Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Too Afraid to Cry, by Ali Cobby Eckermann

One of my reading goals for 2018 is to read more world literature. By that I mean fiction set in other countries, memoirs written by people of different backgrounds than mine, poetry that offers a broadened perspective, nonfiction that allows me to learn something new.

I’ve set this goal before but now, these tumultuous times demand more of an urgency, it seems. Plus, our library has a fantastic collection of world fiction with some of the most intriguing stories and I have no excuse (besides having more books than time) not to delve more deeply.

It was appropriate, then, that my first book read in 2018 was Too Afraid to Cry: Memoir of a Stolen Childhood, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s memoir of being part of the Stolen Generation. Between 1905 and 1969, children of Aboriginal descent were forced by the Australian government to leave their birth families. An estimated 100,000 people are among the Stolen Generation.

Eckermann was raised by loving parents but her childhood was marked by sexual abuse. She turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age, endured additional assaults, became pregnant at 18 and gave her son up for adoption. Too Afraid to Cry is her story, one written as a “poetic memoir” in stark, spare prose giving voice to all who were among the Stolen Children and those who have overcome adversity.

My full review of Too Afraid to Cry appears here, in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness.

 

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Talking with Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here is Beautiful is the story of two sisters, Lucia and Miranda, and how mental illness impacts their relationship throughout their lives. While their bond is at the heart of this novel, Mira T. Lee’s debut takes a 360 degree view of the effects that caring for a loved one with mental illness has on other close family members, like spouses and children. Finally, her decision to set Everything Here is Beautiful within the immigrant community allows people of all cultures to identify with others by seeing themselves in a narrative that too often focuses predominantly on a white, middle-class demographic.

The result is a novel that is getting significant well-deserved buzz this season. I read this in the waning days of 2017 as an advanced copy from the publisher and was thrilled to have an opportunity to talk with Mira T. Lee for a Shelf Awareness piece.

You can read my full interview with Mira T. Lee here.

Everything Here Is Beautiful
Mira T. Lee
Pamela Dorman Books
2018
368 pages

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How to Instant Pot

You already know that I’m obsessed with my Instant Pot.  Chances are, you’re either giving one to someone for the holidays or you’re getting one for yourself.

It is a little intimidating at first, though, even for the most experienced of cooks. Daniel Shumski’s How to Instant Pot aims to shorten the learning curve by breaking down each function (pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer) into its own section.

Few cookbooks have as definitive of a subtitle as this one. Indeed, it will help you master all the functions of the one pot that will change how you cook.

More of my thoughts on How to Instant Pot can be found here, in my full review in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness. 

 

 

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Book Review: Shut Up and Run: How To Get Up, Lace Up, and Sweat with Swagger, by Robin Arzón

shut-up-and-run

Robin Arzón is badass.  Make no mistake, this woman is as fierce and strong as they come. A former lawyer turned ultramarathoner (someone who runs any distance over 26.2 miles, usually 50K and 100K events), Robin’s life is defined by running and “sweat with swagger.”

It’s a life that was nearly taken from her one night in a horrific and violent attack; she emerged determined to transform her life through health and wellness. Today, she’s the Vice President of Fitness Programming for Peloton Cycle, a motivational speaker, brand ambassador and much more.

(Oh, and she’s a Philly girl like me, which means her grit and toughness is the real deal.)

Shut Up and Run packs a lot into its 192 pages. Whether you’re a new runner (like yours truly) or someone who regularly competes in marathons, there’s something in Shut Up and Run for runners at every level — even if you’re still sitting on the couch, contemplating whether you can do this. (Spoiler Alert: you can.)

“Start before you’re ready. Today seems like a good day.” 

Robin offers her personal inspirations for running (her mother, who has MS) along with a generous helping of motivation with splashy graphics, full-color photos, and quotes. (Two of my favorites: “Regret is a heavier weight to carry than hard work — in running, life, and love,” and “Be open to getting lost so that you end up moving in the right direction.”)  There are strategies for training — whether that means a 5k or 50k race.

