A Little Break

Hi all! Just wanted to let you know that the blog may be quiet for a bit. I’m having surgery today and I’m not sure when I’ll be off of the post-surgery painkillers enough to be able to read and write coherently again. Hopefully, everything turns out way better than last time! This time it’s GI surgery for complications from Crohn’s disease so respiratory failure seems unlikely. Fingers crossed that I’ll be back to reading and posting in no time!

Stitch Fix Saturday – July 2014 Fix

I’m getting my Fixes from Stitch Fix every two months now and I am still loving this service. For more info about how it works, see my initial Stitch Fix post.

Here’s what I got in my July Fix:

Emer High Waisted Cropped Trouser

In this photo, I’m trying the the pants on with a blouse that I got in a previous Fix and my own shoes. I love these pants! They are incredibly comfy and fit me like a glove. They are high waisted but not in a mom-jeans way. The waist on these pants is good for holding in a tummy pooch – one of my problem areas. Another plus is that I love green. Here’s the booty shot:

You can see in this shot that the waist is high according to today’s standard but much shorter than the high waist of the 80s.

Bixby Dot Print 3/4 Tab Sleeve Blouse

I like the color and pattern of this shirt but it pretty shapeless. I like tops that taper at the waist. Otherwise, with my aforementioned tummy pooch, it looks like a maternity top. Also, I’m not a big fan of tap sleeves.

Ventura Abstract Chevron Keyhole Tank

I really like this top – I actually got the same top with a pink chevron pattern in a previous Fix. But sadly, that top shrunk in the wash. Stitch Fix customer service was fabulous about that, by the way. I emailed them about it and they sent me a prepaid shipping label to send it back and credited my account. No questions asked.

Adan Geo Printed Shift Dress

I really liked the mod look of this dress but it was WAY too short for an old woman like me. My butt is almost hanging out!

I decided to try the dress on with black jeggings and boots that I already had. I thought that looked really good and gave me adequate butt coverage. I think black tights would work just as well. That’s another great thing about Stitch Fix – since you are trying everything on in the comfort of your own home, you can pull things out of your closet to see how they would coordinate with the items in your Fix.

I would also like to try this dress with a wide belt and a statement necklace but I don’t have either. I am very bad at accessorizing. I have diamond studs, a necklace with my kids’ birthstones and my wedding ring that I wear regularly. And that’s it! So if you want to link to any belts or necklaces that you think would go with this dress in the comments, I’d really appreciate it. I need all the help I can get!

Zoe Open Shape Metal Earrings

I like these earrings but they didn’t blow me away and like I said, I’m just not that into accessories. Probably the only way I’d keep jewelry in one of my Fixes is if I was buying the other four items and needed to buy them to get the 25% discount that you get on your entire order if you buy all five items. That basically works out to one item free! You can put in your style profile that you don’t want any accessories but I checked that I’d like to have necklaces and earrings because I was interested to see what I would get. I may change to no accessories at some point and get five items of clothing instead.

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This is the style card that’s included with each Fix. I love it because it helps me think way more creatively about the pieces than I normally would. The card for the dress is why I want to get a statement necklace to go with it. Look at that cute turquoise one that’s suggested! (Click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see it.)

You can probably guess that I kept the dress and the pants from this Fix. I didn’t keep the keyhole tank because I was afraid it would shrink like the other one did. I love both my picks! If you want to sign up for Stitch Fix, I would love it if you used my referral link. (Full disclosure – Stitch Fix gives people a $25 credit for every person they refer.) Then I can feed my habit that much more!

Book Review: Love Life by Rob Lowe

Love LifeLove Life by Rob Lowe
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Narrator: Rob Lowe
Length: 7.5 hours
Release Date: April 8, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love Life is a bit of a misleading title for Rob Lowe’s latest book. It’s not about his romantic love life. It’s about loving life. Rob has written a series of unrelated vignettes about events in his life. Some are very touching, like the one about his son going off to college. Some are funny and some make Rob look like an idiot. I love that he is not afraid to share any story – he doesn’t seem to have an ego problem at all.

