Sunday, June 18, 2017

Is Too Much from a Good Author a Bad Thing?

Maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I loved The Secret Life of Bees; liked The Invention of Wings very much, and ... enjoyed The Mermaid Chair.  While I'd call each a good book by a solid author (Sue Monk Kidd), I'm ready for a different flavor at this point.

There's still a title or two from Barbara Kingsolver I haven't read, but I think I need a different voice, a different sort of book entirely. Maybe it's time for me to heft a real Hemingway. Or phone a friend...

Looking for Fiction Recommendations

I"m working my way through three or four nonfiction titles at the moment.  (OK; always.) What I need is the escape/relaxation read.

I tend to read nonfiction in the daytime, and fiction (to unwind) at night.

So fellow page-turners, what recommendations would you share?

Have a suggestion but don't want to reply here? Please post on my Facebook page. Thanks! 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Gifts for Grads - Books are Easy to Wrap

Let's face it, when it comes to great gifts for High School and College Grads, "money" is the right answer.

But how imaginative is that? When you want to include a thoughtful little something for the graduate, consider a book that won't feel like another assignment, but that will engage the graduate's gray matter.

Here, three suggestions. Got other ideas? Share them in the comments or on my Facebook page!

Great book for any female graduate, public health or medical school graduate: The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks

(Yes I know it's a new HBO movie. Yes of course the book is better. Also, remember - should said grad be celebrating with a little getaway, she'll incur no data charges when reading an actual book.)

Perfect gift for the grad with an entrepreneurial bent, but without a plan: Life is Good - The Book

An excellent pick for either a high school or college grad - and under $20!

Excellent idea for a college grad with an interest in plants and biology: The Cabaret of Plants

Lots of big words, even more fascinating info. Note: not for the kid who had to repeat biochem. 

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Consider this your friendly reminder: 'tis the season to stock up on graduation cards, money and/or gift cards, and thoughtful gifts -- that are easy to wrap and make you look smart. Books might even help the graduate find his or her way to health, happiness, enlightenment, or at least, a job. 

If that sounds a bit unlikely, remember - books are easy to wrap. 

Enjoy graduation season! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Book You Should NOT Give to Mom on Mother's Day

Don't get me wrong; I like Marie Kondo's neat and tidy little book about tidying up. Great advice. Short and sweet. Packed with great advice, gentle yet persuasive prodding. It's a book almost any mom could love. BUT, don't.

That really wasn't big enough to make my point. 

BUT, don't. 

It's the wrong thing to give mom on Mother's Day. 

Take my word on this. You can thank me later. 

I have it on very good authority that when you give this particular title as a gift to the woman who has spent your whole life cleaning up after you, she is likely to use it immediately - to smack you in the head. 

You're welcome. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wild & Wonderful: Discoveries on the Trail

So it took me a few years to get to the 2012 bestseller, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.

Like most autobiographical memoirs, Strayed's first book has had a few dubious readers - Vanity Fair dug a bit deeper into her encounter with a reporter from The Hobo Times, for example. I was more interested in a list of some of the things that didn't make the final cut of Wild, however.

And while the 2014 movie had many fans, it had a fair number of disappointed viewers as well. (Look, the book is always better than the movie.)

Anyway, it was another title I couldn't put down, meaning I ignored my family for several hours in order to read it. In other words, great book to take on vacation!


Happy reading! 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gotta-Read List for 2017

YipppEEEEE!!! I'm a-l-m-o-s-t cleared a path (figuratively) to some reading time. I plan to dig in to Wild by Cheryl Strayed this weekend. 

What about you? How's your 2017* must-read list looking? Anything you've checked off, or added, recently? What's the best book you've read so far this year? 

Here are a few others on my Gotta-Read List in 2017:

Ellen Dunham-Jones,  Retrofitting Suburbia

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
humorous essay collection
How We Learn by Benedict Carey -- and a speed-reading recap

The Mermaid's Chair, by Amy Monk Kidd

*hey, let's not judge. Technically it's still the first quarter of 2017...

Want to read something funny and light? Try my essay collection about dogs, life, and other things we generally can't control. Reviewers say it's "laugh out loud funny" and it's under $7. Take a look, you might enjoy it! 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hemingway's Girl - Hemingway for Beginners?

I thoroughly enjoyed this breezy novel about life on Key West during the depression, a time that sucked a lot of air out of the years between WWI and WWII. But even then, life and love went on, and Hemingway did his thing.

Don't Judge a Book By its Title

When some of Ernest Hemingway's novels were assigned reading (way back when), I'm sorry to say they didn't appeal to me. So - silly as it may seem - ordinarily I would've dismissed this book on title alone. But a recommendation can be a powerful thing, and when a friend raved about the book, I decided to give it a try. Sure am glad I did. (Thanks, Hannah!) 

Now, to be clear, the book is not by Hemingway, but a novel about a young girl's fictional friendship with the author, known to many as "Papa." Like all good historical fiction, bits and pieces of history (actual, not alternative, facts) are plentiful throughout the book. Still, generally, reading anything by or about Hemingway isn't a big draw for me. The good news is that Erika Robuck may have changed my mind about her muse, or perhaps more accurately, reminded me that one's tastes in literature (and life?) can change in a decade or two. Or three.

