Monday, March 30, 2015

March Reads 2015

 Good Monday morning to you! I can hardly believe that it's almost time to flip the calendar page again. Is that what happens throughout the year here in the Upper Midwest- the year starts out slow just like an engine trying to start in the cold and then picks up speed the warmer it gets? Well, nevertheless, here we are and here I am again sharing my monthly reads with you.




Here is one that everyone is reading! How rare it is for me to read a hot book when it is actually hot! :) If all the bandwagon "tidying up" videos on YouTube are any indication, this book really is life-changing, at least for a season. I do believe that Kondo has some excellent advice in this book and actually, I plan to put some of her decluttering advice into practice when I am on break this summer. In a nutshell, Kondo advises her clients and the reader, to look at each item in your home, hold it in your hand, and see if it "sparks joy." If it doesn't, it should be tossed or donated. She also claims that she has no repeat clients and that once her clients tidy up (she advocates a huge, once-and-for-all, tidy-up approach), they never need her services again, because they never go back to living how they once did.

That sounds so harsh and Kondo really is pretty ruthless. But she asks the reader to consider that if an item no longer sparks joy - even if it was expensive at one time, even if it was given to you as a gift, even if it was something passed down to you - it has already served it's purpose. You received what the item gave you at that time, but you don't have to hold on to it forever if it no longer serves that purpose in your life. This is what makes her book so unique, I think, and why it has become so popular. It's a fresh take on an old idea of simply cleaning up.

I am someone who regularly purges things and keeps a generally neat house, but I know I still have things tucked here and there that I just don't look at and just take up space in my house because I simply don't deal with them. I know that when I undertake to approach tidying up this June using her method, it is going to be a large undertaking. I am trying to get mentally prepared! :)

This is a quirky book and Kondo is a bit repetitive, but the message is good, thorough, and powerful. It will get you to think. And it may even get you to tidy up.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars


I was so moved by this book that I couldn't wait to write a review of it here. I felt I ought to thank Charles Dickens by writing exactly what was on my heart the minute I finished reading this work that I had attempted a few times in the past and finally conquered! After rereading the final paragraphs three or four times over, I shared my thoughts on Goodreads:

"So, I "read" this in high school, meaning that I am sure I paid attention in class discussions enough to do well, in combination with Cliff Notes, to do well on my tests. I knew of the circumstances of the ending. Since that time, I have tried, on a few occasions to read it - really read it - for myself, as I now adore Charles Dickens. He may, in fact, be my favorite writer of all time. Up to this writing he has been and to this writing he remains.

I have always had difficulty with the beginning of the book in which so much convoluted information is tossed around with Dickens' masterful vocabulary and allusion that I would never get past it in previous attempts. This time I started with an audiobook, which actually was not helpful. Then, I took to reading it aloud to my daughter to whom I was reading this for our home school. This is what we have done with all of Dickens that we have enjoyed so much together over the years; it has proven fruitful and this book was no different.

I was surprised that I cried as I neared the end. I knew the conclusion, but I cried nonetheless: for the story and the characters, for the aching beauty of Dickens' writing and the gift he was to all of us, and for the depths of depravity to which man can sink over and over again, born out of the seed of oppression.

Highly recommended"

Upon further reflection (instead of the emotional high I was on when I wrote the review!), one of the things I love about this book is that despite this being a novel written in the Gothic style without a happy ending all tied up with a bow, Dickens still manages to give the reader an enormous sense of hope that still lifts the spirit, despite the pain.

Yet another 5 stars to my beloved, Charles Dickens.



I read about half of this not because it wasn't good, but because it is already something I practice and so I wasn't really learning anything new. Ultimately, the author talks about eating quality food of all kinds, but just eating smaller amounts of it.

I would recommend this if you feel restricted by a diet plan, if you feel deprived in your eating and you don't want to live on a restricted diet the rest of your life.  The French are known for their appreciation of quality ingredients, so if you're looking for inspiration to eat well, this might be the ticket. There's no magic bullet here, though. It's still basic math of calories in vs. calories out. You need to exercise and watch what you eat. Have the chocolate cake, but only a few bites worth. If you incorporate exercise into your daily life (walking or biking places, for example), you won't need to spend as much time at the gym.

Francophiles will enjoy this book.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars



This is the teaser on the book that got me to read this one:

"Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew..."

Then I learned that this book is being released as a movie this summer. Fun! I really enjoyed this book. It made me laugh during the first half so that I came to care enough about the characters to want to find out what happens to them when the book got a little sluggish in a couple of points in the middle. The book picks up again though and Green gives us a satisfying ending. There is some lovely imagery here and a number of themes that will get you thinking. I thought about these characters for days. I didn't like them all, but I thought about them and that's always a win for me.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars


Meh. I'm just not the demographic for this book, despite being a homemaker who knits! Oh, and I blog, which is what Matchar writes about too.  :) But just how my parents were born juuuuust before the Baby Boom generation, I too was born juuuuust before this group of women who are taking their lives at home and photographing and polishing and styling them so brilliantly on social media that it's almost as if they're all actually living inside of a magazine. I read about half and skimmed a bit of the rest. She shares some statistics about this "movement" that are interesting, just not interesting enough for me to want to finish it.

Goodreads rating: 2 stars



I mentioned this book in my post about cooking from my cookbooks. I went ahead and purchased this book, because I've seen enough in here to pique my interest that I knew I needed to have this around longer than the library loan would allow. I've made 4 recipes from this cookbook: one was a flop, one needed improvement (my family sat at the table making suggestions of what needed to be added), and two have turned out nicely and I'll make them again. There many, many more recipes in here that I want to try and thanks to the recipes that turned out, I'm hopeful, because having a variety of slow cooker meals to choose from is a pretty wonderful thing.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars


Even though Susan Spungen didn't solve my space problem, she had a number of clever ideas in this book. She has a number of helpful checklists so you don't forget anything for your event, such as helpful items to bring on a picnic, for example. There are a lot of great photographs here which wasn't something I was expecting. I think my favorite things in here were the desserts that you can assemble at your party. I need to copy a list of those!

Here is the review I wrote on Goodreads:

"Excellent ideas for all kinds of hosting. Much of the book is a bit more grand in scale than what I would do, but Spungen really covers all kinds of occasions from the gala to the wedding to the picnic. A great resource!"

Goodreads rating: 4 stars
 

My thoughts on Goodreads were as follows:

"Hardly anything new here. A good idea or two, but mostly pretentious snobbery. Redundant terms there, but there is enough of it for both!"

Ugh. I realize that much of this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but after a while it just gets old and mean and ugly. 

Goodreads rating: 2 stars


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