He explains why he left the West Wing to do one horrible series after another and why those series were so bad. I love insider Hollywood information like that. My only complaint about this book is that unlike his previous book, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, he does NOT NAME NAMES! for the more scandalous stories – with the exception of Jewel. That story was hilarious. You’ll have to read the book for that one alone. Anyway, he does provide cryptic hints when he describes the person and with some Googling, I probably could have figured out who the people were. But I was listening to this book on a road trip and couldn’t justify pulling over to make notes of who I needed to look up later. However, I’m pretty sure that the girl he took with him to Warren Beatty’s house was Melissa Gilbert. So there’s one mystery solved for you!

I loved listening to Rob narrate this audio book. Obviously, he is the best person to tell his own stories. The book is already written in a very conversational style and having Rob himself read it to me made it that much better. And he is actually a pretty good impressionist for some of the celebrities in the book. Some of his accents were pretty terrible though but I just thought it was funny, not annoying.

The great thing about Rob Lowe is that after a brief downturn in the 90s, his career is stronger than ever and he remains such a downright nice guy. Watch any of his appearances on Ellen and you can totally tell that he is not faking his awesome attitude. Ahem. I may still be crushing on him after all these years. Children of the 80s, this book is for you. Fans of West Wing, Parks and Rec, Californication or Behind the Candelabra, this book is for you too. Rob Lowe fans unite!

(I received this audio book courtesy of the Solid Gold reviewers program at Audiobook Jukebox.)

Other books by Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Book Review: A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

A Circle of WivesA Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Release Date: March 4, 2014
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

When Dr. John Taylor turns up dead in a hotel room, the local police uncover enough incriminating evidence to suspect foul play. Detective Samantha Adams, whose Palo Alto beat usually covers petty crimes, is innocently thrown into a high-profile case that is more complicated than any she has faced before. A renowned reconstructive surgeon and a respected family man, Dr. Taylor was beloved and admired. But beneath his perfect façade was a hidden life—in fact, multiple lives. Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities. As the circumstances surrounding his death emerge, Detective Adams finds herself tracking down a murderer through a tangled web of marital deception and revenge.

I chose this book because it got an A- review in Entertainment Weekly and involves polygamy. Perfect combo for me! This book is different from the other polygamy books I’ve read in that most of the wives don’t know the others exist. Although I wouldn’t rate this as high as EW did, I found this to be a quick and entertaining read. It did require some suspension of disbelief to fully enjoy however. Unless John never slept, it was difficult to imagine how he kept up the ruse for as long as he did. And his third wife was a highly intelligent doctor – how did she not figure out something fishy was going on? John is repeatedly described as a paunchy middle-aged man – it was hard to understand why he was so irresistible. Other than the fact that he is a plastic surgeon who does pro bono facial reconstruction, we never find out too much about him. This is a pretty short book so I think it had room for developing John’s character more. Maybe through flashbacks since he’s dead from the get-go.

The three wives and Samantha were all well-drawn characters, even if not necessarily likeable. I don’t need to like the characters in a book to enjoy it though. These women were all definitely flawed in their own ways. There were plenty of surprises throughout this mystery, including the end. And there was also a good dose of creepiness. All in all, this was a good effort and I would have liked it even if it didn’t have polygamy in it. But I’m glad it did.

(I received this book courtesy of Amazon Vine.)

Other polygamy books I’ve reviewed:

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (the only novel, the rest are memoirs)
Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
Love Times Three by Joe Darger
Triumph by Carolyn Jessop
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser

Throwback Thursdays: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
First published in 1996
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

First of all, you all know that I’m not a fantasy expert. For some VERY detailed reviews by hard-core fantasy fans, check out the reviews on Goodreads. This book/series did not go over well with them in general for a variety of reasons. The most common complaint is that it’s not original. Since I don’t read much fantasy, that wasn’t a problem for me.

