As August winds down, we're trying to spend as much time as possible outside. Jax is toddling around now, Veronica has entered high school, Vinnie has entered junior high, and Vivian is going back to school two days a week for some much-needed therapy and school time. So - life isn't ideal for reading, but I've managed to polish off four interesting reads in the past couple of weeks. Here are my quick reviews!
The Holdout by Graham Moore
I'm not usually too much into the courtroom drama / mystery / murder stuff, but this was a fantastic page-turner in that genre that I found myself thinking about obsessively while I had to take reading breaks and do real-people things. Synopsis: A jury makes a very controversial decision in a murder trial and then comes back together for a documentary 10 years later and chaos (and murder!) ensues. DEFINITELY thought-provoking in regards to race relations. Recommend!
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker
Wow, what a super weird book! A little bit Handmaid's Tale, a little bit Westboro Baptist, a little bit everything else covered in gold glitter. Oh, and all of the men are totally evil - not a one with layers of anything but bad - imagine that! Anyway. If this sounds up your alley, I'd recommend, as it was well-written for sure. Overall though, I could've found a better book for my time.
Compelling Conversations for Fundraisers: Talk Your Way to Success with Donors and Funders by Janet Levine and Laurie Selik
I'm going to catapult myself into fundraising superstardom by reading all of the fundraising books and reviewing them to other fundraising professionals and somehow this will ultimately lead to my traveling the country talking about fundraising trends and the like. So this is where I started - it was a super quick read and was almost like workbook style, which came off to me as an author's way to meet their page minimum requirement but what did YOU think about the book? (insert 10 blank lines here for you to write out your thoughts)
Mostly basic information, but I did appreciate a great chapter about pivoting the conversation from small talk to down-to-business talk, although some of the pivots seemed a little rickety to me. ("That's really great about your new house! Too bad some of our clients don't have anywhere to live at all....") (Just kidding, that's not a direct quote) (But it's not too far off). So! A good book for a beginner.
The Paris Hours by Alex George
Everything Alex George touches turns to gold. That's all there is to it. All of his books make me think, "THIS is why I love reading." His books are so descriptive and musical and just...beautiful. This one is set in Paris about a hundred years ago or so and we hang out with Ernest Hemingway, Proust, Josephine Baker and follow the stories of a few other fictional folks who have intersecting situations. It's all very tragic and romantic and exciting. I liked his other books just a hair better, mostly because I didn't feel like I got *enough* of these great characters.
I would certainly recommend The Paris Hours OR Setting Free the Kites, OR A Good American and just be prepared to be completely immersed. SO GOOD.
Up Next: I'm finishing up a brain candy book on my phone that's actually really lovely, and I'm about to start another fundraising book. Our book club choice for September is Hamnet and I'm beyond excited because the author is amazing and the premise sounds fascinating. I'll pick it up from the library today! What are YOU reading?
Due to my vacation and just general busy-ness, I haven't posted any reviews for a while. So - I have five book recommendations to share. There's probably something here for everyone!
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
I actually read the updated version of this book, which as been on my TBR list since I read his amazing Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.
I could have certainly written an extended review on this one, as I have a LOT of thoughts (and shared most of them with Jeff as I went along)... instead I'll just say that this book is chock full of both really great life advice and really wacky life advice. Tim Ferriss is an oddball to be sure, but this book serves as a fantastic reminder that there can be alternate realities where we are truly living our best life and break the 9-5 barrier. I like my career and I'm not sure what I might do with some of the takeaways here, but I've definitely still got this book on my mind despite having finished it weeks ago.
Oh, and one of my favorite insights of his was that someone's success is largely dependent on the uncomfortable conversations they are willing to have. I'm not sure if that's 100% true for everyone, but it has certainly been my experience!
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
My goodness, I had heard so many consistent rave reviews about this debut! Set in the south side of Chicago, this novel explored race relations but certainly family relations. The theme seemed to be that people are messed because their parents were messed up (and THEIR parents messed THEM up!) It also had a pretty fascinating whodunit element that I really liked (sometimes my fiction choices trick me because they're actually mysteries DISGUISED as fiction.)
I'd recommend this if you are in the mood for a really meaningful work that's going to depress you. Have a chaser ready.
All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe by Knox McCoy
A book club pick! Thanks, me! (It actually sucks to be the one who makes the recommendation because then you're constantly worried that everyone will hate your choice.)
