Monday, December 30, 2013

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango StreetThe House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someone gave me this book as a gift in 1999, I guess I read it for the first time in 2009, but I didn't remember any of it when I read it again this year. It's a really short novel that's organized more like a short story collection of a short book of poems.

I grew up on what could be called a Mango Street. I lived in an apartment on Boulevard East in a town in New Jersey that had once been half Italian but was then mostly Hispanic. Like the main character, I never had a house, and to this day, I have never had a house. While I can relate to the longing to own my home, it only developed later. As a kid, you're usually mostly happy with what you have.

--SPOILER ALERT--

As for the rest of the novel, I found it a very heavy-handed in places (the rape chapter in particular), and incomplete in others. Maybe who you are is in part where you're from, but there's no special case made here as to why Esperanza is Mango Street, especially when she's presented as fundamentally different from the other residents and eager to leave.

Not a favorite of mine.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pastoralia by George Saunders

PastoraliaPastoralia by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's hard to write a review when a novel is really good, and even harder when a short story collection is good. The first story felt a little long and depressing, but the stories get progressively better. The stories at the end in particular linger after you've put the book down and continue to demand your attention while you're doing other things. Now I'm looking forward to reading The Tenth of December.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NurtureShock by Po Bronson

NurtureShock: New Thinking About ChildrenNurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is supposed to be about the application of science in child-rearing. It's basically about how science can disproves common sense all the time, and how it important it is to do control studies to test our beliefs. That part I like. The actual studies this book covered however, with the exception of one, weren't actually all that interesting.

The first study was the most interesting and important. It studied how praising children is not necessarily beneficial to their learning, development, and achievement. It also explained why. This one was major. I also found the chapter on helping siblings get along interesting and possibly helpful in the future.

The following studies interested me less: how hurtful even a small lack of sleep can be to children(duh); how ignoring race doesn't make children less racist- discussing it does; kids lie way more than parents realize and it's part of their development; testing kids in kindergarten is a poor measure of their future success (duh); why teens arguing with parents is a sign of respect; how to teach children self-control (interesting, but this seemed pretty difficult to implement on your own); why high emotional intelligence is not correlated with good behavior; and how to get babies talking sooner.

One thing that bothered me in particular is that each study dealt with a particular time period in the child's development but the book wasn't organized chronologically. It was strange reading about babies verbalizing after reading about teens in high school.

Anyway, the book is pretty good, but maybe just look up the study on praise and you'll be doing pretty well on your own.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy ChildHealthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If your baby does not just automatically sleep wonderfully on his own, buy this book. It's a reference book that will last you until your child is 6 and take you through all different developmental stages in a child's sleep. If you're a new parent, you might want to consider buying it before you do everything wrong like I did.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pledged by Alexandra Robbins

PledgedPledged by Alexandra Robbins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Honestly, I'm embarrassed I even read this. Though I use the word "read" loosely as the book is largely unreadable. Considering that this was such a salacious treatment of the topic, it was really boring. And considering that the author claims to be attempting a somewhat academic treatment of the topic the book is extremely disorganized and scattershot. Terrible.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up by Dan Zevin

The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-upThe Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up by Dan Zevin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I personally did not find this funny. I also found it a little strange that while it focuses on how lame adulthood is, the author did not yet have children when he wrote this book. Nothing makes you less cool than having children.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 3, 2013

From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds by Alexander Tsiaras

From Conception to Birth: A Life UnfoldsFrom Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds by Alexander Tsiaras
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a large coffee table book with photography of unborn babies throughout gestation. I really wanted to love it, but it left me cold. It offers virtually no information and the photography is very difficult to match up with my stages in pregnancy. Definitely not worth it, especially with all the great photography and video available online now.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 1, 2013

Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B. Curtis

Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th EditionYour Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th Edition by Glade B. Curtis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My insurance company sent me this book for free, as a way to "improve outcomes." I think it's definitely an improvement over "What to Expect When You're Expecting." The book is actually much shorter, which I think is a good thing (looks the same size because of big fonts and illustrations). It's true that there's a fair amount of scary information in this book, but I think most of it is information that is important to know in case a more serious issue arises. (It doesn't have tons of normal symptoms it discusses endlessly like WTEWYE.) One thing that I like better about WTEWYE is that at the end there's a section about after the baby comes, and this book doesn't have that, though it does have a small section on breastfeeding. Overall, I would still opt for books on what to do after baby arrives especially feeding and sleeping books. You can get most of your pregnancy information on Babycenter and The Bump.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

What to Expect When You're ExpectingWhat to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this book week by week with my last pregnancy, and I think it was a waste of precious time and effort I should have spent reading about actual newborn and toddler care. There are very small sections about what's happening to the baby and your body every week. For this, you can get better information from Babycenter or The Bump delivered right to your email each week.

Then following the section on what's happening that week, there's a lot of information on any number of questions a pregnant woman might have that month. This might have been useful once upon a time, but now it makes more sense to Google any symptom you have a concern about, rather than reading about a lot of symptoms you don't have. What would be more helpful is a book that covers the things you actually should watch out for or worry about even if they seem innocuous.

Most importantly, your time is better spent with baby books. When our baby arrived I had trouble breastfeeding, the baby was extremely fussy, and eventually he developed all sorts of sleeping problems. Of course, once he was here, I didn't have much time to read books about all that, and I was constantly exhausted. And unlike with pregnancy symptoms, you can't just Google how to solve your baby's sleep problems.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Getting Rid of Books! 2013

Well, we've finally started to actually get rid of some of our books. Since getting rid of my dad's books was so hard for me, I started with my own books. Kevin and I have both gone through all the nonfiction books we keep in our living room. We still haven't one through all the fiction upstairs though, and there's been woefully few dad-books that have left the house. But we've now donated about 23 boxes of books so we're definitely making progress.

Also, even though there haven't been as many reviews as I would like, I have actually started and not-finished countless books that aren't on here, so I'm going to try to wrap some of those up in the near future.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Galaxies Like Grains of Sand by Brian W. Aldiss

Galaxies Like Grains of SandGalaxies Like Grains of Sand by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is from my Dad's collection. Before I get to the substance of the book, I think it's worth mentioning that my Dad's copy is from 1960 and it has a cigarette ad insert right in the middle of the book. Wow. Anyway, the novel is about the history of the Earth and our Galaxy in the very distant future. It reminds me a lot of Cloud Atlas, even though it was written so long before Cloud Atlas. I enjoyed it a great deal, and the story felt cohesive though I just noticed when examining the book that many of the chapters were published as short stories before being combined into novel form. Because of this short story format, and because the the story spans millions of years, there isn't a central character, but many small under-developed characters. The story is more central than the characters.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013

Last Sunday, Kevin and I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival. Our first stop is was the Black Balloon Publishing booth, which is Kevin's publisher for his short story collection! For those of you that we haven't told yet, his short story collection is coming out on May 15, 2014. I will be updating you guys with more information as it becomes available.

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
So many people at the Brooklyn Book Festival this year!

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
Black Balloon Publishing Booth was hopping!

We talked with the Managing Director, Publicists, and another author Paul Kwiatkowski. Afterwards, we walked around checking out all the different booths for publishers and organizations. Kevin spotted a bunch of authors I don't know walking around. 

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
Random House- Penguin ("Random Penguin") had a food truck filled with books

Nick and Emily met up with us, and after a little more walking around we went to a bar to grab some drinks and snacks before a reading that we were checking out. Jon, Becky, and Ben stopped by to say hello as well, but they couldn't stay.

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
Kevin and me

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
Emily and Nick

Then we waited on a long long line to attend "The Fantastic and The Strange" reading by Karen Russell and A.M. Homes. I didn't previously know anything about A.M. Homes, but she's funny and kind of badass. Now I want to read all her books.

