Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eleanor & Park

Book 54 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Summary (via Goodreads)
Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try

My Opinion

This was a quick, nostalgic read for me.  I'm such a sucker for young love and kids that don't fit in.  Awkward teens navigating their first relationship?  Sign me up!
However, the ending underwhelmed me.  I felt it was unnecessarily manufactured for maximum [emotion I can't reveal without spoiling the ending] and didn't jive with the rest of the book. 

Overall, I enjoyed the feeling of this book immensely and would recommend it.

A Few Quotes from the Book

"She was late to lunch, then late to English. And if she didn't know already that she liked that stupid, effing Asian kid, she knew it now.
Because even after everything that had happened in the last forty-five minutes - and everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours - all Eleanor could think about was seeing Park."

"I miss you, Eleanor. I want to be with you all the time. You're the smartest girl I've ever met, and the funniest, and everything you do surprises me. And I wish I could say that those are the reasons I like you, because that would make me sound like a really evolved human being...
But I think it's got as much to do with your hair being red and your hands being soft...and the fact that you smell like homemade birthday cake."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dad is Fat

Book 53 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

I received an electronic copy of this book via Blogging for Books 
in exchange for an honest review.

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Summary (via Goodreads)
In Dad is Fat, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan, who’s best known for his legendary riffs on Hot Pockets, bacon, manatees, and McDonald's, expresses all the joys and horrors of life with five young children—everything from cousins ("celebrities for little kids") to toddlers’ communication skills (“they always sound like they have traveled by horseback for hours to deliver important news”), to the eating habits of four year olds (“there is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor”). Reminiscent of Bill Cosby’sFatherhoodDad is Fat is sharply observed, explosively funny, and a cry for help from a man who has realized he and his wife are outnumbered in their own home.

My Opinion

I chose this book because I'm familiar enough with Jim Gaffigan to know that I think he's really funny, and I could hear his voice as I was reading.  He writes conversationally, which made it an entertaining and quick read.  

I'm not familiar enough with him to know if he's used any of these topics as 'bits' before, but I think they would translate very well to his stand up routine or to an audio version of this book.  The chapters were short, readable, and had a good arc.  I laughed out loud more than once.

There were a few times (deciding whether or not to circumcise his son is the one that comes to my mind at the moment) that I thought he was a little abrupt and quick to move off of a topic.  It's like he started to reveal more about himself than he wanted, which is fine and a personal choice I respect, but then maybe the entire section could be removed instead of shutting down abruptly.  But that's a small note and probably something I would've forgotten about by the time I finished the book if I hadn't been jotting notes for review as I went along.

Overall, I would recommend this read to fans of Jim's or parents looking for some sympathy in the trenches.  I enjoyed this and would read something by him again.

A Few Quotes from the Book

"Anti-family? This could not be further from the truth. I love being a parent and enjoy finding the humor in parenting. If you complain about how you spend your Saturdays taking your kid to birthday parties, it means you are taking your kids to birthday parties...You joke about it. That's how you deal. If parents don't like being a parent, they don't talk about being a parent. They are absent...Failing and laughing at your own shortcomings are the hallmarks of a sane parent."

"As a dad, you are Vice President. You are part of the Executive Branch of the family, but you are the partner with the weaker authority...Jeannie [his wife] is Bill Clinton, and I am Al Gore. She "feels their pain", and I'm the dork reminding them to turn off the lights."

"If you had a roommate that did any of the things babies do, you'd ask them to move out. 'Do you remember what happened last night? Today you're all smiles, but last night you were hitting the bottle really hard. Then you started screaming, and you threw up on me. Then you passed out and wet yourself. I went into the other room to get you some dry clothes, I came back, and you were all over my wife's breasts!' "

"Toddlers also love to tell you secrets, especially when you are wearing a white shirt and they've been eating chocolate."

"A little kid spilling a drink at the dinner table is as reliable as the female lead falling down in a romantic comedy. It's inevitable."

"I don't think of [eating his children's Halloween candy] as stealing. Hey, it's my home and those kids don't pay rent. Most of the time I don't even want to eat their candy, but late at night I'm confronted with the predicament: eat my kids' candy or feel my feelings. Eating the candy always seems to win."

"I was the youngest of six children. The scrape of the pot. My parents tried their best, but they were exhausted. It was like the last half hour of a brunch buffet. It's still a great meal, but let's just say at that point, the guy working the omelet station has lost some of his enthusiasm."

