Paris Letters by Janice McLeod

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

After saving up enough money to eventually quit her job as a copywriter, Janice MacLeod travels to Europe for a few weeks to rediscover herself and figure out what she wants to do with her life. Although she’s always had an interest in art, she somehow fell into the world of corporate advertising. The worst kind too, she’s responsible for all that junk mail that arrives in your junk mail. 3 days into her stay in Paris, she eyes the handsome butcher across the street from a cafe she frequents. After being nudged by a friend to speak to this butcher, things in her life start to finally fall into place. The weeks turn into months then turn into years. Along the way, she reignited her artistic drive. She’s the founder of the Etsy shop Paris Letters. When you sign up for a subscription (1, 6, or 12 months), she will mail you a hand painted personalized letter from Paris.

The book is a quick read, and I, like many others, am so jealous of her journey. It was interesting witnessing her relationship develop with the butcher, when neither of them could speak the same language for the beginning of their time together. He didn’t speak English, and she didn’t speak much French or Polish. Paris is a beautiful city with so much history. This is another good memoir for Francophiles to add to their shelves.

*Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod was originally posted at thenovelworld.com on 7/21/2014*

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is ugly & the only place of refugee is the online world of Oasis, a virtual utopia (like the Sims games). When the creator dies and leaves behind a maze of puzzles and riddles based on 1980s trivia, Wade’s new mission is to crack the code and win before the evil corporate clones do.

Although the concept of this book is incredibly entertaining, I found the characters to be annoying and the love story to feel awkward and forced. I think what bothered me the most about this book is how easily things fell into place for Wade. He was always at the right place at the right time. He knew all the right moves, had all the answers, all the motivation, all the luck. As ironic as it is to say about a sci-fi book, the convenience of all the obstacles made the story unrealistic. It took away from the drama. It never really felt like there much of a challenge up against Wade throughout the book. It’s not the best written book, but the story is entertaining and most adults will appreciate the 80s references. There are so many 80s references in this book. That seems to be a new trend, especially with YA books. I’d recommend this for folks who like Ender’s Game and other titles of that nature. The audio book is narrated by Will Wheaton, which is worth the purchase price purely for that reason alone.

*Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was originally posted at thenovelworld.com on 7/14/2014*

My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt

Jocelyn lives in a small town in France, neither happy nor unhappy with her life. She lives a life half in the past and half in the present, afraid to think about the future until she one day wins the jackpot lottery of 18 million euros. Then, she faces the tough decisions of what to do with her life now that the possibilities are endless.

The book is very melancholy, but easy to relate to. Jocelyn is the every day woman, devoted to her family, maintained by small tokens of happiness from friends, a blog, and small gestures from family. What I really appreciate is the genuine dilemma she faces having won the lottery. Questioning the motives of those around her, trying to decide if she really needs it or not, her wish list expanding & becoming more intricate as time passes. It’s a well written short novel that will have the reader asking what they would do in her shoes, or maybe realizing that money doesn’t always equate to happiness.

Find this book at your local library

*This entry was originally posted on www.thenovelworld.com on Friday June 6th, 2014*

End of the Year Wrap-Up

It’s not closure for this blog unless I do a year in review type of post, I suppose. I have read a few memorable books this year, I have learned quite a few memorable life lessons as well. This has been a roller-coaster of a year for me.

Things I’ve learned:

About life -

  • Parenting is tricky. It can be Saturday-New-York-Times-Crossword hard, but it is also the most wonderful thing I have ever done in my life.
  • I’ve learned who my real friends and support system are postpartum. Its funny & sad how quickly you learn which non-parent friends are child friendly and which friends don’t care about your child at all.
  • Meetup.com is a wonderful, wonderful creation. I love it for helping me meet new people who are in my situation.
  • I’ve learned to take chances, to be more assertive and to speak up for myself.
  • I’ve found a new job in a field that I love. I feel whole again as a children’s librarian for the public.
  • I’ll probably never learn how to sew. At least not until my little bookworm is in his first school play and I need to make a costume for him.
  • For the first time in years, I actually feel my age. For the longest time, I was always in the “25-years-old” mindset whenever anyone asked me my age. This year, I feel my age and I am going into this new decade of my life with more confidence and determination than ever.
  • Wouldn’t you know it, after I have a kid and am super busy in the evenings, there is now a weekly French meet-up near where I live. Rats. Why couldn’t you have started 2 years ago? Why didn’t I start one 2 years ago?!? Maybe I’ll go when the little one is older. Maybe I’ll take him with me and have him learn French in addition to English and Armenian. Hah.
  • I’ve learned that I’ll never learn my lesson. I’ve given up on this and my other WordPress blog. I’ve started a Tumblr Blog strictly for my professional purposes as a librarian. It’s mostly just for me to keep track of all the cool links and articles I read online about childhood literacy and the promotion of literacy in the library. I could have converted this blog towards that purpose, but the Tumblr layout is more efficient for my needs. Sorry WordPress…
  • I’ve started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer again and have begun to think that maybe Giles is subconsciously to blame for me going to library school.

