Category Archives: Books

What I’m reading and doing

Despite the time of year, Fall has not quite hit the Bay Area yet. We still have pretty high temperature and clear blue skies as far as the eye can see.

That still doesn’t stop me from acting like its fall and that the temperatures are cooling. I’m cooking more and crafting more too. Can’t say much for TV and Movies. Its been baseball games everyday since the LA Dodgers are in the playoffs.

What I’m seeing: 

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station

This is a wonderful (and small) state park near Half Moon Bay. There’s even a hostel in the park. Wouldn’t this be an amazing view to wake up to on vacation?

pigeon point 1

Ano Nuevo Open Preserve:

I wasn’t lying about the clear blue skies. This gem is also in Pescadero (about an hour drive away from San Francisco), and its a short 2 mile hike (4 miles round-trip). You get gorgeous views of the ocean and we got to see a small grouping of lady elephant seals hanging out on the beach.

ano nuevo

What I’m cooking:

salmon

Pan fried salmon with caulifower rice and steamed veggies. Delish! And it only took about 25 minutes to make too. I sauteed the cauliflower rice and mushrooms, steamed the broccoli and green beans. It assembled really quickly.

What I’m crafting:

This is my second $5 in Paris sweater. Right now I’m finished up the sleeves. I improvised on the pattern and decided to make this long, cableknit sleeves. But now I have to frog the sleeves and start all over because I made the larges too large. Oops.

I finished this pillow case as my final project for my Sewing 101 class. Its much smaller than it looks, but I’m very proud of it. I learned how to do the fancy French seam for this project.

I’ve also enrolled in another sewing class. This time, we’re making pajama bottoms. I’m so excited for this project. I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew my own clothes for as long as I can remember. I’ll post pictures of that project soon.

What I’m reading:

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of…The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

Narrated by Levar Burton.

Fred Rogers was an amazingly patience, loving and emphatic human being. The first 3/4ths of this book is a recap of the recent documentary, “Won’t You Be my Neighbor” but this last portion focuses more on his social ties to friends, family and the community at large.

There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Comin…There Are No Grown-Ups by Pamela Druckerman

This book has me terrified (but also a little bit excited) to turn 40. I’m still plenty of years away from that milestone, but seriously… I need to start preparing for that next era of my life now before it catches me off guard.
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The Lido – Libby Page (book review)

The Lido

  • The Lido by Libby Page
  • Source: Library
  • Publisher: Orion, 2018

The Brockwell Lido has been home and comfort to Rosemary since her childhood. Going for swims during WW2, meeting the love of her life George and making friends in the neighborhood has kept Rosemary going strong for nearly all 80+ years of her life. Paradise Living is an uppity high-rise building, paving over memories type of corporation that put in a bid to buy the Lido and turn it into a member’s-only gym for their tenants. Now Rosemary has partnered with newcomer journalist Kate to try and save the Lido.

This book is really a heartwarming and sweet story about friendship and perseverance. I wish I can be like Rosemary when I’m 87. She’s an amazing character, fragile and strong, smart and naive. Kate is also a great compliment to Rosemary. Kate is a bit more dull, but still a sweet, if not naive, character. All of the characters were kind of too good to be true. it would have been nice if someone from Paradise Living had made an appearance as a physical form of the conflict Rosemary and Kate are battling against. The story is pretty much one-sided with only Rosemary and Kate’s perspective on why and how the Lido should remain open. Then again, corporations like Paradise Living do quietly swoop in to purchase and delete the old standby’s of neighborhoods before anyone really notices that they’ve gone.

This is a great “beach read” though, because all of the scenes with Kate and Rosemary had me wanting to jump into a pool and start doing laps.

New Adventures

As much as I read, I also love to craft. I’ve been knitting for almost 15 years (still beginner level), but I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew. When I was in elementary and middle school, I would spend hours in class doodling away, designing different outfits on paper dolls that I would draw. My fashion career never really passed the paper stage.

