The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

21853678TITLE: The Secrets of Midwives
AUTHOR:
Sally Hepworth
LENGTH: 309 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
GENRE: fiction (midwives, birth, mother-daughter relationships, family, babies)
ISBN: 9781250051899
REASON FOR READING: library bookclub
RATING: 5/5

SUMMARY (book jacket):

THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

MY THOUGHTS: I absolutely loved this book! The subject of midwifery is one I’ve been really interested in over the past couple of years. Birthing a child did pique my interest in some areas I never thought of before–the birth process in general (hence the midwifery) and breastfeeding, to name a few. This book followed three story lines simultaneously, one for each of the midwives. That concept took a few chapters to get used to–I’m used to the concept with two characters, but throwing in the third threw off my rhythm a little at first. Once all the stories started to differentiate from each other, it was easier to understand. There were questions concerning each woman that made me keep wanting to read–I’m convinced that I could’ve read the whole book in one sitting if I’d had the time to do so. Concerning Neva, I wondered if she would reveal whom her baby daddy was AND who she’d end up with, if anyone, by story’s end (I didn’t really think they’d be the same man). With Grace, I wondered how her apparent hatred for the medical community would be important to the story–I also wondered why she had such a strong hatred, which was never specifically said, though I’m sure the three decades of being overlooked as NOT an expert (which midwives most certainly ARE) would be more than enough. And Floss, she had some kind of secret and, until right before it was revealed, I wasn’t sure what it was. As the revelation got closer, I figured it out for myself and couldn’t believe I’d missed it before.

In the end, everything came full circle and the ending was just how I’d like–some strings tied up, some left open. I like that mix because I like to imagine my future for the characters a little bit 🙂

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

23278537TITLE: The Little Paris Bookshop
AUTHOR: Nina George
LENGTH: 365 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
GENRE: fiction (France, Paris, bookshops, readers, books, relationships, cancer, lovers)
ISBN: 9780553418774
REASON FOR READING: library bookclub
RATING: 4/5SUMMARY:
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.MY THOUGHTS:
I’m pretty ambivalent towards this story. It was good more than it was bad–parts of it, especially the traveling on the riverboat bit, were really quite lovely. I’m not sure the plausibility of Perdu and Catherine’s relationship growing as it did–it’s weird because I didn’t have any problem believing in Cuneo’s and Samy’s relationship, which started even odder.The setting and focus on books and reading was nice. Manon’s diary entries, towards the end of her part of the story, hit a little too close to home for me and actually upset me at times. Though I think that was more due to the timing of reading this book.

Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloé Kardashian

25434370TITLE: Strong Looks Better Naked
AUTHOR: Khloé Kardashian
LENGTH: 216 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
GENRE: non-fiction (personal development)
ISBN: 9781942872481
REASON FOR READING: Truth be told, I’m a fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Khloé is probably my favorite of the sisters because I think I’m more like her than the others.
RATING: 5/5

DESCRIPTION (book jacket):
“Over the last three years, I’ve transformed my body, my mind, and my heart. I’ve never been stronger or happier or more grounded. I hope this book inspires you to build your own form of personal strength. One baby step at a time! That is my philosophy: Small changes and small steps can transform your life.
At the end of the day, it’s really quite simple.
Baby steps.
You want to be strong. You have to believe in yourself to get there. True strength comes from looking at yourself with fresh eyes, from having faith, from becoming your own cheerleader. Finding your inner strength is a journey. Nobody else can do it for you.
You want to be healthy. You want to be happy. Be mindful–about the way you approach life, and about the things you can do to change your approach to life.
It is not that difficult. I promise. If you begin with just thirty minutes of exercise a day, the rest of it–mind, heart, spirit–will begin to change.”
~~Khloé Kardashian

My Thoughts: I admit, when it comes to reading books written by celebrities, I’m skeptical. I have no reason to think so, but in the back of my mind I wonder things like “Did this person even actually write this book or did they hire a ghostwriter?” or “Why does this person think they have the ability to write a book, just because their name is big enough to get people to read it?” Skeptical as I might be, I really wanted to read this book. Khloé is the sister I think is most relatable for me–her and Kourtney are pretty even; Kim is the one I can’t stand, to be honest.

