Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gunn's Golden Rules by Tim Gunn

While perusing a few book blogs that I follow I came across a review of Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn.  The blog author had been pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the book so I thought I would give it a go.  

For the most part I enjoyed reading about Mr. Gunn's rules for life, but I was disappointed a bit by the writing especially considering the book was co-written with Ada Calhoun.  Ms. Calhoun, according to her own official website, has written for the New York Times, the L.A Times and even Time Magazine.  I fully understand that Gunn's expertise is in the fashion industry, but I would expect a co-writer to offer guidance in flow and topic consistency.  While Gunn's Golden Rules does a reasonable job of sticking to the main idea of each chapter, there is something very stream-of-consciousness about it. 

For example, chapter 16 entitled Take Risks!  Playing It Safe is Never Really Safe,  Gunn begins talking about setting up a branch of Parson's, the design school at which he taught for years prior to Project Runway, in Kuala LumpurAs he was talking to a group of potential faculty about the importance of a competitive environment in the classroom he realized that was literally and figuratively speaking a foreign language.  He quickly learned that in Malaysia it is not good to be better than another person.  He then mentions that he believes this is also a "Midwestern sensibility, and that in certain states bragging is forbidden."  He expresses his bewilderment  that "no one can be better than the lowest common denominator."  This leads him in to a musing about the removal of class ranks from students' transcripts and how they were removed because the "ranks made the students feel bad."  He does eventually take the subject back to how important it is to take risks, but that was just one example.  Through out the book I felt I was following various rabbits before coming back to the main idea.  One would think his co-writer could have helped rein him in a bit.  (On a totally unrelated side note that I just must add, Calhoun's website also mentions that she graduated with honors from the University of Texas in 2000 with a concentration in Sanskrit.  Sanskrit?  Really??)

The above is my only complaint about an otherwise extremely entertaining book about etiquette, advice for life and plenty of celebrity gossip.  Gunn points out the importance of Thank You notes, the inappropriateness of parents dressing like their children (His announcement at mall fashion shows: "If you are over the age of sixteen, look away!  These clothes are not for you."), and so much more. 

As for life lessons, Gunn offers such tidbits as these:
  • "Treat people well.  Why bitch-slap someone unless you're leaving the planet for good?",
  • "It's best to wield whatever power you have over your employees, children, or parents wisely.  If you can't be gracious, don't spend time together."  "Never talk cruelly to them- and certainly not in front of other people." 
  • "It's always best to err on the side of beauty over comfort."  "When we look good, we feel better able to tackle the world."
  • "I believe very strongly that we should all try our best to treat one another well, but I also know that some people who are difficult are doing their best, only their best isn't all that great."
  • "You can be too rich and too thin, but you can never be too well read or too curious about the world."  - That one might be my personal favorite.
And oh my, the tales he tells on the rich and famous, especially Martha Stewart.  One story he shares about Martha is that one day he was watching her cooking show and she made a comment about life having "few disappointments greater than a room-temperature nut."  After Martha's time in federal prison, he asked her if she still felt that way.  After questioning if she had really said that, she said, "Well, I wouldn't say that now!"  He also tells about a Christmas card he had received from Diane von Furstenberg that featured herself as the mermaid figurehead of a ship- and it was a real ship, her husband's yacht!  No photoshop necessary. 

In all, this was a fun book, I learned loads about Tim Gunn -he's a very interesting man- and I was even reminded of the importance of manners.  Like the author of the blog that recommended this book, I was also pleasantly surprised.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

This month's book club selection is Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, and oh, what a book it is!  My dear sweet friend Amy had been telling me for a while that I needed to read this book so I was more than a little excited when it was selected by our book club host.

Set in medieval Cambridge, the deaths of four children have caused the heartbreak of a small community as well as an attack on the Jews living in the area.  King Henry II insists that the murderer must be found and the Jews exonerated and so he summons a medical expert from Salerno, Italy.  Unexpectedly, the expert that arrives is a woman, Adeila- something most denounced at that time.  To avoid charges of witchcraft, Adelia must conceal her purpose and investigate secretly. 

