November Book Report

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you! I am so incredibly grateful to you, dear reader, for continuing to read my blog. I haven’t been the best at keeping up with my writing schedule lately, but I am planning on more posts in the future – so, stay tuned!

In the meantime, my reading life has never been better. I’m branching back out into listening to books on Audible. I did this all the time when I had a long commute into work and gave it up once I started working from home. But now I realize that listening to books while exercising, doing the dishes, or folding laundry, helps me continue to enjoy great stories while being extremely productive around the house.

I’ve always been pretty good at multi-tasking.

So, what have I been reading? I finished five books in November, which I think is a new record for me. Besides listening to books on Audible, my new favorite activity is to listen to a few reading-related podcasts like – Currently Reading, Sarah’s Bookshelves Live, The Readerly Report, and my favorite – What Should I Read Next. Each of these podcasts offers insights into cultivating a better reading life and continues to put new and back-list books on my radar. If you are an avid reader like me, I highly recommend checking out one of these podcasts.

Okay. On to the book reviews! Enjoy! 🙂

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas

Rose Napolitano and her husband Luke made the decision not to have children before they got married. They loved their careers. Rose knows in her heart that she does not want to be a mother, and she makes this crystal clear to her family. Luke is on board because he wants to spend time on his photography business. But, a few years later, Luke changes his mind and now desperately wants to be a father. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on Rose, whose feelings on the subject have never wavered.

I’m just going to say right now that I LOVED THIS BOOK! The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano takes the reader on quite a journey. The chapters depict a different version of Rose’s life and sees that storyline through. And each path begins in the same way with a fight about taking prenatal vitamins. I don’t want to say too much more, except that this novel takes a deep dive into the pressures women face from their partners, their parents, and society as a whole when it comes to the subject of motherhood.

One thing I will say is don’t look at the table of contents in this book. They are all named for whatever number life Rose is in (i.e., Rose, Lives 2, 5, and 7). I never felt lost when the different lives overlapped, but the table of contents made me think that it would be hard to keep track. It wasn’t.

If you are looking for a novel that will elicit good book club conversation, this is the one to buy. However, I’ll put the trigger warning on here for infertility and loss.

Good Company by Cynthia D’Apix Sweeny

What happens when you find out that a) your husband cheated on you and b) your best friend knew all about it and kept it a secret? Good Company tells the story of Julian and Flora and Margot – a different sort of love triangle that stretches the bonds of marriage and friendship to its limit. This story was a little slow initially, but it picked up a little after the first few chapters. There are plenty of flashbacks to when the main characters first met and how their relationships evolved. Good Company refers to the theater company where this all takes place, so there is quite a bit of detail into putting on a show and working in the entertainment industry. But, I kept wanting to return to the main story because I found that much more interesting than the setting or the strolls down memory lane.

I wanted to enjoy this book because I loved the author’s debut novel, The Nest. This one was just so-so for me, but I finished. I listened to it on Audible while doing my Hanukkah shopping and thought that narrator did a great job. If I had the book, I might have DNF’d it much earlier.

Going There by Katie Couric

Some of my favorite memoirs are written by journalists. Not only are they wonderful writers who know how to tell a story, but they have also witnessed history while it is happening and reported on it. In her memoir, Katie Couric doesn’t disappoint. She definitely “goes there’ when talking about her family, kids, career, love and loss, love after the loss of her husband to cancer, sexism in the workplace, and yes, Matt Lauer.

The behind-the-scenes aspect of her efforts to get in the door, be seen as a serious journalist, get the story, and get it right appeals to me on many levels. Early on in my career, I was a newspaper reporter and lived and breathed the newsroom rollercoaster culture. It’s quite a ride.

I was afraid that I might not love her memoir as much because many stories were already out there. Her book tour included many interviews on the talk shows, and I was worried I already knew too much going in. In this hefty book (nearly 500 pages), there is still plenty to chew on.

Yearbook, by Seth Rogen

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this memoir by a comedic actor that hasn’t always been my cup of tea. Typically I’m not too fond of the whole pot culture scene. It’s not my scene, and I’m too straight-laced to understand the attraction of recreational drug use.

But, I’m happy to report that this book is much more than that. Maybe it’s because Seth Rogen is a member of the tribe (meaning Jewish) or that he is not one of the more handsome, cookie-cutter types of actors that tend to annoy me more than impress me, but I genuinely liked the way Seth shares his stories. He has just the right amount of humility as he enjoys his celebrity status.