After reading this, even I felt like I could be an ultramarathoner — and I say this as someone who has only been running for a year and not very consistently (to put it mildly). That’s the kind of book Shut Up and Run is: one that makes you believe you have the power to do extraordinary things.

“The human body is capable of extraordinary things
that start with the choice to try.”

 

 

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Nonfiction November – Nov 20-24: Nonfiction Favorites

This week (Nov. 20 to 24), Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey with the topic of Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Is the topic pretty much all that matters?

Definitely not. While there are certain topics that I tend to gravitate towards (basically the subjects I write about here on this blog), I’d like to think that I have a broad range of interests when it comes to nonfiction reading.

Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love?

I think that, with any story, it needs to engage the reader. That’s the most important thing, really. I’m merciless when it comes to DNF books; if I’m not hooked within the first 50 pages (sometimes less) then I have no qualms about abandoning the book. That goes for fiction, nonfiction, whatever.

When I think about preferred writing styles, I’m drawn most to creative nonfiction. I love Creative Nonfiction, the literary journal. Among my writerly bucket list items is to be published in CNF one day.

Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

So many factors go into whether a particular nonfiction book will be one that catches my eye. It can be anything from the subject matter to the author to the setting. It really varies. You can find some of my nonfiction favorites on my Book Reviews – Nonfiction page.

 

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Book Review: Ageproof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip, by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roisen, MD

During the past few months, I’ve found myself gravitating to wellness-related books, blogs and podcasts. This interest started last year around this time when I embarked on Couch to 5K and made some modifications to eat healthier; however, a few factors have accelerated this.

For starters, I’m less than a year and a half away from a milestone birthday, the one beginning with 5. A year after that, the kids will graduate high school, and The Girl has recently been giving a lot of thought to potential colleges. These next few years are looming large. There’s also The Ongoing Family Situation which has me thinking a great deal about what I can control now to potentially affect future quality of life. I’m thinking particularly of retirement planning and ways to slow memory loss through food and exercise.

And I’m trying not to let all these thoughts keep me up too much at night nor preoccupy my every waking moment because if one isn’t careful, this line of thinking can quickly spin out of control into full-fledged anxiety. There has been a bit of that associated with all this, like the other week when I met one-on-one with the retirement planning guy at work. They brought in our plan’s representative–who looked like he was about 12 years old–for one hour complimentary financial consultations and I swear to you, his advice to me was basically, “I don’t know what to say.”

I kid you not. I mean, I already knew I was screwed. Thanks, Junior.

All this is to say that this feeling of health and wealth (I speak of the latter figuratively, of course) coming into fuller focus made me the perfect reader for Jean Chatzky and Michael Roizen’s new book, Ageproof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip which I spotted while browsing at the library and listened to on audio.

This is basically a manual for How to Live Your Life. I don’t mean that facetiously; rather, this covers every aspect of living. Yes, there’s plenty of advice that we’ve all heard or read — and either implemented, ignored or put off until “someday.” But there are also some good checklists and strategies, like starting with the importance of doing  “system checks” (both health-related and financial) before making any major changes. There are chapters on breaking bad habits, reducing stress, how one’s occupation influences health. The sections on financial information was more helpful than the representative from my retirement plan.

Here’s what Age-Proof doesn’t have: there’s no secret sauce, no magic elixir recipe for eternal life. (Besides, who would really want that anyway?) The most important thing it does have is reassurance that “no matter what you’ve done in the past, it’s never too late (till you’re six feet under) to get the body or bank account you want.”

Audio is definitely the way to go with this one, mainly because of Dr. Roizen’s exuberance about … well, almost everything. He and Jean Chatzky alternate narrating their portions of the book — sometimes interrupting and interjecting thoughts — and while it’s a little hokey in some spots, it’s also kind of cute.

Not to mention important.

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Book Review (by The Husband): Grant, by Ron Chernow

The Husband made his debut in Shelf Awareness yesterday as a published book reviewer. He took on the mammoth tome (more than 1,100 pages!) that is Ron Chernow’s Grant.

You can find his review here.

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