Blast from the Past–Persepolis 2–The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

9517Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
6/10/2007-6/11/2007–187 pages–non-fiction (memoir, graphic novel, Austria, Iran, Iran-Iraq War)
Borrowed from WCDPL
★★★★

While it’s no fault of her’s, Satrapi’s life in Europe and after the Iran-Iraq War didn’t interest me as much as during her life while living through the war. Her style and drawings are still just as captivating as before, but the content was different. Maybe the first book was just new to me, and this book just represented a pretty normal girl.

I’m surprised how lightly marriage and divorce were taken. A bit of a culture shock through reading 🙂

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.

Trickle Treat–Diaperless Infant Toilet Training Method by Laurie Boucke

TITLE: Trickle Treat–Diaperless Infant Toilet Training Method
AUTHOR: Laurie Boucke
LENGTH: 85 pages
ISBN: 9780962500626
PUBLICATION YEAR: 1991
GENRE: non-fiction (infants, children, parenting)
SOURCE: borrowed from public library

SUMMARY: The title pretty much summarizes this book–it’s a quick look into the idea of training young babies how to use the potty. Many cultures outside of the US use methods similar to this to train their infants to use the toilet at a “young” age.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked this book because it was straightforward and to the point. A friend of mine had said something about “elimination communication” a month or two ago and I’d never heard of it. When I Googled it quickly, the idea sounded strange to me–not putting a diaper on a small baby to train them to use the potty, as young as birth?! Getting pee all over the house? But when I looked into it a little more and even met a few mommies that had done it before, the idea didn’t seem that strange. Because you don’t really go diaperless. Well, you can. But you don’t have to.

I’d already tried the E.C. method for a week with my almost 9-month-old daughter before reading this book. Luckily, I’d been doing it correctly (though I don’t think it’s exactly cut and dry). The simplest way to describe it is this:

  • Have your baby go diaperless for a day (put them on a waterproof mat covered in a blanket or sheet) and observe when they pee. They’ll sort of follow a schedule.
  • The next day, catch them right before they go and try to take them as often as they went the day before.
  • Try to catch their “cues” (noises, behaviors, etc.) they make before it’s time to go to the bathroom so you might know later that they need to go.
  • Babies aren’t able to hold their pee, but they are able to learn how to voluntarily release. So you can “condition” your infant to release upon certain cue words/noises.

I feel like this last bit of “conditioning”, like Pavlov’s dogs, would be a big thing people would use to say this method is not okay. But we train people to do many things, so I don’t see this as a problem.

I have a few more books about this method, though I’m not sure how much E.C. changes between “methods”. Regardless, I’ve had some good success with it in the past couple weeks I’ve been doing it. So we’re happy.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

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Title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Author: Christopher McDougall
Length: 282 pages
Published in: 2009
Genre: non-fiction (sports, running)
ISBN: 9780307279187
Source: personal collection
Reason for Reading: This book was my local library’s community reads book. And as I’m a newer runner, it sounded interesting.
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Amazon.com):

Isolated by Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

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My Thoughts: Even though it took me probably 4-5 months to read this, it was really superb. My interest in reading dropped for the last half of the year, but when I did read, it was hard to put it down. I found the chapters about “persistence hunting” where men chased animals to exhaustion and about the birth of modern running shoes to be the most interesting. Nick doesn’t believe me that men can chase antelope to death or outrun a horse in a long distance run. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t believe it either if I didn’t know what runners could do. I’d recommend this to runners or hide interested in superathletes/endurance, for sure.

Around the World in 12 Books, #5 Cuba

TitleFinding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
Author: Mirta Ojito
Length: 278 pages
ISBN: 9781594200410
Published in: 2005
Genre: non-fiction (memoir)
Rating: 3/5
Challenges/ResolutionsAround the World in 12 Books; Personal Collection Resolution

Summary: Mirta Ojito grew up in Castro’s Cuba, taught by her parents that this wasn’t the best life for her. Ever since she could remember, it had been the plan to get out of Cuba. But as the time to leave for the United States draws near, the country is in even more turmoil than ever, and Mirta is torn between what she’s always been told by the government and what she’s always been told by her parents.

