Best of 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013


This year I read 32 books.... significantly less than I read since prior to 2008! I also did not focus on new releases as much (reading only 6 that were published this year). But, nonetheless, here are my favorites that I read this year regardless of publication date. Also, most of these have not yet been reviewed here but are coming up in the new year. :)

Non-Fiction

#5 The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons (2010)


Fascinating insight into how people can be deceived every day. You'd think you'd notice a gorilla walking across a video of kids bouncing a basketball... you'd be surprised!







#4 Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)

A glaring look at how hard it really is to get by or even get a jump start on grueling, minimum wage jobs.








#3 Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (2013)

Practical and succinct advice on how women can play bigger roles in the workplace. But also can be applicable to men in many ways.








#2 Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (2012)

 As I stated in my review, "In Far From the Tree, Solomon chronicles the lives of various families whose children have created what Solomon terms "horizontal identities"; this refers to the new cultures their children are inherently born into as a result of the differences they're born with such as deafness, dwarfism, transgender, etc. Unlike "vertical identities" where one's children have essentially the same characteristics and life experiences, children with "horizontal identities" become part of a life that their own parents can't truly relate to. The premise of this book was to be the focus of the families themselves and how they manage their differences, but I found it to be more of a sociological study on the different groups Solomon reveals."


#1 Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind by Ellen F. Brown & John Wiley Jr. (2011)

This might be suited to a more specific demographic, those who find both the publishing industry interesting as well as the hugely loved and classic status of GWTW. Fascinating narrative about how the rights of GWTW were protected by the author herself despite all she was up against.



Fiction

 #6 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010)

I believe this was our book club's favorite this year. An Irish orphan is taken in by a plantation owner and lives and works with the slaves in the kitchen house. But as she becomes older and starts to be treated differently from the main house she struggles to maintain her familial relationships.






#5 It by Stephen King (1986)

Hubby and I read this book, about a group of kids trying to overcome a monster that kills children every 2-3 decades, in Sept/Oct and both really liked it. I surprised myself with how drawn I was to this and how much I flew threw it. I thought I'd be scared but turns out I can handle horror after all. (Thought that was something I left in my teens!) The only downside was that at almost 1100 pages, it was a tad too long and I did think there were some parts that could have been shorter. (Somehow it (the book as well as subsequently watching the movie) lessened my fear of clowns! Weird!


#4 Where'd Ya Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012)

This one was a surprise for me, but it has not left my head since I read it. Actually, hubby and I listened to the audio on a road trip this year, and the audio is fantastic. This story about an agoraphobic mom who promises her daughter a trip to Antarctica, who antagonizes the stuck up people at her daughter's school, and who corresponds with a personal assistant in India is so quirky and charming and fun! My husband feels the same way about this one. Turns out this is being made into a movie as well.



#3 Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (2012)

Last year I would have agreed with those who argued over the two, that The Yellow Birds was the quintessential novel about the Iraqi war. But then I read this, which has a completely different tone, and now I don't know! They're so different - this one being more light hearted and satirical - but either way this was one of my favorites this year.





#2 Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (2013)

I don't necessarily know about the comparisons this one has received to Gone Girl. It's different. But it does give you a similar rush when reading and by the end I felt like I had been punched in the gut! Maybe that's not a good metaphor, LOL, but I could not put this one down.






#1 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012)

Like I said, full review to come later, but this was so good and so creative! I put it off for so long because of how vague I felt the description was but I loved this one!

2013 Year In Review

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 was quite a different year in blogging for me, as I took an inadvertent hiatus. Things had already been slowing down at the end of last year, but this year I only had TEN posts... the entire year!!!  Although I miss the book blogging community (and am noticing that a lot of other book bloggers have sort of disappeared too), I did find the break and change in priorities relaxing. I didn't feel the silly pressure to read or obligation to review new books, and I found time for other hobbies and activities. But the downfall was that I ultimately overwhelmed myself by focusing too much on work and sort of forgot how to escape work by putting time into hobbies. And then that translated into not being able to take work off my mind EVER. So I do realize I need more balance overall.

