Monday, November 27, 2017

(99)Christmas - A Biography by Judith Flanders

There are some who might say that I have a bit too much Christmas Cheer.  With the holiday season officially upon us, I wanted to read up on the history of the holiday.  How did the celebration of Christ's birth get to be what it is today?

Author Judith Flanders takes us on a journey back in time.  From the first biblical references to the commercialized holiday we know today.  We learn the history of gift giving, it was "originally designed to reinforce social hierarchy."  And it wasn't until recent history that Christmas became a child-centered holiday.  And even more shocking, it wasn't until the 1800's that Christmas fell to the women in the household to plan and execute Christmas.  For centuries it was the men.  We also learn the origins of Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, Christmas Carols, and more.   And this might come as a shock, but very few of these customs have little to no relation to the birthday boy. 

With the Christmas shopping season now upon us, I found it shocking that I did not know that Thanksgiving being declared the fourth Thursday of November was to ensure that there would be at least four weeks of shopping before Christmas.  How did I not know this?  Also, we all have that family member or friend that bemoans the Christmas comes too early each year and we should wait before Thanksgiving is over before starting Christmas.  Well, it was common for Christmas Ads to be in newspapers as early as October.  When I shared that information with my husband he was quick to point out that they had to advertise earlier than as it took weeks for those ads to travel across the country.

At the heart of the matter the author points out that there are customs all over the world pertaining to Christmas, but the traditions established in your family are the ones that matter the most to you.   It is the history of you and your family.  And people who long for Christmas pasts it is more about the people and the memories rather than the tradition.

Bottom line - Judith Flanders details the history of Christmas from the birth of Christ to Charles Dickens to the Grinch himself.  While the book was a bit dry at times, ultimately it was a fascinating look at Christmas and how it became the billion dollar industry that it is today.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

(98)Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

Teddi Lerner left her hometown six years ago and has never been back. Now her best friend's daughter, Shayna, has asked Teddi to come back to Chance, Ohio to photograph her father's wedding. Teddi can't say no to Shay, but photographing her best friend's husband is right up there with the worst possible idea ever. But she is going to do it. Because Shay asked. Six years ago when Teddi left Chance, she did so on the day of her best friend's funeral. In fact, she left during the funeral, causing all sorts of problems with the family and friends that her best friend left behind. Chance is not the same community she left all those years ago, but she is not the same Teddi who left all those years ago, either. Now Teddi is a successful wedding photographer and returning to Chance terrifies her, not just because of the past she will be forced to face, but also because she has to deal with her past before she can deal with her future.

Left to Chance is a "coming home" story that meets all of the requirements. Hasty exit, newfound success, hot boss, hotter ex-flame, and even hotter neighbor boy turned into man. Don't forget the deceased best friend and her angsty tween daughter. I liked Teddi, but sometimes I struggled with her issues. I wanted to tell her to just get over it. Especially her aversion to the cemetery. I was furious at the way she dismissed Miles and his requests about her relationship with Shay, but I also hated the way he kept her in the dark for too long over Shay's issues. I guess it all just added to the drama of the story, but it was frustrating at times. I did like both Beck (the hot ex-flame) and Cameron (the hot neighbor boy). I stuck with the book because I wanted to see who she ended up with and if she ended up moving back to Chance. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

- Bottom line - Left to Chance is one of those "coming home" stories for anybody that has left "home." You will be able to find yourself relating to the changes you always find when you "go home." And you will also be able to relate to the people who stayed in your hometown all these years. While not a holiday book, it is easy for Left to Chance to stir those kinds of memories, as that is when most of us actually return home.


- Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

On Facebook

Pages: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 11/21/2017

Buy it Here!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

(97)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Every year I say that I am going to read the whole Harry Potter series - for the first time. I have read The Sorcerer's Stone more than once and haven't moved past book one. Then I discovered the whole series is on Audible.

Jim Dale is the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks and if you are not familiar with his work - well it is a little bit of awesome. He is a wildly successful narrator who has won a ton of awards for his work. You might also recognize his voice as the narrator for the short-lived television show, Pushing Up Daisies

The audio version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a good companion for the treadmill. I once again found myself swept away into the magical world of Hogwarts. And I thoroughly found myself enchanted. I have already started the audio version of The Chamber of Secrets and am looking forward to completing the whole series.