My Thoughts: I did enjoy how this story was told. As non-fiction, there was a lot of information presented in the book. Hardly a third of the book could have been devoted to Ojito’s own experiences–she supplemented her story with various other accounts of experiences during 1960s-1970s Cuba. While I do write in a diary daily, I highly doubt it would ever make a good memoir because it typically includes nothing about anything outside my immediate small world. So I’m glad that Ojito took more into account when writing her memoir.

What did you learn about the country’s culture, history etc. from reading this book? Any new insights, any shifts in your perception, or did it align with what you knew/understood already?

I learned a lot about Castro’s Cuba. I haven’t ever studied Cuba, and I have to admit that I didn’t even know that Cuba is still a communist country. I knew Fidel Castro was no longer the leader of the country. But I hadn’t realized that, despite the end of the Cold War and the fall of many former communist governments, there was still communism. Especially so close to the US. Not that it’s any of our business to butt in to other country’s politics, but it surprised me that the US hasn’t butted-in where it wasn’t welcome and reestablished a free republic, as it likes to do 😕

There was one thing in particular about which I had no clue:

In January 1966, he [Ojito’s uncle] and Tere married and moved to a neighborhood to the east of Havana. Two months later they applied for visas to the United States. When my uncle told his supervisors at work of his intention to leave the country, he was fired…Two years later…my uncle received a telegram from the local police precinct ordering him to show up at the station with his bags packed. He was sent to a camp, one of dozens that dotted the island, to work on a collective farm as punishment for wanting to leave Cuba. (p166)

I guess I should have realized that camps like that existed–I knew that the Soviet Union had collective farms for similar punishments. But that’s just like me, I just didn’t think twice about other communist countries being similar to the Soviet Union in that respect.

How did land, geography, flora and fauna feature in the book? Did it have a distinct feel that helped you visualise and made you feel like you were there, or was the story more focused on plot?

I honestly don’t think that a great picture was painted of the story. There wasn’t a whole lot of description about the land, nor of the people. Many people were talked about, but not much was said of how they looked. The story wasn’t focused so much on plot, because it wasn’t that sort of story–but it definitely was focused on peoples’ anecdotes. Facts and figures weren’t included much, which I am very grateful for.

One description I did like, though, was this:

…after two decades most Cubans had become adept at hiding their true feelings and motivations. We lived submerged in a world of shadows. Everyone wore a mask in public, sometimes even at home, and you never really knew who your friends were. You had to listen and say little, go with the flow, lest the friend turn out to be the enemy who could ruin your life. The smallest of disagreements, the most trivial of conversations, the slightest wavering of thought could be fodder for anyone intent on advancing his career by destroying someone else’s. (p124)

I think that is an excellent summary of how Ojito described life in Cuba.

Did the story make you want to visit/revisit the country, or explore it in a new way if you live there already; did it make you want to read more stories set in the country?

There is no reason in the past that I had thought against visiting Cuba. I hadn’t ever been too drawn to it, unless I could time travel as well and go there before all the political turmoil in the mid-1900s. I think Cuba somewhat freshly free of Spain would be really interesting. If anything, this book made me less inclined to visit Cuba–that’s not to say I wouldn’t ever go, but it doesn’t seem like, from the book, there’s much reason to go.

On another note, I loved the way Ojito ended the book. I have a feeling that I will never be an exile, so it was really interesting to get that sort of perspective.

Exile, like longing, is a way of life, much like a chronic, by not terminal, disease with capricious symptoms: an avowed preference for a certain shade of blue–the color of my old house, I realized once I stood in front of it again–and a formerly inexplicable, almost childish delight at the way the light filters through the fiery blossoms of some South Florida poinciana trees–just as it does in the trees that still shade my old neighborhood, even if I’m no longer there to see them.(p278)