This year, to date, I've only read 32 books (and may finish one more by the end). But I feel pretty good about that. I have not written reviews for most of those books but still plan on it! So maybe I'll end up having a lot to post in this new year. As far as the blog itself, I've made some efforts to make it more anonymous than it was. Anyone know how to/if I can change the main blogger sign in a different google mail account? Also this year I joined a dinner party book club started by my sister and some of her friends, and I was able to invite one of my best friends who recently moved back from New York after several years, so that has been a fun outlet.

As for the non-reading year itself, the hubby and I finally jumped back into dealing with our fertility issues which included additional tests, another HSG, an MRI, and ultimately surgery for me in July. Then I had the mandatory waiting period and we have finally started the next step. For travel, we took a road trip to North Carolina to visit my brother-in-law and his fiance, and in November we took a family trip (husband's side of the family) to Thailand for two weeks! Would you believe that with over 24 hours of travel in each direction, a 10 hour road trip (each way), and other bits of free time I only finished reading one book (and one novella)!?

So when it comes to blogging, I'm still around, and I do still read my favorite blogs (though I still need to comment more). But it probably won't ever be like it was for that few year stretch there! I will be back in a few days with my best-of-2013 lists!Here's to making blogging (and reading) fun again and not full of silly pressure in the new year!

Review: Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Title: Humans of New York
Author/Photographer: Brandon Stanton
Pages: 300
Genre: Photography
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: October 15, 2013


One day I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a photo that another Facebook friend "liked". I don't remember the photo, but I remember it intrigued me, as did the title of the page it was posted from, "Humans of New York".   Turns out I had inadvertently stumbled upon a wonderful photo blog by Brandon Stanton who takes pictures of various people all over New York City every day; he posts each picture along with a snippet from their conversation or an insightful or funny comment.

Now he's compiled 400 photos (75 brand new) into a gorgeous hardcover book (with a frosted transparent dust jacket)! I had the opportunity to review a copy and am in love with it as expected! His pictures are beautiful just on their own. But better than that, even is what he captures in little bits of conversation, turning each picture into a complete story and a look into another person's life. Sometimes they're funny, or sentimental, or just plain adorable. And on top of that you get fun glimpses of New York City in each picture. (Yay!) He also manages to include such a variety of people and cultures in his pictures that his book sort of chronicles the diversity and humanity of the city.

This book is the perfect coffee table book! It definitely would be the perfect gift for those who love NYC and/or people in general - for those who have an appreciation for the unique qualities in every person and in every photograph.The book turned out beautifully!

Check out the website: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

This book now has a coveted spot on my:


Review: Margaret Mitchelle's Gone with the Wind by Ellen F. Brown and John WIley Jr.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Title: Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind
Subtitle: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood
Author: Ellen F. Brown, John Wiley Jr.
Pages: 324
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing (Rowman & Littlefield)
Pub. Date: February 16, 2011


The title of this one is a little confusing... it isn't the actual Gone with the Wind but it's about Margaret Mitchell's book and her experiences with writing it and managing the aftermath. I was obsessed with this book. As busy as I was with work when I was reading this, I returned to it every chance I had. But I also think it's one of those books that you will either love and be totally into or possibly not into it at all. You have to really have an interest in both the book itself and in the ways of the publishing industry... actually you don't necessarily need to like Gone with the Wind itself as long as you are interested in the greatness of its classic status.

