Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The…

Title: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607747307

This book has been flying off the shelves at my library system. It’s hard to find a copy in stock and when you place you hold, you’re in the triple digits on a wait list. My first introduction to this book was through a YouTube video highlighting the magical powers of neatly folded clothes in the dresser drawer to maximize space. I should note that the clothes are folded and stacked vertically, so that you can see each and every shirt. They aren’t stacked on top of each other, hiding the ones at the bottom.

After a long, long, long wait, I finally got my hands on a copy of this book and it’s really one of the best books on home organization and decluttering methodologies. Like the author, I too spent a great deal of my life, from early childhood, decluttering, donating and constantly reshuffling objects around my home in an effort to create a tidy space. To be honest, I never really realized why it wasn’t working until I came across this book. What I like best about the KonMari method, as the author calls it, is that unlike magazine and other books, she doesn’t structure her advice around specific layouts. Most tips you find show visuals of people’s homes, but those spaces and sizes are not always appropriate for my approach. I like that she left the home size vague. She talked more about the objects than space. Much of the book was spent on decluttering. Her method is time intensive but sound. You do it all at once. You break it down into categories, but then you declutter everything through that category. Start with clothes. Grab every single piece of clothing item in the house from every room possible. Then sort. If it brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it. It’s a very simple approach. But the bottom line is to keep only objects that bring you joy. My difficulty is with getting rid of paper and certain clothes. Some clothes I paid too much for and only wore a few times, or clothes that are now too big or too small. It feels like a waste of money to get rid of them, but all they do is gather dust and take up space in my closet. My other big obstacle is paperwork. This is where I just shuffle them around from box to box from room to room. I wish I had better knowledge of how to properly dispose of documents since I don’t have ready access to a shredder. But I did proceed with a big purge while reading this book. Its hard not to!

But I cheated. I didn’t really follow her method of working through individual categories. I just went from room to room based on my time availability in the evenings. Doing a major purge like this is so much more different from what I had been doing before. I always have a box in the bedroom for Goodwill donations. I’m always tossing stuff in there. But the box sits in my room for a month or two at a time. While the box fills up, the space I had cleared is filled with something new. Therefore, I was never really decreasing my cluttering. Just moving it around. Going through a major purse as book recommended created some major white spaces in my closets and in my rooms. In fact, it had me nervous that I had lost something important even though I couldn’t really remember what was there in the first place.

She also had a small section on storage. I like that she doesn’t recommend or push for any particular storage device besides that of a basic shoe box. Personally, I’ve gotten very obsessed with these photo boxes from Michael’s over the last five years. I have in almost every cabinet or every shelf in my kitchen and pantry. They are wonderful for storing like items; sauces, pastas, etc. But storage is the absolute last step. The first is to get rid of everything unwanted or unneeded, then find a way to make-do with what is left behind.

In the end, I’ve decreased my extraneous paperwork by more than half, trimmed my wardrobe and updated certain elements to give myself a happier space. There’s less clutter in general around the house, although still more than what I want. I just haven’t had the time to sit down for an intensive purge and organization as the book recommends. You’d really need to devote an entire weekend to get through all the different categories. Although if you work from least sentimental to the really sentimental objects, you’ll have honed in on your criteria for what to keep and what to toss.

There really is a lot of great advice in this tiny little book. The author’s approach is friendly and encouraging but also firm. I could feel her in the room with me when I deciding what to get rid of and what to keep. This book is really more about the psychology of the process of tidying than anything else. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone looking for a way to make their lives a little more streamlined.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

Title: Bring Up the Bodies
Author: Hilary Mantel
Series: Thomas Cromwell Trilogy (book 2)
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Book two of the Thomas Cromwell series picks up not to long where book 1 left us. Click the link to read my review of book one, Wolf Hall. Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have been the recipients of the Booker Prize the year of their publications.

