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Objects of My Affection: A Novel

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This book held my attention and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's a fairly simply, formulaic book about a woman in her late-30s whose life has taken a turn for the worse in response to her teenaged son's drug addiction. Lucie has sold her house to pay for re-hab, has been laid off and her long-term relationship is over. She finds a work assignment to de-clutter the home of a hoarding, aging artist. She is working towards a deadline and will earn herself a bonus if she is able to finish the seemingly impossible task by that time. She, of course, encounters challenges along the way, the most prominent of which is the difficult client she is working for. Along the way, she also encounters important insights about herself and what has happened in her life. What I think made this book work so well were the well sketched out characters who seemed multidimentional, flawed and fully human. As such, they were totally relatable, for me. Even the less prominent characters, like the artist's nurse, seemed fully fleshed out and real. I especially found some of the feelings Lucie had had in living with an addict to ring true. One of the few improvements I could imagine for this book would have been to make the locale of Chicago come alive more, especially with more references to the changes in weather. The locale of the artist's house, a craftsman era home, was well drawn-out but I feel some opportunities were lost in making Chicago more of an on-going part of the novel's landscape.
The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son

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This is a book about parenting a child with an extremely rare disability, written from the father's perspective. It's a book about the realities of such parenting, for example, about how for the parents of some children, the sleepless nights of babyhood aren't something that the child and family grow out of of but rather just a part of daily parenting, year in and year out. It's a book about the difficulties of finding options for child care and the emotional dilemma of choosing to care of a special needs child at home, or having the child live in residence, if that's even an option at all. In Ian Brown's boy's case, it did become an option after many years on a waiting list, and seems to have been the best option for Walker, the boy in question in this book.The first part of this book is mostly about the reality of having parented Walker full-time (two parents and a daytime nanny) for, I believe 15 years or so, until Walker found a spot in a home with full-time caregivers and other teens with special needs like him. Then, the second part is more about a quest for information and meaning once Walker no longer lives at home. The author does this by meeting other kids with CFC (the extremely rare disorder his son has), their families, genetics researchers who work at identifying CFC, and adults living with disabilities and their care-givers in l'Arche communities in Montreal and France. This part is both pragmatic -- how will Walker live as an adult, how will he be cared for if his parents are no longer around? -- and philosophical -- what is the contribution of Walker to the world? why are there people with such severe disabilities and what is their place in society? It's about the inherent value of being human and of simply being. One aspect that I found lacking in this memoir was more details about the other members of the family, the author's wife and daughter. They are ever present in the background, as they must be, in order for the author to tell what he is telling -- his experience of parenting his son. And I get that that's what he's focusing on -- parenting his son, not a general family memoir. And I get that he can't do it without referring generally to the family setting. But the effect on me as a reader was to just have my curiosity piqued about his marriage, his wife's experience parenting Walker (in what ways was it exactly like his, in what ways did it differ?) and especially his daughter's childhood experience with her parents being consumed by her brother's needs. I would have liked to get a bigger, better picture of the overall family life. This was a thought-provoking and informative memoir. Well done.
Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

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As mentioned by previous reviewers, this book really isn't about knitting a difficult sweater, as its premise indicates it will be about. Rather, it's about a knitter's musings about knitting and the knitting community during the year in which she knits a famously difficult sweater. I'm a beginning knitter so a lot of what she said was new and interesting to me and I really enjoyed the book, but I certainly do agree that the book wasn't about what it purported it would be about.
Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over

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I felt like the title and sub-title of this memoir were misleading, as I was expecting far more emphasis on the pen-pal relationships throughout, while, in reality, this was a more general memoir of Brooks' childhood, which included having a few pen-pals. This was followed by contacting these pen-pals in adulthood and catching up with them. I also didn't feel like the book necessary flowed well from my perspective. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't had an expectation on the contents based on the subtitle.
Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less

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About the best thing that I can say about this book is that at least it was short!Some of my the main difficulties I encountered with this book: There was no unifying theme, general premise or conclusion; this is a straight-up twelve chapter book, each chapter representing a month of the year, and in each month a different item given up for the duration of that month only, to be resumed anew once the month is over. The author is prone to hyperbole and over generalization. For example, in her first month, she gives up alcohol (purportedly) but says she avoided social outings during the first two weeks, and slipped into having a drink per outing during the last week -- which basically means that, if the timelines are true, there was essentially one week during which she went out with friends and abstained from drinking. But, oh my! the fuss she makes about it -- apparently the peer pressure was constant and overt with friends badgering her about her nutty resolution to go without booze for month! (It certainly did not make me want to be part of her social network, that`s for sure!) Another issue is that there is no follow-up -- after January's experiences with giving up alcohol and the alleged lessons of finding that one or two drinks per social outing is the optimal amount, there is never any mention of drinking again. No looking back during the month of no coffee or the month of no chocolate to say 'well, at least I can drink wine!' And finally, I simply did not like the author's tone or the persona of the author as it appeared through the lens of this brief, fluff piece.
How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage

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I picked this book randomly off the library shelf. On the basis of the subtitle, I expected this to be about someone who had deliberately set out to find a starter marriage, perhaps a sham marriage to get wedding gifts or something. But this was more about someone who just kinda went with the flow and found herself married when she really shouldn't have been. It was a quick read and well enough written but somehow just did not grab me. It just seemed like an account of a fairly typical 20s experience, with the marriage and divorce not being as central as the title might imply.
Slots: Praying to the God of Chance

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I'm a little baffled as to how to describe this book. It's kind of all of over the place. At one point, as I was reading it, I asked myself if, as an exercise, I would be able to re-assemble the sentences in a chapter in the order they were presented. Not only was the answer to that a resounding 'no' but the unfortunate truth as that I wouldn't have been able to re-assemble the sentences in most paragraphs or even decide which sub-headings belonged in which chapter. And yet...there was an oddly pleasing rhythm in this prose. So reading it was certainly not un-enjoyable. As a previous reviewer has described, it's as though the author had this idea of playing slots being like some sort of religious practice. But then he didn't really go further with the idea, or give an opinion about this. For example, this could have been a jumping off point for criticizing religious practice or slot play or marketing of slot play, or endorsing previous taboos against gambling propagated by religious leaders. But it wasn't any of these things. While the author didn't come straight out and endorse slot play as a desirable hobby, he made it quite clear that he did himself engage in it. And went on to give tips for reducing one's own slot habits. Spoiler alert: you might want to consider bird watching or coin collecting to reign in your slot habit, according to the author. So to sum up, while I found the content of the book lacking in oh-so-many ways, I did enjoy the author's writing. At least on a sentence by sentence basis (since, as mentioned, there was no coherent progression in said melodic sentences).
The 100 Thing Challenge

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This may be the first time I have read a book in one sitting. It was quick, engrossing and thought-provoking. It describes one man's relationship with his things, and the year he spent living with no more than 100 personal things, including his clothing. In a funny twist of irony, this book about finding enough within few items left me wanting more, in a way. More details. More anecdotes. More reflections. More pages. But, really, this little book was enough. It served its purpose and did so in an entertaining manner.
My Pilgrim's Heart; A Woman's Journey Through Marriage And Other Foreign Lands

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This is a memoir of a woman's journey on foot, accompanying her son for a significant leg of his walk from the UK to Israel. The author's plan, when she sets out, is to walk from Rome to Greece. She makes it a good deal of the way but winds up taking a train to Istanbul when her son decides to continue his trek through mountains when he own self can only fathom a journey through an alternative route in the low lands.This is as much, if not more, about the author's methaphorical, internal musings as it is about the sights on her travels. Most prominent among this reflections, is her marriage and the difficulties she is having in it. The author mentions her previous life on a commune of women and as a feminist lesbian and talks about her marriage to a Dutch man, as it was before she left on her walk. Never does she explain her decision to have married this man in the first place. Unsurprisingly, given this, her journey leads her to a decision to end her marriage.There's a certain cadence to this book that kept me reading. While I was far from engrossed, I was still able to feel the rhythm of the walk and read on as Stephanie walked on.
THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE by Peter Singer (Excerpt)

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I really felt engaged and persuaded by this book until the last bit. That last bit really didn't sit well with me. You see, the book, up until that point, seems aimed at everyone in the first world, regardless of income level, and our obligations as members of these richer countries towards the world's poorest people, whose situation is so dire that every day is a question of life or death. I really did feel quite moved. But, at the very end, the plan that is proposed for giving is largely aimed at the top 10% income earners in the United States. It seemed like an unexpected about face. Up until then, I thought the moral argument had not only been aimed at everyone in the first world, but was also empowering because all of us could save lives. Then, in the end, it honed in on the rich and showed how, if the top 10% earners made significant contributions of their wealth towards world poverty, then the problem of life-threatening poverty could be entirely funded just by these folks. I found this last bit so ineffective that it really watered down the rest of the message which had been so powerful.
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