Blog Posts by Kelley M

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.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 04/18/14
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“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”
 
This book is loosely based on the real lives of two abolitionist sisters, Sarah & Nina Grimke.  Sarah & Nina grew up in Charleston, South Carolina during the decline of the plantation era.  The novel spans over 35 years & tells the story of not just Sarah & Nina, but also the slaves that their family owned.  We watch as Sarah, Nina, and Hetty “Handful” Grimke (their slave) move past the social barriers placed upon them (the Invention of Wings), being ostracized along the way.

The author, Sue Monk Kidd, adds fictional dimensions to the history of the Grimkes.  Through these fictional accounts, we learn a lot about actual history.  We become acquainted with the relationships between children slaves & plantation owners’ children, religious dynamics of the era, family relationships, the lives of slaves and the abolitionist movement as the story progresses.  The plot, while slow to start, really picks up momentum about halfway through. 

If you liked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom or Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini, you might want to give this read a try…
 
Posted by Kelley M on 04/02/14
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The story begins in 1912, when a Scottish, published poet named Elspeth Dunn, starts receiving fan mail from a young American named David Graham. Elspeth has a phobia for traveling & has been on the island of Skye almost her entire life. Through the continued correspondence of Elspeth & David, their fondness for each other grows. Elspeth, however, is married to a sailor/soldier. Will this alter a future for Elspeth & David?

We learn that Elspeth has a daughter & through her daughter’s letters, we learn more about Elspeth’s life. We find out that there is one lost letter that remains to help Margaret, Elspeth’s daughter, find out the truth about what happened to her family & her mother.

David goes off to France to drive ambulances during the war, to avoid the career his father demands. David’s storyline in France helps give a good framework for the letters & also helps us see what an impact war had on every day individuals like this. By telling the story through letters, you feel like you’re peeking into real peoples’ lives. The audio book version is delightful. It gives you a real feel for the characters. The author, Jessica Brockmole, describes historical aspects in delicious detail, helping transport the reader to that time.

If you liked The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, you might want to give this read a try.

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