Florida and the Great Depression

The setting was as vital to the story as the characters, and while I've done some research into what life was like in Florida during WWII, I have read and studied very little about the years leading up to it so learning a bit about that era was a bonus. We may bemoan the current state of politics and worry about the economy, but oh, we've come a long way, baby.

Hemingway, who trained as a newspaper reporter, was no saint. (And no, that was not necessarily redundant). This novel includes his penchant for fighting, drinking, and extramarital affairs.

Key West Setting and Ohio Appeal

The stretch of land (islands, really) that comprises the Florida Keys is golden, grand, hot, sticky, and sunny, almost always. In other words, an appealing setting for an Ohio reader, especially during a gray winter. But I like the nod that the author gave to our often-overlooked change of seasons: 
"God, you haven't lived until you've seen the leaves change color up north.  ... The best part of the snow is the silence. It muffles the world. You've never heard such silence as a nice batch of snow makes."       ~ Erika Robuck, Hemingway's Girl (c) 2012

Who Will Enjoy this Book? 

Fans of Hemingway might - or they might not. Personally, I think it may be a "gateway read" that could convince a non-fan to read some of his works, again, years after they were listed as required on a class syllabus. Whether you're a Hemingway fan or not, this title is an enjoyable light romance and well-written work of historical fiction.

Although it's not a YA, per se, it is appropriate for advanced readers in middle- and high-schools. (Meaning I'd rate it a PG.)


I have also reviewed A Moveable Feast -- about his first marriage -- and didn't like it much either. But, you can be the judge.

Are you a Hemingway fan? Have you ever read his works? I'd love to hear from you! I welcome comments here, and on my Facebook Page.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Life is Good, The Book

Life is Good: The Book by Bert and John Jacobs
Published by the National Geographic Society
(c) 2015
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I'll admit I didn't want the book at first. I assumed it was a collection of feel-good stories, pithy quotes and cute line drawings and nothing very substantive.

I'm glad I read it!

Two Entrepreneurs, One Story

Bert and John Jacobs founded the Life Is Good company by selling t-shirts from a beat-up van. It was before "angel investors" were all over Twitter, before eCommerce was available as a free plug-in for your Wordpress site. The company's start-up phase lasted years. The van was a mess.

In those hustling, hard-working years, they knew they had something...they just didn't know quite what.

   "From the start, we saw the T-shirt as a great vehicle for communication. What you say on the outside says a lot about who you are on the inside. We just needed to figure out what we wanted to say." [p. 62]

They figured it out at a keg party.

It's About Optimism

I won't spoil the how-the-Life-is-Good-company-found-its-niche story, but I will say that you should never underestimate the importance of having awesome friends and parties. The original slogan and drawing that became Life Is Good really was born in a "meeting" of the minds - AKA a late night with lots of friends and beer.

Also, while the company sells t-shirts, the value has more to do with the message on them than the cut, color and (super-soft) cotton they're made of.

Two Entrepreneurs, Many Stories

To their credit, the Jacobs brothers share much but not so much that it's all about them. The book is well-crafted because it shares many related stories, all of which support the whole. And, I have to say some of my initial, pre-conceived notions about the book were accurate. It's packed with graphics, lists and cute pictures. But in a good way - they are not filler, but part of the story.

The Boston Connection

I should've seen it coming, but I didn't. Near the end of the book is a section, just about five pages recounting, recounting the horrible sadness when bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, on Patriots' Day, 2013.

I've had little connection to city where I was born most of my life, but in the past five years or so I've worked regularly, creating and managing content for a marketing firm in Boston.

Managing content is usually a matter of planning and scheduling. Posts are created ahead of time to cover holidays and other special events. But when the world stops, the internet keeps going...and it becomes a place where people turn for news, escape, sanity, solace...whatever they need. So while I was horrified, worried about and hurting for people I worked "with" but only via email and phone lines, and feeling helpless (what could I do?!) i was also trying to help by sharing appropriate nuggets (do we really NEED a Facebook post today?) and more thoughtful blog posts as time went on. Reading about how Life is Good employees gathered together in the immediate aftermath would have been a little painful for anyone; for me, it hit a tad close to home. The good news, of course, is that because the company is built on optimism, the Life is Good team had a little extra resilience.

The follow-up, describing how the company responded with the Nothing is Stronger Than Love design (seen above, on the keyboard where I typed about the bombings) is a textbook example of good PR and good business.

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Who would enjoy this book
It's a good business story; might make a good gift for a recent grad trying to find his or her way in the (corporate world); is easy to read (like on an airplane or beach vacation!) and would certainly be of interest to almost anyone in the Boston, MA area. 
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Full disclosure: I bought the book because I need to upgrade my wardrobe. Most of my t-shirts come from my kids' sports teams and...well, let's just say some of them are ready to move on to the great rag-box in the garage. The book was advertised as part of a T-shirt & book promo package at the Life is Good website, and I'm happy with both my new shirt and the book. If you just want the book (it makes a nice gift!) you can save some $$$ and pick up the book, by itself, from Amazon. 
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Read any good books lately? As always...guest reviewers are welcome! Get in touch in comments on this blog or leave a message on my Facebook Page, Dumb Things We Say to Dogs