About books -

  • I’ve learned to embrace non-fiction as my reading medium. It just feels more rewarding reading non-fiction than fiction.
  • I’ve learned that books aren’t as important as life experiences. I’d rather go out and explore the world around me, rather than read about it.
  • I’ve learned that I really don’t read other people’s book reviews. I just look for shiny, new titles to add to my reading list. I judge a book by its cover.
  • I would still rather watch a documentary than read a non-fiction book, so I’m not sure how to extrapolate that to how I feel about fiction…
  • My favorite books this year have been:(1) The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (2) The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair (3) Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
  • I liked the books I read in 2012 more than the books I read in 2013. I really didn’t like anything I read in 2013. =/

An Ending

I’m about 2 months shy of the 6th anniversary of this blog. It started out humbly, as a page for me to ramble about books and other nonsense without cluttering my friends’ Livejournal feed. It somehow morphed into this larger than life book blog. It has introduced to an infinite amount of new books, to a whole community of avid readers and bibliophiles stabbing away at their to-be-read piles, only add 2 books for every one they finish. 

My life has taken a major detour from books this year when my son was born. Although I do still read, the enthusiasm I had for blogging has begun to wane. I find it harder and harder to sit down at a computer to actually write a blog post. The little one sleeps as I type this. That doesn’t happen often enough. Try as I might, I’ve had more filler posts than substantive ones throughout the year. Random lists and links have taken the place of discussions about books. I think its about time for me to hang up my hat and call it a night. I’ve spent 6 years cultivating a list of books that have marked my life in numerous ways. My reading styles have changed, my favorite authors have multiplied, and I have found my voice through this blog. But being a parent with a now walking 9.5 month old makes it harder to prioritize this blog. I’d rather sit and read to my child than type a review. I’d rather sit down to a nice dinner with my husband than write a review. You get my point. 

I may occasionally post something here, I do need a space to collect those wonderfully random things one finds on the Internet, but don’t expect to see anything regular. From here on out, I’ll just be updating my Goodreads profile with reading updates. Hope to see you there!

Upcoming reviews

I realize I’ve been a bit MIA here. Between my new job (yay Children’s librarian!) and parenting, there is precious little time to sit down and read a book that isn’t a picture book that isn’t Lets Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy or Goodnight Moon.

Well, 3 big things have happened in the last couple of weeks.

1. I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee (the most pathetically sad 1st World problem day of my life)

2. The baby bookworm started sleeping through the night! And going to sleep without a fight at his appropriate bedtime!

3. I finished 3 books in the last 2 weeks. 3! Granted, I started them all over 2 months ago, but still. Once I find the time and mental capacity to sit down and write a review, these are the books you’ll hear about:

Starbucked : a double tall tale of caffeine, commerce, and culture Starbucked by Taylor Clark  

My 2 cents: Although well written and informative, this book doesn’t really tell you anything about Starbucks that you haven’t already heard or surmised. The book is also a bit dated, what with the crazy number of changes having taken place at Starbucks since this printed. They sell Butterbeer now (what the what?) and for some idiotic reason, stopped selling decaffeinated coffee after 12pm (you just lost one regular customer Howard Schulz) and they bought out the beloved San Francisco chain Le Boulange and now all their pastries are back to tasting bland and gross, but at least they have spiffy names.

Where'd you go, Bernadette : a novel Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

My 2 cents: Hilarious and witty. It makes me want to live in Seattle and be friends with Bernadette griping about all the silly little things in life. The ending didn’t sit too well for me, but the entire book is really, really funny.

Getting to 50/50 : how working parents can have it all Getting to 50/50 How Working Parents Can Have it All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober

My 2 cents: This is like a call to arms for pregnant women contemplating how to balance the work life/parenting spheres in their life. It’s very informative, but very repetitive. Although despite its very, very, very strong insistence that women return to work after having their babies, the book’s audience is indeed the male population. Asking that men do their fair share of housework, and parenting and letting mom’s work and pursue their careers rather than put it on hold.