By the time Bring Up the Bodies begins, Henry VIII has been rather unhappily married to Anne Boleyn. Unhappy with her, unhappy with her inability to give him a son, thus finding his eyes wandering towards the young and unassuming Jane Seymour. Book two begins and ends with the quick suspicion, trial and death of Anne Boleyn. Although it took me a good three months to finally finish this book, I enjoyed it and am still incredibly enamored with Mantel’s descriptive prose. I think the biggest draw to this book is that it’s not a romance and it’s not told through the eyes of either Boleyn or Henry VIII. I knew that Anne was sentenced to death due to treason and her suspected affairs on the side. Mantel’s second book put Anne in a more vulnerable place than Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, Anne was vicious, cunning and used (or rather didn’t use) her womanly wiles to find her way to king’s side as his Queen. In this book, she’s discussed and gossiped about more than directly perceived by the reader. I believe the author did that intentionally to ruffle the feathers against Anne’s case. Who was she to defend herself against horrible rumors of incest, affairs and treason against a king well-known for having an eye on a younger maiden. Many of her stalwarts and defenders went by the wayside as Cromwell interrogated everyone to find evidence against her. One can’t help but feel like these charged all trumped-up out of spite for her and just to clear a pathway for Henry’s next marriage.

Despite my lag in reading this book, I enjoyed it more than Wolf Hall. The pacing was much faster than Wolf Hall. Whereas Wolf Hall spanned almost seven years, Bring Up The Bodies quickly went through the three years of their marriage. I do wish there was more mention of the children Mary and Elizabeth, but maybe that’s for another book altogether. I didn’t realize how young Elizabeth was when her mother was executed. For some reason, I thought she was much older. I do wonder what will happen to her and how she does eventually become Queen as Henry had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled shortly before her death.

I’m not sure how quickly I’ll jump into book three, although as far as I know, that does not even have a publication date. I presume that it will end with Cromwell’s execution. I do wonder how he got on the wrong side of the king when he had been a running favorite for so long.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Book Review: That’s Not English by Erin Moore

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About UsTitle: That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us
Author: Erin Moore
Source: My copy
Publisher: Gotham Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781592408856

 

What is the difference between quite and quite, or being scrappy and clever? The difference rests on which part of the Atlantic Ocean you reside. Same words, but totally different meanings for two cultures and countries that stemmed from the same place only 400 years ago. As an American living abroad in England, Erin Moore introduces us to the linguistic differences between American English and English English. I found the book to be full of humorous and insightful chapters highlighting the various social differences between the US and the UK through our shared and often dissimilar vocabulary. Her chapters are short and succinct, although a couple felt really quick. She adds a lot of anecdotal stories about her experiences learning the differences between the different usages. The shorter chapters were usually just an anecdote and no other historical information to go along with the word. She includes a lot of factual information regarding the word, its origin and how its meaning has changed over time. She even includes a wonderful bibliography at the end of the book that cover mostly the same topic. The social customs and differences between Americans and the UK. The book is broken down into 31 chapters. Each chapter takes a different word (middle class, brolly, sorry, etc to name a few), and describes its use in both languages, and discusses what its usage reveals about either culture. Her information was well researched with lots of citations throughout the book. I learned quite a bit about American history reading through this book. I never realized what Yankee actually referred to (well, I had an idea that it was used to describe the Northerners) but I wasn’t aware of its origin before this book.  

What I also enjoyed is that she managed to stay very subjective throughout the book. She did not America bash as most authors are wont to do when comparing the US to another country. She didn’t bash the UK either. In fact, she somewhat deflated my obsession with the UK. Ever since I started watching Sherlock many moons ago, my obsession with England all things English has been steadily rising and rising, at times edging out my obsession with France. I’ve always been torn between the two regions growing up. As a kid, I watched Are You Being Served and Mr. Bean with a religious fervor. I listened to all the British bands (Oasis and Radiohead being my two favorites, both of which I got to see in concert during high school with incredibly close seats). So its no wonder that my obsession has only magnified as an adult. In fact, my English major had an unintentional focus on English Victorian literature. 