I almost never say that I couldn't put a book down, but in this case I really couldn't put it down.  I was riveted by all the twists and turns.  I will admit that the language took a little adjustment, but once I had acclimated to the terminology I was hooked.  The last night I was reading it, I kept intending to put it down and get ready for bed, but I just couldn't stop.  I knew I was close to the revelation of the murderer and I just had to keep going.  Once I had finished, I felt like I had just chugged a Red Bull.  I was so excited and my mind kept replaying the scenes.  Then I did that thing that my husband doesn't really care for:  I insisted on recounting the entire plot of the book for him.  He really doesn't mind too much, but lets me go on and on and then makes a joke about how I totally ruined it for him.  But I just couldn't help myself- it was just so good!

Then I proceeded to send emails to all of my book club friends telling them how great a book it is.  I was a little afraid that the first few chapters would prevent them from finishing the book and I really didn't want them to miss out on all of the fabulousness.  Seriously people, I cannot recommend this book enough.  I will admit that the murders of the children are gruesome and normally that is a deal breaker for me, but Franklin wrote it in such a way that the reader knows what happened without dwelling on it more than necessary. 

Please read this and tell me if you loved it as much as I did.  And tell me if you figured out early who the murderer was- I did, but I still loved it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Well, this was not what I expected.  The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide isn't actually by Stephenie Meyer.  Looking at the title page, there is no author listed, it simply says:

The publisher wishes to acknowledge contributions by
Lori Joffs and Laura Byrne-Cristiano of the Twilight Lexicon

I had added this book to my wish list when it was first released, but I am so glad I borrowed it from the library first.  For most Twilight fans, there isn't a lot of new information.  If you have spent any time looking at Meyer's website or any of the other zillions of Twilight blogs out there, you've probably seen most of this. 

Really for me the only interesting part was right at the beginning of the book.  Stephenie Meyer did an interview with a fellow author friend, Shannon Hale.  I hope you don't mind if I share a bit of it with you. 

When discussing her life-long love of books and reading, she says, "I always needed that extra fantasy world.  I had to have another world I could be in at the same time.  And so, with writing, I just found a way to have another world, and then to be able to be a lot more a part of it than as a reader."  I loved reading this because it is such a reflection of how I feel.  She also tells of feeling compelled to write and compares it to a good book that you can't put down, except that instead of reading it, she was writing it.  I can totally imagine that.

I've heard many people say that Twilight got them reading again.  I know it is true for me to a certain extent.  Before Twilight, I read a book every few months.  I had small children and I was stretched as thin as I thought I could go.  After  reading Twilight, I couldn't get my hands on books fast enough.  I still have small children, though they are bigger and more self-sufficient now, but I have found time to read.  I've always been a reader because I always loved to read, but for a few years, I just didn't read much.  

Meyer says in this interview that she loves when people tell her that her books made them excited to read.  She says, "I really feel like one of the important things you can do for kids in school is not just give them the classics that teach them about excellent form and really great writing style, but also throw in a couple of fun things that teach them that reading can be this amazing adventure.  Let them love some story, so at least they know not all books are 'hard' or 'difficult,' but that they can just be fun."

I believe that is important.  Right now my seven-year-old son only wants to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  In my opinion they are a bit brainless and filled with boy humor, but he is a seven-year-old boy and so of course that is what he likes.  I could try to force him to read something else, but what would that accomplish?  It might just turn him away from reading all together and I would hate that.  So I'll hold on to my Harry Potter books and hope that as he gets older he'll come around.  He is only seven, after all. 

