Blog Posts by Kelley M

Posted by Kelley M on 02/03/15
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There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…
 
If you like the writing styles of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, Sarah Dunant, Donna Tartt or Tracy Chevalier, you might want to give this historical fiction read a try.  The Miniaturist takes place in seventeenth century Amsterdam.  Nella Ortman, an eighteen-year-old, comes to Amsterdam, to begin her life as a married woman.  She marries Johannes Brandt, a merchant trader, who sails the seas.  She is left to her lonesome quite often with the house servants & Johannes’ harsh sister Marin. 
 
Nella’s husband, Johannes, buys Nella quite the extravagant wedding gift, a furniture-sized model of the Brandt household.  Nella seeks out a miniaturist to make furnishings for the replica-sized home.  The artist starts to make items that mirror life and foretell future happenings. 
 
Through the story, you get a great feel for race, sex and class issues in seventeenth century Europe.  I found that the novel did a good job of transporting me to seventeenth century Amsterdam.  The author has a gift for writing descriptive prose, without overwhelming the reader. This is Jessie Burton’s first novel.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 01/07/15
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A book about the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history…  You know this is going to be interesting. 
 
The author, Malala Yousafzai, was shot by the Taliban due to her belief that women should be educated.  It is easy to forget, living in the United States, that the education of females, unfortunately, is not a right extended to all women in the world.  This book is about overcoming that obstacle and speaking up about it, despite the potentially fatal response.  Yousafzai has been an advocate for girls’ educational rights since the age of 11.  I found it so interesting to hear a Muslim family’s perspective on the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley in Pashtun.  What a perspective-altering book.  I really think the Washington Post summed up this book best when it said, “Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls… and watch a community change.”  If you find it difficult to get through the memoir in paper-form, give the audiobook a try.  Definitely worth the read.
 
Biography, memoir
Posted by Kelley M on 12/02/14
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Can a story about a teenage latrine cleaner be entertaining enough to read 387 pages?  Absolutely.  Nombeko, the main character of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is a self-educated girl from Soweto, who has the chance to save the king of Sweden & the world.  In the book, she claims that the probability of this happening is 1 in 45,766,212,810.  The book is about serious topics: discrimination, nuclear weapons, politics…  But, the book somehow manages to be light-hearted & comedic.  This author truly has a special talent for taking difficult topics & making them entertaining & accessible.  The story contains a unusual, eccentric group of characters.  Moral of the story?  No matter who you are, you might just have a major impact on humanity.
 
The Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, is a best-selling author overseas.  This is his second novel.  His first novel was The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.
 
Fiction
Posted by Kelley M on 10/31/14
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It’s the perfect type of day for a book like Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.  A little gory, a little creepy…  However, you will learn a bunch by reading this book.  Caitlin Doughty’s book makes you think about a topic that most folks like to avoid: death.  This young woman decided to become a mortician at the age of 23.  The book takes a look at not only the adventures of working at a crematory/mortuary, but also gets into the history of rituals surrounding death, both internationally & nationally. 
 
This book just might change your perspective on what should happen to you after you pass away.  The author makes a depressing topic an interesting and entertaining one.  The book is witty and a quick read.
 
If you liked Mary Roach’s book Stiff or the television series Six Feet Under, you might like this read…
 
Non-Fiction
Posted by Kelley M on 10/01/14
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During my formative years, my parents used reverse psychology on me, allowing me to stay up to watch Johnny Carson if I agreed not to complain about getting up for school in the morning.  I was so excited to read a book about this legendary entertainment powerhouse.  Johnny Carson’s long time lawyer & confidant, Henry Bushkin, is the author of this book.  Mr. Bushkin was sworn to secrecy regarding his interactions as Johnny’s attorney, until Johnny’s death in 2005.  Johnny Carson preferred to keep a low profile in his private life so it was great to gain some perspective on the man behind The Tonight Show.
 
While this book is a work of non-fiction, the pace was fast enough to keep my interest.  Especially interesting were the accounts of Johnny’s relationship with his mother & father, his marriages, details about show guests, Johnny’s travels and how he became the country’s highest-paid entertainer during the ‘70s & ‘80s.  It’s important to keep in mind that this is a biography by a longtime friend who, eventually, had a falling out with Johnny.  How the book has been received has been a bit controversial.  Folks like Doc Severinsen have blasted the tell-all book.  However, it’s worth a read if you would like to learn some juicy details about the “King of Late Night TV”. 
 
Biography
Posted by Kelley M on 09/03/14
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Having enjoyed other books by award winning novelist Jon Krakauer, I decided it was way past time to read this book.  I have always appreciated reading about other cultures & religions, regardless of how “on the fringe” they might be.  Under The Banner Of Heaven delves into the world of religious extremism.  The book is about the extremist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/Mormonism).  It truly is a whole other world, full of prophecies, power struggles, polygamy and more.  So interesting to read about things I know nothing about!
 
