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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review - Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson














Title: Rework
Author: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson  
Year: 2010  
Page: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction - Business

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Yes
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US but can be anywhere
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from amazon.com):
Most business books give you the same old advice: Write a business plan, study the competition, seek investors, yadda yadda. If you're looking for a book like that, put this one back on the shelf.

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you'll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don't need outside investors, and why you're better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. You don't need to be a workaholic. You don't need to staff up. You don't need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don't even need an office. Those are all just excuses.

What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. This book shows you the way. You'll learn how to be more productive, how to get exposure without breaking the bank, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.

With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, Rework is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of "downsizing," and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable guidance in these pages. 


First Sentence:
We have something new to say about building, running, and growing (or not growing0 a business.

Why did I pick this book?
While I have a full time job, I also have a small photography business. I am taking a sabbatical from it right now because I want to just take a break as it takes time away from my family, and our house is still a mess since we moved in almost 3 years ago because I hadn't time to finish taking down the wall paper and paint and declutter and clean... I first heard about the author's website 37signals.com through work, and then heard they have a book out, which Seth Godin endorsed "Ignore this book at your own peril." Since I'm deciding which direction my small biz should go, I thought I'd read some business books to help make an informed decision.

My thoughts:
  • This is an easy read - meaning the authors really believe in making it simple and clear and easy to read. I finish it in a couple of hours.
  • I actually found myself doing a lot of what they are saying, so it is good to hear the confirmation and of course the authors articulate much better about the reasons behind what they recommend, whereas my reasons were just guess work and how I wanted it work for me with no research to backup any of it... having said that, my business is no where near as successful as their business! Mostly because I am not doing everything I need to do (knowing I need to do) due to time... and having a photography business is definitely A LOT more time than clicking the camera. Trust me.
  • As the author said on p9, "this is a different kind of business book for different kinds of people -- from those who have never dreamed of starting a business to those who already have a successful company and running." - as I mentioned, the writing was simple and clear, and not full of jargon so it's not a boring book. Every chapter is rather short. Some of their suggestions are quite anti-traditional (no business plan, ignore the competition) but it definitely makes you think what is suitable to your business.
  • For those thinking of starting a business, I'd definitely recommend this book, but I'd also recommend you to read other books too and not just solely rely on any one particular book. This book will give you something to think about, but since I am the research-type, I like reading different books on the same topic just to see the pro and con of each issue. 
  • The quotes are just something to remind myself...
    Quote

    The real world isn't a place, it's an excuse. It's a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you. (p14)

    Other people's failures are just that: other people's failures. If other people can't market their product, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can't build a team, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can't price their services properly, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can't earn more than they spend... well, you get it. (p16)

    Another common misconception: you need to learn from your mistakes. What do you really learn from mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that? You still don't know what you should do next. (p16)

    Unless you're a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can't actually control. (p19)

    Why don't we just call plans what they really are: guesses... When you turn guesses into plans, you enter a danger zone. Plans let the past drive the future. They put blinders on you. "This is where we're going because, well, that's where we said we were going." And that's the problem: Plans are inconsistent with improvisation. And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along. Sometimes you need to say, "We're going in a new direction because that's what makes sense today." (p19)

    Will this change behavior? Is what you're working on really going to change anything? Don't add something unless it has a real impact on how people use your product. (p101)


    Rating:  4 Stars




    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    Challenges:
    100+ Reading

    Book Review - The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Adrian Tomine


















    Title: The Push Man and Other Stories
    Author: Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Adrian Tomine  
    Year: 205  
    Page: 224
    Genre: Graphic Novel

    New to me author? Yes
    Read this author again? Probably not
    Tearjerker? No
    Where did it take place? Japan
    FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library
     
    Summary (from amazon.com):
    Tatsumi's brief, disturbing stories, originally published in 1969, have a tone somewhere between contemporary short fiction and EC Comics' old "shock" comics. Each hinges on some kind of prurient or sexually twisted situation: a man's bedridden lover turns out to be a physically mutated sex slave; an office worker puts on his girlfriend's makeup and clothes and has an affair with another woman; a man who disinfects telephones for a living calls a prostitute, but can't think of anything to do but pull out his disinfection kit. Produced over a short period of time, the stories are variations on a theme of social maladjustment. Tatsumi draws marvelously evocative settings, and his stories flow with dreamlike ambiguity, speeding toward the inevitable tragedies at their ends, but his characters appear practically identical. This reinforces both the repetitive nature of his themes and Tatsumi's view of the common man's continuing struggle in a merciless world of menial jobs, impotence and abortions. Tatsumi is known as the "grandfather of Japanese alternative comics," and this is the first in a proposed series of authorized English-language collections of his work. His work anticipates American alternative comics, making it clear why American cartoonist Adrian Tomine, who edited this collection, was attracted to the work.

    First Sentence: n/a
     
    Why did I pick this book?
    While I was browsing the Graphic Novel shelves at the library for Blankets by Craig Thompson, I checked out the other books nearby. Saw this book (and along with his two other books Abandon the Old in Tokyo and Good-Bye) and thought I wanted to learn more about Japan during the WWII era, so thought I'd give it a try.