Another common complaint is that it’s misogynistic. I can see where this is coming from. There is a lot of rape and women in general are not treated well. I just thought GRRM wrote it that way because that’s how it was in the time period this book is set in. I’m not sure what time period that is supposed to be, but I know it’s a long, long time ago. One particular storyline that did bother me was the one where a young teenage girl is sold into marriage wiht a much older man, who essentially rapes her on their wedding night. Over time she grows to love him deeply. Maybe she has Stockholm Syndrome but I did not care for it even so. If you watch the TV series, you may have noticed that the women are almost always taken from behind with not as much as a kiss before hand. I can’t remember if all the sex is described in the book this way, but that method puts women in a pretty submissive position. (no pun intended)

This book is very, very long, clocking in at over 800 pages. Since I have a TON of books on my reading list, it’s hard for me to commit to reading a book this big. Incidentally, if GRRM would cut down his descriptions of the food everyone eats, the book could be about 200 pages shorter! However, I love the TV series and decided I should read the books as well. I thought it might make the TV show even better if I knew more about what the characters were thinking and their backstorys. It did do that. However, since this first book follows the first series of the TV show very faithfully and therefore I already knew what was going to happen, this book wasn’t unputdownable. (That’s a word, right?) I even put it down a few times to read other books. And even though I’d already seen the show, I still found it hard to keep all of the characters straight.

I did like that this book has a lot of surprises that I definitely would not have seen coming if I hadn’t watched the show first. I also liked that even though it’s fantasy, there is not a lot of magic. People aren’t saved because some magical element comes out of nowhere. If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know this is a big problem for me.

I liked this book and probably would have liked it more if I hadn’t watched the show first. But in my opinion this a rare instance where the on-screen version is better than the book. And I will read the other books in the series at some point, my interest was held enough to want to continue. Since this is the first book in the series, it could be much like how the pilot episode of a new TV series is usually not very good because it is setting up the future of the show and introducing the characters. I will reserve more judgment until I have read at least the second book.

Every Thursday I host Throwback Thursdays. If you you’d like to share a post from the past week about a book from “back in the day”, feel free to grab the button for your post and and link up below. Be sure and link directly to your post, not your blog’s home page. Thanks!

Book Review: The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses

The Appetites of GirlsThe Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Release Date: June 26, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Self-doubting Ruth is coddled by her immigrant mother, who uses food to soothe and control. Defiant Francesca believes her heavy frame shames her Park Avenue society mother and, to provoke her, consumes everything in sight. Lonely Opal longs to be included in her glamorous mother’s dinner dates—until a disturbing encounter forever changes her desires. Finally, Setsu, a promising violinist, staves off conflict with her jealous brother by allowing him to take the choicest morsels from her plate—and from her future. College brings the four young women together as suitemates, where their stories and appetites collide. Here they make a pact to maintain their friendships into adulthood, but each must first find strength and her own way in the world.

The Appetites of Girls follows four women from childhood through early adult-hood. They meet in college, where they are suitemates in their dorm. Each girl has a distinct personality and a distinct relationship with food to go along with it. Two of them eat too much and two eat too little. The four women were well drawn characters. I did wish some of the secondary characters would have been developed more, especially Setsu’s parents. They were just blurry stick figures in my mind. Speaking of Setsu, she was so frustrating – I wanted to beat her about the head and shoulders. I consider it the mark of a good author if a book can stir up strong emotion in me like that, even if it is a negative emotion. I felt strongly for all four of the women in fact and could understand why each of the them turned out the way they did.

The book is organized in chronological order and alternates between each girl’s first person view point. It takes jumps forward in time – first a section from their childhoods, then college and so-on. This was an effective structure that held my interest. It was like I was checking in and catching up with them at each point in their lives.