Now, at 35, working a full time job in the library with a child in Kindergarten, I’ve finally decided to fulfill a dream of mine from childhood. I’ve signed up for beginner sewing classes at the local adult education school. Its an evening course once a week for 5 weeks. Each class is 3 hours long. Its a dedicated time devoted to learning the basic techniques of sewing with like-minded learners. Its an evening class, so I can just zip over there right after work.

It wasn’t until I signed up for this class that I realized how precious a dedicated 3 hour block of time once a week really is. Its something I never get to enjoy with life and responsibilities. It feels wonderful to treat myself to this luxury of time to learn this new skill.

We have 4 main projects that we’ll be working on for this course. A pin cushion, burp cloth, a travel pillow and a tote bag.

This one was a tricky one to do! It didn’t help that my old sewing machine wasn’t functioning well. Its been deemed beyond repair. I had to buy a new one. My first attempt was so mangled. This pin cushion is actually my 2nd attempt. I did a ladder stitch to seal it off, and that remains unseen for a reason. I did learn about seams, pressing, learning how to backpress on the sewing machine, threading the machine, winding a bobbing, and stuffing.

The 2nd project has been a burp cloth. This was seemed much easier to do than the pin cushion. Maybe I’m just getting more used to sewing?

For this one, I learned how to read a pattern, pin it to the fabric and cut out the fabric. I stitched the pieces together, smoothed it out, uncurled the edges and pressed it before finishing it off with the ladder stitch. I’m so proud of the ladder stitch on this project. Its practically invisible! All that’s left for this is the topstitching for a nifty little design.

Next week, we’re starting on the travel pillow. Hopefully I can start and finish it during class. I already have plans to sign up for the Sewing 102 course being offered in October. That course continues from what we learned in Sewing 101, and its centered on just one project, pajamas!

The Secrets We Carried – Mary McNear

The Secrets We Carried (Butternut Lake, #6)

The Secrets We Carried by Mary McNear

  • Source: William Morrow Publishing – Advanced reader copy
  • Publication date: 9/25/2018

Quinn LaPointe returns to Butternut Lake ten years after the unexpected and tragic death of her then boyfriend and his two best friends. A dedication ceremony for the departed brings up untouched memories and guilt as Quinn tries to make sense of her emotions and make amends in her old hometown.

I loved McNear’s writing easy-going writing style. She makes the lake sound extremely beautiful and tranquil, despite the tragedy that happened on the frozen-over lake. Quinn was a likeable enough character, although I never really understood why she felt so guilty for what happened between her and Tanner or between her and her former best friend Gabriel. The small town did carry a lot of secrets, a lot of secrets that everyone presumes lead to the death of Tanner Lightman, each person finding their own version of guilt and responsibility for his death. Although its #6 in a series, it seems to be a stand-alone title.

 

Not Our Kind – Kitty Zeldis

Not Our Kind

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

  • Source: William Morrow Publishing – Advanced Reader copy
  • Publication date: 9/4/2018

One a rainy day, two years after WW2, Eleanor Moskowitz’s world is turned around after being rear-ended by the taxi cab of Patricia Bellamy. The two come from two completely different worlds. Eleanor, the Jewish daughter of a widowed hatmaker, and Patricia, a wealthy wife living in Park Avenue. The two are brought together due to Patricia’s daughter Margeaux and her special need of a tutor. Once taken into this world, Eleanor’s life quickly turns upside down, even changing her last name to Moss, to better fit in with Mrs. Bellamy’s crowd. A summer retreat at the Bellamy’s countryside reveals that things aren’t always as they appear.

I loved the setting of the book. The immediate post-WW2 era is one that is usually overlooked. It was an incredible look back at this time in history when emotions ran so many generations are still still recovering from the after-effects of the war. It seemed too simple that life just flowed from day to day for Eleanor and Patricia. Sometimes, the viewpoints, particularly of Tom, felt way ahead its time. In the book, it seemed like Patricia’s life was falling apart, while Eleanor remained calm and collected all the way through, always saying or having the viewpoint to make all the difference. I wish Eleanor had some more depth to her character. I’ve never been a fan of the can’t-do-any-wrong type of characters. Everyone has a fault. Although, Eleanor’s saintlike quality was counter-balanced by Wynn Bellamy’s devilish behavior towards any woman he came across. This book is an interesting character study, and it does have my interested piqued in learning more about the post World War 2 era of American social history.

