Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review -- Zeitoun

ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book source:  Nook
Genre:  Non-fiction; biography
Objectionable material:  FEMA (!)

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you were accused of something you didn’t do?

Would you be able to convince someone of your innocence?

Could you find an attorney?

Would your family and friends believe you?

What if you were arrested and no one knew?

In Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, we come to know Abdulrahman Zeitoun (going forward known simply as Zeitoun [Zay-toon]) – a hardworking business man in New Orleans, who with his wife Kathy, run a successful painting/home restoration company. In the immediate days that proceed and follow Hurricane Katrina, they struggle, like most did, with what to do: Do we leave? Do we stay? Storms are never as bad as they predict? What about our properties? Our business? Our home?

They decide as a family that Zeitoun will stay and “man the fort” while Kathy takes their 4 children to stay with relatives in Baton Rouge.

And we all know what happens next: first few days…storm seems manageable. Then the levees break and the floods come.

Zeitoun is stranded in his home – but fortunately, he has had time to secure much of their property to the upper floors. He also has a second-hand canoe.

With his canoe he saves stranded neighbors, friends and dogs. He also is able to check on the multiple properties they own in the city. Including a property that has a working landline phone. It’s from this property that he is able to contact Kathy on a daily basis (while she is pleading for him to leave!) and from this property that his worst nightmare manifests.

Eggers brilliantly tells the story of what happens to Zeitoun and Kathy in the weeks that follow Katrina. It’s Shakespearian in scope – unlawful arrest, missing for days, presumed dead – everyone’s worst nightmare come to pass.

I was horrified by our Government.

I was humbled by Zeitoun’s faith.

Something like this should never happen. Ever. Especially in the United States.

And in his own words, Mr. Zeitoun about his experience post Katrina:

Friday, June 22, 2012

June Book Club & Book Review -- Women Food and God

Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost EverythingWomen, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
My enjoyment rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book source:  personal copy
Genre:  Non-fiction; self-help
Objectionable material: None
June Book Club selection -- our book club discussion was 5 stars!

I was put on my first diet at in kindergarten. Needless to say…my issues with food have been screwed up since then.

In her book, Women Food and God (there are no commas in the title), Geneen Roth tries to shed light on compulsive eating habits and how we as women can take control of our “voice,” our bodies, and our relationship with food.

My first issue with this book was her mantra – that if we just listened to our bodies and when we were hungry, we’d solve all our problems. Well duh! Don’t you think I know that?? That’s the point – after 40 years of obliterating my natural ability to gauge my hunger, it’s not quite so easy to say, ‘well yes, I am full…I really don’t need another piece of cake.” Fat people know this, trust me.

Also, that people with food issues have them because their parents sucked. Her's may have, but my parents rocked. I blame the psycho doctor that put a 6 year old on a diet.

There are a few quotes that are clever – like, “overeating does not lead to rapture. It leads to burping and farting and being so sick that you can’t think of anything but how full you are. That’s not love, that’s suffering.” And, “We don't want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.”

I suppose there is some value in the things she said…it just took her an entire book to say what she accomplished on the last page:

“The Eating Guidelines"
1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.”

Save yourself the time…that’s all you need to read or know.
Our July book club selection:  Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Nineteen Minutes

