Tag Archives: amor towles

Friday 5 – Different Types of Books I’ve Been Reading!

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I’ve got an interesting mix of books for you today! One about beauty, a fictional story set in early 20th century Moscow, fictional post WWII letters and the island of Guernsey, poetry for depressives and a cookbook using ingredients from Trader Joe’s.

I love how such a strange mix of books made it into my life at precisely the same time!

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The French Beauty Solution
by Mathilde Thomas (nonfiction) – worth a read

Thomas is the co-founder of the French cult beauty product company Caudalíe. You can expect that she’ll mention her company’s products in the book, but she mentions those of other brands as well. And while I probably won’t be trying her grape-cleanse anytime soon, I did learn a few things like the best and worst ingredients that go into beauty products. And also that most beauty treatments (except for mani-pedis) are much less expensive in France. I’ve never really done a spa weekend, but I think France would be just the place to do it!

Another tip I learned to keep skin from losing its moisture: After showing, apply coconut oil to your skin. Then blot (instead of drying) with a towel to seal in moisture.

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A Gentleman from Moscow
by Amor Towles 
(fiction) – worth a read

Even though I adored Towles’ Rules of Civilitythe sheer size of this book daunted me. I had it in my hands once and when it took me a week before I opened it, I realized there were hundreds of people on the waiting list, so I best just return it. I finally checked it out again and it kept me glued to my anti-gravity lounge chair on our deck on many summer afternoons. I was a bit confused by the ending; but as I found out, not in ways that other people were when I did a search online. I understood who the woman was in the final scene, but I guess I had too many questions about what happened next and why. While there was a conclusion, it wasn’t wrapped up neatly with a little bow. But maybe that was what Towles was looking for… he got us talking.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer (fiction, audiobook) – MUST READ/LISTEN

Just like the book The Help, I am behind the times with this work of art! Also published in 2009, many readers of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy commented that they had trouble keeping all of the characters straight so they thought the audiobook was much better to do so.

And much like The Help, I don’t know how or what could make this book any more perfect than what it is!

It’s written (almost) entirely of letters to and from the protagonist Juliet, but still forms a complete and beautiful story situated just after WWII in London and on the island of Guernsey. While I was reading it, the movie adaptation was released on Netflix!

I watched it almost immediately after finishing the book because I had no idea how they could adapt these letters onto the screen. Truth be told, many of the details were changed… but they worked for their purposes without detracting too much from the heart of the book. (Plus you’ll see a few fave actors from Downton Abbey!) I still highly recommend reading the book or listening to it on audio.

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Depression and Other Magic Tricks
by Sabrina Benaim (poetry) – worth a read

I don’t normally read poetry. It’s probably because it takes so much to understand and decipher it. I’m just not that good at it. Still, I can appreciate this little book of poems for what it is. Some of it is way over my head and sometimes it is a little much — like “Get over him already!” when reading about break-ups and heartache. But in the same vein, I know the power in releasing the emotion in the moment.

There is creativity in the style of poems as well, styles that may be well-known to the poetic world, but which were new to me, including:

  • Erasures – taking a song and then blacking out all the lines accept the few words that you want to form a poem with in the order they appear in the song
  • Taking a poem from earlier in the book and adding lines within it to create an entirely different poem with an entirely different meaning and feeling
  • Speaking about herself in the third person

While Benaim’s writing is beautifully thick and syrupy with lyrical meaning, much was over my head. Still, there were some great nuggets and lines from certain poems that I really enjoyed. For example:

We cannot control what we remember, but we can control how we remember. (~ How to Fold a Memory)

My favorite poems from this book:

  • explaining my depression to my mother: a conversation
  • seven small ways in which i loved myself this week
  • on releasing light
  • another plain truth
  • magic trick 004
  • follow-up: a prayer / a spell

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The Eat Your Way Healthy at Trader Joe’s Cookbook
by Bonnie Matthews (cookbook) – worth a flip

I love Trader Joe’s, but it isn’t quite convenient enough to get there that often. I loved that the author was able to change her lifestyle by eating healthy all by using and adapting specific ingredients she shopped for at Trader Joe’s. While I loved her story, I found myself just flipping through this book more overwhelmed than inspired. I think there are some great recipes suggested here; they just didn’t arrive in the right season in my life.

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What kind of books are you reading right now?
Do you read different kinds of books at different times during the year?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Friday 5: Some of the better books I’ve read lately…

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I’ve had a good round of books as of late! Here you go…

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh 
(fiction) – worth a read

i-let-you-go

I am guessing that I found this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Unputdownable list. On my copy from the library, a quote from The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins indicates that this novel has a “killer twist”.

I was drawn to this book, of course, by the blue cover. {I tend to be!} I can agree with Hawkins that there was a twist to this book; but I don’t think it is where you are expecting. While there is a bit of twist at the end; I think the real twist is in the middle. You will be questioning everything you read in the pages prior! For this reason, I don’t think it can ever be made into a movie. Still, I loved reading about the Welsh coast, which would be a beautiful setting in a film.

Truthfully, I liked this book more than The Girl on the TrainI would classify it as “unputdownable”, too. While it did take me about a week to read it, I read the last 60% of the book in one day.

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The High Mountains of Portugal
by Yann Martel
 (fiction, audiobook) – on the fence

This book was on my list for two reasons:

1) I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi years ago and loved it and

2) we are considering a trip to Portugal this fall.

I am not sure why I chose the audiobook version of this novel; but I am thinking I may have enjoyed this a bit more if I read the hard copy. I do remember having a hard time getting into Martel’s Life of Pi, but that by the end it became one of my favorite books! The High Mountains of Portugal also took me a while to get into, but I think part of that may have been because of the reader’s voice.

