Thursday, February 28, 2013

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity - Book Review

Book: More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity
Author: Jeff Shinabarger
Genre: Christian, Religion & Spirituality
Publisher/Publish Date: David C. Cook / March 1, 2013
Source: ARC ebook review copy from Publisher
Pages: 224
Rating: 5/5
Other books from author: Author's first book. He is the creative director at Catalyst and founder of and Plywood People.
GoodReads  •  Amazon

In More or Less, Jeff Shinabarger calls readers to create their own social experiments to answer the question, “What is enough?” 
It all started with one idea: What would happen if we created a culture in which we gave away whatever was more than enough for us? How would our habits change if we shed the excess of money, clutter, and food in our lives? In More or Less, readers will learn how to draw a line of “enough” in their consumer choices, how to see generosity as a chance to experience freedom in a greedy world, and how to make small changes now that will help others forever. As Shinabarger reminds them, defining “enough” is more than a responsibility—it is an opportunity to give hope.
Book description via GoodReads

Do you have more than enough? Want to make a different in your life and others, and don't know where to start?

Jeff Shinabarger is a man full of ideas. And gratefully he has some pretty great ideas on how to be more generous in our daily lives. He inspires generosity by looking at our lives, and finding excess. By giving up that excess to help someone with less.

"Excess is the think I can give away today and it wouldn't change a single aspect of our tomorrow."
This book sort of reads like a how-to book. Each chapter focus on a specific topic: presents, clothes, time, etc. With stories throughout the book of ways his friends and neighbors have made a difference in their community. They looked for what they had more than enough of and then found a way to use it to help others.

The book forces you to reconsider what you have. What can you share with other? How can you rearrange your life to help those in your neighborhood who have less? How do you form stronger community ties? What can you give up that will help you better understand those that make do with less?

The book ends by challenging the reader to do the same. A plan of action. A guide to live a life of generosity.

It was easy to read, conversational in tone, and I really enjoyed reading his personal stories. They helped me relate to him, and feel this is something I can do with him. He never hit me over the head with his message.

While the book is written from a Christian perspective, it's not central to the book, and I think can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone. I highly really recommend this to anyone and everyone to read.
"I am me. And because no other person can be me, I am good enough."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: Just Passin' Thru

I do love reading books about outdoor adventures! And since so many people hike the Appalachian Trail, there are many great books available to read.

This is a unique one, not written by a hiker, but a man who owns and runs an outdoor gear store. Which, uniquely, the trail literally goes through. It's only 30 miles from the southern starting point, being a perfect place to help hikers who come through unprepared. He's there ready with advice on packing lighter and better equipment. In exchange for the much needed help, he gets to witness an amazing assortment of characters.

It's amazing how adventures like the Appalachian Trail bring out crazy and unique people. Running a store like this seems like so much fun, never a dull day and a continuos assortment of people to meet and hear stories from (while the get the chance to shower and use a real toilet).

After reading this book I was reading a blog by a AT hiker and he mentioned this store, so it was fun to have a little history of what he was referring to. While I would love to hike part of the trail someday, not the whole thing, it's nice to experience through other people's stories for now.

Ratings: 3.75 out of 5

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT: Book Review

This may be the first book I have read that is on the Oprah Book Club list. While that's not why I read it, it definitely deserves the attention. I've read other books by females who have hikes either the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail alone and there is just something fascinating about the journey to knowing yourself by hiking eleven-hundred plus miles. Competing with nature (including lack of water, animals, rain and snow), as well as your own thoughts and dealing with the people you meet along the trail, makes it impressive how people thrive on the trail.

Cheryl Strayed's story goes back to her youth, as well as her mother's death while in her early 20's, showing how these challenges brought her to hiking the trail. I enjoyed the stories of the fellow hikes she spends some of the time with, the beauty she experiences and funny (only after the fact) stories, such as losing a shoe down a mountain.

I'm in awe of what she accomplished, and while probably not wanting to ever hike the whole trail, on my own, enjoy living vicariously through her. Maybe someday I'll get a chance to hike some of the trail, and feel a little of the "trail magic."

Good for people who like travel/hiking novels as well as those who like feel-good, female novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: Disco Bloodbath (aka: Party Monster)

**spoilers ahead**

A few months ago a rabbit hole of internet searching lead me to look into the movie Party Monster, which lead me to this book, that the movie was based on. Not sure exactly what I was getting myself into, but I enjoy true crime stories so I thought I'd give it a try.

