Tag Archives: Book review

Book Review: The President’s Hat

The President's Hat

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

Find this book at your local library

Can one hat make a difference? According to this collection of loosely connected stories, it can. The book starts with Daniel Mercer. He’s an accountant with a happy marriage, and a solid but not really successful career. During a solo and indulgent dinner out, Francois Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him. After the presidential party has left, Daniel discovers that Mitterrand’s black felt hat has been left behind on his chair. Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir. As he leaves the restaurant, he begins to feel somehow different and soon his life takes a series of unexpected but welcome turns. Although the story doesn’t end there. The hat then finds itself belonging to a young female writer, a retired perfume designer and so on, changing the lives of all the people who pick up the hat and put it on their head.

I read this originally for Paris in July, but I never got around to reviewing it. I picked this book up as a spur of the moment decision. I was on my lunch hour at the library and I needed something to read. To that effect, the book found me as serendipitously as the hat found its owners. This book was a very enjoyable read. Each person the hat connected with had a lifetime’s worth of stories, layers and complexities. I like that no two stories followed the same path. The hat did bring a vote of confidence, a change of pattern for all these people. Its funny how much the small things in our life shape the larger aspects that we outwardly display to our friends, colleagues and family. I liked the overall message of this book as well. Although Daniel viewed the hat as a crutch for his success, he really didn’t need the hat at all. He just needed a vote of confidence, which is really what everyone needs to make better decisions in their lives.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Book review: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

All Joy and No Fun: the Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior

Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2014]

Find this book at your local library

This book is a mix of scientific studies & personal anecdotes that gives this book a unique look into the lives if parents. It’s not an advice book. Just a heartfelt account of why and how children effect our lives so strongly from birth. It also discusses the roles of modern patenting & its evolution over time.

I listened to the audio book, narrated by the author. As a new mom, my son was a year old when I first listened to this book, the stories and science resonated sharply with me. I think this should be given to all new parents, or expecting parents. Its offers such a better and objective perspective of the strain and struggles of parenting on the parents. So much of parenting is focused on the fetus, the infant, the toddler and the teen. This book does a great job filling in that void.

Although its been a few months since I last visited this book, I think it has impacted my parenting philosophy in little ways. For one, I make sure to my relationship with my husband a priority and I really don’t stress over the small chores of daily life. I enjoy every moment I have with my family. One of Senior’s most prominent facts is that the year after a child is born, is usually the year when happiness in marriage starts its slow decline. According to the author, it happens anyway, but there’s a sharp dip right after a new child is born. New and fussy infants do put a huge strain on parents. You question things about yourself and your spouse you never even realized existed. But, I think the true test comes with handling these hurdles.

This is a funny, insightful and fairly accurate book of what happens after the kids are born. There is so much in this book that resonated with me, that helped me understand that what I was going through was normal and that I wasn’t alone in those feelings and thoughts. It is not a parenting book or a how-to manual. Just a simple analysis of different studies, polls and anecdotes of what this generation’s parents are experiencing.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Book Review: Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, #3)

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Disney Hyperion Books, [2013]

Find this book at your local library

******This review may contain spoilers if you have not read books 1 or 2 of the Heist Society Series.*****

If there is any one book where I could just insert myself into the narrative and partake in all the fun and glory, it would be the Heist Society series by Ally Carter. You can click on the links to read my reviews for books 1 (Heist Society) and 2 (Uncommon Criminals).

Katerina Bishop and her crew are back in yet another heist caper. It’s another high stakes game, but this time its Hale caught in the crossfire after his grandmother passes away. At the start of book 3, Katerina and Hale have finally proclaimed their feelings for another despite their incredibly different upbringing. Katerina in a world of thieves and Hale in a world of luxury. When Hale’s grandmother dies and he is given responsibility of Hale Enterprises, Katerina’s instincts kick in, as she determines that Hale is the mark of a con. Now its up to her and her friends to figure out how to save Hale, without telling him and breaking his heart at the truth.

Just like the previous books, this one is full of wit, teenage angst and frustrations, adventure and mystery. I think of the three, this one is my favorite. They keep getting better and better. The plot never went the way I expected it to. The ending took me by surprise, and all the twists and turns were incredibly fun to keep up with. I think I read this book in an entire weekend, I really didn’t want to put it down. This one definitely delves more into the character development of Hale, and there is a lot of Uncle Eddie. It’s a nice change of pace from the previous Katerina-centric books. Either way, it’s a fun Ocean’s 11 series for teens and adults. My only question is when will we see the movie?