I love Knox McCoy (although he has a podcast and I've never listened, so I guess I'm not a true fan but I'm not really doing the podcast thing, I'm doing the listen-to-mindless-music-and-tune-out thing.)
I really enjoyed this majorly quick read, but I will say that this is actually just a book of essays he published and then tried to build a theme around them. The reconsidering piece didn't really play out, in my personal opinion. That said, I was awarded with big laughs and much to think about, so that's a win for me. I hope everyone else didn't hate it.
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
I just dearly loved Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck" to I decided to quickly download another of her essays. It was just another hysterical fun book that served as brain candy and a wonderful chaser for a book like Saving Ruby King. Nora Ephron was sassy, sharp, and so funny. We lost her too soon! I plan to read everything she's touched.
Up Next: I just started a big one that my sister and bestie have urged me to read for a million years, and I also am FLYING through a courtroom drama. What are YOU reading?
I’m not a big Jessica Simpson fan.
I remember one of her songs (Irresistible), saw maybe 5 minutes of Newlyweds (that was enough), remember being annoyed in college as she was just one in an endless string of blonde pop stars, saw a smokin’ picture of her as Daisy Duke, and in general just remember that she was known for her pipes, hot bod, and blonde hair. That’s it!
I saw she had a memoir out, and didn’t care. But then I kept seeing that people were just loving it! Okay, fine, I decided to see what all the hype was about. I remember Jeff laughed when he saw the book on the shelf. He wasn’t being mean, I understood the confused laugh. I think I laughed the same way when I checked it out at the library.
I actually really liked it.
I guess I was expecting a book about her rise to stardom and maybe a passage or two about her cruddy marriage but mostly a play-by-play of her perfect life. My guesses were proven wrong from the very beginning, as she opens with a couple of scenes from present day that immediately shed any sort of a perfect life filter. It’s very much an immediate glimpse of what a hot mess her life has been and occasionally can still be.
I’m not judging her particular hot mess, as I think we are all navigating through our own complex and sometimes nightmarish situations. I learned from my reading that she has the tendency to complicate her situations, but don’t we all?
My family probably hates me because I always share the story about how if we were to all throw our problems into a big pile, we’d be rushing to grab our problems back as opposed to trade them with anyone else’s problems. I mention this so often because it’s both weirdly comforting and yet constantly surprising. I’d rather have my own problems than even Jessica Simpson’s problems. Wild!
Her memoir title is accurate. She gives an overview of her life basically from start to present, and does a good job of providing the highlights (and lowlights?). She even owns up to some of the really stupid things she has said and although she usually provides some context, she never excuses herself for it. She’s not trying to get readers to think she’s any sort of deep thinker, although she has a great line in the very beginning about how she knows some people wouldn’t expect that she could string a sentence together but that she’s actually a big reader and writer. I believe that, and in fact I was kept on my toes by just the back and forth of her describing something stupid she said or did (what an idiot!) and then her profound insights about herself and her life (what an introspective and normal-seeming person!)
I also really appreciated how open she was about her faith. When I was at Big Brothers Big Sisters, I conducted a lot of volunteer interviews with folks primarily within about 10 years of my age. I learned a lot from those interviews (and would love to discuss that further with you) but one pattern that I saw was this wrinkling of the nose when I posed the question, “Are you religious?” Their response 90% of the time was, “I’d say I’m more spiritual.” It seems like people within this demographic are increasingly wary of organized religion and seem to be more in favor of a more personal spiritualism. (Although I’m getting away from my point, I’d venture a guess that church politics plays a role.) (This is just me spouting off from my anecdotal evidence – I’m bringing nothing to the table right now in the form of research, sources, or supporting poems.) Anyway – right or wrong or neither, Jessica opted not to appeal to the masses by talking in vague terms about spirituality and inner voices but really just put her beliefs right out there and never deviated from them. I found that refreshing and amazingly – believable.
After turning the last page, I decided to “follow” her on Twitter. Pretty much all of the comments are yay or nay on the state of her body. Annoying. So I’m glad that there are those like me who chose to spend some time with just her brains (and heart!) for a while and better understand who she actually is.
Author's Note: The theme of Jessica's second wedding was Great Expectations, and I'm sorry to spoil it for you, but she *didn't* have her makeup artist make her up to look like an old lady in her wedding dress. So she wasted a totally perfect opportunity, which I have placed in her "dumb moves" file.
Mom of four, wife of one. By day I fund-raise with coffee, by night I read with wine and chocolate.