Through the story of two brothers (Ron & Dan Lafferty), who commit murder because of prophecy, we learn more about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Sometimes, I pick up a non-fiction book & struggle to make it through.  Jon Krakauer makes non-fiction truly reader-friendly.  If you like this book, check out the author's other books Into The Wild and Into Thin Air.  Both are non-fiction but totally different than this book.  That's the great thing about this author, every book is totally different.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 08/06/14
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I was hoping that after reading this book, I would look more like Cameron Diaz…  Didn’t work.  All joking aside, I picked up this read, after having watched an interview with Cameron Diaz on Jimmy Fallon.  I was curious about a recipe she mentioned from the book – Shallot Gold, which she claims to put on top of her food all of the time.  I didn’t find this recipe anywhere in the book, sadly.  But, Cameron Diaz’s book did provide me with great reminders about my health & how to try to better my health. 
 
As I read the book, I tried to figure out how it was humanly possibly to do everything she mentioned in the book.  Then, I researched her staff: a cook, a makeup artist, martial arts professionals, etc.  I think I could look much better if I had that type of staff.  However, I’m sure I could look much better just following some of the tips in this book.  A read worth picking up, if not just for the healthy tips & re-education.
 
Fitness, Health
Posted by Kelley M on 07/01/14
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The great thing about Dave Eggers is you never know what type of book you’re picking up.  All of Eggers’ plots, settings & characters are very different from each other.  His current book is no exception.  From the very beginning of the book, you are thrown into the situation. At first, you do not know where you are or who is talking, which makes sense for the situation.   The book is essentially the conversations between 30-year-old Thomas & his hostages.  The dialogue drives this story.  The main character, Thomas, kidnaps people that have had a significant impact on his life (and also someone he feels could have a significant impact on his future).  As you read this book, you start to question some of your own morals. 
 
It’s a quick read.  The audiobook is great, since different characters are played by different people, making characters very easy to keep track of.  If you don’t mind a little strong language, this is a very intense, thought-provoking read. 
 
Posted by Kelley M on 06/04/14
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“The park slumbers through the long winter, weighed down by ice and snow, dreaming of spring…..as it drowses beneath its quilt of snow, it dreams of all the people who flocked to its midways: men, women and especially children, the joy the park brought them, the laughter that was like oxygen for the park, which breathed it in as it floated up from the Cyclone, the Funhouse, the Wild Mouse, the Carousel.”
 
Through a look at the amusement park, Palisades Park, over several decades, we learn about history, the park itself & a family that very well could have actually worked there.  The story focuses on a family – The Stopkas – and through their eyes, we learn the history of the park.  Eddie Stopka owns a French Fry stand at the park & marries Adele.  Adele helps Eddie at the fry stand.  They have two children, Antoinette & Jack.  The story takes us through the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Korean War, a divorce, segregation/integration, and much more.  It has been said that Alan Brennert’s novel is more “nostalgia fiction” than historical fiction. 
 
Because of the novels nostalgic style, you feel like there are certain topics in the book that you want to read more about.  You want more meat to the stories within the story (but I don’t want to spoil these little stories & divulge anything further).  It’s a pleasant read, if you don’t mind a little strong language.  It really makes you think about what used to be controversial family-wise versus what we think of as controversial in today’s age.  It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at an amusement park & makes me think of the good old days of Riverview Park & Kiddieland here in the Chicago area.  It makes me want to read more about now-defunct amusement parks & their histories.
 
You may be familiar with the author’s previous novel “Moloka’I” which was a book club sensation.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 05/03/14
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“We are all refugees from our childhoods.  And so we turn, among other things, to stories.  To write a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees.  Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go.  For there was a moment when anything was possible.  And there will be a moment when nothing is possible.  But in between we can create.”

If you’re looking for a twist of genre, this is the right book for you.  It gets its style from the self-help books which are popular among youths around “rising Asia”. What is fascinating about this book is you will not learn the character’s names.  You will never know the main character’s profession - how exactly he gets rich in “rising Asia”.  You will not even become aware of what Asian country the book is set in.  However, Mohsin Hamid's style keeps you reading.  The entire book is written in second person, so it takes you aback since it seems to be talking about you.  Without knowing specifics, the author takes you through 8 decades of the main character’s life in 228 pages.  The book seems to be both specific & broad at the same time (if that even seems possible). 
 
If you’re looking for a new spin on fiction & don’t mind a little strong language, you might like this one.  This is one of the most innovative works of fiction I've read this year.
 
Mohsin Hamid is also the author of the award-winning Reluctant Fundamentalist.
 
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