Funny, though, I thought the reader’s voice was quite perfect for this book – almost too perfect. The Portuguese phrases and place names seemed to be so perfectly pronounced, that I had a hard time picturing them in my head. You know how sometimes when you read a language that you don’t know on paper that you can get the general gist because there may be similar spelling or words to a language you already know? I wanted that.

I found my mind wandering during much of the audiobook, but kept up with most of it. This novel covers three inter-related tales. However, I think the symbolism is so profound (much like Life of Pi), that I just might need the Cliff notes. Much of it was over my head. (And the fact that I wasn’t listening carefully the entire time.)

For the record, this is one of the several books that I’ve been reading as of late that mentions Agatha Christie novels, three of which are in this post! (The other is Behind Closed Doors.) Truth be told, I’ve never read a book by this famed author. Maybe this is a sign I should?!

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Food, Health and Happiness:
115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

by Oprah Winfrey
 (cookbook) – worth a read

I learned of this cookbook from Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen. Because of the recent soup craze in our household, Biz had me when she said “I was thrilled that the first 19 recipes are soup recipes!” Not only that, but Biz and I also have in common the tendency to read cookbooks like novels. Plus, Oprah. So this recommendation was a no-brainer.

This cookbook really does read like a novel! Oprah has always shared her struggles with food; but in this book she dispenses the wisdom she has learned through the years and I love the message – real food with people you love.

There are several recipes in this book that I will realistically never make. But I did pull out a few that I will. {Yes, they are soups!} And one of the great food tips I got from Oprah in this book – using (Sabatino brand) truffle zest and truffle salt! Rob and I have bought truffle oil in the past – a very expensive one we didn’t use very often and ended up throwing out and a cheaper one that had a taste of kerosene on the finish. Salt and zest makes much more sense.

I’ve already had some decadent truffle scrambled eggs in the morning with this little hint of flavor and no added calories. Indulgent!

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Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
 (fiction) – must read

This book was also on MMD’s Unputdownable list. And here is another book that took me a week to read, but the last 60% was in just one day! This book takes place over the course of one year – 1938. I wasn’t sure how into it I was at the beginning, but there are so many messages here. I learned, too, that while I shy away from historical novels sometimes, I do like books set in this era. I wanted a word to describe it, so I looked up a few things and realized the “era” that I enjoy is of a much wider range than I had expected. Apparently, I need to brush up on my history!

  • The Gilded Age (1870-1900) – Mark Twain described the late 19th century as the Guilded Age, or as “glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath.” I thought this described the 1930s, but apparently I was wrong…
  • Midnight in Paris – This film takes place in Paris in the 20s. Parts of this book reminded me of this this movie – all of the artists and such.
  • Prohibition (1920-1933) – All the gin-drinking in this novel had me curious about when Prohibition ended. In fact, I thought it lasted just a few years. But 13 years?! I should have remembered this from all of the St. Paul Gangster Tours I’ve been. (The Volstead Act was signed in St. Paul.)
  • The Great Depression (1929 – 1939) – The protaganist in this story acts and speaks as if The Great Depression is over, without actually saying so. This may be because it 1938 was the tail end and such an economic crisis spanned the globe. (Did some of this crisis have to do with Prohibition, I wonder?!)
  • World War II (1939-1945) – Looking up all of these dates put these things in to perspective for me and gave me a bit of a time line.

I really like that this book was set over the course of one year. There is a whole chapter that takes place on birthday in 1938. Oddly enough, it had me thinking about my maternal grandfather. Truth be told, all of my grandparents would have been alive during this time. However, my grandpa shared my birth month and it got me thinking that he would have been 24 at the time. Was his life similar or extremely different since he didn’t live in Manhattan?

It’s times like these that I wish I would have had the maturity and foresight to ask all of my grandparents about their lives during those times before their passing. Why is it now that I find it more fascinating?

By the end of this book, I realized I had to finally start watching the Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda Fitzgerald was one of my favorite “characters” in Midnight in Paris. I wanted to see more of her. I have no idea if either adaptation is a true account of what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife was like; but I find it entertaining nonetheless.

Last piece of note: This is one of the books I’ve read recently that mentions Agatha Christie novels!

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my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry
by Fredrik Backman (fiction) – worth a read 

I adored Backman’s A Man Called Ove; but I listened to the audiobook. This was the first of his books that I read with my eyes. 🙂 This is a moving story about the relationship of an “almost-eight-year-old” and her grandmother. The grandmother tells her granddaughter some glorious fairy tales… that sometimes get blurred with reality.

For instance, you see that dog on the cover of the book? They feed this animal chocolate – and mostly sweets all of the time. While reading, I had to google this book and figure out why in the world they would do such a thing. I was so worried the dog would die! But I came across this interview with the author. I guess he’s been asked this question a lot… {Insert angry emails here!}

We, as readers, were meant to use our imaginations for this part because the animal is supposed to be a wurse. But the book’s description of a wurse did not remind me of a dog at all. That, in conjunction with the misleading photo on the front of the book and the fact that none of the other imaginary parts of the fairy tales ended up in reality made me confused. Wouldn’t you be confused by this passage?

Other than that silliness, I really did enjoy this book. In the end, you’ll understand the reason for the fairy tales and how they take shape (just not as literally as the wurse) in reality. It’s worth the read. {Even if you have to get confused about wurses!} Oh… wait. One more thing. Agatha Christie is mentioned in this book, too. I think this is a sign…

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If you’ve read Agatha Christie, which book is your favorite?

Which book would tell someone to read first?

Cheers~
Carrie