This book chronicles everything about Gone with the Wind from when Margaret Mitchell began writing it to when it was published and became a classic, to it becoming a movie, to Margaret's efforts to  protect the rights of the book in various ways, etc. She was fiercely protective of the book, and her efforts to protect it (and herself from any type of celebrity) was more than a full time job for years and years afterward. Even after her death, her family took on these same efforts and fights. It was fascinating to read about how things worked in the publishing world in general but also how it was back then.. things that I'm sure have improved since. For instance, the lack of copyright laws/agreements with some countries prevented her from having anything to do with it being printed in other countries or receiving anything for it. That's just one example of the many dramas of GWTW. One thing that surprised me was how much she did not allow to happen... oh how I would have loved to (maybe one day we still can) see a Broadway musical version of GWTW!

Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was an absolutely fascinating read! Not only was there so much drama (for lack of a better word) with the publishing and all the stuff that happened afterward, but it was so fun to read about a book that the world fell in love with and adored. It doesn't seem like there is anything like it today (except mayyybeee Harry Potter). I highly recommend this book to any book lovers and, of course, to all big fans of Gone with the Wind.

Review: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Title: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines
Author: Shohreh Aghdashloo
Pages: 272
Genre: Memoir (Celebrity)
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: June 4, 2013


I've always enjoyed a good celebrity memoir, and I was curious when I found out Shohreh Aghdashloo had written one. I knew her originally as the woman from 24 but have also seen her in various other shows/movies; I always recognize her distinct voice. Her memoir has the added intrigue due to her living as an adult through the revolution in Iran, even causing her to escape to another country.

One of the things I always find interesting is how much work actors put into their craft before they come onto a scene that we are familiar with. The same is true for Shohreh; she acted in many plays and even Iranian movies before acting in America. She really has spent her lifetime building up to acting and acting. I was interested in her observations as she

I will say there were some parts where I just didn't get her decision making or really understand the circumstances she was in. Some of this is certainly from her being in a different country, culture, and time but was probably because she was limited in space in her memoir to truly describe in depth what she went through during the Iranian revolution. Though it seems like Shohreh lived a life of privilege in Iran, she also clearly possesses extreme bravery and is a strong woman.

Something I loved was Shohreh's brutal honesty about Hollywood and some very well known actors. It's always interesting to see what people are like behind the scenes, and I was surprised by every person that she called out in this book! Very interesting.

Overall, this was an easy read about an actress with an interesting background. It added a lot to my netflix queue! Recommended if you enjoy celebrity memoirs and/or have an interest in Iran's recent history.


I reviewed this book as part of TLC Book Tours. Follow the rest of the tour below:

Tuesday, June 11th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, June 12th: Book Him Danno! - preview
Thursday, June 13th: The Infinite Shelf
Wednesday, June 19th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, June 24th: Between the Covers
Wednesday, June 26th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, June 27th: missris
Monday, July 1st: River City Reading
Tuesday, July 2nd: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, July 3rd: Take Me Away
Monday, July 8th: Books in the City
Tuesday, July 9th: Dab of Darkness
Wednesday, July 10th: Beastmomma
Thursday, July 11th: Lavish Bookshelf
TBD: Blog Critics
TBD: Booktalk & More
TBD: Speaking of Books
TBD: Book Him Danno! -review
TBD: Reviewing Shelf

Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Monday, April 29, 2013

Title: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Pages: 184
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Mariner (Houghton Mifflin)
Pub. Date: April 3, 2007


My husband and I picked this book up on a whim recently and both read it. It's a short read at 184 pages, and we were also motivated by the upcoming movie version. This book was certainly not what I expected and will disappoint (and anger) some readers, but it was really a very introspective, tense book that my husband and I were both ultimately impressed with.

Touted as a thriller (though really it's not unless you can consider it a very subtle thriller focused on underlying tensions), The Reluctant Fundamentalist is narrated by Changez, a Pakistani man who is narrating his story to an American businessman he meets in a cafe. Changez had the opportunity to receive schooling in the United States and then to work in the corporate world in New York City, essentially living the American Dream. But then the attacks on 9/11 happen, and Changez finds his perspective on his life in America turning completely upside down. His conversation provides insights that are surprising and scary but provide an incredible perspective on prejudice and the war on terror.