Anticipated Fall Reads

Fall is almost here! That means more cups of warm coffee, more cozy sweaters and more and more books to fill up my non-work hours.

These are the titles I’m most looking forward to digging into this fall.

The Dinner List

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle (9/11/2018) Flatiron Books

Publisher summary:

In her junior year at USC, Sabrina’s best friend and roommate, Jessica, challenged her to come up with a list of five people, living or dead, with whom she would like to share a meal. Years later, Sabrina, now living in New York and working in publishing, walks into a restaurant and finds her five ideal dinner guests seated at a table.

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (9/4/2018) Gallery Books

Publisher summary:

Hazel Bradford knows that she’s awkward, tends to take her shirt off when she drinks too much, and has zero tact. Case in point: she first meets Josh Im at a college party when she vomits on his shoes. In college, Hazel worshiped him from afar, even sending him an embarrassing email while drugged up on painkillers after dental surgery. Ten years later, they meet at her best friend Emily’s dinner party, where Hazel learns that Josh and Emily are brother and sister.

The Perfect Mother – Aimee Molly

The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

  • Source: Library copy

A group of new mothers plan a fun night out, only to end the night with their worst nightmare come to life. On a 4th of July meant to be about freedom from motherhood, freedom to have fun, Winnie receives a call that her newborn daughter has been abducted.

This book is really more of a look at new motherhood than it is about the missing baby. Although the mystery and conspiracy around the missing baby does drive the story, the characters reveal so much more about the stereotypes and pressures put upon new parents in virtually every aspect of their lives from the personal at home to the not-so-personal in the workplace. I switched back and forth between the book and the audiobook. Both were highly enjoyable and gripping reads. The ending was fairly formulaic and the big reveal felt so cluttered with action and rushed. Otherwise, I liked this book a lot.

The Stylist – Rosie Nixon (Review)

The Stylist (Amber Green #1)

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

ARC – via William Morrow

Pub Date: 9/4/2018

Despite working at a fashion boutique in London, high-end fashion is not exactly Amber Green’s passion. During a break filming a pilot show following around famed stylist to the stars Mona Armstrong, Amber finds herself mistaken for a stylist’s assistant. Within 24-hours, Amber is whisked away to Los Angeles to act as Mona’s assistant, finding the perfect looks for the red carpet runways during Awards season. Once in LA, Amber finds out that all that glitters is not gold, and the life of a stylist isn’t as well put-together and polished as she had imagined.

This books i catching a lot of comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada. What do they have in common? A girl with the job a million girls would kill for, working in fashion, bumping elbows with celebrities, working for a boss with impossible demands and unpredictable mood swings. Amber is the girl who doesn’t fit into the fashion world, yet somehow makes all the right decisions (even by accident).

Although there are a number of faults with the characters and major plot-holes throughout the book, I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable read. The romantic storylines were so baseless and hardly added anything to the plot. The book could have used more depth and exploration of specific characters. So many of the characters were caricatures and stereotypes we’ve seen before. I would have liked it more if Nixon explored Amber’s relationship with her roommate and that whole subplot of her room’s alcoholism, or even Mona’s deteriorating reputation within the celebrity circle.

If anything came from this book, its my renewed interest in watching the pre-show interviews during awards season next January!

 

Paris in July 2018

Ah, back to the one time of the year where I post regularly on my blog again.

Although I had taken a mandatory hiatus from all things Paris, I’ll go back to my obsession this month with my favorite annual reading challenge. Although I won’t be making any physical trips to France, I’ll be an armchair traveler through books, movies, music and more adventures at home.

Paris in July is an annual Paris reading/armchair traveling gathering hosted every year by Tamara at Thyme for Tea. You can sign-up through her post to join the fun!