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Flirting with French by William Alexander

Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me & Nearly Broke My Heart by William Alexander

Algonquin Books, Sept 2014

Find this book at your local library

William Alexander has a desire that many, many Francophiles share with him.

Some Americans want to visit France. Some want to live in France. I want to be French.

Thus, this book chronicles his attempts at learning French, learning to play boules and understanding the people and the culture. What I appreciated the most about this book is that it totally different from every other I-want-to-be-French memoir I have read. And I have read plenty. What makes this book so different are the lessons in linguistics and the history of language that are laid out throughout the book. Alexander is an incredibly charming narrator. He has a sly, self-deprecating wit that makes this book very relatable. Its like having a conversation with a friend. He’s a happily married 57-year-old going on 58 who wants to learn French. The fact that his wife is indifferent to the whole situation is amusing to me. That most of his struggles and hardships of learning the language at home, and not in France make the book all the more approachable.

He goes through a number of obstacles in his attempts to learn French, including some very serious heart conditions and surgeries. Although he touches upon this subject lightly and with good humor. He learns the language through a number of formats. He studies by book at home, with the Rosetta Stone, with immersion classes and French pen-pals. He joins a French meet-up group in his local New York. He even goes to France for a 2-week all French immersion class with a rather random group of travelers. He covers a lot of group with pop linguistic history as well as discussing how and why human being are able to learn language. This is an interesting and informative read. Anyone learning a language can very easily relate to Alexander’s experiences, frustrations and achievements. This is a great book, and not just for Francophiles, but for anyone learning a new language.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

The Trouble With Boys by Peg Tyre

The trouble with boys : a surprising report card on our sons, their problems at school, and what parents and educators must do

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre

Peg Tyre provides a sobering look at how the modern school system is failing boys. Boys nationwide, across all lines of wealth and poverty are straggling behind girls. Boys are less motivated, less inclined to participate in school activities. This goes from homework to extracurriculars (not including sports). Since so much effort has been put into supporting and promoting female success at school, the success of the boys has fallen by the wayside.

One of Tyre’s main points is that this is a highly controversial topic. How do you discuss supporting boy curricula without is coming across as anti-girl? Boys and girls learn differently. Tyre discusses that in-depth in her book using a number of examples and studies. She visits schools and speaks with teachers and administrators across the nation. As it stands, boys are suffering. Boys are constantly trying to be reformed to be less aggressive, more docile and that is not cohesive with the developmental milestones. Boys are squirmy, they are wiggly. They cannot sit still for hours on end. Schools are cutting back on recess and lunch hours, and in the end, boys are being misdiagnosed with ADHD all because they don’t have the space or time to exert their extra energy. It’s very troubling to me, a mother of a young son. I already worry about his education in California (one of the worst ranked in the nation), but to add this on top of my other concerns is just disheartening. Tyre does end each chapter with advice for parents, teachers and administrators. The book is about 6 years old, so I do wish she would update this edition. I’d love to know what the state of the national school system is now, particularly with the introduction of the Common Core standards.

This is a great book for parents of boys, especially the highly active ones. I feel like I am more on-alert about his proclivities and personality. I feel more prepared for whatever future discussions I’ll have with teachers about his classroom participation.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Nurtureshock : new thinking about children

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Alternative title to this book could be:

  • All Your Instincts About Parenting are Wrong
  • This is How We Unknowingly Harm Our Kids

Nurture Shock has been a New York Times Bestselling title and made a number of waves when it was first publishes. Bronson and Merryman discuss a myriad of topics and parental instincts that are actually damaging to our children. Some of the notable elements are:

- Call our children smart. This forces smart kids to cut back on effort for fear of failure. Praise their efforts and see their grades and comprehension rise.

- The entire concept of the US school system is designed to be convenient for adults, not the kids. School starts early so that teachers & parents can avoid traffic. All that testing done to get your kid into preschool has no merit and is not a fair assessment as kids mental capabilities are not linear.