I went back and read some reader reviews after I finished this and found many people trashed this book and were extremely angry after completing it. I get it... I understand where they were coming from; some of what I read was certainly shocking. But it was also genuine and has to be considered on a deeper level - not just taken at face value. You have to read it to know what I mean, but there is definitely food for thought about prejudice and relationships for the open-minded reader that can look past the superficial. For a "deep" book this is an easy read, and I recommend it.

The movie, released on April 26th, 2013, looks really good, though they clearly added some things to the story to make it more of a Blockbuster!

Review: The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Title: The New Republic
Author: Lionel Shriver
Pages: 
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: 
Pub. Date: March 27, 2012


I recently got around to reading We Need to Talk About Kevin which was fantastic, so I was excited to try another of Shriver's books when I had the opportunity to review this one. As other readers have mentioned, the author included a note in the beginning about how this book was written years ago (prior to Kevin) but was put on hold because of the lack of potential interest in a novel about terrorism followed by the actual act of terrorism that then rendered this book taboo; years later it was decided that this book would be released, and few changes were made to it. Unfortunately, that had me wondering, throughout reading, if maybe it being an older effort of the author's affected its quality as it was a difficult read for me that I did not enjoy. The topic did not offend me, but it's application was dry to me.

Edward Kellogg makes a mid-life career change to become a journalist. Much of his thoughts and decisions are motivated by his desire to be "cool" and admirable like those he has looked up to because of his "uncool" history as a kid. He ends up being assigned to Barba, near Portugal, where the previous journalist has gone missing, and uncovers scandal along with the terrorism.

The plot sounds interesting in theory but didn't maintain my interest. I also expected to find it funnier (togue-in-cheeck, I know) but I didn't. I think most of it may have been Kellogg, himself, who I found annoying from the get go. I wonder if the main character had been more sympathetic and likeable if the rest of what played out may have been funnier. I also think that the side story about Kellogg's history and wanting to be popular was unnecessary. As it was, I didn't care for it and was hugely disappointed because of my huge enjoyment of Kevin and all the other amazing things I have heard.


Catch up on and follow the rest of the tour below:

Tuesday, April 2nd: The House of the Seven Tails
Wednesday, April 3rd: Man of La Book
Monday, April 8th: The Scarlet Letter
Wednesday, April 10th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Thursday, April 11th: she treads softly
Tuesday, April 16th: Becca’s Byline
Monday, April 22nd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, April 24th: Take Me Away
Thursday, April 25th: I Read a Book Once
Friday, April 26th: Luxury Reading
TBD: Melody & Words




Review: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Friday, March 15, 2013

Title: Far From the Tree
Subtitle: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Author: Andrew Solomon
Pages: 702 (plus notes)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Sociology
Publisher: Mariner (Houghton Mifflin)
Pub. Date: November 13, 2012



I read this book slowly over the course of maybe 6 weeks, but it was well worth it! In Far From the Tree, Solomon chronicles the lives of various families whose children have created what Solomon terms "horizontal identities"; this refers to the new cultures their children are inherently born into as a result of the differences they're born with such as deafness, dwarfism, transgender, etc. Unlike "vertical identities" where one's children have essentially the same characteristics and life experiences, children with "horizontal identities" become part of a life that their own parents can't truly relate to. The premise of this book was to be the focus of the families themselves and how they manage their differences, but I found it to be more of a sociological study on the different groups Solomon reveals.

Solomon began the book discussing his experience as son to his parents and his own differences from them. Then in following chapters he discusses those who are deaf, dwarfs, have down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disabilities, those who are prodigies, were conceived from rape, grow up to commit heinous crimes, and those who are transgender. Then in coming full circle, he writes about his decision to become a father and the very non-traditional means by which he decides to do this.