And I am so glad that I listened to this book on Audible. Not only does he have an excellent delivery, but he has many cameo appearances/voiceovers that I was not expecting. While I could have done without the drug-related adventures, this was a fun read.

Don’t Keep Your Day Job: How to Turn Your Passion into Your Career by Cathy Heller

Full disclosure: I picked up this book after being furloughed from my job last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I took the setback as an opportunity to explore whether I wanted to turn my passion for writing into a full-time gig.

As for the book, I started reading it last summer and then put it away once I secured my new role. However, I decided to finish it because l enjoy listening to the author’s podcast of the same name. She understands the creative mind and how difficult it might be to translate that into good business sense. Basically – she speaks to me on a level I can relate to and understand. Her voice and writing style is both encouraging and informative. And her practical advice is what I would consider spot on – from building an audience to creating your own brand. So, whether you are a painter, a writer, a baker, or a candlestick maker, I highly recommend this book to build the entrepreneurial life you desire.

What’s Next?

At the beginning of 2021, I set my Goodreads Challenge reading goal to 21 books. I am pleasantly surprised that I have surpassed that goal and am on my way to finishing 30 books by the end of the year. There are plenty of books on my shelves to choose from, and I am purposely picking easy reads and shorter books to reach my new goal.

This Holiday Season

If you are a regular reader of my book review blogs, you know what is coming. It’s the plea to shop at independent bookstores for your literary gifts. If you aren’t sure where to find your local bookshop, check out Bookshop.org. However, I have one major favor to ask of you – find the bookstore on the website – but buy the books directly from the store. You can still online shop on most indie bookstore websites, and the owners will benefit from your entire purchase. Unfortunately, the website credits a bookstore a tiny percentage of your purchase to the store – and not the website.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what books you have recommended lately, so I can add them to my list!

Happy Holidays!

Elisa

 

Last Year vs This Year: Holiday Edition

My sister-in-law and I were talking last night about how everything seems so much bigger and busier this time of year. We lamented that it didn’t always feel this way. Or did it? Did we just forget what life was like before the pandemic?

This time last year, there wasn’t a life-saving vaccine available to all of us, making it impossible to celebrate the holidays together safely. Sports and school activities were canceled. The news was full of doom and gloom between the rising COVID-19 cases and the 2020 election fiasco. We were all still stuck at home, wondering when this all would end and what our post-pandemic lives would look like going forward.

Well, now we know. We are a combination of elated and exhausted with a side order of procrastination. I don’t know about you, but daylight savings time completely messed with my system and kicked my ass this year. Yes, we gained an hour, but I keep sleeping through it. It doesn’t help that Hanukkah starts this Sunday night, so I have one day to take advantage of the Black Friday deals. And right now, I’m feeling like all of the coffee in my house won’t prepare me for the massive crowds and long lines at the mall.

My brain also seems to be offline at the moment. I completely forgot to invite someone to help celebrate my mom’s 75th birthday, and I feel terrible. But, I have to let it go. She was incredibly sweet about it and knew I meant no harm. Still, it weighs on me because I am on top of these things most of the time. With so much to think about lately, it is possible that my mind went into survival mode. I rearranged my priorities as such:

  • Working during the day – i.e., lots of Zooming and emailing
  • Scheduling COVID-19 booster and flu shots on my lunch breaks
  • Reaching my new Goodreads goal (30 books) at night
  • Shopping for Hanukkah presents on the weekends.

Sometimes, my brain can’t handle more than this. Even my writing life has taken a backseat this season which is so unlike me. But, that will have to be okay too.

Here’s the silver lining about this year vs. last year. We are enjoying our lives again. We are seeing the people we love. We are catching up with old friends. We can hug our loved ones (if they let us). Some of us are eating indoors at restaurants. Others are traveling and planning vacations.

Although we may be exhausted, we can be happy that there is life past the pandemic. Thankfully, we are here for it.

From our family to yours, happy holidays!

Elisa

The October Book Report

Hey everyone! Remember me?! I love to read, and I love to blog, but I haven’t been doing a lot of either one lately. I’m hoping that all changes starting now.

So, let’s get into it. I read four books in October (and early November). Three of them were nonfiction (did you know November is National Nonfiction Month?) and one novel that I sadly couldn’t finish.

A Very Punchable Face, by Colin Jost

Note to self: When a memoir I heard great things about has a chapter called “Okay, So Maybe I’ve Shit My Pants a Couple Times,” maybe I shouldn’t have downloaded it in the first place. Other chapters/clues that should have been red flags include: “The Chapter about Alcohol and Drugs,” “The Time I Fought In WrestleMania and Almost Won, and the nightmarish essay entitled “Eggs in My Legs.”