     
    My thoughts:
    • I didn't finish it... I read about half way through. While they were like short stories, they just weren't interesting enough to keep me going. I probably won't take me that long to finish it all (this book, plus the other 2 books), but I have way too many other books waiting for me - I have 40 I haven't read yet - and picking up 6 more I'd reserved on Monday!
    • I think part of the reason I couldn't finish is because they are short stories... I don't like short stories much in written books, so I probably don't like them much in graphic novels either. I want to know more about the characters, the plot etc, and short stories just don't do it for me. I used to like reading Japanese teenage manga, but I think I've outgrown them
      Rating:
       


      Did not finish

      Have you read this book? 
      If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

      Book Review - Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

















      Title: Love is the Higher Law  
      Author: David Levithan
      Year: 2009  
      Page: 176  
      Genre: Fiction, Yound Adult  

      New to me author? Yes
      Read this author again? Probably not
      Tearjerker? No   
      Where did it take place? US
      FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

      Summary (from amazon.com):
      Claire and Peter are friendly acquaintances at their New York City high school. Jasper is a freshman in college. They attend a mutual friend's party, and Peter and Jasper make a date for the evening of September 11, 2001. They reschedule and have an excruciating date a week later. Claire and Jasper meet again by chance at Ground Zero when neither can sleep. Claire is called to action, Peter is reverent, and Jasper, a kind of "expert dodger," can't feel a thing. The three come to develop a deep friendship. Levithan's character development is quick and seamless. He defines the trio's personae by how they perceive the tragedy, how they interact, and how they observe the world. The author's prose has never been deeper in thought or feeling. His writing here is especially pure—unsentimental, restrained, and full of love for his characters and setting. Though the trio's talks and emails are philosophically sophisticated, Love Is the Higher Law is steadily paced and tightly, economically written. Discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq feels like overkill, but it brings the novel to an appropriately queasy end. Levithan captures the mood of post-9/11 New York exquisitely, slashed open to reveal a deep heart.

      First Sentence:
      My first thought is: My mother is dead. 

      Why did I pick this book?
      I was browsing the New Young Adult shelves at the library. Was attracted by the cover. I haven't read any 9/11 related novel, so thought I'd give it a try. 


      My thoughts:
      • Where would you when it happened? This was a theme of the book. I was still in Australia then, but my husband (then fiance) was in the mid-west (we had a 5 year long distance relationship). I was reading in bed when my sister came into the room and told me to turn on the TV (she found out while chatting to people online). We couldn't believe what was happening. For the following week or so, I was so worried about what'd happen, like if I'd even see my finace ever again... I lost 10 lb in a week...
      • I think because I was so emotionally drained back then, when I read this book, it just didn't impact me the way it did back then. When I see pictures now of the aftermath, I would feel a pang. My heart would involuntarily squeezed. But I didn't feel this way at all when I read the book. I thought I'd be a bit more emotional about it. There was a chapter when I felt a little teary when one of the characters went to a concert not long after: "and I understand the energy I felt before but didn't have a name for -- it's the energy of gathering" (p87) 
      • The book was about the stories of these 3 characters and how they intertwined post 9/11 - however, I felt that their voices weren't that clear, that it really was just the author's voice/his feelings/his thoughts of how he felt afterward, and divided it up into 3 characters instead. It is a pretty thin book (163 pages) so I don't think the characters really developed.
      • While I don't hate this book, I don't really like it either... 
        Quote:

        This isn't even something I've feared, because I never knew it was a possibility. (p5)

        The secret to living long is to have something to live for. (p143)


        Rating:


        Have you read this book? 
        If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

        Challenges:
        100+ Reading
        Young Adult

        Book Review - The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain



















        Title: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
        Author: Diane Chamberlain
        Year: 206
        Page: 512
        Genre: Fiction

        New to me author? Yes
        Read this author again? One more try
        Tearjerker? No
        Where did it take place? US
        FTC Disclosure: Library

        Summary:
        I won't post the summary, because it really gives the story away...  


        First Sentence: 
        She couldn't concentrate on making love.

        Why did I pick this book?
        Charlotte's Web of Books mentioned this author and encouraged everyone to try her out (she reviewed a different book here). She said Chamberlain is similar to Jodi Picoult. I'd only read one Picoult book - My Sister's Keeper but really enjoyed it (now, I know many didn't like the ending, but I was fine with it. I really connected with the characters and was crying my eyes out). So I thought I'd give Chamberlain a try. I went to the library and there were several of her books. I picked the two paperback (already borrowing a lot of books, don't want the big hard cover!) The other one was Breaking the Silence. Decided to read CeeCee first for no particular reason. 


        My thoughts:
        • I wish I didn't read the description of the book, or the first chapter of the book. Gave way too much away!
        • After I was done, I felt like I'd just watched a B-grade TV movie.
        • The story was just a bit too predicable and I didn't really care about any of the characters... And near the end of the book, I also didn't understand why character T acted the way he did and it wasn't fully explained. 
        • I did keep reading just to see if it'd get better - I have to say her writing is easy to read, but the story just seemed too neat... 
        • I'll probably read the other book I borrowed, just to see if it's just this book... I should probably read another Jodi Picoult book just to see if I really do like her books!
          Quote:
          You can use your past to fuel your future. (p250)

          When I first found out I had cancer, I felt trapped... Then one morning, I woke up with a completely new thought in my mind. I realized that only my body was trapped. My spirit was still free. What an amazing feeling that was! (p513)

          Rating:  




          Have you read this book? 
          If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!
          Challenges:
          100+ Reading

          Sunday, April 18, 2010

          Shaun Tan

          I have been hearing good things about another graphic novel, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which has no words. From what I see online, I love his drawing and can't wait to read his books!

          I saw this and I immediately thought of spring! hope! whimsical! magical! (From http://www.guardian.co.uk)

          You can see more here.



          Now he understands the addiction!

          My husband J has ADD and doesn't have the attention span to read books... he'd read short articles online or in magazines, but doesn't understand how I can just sit there all day and read!

          Anyway, I won a copy of I Am Ozzy audio book - I know he likes Ozzy Osbourne, and I know he prefers audio to books (even when "reading" online articles, he'll have the computer reads to him as he said he can concentrate better that way), so I thought I'd give it to him to see if he'd like listening to a book (as opposed to short articles). He loved it! I borrowed When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall audio book (a long one with 15CD/18 hours) and he finished it too - listening it at home instead of just during car rides!

          AND THEN, he started downloading e-books from the library to listen to and he has already listened to a couple, without any of my encouragement :) He listens to it all the time (we share an office and I can block out the "noise" without problem).

          So now he understands why I am always reading - he just needed to find a format that works for him :) Isn't it such a joy when you can share the love of reading?