This book was a fascinating look into the experiences of the individuals dealing with each of these issues and of their families as well. I would go so far as to say that I think this book should be required reading for social workers (my bachelor's degree!) or sociology degrees. Solomon was not afraid to thoroughly flesh out each topic each chapter so I really learned a lot. I felt pretty knowledgeable already, but I was not aware of some of the controversies involved with related treatments. Some of the treatments are so risky or controversial that it seems only right to allow children to mature and make the decision to do so on their own, but the same treatments become moot by then because it's too late once the children become adults. Solomon illuminated many other questions that arise when advocating for each group of people; for instance, many of these groups do not want to be labeled as having a disability because they see themselves as living different lifestyles rather than being disabled; however, if it's not a disability then wouldn't that contraindicate funding that goes into managing associated challenges and/or toward medical research to resolve the "disability"? And that in itself is another controversy because there are those who don't believe in medical advances to "cure" the issues such as those who support "neurodiversity" rather than pathologizing autism and those who advocate for "mad pride" for people with psychiatric disorders.

I found all of this to be an important look at the experiences of people and families everywhere. The only two downsides are that 1) each chapter is very thorough... to the point that I thought he could have not included quite so many interviews and 2) readers will surely find varying degrees of interest in the different chapters because the range of topics are so diverse. But regardless of these two things, I highly recommend this book!

Review: These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Title: These Days Are Ours
Author: Michelle Haimoff
Pages: 275
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Books)
Pub. Date: February 28, 2012


I didn't hear about this book until nomadreader raved about it. I have to say I'm surprised at the little publicity it's received, especially with a cover blurb from Jonathan Tropper, "Smart, witty, honest, and never anything less than utterly engaging." I will say that These Days Are Ours was and wasn't what I was expecting which I'll explain; but overall it was a quick and fantastic read that was iconic in its representation of modern day high society New York as well as in its depiction of what I'll refer to as the "quarter life crisis". It is essentially the story of Hailey and her friends after they graduate from college and try to figure out what to do next, set in NYC right after 9/11.

Despite the humorous authenticity of Hailey's (main character's) thought processes in the beginning as she tried to maneuver her way into the life of her crush, I did not expect the initial chick-flick/rom-com feel that I noticed. I also had expected that I'd immediately relate to the characters better. I mean, I knew I wouldn't relate to the whole "Fifth Avenue" lifestyle in general but didn't realize how far that lifestyle permeated; for instance, I have always worked, full time, before, during, and after college and felt that the lifestyles of the characters were too irresponsible, cavalier. I've always had an extreme streak of independence - never moved back in with mom and dad, have never bemoaned the woes of being an adult, etc. that separated my complete understanding of life from theirs.

But what did meet my expectations was that I was able to relate to the characters in a broader, more abstract way, as in schooling is finally over so what now?... as in entering and partaking in the reality of "the real world" that in your twenties you start to see from a new perspective such as learning that your parents are human and don't know everything. I thought this quote from one of the characters describing their work represented this well:

"And another thing that takes some getting used to is how seriously everyone takes this stuff. Like, the biggest account you could be on at BBDO, the account you would be on if you were rocking it, is Pepsi. And if you're somehow on Pepsi, the highlight of your life would be some new soda they were launching with even fewer calories than the old soda. And I'm sorry, but it's just hard to pretend to care that much about a lower-calorie soda when you've just been in college learning actual things." (p.155)

Writing these characters against the backdrop of 9/11 New York City adds to the whole "quarter life crisis" and the characters' startling realizations about what life does and will entail for them. It's a jolt into reality that I also experienced while in college. It's not what this book is about but it does have a part in teaching the characters about life and also about how their interpretations of it differ. The following is a quote from Hailey after she sees the debris at Ground Zero:

" Ground Zero wasn't the right name for this. Ground Zero sounded like a blank canvas. For now it should be called 'The Disaster Zone' or something. Ground Zero could be later, when the area was nothing but a desert in the middle of the skyscrapers. Emptiness. Dust to dust. Ground Zero could honor a time before accountants and stock market and buildings that loomed so large it felt like you were drowning." (p. 78)

After the book picked up, that "chick-flick" feel I mentioned earlier made way for a much more insightful and intuitive read.

