Nov 032015

My reading goal for 2015 was to read 140 books! As of now I have about 15 books to read before the end of the year in order to reach my goal. I think it’s doable. I’m not putting pressure on myself to reach my goal, but I think it will happen just naturally.

Here are my previous goals:

As you can see, my goal increases a little bit each year now that I’m religiously using GoodReads. It’s been really helpful to keep track of books I’ve read (because I forget). Here are a few books I’ve read and enjoyed lately:

1 ) How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

This book was so good I ended up buying it to I could really sit down and read it without feeling rushed, highlight and make notes and make Michael read it too. :)

This book was SHOCKING and horrifying and really sad and gross in a lot places. It’s all about the kids growing up with “helicopter parents” who are growing into adults who have had no adversity, have no life skills and cannot do anything for themselves. The stories that were told in this book were extreme, but they sure opened my eyes and made me think “I do NOT want to do this!” I mean a 20-something who has her first review at work and it isn’t great review so her MOM calls the HR department to complain?! The kids who are at college and their parents GO TO COLLEGE every weekend to do their laundry?!

It’s about how somewhere parenting changed from preparing kids for life to protecting them from everything. These kids don’t have street smarts, don’t know how to do basic things…it is so sad. The author calls it “invasive parenting” and that is growing a “nation of wimps.” Kids need to make mistakes, then need to learn from them and “they also need to be prepared for when things go wrong.”

“Millenials have been called the ‘Everyone Gets a Trophy’ generation for good reason.”

“Moms seem so over-involved in solving problems for their children instead of letting the kids learn to work it out.”

The book is written by the Dean of Stanford admissions. Sometimes it was a little heavy on the college-prep aspect, which didn’t interest me as much, but the book was well-written, well-researched and easy to read. And boy was it eye-opening.

I’ve seen it with friends who have kids–their kids are so over-scheduled the parents are frazzled, have no time, the kids have no down time and it certainly doesn’t sound like something I want for our little family. Somewhere parents have stopped allowing free play and expression of creativity, or allowing their kids to struggle and figure things out. Play is narrated (something I also read about in the book “Bringing Up Bebe”, which is also great), parents step in if there’s any disagreement between kids on the playground. The kids aren’t taught to solve their own problems. “They (parents) grasp for control in every way, and don’t allow their children to figure it out.”

“Having things done for you and having no control over those outcomes can also lead to a kind of ‘learned helplessness.” Instead we should be teaching  “self-effacy, which is the belief in your abilities to complete a task, reach a goal, and manage a situation.”

After reading it I talked to a friend of mine with older kids (like 7 and 9) and she said her kids each have one night that they plan the family meal, buy the groceries and cook it. That’s so awesome! The book does give ideas on how to fix/avoid the trap of over-parenting and teaching kids, even little kids, how to be self-sufficient, questioning and problem-solving. I loved the examples (broken down by age groups) on little things you can do to grow their self-effacy, self-esteem and teach them life skills.

I loved this book and like I said, I will be reading it again and making more notes. I agreed with so much of it and found it really helpful to break it down, spell out what to do and there were a ton of other books and articles that sounded interesting in the appendix. Recommended!

(I speak a good game and sincerely hope I can avoid being a helicopter parent but at the same time…reality can be different. I find myself sometimes being a helicopter dog parent to Bella. :) )


2 ) At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen 

I didn’t like this book at first. The main characters weren’t likeable at ALL. The story premise seemed a bit silly too–socialites from Philadelphia in WW2 going to Scotland to find the Lochness Monster. Silly. But…..I kept reading. Similar to “Water for Elephants”– I almost gave up on the book and then about 40% through it, it took a turn for the better.

I realized there was more to the story and I grew to like Maddie, the main character, loathe her husband Ellis and his friend Hank (well-written villains) and her story of self-discovery. It ended up being a good book!


3 ) Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I like this “alternate” reality type stories. One of my favorite movies is “Sliding Doors”–if you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s a little dated, but a cool and interesting twist on “what if.”

In this book the main character, Georgie, is a sitcom writer who gets a huge break for a project she’s been working on. It’s nearing Christmas time and the original plan was for the family to go to Omaha for the holidays to be with in-laws. Except this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Georgie and her husband Neal are already struggling, but this tips it over the edge. He takes their two daughters to Omaha and she stays behind to work.

