Review: The Rainbow Comes and Goes

TRCAGTitle: The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss

Authors: Gloria Vanderbilt, Anderson Cooper

Read in: June 2016

One sentence summary: Successful broadcast journalist and his successful designer mother share reflect on their family past through letters written to each other.

Gloria Vanderbilt has had one heckuva roller coast ride of a life. From being the center of a custody battle at a young age, to dealing with unfathomable loss of a husband and a son, to losing a business and building a life back up, this woman has a lot to reflect on from her life.

Anderson Cooper has built an amazing career, purposefully not taking advantage of the glamorous name his mother no doubt would have brought for him. He has made a note to keep stories to themselves until here and here he is revealing about his brother’s suicide, his father’s death at a young age, and his coming out. On the other side, Vanderbilt had a carefree way of discussing the men in her life, the abuse she took in some cases, the feeling of losing your family, or those you always saw as family. What is most incredible to me is that woman is in her 90s! And is so eloquent with her words.

Just as the title alludes, this is a family that has experienced quite a bit of loss. But the two of them have managed to overcome those hurdles, and take that rainbow when it comes. Surely you appreciate it more once you’ve seen it go.

Knowing how hard it sometimes is to talk to family in person, I found the letter-writing format that the mother and son developed to be a very real, very “I could easily see doing something like this with my child one day”.

Recommended to: readers who like memoirs, hollywood starlets, or are a fan of Anderson Cooper.

Oh Baby Baby It’s a Wild World (or Review: Jessica Jones The Pulse)

Jessica Jones The PulseTitle: Jessica Jones The Pulse The Complete Collection

Author: Brian Michael Bendis

Read in: June 2016

One-sentence summary: The are the continued adventures of former superhero, private investigator Jessica Jones.

I had to wait a bit after reading the first collection of Jessica Jones comic books. BTW, are the terms comic book and graphic novel interchangeable? That I have to ask that probably shows the level of aptitude I have around GNs, and especially the Marvel Universe, and because of that perhaps I didn’t love this because I was confused much of the time due to not being familiar with all of the characters. Like, Spider-Man, sure. And Nick Fury, okay. But as Jessica Jones delves deeper into S.H.I.E.L.D. and all them, I was just trying to understand at that higher level.

It was interesting to read in GN format the tales of Jessica Jones’ pregnancy and her marriage. Just stuff I don’t expect in a comic book. Of a working joe, trying to support her family. I enjoyed her character a ton. Glad I was able to read through the full series. I would like to find other graphic novel series with a similar feel. Don’t even know where to start, though.

Recommended for: Fans of the TV series.

Singled Out! (Or Review: Eligible)

eligibleTitle: Eligible
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Read in: June 2016

Let’s start off by admitting that I am not a Jane Austen megafan. I didn’t pick up Pride & Prejudice until a few years ago and this shocked many of my English degree fans who first read it in high school. I read Emma and disliked it very much, though I did like the movie Clueless. After reading P&P I read P&P& Zombies, which I thought was fun. And I enjoyed both the P&P miniseries with Colin Firth as well as the Keira Knightly version of the film. I actually bought the DVD of the Keira Knightly version. That says a lot. In my mind, though, when I picture these characters in my head, I think of a young Colin Firth for Darcy and Keira Knightly and Rosamund Pike for Jane.
So, having given you my P&P background, I must say that I loved this reboot. Curtis Sittenfeld, whose past novels I have loved (American Wife) and not loved as much (Prep), turned this Jane Austen classic into something current for today’s generation as part of an ongoing project where several authors are retelling Austen classics in a contemporary setting. You’ve got magazine writer Lizzy, yoga instructor Jane, crossfit crazy Lydia, neurosurgeon Darcy and reality star Bingley. Oh yes she did.
While I don’t love the reboots I see of movies and tv shows,I totally fell for this retelling. knowing what I know about P&P I was intrigued to see how she would approach different scenes. Probably the most far fetched was the reality star bit, but the other surprises, a side trip to Silicon Valley, more insight into Mary (honestly, Mary from Austen era is really better understood in the Sittenfeld version) was refreshing. I also felt like she very much did her homework and captured the characters that Austen created very well. The author also, when necessary, made telltale changes to the Austen script as needed, and it didn’t affect me one bit. Example: Surprise, Wickham is split into two characters.
I read this book in a day and immediately recommended it to a few coworkers. One coworker said she already read it and hated it. One read it and walked into the office one day and said, “THEY HAD [SPOILER]??” Yes! One other gave her nod of approval, but for some reason it just really won me over more than others.
In short, I enjoyed it so much I asked the husband to use his kindle lawsuit refund to buy a copy for me (originally I borrowed it). That pretty much means “in a relationship.” Maybe I’m a bigger megafan that I thought.
Recommended for: Contemporary romance/chick flick fans; Jane Austen fans (maybe, they might be put off. I’m not a JA fan. I just love P&P)