These Days Are Ours is about life in your twenties, looking forward, starting careers, friendships, relationships, and just taking it all in. It's full of realistic dialogue, humor, sadness, and reality (told in part through the NYC nightlife). I read this in one day, almost in one sitting.

Rating: 4 out of 5

We need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Pages: 432
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: April 15, 2003 (first edition)


 
You can only say so many times that a book is on your MUST read list or that you reallly want to read a book before you have to actually pick it up and do it. So I finally am in the know both about this book as well as the style and talent of the author herself. Although I was utterly depressed by the end (which didn't really happen to me until about the last 50 pages), I'm glad I read this because it was so amazing in its content, its writing, its characters and psychology. It's the kind of book I'm glad to say I have read. And I'm really curious about the author's other work as well... are all her books like this?

We know from the beginning that Kevin, son of the narrator, Eva, has perpetrated a mass murder at his high school. In letters that Eva writes to her husband, Franklin, she recaptures their lives from the beginning when she first made the decision to have a child despite never having quite felt maternal desires. She then chronicles their relationships with their son as well as the various misgivings she had about him. Whereas Eva never felt truly bonded to him, Franklin passion for this child was overkill.

At first, this novel's epistolary format was strange to me only because having Eva essentially narrate their lives back to her husband didn't make sense to me. Eventually I got used to it and also decided if nothing else it must have been therapeutic for her so that it made more sense in my head. One of the points of this book was to invoke thoughts about the nature vs nurture debate. While I suppose it did that, I actually thought that Kevin was so extreme from the beginning that this book truly fought for the side of nature. Or if it was making a fight for nurture, it wasn't so much Eva but Franklin's pure ignorance that I think influenced anything. I've read of other readers severely disliking Eva, but for the most part I liked her.

Despite the serious and depressing nature of the book, I was enthralled... by the psychology of if all as well as by Lionel's writing style which was not just astute but so intelligently crafted. I felt my brain growing smarter just by reading her book, haha. (I'll admit there were times in the beginning when it felt clunky with what I thought were unnecessary high brow adverbs and adjectives. But I must have gotten used to it).

But then the last 50 pages or so left me so bereft -- shockingly upset considering I knew more or less where it was going. I felt evil leaking off the pages and I wondered what it must have been like to even write this book. Was it as horrifying as it was to read? Then the very ending, the last page or so, was exactly as I figured it would be. This is definitely a book I will highly recommend to those who think they can stomach the atrocities within its pages.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Mini-Reviews: Life of Pi, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, and Heart-Shaped Box

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Pages: 319
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Mariner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Pub. Date: June 28, 2002 (hardcover); April 21, 2003 (paperback)

This is one of those books that has been on my list forever. It's one of those books that I felt, and other readers have agreed, is one of those books that we should read. Though it was just written in 2002, it has quickly become a modern classic. And with the movie version recently released, and my husband recently reading it, I decided to dig in too. Basically, Pi grows up in India with his parents who own a zoo. The first part of the book is about him exploring other religions. But then they're on a boat that sinks and he ends up in a lifeboat with a tiger, and he has to strategically live in the middle of the ocean without being attacked by a tiger. This book really wasn't for me. I stayed interested enough to keep moving to the next chapter, but I did feel that the time on the lifeboat was sort of drawn out. And there was some graphic detail given regarding some of the animals that I really did not like. Part of what drew me to this book was that I had heard it had this super powerful message in the end; for me it was anticlimactic but maybe because I had built it up so much. I'm glad to say I read this and I felt it was okay, but that's about it.