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List

The likelihood of finishing 10 books this summer is highly improbable (considering I will have 3 children expecting me to be Julie The Cruise Director for 10 weeks) – however, I do like to give the impression of being an overachiever!
1.       Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – I loved Mantel’s Wolf Hall – can’t wait to find out who is beheaded next!
2.        Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen – a popular blogger who nearly lost her life in a plane crash, this is a book that should remind me that I need to count my blessings daily.
3.       The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani -- I’ve never read any of this author’s fiction work (best known for her Big Stone Gap series), thought I would start with her most recent book.
4.       Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick – because when you complain about the lines at WalMart – author Demick is there to remind you that in North Korea, there is no WalMart.  Or food for that matter.
5.       The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trent Stewart – this is our Mother/Daughter book club reading choice for the summer.  If I don’t read it, my daughter will ban me from our meetings.
6.       Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – because this is leftover from last year’s reading list.
7.       A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – I’m not much of a mystery reader, but this mother/son writing team has created a mystery series that has been on many “if you liked Downton Abbey…then you will like this” lists.  That’s enough for me.
8.       The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte – because I need to read at least one classic.
9.       The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey – about the strife of an Irish family prior to WWI – this was recommended to me by a friend.  And because it has a pretty cover.
10.   The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – July book club choice – not sure I would have picked it otherwise.
11.   BONUS BOOK -- Anything by Jen Lancaster – by summer’s end, I will need something that makes me laugh out loud, because by then, my kids will have taken over the house, my sanity called into question, and I will be running up the white flag of surrender.
What are you reading this summer?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review -- NurtureShock

NurtureShock: New Thinking About ChildrenNurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson
My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Book source:  Nook
Genre:  Non fiction; self help-parenting
Objectionable material: none -- unless what they espouse makes you uncomfortable as a parent!

One thing I’ve done right as a parent – taught my children to sleep. Teach you might ask? Yes…it started when they were 6 weeks old – consider it basic training for infants – or Baby Wise or Baby Whisperer or Cry it Out – regardless, it worked and my kids have always had strict bedtimes and no other sleep related issues.

In their book, NurtureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman try to de-bunk the common myths most parents adhere to when raising their child(ren): praise and reward them often, their activity schedule is more important than their sleep schedule, raising a child in a diverse environment automatically makes them racially accepting, sitting a child in front of a language video will immediately advance their language skills, among other issues like lying, and sibling rivalry

For the most part – none of their topics seemed “new” or “wow’d” me. We’ve always put a priority on sleep; we’ve never been overdosing praise-type parents – probably because my kids are just “average” kids – who for the most part struggle with everything they attempt. So instead of “you’re so smart” or “you’re so great”, it’s “you’ve got to try harder…”.

I certainly appreciated the chapter on LYING. We’ve entered that phase in our household. To know that my kid isn’t necessarily evil – and that 96% of kids lie to their parents – is comforting, I guess. Also, that the arguments my daughter and I have will most likely be forgotten, is a relief. Whew.

After spending a week at boy scout camp, I’m sure my husband would view this book as required reading for 98% of the parents who had kids there, because of the behavior issues he encountered. He is done with over-praised, self entitled children.

Overall, a good analysis and shake up of long held beliefs – and how we can do better for our kids.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review -- State of Wonder

State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre:  Literary fiction
Book source: personal copy
Objectionable material:  Only if you have snake phobia; one F bomb
Ladies of Literature book club

Pharmaceutical giant, Vogel, has lost contact with their lead research manager, Dr. Annick Swenson, in the heart of the Amazon forests. After colleague Anders Eckman, who is sent to investigate Dr. Swenson’s incommunicado, is reported dead, Dr. Marina Singh is sent to find out the nature of Dr. Eckman’s death and to bring the rogue Dr. Swenson back in line with Vogel’s research objectives. What Dr. Singh discovers is a mythical tribe with lifelong fertility, magical mushrooms, a research group determined to keep the fertility elixir quiet, and a Doctor who has earned both trust and fear from those around her.

Ann Patchett has created a provocative novel about science, nature, friendship, exploration, morality, and endurance, and how they all collide in the jungles of the Amazon.

I was amazed at Ms. Patchett’s writing style. She so gloriously creates the flora and fauna of the jungle that I was tempted to swat mosquitoes away and seek suitable shelter from the animals lurking therein.

The story was so multifaceted --- was it the magical drug that was so important? Was it Dr. Eckman’s disappearance? Was it Dr. Swenson’s despot-like rule over the research team and tribe? It was all deftly woven with balance and intrigue.

After reading Ms. Patchett’s novel, I am convinced, now more than ever that A) I have no desire to “vacation” along the tributaries of the Amazon, and B) to extend my fertility beyond normal limits. God knew what He was doing.

Overall, a good read, and a good book club discussion.