Friday, May 31, 2013

May - What I Read

Thanks to a cold and a lot of time spent sick in bed, I plowed through a lot of books this month. I feel very accomplished:) Working on some longer reviews of some of these, so expect those soon.
Requiem (Delirium #3), by Lauren Oliver
[my review]

What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters, by Philip Yancey
I listend to this as an audiobook, read by the author. And since much of the book is based on his sermons, it was an enjoyable and inspiring listen.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
So good! Everyone should read this. [my review]
The Mystery of Mercy Close (Walsh Family #5), by Marian Keyes
[my review]

Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus, by Dean N. Jensen
Thanks to the publishers who were kind enough to send me an Advanced Copy of this book. I really, really enjoyed it. This book will be available June 11. [my review]

Screwed, by Laurie Plissner
Also got an ARC copy of this book from the Publisher. I may not be the right audience for this book (I'd recommend for high school and college age), and I had some issues with the writing, but the story was interesting.
Absent, by Katie Williams
Thank you Chronicle Books & NetGalley for the ARC, I really enjoyed this. [my review]

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, by Elizabeth Kelly
Such a great book! Was so glad yo get it as an ARC. I often value books based on how much I like the cover, and this one held up to my high standard. [my review]

Storybound (Storybound #1), by Marissa Burt
Cute story about a normal girl who is reading one day, and is sucked into Storyland. Sometimes felt that it was trying too hard to be a great series like Harry Potter, but I'd recommend for elementary and middle school kids. (I got an ARC from NetGalley)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Queen of the Air, by Dean Jensen - Book Review

BookQueen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus
Author: Dean N. Jensen
Genre: Historical, NonFiction 
Publisher/Publish Date: Crown / June 11, 2013
Source: ARC curtsey of publisher
Pages: 336
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

(**spoilers ahead**)

As the most famous woman in the world at the turn of the 20th century, Leitzel lived a life of glamor and celebrity as a trapeze artist and circus performer. Much like her mother, she started performing young, and by the age of 17 was the princess of the bigtop with top billing in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, The Greatest Show on Earth.

This is the story of those who came before her, her rise to fame, many suitors (and three husbands), and her one true love. Leitzel's tale is told along side that of Alfredo Codona, who fell in love with her at the age of 16, when they were both performing in the Barnum & Bailey Circus. After 18 years apart, their paths cross again while employed by the same circus... and I won't give any more of their story away. You'll just have to read the book.

I was interested in reading this book after reading and loving Water for Elephants, and this true life circus story was fascinating. The author, Dean Jensen, who originally began work on this book in the 1970's, includes an impressive selection of interviews with people who knew Leitzel, many who have since passed away. I enjoyed the back story of how the circus was big business in the first part of the 20th century, and the lives of those who ran it and were it's biggest stars.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes - Book Review

BookThe Mystery of Mercy Close: A Walsh Sister Novel
AuthorMarian Keyes
Genre: Chick Lit 
Publisher/Publish Date: Michael Joseph / September 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 508
Rating: 4.5/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Just a heads up, Marian Keyes is one of my favorite authors. I've read and loved all her books, even the collection of short stories (though not her cook book). Like many of her other books, this centers on the Irish Walsh Family and their five daughters. This is the last book in the series, and it's fun to read a book and know the other characters so well.

The novel starts off with private investigator Helen Walsh getting a very secretive job from her ex-boyfriend. A member of a popular 90's boy band is missing, and she has five days to find him. She has just lost her apartment and is short on money, so she takes the job though she'd rather not be working with her ex.

The story goes back and forth between her search for Wayne, the "Wacky One," and flashbacks to her past relationships and struggles with depression. Helen is a unique, dark, nutty character, and enjoyable to read about.

Looking back on the book, there may be some plot holes in a few of the character arches, but the mystery was strong enough to make me not notice those things.

If you haven't read any of Keyes' books, I highly recommend picking one up, and finding a comfy spot to spend a few hours. I recommend it to people who like Bridget Jone's Diary, The Shopaholic Series, or books by Jen Lancaster.

I'm not sure why there are different covers, but I like both of them. Which do you like better?

Monday, May 20, 2013

my (girls) weekend - Point Reyes

It's always nice to get out of the city, spend some quality time with my friends, and breath in some nature. This last Saturday, three friends and I drove north across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Point Reyes Area. I love how close this area is to SF and all the wonderful things it offers: kayaking, oysters, hiking, a cute little town, ocean views, and a view of a fault line.

Luckily the weather was amazing, and we had an amazing day grabbing brunch, walking on the beach, and eating oysters.

Bolinas, CA

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quiet - Book Review

BookQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
AuthorSusan Cain
Genre: Non-Fiction,  Psychology 
Publisher/Publish Date: Crown / January 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 333
Rating: 4.5/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

It might not come to much of surprise to people that know me, but I am an introvert. Though I like being social, I also really appreciate my "me time." This book, that covers what it means to be an introvert, studies about introverts, and how we can function better in the world around us, is the perfect book for introverts and extroverts. Yep, that's right, that means everyone.

For introverts this book helps us feel "normal," and understand what makes us awesome. And for extroverts, this book can help you understand your introverted friends, partners, and coworkers better.

Luckily, I read this for a book club I am part of so I was able to have a good discussion about it. Our discussion group consisted of 4 introverts, on extrovert, and one in between. It was great seeing the positive impact this book had on introverts that grew up feeling left out or a little anti-social. And the extrovert, who is actually already very understanding to her introverted friends, enjoyed hearing about how we interact with the world and how we can work even better.
One challenge with this book is that it's very black and white, and fairly one sided. Someone in our book club mentioned it would be great for someone to write "Loud," so us introverts can learn more about extroverts. 