This is a wonderful book to pick up for the casual anglophile, or before a trip overseas. Knowing some of the differences between word usages (how the words scrappy, clever and quite are received differently) will definitely help with conversations and not standing out like a tourist. To be honest, what I was left with after finishing this book was  a strong desire to read all the UK versions of my favorite UK books, like Harry Potter. I know I’m not alone in feeling jipped that much of the book has been edited and adapted to fit with American speech. Sneakers instead of trainers, etc. I’d like to read it as a British person would. But alas, unless I find myself shopping at a bookstore in England, I’m stuck with the American English translations.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted to The Novel World on 6/3/2015.

 

Paris in July 2015

July is only a few short away, which means the month-long Paris in July celebration is only a few short weeks away! Did you participate last year? Will you participate this year? Will you indulge me again as I swoon over pastries and tres chic toys and clothes?

I don’t have much beyond the usual planned for this month. I am looking forward to the Santa Barbara French Festival this year. A mini Eiffel Tower, a poodle parade, trinkets, pastries and all sorts of fun things for 2 full days.

If you would like to sign up, head on over to Thyme for Tea for the Mr. Linky page with all the rules. Here’s a quick summary:

The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!  There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French or Paris, or Paris-like, and you can join in! Some ideas might include;

  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction,
  • watching a French movie,
  • listening to French music,
  • cooking French food,
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel

If you’re in need of a book to read, check out my Bonjour Paris page for a complete list of all the Paris/France books I’ve read during the 7 year course of this blog (good grief, has it really been around that long?).

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Book Review: In A French Kitchen

 

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in FranceTitle: In a French Kitchen
Author: Susan Herrmann Loomis
Source: ARC – LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Publisher: Gotham Books (Imprint of Penguin Random House)
ISBN: 9781592408863
Publication Date: June 16th, 2015

To sum it up: In a French Kitchen is like peeking through the window of a French home and seeing how they prepare their meals and manage their kitchens (of various, albeit usually small sizes). This isn’t a memoir. It isn’t a comparison to American cooking habits. It’s strictly a look at how the French manage their kitchens and includes a number of wonderful and easy to follow recipes for the reader to try at home. Loomis covers everything from how to organize the pantry (keep only the essentials) how to shop for produce on an as-needed basis rather than bulk-buying as well as discussions on cooking techniques, and the roles and importance of the primary foods such as cheese, wine and bread in a French home. Loomis weaves in lists, tips and side notes quite seamlessly throughout the book. Although I did find her Pantry Essentials List to be a bit much for a non-professional chef. Then again, she has 4 sinks in her kitchen so her frame of reference it a bit skewed for normal people. The French essentials list she has is more realistic and applicable without her personal additions.

The only parts of that book that irked me where her constant mentions at being able to access farm fresh fruits & vegetables. Literally from a farm or from a neighbor’s extravagant garden. I’m nowhere near this lucky in an urban city. But alas, it’s not about me, it’s about how the French have so much quality food within reach.

Much of the cultural aspects on food I already knew. The French don’t snack between meals, except for the 4p goûter. They buy produce almost daily due to the abundance of fresh markets, boulangeries, fromageries and chartuceries in every arrondissmont. The French can buy their meat fresh and their bread baked fresh daily. In the US, its hard to find a bakery that actually sells bread rather than cakes and pastries. Most butcher shops are in grocery stores with meat that’s been pre-sliced for who knows how long. Despite much of the information not being new to me, Loomis’ writing style was inviting and informative. It basically sums up everything I learned from a number of books and memoirs. Its a good reference source for creating a food philosophy for an aspiring foodie and chef. I’m eager to try out some of the recipes in this book. I just wish she had included a brioche recipe. I’d love to get an authentic recipe for those yummies. One new thing I learned was how much the French love sugar. Vanilla sugar makes an appearance in nearly all the dessert/pastry recipes and I have no idea how to get my hands on some in the US.

Loomis has written a number of books about her foodie experiences in France. One memoir and a few cookbooks. I read and highly enjoyed her memoir On Rue Tatin (although I neglected to review it.) She refers back to that book quite a bit in this new title, so it wouldn’t hurt to give Rue Tatin a read. 