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013
"The Fantastic and The Strange": (l-r) faciliatator, Karen Russell, and A.M. Homes

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our Man in Iraq by Robert Perišić

Our Man in IraqOur Man in Iraq by Robert Perišić
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel takes place in Zagreb, Croatia, and one thing that really stands out about this novel is how Croatia seems both completely foreign and very familiar at the same time. Parts of it could definitely take place in Brooklyn instead of Zagreb. The economic and career fear in particular is very familiar and relevant in America right now. The translation appears seamless and I mostly forgot it was in translation even in the scenes where the characters speak English. The beginning of the novel is a little crazed, but it settles in to an interesting and fairly straightforward narrative. Definitely worth reading.

Full disclosure: My husband signed a contract with Black Balloon Publishing.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive HealthTaking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is full of interesting information. I think it might be helpful while trying to conceive, but personally I wouldn't use it's birth control method. Also, I think the book is too full of personal stories, that aren't especially interesting. I'd borrow a copy or check it out from the library, but definitely don't buy it unless you decide to employ it's system of birth control.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our July book club selection is a good book that would have been better without the tricky ending. The ending cheapened the entire book quite a bit and lessened the main character's responsibility. I would recommend all but the last few pages of the book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It explores some of our worst instincts in such a carefully constructed and subtle manner. The author doesn't condescend. Despite being a short book, it leaves a lot for you to think about. I snatched this book away from Kevin who was about to read it, but it would have been a perfect book club selection.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 1, 2013

Virtual Book Club- July 2013

We're doubling down this month by reading Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, and/or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (in either English or Spanish).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Our May book club selection. I found the first half pretty boring despite of or because of how beginning spoiled the end, but I enjoyed the end a little more. Still, it was a little predictable, and didn't have a lot of deeper literary value.

It's interesting though that a lot of research went into the book to make both the experience of working on a circus and the actual elephant realistic. I respect that.

I also agree with my dad that the book could have used "more elephant."

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global PovertyPoor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually took an edX course about this topic and read the book as part of the course, but most of the lectures are covered in this book. Although this book is primarily about solving problems in developing countries, and all of the examples deal with India specifically, the way of analyzing problems and testing solutions really changed the way I think about social and political problems in this country. We need to stop philosophizing, guessing, and bickering and just do case studies of possible solutions.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 3, 2013

Virtual Book Club- May 2013

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In case you want to follow along with us, our May book club selection is Water for Elephants. We talk about it on Google+ Hangouts at the end of the month. Let me know if you want to join us.

Since I started this blog, this is the first book I'm reading (finally!) that my dad actually read. He read it shortly after I asked him to join Goodreads, and his review of it was, "Needs more elephants." I love you, dad.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jaime, Michele, and I started a virtual book club, and Michele picked this for our first book in April. [Lot's of spoilers below.]

Here's what I liked: he tried to write a book about male platonic love. Not friendship, but love. He contrasted it to male romantic love, though he didn't necessarily do a great job with that, maybe because it was unclear if one of the gay characters was actually gay, and their was no part of the book from the perspective of the actually gay character. The least compelling relationship was the heterosexual romantic love which seemed opportunistic at best.

I also liked how he layered Moby Dick, and the fictional book that President Affenlight wrote about Moby Dick, and the fictional book called The Art of Fielding. Male platonic love, obsession, and introspective panic are all layered on top of each other.

Harry is infinitely more interesting after he starts freaking out. The line about how he expected life to improve little by little, but that that was not reality could have been my own diagnosis, and has stayed with me.

I also like Pella eating her earrings, because why not?

Here's what I didn't like. There's some problem with the pacing of this book, it goes very very slowly for the first 60% or so of the book, and then it moves quickly and somewhat unbelievably towards the end. My biggest problem with the plot is that Schwartz forgives both Harry and Pella. In real life, I think he could forgive one of them, either one, depending on how passionately he felt for one or the other, but not both.

The ending also felt like forced drama. Otherwise, no one is forgiven, nothing in particular happens, and everything just ends. But the baseball ending was forced drama enough- the rowboat scene is just too much. Oh look at us! Our friendship is so deep that we can rely on each other to grave rob! Sure.