Distraught and seeing her marriage unravel, she goes home to her mom’s house and uses the landline to try and call Neal, who won’t answer her texts and phone calls. Except it turns out when she’s calling him on the landline they are going back in time to when they were first together and going through a possible break-up that ended up leading to their engagement. Can Georgie fix their marriage by going “back in time”? Or was this opportunity supposed to show her they weren’t meant to be together?

It was a good, fast read and not as “chick lit” as it sounds. I liked the book a lot.


4 ) Still Waters (Sandhamn Murders Book #1) by Viveca Sten

First book in the series and it’s a great start!  Thomas Andreasson is a police detective in Sweden, getting over a recent divorce after the death of their daughter from SIDS. A body is found on the shore of his childhood island and he goes to investigate. Soon other bodies are stacking up and he’s immersed in the investigation–with the help of his best friend Nora and the other police in his department. Despite the dark subject matter it’s a quaint book with well-developed characters. I was slightly annoyed by the ending but that didn’t deter me from wanting to read the second book when it comes out.


5 ) My Life in France by Julia Child

I fell in love with Julia Child after reading Julie & Julia years ago and then seeing the movie. I hadn’t known much about Julia Child and that book was a good little teaser. Since then I’d been interested in reading more about her and finally read her book. What a delight! The book was an easy, fast read and the voice was so engrossing! I’ve never seen her TV shows but now I want to see if I can find them. Her personality jumped off the pages of the book.

The book is a memoir of her marriage, life in France, Germany and Norway, and how she learned how to cook. When her and her husband Paul arrived in Paris she immersed herself in the culture and learned the language (as she did everywhere she lived–even at advanced ages!).

“It’s easy to get the feeling that you know the language just because when you order a beer they don’t bring you oysters. [pg 34]”

The book is humorous and just wonderful. I can’t get over it. It was fascinating to read about how she learned how to cook, how she fell in love with French cuisine, and went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

“Of course I made many boo-boos. At first this broke my heart, but then I came to understand that learning how to fix one’s mistakes, or live with them, was an important part of becoming a cook. [pg 104]”

She made friends and eventually fell into cookbook writing, almost by accident. This was the most fascinating part of the story, I felt. It took nearly a decade for “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to be published (there were many trials and tribulations leading up to it!). Her and her coauthors diligently created recipes and Julia tested and re-tested each recipe in her own kitchen to perfect the recipes AND also make them “Americanized”. Basically, she was discovering that a lot of the ingredients the French used weren’t the same as the ones available in America. She did tons of research to find equivalents. Even basic things like flour–the kind of the French used to make these amazing recipes didn’t quite translate the same way with the American version. So she had to test and change things and figure out different quantities and types of ingredients so the recipes worked. The book was a true labor of love.

“Our goal was to eat well, but sensibly, as the French did. This meant keeping our helpings small, eating a great variety of foods, and avoiding snacks. [pg 262]”

She writes beautifully about the French lifestyle and approach to food and every time she described dishes she created my mouth was watering. It was an inspiring, uplifting, amazing book and I’m so glad I finally read it!


6 ) Faceless Killers: A Mystery (Kurt Wallander Mystery Book 1) by Henning Mankell

You may have seen this show on Netflix, in fact I tried to watch the series and couldn’t get into it but after reading the first book and enjoying it so much I will try again! Kurt Wallander is a detective in Sweden, estranged from his daughter, recently separated and soon to be divorced from his wife, and his father is going senile. He gets a big case that seems to have a lot of twists and turns and no real solutions, and the bodies keep adding up. First, an elderly couple are murdered in their farmhouse–discovered by their elderly neighbors. It’s a brutal scene that just gets worse. Then a Somali refugee is murdered. How are these two cases connected?? The story is good and has a lot of twists and turns. I really like the main character and the other supporting characters. Good start to a series!

