Tag Archives: review

Book Review: The Big Tiny: A Build It Myself Memoir

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset When I was in the earlier stages of this blog, I did a lot of book reviews. I tried to do one a week, but I got burnt out. I love to read, but the pressure of having to read so much in such a short period of time time really sucked the fun out of it. One of my oh so many goals this year is to read more– especially at night before bed. I usually spend much too much time scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram before I sleep. It isn’t good for me. In fact, I just read a study that it might be killing me! While I think that’s article is a touch sensationalist, I can’t deny that staring at a little blue screen right before I sleep isn’t as healthy as reading a good ol’ fashioned book.

Over the holidays I got the chance to finally finish up a book that I’d been reading for months. The book was entitled The Big Tiny: A Build It Myself Memoir by Dee Williams. Dee (I can call her right that? We’re friends now.) was one of the first (and most famous) pioneers of the tiny house movement. After she was diagnosed with a serious heart condition, Dee decided she needed a change in her life. While sitting in the doctor’s office, she read an article about a gentleman who built a tiny house and she couldn’t get it out of her head. The Big Tiny follows her story of building a tiny home, living in it and eventually teaching other people to do the same.

I think I live pretty small (188 square feet), but Dee truly lives tiny in 84 square feet. (That doesn’t count her loft, sleeping space, but still that’s super small.) Throughout this story I continually admired Dee’s courage. If I was a single lady, I don’t know if I would have ever taken the plunge into small living. I’d probably just rent an apartment and continue into the debt cycle forever. Dee figured out how to build an entire house by herself! She hammered and nailed and put up walls with a a serious heart condition. She’s one courageous lady.

I enjoyed that this book wasn’t a how-to manual, but at times I was a bit bored by the stories of Dee’s everyday life. Her life in the tiny house was interesting, but I found myself skipping through some of the stories about her life prior to the tiny house. But let’s be real, my everyday life is pretty boring too.

This book wasn’t a life changer for me, but it did inspire me to be more resourceful. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in tiny living.

What have you been reading lately? Let’s discuss!

love,
melanie

What #GIRLBOSS Taught Me About Money

#GIRLBOSS I jumped on the bandwagon and recently read Sophia Amoruso‘s new book #GIRLBOSS. (I checked it out from the library, true #GIRLBOSS style.) Sophia is founder, CEO and Creative Director of the uber-popular, Nasty Gal— an online clothing retailer. I expected the book to be mostly about her rise to the top and how she encourages young girls to get out there and be a… well… #GIRLBOSS. And while ultimately, it was all that, it was also exceeded my expectations.

Sophia gets frank about money and the financial mistakes she’s made. And good god, did I appreciate that. Many of the financial gurus or entrepreneurs out there say that they were once in debt or worked as a waitress for tips. They don’t usually say that a Victoria Secret credit card ruined their credit. She writes, “Like my A-cup bra did for me, it is the little things that can and will wreck your credit. As distasteful as it may seem when you’re busy plotting to take over the world, it’s equally important to stay on top of your bills… You could suddenly find the apartment of your dreams only to be denied because of that goddamned Target card you signed up for and forgot about while buying a mop, a sports bra, and mayonnaise.” Thanks for the frankness, Sophia.

Ironically, her bad credit was a blessing in disguise. It forced her to build Nasty Gal to $28 million in revenue without borrowing any money. She also gets real about asking for what you want, whether it’s a raise of that thrift store sweater for $1.00 off. And most importantly she stresses how incredibly hard she had to work to achieve her success. Everyone loves a success story, but we often don’t hear about the dumpster diving, hitchhiking, and obsession that it took to get there.

When Nasty Gal moved from eBay to an online store, Sophia had saved almost a million dollars in cash. That’s such an inspiration to me. My goal of buying a house in cash almost seems piddly in comparison. But it also seems much more do-able. I know that my goal is going to take real, hard sacrifices and a lot of hard work.

After all, “money looks better in the bank than on your feet.”

