Mar 12

How to Be an American Housewife (And Other Upsetting Historical Things.)

Audio Books, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 21

Konnichiwa Bookworms!

Today you get a Japanese greeting because the main character in today’s book hails from Japan. I’m terribly appropriate, I know. A couple of years ago I read a book called The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns (review) that knocked the socks right off my feet and halfway around the room. I made a mental note to check out ALL THE BOOKS by Margaret Dilloway, and in typical Katie fashion, it took me forever to do it. But do it I did! When I saw that How to Be an American Housewife was available from my library’s audio book section, I decided to give it a shot.

howtobeanamericanhousewifeHow to Be an American Housewife tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American serviceman. The novel features a (fictional, thank heaven) instructional document that attempts to educate Japanese women emigrating to the US in their new country’s cultural expectations and domestic duties. It is, as you would expect, astonishingly offensive, but very telling of the time period’s social mores. Shoko is encouraged to cut ties with Japan and focus on assimilation. As is the case with most novels focusing on Asian immigrant mothers and their American born daughters, Shoko and her daughter Sue have a rather rocky relationship. As Shoko ages and her health fails, she desperately wants to make a trip back to Japan to mend fences with her brother. Because she is too frail to do so, she enlists Sue’s help to make the trip in her stead. Family secrets and heartbreak dovetail with hope and warmth making How to Be an American Housewife an enjoyable read.

I think that listening to this book was a good move, as Shoko’s English is very fragmented. I often struggle with reading heavily accented language, but listening to it is always a treat. In listening to the acknowledgements, I learned that Dilloway’s mother was, like Shoko, a Japanese immigrant married to an American GI. It’s clear that Shoko’s story was heavily influenced by her mother’s experience, which struck me as a beautiful tribute. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the mushy stuff. If you’re in the mood for a mother-daughter story with that Asian immigration twist, How to Be an American Housewife is not to be missed. Fans of Lisa See and Amy Tan, take note!

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have any of you lived in a country other than the one you were born and raised in? Did you experience culture shock? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Mar 10

Books to Read if You Like Shameless

Top Ten Tuesday 29

Greetings Bookworms!

I have a confession to make. We pay too much for cable. That said, part of the reason we do so is because I’m addicted to a show called Shameless. It’s a reboot of a British show I’ve never seen, but it worked for The Office and it’s working for Shameless, yo. William H Macy plays the world’s most dedicated alcoholic/worst father. His eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) has taken the helm of the impoverished Gallagher family who live on the South Side of Chicago. The show has approximately zero boundaries and I mean that in the best possible way. Since the folks at The Broke and the Bookish proposed this week’s topic “books for people who love …” I figured I’d get my Shameless on.

shameless ttt

1. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (review)- This little beauty winds up on so many of my lists, but there’s a reason for it. The parents in this book give Frank and Monica a run for their money. The poverty? The substance abuse? The generalized crazy? Yes, yes, yes.

2. Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika T Wurth (review)- Dysfucntional families all up in this piece. Actually, the main character in this book takes care of her younger twin siblings a lot, so she reminds me of Fiona Gallagher. Plus, she makes some terrible life decisions, so she’s got a double Fiona going on.

3. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (review)- This book is lacking the poverty and outrageously bad parenting, but the Foxmans have a whole lot of their own problems and PLENTY of shenanigans.

4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson- If you ever wanted to get inside Frank Gallagher’s head while he’s on a bender, this is the book you need to read. Holy crazy drug trip, you guys.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (review)- Francie Nolan, my heart! Poor girl has the complicated alcoholic parent and urban poverty thing down.

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6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (review)- Eleanor’s home life is on par with Shameless, that’s for sure! Actually, she could BE a Gallagher, what with the red hair and all…

7. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (review)- One of the undercurrents of Shameless is the way mental illness often dovetails with substance abuse, but it’s still got heart when things are super sad, much like The Silver Linings Playbook

8. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison- Oh man, I wanted to call social services about every 10 pages when reading this novel. Rural poor devastatingly abusive household. It’ll break your heart.

9. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton- This book was such a surprise for me. I read A Map of the World and HATED it so I was super hesitant to pick this one up. Lucky I overcame my misgivings because this book was SO good. And sad. Poverty, again, but also a super smart brother who tries to get out of the muck (much like Lip!)

10. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs- This book blows my mind. Outrageous lack of parental supervision, neglect, and casual drug usage. Why, it’s just like the Gallagher household.