Details: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Read by Jim Dale

8 Hours 34 Minutes

Release Date: 11/20/2015

Buy it Here!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

(96)Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Cass Connor never thought that her life would be this good again.  Her first husband passed away after an ugly battle with cancer, leaving her with two young children.  She then met Ryan Connor. Their passion and chemistry were undeniable, plus her two young children absolutely adored Ryan.  Now they have been married for three years, have added a young son to their family, and have moved across the country.  Things are a lot less passionate as Cass and Ryan are dealing with the everyday stressors of three children, two careers, and living thousands of miles away from family.  Cass starts to notice that things are not right with Ryan, she catches him in some white lies and suspects that he is having an affair.  And then she starts to get sick.  Physical symptoms that leave her weak, ill, and out of her mind with worry.  She just knows that she is being poisoned by her husband. Or is she? How can she prove it?  How can she keep herself and her children safe from the monster she married? Is Ryan the monster or is she?

Poison is a psychological thriller of the highest caliber.  At first, Cass and Ryan seemed so normal.  They seem like every other married couple out there and I really like Cass. When Cass starts to exhibit signs of poisoning I was not sure that I believed her.  Ryan does a really good job of convincing the reader that it is all in her head. A really good job.  I even thought that maybe she was pregnant and was having "pregnancy brain" in the form of paranoia.   Cass has one friend and that is Nora who had questioned Ryan's behavior from almost the beginning.  Because Nora was dissing Ryan from the beginning I almost wondered if she was the one having the affair with Ryan.  Cass soon starts to trust their quirky neighbor. He helps her install security cameras and seems so solid that I glad she had him.  But, I think what this book proves, more than anything,  is that you can't trust anybody but yourself. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Galt Niderhoffer has written one of those novels that keep the reader on the edge of their seats from the very first pages. There are so many twists and turns that it is hard to keep up at times, but stick with it, the end makes it all worth it.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

(95)Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is more than just a colony on the moon.  It is a small tourist town, a community. Rudy is the only law enforcement on Artemis. A former Royals Mountie, he takes his job very seriously.  There are others in Artemis that are wealthy and prestigious.  And then there is Jazz, she is a local who has lived in Artemis most of her life.  She works as a Porter, which allows for her side job to be so lucrative.  Jazz is a smuggler. One day one of Artemis's client makes an interesting proposal. It will be a risky venture, but the slugs (currency used in Artemis) will allow Jazz to move out of her coffin-sized home and into a place where she can really be comfortable. She finishes her "mission" and returns to collect her money, only to find the client and his bodyguard have been murdered. On Artemis. Murder doesn't happen on the moon and Jazz is terrified that she will be next. She calls on the skills she has honed over a lifetime of smuggling, as well as the misfit group of people that she considers friends. Will Jazz be able to solve the murder and get things under control before the murderers find her?

Andy Weir is a legend among aspiring authors. The story of how his first novel came to print is the stuff of legends. While Artemis is being published the traditional route, it is going to be as big of a blockbuster as The Martian. Jazz is a unique character - she is a Saudi Arabian by birth, but has lived on Artemis since she was six years old. She doesn't have much of a relationship with her traditional father, but she knows he will have her back when the chips are down. And the chips are very much down when somebody is trying to kill her. I loved Jazz - her character is resourceful and quick and very much a part of her community. Even when she takes things too far and puts the entire city is at risk, she has people who are willing to stand by her side and fight with her. Her "friends" are definitely a misfit group, but that is part of what makes the story so addicting. Artemis is an incredibly fast-paced novel that was definitely written with the big screen in mind. The author paints such a vivid picture of the moon's colony that it is easy to imagine it as a movie.

Bottom Line - Artemis is a well written, highly entertaining novel that just happens to be set on the moon. If you love a good, fast-paced read, then you must give Artemis a shot, you won't regret it, I promise!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

(94)Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Paul Strom is planning the "Best Day Ever" for his wife, Mia.  They are leaving their young sons with a trusted babysitter and heading to their lake house on Lake Erie.  Paul Strom appears to have it all.  An incredibly successful career, a stunning wife who is devoted to both him and their children, a home that is the envy of all their friends.  Mia has been sick lately for reasons unknown to the doctors and Paul thinks that a "Best Day Ever" with Mia will be just what the doctors order.  Or will it be the day that destroys everything?

