Recent Reads – March 4, 2014

Wondering what I’ve been doing with all those hours on the train? (I know that’s what’s been keeping you up at night.) Well, wonder no more. Besides looking out the window at the lovely scenery and working on various projects from back home, I’ve been reading.

I’ve documented my love for libraries on this blog before, but my devotion has actually grown since then (which I thought to be impossible). I got a KindleFire for Christmas this year (last year? Dec. 2013), and I found out that I can borrow ebooks from my home library! I just download it to my Kindle and it’s available for two weeks before magically disappearing at the end of the lending period.* Granted, I’m a little limited in my choice of books (there are hundreds of romance novels, and that’s not really my thing), but I’ve found several that I’ve been meaning to read (along with a few randoms). So here are some of my recent reads:

i feel bad about my neckI Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron

From “With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.”

Although I am neither “getting older” in that sense nor “dealing with the tribulations” of menopause or empty nests, I probably will be one day, and regardless: Nora Ephron is hilarious. And let’s be honest: what woman is not dealing with (at least) maintenance and life itself? Nora’s voice throughout is friendly and frank, and these essays were fun to read. Knowing my love of place/home and its importance to a person, I particularly enjoyed the piece on falling in love with her apartment. Rating: 4 out of 5.

a week in winter

A Week in Winter – Maeve Binchy

From “Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know each other. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. . . Full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor, once again, she embraces us with her grand storytelling.”

This book has the feel of the movies that tell individual stories that all eventually converge somehow, although some of those movies (Love, Actually, perhaps) do a better job of fitting those stories together than others. Some of Maeve’s characters are beautifully compelling and I wish there were more pages devoted to those and fewer pages to the stiffer characters, but overall this book was entertaining. Not only did it cause me to think about big questions in my own life, but it also made me want to take a vacation to Ireland; spending hours walking up and down the cliffs and getting to know the locals. My rating: 3 out of 5.

making piece

Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie – Beth M. Howard

From “When journalist Beth M. Howard’s young husband dies suddenly, she packs up the RV he left behind and hits the American highways. At every stop along the way—whether filming a documentary or handing out free slices on the streets of Los Angeles—Beth uses pie as a way to find purpose.”

I must admit: I never intended to read this book, and when it showed up as an option on my Kindle and I did decide to read it, I didn’t want to like it. I don’t know why – I think I had read a few paragraphs about Beth Howard in a magazine somewhere and felt I had all the information I needed about her story, but (you know where this is going) I ended up really liking her book. Yes, some parts were a little over the top and the pie metaphor was stretched a little far at times (like crust that’s been rolled out too thin – kidding, kidding), but overall, I liked Beth’s writing and I was intrigued by all her adventures. And of course it made me want pie. My rating: 4 out of 5.

the signature of all things

The Signature of All Things: A Novel – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family . . . But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas.”

This book had so many interesting elements, but it felt too long. I enjoyed reading about Alma’s development in the world of botany and her explorations of her Philadelphia home and beyond, but some parts felt too contrived and several characters seemed quite flat. However, I enjoyed it overall and it made me want to go on a sea voyage at some point in my life (although perhaps not for months on end). If you’re interested in science or the 1800s, you will likely find enough in here to keep you engaged. Also, the fact that Elizabeth** dedicated the book to her 100-year-old grandmother makes me like it a little bit more. 🙂 Overall, my rating is 3 out of 5.

*Some of you are probably thinking, “Duh!”, but to me this is revolutionary. Also, it might sound like someone paid me to write this post, but rest assured: that did not happen. I just love my Kindle. And my library.

**I’ve noticed I’m using first names with these authors a lot in this post. Go figure: one brush with fame and suddenly I’m all “Nora” this and “Elizabeth” that. I shouldn’t let it go to my head like this!



Filed under fame, place, recent reads, Thing, Travel

2 responses to “Recent Reads – March 4, 2014

  1. Cynthia Kneip

    Glad to hear you are getting some good “you” time. I am looking forward to hearing all the books you have read in German after this semester there. No pressure. 😉

  2. janesmom

    I can lend you things on my kindle, so if you want to search my library — it’s just under my email — just let me know if there’s anything you want me to send your way. Sounds like y’all are having a blast!

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