Currently Reading: 

Paris by the Book &  Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigations, #1)
Future Reading:
See my To-Read France Booklist on Goodreads for the entire list. There’s more than 100 books on my list so far. I’ll probably have more added to that list by the end of the month.
Planned Activities: 
french mystery night
My local independent bookstore is hosting a French Murder Mystery Author’s night next week with Cara Black, Susan C. Shea and Wendy Hornsby. I’ve only recently started Cara Black’s Aimee Ludec series, but I’m excited to learn more about all of the author’s and their books.
Other activities are to-be-determined. But they will include baking, eating and drinking French foods and drinks I’m sure.
What are you going to do this July?

March Books In Review

I’ve been horrible posting reviews this month. I started a lot of highly-hyped titles. I also abandoned a lot of those same highly-hyped titles. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of what I finished this month.

Mrs.

Mrs. by Caitlin Macy

  • Source: Library – Overdrive Audiobook
  • Genre: Fiction, New York, High Society, Domestic Fiction

This novel was one big disappointment. The premise seemed intriguing and I was in a “how do the 1% live” type of mood when I came across this title. This book just didn’t live up to its promise. There were far too many characters (important and not) to keep track of. There wasn’t much of a plot to follow. Lots of empty drama that wasn’t really dramatic. It was a lackluster tale that took a long, long time to set-up. The big reveal was also disappointing and didn’t add or change much to the plot. The narrator wasn’t very captivating either. Maybe it would have had more flow as text rather than audio.

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler

  • Source: Library – Overdrive Audiobook
  • Genre: Memoir, cancer, family

After finishing Mrs., this memoir was a breath of fresh air. Bowler’s tale of studies in the prosperity gospel, her family life and her journey through her cancer diagnosis and treatment was an inspiration to read. Her views are fresh, humorous, motivational and also very touching. She has a wonderful way with words and her thoughts are so clear and concise and beautifully written. After suffering all summer with horrific stomach aches, Kate Bowlers is diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Through her journey to understand what is happening to her, she delves deep into some emotional aspects of her life, life around her and around the God that watches over the world. Her take on God in this book is what I find most interesting. She’s more analytical of other’s perceptions of God and the reasons why she has cancer than of her own interpretation. One line stayed with me the most, mostly because I am also a mother and wonder the same thing myself:

“All the time, I’m staring at my son and thinking, am I in there? Have I poured enough of myself into you?”

The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life

The Art of Screen Time by Anya Kamentz

  • Source: Library – Print copy
  • Genre: Parenting, Digital Media, Technology

Kamentz’s take on the role of screen and technology in our lives is one that is refreshing, non-judgemental and actually provides realistic concepts and talking points that parents can apply to their lives. Or at the very least, start discussing to see if any changes need to be made. At the end of the day, her most salient points are this: If you’re going to expose your child to technology, be there with them. Explore the game, the TV show, the YouTube video with them. Talk to them about what they are seeing, feeling and thinking on the screens. Limit screen time according to your family needs and structure. Although the 1 hour marker hails supreme, Kamentz offers suggestions on how to either monitor, reduce to moderate screen time based on various parenting styles. She digs through a lot of research to back-up her opinions, supplementing occasionally with her own anecdotal stories from home.

Let Them Be Eaten By Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking Our Kids Into the Great Outdoors

Let Them by Eaten By Bears by Peter Hoffmeister

  • Source: Library
  • Genre: Nature, Outdoors, Parenting, Adventure

This was neither a well written, nor a well-edited book. The audience the author was talking to was muddled between parent, camp counselor and outdoor woodsman. Although the gist of it was OK, go outside, its good for your kids and builds resiliency, the author’s way of getting this point across was completely lost.

Did Not Finish

AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip               The Immortalists

Age-Proof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzky and Michael Roizen, MD.

This entire book is about how your wealth and health overlap and how to improve your circumstances in both arenas. The entire book was long, repetitious and although it was inspirational and motivational, very little information in it was actual useful.

The Immoralists by Close Benjamin

Not my cup of tea. The audiobook narration was horrid. So grating on my ears. Siiiiimoooon.