With four diverse main characters, I think that there will be aspects of one or more of these women that a reader will relate to, making this a book that most everyone should be able to enjoy.

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)

Throw Back Thursdays: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

MonsterMonster by Walter Dean Myers
First publisher in 1999
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Steve Harmon’s black. He’s in jail, maybe forever. He’s on trial for murder. And he’s sixteen years old.

Fade In: Interior: Early Morning In Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center.

Steve (Voice-Over)
Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster.

Steve’s story is told in the screenplay he writes about his crime, trial and time in prison and diary entries he writes while in prison. I was worried that the screenplay parts would be difficult to read since I’ve never read a whole screenplay before, but they weren’t. Steve is an incredibly unreliable narrator. Myers purposely leaves it unclear whether he is innocent or guilty. I won’t spoil it by telling you what the jury’s verdict is.

I liked that this book brought up so many issues that are ripe for discussion. Is it ethical to offer criminals deals or plea bargains in exchange for testifying against other criminals? Are black people treated unfairly in the criminal justice system? Did Steve commit the crime or not? For this reason, this book would make an excellent book club selection for a teenage or adult book club.

Walter Dean Myers, who died on July 1, 2014, was a prolific writer, having published over 100 books for children and teenagers. His books have won many, many awards. Monster won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. I’ll probably never read all of his backlist but after reading this book, I definitely want to give it a shot.

Every Thursday I host Throwback Thursdays. If you you’d like to share a post from the past week about a book from “back in the day”, feel free to grab the button for your post and and link up below. Be sure and link directly to your post, not your blog’s home page. Thanks!

Book Review: Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guin

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles MansonManson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn
Publisher: Recorded Books
Release Date: August 6, 2013
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

More than forty years ago Charles Manson and his mostly female commune killed nine people, among them the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. It was the culmination of a criminal career that author Jeff Guinn traces back to Manson’s childhood. Guinn interviewed Manson’s sister and cousin, neither of whom had ever previously cooperated with an author. Childhood friends, cellmates, and even some members of the Manson Family have provided new information about Manson’s life. Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders, answering unresolved questions, such as why one person on the property where the murders occurred was spared.

Manson puts the killer in the context of his times, the turbulent late sixties, an era of race riots and street protests when authority in all its forms was under siege. Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times, persuading confused young women (and a few men) that he had the solutions to their problems. At the same time he used them to pursue his long-standing musical ambitions, relocating to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences as he convinced his followers to commit heinous murders on successive nights.

Ever since the period in high school, when I only read true crime, I’ve been intrigued by Charles Manson and the Manson Family. Helter Skelter by Vincent Buglisiosi, the prosecutor in the Manson Family murder trials, is my favorite true crime book. When I heard there was a new book about Manson that was supposed to be great, I had to check it out.

I wasn’t disappointed. This book is a very comprehensive biography of Charles Manson. While Helter Skelter is a focused look at the investigation and trial for Manson and his followers, Manson’s focus is on the life of Charles Manson. It starts with his grandmother’s life and ends at the present day. Knowing the history of the women who raised Charlie, as well as how he was raised gives a lot of insight into how Charlie came to be the man he is.

I really appreciated how, in addition to telling the story of the people in the book, Guinn describes the cultural environment of the times. His account of the 60s and how the drugs and hippie culture could give a man like Charlie an opportunity to rise to the level of guru was especially good. Guin also delves into the back stories of the prominent family members like Susan Atkins and Squeaky, among many others. While I still can’t completely comprehend how people of normal intelligence could follow someone like Manson, I do understand somewhat better than I did before. It would be great if there was some video footage of Charlie’s preaching to give me and the world a better idea of what his charisma was like. Too bad there was no cell phone videos or YouTube back then! And from what Guin says in the book, the crazy way Manson acts in the television interviews he’s done since being in prison is all an act. That’s not how he acted when he was recruiting and leading his family members.