"Whenever I travel with my young children, I'm always reminded of an important travel lesson: Never travel with my young children."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

This is Ridiculous This is Amazing

Book 52 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

This is Ridiculous This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists by Jason Good

Summary (via the book jacket)
Everything is easier and a lot more fun with a little laughter mixed in - especially parenting. Here are 71 lists that capture the absurdity of family life without forgetting to embrace all those heartwarming and annoying "stop drawing on your brother's face" moments that make the experience of raising children so ridiculous...and so amazing.

My Opinion

Is it just a given that all the authors of these fun little books that catch my eye at the library have a blog I haven't heard of?  Because that seems to be a trend and this book is no exception.  Since I haven't read his blog, I can't say if the book material is new or how it compares; it's all new to me.

I chuckled at pretty much every list and it was a quick, cute read that helped me pass the time while waiting for kids.

A Few Quotes from the Book

"Have you ever...Yelled, "No Yelling!" ~ from the list "On Being a Role Model"

"She wants to have sex, but you're scared of her" ~ from the list "How to Know if Your Wife Has Been Drinking"

" 'Our son's favorite country is Liberia.'
  Reality: He said "Liberia" once, but what he meant was Siberia because he'd just watched (on the iPad) the episode of Super Friends where Lex Luthor traps Superman in a Siberian ice block. The kid's favorite country is actually 'I don't know. Is a country the same thing as a mountain? Because my favorite mountain is Canada.' " ~ from the list "What Annoying Parents Say...and the Truth"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Word Exchange

Book 51 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
Summary (via the book jacket)
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole... 
My Opinion
What a fascinating and frightening premise.  

There were 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, which made it very easy to track my progress.  It was a slow start for me, a little wordy (heh), but from chapter 'H' on I was hooked and couldn't put it down.

It's the kind of book I can't say much about in a review because it's difficult to sum up or avoid spoilers, but I would love to talk about with someone that has read it.  I will say two reasons I liked, not loved, it is because Anana was the kind of girl that got in her own way at times (she was even described by another character as one where the "clues must be very obvious in order for her to find them"), and some of the plotlines wrapped up a little too neatly through what I refer to as "off camera" situations, where the reader doesn't see the action but instead has it summed up as complete in a sentence or two after the fact.

It's classified as sci-fi which may cause some readers to skip it and that would be a shame.  If you enjoy biotech mysteries or smart suspense (slowly unraveling threads, only to have something new pop up when you think you have everything under control), I would recommend this book.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"It may seem to some readers that the dystopian future we're imagining is exaggerated or, at the very least, a long way off. We can only hope, for all our sakes, that they're right. Because if not, then these and all words may very soon lose their meanings. And then we'll all be lost."

"Words are living legends, swollen with significance. We string them together to make stories, but they themselves are stories, encapsulating rich, runny histories."

"Words don't always work. Sometimes they come up short. Conversations can lead to conflict. There are failures of diplomacy. Some differences, for all the talk in the world, remain irreconcilable. People make empty promises, go back on their word, say things they don't believe. But connection, with ourselves and with others, is the only way we can live."

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

Book 50 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

Summary (via the book jacket)
Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends' weddings and baby showers.  Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead traveled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed. 
Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into "Kristin-Adjacent" on the road - a slower, softer, and yes, sluttier, version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports. 

My Opinion

I can tell she's had success as a sitcom writer because her chapters are set up very well with the right mixture of lightness, heart, and backstory.  She's a natural storyteller that I would like to sit next to at a party (just joking...I hate parties) and I would guess this would be enjoyable as an audiobook as well.

She acknowledges her unique job situation that gives her long stretches of time to travel and the financial ability to do so.  And while the men are important to her stories, they're only one aspect of her overall travel experiences and she isn't overly graphic or detailed. She also references condom use frequently - big thumbs up for that!

I love her "one scary moment" life lesson.  When she was young and too shy to introduce herself to new people, her mom asked her if she would rather play alone or have "one scary moment" of introducing herself; she chose the one scary moment and soon had new friends.  I found that to be a really good way of breaking it down to something more manageable and while I will probably still choose being alone over having one scary moment, like the true introvert I am, it's nice to have that little phrase in my back pocket for those unavoidable social settings.  

A Few Quotes from the Book

"That miracle [her first writing job] meant there was a date on the horizon when I could start to pay off my credit cards. (Four years of assistant pay had led to debt caused by splurges on things like socks and groceries.)"

"Now, if taking pills and then having one's first lesbian experience with a crippled British girl isn't the thing to do in Amsterdam, I just don't know what is."

" is almost never about choosing between one thing you really want and another thing you don't want at all. If you're lucky, and healthy, and live in a country where you have enough to eat and no fear that you're going to get shot when you walk out your door, life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally. And you have to evaluate and determine which awesome thing you want infinitesimally more, and then give up that other awesome thing you want almost exactly as much. You have to trade awesome for awesome."