Sunday, May 24, 2015

Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer

The Chicken-Driven Life  (Memoir)

Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer is a memoir about a woman who divorces and must sell her home in an upscale neighborhood.  She buys a smaller home (which probably still cost twice as much my home) on a six-mile peninsula on the Massachusetts coast where she begins a new life with her daughter, massive renovations, and chickens.

Like the title suggests, chickens play a major role in this book: the care, the coop, the eggs, the money, the time commitment, as well as the responsibilities that come with ownership. And while, in general, I have no great interest in chickens, nor do I have a desire to bring any home (except the roasted kind), I did find interest in these chickens and Catherine’s story about starting over. I liked her energy, enthusiasm, and “go-get-em” attitude.  I enjoyed this brief memoir about hope and determination…..and chickens.

Update: My sister read it too, and really liked it!

This book met two of my 2015 Book Challenges:  Read a memoir; read a book about animals. 

Happy Reading,


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Monday, May 18, 2015

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Strength of Sisters  (Family Dynamics)

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls.   Two sisters, 15- and 12-year-olds, decide to leave their California home after their mother, an unstable aspiring singer, abandons them to “make some time and space” for herself, so she can find “the magic” again.  The two girls head out to Byler, Virginia, the town they were born in—the town their mother never wanted to return to.  There they find their Uncle Tinsley, a recluse who lost his wife six years ago.  Bean, the narrator, is the younger of the girls.  She’s a spunky, self-assured girl who takes matters into her own hands.  Her sister, Liz, is a gentler spirit who loves nothing more than to keep her nose in a book.  Together they start to forge a new life in the small town; there’s just one big snag. And this new problem turns things upside down for them.

I really liked this book.  Bean was such a bold, outspoken, forthright girl; it’s hard not to like her.  She reminded me a bit of Ava, the 13-year-old girl in Swamplandia!  I enjoyed the story of the family dynamics and was cheering the girls along the whole way.  I also found Walls’ writing style fun and comfortable, reminiscent of her bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle.

Thumbs-up and many stars to The Silver Star

This was a book club selection and our members also enjoyed the book. It was mentioned that the mother in the book reminded us a lot of Jeannette's real mom in The Glass Castle--which meas she wasn't winning any mother-of-the-year awards.  It was a quick and easy read (a couple members read it in one day).  The story and writing style held our interests and the ending was a nice surprise. Thumbs-up all around! 

This book met a couple of my 2015 Book Challenges:  Read a book about siblings; and read a book with a color in the title.

Happy Reading,


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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Stretching the Mind and Body... (Enlightenment)

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo is about a man who takes an unexpected cross-country road trip with a spiritual guru.  As Otto reluctantly chauffeurs a monk from New Jersey to North Dakota he stops to show him slices of American life while the monk slowly gets Otto to open his mind about reincarnation, meditation and the meaning of life.  The Rinpoche (rin-po-shay, a title of respect) even tricks Otto into taking a yoga class.

This book was a gentle and enjoyable tour through the U.S. and the beginning of a teacher/student relationship. Both Otto and the Rinpoche were easy to like and the book was thought-provoking without being too preachy. In fact, I felt a little refreshed after I finished the book.  It offered a positive light on spirituality, not religion.  No doom or gloom, just little encouragements to self-betterment.

I give it an uplifting, thought-provoking, amusing thumbs-up.

Although this book made me contemplate the benefits of meditation, it did not necessarily make me want to run out and do yoga—been there done that.  My own yoga experience about twenty years ago taught me four things:
Still nimble a decade after yoga.

    1.  Yoga is a serious workout.  They make it look easy, but you’re stretching dormant muscles that will feel like they're going to explode the day after working out.

    2.  Yoga stretches the intestines.  When intestines are stretched they may at times release pent-up gases.  Thank God this didn’t happen to me, but it was a frightening lesson that it COULD happen to anyone.  One poor, middle-aged man in his sweats and t-shirt was dragged to the class by his wife.  While he was doing a downward-facing dog, a boisterous upward fart ripped through the silence and the entire class heard it. Talk about embarrassing!

     3.  Yoga instructors may have reached higher levels of enlightenment, but they are still human, and can inadvertently humiliate the humblest of their students.  One time in class, as I was trying to do my poses, the teacher ran up to me excitedly and grabbed my belly congratulating me (loudly) on my pregnancy in front of the entire class.  One problem:  I wasn’t pregnant.  I had my son a year prior and was still trying to deflate that baby bump. (A baby bump doesn’t quite dissipate as easily with the second child.)  My teacher apologized profusely for her error; in the end she was probably more embarrassed than I was (or, maybe not).

     4.  Sometimes it’s okay to skip a yoga class.  Although
my sister and I had worked diligently to try and learn yoga, on the last day of the class, we decided to play hooky.  We went to the movies and saw “Up Close & Personal” with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford, and to this day, while I cannot think of how to do one single yoga pose, I still remember getting all choked up when I saw the shot of Robert Redford’s boots.  You’ll have to see it. It was a good movie.

Happy Reading, Happy Enlightenment,


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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Quirky Sleeps by Bruce and Susan Armstrong

It’s Not Always the Destination... (Travel)

Quirky Sleeps by Bruce and Susan Armstrong is a travel book that lists unusual hotels across the United States.  If you’re ready to ditch plain old ordinary motels and make your sleeping quarters part of your vacation adventure, you may want to check out this book.  Organized by state, you will find information on unique hotels including contact information, price range indication, and a description of the room as well as the Armstrongs’ personal experience at the facility.  You can also look up quirky sleeps by genre.  Whether you’re looking to spend the night in a boat, railroad car, wigwam, or even a jail, you’ll find it in this book. 

While all this information may be available on the Internet, it is not compiled and organized in this easy-to-use, easy-to-get-excited-about handy reference.  The only small complaint I have about this book is that the black and white photos are not on the corresponding pages with the descriptions—they’re randomly scattered throughout the book, which makes it difficult to get a quick peek of the “hotel” unless you flip through each page or log on your computer.  This, however, was not detrimental enough to lose any value of the book.  In fact, I was so excited about this book that I have already purchased a few more as gifts. 

My husband and I planned our vacation after we purchased this book.  And while our vacation isn’t until July, we’ve made reservations and are looking forward to staying in a tree house, a railroad car, and a tug boat (which wasn’t in the book but inspired by it). I’ll let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, we’ve already been to an anniversary getaway in the Dog Bark Park B&B in Cottonwood, Idaho!  This was a dream-come true for me. I actually saw this bed and breakfast on a road trip years ago and always wanted to stay there.  When we received Quirky Sleeps in the mail and saw a picture of the Dog Bark Park B&B right on the front cover, I finally booked a reservation. I'm so glad we did.  It was doggone awesome! 

We loved it!  The owners Frances and Dennis were very warm and welcoming. The room was stocked with books on dogs, unusual hotels, and interesting travel guides.  There were games and there was also a section in the head and nose of the dog dedicated to kids. The bed was soft and cozy with a headboard made up of carved wooden dogs created by Dennis who is also an artist.  

Breakfast was ready for us in the fridge and consisted of fruit, yogurts, homemade (and very yummy) granola, muffins, coffee cake, along with cheeses and hard boiled eggs. It was quite a spread, which we enjoyed by a window with a nice view of rolling hills. We had a great time! How many people can say they've spent the night in the belly of a dog? Well, now we can.  :) 

So, if traveling for you is not always about the destination, but about the journey, check out Quirky Sleeps.

Obviously, this book met one of my 2015 Book Challenges: Read a travel book.

Happy Reading, Happy Travels


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