Even though I thought I knew a lot about Manson, I was surprised by a lot in this book as well. For instance, I didn’t know that Charlie and his family had a pretty close relationship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. That struck me as really funny too because the Beach Boys and the Manson Family don’t seem like they would have too much in common.

I listened to the audio version of this book which was narrated by Jim Frangione. He was great – very professional and listenable. Non-fiction book narrators run the risk of sounding dry but Frangione has good energy. I have to add that before this, I had only listened to him narrating Black Dagger Brotherhood books so it took me a few minutes to get used to him talking about Charles Manson and not sexy vampires.

The print version of this book has some photos in it. I actually checked the print version out from the library so I could see the photos. There were just a few and they didn’t add anything to my experience of the book. If you choose to listen to this book on audio, I don’t think you’re missing anything. My only complaint about the audio version is that there were a lot of really long pauses and not just in between chapters. They were so long that most of the time, I thought it was time to change discs until I looked at the track count.

After reading this book, I’d like to re-read Helter Skelter, just to see how what I learned from this book fits in with Bugliosi’s side of the whole ordeal. In any case, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson is a very well-researched biography of Charles Manson. I highly recommend it.

(I received this book courtesy of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.)

Book Review: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

A Long Way Home: A MemoirA Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley
Publisher: Putnam
Release Date: June 12, 2014
My rating: 4.5of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

Saroo’s story is amazing in so many ways. First, that he was able to survive on the streets of Calcutta (Kolkata) for weeks at only five-years old. Then, that he was adopted by a wonderful Australian couple within four months of arriving at an Indian orphanage – a process that would take years today. And finally, that he was able to find the town in India he was originally from with Google Earth when he didn’t even know the town’s name!

I really enjoyed learning Saroo’s story. I was once again fascinated by the culture in India – this time learning about the very poorest slums where Saroo’s Indian family lived. Saroo tells his story in a conversational, easy style that was a pleasure to read.

I’ve included the link to Saroo’s interview on the Australian version of 60 minutes, which can be found on his website. It’s long but worth watching. In the last part of it, Saroo’s Australian mom meets his Indian mom for the first time. The emotion that his Australian mom has in that moment is astounding. Saroo talks about her being supportive in the book and it is evident at the meeting. She expresses nothing but gratitude and love to Saroo’s Indian mother. Not a hint of jealousy.

Saroo’s story is also being made into a motion picture which I hope turns out to be as good as his book. His is an incredible story worth reading.

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)

Throwback Thursdays: Pride and Prejudice (Encore Review)

I first published this review in May 2010. It’s interesting to see how much better and more detailed (I think anyway) my reviews have gotten since then.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
First Published in 1813
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since I was a business major in college, I wasn’t made to read a lot of the standard classics that most people have already read. I’m finally starting to make up for lost time.

I loved this book. I have always loved 19th century literature, mostly because I love the societal rules and manners. (The House of Mirth is one of my all-time favorite books.) However, I was a bit surprised that I could be drawn in so much to a romance where no one even kisses. (Especially because some of the paranormal romances I read are practically pornography.) But I couldn’t put this book down and I am now in love with Mr. Darcy like so many other women before me.

The Annotated Pride & PrejudiceThe Annotated Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I used this book as a reference while I was reading Pride and Predjudice on my Kindle. There were way too many footnotes to read directly from this edition. I would read a few chapters on the Kindle and then skim the footnotes in this edition for the section I had just read. I think I got a lot more out of the book than if I had just read the regular version. Shapard’s footnotes contained many interesting facts about the customs of the day that helped explain various characters’ motivations for their actions. He also included biographical information about Jane Austen herself that was helpful.

Every Thursday I host Throwback Thursdays. If you you’d like to share a post from the past week about a book from “back in the day”, feel free to grab the button for your post and and link up below. Be sure and link directly to your post, not your blog’s home page. Thanks!

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