One world is enough for all of us (or Review: Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism)

I am committed to writing at least a little bit about every book I’m reading in 2016 but I’m woefully behind. On top of that I managed to clock in several books this summer for my Book Bingo challenge, so am even more behind. But here’s a little catch up.
Rescuing JesusTitle: Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism

Authour: Deborah Jian Lee

Read in: June 2016

One-sentence summary: Writer/journalist talks to several Christians of diverse backgrounds (African-American, Gay/Lesbian, Asian-American, etc) about reconciling the religion they were brought up in (or came to love) with who they are or have become.
I learned about the author and book through church, obviously. But I suppose it might not be obvious if you aren’t aware that a) I am actually a very regular attendee of a church and b) said church is among the few evangelical churches that have welcomed the LGBTQ community.
I’m not going to get into my “faith journey” here. I’m still traveling it. But I can say this about the book: I was seeking more answers than this book gave. This more than anything recounted stories and experiences of people from different backgrounds struggling with their faith. Excellent reporting, and the author shares her own experiences as well. But I think I was hoping for something I could use to open discussion on topics with people who perhaps are more closed off, and I’m not entirely sure I found that here. It was disheartening to read about the lack of progress that we seem to be making in accepting all humans.

Recommended for: People who are to read personal stories about Christians battling age-old beliefs alongside the changes we see in the world today.

This is not a drill (or Review: American Girls by Nancy Jo Sales)

AGTitle: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

Author: Nancy Jo Sales

Published: Feb 2016

Read: June 2016

So, this one was an eye-opener. I mean, I think in the past I had heard about what kids were doing in school these days (I probably read her long-form article in Vanity Fair months or years earlier), but I didn’t give it much thought (which is why I’m pretty sure I read the article, but can only sort of remember it). I picked this book up because I’ve been trying to learn a little bit more about various social media accounts for work purposes, and this book was available through my work library.

Well, holy crap. Kids are doing some ridiculously crazy stuff at high school (and even younger) these days. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Girls are being asked to send nude pics to boys over text. And they agree to it. Because if they don’t, the kids in class will shun or shame. Oh, and when they do, boys will share the pics without permission. Great.
  • Some girls do it and don’t bat an eye. I suspect it’s because they are unaware of the boundaries, of the right to privacy, of what is acceptable and what is illegal.
  • Boys like to send pics of their junk to girls, whether it’s solicited or not
  • Porn is readily available (thank you, technology!) and this has really messed with a young person’s reality of what sex actually is, and what intimacy is, and what a relationship is.

I was pretty much reading this entire book with my jaw on the floor. Coincidentally, the week I was finishing this up I got an invitation to be FB friends with my teenage niece. She’s been on Insta and probably Snapchat for some time but was finally getting around to Facebook. I thought it was the right time to email my sister and freak out about this book I was reading and all of the INSANE shit going on in high school these days. (though, i didn’t use the word “shit” because we don’t talk like that). Her response was, “yep, it happens. I know about it and it’s crazy but we’ve talked and this kid is pretty smart about it.” Which is true. My sister is an amazing mom and she and my brother-in-law are raising two amazing, empathetic, smart kids. Phew.

Then, a few days later I was talking with a fellow gym-mate who I know has a kid at Roosevelt. I’m reading this book, I said, and it’s ridiculous and I can’t believe what’s going on. Her response: “Yep, it happens. You need to know all of your kids passwords and be alert to what they’re doing and make sure they don’t block you ‘by accident.'”

Last night I was out with some friends, two of whom are teachers, one at the middle school level and one at the high school level. “Is this really happening in our high schools?” (they both teach at private Catholic schools). “Yep, it’s happening. And what’s worse is these kids have never been taught sex ed, they’re not having those awkward (but so very important) conversations with their parents, who are in denial around sex and relationships and therefore the kids don’t understand how to treat each other, let alone know about pregnancy and STDs.”

For them, this is what they think is normal.

So, my hope that this book was an alarmist over-exaggeration was unfortunately shot down by multiple people I know from multiple schools. And I’m glad I read it because it’s only better preparing me to somehow teach my little first-grader how to have self-respect, to stand up for herself, and to understand what is right and what is wrong (and a lot of what’s going on with these kids is that they have no idea that being asked to share pictures of themselves is beyond wrong. It’s sexual harassment and really needs to be dealt with).