6 ) The Dogs of Riga (Kurt Wallander Book 2) by Henning Mankell

This was a fascinating story! In this one, Wallander is leading an investigation in Sweden then ends up taking him to Latvia. The time period is 1991, just after the Berlin Wall comes down and the European countries are still feeling the effects of the Cold War. The Latvian investigator who came to Sweden to help Wallander with his current case, goes home and is murdered. Wallander goes to Latvia to assist them with the investigation and soon he’s deep in the thick of Cold War-esque espionage. Spies and everything! It was a good story and I liked it even better than book 1.


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Oct 192015

So recently at work I won a raffle and the prize was one of those neighborhood “lending library” boxes!! It was super cute too!


And it came packed with some books. Mostly kids and teen books, which is fine. I’m going to set it up somewhere on our street for everyone to enjoy. There was also a cozy throw blanket, a cute plastic bag, a mug and hot cocoa.


I’m hoping this lending library box gets lots of use in my neighborhood! I found it kind of funny that this is what I won, too, considering how much I read. LOL

Okay, here we go on books. I’ve read some good ones lately.

1 )  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris, where he works at the local museum. It’s the beginning of World War II. Marie-Laure is also blind and her father, who will melt your heart, builds a miniature version of their neighborhood so she can learn it and soon he takes her out and teaches her how to navigate her way through the city without him. Soon, the Nazis invade and Marie-Laure and her father flee the city, unbeknownst to her–transporting a priceless gem from the Museum to another museum director in another town. Except when they arrive, after a very long, harrowing journey, he’s gone. With no where else to go and Nazis closing in on towns everywhere, they flee to Saint-Malo, a walled citadel city by the sea where her great-uncle Etienne lives.

The story also follows Werner, an orphaned German youth living in an orphanage with his sister. Werner loves radios and transmitters and teaches himself how to fix and build them. Soon Nazi soldiers take him under their wing and he becomes part of the Hitler Youth movement. As the story unfolds, you grow to like Werner and wish he had had other options because he seems to have a good heart and not quite believe in the propaganda he’s groomed to believe in. Of course, Werner and Marie-Laure meet and the story goes on.

I would have to say that Marie-Laure might be one of my favorite book heroines. I just love her character and I love her father and uncle, too. They are all so charming and wonderful! I loved the book. It was a fast read, which surprised me because of the subject matter. The fear that the French felt during the occupation was palpable on the page. It was a really, really well-written book and I see why it was so highly rated on every book list!


2 ) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I didn’t like this book in the beginning. I’m not a fan of circuses or stories about the circus and I absolutely hated the animal abuse. I ended up skimming the parts that either implied or described the animal abuse going on in the book. I just couldn’t read it. I considered giving up on the story but I was starting to like the main characters and wanted to know what happened. About half way through I started to get into the story and enjoyed the book a lot more. I absolutely LOVED the last few chapters and how the book ended! It was very satisfying.

3 ) So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson 

What a fascinating book! And so relevant for our times. This was a book about shame and what happens to people who have become shamed. There were several case studies, the most memorable and recent one was Justine Sacco’s stupid tweet that totally ruined her life. The author interviews her several times, discusses what happened, what she was thinking when she tweeted what she said, the immediate aftermath in the early days and then months later how she was doing.

“After a lull of 180 years (public punishments were phased out in 1837 in the UK and 1839 in the US), it was back in a big way. When we deployed shame, we were utilizing an immensely powerful tool.”

“I had assumed that this demise was due to the migration from villages to cities. Shame became ineffectual because pilloried people could lose themselves in the anonymous crowd as soon as the chastisement was over.”

The book is a fascinating read about the subject of shame, how it ruins lives, how some actually come out the other side stronger and get over it, but most spiral into depression and PTSD like symptoms. What I found fascinating was just how damaging the current world (i.e. social media) is when it comes to this topic. Like Ronson stated, the old public punishments were brutal and sometimes physical but were they worse than the way social media can completely DESTROY someone?

The internet lasts forever…

“Social media shamings are worse than your shamings,” I suddenly said to Ted Poe [a Houston judge who uses public shaming in his sentencing tactics].

He looked taken aback. “They are worse, they’re anonymous.”

“Or even if they’re not anonymous, it’s such a pile-on they may as well be…”

“They’re brutal,” he said. 