As for the rest of the book, it is filled with descriptions of each of the characters in the saga.  Most of this seems redundant if you've actually read the books, though there is some additional backstory.  Another part some people my find interesting are the playlists.  While Meyer was writing, she had very specific thought on soundtrack for each event in the saga.  Each of these are listed in the guide along with a short description of the place where it belongs.  If you wanted to take the time to search out each of these tracks and play them as you read along, it is interesting information.  I don't expect that I will.  It is also information that you can find at .

Actually, if you are a fan and haven't spent some time on Meyer's website, I recommend that you do.  You will find quite a few outtakes and most of the information contained in the guide. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I've Read- 2011

Happy New Year!  What a great book year it's been for me.  I have loved writing this blog.  It has helped me to keep track of all the wonderful books I've read and it has allowed me to share them with friends and family.  I am always pleasently surprised when someone says to me, "Oh, I saw on your book blog..." 

So, without further ado, a list of all I read in 2011:

  1. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
  2. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  4. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
  5. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
  6. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  7. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  8. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen
  9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
  10. The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini
  11. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  12. Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini
  13. Hotel on teh Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  14. The Cross-Country Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini
  15. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  16. The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
  17. The Quilter's Legacy by Jennifer Chiaverini
  18. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  19. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  20. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  22. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
  23. The Master Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini
  24. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
  25. The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
  26. Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
  27. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  28. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
  29. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
  30. The Christmas Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
  31. Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld
  32. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  33. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  34. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  35. Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini
  36. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  37. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
  38. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  39. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  40. The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini
  41. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  42. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  43. Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager
  44. The Color of Water by James McBride
  45. Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick
  46. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
  47. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Wow!  That is quite a list!  I know 2012 will be even better.  Happy Reading!

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Oh, my!  A few months back, I was perusing a few of the book blogs that I follow and I came across a book giveaway.  I had never heard of the book, but the description looked interesting so I signed up.  Weeks later, long after I had forgotten the giveaway, a book showed up at my door.  It was an Advanced Readers' Edition of Glow  by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  I have only just now been able to get to it and oh, my! 

Glow  is a wonderfully imaginative book built around a world hundreds of years in the future.  Two ships have left Earth, which has been ruined by pollution and war, to find a new planet.  The survival of the species is of utmost importance, but that's not as simple as it seems.  One of my favorite things in this book is that no character is all good or all bad.  It is difficult for the reader to know who to trust which leads to multiple plot twists and surprises.  I have seen this book described as sci-fi, paranormal, romance and even dystopian, but whatever you want to call it, it is fascinating.  I was riveted.  If we hadn't been visiting family for the holidays, I would have hidden in my room and read it straight through cover to cover. 

This book is the beginning of what is sure to be a very exciting series.  The next installment, Spark will be released in July 2012 and I can't wait!  It is so rare that I start a series at the very first and the waiting may drive me mad! 

Please read this and tell me what you think!

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Did you read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants  series by Ann Brashares?  If you haven't read them, I recommend you add them to your list.  Yes, they are another YA series, but these are fun and light and would make excellent summer reading or they would be a great choice for those of you who have recently finished the Hunger Games series and are needing a lift out of the darkness.  Once you've read the first four, please go out and pick up Sisterhood Everlasting .  This book picks up then years after the end of the Sisterhood series.  All four friends have their own grown up lives, but they aren't all sure what to do with them. 

One friend lives in Rhode Island, one in New York, one in San Francisco and one in Australia.  The distance between them becomes too much and one friend decides it is time for a reunion.  This reunion will change all of their lives and not in any way you might expect.  There are so many wonderful parts of this book that I would really love to share with you, but I am afraid it would really ruin it for you.  I don't like spoilers, though sometimes they are necessary, but with this book I just can't do it.  I really want you to read it and discover the story bit by bit like I did. 

I will leave you with one little nugget that I think is good advice for us all:

"You get older and you learn there is one sentence, just four words long, and if you can say it to yourself it offers more comfort than almost any other.  It goes like this....  Ready?"


"'At least I tried.'"