I think this book was really great. There are three parts–she focuses on health, heart, and mind. She doesn’t use fancy words or phrases, it really is a lot like listening to someone just talk. There are quite a few quotes throughout the book by wise, old people (MLK, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, etc.) which help illustrate her points. I found her sharing her personal stories to depict how similar her life is to others’–though her job is obviously quite different from those of most. She motivates people to treat themselves better, treat yourself as well as you would treat someone else. (Makes me think of the Parks & Rec “Treat yo’self!” episodes 🙂 )

As You Wish–Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

21412202TITLE: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
LENGTH: 242 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2014
GENRE: non-fiction (film production, actors/actresses, movie)
ISBN: 9781476764023
REASON FOR READING: One of my family’s favorite movies since the early 1990s has been The Princess Bride, so I just had to read this
RATING: 5/5

SUMMARY:

Storm the Castle Once More

Standing on the stage for the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Princess Bride, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude and nostalgia. It was a remarkable night and it brought back vivid memories of being part of what appears to have become a cult classic film about pirates and princesses, giants and jesters, cliffs of insanity, and of course rodents of unusual size.
It truly was as fun to make the movie as it is to watch it, from getting to work on William Goldman’s brilliant screenplay to being directed by the inimitable Rob Reiner. It is not an exaggeration to say that most days on set were exhilarating, from wrestling Andre the Giant, to the impossibility of playing mostly dead with Billy Crystal cracking jokes above me, to choreographing the Greatest Sword Fight in Modern Times with Mandy Patinkin, to being part of the Kiss That Left All the Others Behind with Robin Wright.
In this book I’ve gathered many more behind-the-scenes stories and hopefully answers to many of the questions we’ve all received over the years from fans. Additionally, Robin, Billy, Rob, and Mandy, as well as Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, and William Goldman graciously share their own memories and stories from making this treasured film.
If you’d like to know a little bit more about the making of The Princess Bride as seen through the eyes of a young actor who got much more than he bargained for, along with the rest of this brilliant cast, then all I can say is…as you wish.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book! I don’t remember a time in my life when I hadn’t seen and loved The Princess Bride. It was a VHS that my cousin had in the early 90s, so the only time we got to watch it was when we were down at my grandma’s house, which wasn’t more than a handful of times a year because she lives two hours away. Since that time, it has been a must-watch practically any time the family gets together. On vacation, we end up with 4-5 copies of this movie on DVD at the same place because we’re never sure if someone else will bring it, so we have to bring it ourselves, just in case. It’s become very popular again in the last couple of years–I hadn’t seen it mentioned on social media much until then, but now it’s something I see there or actually playing on TV once every week or two.

That being said, again, I loved this book! It was so funny in parts and, truth be told, I was a little sad when it ended because now there seems to be nothing new to learn about a beloved film–I’m all caught up, so to speak. I would love it if there was a gag reel on the DVD (hint hint, for the next time it’s released!), just to see some of these stories that Cary talks about. I laughed out loud at times while reading this, which you wouldn’t exactly think about happening since it’s a non-fiction book. A few of my favorite parts were:

  • When Andre the Giant actually managed to drink so much that he passed out…in the hotel lobby where they left him because he was too big to move.
  • When Cary broke his big toe while playing on Andre’s ATV (or the fact that the ATV was the only way Andre could get around some of the locations because he was too big for the vans).
  • When Chris Guest knocked out Cary and he woke up in the hospital from the scene when Count Rugen knocks out Westley after the Fire Swamp with the butt of his sword.
  • When they filmed the famous sword fight, for almost a week. And that Cary and Mandy were the actually swordsmen, not some doubles (except the acrobatic flip).
  • And perhaps my ultimate favorite, when Cary described the scene when Count Rugen sucks a year of Westley’s life away and he talked about how hard it was for him to be serious with suction cups attached to his nipples with a comedian standing over him 🙂