And sharing these stories with other moms and teachers gives me hope that we’re all paying attention and helping each other out because holy crap there’s a lot of insanity going on. Seven years from now, what I’m learning today may not even be relevant. Maybe it will have gotten better. Maybe laws and enforcement will have finally caught up to the technology and access the kids have today. But I really don’t know what I’m up against.

While I was reading this book (and it took me quite a while to finish it because it was almost too painful to keep going, what some of some young girls have to endure) there was a full week or more of national news and discussion around the former Stanford student convicted of raping a unconscious woman. Yes, you know the story. As I read the stories Sales collected about the lack of respect boys showed girls at this age. About the expectations boys had about sex and relationships due to an abundance of porn readily available to young minds. I couldn’t help but think that some of the boys Sales reports about in this book are the ones who are later caught literally with their pants down, doing unfathomable, despicable, illegal acts. That no one thought to tell this young man, or his friends, that this is wrong. After all of these legal woes, think they’ve figured out? Have their parents figured it out? The parents around the nation who think, for some reason, that this is okay, that boys will be boys, or that the girl had it coming?

Infuriating.

Read the book, or at least read an excerpt or listen to her interview on NPR. Whatever you do, do NOT think this couldn’t possibly be happening in your school, your town, or to your kid. It happens.

Recommended to: Parents and others who work or talk with kids or young adults on a regular basis.

I Can Feel it in the Aeronaut (or, Review of The Aeronaut’s Windlass)

TAWTitle: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1)

Author: Jim Butcher

Published: 2015

Read in: May 2016

How do I even review this? Jim Butcher books for me are like a roller coaster of ups and downs. But a week later you could ask me what it’s about and I’m like, um….

So it’s been a week since I finished this one, which I almost didn’t read based on the book synopsis. Wasn’t sure if I was a steampunk kind of person, but my work spouse gave it the thumbs up so I dived in.

Two sentence summary: Former military, now a captain of a merchant (air)ship finds himself on another mission to save a city from war. Oh, and cats are smarter than humans and it’s hilarious.

Why did I even doubt whether I should read this? I’ve read all of the Jim Butcher / Dresden Files series and while in that series Dresden has a crew of rag tag friends that will help him anywhere anytime, ultimately the story starts and ends with Dresden. So seeing Butcher create a different environment, where everyone in this crew, young guards, merchant captains, and, yes, a smartass cat, all have their pivotal roles is refreshing. The witty dialogue, well-crafted fight scenes, fast-paced action that I know and love in Dresden is quite present here. It’s a very fun world, once I understood it (and it took me a while to get into it). I’m planning to read this one again soon now that I know where I’m going, and I also plan to keep up with this series.

Recommended for: Dresden fans (of course); Steampunk fans, and dare I say, fans of the television series “Firefly.” The merchant captain sorta reminds me of Captain Reynolds.

Love is Love (Review: A Bollywood Affair)

ABATitle: A Bollywood Affair

Author: Sonali Dev

Published: 2014

Read in: May 2016

Remember how I said I expect kind of the same formula in romance novels I pick up? It’s like going to Starbucks. No matter where you are, or how foreign or out of place you feel, you pretty much know what you’re going to get and you’re going to enjoy it. If you’re lucky you might learn something knew. This novel is the perfect example.

Two sentence summary: Hotshot Bollywood director is forced to go to America to inform the woman who thinks she’s married to director’s brother, actually isn’t. Just imagine what comes next in this book that won last year’s RITA award for “Best First Book.”

I picked this up mainly because a) it won a RITA and b) I was heading on a short road trip to my first Hindu wedding and wanted something to read that sort of mirrored the mood.

The protagonist, despite growing up in a traditional rural village, somehow manages to educate herself and make her way to America (Ypsilanti, Michigan!) for further education. Her potential suitor, a bastard child with an abusive young childhood somehow manages to defy the odds and becomes a successful Bollywood film director and, what a surprise that the two meet in the most unforeseen circumstances. There’s mistaken identity, hidden identity, quirky/insane best friend, road trip, mysteries of a lost mother revealed, pretty much all of the ingredients that makes a successful romance.

That the two people who fall in love are Indian, speak a different language and observe different cultures but all the more makes you realize that romance is romance, and crosses cultural divides quite easily (at least when it comes to romance fiction, it does).

If you’re always reading about white people falling in love with other white people, definitely give this one a chance. You’ll be surprised at how not surprised you are.

