Posted in book review, books

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

My latest book read is Kitchens of the Great Midwest. It’s a good book where food plays an important role. Each chapter is titled with a food (except for the last chapter) and there are several recipes in the book. I think that adds charm. Don’t expect it to be all about food, though. It plays a role, but people’s stories play an even bigger one. One thing that I wasn’t expecting, and it might influence your level of enjoyment with the book, is that it’s not like a standard novel. It’s more like a collection of connected short stories, with each chapter having a different narrator. It didn’t cause trouble for me in keeping track of characters or stories, though. I was never overwhelmed by the number of narrators. I think that was handled well. But I would have preferred the book to have less narrators and a stronger focus on the main character who connects the stories. However, while this was not my preferred style, I still enjoyed the book and not in spite of the style chosen. So, even if short stories and multiple narrators aren’t your thing, I think this is a good book that I’d recommend giving a chance.

Posted in book review, books

The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer (Book Review)

Today’s book is The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer. It’s a family saga that spans about about 50 years, beginning in the 1950s, in Northern California. It begins with Bill Blair, who is a Korean war vet that becomes a pediatrician. We then meet his wife and kids. It’s the kind of book that I’m drawn to because while I do like action, sci-fi, and mystery, I also very much am interested in people’s stories. I like to eavesdrop and people watch, making this a perfect book for that sort of thing (without violating anyone’s privacy). I could easily see this book made into a film, especially an indie film.

It was a decent book. It had a nice pace, with chapters alternating between flashback chapters of the kids growing up and ones focusing more on one child in 2006. The characters are well developed for the most part, though I was a little frustrated with how one of the characters was developed. I suppose that’s good if I like the characters and story enough to get frustrated. I wasn’t wowed, but books don’t have to wow in order to be good. This book was good in an elegant or quiet way, if that makes sense.

Posted in book review, books, creativity, nonfiction

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (Book Review)

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Today’s book is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a small book and less than 300 pages, but packed full of good stuff. If you desire to be creative, then this is the book for you. I liked this book a lot. I like it so much in fact that while my review copy is from the library, I plan to buy the book in the future. Gilbert separates the book by sections that she believes are the key ingredients for a creative life: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity.
The title is literal. She believes in magic and that creative ideas are separate beings that approach you to co-create something. Even if you don’t lean mystical, the book is great for tackling any objections you may have to a creative life and how to live happily or at least peacefully while pursuing a creative life. And I make a point of saying “creative life” not a “creative career” for a reason. This book is for everyone. It’s not just for people looking to become professional writers or artists of some sort. In the book she mentions figure skating and gardening, though a lot of the book does have focus on aspects that might be suited for someone who wants to pursue a creative career.

I was already drawn to the book for a reason. I do desire more creativity in my life. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. But the book was great in making me want to keep pursuing a creative life, beyond the blog and for the rest of my life. Life seems like it is so much richer with creativity in it or at least that’s how I feel especially after reading this book. So, go out and buy or check out this book from the library to get fired up for a creative life.

Posted in book review, books

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (Book Review)

Last night I (finally) finished reading The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. I don’t know if it’s because I just don’t read as quickly on a Kindle as I do with paper books or if it was just this book, but it took me a while to finish it. Although to be fair, I’ve been reading other books at the same time. Even considering that, during parts of the book, I was just wanting to be done with it. If I hadn’t started this blog for book reviewing, I might have stopped reading it, with the intention of trying to get into it again some day. It’s not a bad book, but it wasn’t great either.

I don’t really do summaries of books in reviews so much as I just blog my overall impressions. It’s historical fiction with a lot of promise, but it fell a little flat. The book had three main characters and one of them was more main than the other two. The book started with a focus on one gentleman in London who mysteriously finds a watch in his rented room. Then we are introduced to woman in Oxford who also has a nice watch, although her’s was a gift. The third character, and definitely the most interesting, is the watchmaker.

There’s romance, though it’s not a big part of the book. Hints of romance are somewhat bigger. There’s plenty of mystery, though, and that’s probably one of the main reasons (other than this blog) that kept me reading the book when I really just wanted to be done with it. There’s also some adventure and surprises. The ending was not what I expected at all, but I think it ended well. Sorry if I’m so vague, but I’m very anti-spoilers and with mystery being such a big part of the book, I can’t say much about it without giving stuff away. But I will say that if you have more patience than me for a book that seems to be quick moving and then so very slow for too many chapters and then lots of action at the end, this is the book for you. It’s not a bad book and it’s bones are good, but it ended up just being okay for me.

Posted in book review, books

Furiously Happy By Jenny Lawson

When I read on Twitter that Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, was writing a second book, I was excited. I really enjoyed her first book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I just finished reading Furiously Happy and I was a little disappointed. It’s not a sequel to the first book and I was fine with that. The focus of this book, along with Jenny Lawson’s quirky humor, was mental illness. I’m glad that there is more openness about life with mental illness. My favorite parts of Furiously Happy were the chapters where she wrote the most about what depression or other mental illnesses were like and how we should try to live “furiously happy” despite having (and maybe because of) mental illness.

I did enjoy the chapters that were pure humor and didn’t seem to focus on mental illness. Adventures she had in Japan and Australia were amusing and fun. Reading about her new house and the things that happened when she moved in were enjoyable, too. But I found quite a few chapters just fell flat for me and at points I found myself looking to see how much more of the book there was left to read. I think that the book on it’s own is still good. Her first book was so good, though, that this one pales in comparison. If you want a book just for the humor aspect, I’d read her first book or a different book. However, if you want a humor book that makes you feel less alone as you live with mental illness, I recommend Furiously Happy.