I hope those didn’t spoil anything, and there were plenty of other funny parts. These are just the ones that stick out most in my mind, and the next time I watch the movie, I’ll think of these things and it’ll make the experience that much better.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18143977TITLE: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
LENGTH: 530 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2014
GENRE: historical fiction (France, Germany, WWII, soldiers, occupation, war)
ISBN: 9781476746586
REASON FOR READING: local library book club pick
RATING: 5/5

SUMMARY (from Goodreads):

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

MY THOUGHTS: My favorite war to read/learn about is WWII, so it was no surprise when I found this book really interesting. It was a quick read. The story reads from three simultaneous storylines, but mostly going back and forth between the young French girl Marie-Laure and young German boy Werner. The chapters are very short, and the sections of the book go from the day they meet back to the beginning of how their lives first became connected. I was constantly intrigued because I wanted to know how they finally meet, if that was the case because I wasn’t sure it would end that well.

The only part I didn’t like about the book was the end, when we jumped from 1944 to the 1970s, and then further to 2014. Had this been an epilogue, I might not have even read it. I don’t usually like big time jumps like this. I actually would personally prefer for the story to end with a little mystery so I can think what I like about the characters’ futures. So, once the story hit the end of the 1944 section, I would’ve rather just had the story finish. No continuing from 1944 to 1945 with a completely undeveloped minor character and then on to 1974 and 2014. There was an air of mystery in the end, but not enough for me…

Blast from the Past–Bridget Jones’ Diary

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
4/19/2007-4/27/2007–271 pages–fiction (England, relationships, being single)
Bought April 7, 2007 from Half-Price Books
★★★★★

I have, today, accomplished a great feat. I bought this book just 20 days ago and have already finished. This would be a feat no matter what book it’d been to have bought the book and then actually read it within months of that day. So, having read this book within 20 days of purchase is a great feat. But, why did I like this book.

Obviously I like Jane Austen, and this is a witty modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. That is reason #1 why I like it. It is also very funny, hilarious, amusing, etc. (reason #2). It has a great movie adaptation to go along with it, even if it’s missing the Wickham/Julio fiasco there should be (#3) and in that movie is Colin Firth (#4). I did find it amusing how both Hugh Grant and Colin Firth were mentioned in the book and then were cast in the film 🙂 And I also found it interesting how Bridget discussed the, at that time, new BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries because she hinted at the similarities between Messrs Fitzwilliam and Mark Darcy (subtle, I think not). This book is amazing and is on my list of favourites 🙂

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais

TITLE: The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais
The Hundred-Foot JourneyLENGTH: 242 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2008
GENRE: fiction (India, France, cooking, haute cuisine, restaurants)
ISBN: 9781439165645
REASON FOR READING: local library book club pick
RATING: 2/5

SUMMARY (from Goodreads):

Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais (that of the famous chef Madame Mallory) and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.

MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t care much for this book. I found it to be pretty boring, actually, which surprises me because it mostly takes place in India and the French countryside, two settings I would otherwise love to experience through reading. Perhaps it was because the focus was on food, “haute cuisine” mostly, which all sounds rather disgusting to me (though it was only uninteresting, and not boring talk of food a la Under the Tuscan Sun). Most of the story, I felt, didn’t seem precursory to anything important. I mean, the story followed Hassan from lowly, prepubescent kitchen boy in India to a 3-Michelin-star classic French chef/restauranteur. But at no point did Hassan seem vehement to get anything accomplished. I think the character, at one point, even said that Madame Mallory seemed to always be arranging his next step for him, before he even knew it was his next step. Hassan’s journey was pretty uneventful–nothing too spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary happened to him. Essentially, Hassan’s life was too life-like in that, if it’s pretty rudimentary, why would I read the story of his life? I’m sorry, but if there’s nothing very interesting or a twist in the story somewhere, a really life-like character is just boring. I mean, I write in a diary, I have for close to 20 years now. Would I expect anyone to find anything I’ve written about my life interesting? Not really. A trip to Edinburgh for a week over 10 years ago, and the birth of my daughter last summer–those are pretty much the highlights. (Obviously my husband is a highlight, too, but we’ve been together for 12 years now, so there’s not a whole lot of interesting stuff I’ve journaled about him recently haha.) Anyways, I give this a 2/5–which would be classified as “slightly a waste of my time”.