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Talk to me, Bookworms! Do any of you watch Shameless? Am I alone on this bandwagon? Is it weird that I’m a little obsessed with a show about super upsetting stuff?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 09

Vacation: All I Ever Wanted

Personal 37

Hola Bookworms!

I’m sorry I was so scarce last week. Actually, I’m not. I was on vacation at Disney World. Because that’s how I roll. (No, I did not go to the Harry Potter parks. Another time, I assure you!) I didn’t warn y’all in advance because I saw once of 20/20 that you should never tell the internet when you’re not home. Not that I don’t trust YOU, my lovelies, but the nameless faceless internet? Eeep! I’m nothing if not paranoid. In any case. Pictures!

Here’s what we were eating…

disneyfood

Here I am going selfie crazy…

disneyselfies

It was also Flower and Garden Festival time at Epcot and, well, you know I had to capture the insane beauty of the topiaries, right?!

epcottopiaries

 

So yay! I’m back and I’m refreshed and I got a lot of reading done en route. What happened with y’all last week, Bookworms?

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Mar 05

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Dystopian, E-Readers, Mystery 9

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Raise your hand if you use your smart phone more than you’re proud of. My hand is high in the air, y’all. (I blame Trivia Crack.) I remember hearing a whole bunch of folks talking about the awesomeness that is The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon so when it popped up as available from my library’s digital services, I had to download it. Because I’m controlled by machines. They’re becoming sentient. OooOOOOOooooO.

wordexchangeEnter the world of The Word ExchangeIt’s a few years in the future and a smart-phone-like device known as a Meme has become ubiquitous. The Meme ain’t your average iPhone though. This thing pretty much predicts your thoughts and behaviors. It’s more than a little creepy. It kind of makes me wonder why everyone is all kinds of surprised when things go terribly, terribly wrong. (Of course, the characters in the novel didn’t have the advantage of reading about the whole thing at a distance. Omniscience is a gift. Gosh, I love fiction!)

Anana Johnson works for one of the world’s last remaining dictionaries. When her father goes missing, she stumbles upon a conspiracy, a secret society, and contracts a potentially deadly plague. Makes your Friday night seem uneventful, doesn’t it? A “word flu” has begun spreading that’s causing people to speak gibberish along with a nasty case of physical flu-like symptoms. I’ll give you three guesses as to what creeptastic device is behind the spread of the plague, but you’ll only need one! Anana teams up with her colleague (and secret admirer) Bart in order to track down her father and try to save the day.

The Word Exchange is a fun, weird, ride. It’s not an especially lengthy novel, but I found myself taking longer than usual to get through it. I typically get most of my reading in at night before I go to sleep, and I found my brain rebelling when I hit passages where infected folks were speaking gibberish. And by “brain rebelling,” I mean I fell asleep. I wasn’t bored, I’m just really spoiled by standardized spelling. If you’re in the mood for a fast paced, semi-dystopian mystery with a side of word nerd (and who isn’t?) The Word Exchange is your book!

Sound off, Bookworms! Do you think that we as a society have become too reliant on our smart phones? Will it bring about the end of days? (I might be watching Doomsday Preppers. I can’t be held responsible for my alarmist tone.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 02

Amy Poehler Wrote a Book? Yes, Please!

Audio Books, Humor, Memoirs 12

Bookworms, My Darlings,

We need to talk about Amy Poehler. I know I talk about audio books all the time and I know that a lot of you are hesitant to give them a whirl. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, I implore you to start with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

yespleaseWhen it comes to memoirs, I often feel that I can “hear” the author’s voice in the printed page, and that goes double if I actually know the author’s voice from TV or whatever. ACTUALLY listening to the author read the book is a super fantastic bonus. (Honestly, I feel like I missed the boat by not listening to Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey’s books, but that’s a story for another day, and another couple of Audible credits.) But extra, extra fun? Guest voices. Listening to Amy’s parents read was the cutest friggin thing that has ever happened in the history of ever. Hearing her banter with Seth Meyers? A delicious SNL flashback. Kathleen Turner popping in to narrate salacious bits? Priceless.