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.com

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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 © 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

 

 

Travel Companions: Celebrity Narrated Audio Books for Summer Travel

It seems like there’s been a major uptick in the amount of audio books being narrated by celebrities. Personally, I think its great. I’m very picky about my audio book narrators and I think celebrities add a lot more flavor and personality into the readings. They do more voices, more impersonations. Having a toddler in tow, I’m definitely looking at audio books for his entertainment as well. Particularly for those long car rides to Southern California. These a few of the titles on my list.

For Families 

  • Kate Winslet narrates Matilda by Roald Dahl & The Mr. Gum Collection by Andy Stanton
  • Anne Hathaway narrates the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • Jeremy Irons narrates James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Neil Patrick Harris narrates the Ribsy and Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
  • Tim Curry narrates the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • David Tennant narrates from the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Ensemble Casts

  • Wreck-It Ralph: Read-Along storybook and CD; performed by: Nolan North; voices, John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling
  • The Bipplo Seed & Other Lost Stories; performed by: Neil Patrick Harris, Anjelica Huston, Jason Lee, Joan Cusack, Edward Herrmann, William H. Macy, and Peter Dinklage

For Teens

  • Ian McKellen narrates Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
  • Wil Wheaton narrates Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Jesse Eisenberg narrates the Curse Workers series by Holly Black
  • Sissy Spacek narrates To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

For Adults

  • Martin Freeman narrates from the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Alan Rickman narrates The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  • Claire Danes narrates The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
  • Benedict Cumberbatch narrates the Thrilling Stories of the Railway by Victor Whitechurch
  • Tom Hiddleston narrates Octopussy & the Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

Autobiographies

    • Bossypants
  • Billy Crystal narrates his book Still Foolin’ Em
  • Johnny Depp narrates Life by Keith Richards

Are there any that I missed? There are so many European versions that we don’t access to in the US, sadly. If someone knows of an international audio book exchange, please let me know!

Currently Reading + Upcoming Reviews

You’ll probably see a flurry of French cooking books on here. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself before the 6th annual Paris in July Reading Challenge takes place. At least, I hope it does. I haven’t heard any news or seen any icons for it yet. Either way, I’ll still be celebrating. Most notably by going down to the Santa Barbara French Festival this year. It should be lots of fun and I expect to come home with lots of little trinkets and treats.

Just Finished Reading
Two very wonderful and insightful books looking at life across the pond. What’s best is that these two books don’t bash US customs and traditions in order to elevate the European counterparts. We can do that on our own just by reading about how life is lived over there. These two books provide readers little windows through which we can peek into another country’s traditions and home life.

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France

  • That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • In A French Kitchen: Tales & Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Hermann Loomis

Just Started Reading
One is an ebook and the other is eaudio, yet both were chosen strictly for their pretty covers. Also, the print copies are all checked out and inundated with numerous holds at my library. So e-copies are all I have for now.

The Miniaturist  The Uninvited Guests

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Put Down & Forgot to Pick Back Up
Note to self: audiobooks by Neil Gaiman  only. Listening to his wonderfully dreamy voice read his dark stories is really the best way to experience Neil Gaiman books.

For the life of me, I can’t get myself to finish Bring Up the Bodies even through I am enjoying it. I have about 60 pages left, and I’m reading it at a pace of 5 pages a week. I’ve already reached the maximum number of renewals for my library copy too. I do plan on finishing it though. I’m too close to the end not to. I’m just not sure how eager I’ll be for book #3 in the trilogy.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Book review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin)

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryTitle: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2014

Although this was published over a year ago, this is a title I’ve been seeing making the rounds on book blogs and on library carts over the past few months. It was actually this month’s book club selection for a library book club that I incidentally ended up skipping.

I fall into an odd spot with this book. My memory of the book is fonder than my thoughts were while I was reading it. This book is an ode to readers and their books. From the first page to the last, the book is filled with notions and quotes that readers will cherish, relate to and appreciate. Although those sentiments and the general story were memorable, there was still much left untouched within the story. The story begins with an awkward sell to a bookseller, A.J., from a publishing sales representative, Amelia. A.J. suffers two major losses at the start of the book. The first is his wife Nic in a tragic car accident. The second is a rare manuscript of Tamerlane, an extremely rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, said to be worth 400 thousand dollars. After returning home from an early morning job, A.J. finds something unexpected and life-changing tucked away into his store. This then starts a change in his life, taking his down different paths than what he could have ever imagined.