Best Day Ever is a book to devour in one sitting.  The book is told entirely from Paul's perspective.  He is very much the kind of guy that wants everybody to see the grandness of his life.  The gorgeous wife, perfect job, the perfect life.  As a narrator, his tone of voice is very much "look at my life."  I have been alive long enough to know that things are not always what they seem.  He makes comments that cause my radar to go off, but I am not convinced of anything yet. -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  

There isn't a lot that I can say that won't give away some key parts of the book, but I can say that the ending was pretty kick-ass.  Hearing exclusively from Paul's point of view really causes the reader to evaluate the information he gives you.  You need to decide if he is telling you the whole story and if he is, what are the parts you should be paying special attention to?

Bottom Line - Best Day Ever was a roller coaster of a read.  It was very fast paced and the end was upon you before you knew it.  But, wow, what an ending!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

(93)Unqualified by Anna Faris

Anna Faris is one of those actresses that makes me belly laugh. I watched some of her movies, but it wasn't until her television show, Mom, that I became a devoted fan.   She is a talented actress and her offscreen her little family is adorable.  Like everybody else, I was a little sad to hear that Anna and her husband, Chris Pratt, split up.

In her book, Unqualified, Anna Faris gives the reader the behind the scenes look into her life.  From her childhood in Wahington to her college days and early days in Hollywood.  She talks about her relationships with the men in her life with a frankness that only Ana Faris can exhibit.  Her college boyfriend, her first husband, and Chris Pratt.  She also talks about life in Hollywood in a manner that makes me glad that I will never live in Hollywood.

Finally, Anna Faris talks extensively about her podcast.  From topics covered to running bits to guests.  I am not really a podcast kind of girl (I would rather spend that time listening to audiobooks such as Unqualified), but I could definitely find myself listening to Anna Faris's podcast.  I imagine there will be a lot of laughing!

Bottom Line - If you have been around a minute you know that I am a sucker for a good celebrity memoir.  Anna Faris is just the next in a long line of celebrities to pick up the pen.  As Anna and I are close in age, I found myself connecting with her on a level that I had not expected.  If you are looking for a fun way to pass the afternoon, than Unqualified by Anna Faris is the way to go!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

(92)Hunger by Roxane Gay

"People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.  They think they know the way of my body.  They do not."

Hunger is the memoir of one woman's body.  Author Roxane Gay is brutally honest in the memoir about her body.  At age 12 she was viciously gang-raped by a boy she thought of as her boyfriend and his friends.  It would be decades before her family found out, but it was almost immediately that she started to hide her body from others in an effort to protect herself.  She went off to boarding school for high school and without a vigilant mother to help her with dietary needs Roxane started to put on weight.

"The freedom of being able to eat, so extravagantly and without limit, offered me the only true pleasure I knew in high school."

The author takes us through her life and her relationship with her body.  From something as banal as smoking to her fluid relationships and her venture into bulimia, holds nothing back.  With a careful eye, Roxane Gay examines what it means to be fat in America.  From weight-loss surgery to shopping, traveling, and even a simple visit to the doctor.  She speaks about the impossible standards that are put on women to conform to societal beauty standards.  She specifically mentions celebrities like Oprah, Jennifer Hudson, and Valerie Bertinelli, all extremely accomplished women who made it seem like their life was still lacking in fulfillment until they lost weight. One of the richest women on the planet and an Oscar winner still did not feel successful until they lost weight.  How messed up is that?  There are judgments and criticism  at every turn for someone, especially celebrities,  who do not meet the criteria what others deem to be "normal."

"I (want to) believe my worth as a human being does not reside in my size or appearance."

The above quote probably spoke to me more than any line that I have read in a very long time.  Not only have I had weight issues, but I was born with a physical disability and there have been many times in my life where I was made to feel "less than" because of my appearance.  My heart and my mind know that it is them, not me that is deficient, but it still stings.    I have lost a lot of weight this year and I have done it for me. Not for anybody else.  My husband has been supportive through it all and has never once made me feel less than for being morbidly obese.  However, many people have commented on it my weight loss, does that mean that I was "less than" before in their eyes?  This is always in the back of my mind,  no matter how much weight I lose I cannot change the fact that I have a physical disability.  If someone believes my worth is tied to my appearance I will never be worthy of them.  And sadly, I know there are people out there who make assumptions based on my disability and there is nothing that I can do to change that.

Bottom Line - Hunger is not one of those motivational books where the author loses all of the weight and is skinny at the end.   Nor is Hunger a cautionary tale of what will happen if you are overweight.  Hunger is a raw and honest memoir of one woman and her body.   And it is one of the best books that I have ever read.


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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