This book reminded me of Tiny Beautiful Things (review) only HILARIOUS. Amy (yes, we’re on a first name basis. She’s my FRIEND, damnit!) serves up funny childhood stories, behind the scenes famous person stuff, and a heaping helping of heart. Her take on the Mommy Wars is basically perfect. “Good for you, not for me,” should be everyone’s mantra. Amy managed to discuss a wide range of topics (including her divorce!) without ever coming across as angry or bitter. She acknowledges mistakes she’s made and her less-than-proud moments. (Not her most embarrassing moments, though. She doesn’t have to tell you about those, and you don’t have to tell anyone about yours either! Amy said so!) I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Amy Poehler more than I already did, but she is made of magic and sunshine, so OF COURSE my admiration increased. Read this book, you guys. For reals.

Tell me Bookworms, do any of you have a celebrity you like to pretend is your friend in real life? I can’t be the only one, right?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Feb 27

Conversations With My Husband

Personal 18

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Sometimes I feel that the conversations that go on in my house need to be shared with the world. It might explain some things. The following exchange occurred last weekend.

conversations

Jim: If your blog were a celebrity, who would it be?

Katie: Hmmm… I’m not really sure. Visions of Reese Witherspoon are dancing in my head, but I think that’s just because we share a birthday. What do you think?

Jim: John McEnroe.

Katie: WHAT? Seriously? I’m really nice, and my blog has never ONCE thrown a tennis racket!

Jim: Yet.

I’ve told you about my snarky eyebrow, right? My right eyebrow raises involuntarily and gives away whatever I’m thinking. Jim has named said eyebrow “Johnny.” All of which is necessary information to understand the following…

Jim: Johnny, why are you here? What do you have to add to this conversation?

Katie: You know I can’t control it!

Jim: I could take him in a fight. (To my eyebrow) I WILL REPLACE YOU WITH A SHARPIE!

Do any of you Bookworms out there have oddball conversations with your spouses?

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Feb 26

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach is Out of This World!

Audio Books, Non Fiction, Science 18

Bookworms, We Have a Problem.

I’m LYING. I’m just trying to make space jokes because I just finished listening to the awesome audio book version of Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I don’t read a lot of non fiction, but now that I’ve discovered Mary Roach, that may all change.

packingformarsPacking for Mars is ostensibly about what a mission to Mars would entail mingled with a history lesson of human space travel. Sound awesome? Not so much? Well what about if I tell you that Mary Roach researched all the interesting bits of space travel for you? I mean, you were always curious about motion sickness in zero gravity, right? And what happens when you have to go to the bathroom? What about keeping yourself clean in space? Or, you know, what would happen if a pair of astronauts fell in love and, well, stuff happened in space?!

Mary Roach told me all the gross stuff that I really care about. I mean, sure, there’s plenty of science in there, but it’s the science of every imaginable bodily fluid in space. It’s about just how long an astronaut can go without bathing before stinking their suits up so badly they make themselves ill. It’s about how teams of dietitians study which foods to feed space travelers that will produce the least amount of solid waste. It’s about filtering pee, you guys! If you were ever THAT KID in science class who was interested in the science of boogers, Packing for Mars is 100% your guide to space travel. Take my word for it, kids, this book is a winner!

Talk to me Bookworms! Did you ever daydream about being an astronaut?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Am I too old to go to Space Camp?*

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Feb 24

Being Your Own Hero: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday 20

Hi Ho Bookworms!

Oh Tuesday, my Tuesday. It is the most glorious day to make a list. This week the folks at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to list our Top Ten Heroines. I’ve played this game before, with fictional ladies, so this time, I’m going to list ladies who are heroes of their own lives and talk about memoir-istas. I just made that a thing. You can thank me later.

beingyourownhero

1. Amy Poehler- I recently listened to Yes Please (I highly recommend the audio.) I love Amy more now than I did before. “Good for you, not for me” is my new personal mantra.

2. Tina Fey- Uh, Bossypants (review) pretty much rocked my world. Tina for president!

3. Mindy Kaling- Mindy’s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) makes me feel less alone in my neuroses. (review)

4. Cheryl Strayed- Deciding to take on the Pacific Crest Trail wouldn’t be MY first choice of activity if I were feeling lost, but I’m not Wild like Cheryl Strayed (review). I like living vicariously.

5. Jenny Lawson- The great and powerful Bloggess opens up even more than usual in her delicious memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (review). The woman makes me furiously happy.

memoiristas

6. Jeanette Walls- Holy crap on a cracker, The Glass Castle (review) KILLED ME. The fact that she emerged from her childhood (mostly) unscathed is a miracle.

