Reviews

January Reads: Memoirs + Fiction Reviews

February 16, 2015
january reads

I did a lot of traveling in January, so I ended up reading and listening to quite a few books. Reading is also one of my favorite escapes and ways to unwind, so I tend to do a lot of it.

Nonfiction

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

lean in review

Book Description:

“Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.”

My Take:

A lot of good points on gender issues were raised in this book. She backed her comments up with studies, which I like to see. My only complaint was that it seemed a little repetitive.

Interesting Quotes:

“Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

(The problem goes both ways) — “Today, despite all of the gains we have made, neither men nor women have real choice. Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice. And until men are fully respected for contributing inside the home, they don’t have real choice either.”


Yes Please by Amy Poehler

yes please review

Book Description:

“In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.”

My Take:

Parks & Rec is one of my favorite comedy shows, so I was excited to listen to this book. There were a lot of references I didn’t get (famous comedians), but overall it was funny.

Quotes:

“I think we should stop asking people in their twenties what they “want to do” and start asking them what they don’t want to do.”

“Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”

“I believe great people do things before they are ready.”

“If you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world.”


Bossypants by Tina Fey

bossypants review

Book Description:

“From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

My Take:

I like this one more than Yes Please. I could relate more to her nerdom, I guess. Having it read by her was also a big plus!

Quotes:

“My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”

“Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions … Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”


Fiction

Us by David Nicholls

Us: A Novel Review

Book Description:

“David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.”

My Take:

I thought One Day was interesting so I figured I’d give this a shot (and it was available on ebook from the library). It was a slow read and maybe a little depressing, but still pretty good. The writing was good and the story was realistic, so I guess that’s what I enjoyed. I gave it 3/5 stars.

Quotes:

“I had always been led to believe that aging was a slow and gradual process, the creep of a glacier. Now I realize that it happens in a rush, like snow falling off a roof.”

“I love you is an interesting phrase, in that apparently small alterations–taking away the I, adding a word like lots or loads–render it meaningless.”


Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

tell the wolves im home

Book Description:

“1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
 
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.”

My Take:

I love a good coming-of-age story, and this one was definitely interesting. My uncle died of AIDS in 1987, a few months before I was born. So the book made me wonder what knowing him would have been like, and how hard dealing with this “mysterious illness” must have been.

Quotes:

“I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.”

“I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.”

“I had no idea how greedy my heart really was.”


Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng

everything I never told you review

Book Description:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.”

My Take:

This was a great, but heartbreaking, story dealing with race, family dynamics and some coming-of-age issues. I think I read it in 2 days because I wanted to know what happened.

Quotes:

“It would disappear forever from her memory of Lydia, the way memories of a lost loved one always smooth and simplify themselves, shedding complexities like scales.”

“Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.”


What did you read in January? What’s on your list next?

*I’m an Amazon Associate, so if you purchase any of these books through the links provided, I will earn a [very small] commission.

 

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  • Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona February 16, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I liked Lean In a lot too. It was a lot more readable than I thought it was going to be.