Have you read #GIRLBOSS yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Book Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

A few patrons of the library recommended that I read, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Ya’ll know I haven’t been much of an adult fiction person lately– young adult is more of my bag– but I was feeling a bit whimsical, so I thought I’d give this book a try.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter spans almost a quarter of a century and follows the lives of the Henry family. The book opens on a rare, snowy Kentucky night in 1964. Mrs. Norah Henry is pregnant and goes into labor. The roads are treacherous from the storm, so Norah’s husband, Dr. David Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, must deliver the child at his practice with the help of his nurse, Caroline.

Unexpectedly, Norah delivers twins. The first child, a boy, is healthy. The second child, a girl, is born with Down syndrome. In a split second decision that changes everyone’s life, David tells Caroline to take the girl to an institution and tells Norah that the child passed away. Since Norah was under the influence of laughing gas, as was typical of the birthing process in the ’60s, she has little recollection of the birth.

Caroline drives the baby to the institution, but can’t bring herself to leave the child. So, the story of the next 25 years of the family’s life begins.

The premise of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a fascinating one. Very few fiction books I am familiar with address Down syndrome before current times. In the not-so-far-away past, Down syndrome and mental disabilities were viewed as a death sentence– this book sheds light on this unpleasant part of the past.

The characters of the story are rich and unforgettable, but the language of the book can be overly descriptive. It took me weeks to get through the 400 page novel and at times, I must admit to skipping through the flourishing, mundane details.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is worth a read for those that enjoy realism, historical fiction and books about chromosomal conditions.

Did you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

love,
melanie

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: Audio Edition Review

Last week I took an unexpected trip to visit a few relatives in Kentucky. It was a long car ride, but visiting my family was overdue. During the 12 hour drive, George and I listened to David Sedaris’Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. Or rather, I listened to it and George endured it. Audiobooks aren’t really his thing.

Anyway, if you are a David Sedaris fan, like I am, don’t start this book (or audiobook) with expectations of side-splitting personal memoirs. This book is a real departure from the David Sedaris I know and love. No stories of childhood angst lie within these pages. Instead, this book told modern fables of wood land and barn yard creatures.

Often the short story format works far better than the novel format for audiobooks and this recording was no exception. The book was read by four different folks: Sedaris, Elaine Stritch, Dylan Baker and Siân Phillips. By far, Elaine Stritch was my favorite of the voice actors. She is brilliant as Jack Donaghy’s vile mother on 30 Rock and it was so refreshing to hear someone with a non-voice actor voice read. Does that make sense?

Overall, I didn’t love this collection as much as some of Sedaris’ previous work. I did enjoy the tales of the creatures withdownright human qualities. The animals were prejudice, mean, dull, and of course, entertaining. I would definitely recommend the audio format to anyone interested in the book.

It just wasn’t my favorite David Sedaris piece. If you’ve never read his work, I’d recommend reading Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim or Me Talk Pretty One Day first.

Have you read Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk yet? What did you think?

love,
melanie

 

Death Comes to Pemberley

Sometimes I think I’m the only book-lover in the world who has luke-warm feelings towards Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know, it’s a sin. Don’t shoot me, but I’ve always thought Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were snotty, boring and terribly pretentious. I need a heroine with… excuse my expression… balls! I’d take Hester Prynne over Elizabeth Bennet any day.

I always feel guilty about my dislike of Pride and Prejudice, and I guilt myself into reading mash-up P and P novels in the hopes that Elizabeth will grow on me. She never does. My taste is appalling. I know.

When we got the audiobook of Death Comes to Pemberley at the library, I felt obliged to pop it into my car stereo. Alas, if I didn’t listen to this book in audio format, I don’t think I would have finished it. The best part for me about the experience was listening to the glorious accent of the narrator, Rosalyn Landor.

Ms. Landor had a fabulously matriarchal British accent. She might just be the real-life Mary Poppins. AND she had different voices for each one of the characters!

Unfortunately, Ms. Landor was the best part of the novel. The characters I found dull, and the plot, although it involved a murder, had me dozing off at the wheel.

Although this book was a total flop for me, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for audio books narrated by Rosalyn Landor in the future.

Did you read Death Comes to Pemberley? What did you think?

love,
melanie

The Magicians

Tell me a book is about young adults dappling in magic and I’ll read it. Tell me it’s about borderline alcoholic, young adults dappling in magic and I’m grabbing the book out of your hand and running for the door.