Title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
Author: Heidi W. Durrow
Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books (Workman Publishing)
Pub. Date: February 16, 2010

I was drawn to this because of the social issues it was supposed to present about race and class. The main character, Rachel, is biracial. Though it hasn't ever been a significant issue for her, it becomes one after she goes to live with her grandmother subsequent to the death of her mother and siblings when they fall off the top of a building. This book was also the winner of the Bellwether Prize in 2010. Overall, I thought this one was okay. It was narrated from several different points of view. Near the beginning it had a Tayari Jones-esque which is, of course, a great thing, though I didn't feel it maintained this all the way through. I guess I just felt like I wasn't sure exactly what the point was. I think I was expecting a bigger message again. I think I thought I'd relate more. Again, I'm glad I read this one but it didn't blow me away.


Title: Heart-Shaped Box
Author: Joe Hill
Pages: 379
Genre: Horror
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: February 13, 2007

My husband chose this as our joint read for Halloween this past year. I was against it at first because ghosts and the lot scare me more than other scary things. But eventually I gave in and then ended up having the opposite reaction in that this book hardly scared me at all. I mentioned it in an earlier post, but I think that with this type of book there is a degree of cheesiness to it that takes away from the scariness. Basically, the premise of this is that an old rock star buys a dead man's suit to add to his collection of macabre paraphernalia, only to learn that the ghost of the previous owner comes with the suit and this ghost is out to get him. It was okay. I've read praise for Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) saying his work is better than his father's -- I'm not convinced yet. However, I enjoyed this as a Halloween read with the hubby but wouldn't have regretted not reading it otherwise.

Review: Dwarf by Tiffanie DiDonato with Rennie Dyball

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Title: Dwarf
Subtitle: How One Woman Fought for a Body--And a Life--She Was Never Supposed to Have
Author: Tiffanie DiDonato with Rennie Dyball
Pages: 272
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Pub. Date: November 27, 2012


I first saw this book while perusing the local Barnes & Noble and was instantly drawn to it. There's often a lot of inspiration to be found in learning about how someone has overcome struggles in their lives. I didn't realize it, but the author was on Good Morning America in 2008 discussing her experiences. (Not sure how I missed it since I have been a GMA aficionado for years). But anyway, here is the video if you're interested.



What is discussed in the video is the controversial bone lengthening procedures Tiffanie went through multiple times to add inches to her height. Her experiences with those surgeries were the meat of her memoir as she discusses why she chose that route, others' reactions, and how she endured it despite experiencing excruciating pain. This woman is brave, courageous, and independent -- that is for sure! While I completely relate to the desire for as much independence as possible, I could never have made the decisions she did medically because I would have been too terrified!

Now, her decisions also come with a high degree of skepticism and controversy because of a belief that she has rejected her dwarfism and sent the message that even very risky surgery is worth changing who she was born as. I can certainly understand this position as well, because the surgery comes with the risk of many complications and is not medically necessary, though I don't fault Tiffanie in her decision making either. I did find this memoir interesting, and I did find it inspirational, but I could also see where for some it might not be because it was about overcoming through drastic measures rather than learning to accept oneself just as is.

As for the writing itself, I did feel like certain parts seemed a little lengthy. In the first half of the book I also felt a couple messages became repetitive such as Tiffanie's never having realized that she was labeled a dwarf or that there was really anything different about her. I understood after the first couple examples. I also thought it delved in to the cheesy a couple times.

That being said, I also cried or became very teary eyed multiple times while reading this - once in public which I never do. One of the most powerful parts of this memoir were the relationships presented. Tiffanie's parents had starkly different reactions and responses to supporting their daughter. One side of the family completely rejected her, even, while the other supported her wholeheartedly. She talks a lot about a best friend she had throughout her adolescence who meant a lot to her. It was the dynamics of these interactions that I think got to me the most.

Dwarf  was an interesting read about how one person dealt with their struggles, but it also has a lot of controversy surrounding it and will make you question your own beliefs.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

If you go to http://www.andersoncooper.com/ and click on videos, you will find a few different clips from when Tiffanie appeared on his show to discuss this issue as well as another person who went through the same procedure and regrets it.