7. Susanna Kaysen- I read Girl, Interrupted in high school and I was blown away. In fairness I’ve not read it with “grown up” eyes, but I think it holds up. Mental illness is an important topic, y’all.

8. Rachel Dratch- I might have a weakness for the ladies of SNL but Dratch’s memoir Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle was awesome. (review)

9. Sloane Crosley- I recommend you read I Was Told There’d Be Cake. SOMEBODY needs to talk about the mysterious turd on the carpet, you guys. (review)

Talk to me Bookworms! Who are some of your favorite female memoir-istas?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 23

Ruth Reichl’s Debut Novel is Delicious!

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction 23

Bon Appetit, Bookworms!

I’ve never considered myself a foodie, but I sure do like to eat. My aunt-in-law (is that a thing? It is now. Howdy, Barb!) recommended Delicious! to me recently and it it totally made me want to eat all the fancy cheese in the land. Because I’m not a foodie, I had no idea until after reading this book that the author, Ruth Reichl, is a noted restaurant critic and food writer. It now makes ALL THE SENSE that she’d wax philosphical about seasonal parmesan cheeses in her novel, but I digress.

deliciousBillie Breslin is at a crossroads. She’s just uprooted her life from California and moved cross country to New York City. She soon lands a job at iconic food magazine Delicious, which she owes in part to her perfect palate (which is like perfect pitch but for food.) To the entire food world’s utter consternation, though, she refuses to cook. Because REASONS. When Delicious closes its doors, Billie is forced to confront her past, her reticence toward cooking, and, you know, luuuurve.

I found Delicious! charming, if a bit predictable. I immediately knew Billie’s REASONS even though they weren’t officially revealed until midway through the novel, and it included a lot of your standard rom-com tropes. That said, it also had a host of fun colorful characters and incredible food descriptions. After reading this book, I wanted to eat my weight in fancy cheese and gingerbread. If you’re a foodie or you just like fun, give Delicious! a taste.

Yeah, I’m going to talk about cheese now. What’s your favorite cheese, Bookworms? And can you tell the difference between parmesan that’s made in the spring versus the fall?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will use that commission to purchase fancy cheeses. I’m seriously fixated.*

 

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Feb 19

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Vampires, Young Adult Fiction 17

I Vant To Suck Your Blooooood, Bookworms!

I’m LYING. I do NOT want to do that. There are just so few vampire jokes out there, you know? Ah well. In case you hadn’t guessed it, today we’re talking vampires. Because why not? I’ve heard a lot about Holly Black and when I heard that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was on sale for super cheap (thanks for the head’s up, Ethel!) I decided to give it a go. (It was a Kindle Daily Deal, I think. If you’re an Amazon shopper, sign up for those notices. Or don’t. Amazon gets a lot of my money that way…)

coldestgirlincoldtownIn The Coldest Girl in Coldtownvampires are totally a thing. When the vampires came out of the coffin, so to speak (stole that phrase from Charlaine Harris, clever minx) things went a little crazy. Holly Black added a new twist to the whole vampire thing, because when vamps went public, they neither integrated into society nor brought about an apocalypse. Instead, the vampires were quarantined into walled cities known as Coldtowns where they hang out and do vampire-y things like feed on goth child wannabes. As one does. Our heroine Tana wakes up the morning after a typical high school rager to find that she is one of two survivors of a vampire massacre. (Passing out in a bathtub is the way to go unnoticed, in case you’re curious.) Her ex boyfriend is on the verge of a full scale draining, but she also encounters a mysteriously chained up vampire. Because it’s ALWAYS a good idea to let the vampire out of captivity, she does. Then, she embarks on a road trip with her ex, a vampire, and a boatload of survivor’s guilt. Their destination? Coldtown. (DUN DUN DUN!)

I thought this book was a lot of fun. I mean, if you can’t handle the inherent silliness that comes with vampire lore, this probably isn’t for you. If you don’t mind a little bloodsucking, I think it’s a winner. I liked the take Black took on the traditional vampire trope and I LOVED the inclusion of LGBTQ characters. It’s YA, it’s about vampires, and it’s a good time. If you’re feeling it, pick up a copy of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and vamp it up!

And now for the all important question, Bookworms. Vampires or Zombies. In the battle of the undead, which is more awesome?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission, every penny of which will go right back to Amazon because I have a PROBLEM with the Kindle Daily Deal.*

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