If it weren’t for the chapter about Colin Jost’s mother, her 9/11 story, and her job as chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department, I’d call his memoir a complete waste of my time. (Although, the book’s title is spot-on because I was basically ready to punch him myself). After reading pages and pages about his white-privileged childhood in private school, his Harvard education, his golf buddies, and his seemingly quick ascension from stand-up comic, to comedy writer, to SNL Weekend Update anchor, I had about enough. But, I guess not because I kept hoping it would get better, and I begrudgingly finished it. Spoiler alert – it didn’t get any better. And I think there should be a law against writing a memoir before you turn 40.

If you are tempted to download this book, save yourself seven hours and a half of listening time on Audible, look for it in the bookstore, and read chapter 11, “Why I Love My Mom,” while enjoying a latte. His mom was a hero to many, and her story is worth telling, which is more than I can say for the rest of the book.

Trust me. Spend the money on Katie Couric’s new memoir instead. Speaking of which…

Going There, by Katie Couric

I devoured Katie Couric’s memoir. I’ve always respected her as a journalist. I enjoyed her wit and wisdom during her 15 years on the Today Show and cheered her professional choices as she moved on to what she thought were bigger and better things (CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, a syndicated daytime talk show). Behind the scenes, she became a widow at the age of 44 and raised two young children while trying to find success and happiness in her life.

Her memoir is easy to read, and yes, she definitely “goes there” about Matt Lauer and the gender politics she navigated in various newsrooms throughout her career. While there is a bit of name-dropping at times (which is a big pet peeve of mine), I forgive her because she is KATIE fucking COURIC. She has covered major news stories over the past three decades – so of course, the occasional celebrity appearances are to be expected.

I loved the book because it reminds us that what you see on TV is never the whole story. She writes:

“Television can put you in a box; the flat-screen can flatten. On TV, you are larger than life but smaller, too. It is not the whole story, and it is not the whole me. This book is.”

Yes, Katie Couric is still a human being with self-esteem issues, parenting triumphs and tribulations, career dreams, and romantic desires. While a lot of it came true – there was often a price to pay for always being in the spotlight. Her memoir has it all, and it doesn’t disappoint.

I Alone Can Fix It: Donald Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

Disclaimer: If you enjoyed four years under the Trump administration, feel free to skip to the next book on my list. This book and review are not for you. For everyone else, who felt the pain, anxiety, and sheer disregard for what this country stands for – this is a book to add to your TBR list.

Written by two Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalists from the Washington Post, this book takes us into the 2020 shitshow – otherwise known as the last year of the Trump administration. It is clear that the investigative reporting included interviewers with many of the players and those closest to them. If you want to be in the room where it happened and see what was done to prevent even more dire results, this book tells it all.

Admittedly, this book was not an easy read for me, not because it wasn’t well-written. I already lived through 2020 once, and so this book can be triggering. I remember feeling despondent and anxious during that time and praying it would all come to an end. There were moments where I had to put the book down and do something else because those feelings started to come back again. However, I’m so glad I finished it because investigative journalism – when done right – takes a holistic view of the situation, breaks it down into facts, and confirms information from trusted sources. This book delivers the goods in unprecedented and stunning detail. I hope books like this become required reading for students of politics, history, and society for years to come.

The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

I have read my fair share of books about the Holocaust. Being a professional Jew, my colleagues tend to read a lot of these stories regularly and recommend them to me. There are many good ones out there – including this book (a YA book pick from Reese Witherspoon’s book club) – but it wasn’t the right time for me to read it.

This is an incredible story about a young woman who hid 13 Jews in her home. She simultaneously housed two Nazi soldiers and cared for her little sister. Her street smarts and resilience are unbelievable. So much so that I was surprised to learn that this book is based on a true story. I dutifully read about 2/3rds of it, so I included it in my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. But, I skimmed through the last 100 or so pages.

My Next Reads

My original Goodreads Challenge for 2021 was to read 21 books. Since I reached this point over the summer, I was hoping to hit 30 titles before the end of the year. With seven weeks left, I’m not confident I’m going to hit that number. But, we will see. In the meantime, the following three books on my TBR list are:

A Final Word

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I urge you to buy your books at an independent bookstore. Those big-box companies get enough of our money throughout the year. If you aren’t sure where to find a local bookstore, check out Bookshop.org and plug in your city/state or zip code. Your purchases will help keep these amazing places of business in business.

Until next time, happy reading!

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