December 6, 2017

Monthly Book Review: November 2017

Though I only read two books last month, finishing the second just moments ago, they were long (19  and 13 hrs) so I still feel accomplished.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - I think this is the best book I’ve read all year and it’s a tight race. It follows the life of Count Alexander Rostov from his first day of house arrest in 1922 to his last. A true gentleman, Alexander lives a rich, purposeful life he could never have imagined within the confines of the Metropol hotel.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - I don’t want to give too much away because it had me guessing for the first several chapters and it was an interesting surprise when plot was fully revealed. I will say that it’s a creative good vs evil story with well developed characters that have you vacillating between empathy and disdain.

I intended to join a book club; however, I got through a third of the book and didn’t like it, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, so returned it and bowed out. I may join next cycle, but not sure their tastes are aligned with mine.

Up next:
Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari
The Map of Heaven by Eben Alexander
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
All Clear by Connie Willis

November 15, 2017

October 31, 2017

Monthly Book Review: October 2017

Blackout by Connie Willis - An 8 hour roundtrip road trip helped me get through a big chunk of this 19 hour book. In 2060 Oxford "historians" are traveling back in time to witness world changing events first hand. One is sent north to study evacuated children; one is working as a shop girl during the Blitz; yet another ends up where he wasn't intending to go, Dunkirk. Though sent at different times, all are within miles of one another in 1940 when it's obvious that something has gone awry - they are unable to return to Oxford and could be altering history. I'm a sucker for British accents, historical fiction (book is classified as science fiction) and WWII so thought this would be right up my alley. It was until I found out the book ends with a cliffhanger! The story continues in book two, All Clear, which is 24 hours! I originally thought I'd boycott part two on principle, but darn it all if I can't stop thinking 'what happens next?'.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple - quirky! Our quest for acceptance and ability to make assumptions that often have little basis in reality gets us in trouble every time. I really liked this and think Bernadette and I would be great friends in real life.

The Child by Fiona Barton - Four women, a baby and how their lives are intertwined. Jude is one of the least nurturing helicopter mums you'll come across, Emma is a recluse living a self-imposed sentence for something no one else knows, Angela "lost" a baby forty years ago and Kate is the journalist bound and determined to get to the bottom of the truth even if it's not what she expected.

Another 8 hour road trip helped me jump start my first book of November - A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

I joined a book club and we meet on 11/28 To discuss Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. I'll start on that as soon as I finish A Gentleman in Moscow.
On deck after those:
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari
The Map of Heaven by Eben Alexander

October 19, 2017

50 ways to grill your prospective lover

I may or may not enter the dating world again within the next decade. It's a possibility. Or not.
Because I feel the need to overthink so many things I decided to give my brain a fun exercise of what I would need to know about someone before they could be considered a good match. So far I have -

Travel lover
Book reader
Walking Dead watcher or at least interested in watching from the beginning
Position on gay marriage
Political leanings
Star Wars vs Star Trek
Religious leanings
Myers Briggs type
Enneagram type

What else am I missing?

October 3, 2017

Monthly Book Review: September 2017

In addition to the following books, I listened to 10 Esther Perel therapy session podcasts - free on Audible. Good insight. I'm in an introspective, search for enlightenment kind of mood lately so my choices reflect that.

He Said/She Said by Robert Morgan - a slow build that alternates the stories of events that occur during solar eclipses over many years. The title reflects the story alternating chapters between husband and wife protagonists. It was a coincidence that I started this within a couple of weeks of The Great American Eclipse. 4/5 stars.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo - loquacious, but good messages about the value of less judgement, more contemplation and the idea that each life we live builds on our last. I have a lot of work to do in this life to better my chances in the next ;)

I started a third, Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan, but could not get into it. I have A LOT built up in my queue so am anxious to dive in. An upcoming 10 hour road trip should help.

 Next up:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari
Blackout by Connie Willis
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
The Child by Fiona Barton
The Map of Heaven by Eben Alexander

 Image by Jones Design

September 2, 2017

Monthly Book Review: August 2017

Feeling good that I fit in three books during a busy month. I'm even half way through a fourth. So many books, so little time.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - a love story of two women bound to one another since the age of seven. A secret shifts the power balance and changes the course of both lives.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris - Great mystery told from the point of view of a woman whose life looks picture perfect to the outside world. Looks can be deceiving - no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams - I've tried to get into this twice and given up so either third times the charm or I needed to give up the ghost. I finally got into it, but to be honest it wasn't my fave Beatriz read. Tiny does everything that 1960's society expects of her until she realizes freedom from convention is more fulfilling. Ll

Next up:
Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

August 26, 2017

Traveling Germany

Thought I'd summarize random thoughts/observations while still fresh in my mind.

I loved driving - memorable scenery through the Black Forest and Bavarian Alps, but also endless rolling hills and villages appearing out of nowhere of white buildings with red roofs and churches. Lots of solar farms and windmills. A lot of roundabouts!!! Learned "einbahnstrasse" means one way street quickly, not because I went wrong way but because when following directions wondered why I kept seeing the same street name (duh!).

  • Bring your own toiletries - a couple hotels had combo body/hair washer dispensers in showers and by sink, but not all
  • Towels were small and only one per person - bring your own if you have luggage space; no washcloths so pack those too 
  • Most toilets have two wall buttons for flushing, small for liquid only and large for solid
  • Totally obsessed with their use of simple toilet paper roll dispensers, none of that complicated spring stuff we have in America 
  • Some public places charge to use toilets (WC) -  € 0.50-1
  • I overpacked - wore some things twice, didn't wear makeup other than sunscreen, CC cream and mascara
  • One feather bed per person, no sheets
  • Water at restaurants is carbonated, labeled "classic" in markets; if you prefer non-carbonated then look/ask for "still" water
  • Europeans are more leisurely with meals - you have to ask for bill if you're ready to move on; tip included in most meals, else receipt will say "tip not included"
  • Beer much stronger than U.S. 
  • Not as many English speaking people as I assumed - should have learned more German though Sassy quite good at interpreting (ei sounds like long "i", ie sounds like long "e" and ß sounds like "ss")
  • Trains are THE best way to travel within large cities - my strategy of finding hotels near public transportation paid off as we could park car, check in and begin sightseeing without worrying about traffic or where to park
  • Dog lovers - on the subway, in restaurants, random
  • A LOT of walking (I averaged 20,000 steps each day) - cobblestone streets; mind bikes, traffic lights, and directions (many streets break right vs left from a central marker/monument)
  • Gelato is everywhere and amazing! Especially hazelnut with toasted nuts 😉
  • Have plenty of coins - € 1 and € 2
  • Be flexible - impromptu zoo visit and mountain gondola ride were more fun than Neuschwanstein castle 
  • Note to self - check for holidays (national, regional, religious)