(the mini reviews here are in case I never get around to writing an actual well-thought-out review).

Brain Rules for Baby – John Medina

Brain rules for baby : how to raise a smart and happy child from zero to fiveBrain Rules for Baby by John Medina
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher
ISBN:
Find this book at your local library

In this book, Medina offers up a scientific perspective on raising children and nurturing the minds of newborns and infants. His book follows and instructs parents on the best care for their babies, aged zero to five. Have gone through a number of lackluster parenting books both as a new parent and as a librarian, I can readily say that this is one of the better books out there. Medina’s points boil down to a couple major elements. His points, all scientifically backed by studies, are not all that much different from Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe. My inner Francophone feels justified.

Medina’s main points are:

  • Be authoritative.
  • Set your boundaries,
  • Set consequences for broken rules,
  • Stick to those consequences
  • Be empathetic to your child’s needs.

These are the elements that go into raising a well-rounded, well-nurtured child. Children thrive on routine and structure. Setting boundaries helps them feel safe. Being openly communicative with your child helps them feel involved and that goes a long way towards building a good relationship.

I have a small notebook full of notes from this title. Although I borrowed a library copy, I am tempted to purchase my own just to reread certain sections. I found this book to be well written, well-paced with just enough of the author’s own experiences to round out the science and studies for his explanations. This is a great book for parents of newborn children, especially those who are like me. Who want to push their children to their full potential, but don’t want to go overboard with it and turn into a tiger mom.

For What its Worth

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Weekend Cooking: Suffering Succotash by Stephanie Luvianovic

Suffering succotash : a picky eater's quest to understand why we hate the foods we hateSuffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate by Stephanie Lucianovic
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher: Perigee Trade, 2012
ISBN: 9780399537509
Find this book at your local library

Former picky eater, and now foodie/chef Stephanie Lucianovic takes a humorous and in-depth look at why and how picky eaters are picky eaters. Part memoir, part science and part humor is how she makes her point that picky eaters aren’t just fussy, but have valid medical, psychological and physical reasons for their tastes and reactions to specific foods.

She examines taste buds, she goes to a genetics lab to examine her DNA, she speaks to food behavioral therapists, parents, friends, chefs, and children in the Bay Area and around the nation. Her work is lively, chatty and informative. I bet the audio cd would be a hoot to listen to if she narrates it. I’m also a little bit partial to this book because most of her research is done around the Bay Area. She lives in Menlo Park, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever brought her young son to the baby storytime I did there. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but that its a small world after all if she did. =p

This is a book that picky eaters and foodies can associate with. Although it is chock-full of research, and anecdotes, there isn’t much in the way of advice other than “try new food” and “don’t push foods onto kids, they’ll just hate them all the more.” She makes a good point that kids today are exposed to a wider variety of foods via farmer’s market not to mention the super yummy creations of Ella’s Kitchen for tiny tots.

We are all picky eaters in our way. As much as I love cinnamon buns, and crave them on a regular basis, I avoid eating them because I can’t stand the sticky sauce that is poured over it, same goes for most drenched finger foods (ie ribs). Too messy = not for me. My husband can’t stand anything pickled (cucumbers, pickles, etc). We love food, love to cook and consider ourselves foodie-wannabes, but we still have our hang-ups. Everyone does! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your health, then its really no big deal is mine and the author’s stance.

So, what food have you avoided recently?

Reading for pleasure can improve a child’s performance at school.

The University of London’s Institute of Education Children has released a study showing that:

Children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers, according to new research from the Institute of Education (IOE).

Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown conducted the research, analyzing the reading behaviour of approximately 6,000 young people being followed by the 1970 British Cohort Study. “They looked at how often the teenagers read during childhood and their test results in maths, vocabulary and spelling at ages 5, 10 and 16.”

Apparently, the ages of 10 and 16 are the most important for cognitive development when it comes to reading for pleasure. Also, children who were read to regularly at the age of 5 performed better than teenagers (age 16) who were not read to.

Studies like these are encouraging for teachers and librarians. Particularly with September being National Library Card Month. What better incentive to sign you little one up for a library card than to encourage and foster a love of reading that will benefit them in so many ways.

 

Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading’, by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, is the latest paper to be published in the CLS Working Paper Series.