- Educational shows produce more aggression in shows that regular TV. Why? Because of the large number of insults, jests and nuanced bullying that is unresolved. Most American TV shows are centered on witty rebarbs and smart comebacks. While that may well work for adults, children don’t really understand the difference. They see someone be insulting without any reprimand. Just look at DW in the TV show Arthur.

Other topics discussed are: lying, self-esteem, teen rebellion, sibling relationships, how kids view race, aggression and language acquisition. To say that I really enjoyed this audio book is an understatement. What Bronson and Merryman do is dig through an enormous amount of studies to give us the main bullet points. Much of what is good for our kids is counter to our natural beliefs and counter to the society that has been established for these kids. The language acquisition segment was perhaps my favorite and I have been trying many of the suggestions made by Bronson’s and Merryman’s observations with great success with my son. I just really wish that his focus hadn’t been on mono-lingual girls. I’ve already heard that boys have a slower language acquisition rate, and after this book, I’m still wondering if that’s true. What about kids who are raising in a bilingual home? Where does their rate of language acquisition fall? Other than the fact that by the age of 1, children have filtered out all other language to focus on the ones they hear daily, I don’t know much about this topic. Maybe there are no studies done on it, but learning about rich girls learning to talk eloquently at 15 months does not relate at all to my situation.

This is a great book for parents and falls into the topic of parenting books that I generally like to read. Fact-based discussions of scholarly social studies.

If you liked Nurture Shock, then I readily recommend these titles as well:

 

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*

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?

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, someday, maybe : a novelSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2013
ISBN: 9780345532749
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Franny Banks is an aspiring actress in New York. By day, she’s a waitress, and at night, she’s taking acting classes and preparing for auditions. This novel is what most can assume to be a semi-autobiographical account of Lauren Graham’s experiences as a struggling actress before becoming a household name with her role on Gilmore Girls.

Overall, I liked Someday, Someday, Maybe. Although I can’t really call it a great piece of literature. Everything about this book is cliche and predictable. But I connected to Franny (the only likeable character in this book) and I was cheering for her. Her character is flawed, insecure and very impressionable. At times it was annoying and I wished for some character development, with any of the characters really. Everyone is so two-dimensional and fit exactly into the stereotypes that we non-actors cast onto people in the media industry.

But I swear, I liked the book! Its a good quick summer read. Its a beach read. Light and fluffy with a decent sense of humor for some good chuckles. I particularly liked the doodles and small bits of comedy in Franny’s planner, used to signify the start of each chapter. Its definitely something fans of Gilmore Girls will appreciate. Its no coincidence that Franny shares a very, very similar sense of humor as Lorelei Gilmore. Amy Sherman-Palladino would be proud to see the character re-emerge as a struggling actress in New York.

A Town Like Paris by Bryce Corbett

A town like Paris : falling in love in the City of lightA Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light by Bryce Corbett
Age: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir/Paris
Source: Overdrive
Format: Ebook
Find this book at your local library
 

Stuck in a rut in London, Australian native Bryce Corbett applies on a whim to a position he is highly unqualified for in Paris. For reasons he can’t figure out, he is given the position and is soon on his way to the City of Light, the city where he has dreamt of living for years. Once in Paris, his adventures are nothing short of hilarious. The type that makes you shake your head in wonder.

I wonder if Bryce Corbett and Stephen Clarke ever met for a cafe while in Paris? Fans of Clarke will enjoy Corbett’s wry wit, his male perspective on the most romantic city in Europe, as well as his lack of aspirations towards work, and his overdrive commitment to drinking, partying and falling in love with the Lido showgirl, Shay.

Sometimes, I think a male perspective on Paris is just the right book. Girls tend to sugarcoat, or go into purple prose when it comes to Paris’ charms, but guys are more direct and like to focus on the negatives of the city. I do have to say, that I am insanely jealous of his situation. Being paid to live in a city, albeit he didn’t care for his work at all, but the means to an end, provided him with up to 6 years of Parisian life.

His stories are funny, and well chronicled. From the escapades of dating, to the foibles of dealing with the French bureaucracy, to starting a mildly popular band that plays in the bars of the city, Corbett’s prose seems genuine. Although at times I wondered if he fluffed up the story just to heighten the hilarity. His descriptions of the people, the places and events that took place in Paris had me laughing out loud or shaking my head in wonder. The chapters are short, but there are quite a few of them. A few felt repetitive, and some just dragged on, but for the most part, this is a highly entertaining read.