The characters are interesting, diverse and quite dysfunctional on many levels. Those parts of the story I liked. At times the story and the quotes were too sentimental, maudlin even.  It was very purple-prose. Much of the story was predictable and many of twists were cliché. The pacing was too choppy for me. Things just happen from leaping over years, with no transition and no depth. Everything just falls into place, no trouble or effort involved. It was a cop-out gimmick. For all the drama purported through the character’s and their descriptions, there is virtually no conflict in the book. Everything resolves neatly, everyone communicates, is empathic and sympathetic all the time. Its an ideal world of fiction. Maybe that was the author’s intent?

Weekend Cooking: Picnic in Provence

 Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co, 2015
ISBN: 9780316246163
 
Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes This is the sequel to Lunch in Paris which I absolutely adored. Its one of my favorite French memoirs. The sequel finds us in a small Provencal town of Céreste with Elizabeth, Gwendal and their newest addition to the family, baby Alexandre. What I appreciated the most in this book was Elizabeth’s insightful views on parenting and the difficulties of parenting that no one ever wants to talk about. She spent a good portion talking about her difficulties bonding with her son. I think its something all new parents go through at some point of the early years.
 
Although Bard has lived in France for 10 years, she still feels like an outsider, always learning and growing. Although, as a side-effect, she lives inbetween worlds. Neither fully at home in France nor in the US. Her observations are poignant, and her chapters are short and to the point. She doesn’t dwell too long on any one topic and at times it seems like the chapters are lifted directly from a journal she kept. What I liked about the book is the small town they moved to. Céreste is incredibly small, and hardly even shows up in the guide books. Although it’s now found a place on the map with the emergence of Elizabeth’s and Gwendal’s ice cream shop,  Scaramouche, in the town square. I’ve always loved Provence. When I think about my honeymoon, I think most about my time in Arles, not Paris. Surprise, surprise. I like the small glimpses into the casual everyday lifestyle of the country, rather than the generic generalizations of big-city living. I sort of wish I reread Lunch in Paris before picking up this book, because I feel like Elizabeth’s voice as a narrator has grown and matured in the years between the books.  
 
At some point between books, Bard also wrote a cookbook? She makes a slight mention of it in one of the chapters, although I haven’t come across any cookbooks penned by the author. Unless she meant the recipes in these books. These wonderful sounding recipes that make your mouth drool with hunger and anticipation. One thing that I’ve always loved about Bard’s recipes is that she provides a mix of recipes from her life in the states and her life in France. Each recipe has a special story and place in her heart. It makes me want to jot down little stories that go with some of my family’s favorite meals and kitchen concoctions.
 
Sadly, with the book having a large number of holds on it at the library, I couldn’t keep it for as long as I would have liked. I didn’t get a chance to make any of the recipes in this book, although reading it did inspire me to pick up some new-to-me ingredients in the grocery store and try to create my own recipes for dinners. Most of which were semi-flops, so nothing worth reposting, unless you want a what-not-to-cook guide.

Reads and Reviews

I’ve been in and out of a reading slump lately. I have 3 very well-written books that I’m reading right now, but I just haven’t been in the mental state to want to read. But alas, the tide is turning and now I’m rushing through these books, reading them at any free moment I have. So there should be some new reviews coming soon.

Completed:

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.

This is the sequel to Lunch in Paris which I absolutely adored. Its one of my favorite French memoirs. The sequel finds us in a small Provencal town of Céreste with Elizabeth, Gwendal and their newest addition to the family, baby Alexandre.

Currently Reading

I’ll probably finish these next 3 books in the order they appear in this list. I’m reading The Storied Life of AJ Fikry for a bookclub meeting in the middle of May. I’ve given up on the BBC series Wolf Hall, so I’m not in as much of a rush to complete Bring Up the Bodies. Trigger Warning I started months ago and it keeps getting pushed to the side because…well, reasons.

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  2.Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)  3.Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances