remake the island. In this vital and startling investigation, bestselling author and activist Naomi Klein uncovers how the forces of shock politics and disaster capitalism seek to undermine the nation’s radical, resilient vision for a “just recovery.”  from Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that taught me so much in just 80 pages.  Admittedly, I knew very little about Puerto Rico, but this book isn’t just about the small US territory, it’s also about how capitalism can be and is at odds with humane aid when disaster strikes.  Thankfully, Trump is mentioned toward the end only, and as you can imagine, not favorably, so for the most part this is about what’s actually happening there, starting before the hurricane hit through today, where so many are still living without electricity.

First, let’s start with the term neoliberalism.  Sounds like a word that Mitch McConnell would spit out when talking about Democrats, but that definition didn’t fit with what I was reading so I had to do a small bit of research since the word came up a few times. A concise explanation for those interested…

Liberalism vs. Neoliberalism

“Although the terms share some similarities, the two are distinct. Both are rooted in 19th-century classical liberalism, which supported laissez-fare economics and the freedom of people against an overpowering government. Liberalism is more of a political philosophy that holds liberty to a high standard. It defines all social, economic and political aspects of society, such as the role of government, toleration, freedom to act, etc. Conversely, neoliberalism focuses more on the markets, meaning it supports deregulation, ending protectionism and freeing up the markets. Therefore, it is based on economics.”   From Investopedia

Even my investment hubby wasn’t up-to-date with the term. The Republicans passed a number of tax breaks for businesses and businesses to make Puerto Rico a paradise.  This takeover of the rich was happening before Hurricane Maria.  Now, as the devastation still continues there is a real divide between the native Puerto Ricans and the monied Silicon Valley millionaires wanting to change the landscape of the land.

This book led to some great discussion with Jason and I can now say that I understand the bitcoin phenomena a bit better.  Also of interest is how some of the things that happened after Hurricane Katrina are happening here.  It’s sad and scary.

I don’t know the answer for Puerto Rico but they are engaged and I hope that the heart of of the territory prevails.

I recommend this for everyone.

Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Skin and How To Fix It For a Beautiful Healthy Glow by Dr. Sandy Skotnicki

Title: Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Your Skin and How to Fix It for a Beautiful, Healthy Glow, Author: Sandy SkotnickiBeyond Soap. Finished 8-7-18, 5/5 stars, health, 296 pages, pub. 2018

North America’s leading dermatologist offers a ground-breaking, informative, and incredibly practical book that reveals the harmful effects of our modern skincare habits and how you can eliminate common skin conditions.

Sensitive skin is one of the most buzzed-about topics in dermatology today. It can be painful, debilitating, and inconvenient. Astonishingly, many of the women and men who suffer from problem skin are unknowingly causing it by washing too frequently and using too many skincare and beauty products. Often, we slather ourselves in creams and balms that can actually damage the skin. The miracle products we buy at department stores, specialty shops, and pharmacies have the potential to make us less attractive and prematurely age our skin.    from Goodreads

I accepted this book for the  TLC book tour  and just finished it last night, so good.  I could have skimmed it and gotten it done sooner, but once I started reading I was hooked and didn’t want to rush.  I thought I was going to read about how to fix my skin and I did, BUT it was so much more than that.  It was also a history and science lesson. I loved learning about the history of how we wash ourselves.  I know, I was surprised by this too.

An average woman uses 12 personal products which contain 168 different ingredients on a daily basis.  So, when you have a reaction how do you know what’s the problem?  Labels like hypoallergenic mean nothing since they aren’t really regulated.  You need to look first for products with no fragrances and as few botanicals as possible.  The BIG BRANDS of body products (shampoos, body washes…) go to great lengths to woo dermatologists, but in reality are little fazed by suggestions from them.  The companies want what the public wants and the public loves scents so most products are full of them.  Her advice?  Wash less and use fewer (and better) products. She does provide lists of some of her favorite products, but you’ll have to read the book to find them 🙂

Dr. Skotnicki was preaching to the choir about over washing since I gave up my daily shower a few years ago,  but I think this book would be great for everyone to read regardless of whether you think you have a skin problem.  The skin is our largest organ and what you put on it will have profound effects on your body as a whole.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Ack! Two way past their due date book reviews- Loving Frank & Rules of Civility

Title: Rules of Civility: A Novel, Author: Amor TowlesRules of Civility. Finished 8-28-17, rating 4.75/5, fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Lowman

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast–rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.   from Goodreads

I listened to this beauty of a book and loved it.  It felt like a classic throwback.  The language, the atmosphere, the characters, the story.  Perfection.   Katey was a wonderful protagonist.  Unlike my problems with Mamah in Loving Frank, Katey was smart, independent, driven, and, ultimately, likeable.

This is a perfect New York City story, circa 1938, and I wish I had more to say to recommend it, but I waited too long to write this.  I read this for my book group but didn’t end up going to the discussion.  Later, one of the ladies mentioned she thought it had a Great Gatsby feel to it and she’s right (although I’m no GG fan I do appreciate it).  Read it!

Title: Loving Frank, Author: Nancy HoranLoving Frank. Finished 8-22-17, rating 4/5, historical fiction, pub. 2007

Unabridged audio read by Joyce Bean. 15 hours.

“I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.”

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this groundbreaking historical novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Mamah’s profound influence on Wright.

from Goodreads

I went in to this one knowing very little about Wright’s personal life and I think that was a good thing.  As far as I can tell, very little is known about the real affair between Frank and Mamah so the author had great license to depict the two and their relationship.  Neither of them comes off as particularly warm and fuzzy.  They are both married with children when they meet and still manage to go off to Europe together leaving them behind.  Back in the early 1900’s this was more scandalous than we might find it today and they faced a backlash from the press.

Mamah left her very small children behind.  As easy as it might be to understand her attraction to a successful, gifted man, it was less easy to understand her abandonment of her children.  So, she had flaws, maybe just as many as Frank Lloyd Wright himself, but the story was compelling.  But, the ending, the ending!!  Wow.  I would recommend this one. As a matter of fact, a friend handed this to me at a party and told me I had to read it.  Now I’m telling you.