          Book Review - Lift by Kelly Corrigan


           
















          Title: Lift
          Author: Kelly Corrigan
          Year: 2010
          Page: 95
          Genre: Non-fiction, family

          New to me author? Yes
          Read this author again? Don't know
          Tearjerker? No
          Where did it take place? US
          FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

          Summary (from amazon.com):
          Penned as a letter to her two young daughters, the latest from author Corrigan is an attempt to illuminate their particular relationship ("I want to put down on paper how things started with us"), and an ambitious, inspirational meditation on parenthood in general. A slim volume, it perhaps suffers for its brevity but recounts engagingly events like Corrigan and her husband's decision to start a family, and baby Claire's bout with viral meningitis, "the beginning of how I came to know what a bold and dangerous thing parenthood is." She also examines the gifts all mothers hope to present their kids: "a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness." Fans of Corrigan's The Middle Place, a memoir of her fight with cancer, will welcome the return of figures like Corrigan's father, Greenie, and should appreciate her wistful but down-to-earth thoughts on parenthood. Newcomers might be less inspired, but should appreciate Corrigan's charm and honesty.

          First Sentence:
          Dear Georgia and Claire, You're both in bed now.

          Why did I pick this book?
          Read about this book from Lesley Book Nook (see review here) - she said, "After finishing Lift, I did something I've never done before. I turned around and read it again." How can I not pick up this book? This book was written as a letter to the author's two children. As my husband and I are deciding whether to start a family, I thought perhaps the book would provide some insight - for what it's worth - we're really on the fence... and since I usually suffer from analysis paralysis, I need to do my research to see the pro and con side of each issue :p We really enjoy our lifestyle right now as a 2-people family, we also want to see if having child(ren) is something we should consider. We both like kids (but like giving them back to the parents at the end of the day!), but my biological clock just has never ticked... Since I'll be turning 33 later this year, we really need to think more seriously about this. I guess when we decide to have kid(s), I just want to make sure we're both 100% willing to accept the responsibilities and not regret or recent our decision. I know some said you're never ready, but at least I want to be "willing to try to be ready" if that makes sense. The last thing I'd want is to have a kid who feels they aren't wanted. I definitely don't see there's anything wrong with child-free family if the couple choose so, though it seems like there is sometimes a negative association about it (that they are selfish, that they don't know what they're missing out on, that their life is not complete).

          My thoughts:
          • This is an extremely small book - 5x7" and rather thin. I finished it in less than an hour.
          • I am afraid to say I don't find it very inspirational or touching. I don't know if it's because I don't know much about the author (she mentioned fighting breast-cancer), or that because I don't have kids, I don't quite feel what she felt? I was hoping it'd at least be a bit more influential or persuasive on why having kids is so great, especially since the author said (p63) 
          "Now, though, for me, the most unthinkable loss would be never to have had a child in the first place."

          • I don't know if really what I have (or don't have) right now is a loss... I definitely don't see it this way. In fact, my husband and I had talked about it that if we have decided to start a family, but have trouble with it, that we'll be okay with it. We will adopt if we feel strongly about having a more-than-two-person family. But of course that's my own opinion, just as the author is entitled to hers. Guess we just don't agree... and that's okay
          • I guess I just really didn't find anything groundbreaking, and the "thing that utterly altered the way I look at you was not the cancer or the hysterectomy. I twas Aaron, Cousin Kathy's lanky, broad-shouldered boy" was not something too surprising... I am not doubting the impact it has on the author's outlook, but it just didn't affect me the way it perhaps should
          • I hope you don't think I am a cold-heart person. I am sure the author's two daughters would appreciate this book. In fact, if there's something good that comes of for it, is that if we do end up having any kids, I want to document my thoughts to them (i.e., if I could find the time - yes I have read how many sleepless nights there are for new parents!) Perhaps it is just that I'd read quite a few heartbreaking parent-child love books previously that this book didn't quite has the same effect on me. I guess once (if) I have kids, and re-read this book, I may feel differently.




            Quote

            I didn't know they do this:

            ... took me to Leon, born the day before, at forteen ounces. he had a toube down his throat and wires taped to his chest. Near his face, someone had laid a piece of fabric about as big as a gum wrapper. Ken said it was a scent square.

            "Parents wear the fabric on their skin -- moms tuck it in their bras, dads rub it between their fingers -- and before they leave for the night, they set the square by the baby's nose... so he'll know them when they return." (p23)


            Rating:



            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading

            Book Review - Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson


             
















            Title: Blankets: An Illustrated Novel
            Author: Craig Thompson
            Year: 2003
            Page: 592
            Genre: Graphic book

            New to me author? Yes
            Read this author again? Probably not
            Tearjerker? No
            Where did it take place? US
            FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

            Summary (from amazon.com):
            Thompson offered readers well-realized but fantastic characters in a tale that nicely combined sentiment with adventure. This second, much longer work shares the acuity for character development and dynamic sensitivity that makes the author so compulsively readable. In Blankets, however, realism reigns supreme in both the story arc and in the humanity of its characters. Thompson himself is the protagonist, and this is his tale of growing up, falling in love (and realizing the physical and moral complications that can imply), discovering the texture and limits of his faith, and arriving at a point from which he can look back at those experiences. The snowy Midwest, peopled by overweight parents, hairy youths, and lovingly depicted younger siblings-including a respectfully and realistically treated minor character with Down syndrome-is energetically realized in Thompson's expressive lines and inking. Much of the story occurs when Craig and his brother Phil are young boys and includes images of such boyish pranks as peeing on one another. Older high school students who have reached an age when nostalgia is possible will warm to Thompson's own wistfulness. This is a big graphic novel, in concept and successful execution.

            First Sentence:
            When we were young, my little brother Phil and I shared the same bed.

            Why did I pick this book?
            I first heard about this graphic book from Regular Rumination's blog (see review here.) I haven't read graphic books for a long time, not since I was a kid (okay I lied, I tried reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel not too long ago, BEFORE I started seeing it on blogs, and couldn't finish it... I just couldn't get into it and wasn't interested enough to find out what happened. So I didn't count it.) So, in trying to expand my reading genre this year, I thought I'd give this a try since I had read a few good reviews of Blankets.

            My thoughts:

            • When I picked this book off the shelf at the library, my first thought was, wow, this is huge! It's 1.5" thick!
            • I don't know... I don't find the story (or some said it's a memoir?) that interesting or touching or insightful. The plot was rather simple. I didn't find the "first love" part that heartwarming/heartbreaking. The part I enjoyed the most probably was the part about Craig and his brother when they were little. There were also some religious references in the book. There were some sensitive issues in the book but I guess reading books on similar topics in words had more impact on me
            • While the drawing is not really the style I like, I do appreciate Craig's talent - I have never drawn comic or storyboard, so it definitely requires a special skill. 
            • I have never wandered into the Graphic Books section at the library! So this was a first for me. I also borrowed another set of graphic books by Yoshihiro Tatsumi ("Tatsumi has been called the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics"), we'll see if I feel differently about graphic books after reading them.


            Quote

            "SHARED" is the sugar-coated way of saying we were TRAPPED in the same bed, as we were children and had no say in the matter. (p10)



            Rating:




            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading
            Take Another Chance

            Book Review - Twenty Boy Summer: A Novel by Sarah Ockler





             















            Title: Twenty Boy Summer
            Author: Sarah Ockler
            Year: 2009
            Page: 301
            Genre: Young Adult

            New to me author? Yes
            Read this author again? Maybe
            Tearjerker? No
            Where did it take place? US
            FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

            Summary (from amazon.com):
            “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?” Anna writes in her journal, or rather, writes to Matt, her first true love and her best friend Frankie’s brother. More than a year has passed since Matt’s sudden death, and all that time Anna has kept her brief relationship with Matt a secret from Frankie. Matt had planned to tell his sister but died before he had the opportunity. Now, while on a beach vacation with Frankie’s family, Anna finds herself falling for cute, sensitive Sam against her will—if she can love someone else, does that mean she no longer loves Matt? Anna approaches this issue and other big questions with the insight and maturity that come when a young person loses someone he or she cares deeply about. Anna’s authentic voice and some lyrical writing will satisfy fans of Sarah Dessen, while the mix of romance, drama, and tragedy will be a draw for teen readers of Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult.

            First Sentence:
            Frankie Perino and I were lucky that day.

            Why did I pick this book?
            Saw reviews on another blog (sorry forgot to write down who it was!). Since I don't usually like chick-lit, I try to avoid boy-meets-girl type YA as well (nothing wrong with them, just not interested). But the blogger mentioned it was more than that, so I thought I'd give it a try.

            My thoughts:
            • It was okay, not as profound as I thought it'd be. While I wouldn't pick up this book based on its cover (only because it is too chick-litish for me that I know I probably won't like), it is a nice and pretty cover and the sea-glass of heart is relevant to the book, so well done to the cover artist! Why did the author write it?
            • I didn't identify with the characters - I think I'm too old lol, and probably would have enjoyed this more had it read it as a teenager. And I guess I would've chosen my actions differently had I been the main character in the book. Also, Matt, just seemed to be too mature for his age - who knows, I don't know a lot of teenage boys (or girls for that matter), but some of his postcards writing just didn't seem very realistic to me. Maybe I just didn't know guys like that at that age :)
            • I thought I'd feel sad or more emotional when reading this book, but I didn't really feel anything, probably again, due to the fact that I couldn't relate to the characters. (And yes I cry when I read...)
            • I have to say though, it is a fast read, I finished it in a day, so at least the author didn't bore me and that I at least wanted to find out what happened :)


            Quote

            “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?”

            When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the stature of limitations on asking expires (it's three months, by the way. Writes or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will). (p73-74)

            If I could find the butterfly that flapped its wings before we got into the car that day, I would crush it. (p88)



            Rating:



            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading
            Young Adult

            Thursday, April 15, 2010

            Book Review - The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones


             















            Title: The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel
            Author: Nicole Mones
            Year: 2007
            Page: 288
            Genre: Fiction

            New to me author? Yes
            Read this author again? Maybe
            Tearjerker? No
            Where did it take place? China
            FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

            Summary (from amazon.com):
            A recently widowed American food writer finds solace and love—and the most inspiring food she's ever encountered—during a visit to China in Mones's sumptuous latest. Still reeling from husband Matt's accidental death a year ago, food writer Maggie McElroy is flummoxed when a paternity claim is filed against Matt's estate from Beijing, where he sometimes traveled for business. Before Maggie embarks on the obligatory trip to investigate, her editor assigns her a profile on Sam Liang, a half-Chinese American chef living in Beijing who is about to enter a prestigious cooking competition. Sam's old-school recipes and history lessons of high Chinese cuisine kick-start Maggie's dulled passion for food and help her let go of her grief, even as she learns of Matt's Beijing bed hopping. Though the narrative can get bogged down in the minutiae of Chinese culinary history (filtered through the experiences of Sam's family), Mones's descriptions of fine cuisine are tantalizing, and her protagonist's quest is bracing and unburdened by melodrama. Early in her visit, Maggie scoffs at the idea that "food can heal the human heart." Mones smartly proves her wrong.

            First Sentence:
            Maggie McElroy felt her soul spiral away from her in the year following her husband's death; she felt strange wherever she was.

            Why did I pick this book?
            Saw the review from Cessie's Book Journal. It's a fictional story about food! :) Since I just got back from Hong Kong, I miss the food there, so thought I'd read this now (from the growing piles of library books I had been getting since I got back! I went to the library 3 times already this week, with a full bag each time I left... I just can't help myself!)

            My thoughts:

            • I almost didn't read this book - I read that the author also wrote Lost in Translation. I know many loved the Lost in Translation movie, but I was bored and couldn't finish. So I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this after I found out, but I was missing my Chinese food :) Of course, now that I bothered to read the description of the Lost in Translation book that the author wrote, it is NOT the same as the movie. Stupid me. Should have read more than just the title.
            • I have mixed feelings about the book - the storyline is rather simple and predictable, but reading it also made me hungry because the dishes described in it sounded so delicious (and not dishes I'd tried before, since Chinese food in Hong Kong is a different style to the ones described in the book.) I also learned something new about Chinese food. Had it not been for the food in the book, I'd have rated it much lower...
            • I kept hoping there were photos in the book! The author's website, she included some recipes of the food mentioned in the book, I just wish it has pictures of all the dishes mentioned!
            • I don't know how I feel about the characters. I think they lack depth and thus I felt indifferent about all the characters. The "reasons" (for something the characters did or felt or reacted to or acted out) were briefly explained but they just seemed a bit too "convenient" and to some degree not very believable to me. Also, some characters (or their back stories) don't really add much to the story.
            • I also wonder about the use of some Chinese words in the book (this doesn't apply to just this book... seems like all books set in foreign settings does this too) - I can understand inserting some local words to add some flavors or authentication to the story, but at the same time it gets a bit annoying when it was used in partial conversion rather than using it to explain something. E.g. Two characters spoke to each other in Chinese, but the conversation was written in English (understandable, since it is an English book after all or most readers wouldn't have a clue what is going on), but then a sentence here and there, or a vocabulary here and there, will be in Chinese. There are also some mistakes when a character spoke Chinese to someone who didn't understand Chinese, or someone who didn't know English responded to something said in English. Now, I can speak Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) but barely know Mandarin (what the book used), so for a lot of the vocabularies I couldn't quite figure out what it is, so that probably added onto my frustrations. If the Chinese words were written in Chinese characters, I would've know what they are, but all Chinese words in the book were "spelled" out instead.  
            • A good use, I think, to include the foreign words, is perhaps illustrated in this passage:
            "Every great banquet ends with a fish," he told Maggie in English. "This is going to be carp in lamb broth" "I don't think I've ever heard of that combination," said Maggie. "It's a literary finish. This last dish creates a word, perhaps the single most important word in the Chinese culinary language -- xian, the fresh, clean taste. The character for xian is made up of two characters -- the character for fish combined with the character for lamb. In this dish the two are joined. They mesh. They symbolize xian. They are xian." (p240)

            • I borrowed the hard cover version of the book (the first picture shown above) which is quite elegant looking. The soft cover version probably conveyed the story a little better. I can't decide which one I like better though. I don't love them (they don't scream "PICK ME!") but they are nice enough.
            • Now if I could just eat the food mentioned in the book!!!


            Quote

            "Artifice. Illusion. Food should be more than food; it should tease and provoke the mind. We have a lot of dishes that come to the table looking like one thing and turn out to be something else. The most obvious example would be a duck or fish that is actually vegetarian, created entirely from soy and gluten, but there are many other types of illusion dishes. We strive to fool the diner for a moment. It adds a layer of intellectual play to the meal. When it works, the gourmet is delighted." (p36)

            He looked down at them sadly. These hands had been as precise as any surgeon's. He'd been able to flash-cut vegetables almost thin enough to float up and away like butterflies on a breeze. (p99)


            Rating:



            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading

            Global

            Book Review - Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life by Ali Vincent


             















            Title: Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life
            Author: Ali Vincent
            Year: 2009
            Page: 192
            Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

            New to me author? Yes
            Read this author again? Not sure
            Tearjerker? No
            Where did it take place? US
            FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

            Summary (from amazon.com):
            As the first female winner of TV's The Biggest Loser, Vincent lost 112 pounds, about 47% of her body weight. As she explains, she shed unhealthy habits and gained an enthusiastic approach to life. She writes, [I]t's an accomplishment that fuels all of my future goals. Vincent's story is one that will be familiar to readers: someone who, despite being an athletic, popular high schooler, by her early 30s was just kind of letting life happen to me—I didn't feel worthy of wanting anything more for myself. Once she became a contestant on the show (with her mother as her partner), she wanted to win; she shares her strategies for losing weight, navigating the show and engaging more in life. Readers looking to slim down will find lots of helpful tidbits. They're not revolutionary (don't let the scale rule your life, don't get in a workout rut), and though Vincent's penchant for platitudes can be grating, her earnestness and enthusiasm is clear. Includes recipes and before-and-after photos.

            First Sentence:
            My name is Ali Vincent, and I am the Biggest Loser.

            Why did I pick this book?
            While I have never Watched The Biggest Loser, I have heard of the show (and thought how clever its name is!). I need to lose some weight, so thought I'd read something to inspire me. Saw this book while browsing the library's new book online catalog.

            My thoughts:
            • This was just okay for me - while Ali's personality showed through, there isn't really anything ground breaking
            • There are a few quotes I like from the book, but it wasn't as inspirational as I thought
            • It seems like Ali goes from one addiction (emotional eating) to another (counting calories, exercising - at one point she went to the gym like 8 hours a day?!) 
            • There also seems to be some repetitiveness of the message throughout the book 
            • Don't get me wrong, I think she looks great and admire what she went through, but I think I may have liked watching the show better than reading the book
            • There also aren't many pictures in the book either. There are a few recipes too but I didn't pay close attention or try them so can't comment on them.

            Quote

            I was a fat girl, and fat girls don't have their picture taken. I hadn't documented my life because I didn't want to look at it. (p17)
            When I was overweight and felt stuck, I'd collect evidence that supported my excuses for why everything wasn't how I wanted it to be. I'd say, "oh, I just don't fit in," or, "I'm not being judged fairly." I was always looking to the negative to explain away my unhappiness. But as I lost the weight, I got into the habit of collecting positive evidence, of looking for all the reasons why I could succeed. (p97-98)
            Feeling Stuck? You can either change what's making you feel stuck or change the way you think about it. Let's say you have a job you don't like, but you need it to pay your bills. Then learn to love the "why" of the job. You're supporting your family, which is a blessing! Find the positive in tough situations. Thinking this way is going to get you out of ruts. Collect evidence for the success in a situation. (p129)
            Have you ever seen those T-shirts that say, "NO FEAR"? Well, my mom used to say they should read, "KNOW FEAR," because that's how you make dreams happen. When you have the courage to tell the truth about what you're really afraid of, fear doesn't have control over your life. (p144)

            Rating:




            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading
            Memorable Memoir

            Cover Love - Perfume by Patrick Suskind

























            I love this cover! Very eye-catching at first glance, and then it's intriguing when you look closer. I haven't read the book though so don't know how well it relates to the story. But if I see it at a bookstore or library, I'll definitely pick it up to read the back (or inside flap). Yeah, I totally judge a book by its cover, as my blog tagline said!

            Tuesday, April 13, 2010

            Book Musing - 3 Books I Should Love, But Actually Hate (or Couldn't Finish...)














            Saw this interesting meme from Lost in Books' blog - 3 Books I Should Love, But Actually Hate.

            I actually can't think of something that fits... I don't really hate books (I may get frustrated with them :) so maybe I'd do 3 Books I Should Love, But Couldn't Finish.
















            1 - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
            I don't know why, I tried reading it twice (once in high school and once in college I think??) and both time I just couldn't finish it... perhaps I just need to read it when I feel like it? I remember it was a bit slow and I probably didn't read enough to get to the main part of the story. I haven't watched the movie either.














            2. The Shack by William Young
            I kept reading how wonderful this book is, that people will buy copies and give to friends... I think I read a few chapters then had to stop because the way the protagonist "talked" just annoyed me for some reasons. The reason I stopped reading had nothing to do with the religious aspect of the book (I didn't even get to that part of the book yet.)















            3. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
            I LOVE the movies, I really do - they are visually stunning and the story isn't bad! I bought the book after watching the first movie, thinking I can't wait to find out what happened in the rest of the story (what do you mean we have to wait for a year to watch part 2.. then part 3???) Eh. I think I only managed the first few paragraphs... then patiently waited for the rest of the movies instead.


            How about you, any books that you should love but don't?


            I just remember something - I catch the bus home from work every day. It's only about a 10-15 minutes ride but I still use the time to read. A couple of weeks ago, for the first time, I was so engrossed in reading that I completely missed my bus stop! Usually I would look up every so often to see where I was... but this time I totally forgot as I was lost in the story! By the time I looked up, the houses looked unfamiliar (I'd only taken the bus past my stop once to go to the final stop, and I was busy reading that time too knowing the final stop will be a while away yet so didn't pay attention to the "scenery"...) I quickly got out of the bus (good thing that it was still light out!) thinking I would retrace the route somehow... luckily the bus from the same route was coming the other way so I jumped on that. Turned out I was only like 3 stops away.

            So what book was I reading? The Hunger Games!

            Saturday, April 10, 2010

            Book Review - Lottery: A Novel by Patricia Wood






















            Title: Lottery: A Novel
            Author: Patricia Wood
            Year: 2007
            Page: 318
            Genre: Fiction

            New to me author? Yes
            Read this author again? Maybe
            Tearjerker? A little teary eyed
            Where did it take place? US
            FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

            Summary(from amazon.com):
            Perry Crandall has an IQ of 76, but is not retarded, as he'll have you know: his IQ would need to be less than 75 for that, and he knows the difference even if others may not. Perry, the 32-year-old narrator of Wood's warm-fuzzy debut, has worked at the same marine supply store for half his life and lives with his wisecracking grandmother Gram, whose gems of folk wisdom help him along. But when Gram dies, Perry's selfish, money-grubbing family members swoop in and swindle him out of the proceeds from the sale of her house—and then come a-knocking again when Perry wins $12 million in the Washington State Lottery. Suddenly everyone is paying attention to Perry, but who can he trust? Even his friends from the marine supply store behave differently, and on top of everything else, Perry finds himself falling for convenience store clerk Cherry, who has problems of her own. Despite his family's shenanigans and sinister maneuverings, Perry holds his own and discovers abilities he didn't know he had. The wisdoms here run more cute than deep, but Wood's light humor and likable narrator should have mass appeal.

            First Sentence:
            My name is Perry l. Crandall and I am not retarded.

            Why did I pick this book?
            Someone recommended it on a reading forum. I thought it sounds promising

            My thoughts:
            • I think I am right that I need to avoid/skip/be cautious of book titles that said "A Novel" which seems to indicate they are more character driven novels... I like twists and surprises in the storyline (think Shutter Island, Sixth Sense)
            • While the voice of the main characters were quite clear (I liked Gram best), the plot was rather flat and predictable for me. The wisdoms/insights displayed by Perry really weren't a-ha moments for me
            • I did like the author's writing, and I think she did a good job using many "vocabulary" throughout the story as it plays a significant role in Perry's life
            • I just wish there was more to the plot or that it's not as cliche. I think I read some reviews comparing it to Forrest Gump. Praises at the back of the book used words like "uplifting... tugs your heartstrings... memorable... lovable... surprising wisdom..." Instead, I felt a little sad, rather than feel-good, after reading it - I can't fully explain without giving spoilers though... 



            Quote

            "It is very important to think of your future, Perry," she tells me, "because at some point it becomes your past. You remember that!" (p5)


            Rating:




            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
            I'll link your review here if you wish!


            Challenges:
            100+ Reading

            Wednesday, April 7, 2010

            Books Read In 2010


            Rank in the order of how much I liked the book!


            Non-Fiction:


            1. Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist by Elliot Aronson (5 Stars)
            2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (4.5 Stars)
            3. Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey by Daniel Keyes (4 Stars)
            4. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (4 Stars)
            5. Genetic Rounds: A Doctor's Encounters in the Field that Revolutionized Medicine by Robert Marion MD (4 Stars)
            6. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (4 Stars)
            7. The Promise: How One Woman Made Good on Her Extraordinary Pact to Send a Classroom of 1st Graders to College by Oral Lee Brown (4 Stars)
            8. Notes Left Behind by Brooke and Keith Desserich (4 Stars)
            9. Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey (4 Stars)
            10. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (3.5 Stars)
            11. Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived by Maria Housden  (3.5 Stars)
            12. Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition by Andrew Friedman (3.5 Stars)
            13. Semper Cool: One Marine's Fond Memories of Vietnam by Barry Fixler (3.5 Stars)
            14. Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy's Culinary Capital by Eric Dregni (3.5 Stars)
            15. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family: Includes So Many Innovative Strategies You Won't Have to Cut Coupons by Steve Economides, Annette Economides  (3.5 Stars)
            16. Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy by Jonni McCoy (3.5 Stars)
            17. The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume by Tilar J. Mazzeo (3 Stars)
            18. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride (3 Stars)
            19. Tell Them I Didn't Cry: A Young Journalist's Story of Joy, Loss, and Survival in Iraq by Jackie Spinner with Jenny Spinner (3 Stars) 
            20. Believe It, Be It: How Being The Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life by Ali Vincent (2.5 Stars) 
            21. Lift by Kelly Corrigan (2 Stars)
            22. Live It, Love It, Earn It: A Woman's Guide to Financial Freedom by Marianna Olszewski (2 Stars) 
            23. The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition by John DeLucie (2 Stars) 
            24. With One Eye Open by Polly Frost (2 Stars)

            Fiction:

            1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (4.5 Stars)
            2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (4.5 Stars) 
            3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (4.5 Stars)
            4. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (4 Stars)
            5. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn (4 Stars)
            6. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls (4 Stars)
            7. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper (4 Stars)
            8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (4 Stars)
            9. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson (4 Stars)
            10. Room by Emma Donoghue (4 Stars)
            11. Still Missing: A Novel by Chevy Stevens (4 Stars)
            12. Poison Study by Maria Snyder (4 Stars)
            13. The Maze Runner by James Dashner (4 Stars)
            14. Edge by Jeffery Deaver (4 Stars)
            15. The Burning Wire: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffery Deaver (4 Stars)
            16. The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick (4 Stars) 
            17. Think of a Number: A Novel by John Verdon (4 Stars)
            18. Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon (3.5 Stars)
            19. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie (3.5 Stars)
            20. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (3.5 Stars) 
            21. Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young (3.5 Stars)
            22. Innocent by Scott Turow (3.5 Stars)
            23. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (3.5 Stars)
            24. Dismantled: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon (3.5 Stars) 
            25. The Hate List: A Novel by Jennifer Brown (3.5 Stars)
            26. The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh (3.5 Stars)
            27. The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones (3.5 Stars)
            28. The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa (3.5 Stars)
            29. The Dead Toss Waves by Carrie Ryan (3.5 Stars)
            30. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (3.5 Stars)
            31. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (3.5 Stars)
            32. A Vintage Affair: A Novel by Isabel Wolff (3.5 Stars)
            33. Shadow Tag: A Novel from Louise Erdrich (3.5 Stars)
            34. Jin-Ling's Two Left Feet by Helen Chen (3.5 Stars)
            35. Genesis: A Novel by Bernard Beckett (3.5 Stars)
            36. And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie (3.5 Stars)
            37. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (3.5 Stars)
            38. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood  (3 Stars)
            39. The Breach by Patrick Lee (3 Stars)
            40. Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson (3 Stars)
            41. Let Darkness Come by Angela Hunt (3 Stars)
            42. The Passage by Justin Cronin (3 Stars) 
            43. Damaged by Pamela Callow (3 Stars)
            44. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (3 Stars)
            45. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (3 Stars)
            46. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard (3 Stars)
            47. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (3 Stars)
            48. Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (3 Stars)
            49. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (3 Stars)
            50. My Lost Daughter by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg (3 Stars)
            51. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (3 Stars)
            52. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (2.5 Stars)
            53. Lottery: A Novel by Patricia Wood (2.5 Stars) 
            54. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (2.5 Stars) 
            55. Mockingjay (#3 of the Hunger Games) by Suznne Collins (2 Stars)
            56. The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult (2 Stars)
            57. PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern (2 Stars)
            58. Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette  (2 Stars)
            59. House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings #1) by Robert Liparulo (2 Stars)
            60. American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (2 Stars)
            61. Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda (2 Stars)
            62. Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (2 Stars)
            63. The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain (2 Stars)
            64. 31 Hours: A Novel by Masha Hamilton (2 Stars)
            65. Ice Cold: A Rizzoli and Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen (2 Stars)
            66. In Firm Pursuit by Pamela Samuels-Young (2 Stars)
            67. The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship (A Novel) by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel (2 Stars)
            68. The Door to December by Dean Koontz (2 Stars)
            69. Liar by Justine Larbalestier (1 Star) 
            70. We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1 Star) 
            71. The Faculty Club by Danny Tobey 
            72. The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Y. K. Lee (1 Star)
            73. Postcards from a Dead Girl: A Novel by Kirk Farber (1 Star)
            74. The Accidental Tourist: A Novel by Anne Tyler (1 Star)


            Graphic Novels:
            1. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (4.5 Stars)
            2. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (4.5 Stars)
            3. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (4 Stars)
            4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (3.5 Stars)
            5. Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption by Andrea Nepa
            6. Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson (2 Stars)



            Did Not Finish:
            1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (2/15/10)
            2. 206 Bones (Temperance Brennan #12) by Kathy Reichs (2/14/10) 
            3. The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Adrian Tomine (4/24/10) 
            4. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (5/31/10) 
            5. House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes by Daniel F. McGinn (6/22/10) 
            6. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares (7/7/10)
            7. Veracity by Laura Bynum (7/25/10) 
            8. The Last Picture Show:  A Novel by Larry McMurtry  (8/17/10)
            9. Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern (8/26/10)
            10. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (12/26/10)
            11. American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen


            Chinese:
            1. 三毛傳
            2. Book about death and funeral
            3. Book about Hong Kong movies and movie stars
            4. Book about Hong Kong medium (talking to the dead)

                Book Review - American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld


















                Title: American Wife: A Novel
                Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
                Year: 2008
                Page: 576
                Genre: Fiction