This is definitely a book I hope to buy, share with friends, and refer back to often.

Want a quick overview of the book? Check out this TED Talks Cain did in 2012, The Power of Introverts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

my weekend - tile decorating at HEATH

I don't know who this guy is.
This sunday I went with a friend to Open Studio at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco to paint a tile. It was fun to be creative and I'm excited to see how it turns out after their fire them later this month.
They provided us with a simple, blank tile, about 6x6" and lots of fun things to use as stencils.

While the dots didn't really turn out how I expected them to, I think they look cool, though who knows how it will turn out once fired. With a couple rubber pads on the bottom with should make a great trivet.

I have loved their beautiful ceramics since I went to their studio in Sausalito for a tour, where they show you how much care and attention they put into their products. If you are ever in the Bay Area I highly recommend checking out one of their multiple show rooms, or at least visit their site to see their dishes.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Requiem - Book Review

BookRequiem (Delirium #3)
Author Lauren Oliver
Genre: YA 
Publisher/Publish Date: HarperCollins, March 5, 2013
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 432
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.  
Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it. 
But we have chosen a different road. 
And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose. 
We are even free to choose the wrong thing. [via GoodReads]

This book, the final in the series, is not quite as action filled as the second book, but does a nice job of wrapping up the story.

The story is told from the point of view of Lena, who has escaped the bonds of the city and is living in the Wilds. And her best friend Hana, who has had the anti-love procedure and is set to marry the new mayor.

Picking up where Pandemonium left off, Lena is in a love triangle when she discovers that Alex is still alive. They then wander around in the woods for awhile, a bit Deathly Hallows-ish, then meet up with other revolutionaries and the book takes off from there.

Knowing how this series ends, I do recommend it to people who enjoy Dystopian YA. And now that all three books are out, you can actually read them back to back.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scarlet - Book Review

BookScarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)
AuthorMarissa Meyer
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi 
Publisher/Publish Date: Feiwel and Friends / February 5, 2013
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 452
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

A sequel up to Cinder, Scarlet introduces new characters and a new story line, but intertwines it with the continuing story of Cinder.

Scarlet's grandmother is missing, and she partners with a stranger, Wolf, to track her down. Yes, I realize how cliche that sounds, but it's only the names that reflect the fairytale, and the story is really good. Scarlet and Wolf go on a journey to discover who her grandmother really is, and how her life is about to collide with the cyborg they keep seeing on the news, Cinder.

I'm looking forward to the next book in this series. I'd recommend to anyone who enjoyed Legend, Delirium, or Divergent.

Monday, May 6, 2013

my weekend - sisters edition

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting my two sisters in San Francisco. It was a fun filled 4 days, though somehow, me, the youngest, got worn out the fastest. It was worth it, even if I gained 5 pounds from all the delicious food we eat. The weekend included a day trip up to Sonoma, visits to many coffee shops and restaurants, some walking around the city, and lots of long conversations over food.

I recently got a brand new DSLR camera and had a great time playing with it this weekend. Hope you enjoy the photos.

While up in Sonoma Had a delicious lunch at The Fremont Diner, with chickens running around the picnic area. Aren't my sister's leopard print sunglasses awesome?!

I'm always trying to get good candid shots, and this is one of my favorites. My sister was telling us a funny story about her favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan, and making us laugh.
I sometimes forget how much graffiti there is in the city. They make the perfect, colorful portrait backdrop and my sisters were willing photo subjects. 

Thanks to my roommate who took a photo of all three of us sisters. (flowers at Mission Cheese)

Miss you sisters!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Going Clear - Book Review

BookGoing Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief
Author: Lawrence Wright
Genre: Nonfiction 
Publisher/Publish Date: Knopf / January 1, 2013
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 430
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

I don't have a ton to say about this here, though if we were chatting in person I would have a ton to say. But I recommend this book who is interested in Scientology and modern religion (and I use the term religion really loosely in connection to Scientology). This is such a complicated topic I think people should read it and make up their own minds.

While the book is a work on nonfiction, the Church of Scientology is really secretive, so it can be hard to know what to believe in this book. Scientologists have come out saying that what Wright reports is untrue, and nothing like their experience in the church. So with each side saying the other are liars, it's hard to know where the truth actually lies.

As for the author, I like about 80% of his writing, but at times facts and topics seemed disjoined and out of order, though some of that may be due to the subject matter.

I do recommend reading these really good articles if you want more details on the book before reading it. 

Have you read it? What do you think?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April - What I Read

April was a great month. Lots of beautiful sunny weather here in SF, both my sisters came to visit for a week, and I somehow still read 6 books this month.

Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
A fantastical novel, about a distant and mysterious kingdom. For fans of The Infernal Devices & A Song of Ice and Fire. [post]

Winning Balance, by Shawn Johnson
Johnson shares her early gymnastic years, her experience at the Olympics, and how how her life has changed since then. Easy and fun to read.

Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare
Just as good as all of Clare's other books, she creates great characters and plots to pull the reader in. [post]

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
Good, but not my favorite book on North Korea. [post]

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright
Amazing book. Read my review for more thoughts, but I recommend you read it and decide what you think about Scientology. [post]

Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
This sequel was better than the first, go read it!

Only 4 months into the year and I am 50% done with my goal of 50 books this year. I guess I underestimated myself. Maybe I should aim for 100 next year!