The book I just gracefully snatched out of your clutches is The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

The Magicians is easy to compare to the Harry Potter series. Both are about young magicians attending a school for magic. Both feature a young man as a protagonist and are written from a third-person perspective. But that is where the similarities end.

The Magicians was surprisingly fast-paced and modern unlike the Harry Potter series, which is timeless, but can be a bit slow. The Magicians was also very adult, so I wouldn’t recommend this one to the kiddos.

Quentin, the protagonist, is an unhappy young guy who stumbles through a garden in Brooklyn and ends up at a school for magic. Quentin, always dissatisfied with life, thinks this new school may be the key to happiness. He makes friends, he meets a girl, he studies diligently, but he still isn’t happy.He graduates and soon after, his childhood fantasy comes true, but will it lead him to happiness? Dun. Dun. Dun! You’ll have to read it to find out! (How very Reading Rainbow of me!)

My favorite part of the book? The reality of it all. Magic, if real, would exist in the world of Grossman’s novel.The characters have major flaws. They drink, they do drugs, they have sex with the wrong people. They don’t wave wands or wear capes. They truly seemed like real people with a talent.

I also enjoyed the peach-Schnapps-drinking bear. Just read it, you’ll understand.

Have you read The Magicians? What did you think?

I’m checking out the sequel today!

love,
melanie

Summer Reading List 2012

I’m a crazy-list-maker and not afraid to admit it. Making lists makes me feel good, accomplished even. It makes me feel that I did something for the day, even though maybe I only made a list. Whoops.

Reading lists are one of my favorite lists to create. They’re the nerdy, yet fun-loving cousin of To-Do lists. Let’s call my reading lists, Gertrud. Since this weekend is Memorial Day, which generally marks the start of summer-time, Gertie and I are (reluctantly) whipping out our bathing suits, slathering on our SPF 100, and sipping cocktails poolside.

Summer Reading List 2012 (a.k.a. Gertie.)

Treasure Island!!!
Sara Levine

Although this book gets mixed review on Amazon, I’m going to take a chance and put Treasure Island!!! on the list because the premise is just so weird. And I heard about it on NPR, whom I trust with book reviews.

In this suburban comedy, a recent college grad with a lack-luster job history reads Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and decides she should live her life by the core values of the book:  namely, boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing.

Sounds mildly crazy, huh? Maybe just as crazy as naming your Summer Book List, Gertie.

Fifty Shades of Grey
E.L. James

I’m jumping on the bandwagon for this one. Generally, books about passionate, physical relationships written in (what I have heard to be) graphic detail, don’t really interest me. I prefer a little magic with my “trash,” a la the Sookie Stackhouse novels. But I feel as a librarian sometimes it is my duty to read books with big hype. And I’m not afraid to admit I want to know what all the hype is about!

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
Jenny Lawson

Since it is summer-time, I want something to tickle my funny bone as I sip on a boozy, cool drink. So, I chose another book from the humor genre. This time, the book is a “mostly-true memoir” from Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. In Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, Jenny writes about the most embarrassing and traumatic experiences of her life, you know, the ones you wished never happened, and spins them into a hilarious tale. Or at least I hope she does.

Wildwood
Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis

Ya’ll know I had to put a YA novel on here. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time because of, you guessed it, the cover. It’s beautiful, right? The book is illustrated by Carson Ellis, Colin Meloy’s wife. Colin Meloy is the singer/songwriter for The Decemberists. Her Majesty, the Decemberists was the soundtrack to my sophomore year of college.

Even the plot of Wildwood sounds oddly-beautiful. Prue McKeel’s baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows, so she adventures into the uncharted Wildwood to save him.

The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world
Marti Olsen, Psy.D.

I’m an introvert. I know it is a cliché for librarians to be introverts, but I can’t help it. Introverts get an undeserved bad rap. Through this book I hope to learn how to better use my introverted personality to my advantage, instead of trying to hide it or “fix” it.

Want more of my “To-Read” lists? Follow me on Goodreads!

What are ya’ll reading this summer?

love,
melanie