                New to me author? Yes
                Read this author again? Probably not
                Tearjerker? No
                Where did it take place? US
                FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                Summary (from amazon.com):
                Sittenfeld tracks, in her uneven third novel, the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady. Charlie Blackwell, her boyishly charming rake of a husband, whose background of Ivy League privilege, penchant for booze and partying, contempt for the news and habit of making flubs when speaking off the cuff, bears more than a passing resemblance to the current president (though the Blackwells hail from Wisconsin, not Texas). Sittenfeld shines early in her portrayal of Alice's coming-of-age in Riley, Wis., living with her parents and her mildly eccentric grandmother. A car accident in her teens results in the death of her first crush, which haunts Alice even as she later falls for Charlie and becomes overwhelmed by his family's private summer compound and exclusive country club membership. Once the author leaves the realm of pure fiction, however, and has the first couple deal with his being ostracized as a president who favors an increasingly unpopular war, the book quickly loses its panache and sputters to a weak conclusion that doesn't live up to the fine storytelling that precedes it.

                First Sentence:
                Have I made terrible mistakes?

                Why did I pick this book?
                Book Club April choice.

                My thoughts:
                • I probably wouldn't have picked this if it wasn't for the book club. Would be interesting to know what the discussion is going to be like - my friend really liked it, it was meh for me. So I guess this will make a good book club discussion when there is a range of opinions!
                • It was way too long... there are books that have many pages, but you wish it'd never end. Then there are books then you think should be cut in half. It seems from the reviews I read that people thought the writing was great - I thought it was just okay, didn't stand out
                • I may have enjoyed the story a bit better if it wasn't (loosely?) based on Laura Bush because I kept commenting to my husband that the main character just doesn't seem like Laura Bush to me (the other characters didn't resemble any of the supposedly real life figures either... Charlie, supposedly George W, seemed more like Bill Clinton to me). Not that I know a lot about her or her husband or others, but it just doesn't match what I have in mind (and I don't mean anything political-related, I am rather apolitical. I just meant personalities.)
                • It was written in first person, but doesn't read like a memoir to me. Unlike Still Alice by Lisa Genova (fiction), I thought Still Alice was a lot more realistic. 
                • I don't quite understand the choice for the cover photo either - it doesn't really match the story
                • What would I be interested in knowing? Laura's reaction after (if) she read this book!



                Quote

                "You know what I realized today?" Charlie said. "Shaking hands with people at lunch, I thought, I'll never make another friend. Assuming I'm elected, I mean -- from here on out, it'll only be people wanting favors and access." (p483)


                Rating:




                Have you read this book? 
                If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
                I'll link your review here if you wish!


                Challenges:
                100+ Reading

                Book Review - Postcards from a Dead Girl: A Novel by Kirk Farber


                 















                Title: Postcards from a Dead Girl: A Novel
                Author: Kirk Farber
                Year: 2010
                Page: 272
                Genre: Fiction

                New to me author? Yes
                Read this author again? No
                Tearjerker? No
                Where did it take place? US
                FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                Summary (from amazon.com):
                Sid Higgins, the appealing, self-deprecating narrator of Farber's poignant, funny debut, has been receiving postcards from his old girlfriend Zoe. Unfortunately, the whimsical Zoe has disappeared, and the postmarks on the cards are more than a year old. Though he doesn't really expect to find her, Sid travels to Europe in search of Zoe. Since Sid works for a travel agency, a slick telephone operation that uses the amusingly named Randomizer to dial potential clients, the trip is easy to arrange. Sid plaintively and self-mockingly relates his interactions with his boss, Steve; his neighbor, Gerald the Post Office Guy; and, most of all, his dog, Zero, whose deftly described postures convey so much, though perhaps not quite as much as Sid reads into them. Sid's older sister, Natalie, a doctor who provides welcome perspective on Sid, is by turns affectionate, irritated, supportive, and occasionally fed up. The reader is likely to feel the same.

                First Sentence:
                The postcard is everything, but looks like nothing.

                Why did I pick this book?
                First read the review on Sasha & the Silver Fish's blog. Nothing something I'd normally pick but she made it sounded like a fun read - that's what I love about reading others' blogs - to discover the little gems I won't otherwise find myself.


                My thoughts:

                • Okay, I admit it. I don't get this book.
                • There are so many positive reviews out there (in fact, I only saw one not-as-positive review from Mrs Q) so it's probably me. I think I need to be cautious when I see "A Novel" as part of the title (see my other review 31 Hours). I think this is more a character-driven book, than plot-driven. I think I prefer the latter (but of course, best of all is to have both plot and characters well developed).
                • Many people found it funny (giggling while reading it) but I don't think I laughed or giggled once. Just not my type of humor I guess. 
                • There is supposed to be this big twist or big reveal... I wonder if I missed it??? Is it the chapter about how Sid got Zero? If so... it was anti-climatic for me. I am either too dumb or tired (still suffering jet lag...) to figure out the mystery about where the postcards came from? If you could let me know, I'd appreciate it!! (either email me or leave a comment but say SPOILER ALERT so others can avoid it if they want). I hate not knowing the answer of a puzzle!
                • 1 Star because I felt like I did waste my time :( 
                • But I still like the cover - it is cute.


                Quote

                I do like this paragraph - only because I "memorize" my husband too.

                She hummed a random melody, as if I'd never asked the question, and continued to draw odd shapes on my back and shoulders and arms. "I' memorizing you." she finally said. She grabbed my right hand and studied it intensely, brushing her palm against it, gentle repetitions to match her little song. I felt so happy she'd want to memorize me. I felt like God had given me a gift.

                But I knew what she was doing. This was another piece of Zoe's cryptic puzzle that, when finally assembled, would reveal the realty that she and I would not always be together. It had never been explained why this was our destiny, but she said things like this to me on a regular basis, like she was waiting for my departure, that separation was a natural, inevitable stage in our relationship. The funny thing is, I think I finally understand she was right. People never stay together forever. If they don't break up or divorce, one will die first, leaving the other in pain. And Zoe knew. (p32-33)



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