The author, James St. James, a NYC celebutante in the mid 80's, was a cofounder of the Club Kids, a group of young clubgoers, with his friend Michael Alig, and is still in the news sometimes and was on a few seasons of America's Next Top Model. Though I gave a spoiler alert, the main plot point is spilled in the first few pages of the book. One day, Michael tells James that, under the influence of drugs, he, along with his friend, Freeze, murdered Angel Melendez. It supposedly happened during an arguments over a long-standing drug debt.

The story, told often in stream of consciousness, then goes back in time to tell of the arrival of Michael to the NYC party scene. James gives us a window into the inner workings of the club scene, how to get yourself known, and how to best work room. He introduces us to the who's who of NYC in the late 80's to mid 90's and presents the key players of the crime that unfolds.

What's really fascinating is what happens between the time of the murder and when Michael and Freeze actually get arrested. Slowly gossip columns and news articles start leaking the story of a missing drug dealer and hinting at who may be involved. Angel's brother comes to town looking for him, and eventually, eight months later, the body is found. The police, who have been accused of not caring about the death of a drug dealer, eventually arrest Michael Alig and Freeze, leading to their convictions.

One great thing about true stories is that you can actually watch the shows they reference in the book, so if you are interested in learning more, you can watch the Club Kids on the Donahue Show. Also, there is a Documentary, Party Monster: The Shockumentary, and the feature film Party Monster, based on this book.

While not a deep novel, it was facinating, and easy to read.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Review: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the perfect coffee mug

What better to drink coffee or tea out of while reading on a cold day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

Lesson learned, don't do internet research in the middle of reading a book. Maybe at the beginning, or at the end, but not so good in the middle.

The reason I say this? I was enjoying this book about the homeless living in the tunnels under the city, even though I knew it was written in 1993 and a bit outdated, and then I read this note on wikipedia: "The book has met with criticism, primarily for the inaccuracy of geographical information, compounded by numerous factual errors and an apparent reliance on largely unverifiable claims. The strongest criticism came from Joseph Brennan, a New York subway enthusiast who declared that 'Every fact in this book that I can verify independently is wrong.'"

Hum ... not sure what to think about this. And once I started reading it again, it was hard to see it as anything more than a narrative, based on stories Toth heard as she spent time with homeless people she meet on the street. She tells of a gentleman taking her into the tunnels, which have barely any light, and looking at the photo of her on the book jacket, young, female, really young (as in, she could pass for 14), you wonder how she safely made it down there and back alive, and why.

Most of the story is non-proven repeating of stories she either experiences herself in the tunnels or those told to her by some people who she blatantly says often lie or inflate their stories. There are some facts thrown in, but they don't always hold their weight, and aren't always explained in a way that really makes sense.

So, I stopped reading at page 199. Yes, the stories were interesting, but now that there was a doubt in my mind as to their legitimacy, they didn't hold the weight they did before. And since things change over the years, who knows the status of the "Mole People" today. While I believe there could and very well might be people living under the subways in NYC, I am very uncertain that this is an accurate picture of their lives.

Review: 1 out of 5

Friday, February 15, 2013

Favorite Cover Design: Conceptual

1. A collection of recipes from chef Jacob Kenedy paired with black-and-white illustrations by Caz Hildebrand. [link]  2 & 3. These two covers are from the same series. Iove the high contrast, and dramatic scenes they create. [link]  4. A fun collection of creative math problems, puzzles and brainteasers. [link]

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: The Devil's Highway

There are many sides to the immigration/border policy debate, and Urrea of presenting them all equally. The book, Luis Alberto Urrea centers around a specific group of walkers, dubbed the Wellton 26, who crossed the border, into the Sonoran desert, Arizona, with a coyote they hired to lead them to safety and a new life in the US. To avoid the Border Patrol, the coyote that was leading, took them on a new route, one which he wasn’t very familiar with. This lead to a 6 day hike, covering 40+ miles, in 90-100 degree weather, resulting in 14 deaths.

Urrea uses this one situation, which as picked up by the media, and sensationalized, as a representation of a larger story. In this same year, a total of 417 died attempting unauthorized border crossings, and those are only the ones who were found. The walkers from Mexico are in a desperate search for a better life for them and their families, while the border patrol is trying to fulfill the law, attempting the capture the illegals as they enter the country, though also concerned for their safety.