The pile-on factor is huge. We’ve all seen it. Someone posts something stupid, offensive, whatever on social media and even if they don’t have that many followers, it only takes one person with a lot of followers to retweet or repost and then it spreads like a virus. I think every single one of us has read a story or known someone who said something in jest, or something just plain stupid, and then see it spiral out of control. And it’s not like you can just delete and move on. Screen shots live forever…

He did discuss one guy touched by scandal who managed to overcome it and he said: “As soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed, the whole thing crumbles.” Interesting. Take the power out of it. Ronson also discussed a business that works on rebranding people who have gone through public shaming. Part of their services is to scrub the internet of history (which doesn’t always work) so the rebranding can happen–which was a very interesting chapter.

This book was very eye-opening and kind of frightening. I can see where a book like this could make you second guess EVERYTHING you say online… Sometimes it doesn’t take much for a normal person who didn’t intend for something bad to happen to just….implode. On the flipside I think we also live in a time where a lot of people are looking for something to be outraged and offended over. They need that adrenaline or fake fight/controversy and that negativity is contagious.


4 ) Titanic Survivor by Violet Jessop

Violet was born in 1887 in Argentina. Her parents were Irish immigrants and her mother had many many children (most did not survive) and Violet became a nursemaid, housemaid, basically a surrogate mother to her siblings. The book is a memoir about her amazing life. After her father dies and the families moves back to England, she realizes she needs to help support the family and she becomes a stewardess aboard ships. She spent 40 years on the ocean as a stewardess and she was so well-loved by the passengers that many wrote home naming her specifically.

Violet happened to be a stewardess on that infamous oceanliner, Titanic. She described in detail what that evening was like, how it felt to be put in the lifeboat and lowered into the icy water and watch as the giant ship sank. She counted the rows of windows, astonished as they disappeared into the black ocean. Her accounting is chilling and shocking. Then, if that wasn’t enough, she returned to the job aboard another ship (you’d think she’d be done working on ships!) and eventually was aboard the Brittanic that struck a mine and sank! Her story is amazing–what she survived, how it all rolled off her back and never damaged her psyche or her spirit. It’s an amazing story!

5 ) The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack

I found this book very charming! It was a memoir by a writer from Sex and the City. She met and married her second husband (the first turned out to be gay) when she was 40 and then they tried (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant. The memoir was funny, smart, a fast read and very sweet. I could relate to some of the stuff she talked about in regards to relationships and it was just a really good read!

6 ) Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

When I first skimmed the blurb for this book it sounded pretty straight-forward, an elderly woman who is losing her memory is concerned about a friend of hers that has gone missing. No one will listen to her. She’s worried and wants to find her friend. But as you read you start to realize that there is way more to this book than that simple premise.

First, (and this isn’t a spoiler because you realize it pretty early in the book) Maud is not just slipping into dementia. She is smack-dab in the middle of it and it’s very, very severe. To the point where mid-conversation she doesn’t know that she’s speaking to her daughter. It’s heartbreaking to read and if you’ve ever dealt with someone with Alzheimers or dementia it might be a difficult book to read.

Second, it turns out that Maud’s older sister Sukey disappeared in the 1940’s, never to be found again. Part of the dementia for Maud is not knowing what time period she is in and she’s remembering the story of her sister’s disappearance. Everything ties together in the end.

It’s a good book, although very hard to read.

7 ) Bury Your Dead: Gamache #6 by Louise Penny

This turned out to be a very interesting book in the series! It was actually three storylines. The first: Chief Inspector Gamache is taking time off at Winter Carnival in Quebec City with his old mentor after something tragic has happened. Of course, a murder happens and Armand is asked to assist the local police in their investigation. It becomes a good distraction for him and the crime is wrapped up in history and was really, really interesting.

The second story: Armand’s assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir returns to Three Pines to look into the previous book’s crime, in which a beloved towns-person was convicted of murder and sent to prison. Armand had his doubts and asked Jean-Guy to look into it and find his mistake.

The third story, the underlying issue, was told in flashbacks. There was a horrible catastrophe on the force where many coworkers were killed, Jean-Guy and Armand were injured and both are on leave now trying to heal from the horrific event. The story of what happened is told slowly and was very compelling.

This was a very different way of telling a story for the author in this series and it worked really well. It was a good book!


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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