View all my reviews

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)The Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So fun! I read through it voraciously. I liked it much better than the first book, The Magicians. I am now holding my breath for book 3. This one was more Chronicles of Narnia than Harry Potter. Note that these books are not for children. There is explicit sexual violence in this one.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's totally absurd for me to give this book the same number of stars as I gave The Magicians but I'm not using the stars to compare the books to each other. This is an important book full of history and life lessons, but it stops before the American Revolution, which is arguably the most important period both for his life and for the times in which he lived.

*The digital version is available for free on Amazon for Kindle (and other places online): The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a guilty pleasure for people who like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. The first half is Harry Potter goes to college. The second half is some sort of Narnia epilogue. A lot of the reviews said that the ending is depressing, but I thought it was pretty standard for magically-themed books. It was more like 3.5 stars but I read it voraciously, and I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Virtual Book Club- April 2013!

The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Jaime, Michele, and I started a virtual book club, and if you feel like reading along with us, our April book is The Art of Fielding.

(My dad definitely did not read this, it was published in 2011.)

View all my reviews

Friday, March 29, 2013

Avoidance

Why am I reading all books my father didn't read when I have hundreds of his books upstairs and my entire goal here is to read his books? Sounds like a good question right?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one in less than 48 hours because now I had gotten caught in the story from the first two books. It's very entertaining and sad. The ending is satisfying but not sticky sweet. I fell for these books despite my resistance because they're not "literature." Ah well,I can't live on only vegetables.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Book of Drugs: A Memoir by Mike Doughty

The Book of Drugs: A MemoirThe Book of Drugs: A Memoir by Mike Doughty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm pretty biased in Doughty's favor because I'm a fan of all of his music. On the other hand, maybe I'm also biased in the other direction because I take some of his scathing criticism of his fans a little personally. So take what I say however you will.

He writes well, and he writes honestly. He betrays even his darkest thoughts. I believe there is goodness in truth, and so there is goodness in this book.

But, but, but: Though he is harsh on himself by admitting every thought, it's tricky because he's not precisely sorry for the bigger moral transgressions. It's not the drugs that are a gateway to worse things, but falterings in morality. We have to hold ourselves to a high moral standard-- not out of snootiness or superiority-- but so we can be happy with ourselves and each other. Maybe he's trying to reach some of this at the end, but it sort of feels like a slapped on cheery ending. It doesn't really sound like him.

Still a big fan.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very stressful read. Even though I knew how it would turn out, I was still so stressed the entire time because some other character was going to be murdered in the worst possible way. And it's all children! The horror.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Mitchell can write in any style. The book is substantive and enjoyable, but I can't give it 5 stars because ultimately it feels like a piece to show off his skill with different writing styles and feels a little hollow. It's the difference between reading an essay where you believe the person has conviction in their thesis, and one where the person has a thesis simply because an essay requires it. Also, and maybe this was the real problem for me, I only felt invested in the Somni character, the character that is supposed to be the least human.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dad's Favorite Books

I recently found my dad's Goodreads.com profile. I'm sure I asked him to join, and I'm not sure how much effort he put into writing his profile but he listed his favorite books:

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter (1979)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (1966)
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman (1985)

I've read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but it was many years ago. I do remember loving it. I've tried and failed to read Gravity's Rainbow, but I will try again. I'm afraid of whether or not I got rid of Snow Crash and The Shining Mountain even though I got rid of very very few books, but I will look for them. Maybe starting out with this smaller list will help since it's been two years now and I've made no  progress in reading his books.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

How to Live on 24 Hours a DayHow to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nice quick read and the Kindle version is free on Amazon. It was written in 1910 to solve the same problem we face today: how to make valuable use of the time we have alive. I have no doubt that following the author's advice would lead to a happier and more fulfilling life, but it falls shy of helping a person develop meaning in their lives.

*The digital version is available for free on Amazon for Kindle (and other places online): How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...