The issue of immigration enforcement, and border policy is very complicated. Reading this gave me a great picture of what is going on there, and how many sides to the story there are. There are many positive changes taking place, but the US has a long way to go to find the best solution. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about border policy and the stories behind the walkers attempting to cross to a better life.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Book Review: Bossypants

I had heard a lot of good reviews of this book, so was very excited when I finally got a copy to borrow from my public library (if I bought all the books I read it would take over my apartment, I'm very grateful to the library).

Honestly, while I didn't know what I expected, I felt the books started out a little too heavy on the satire, and a little light on reality. Yes, it was funny. And yes, I do enjoy Tina Fey's sense of humor. But I was interested in knowing more about her life, while enjoying a funny book.

Luckily, as the book continues, the writing does become more serious, specifically when she starts to talk about her comedy career and how she got on SNL and later how she created 30 Rock. The behind-the-scene parts, and the insights to how she got 30 Rock up and running, for example how they got Alec Baldwin on the show, were fascinating to read. In true form, Tina Fey has written an enjoyable, sassy, smart and humorous book, with a nice balance of life stories and lol's.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: The Monster of Florence

A gripping true life story of the unsolved serial murders that took place in Florence, Italy, from 1968-1985. The author, Douglas Preston, moved to Italy, and while working on a new mystery novel meets a fellow journalist, Mario Spezi, who had written about and followed the story of these brutal murders from the beginning. The novel recounts the original events, as well as the effect the original reporting had on Spezi and in a weird twist of fate, the authors themselves become the focus of a police investigation.

They do a good job of presenting the facts of the case in an interesting way, as well as explaining what they think the prosectors are getting wrong. It's a fascinating look at the workings of the Italian judicial system, and the underlying corruption that has lead to these murders not being solved. While the identity of the murderer may never be known, this book had enough to keep me engaged, and had a satisfying ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, February 1, 2013

January - What I Read

I just started using GoodReads in december and not sure what I would do with out it. I love lists and keeping track of things, so it's a god-send to have a place to easily track my reading and books I want to read. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year, so having read 8 this month, I'm 16% ahead of schedule... maybe I set my goal too low.

So, thanks to GoodReads, I know everything I read this month...

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, by Robert Whitaker
While I didn't technically finish this (I skipped a couple chapters), I read it for my book club and discussed it so I feel I have a good understanding of that I skipped over. While this book is a bit alarming, he backs up everything with statistics, making a good case for doctors to think twice before prescribing medicine for psychiatric patients. I'm not a doctor, and not giving out advice, but I recommend this book to anyone who finds this topic fascinating. It can get a little repetitive, so if you do skip over any parts, be sure to at least skip ahead and read the last chapter.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel, by Maria Semple
OMG, so good! A bit of satire, a bit of Gone Girl, a whole lot of fun. A quick read, great for a trip to the beach.

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son, by Anne Lamott
In some ways a follow up to her book Operating Instructions, this book follows the first year of her son's first son. I love Anne Lamott, and enjoy her memoirs the mosts.

The Boy Next Door, by Meg Cabot
Quick, fun, chick-lit. Meg Cabot is one of my more favorite chick-lit authors, and I've read most of her book. What I didn't like about this was it was all told through emails. So it was all told in first person, which got old really fast.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection Hardcover, by A. J. Jacobs
It took me a long time to read this, a few months, since I was just reading it at lunch time. I've enjoyed all of Jacobs' books, maybe I see a little but of me in him. While I sort of wish I had the guts to commit to the experiments he does, it's nice to be able to just sit on the couch as I read his struggles and successes and laugh with him about it. (I also reviewed his book The Know-It-All)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel (Flavia de Luce Mysteries), by Alan Bradley
The second book in a series for young adults. I don't hear much about it (i.e. not as popular as Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc....) but I have really enjoyed the series so far and will continue to read the rest of it. FYI: the German edition has a much cooler cover design.

Water for Elephants: A Novel, by Sara Gruen
I've been wanting to read this for awhile, and was glad I finally gotten around to it. Fascinating story, and much better than I expected. Haven't seen the movie yet. Is it any good?

In Process......
This Book is Not Good For You, by Pseudonymous Bosch: love this series!
The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling: I own this so library books usually get read before this.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell: Had to return it to library, but was enjoying it so far.