Breakfast Break: Overnight Oats starring Steel Cut Oats

steel cut oats

Steel cut oats have been my jam, lately. Overnight, to be exact. I work on it after dinner and then put them away in these tiny plastic canning jars I got on sale that I was so sure I was going to just to, like, can stuff. But now they come in handy for one-serving oatmeal toters for work.

At work, I sometimes eat these for breakfast. I sometimes eat them as an afternoon treat. I find afternoons hardest to stay good in terms of eating. The stress of the day wants me to find a snack. Really all I need is a little walk around. But for those other days, this is kind of a different sweet. A small serving of this stuff goes a long way.

steel cut oats

Individual serving, with some extra cinnamon, just before sticking in the fridge overnight

IMG_1082

Steel cut with quinoa, mixed with additional almond milk. This came to work with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was testing, I also tried a batch of steel cut oats with quinoa mixed in. Seemed like a great idea, adding protein into a hot cereal but ultimately it was a little too much. I also was probably eating more than a serving so it wasn’t really serving it’s purpose (haha).

The recipe I’ve ended up with was a Pinterest find. I also combined tips from ThugKitchen (link above). I find that actually heating up the mixture provides the most appealing texture for me (it softens the oats) but it’s not necessary. This could, if you wanted it to be, a simple dump, wait and go type of thing.

  • Small amount of ghee, coconut oil, butter, or some type of fat
  • 1 container greek yogurt (I’ve tried plain and vanilla Chobani, either works for me with a slight preference for Vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats (note that steel cut are different than regular rolled oats, or quick-cooking oats, but since this is an overnight recipe, I don’t know that it would make much difference? might want to play with it)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (I’m sure other types of milk would also be fine)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (about)
  • Sprinkle of stevia
  • 2-3 tbsp of raisins (or 1 snack box, whatever suits your desires)
  • more almond (or whatever) milk

In a small saucepan, melt the fat. Add the steel cut oats and warm up the oats until they are kind of toasty-smelling. Then add the milk & yogurt then other ingredients and mix it up. Heat it (over low – medium heat) until the mixture starts to want to bubble up. Then remove it from the stove and pour into one serving bowl, or into 3 individual serving jars (if you’ve got a bigger appetite 2 servings may be right, but I tried that and ultimately went with 3. Remember, a little goes a long way).

Cover and store in the fridge, you know, overnight. In the morning, if you are eating right away you can poor everything in a bowl and add more milk, mix it up to the desired thickness and enjoy (hot or cold, but I prefer this one cold). If you are taking this to go (thus the individual sized container), open up one jar and add in a little more milk (the oats will be thick enough that the milk will just sit on top). Close tightly and tote this with you and keep it in the work fridge until you’re ready to enjoy, then stir in the milk when ready. Nice.

(Not) A Fine Romance, (or Review: Someone Else’s Love Story)

Someone Else's Love StoryTitle: Someone Else’s Love Story

Author: Joshilyn Jackson

Published: 2013

Read in: April 2016

Two sentence summary: Young mother falls for the guy who saves her and her son’s life In a botched convenience store robbery. Nevermind, one-sentence summary.

There is something to be said about going into a book knowing nothing about it. That’s generally how I like to go in. Because I borrow books from the library I often have to wait a while (days, weeks, sometimes months) before they come in. This can be fun because by the time I download them I can’t remember why I chose them in the first place. Sometimes, though, this process bites you in the butt.

Anyhow. I think with Someone Else’s Love Story I thought it was going to be one thing and it was completely different. Usually when it comes to romance I look for light and easy, formulaic with a nice ending. I’m not gonna lie. This, then, wasn’t a romance, even though there’s that word love in the title. It wasn’t lighthearted, but also wasn’t tear-jerking like JoJo Moyes. It was sweet and sad. If I had one criticism throughout, some of the villains (i.e. Shandi’s stepmom) were just a little too villainous. The characters were forced to be too much of a character. That makes it almost painful. On the other hand, a lot of formulaic romance novels do that very same thing. At least in this instance the anger, the emotions and surprise reactions of characters were fresh and revealing.

Favorite character was definitely William’s best friend, Paula. You wonder if her intentions are one thing and then they clearly aren’t. Her reaction to learning Shandi’s backstory (specifically the story of son Natty’s inception) was the only reaction to that backstory I could relate to. A spin-off with Paula may be a worthy read.

William’s twist at the end with was the loveliest, though. For me, I didn’t see it coming, and those are the best.

Not the greatest, but not the worst. I might give the author another try, but I’m not planning on continuing this series.

Jonesin’ for more Jessica Jones

Title: Alias Omnibus (i.e. Jessica Jones Volumes 1-4)
Author: Brian Michael Bendis, MIchael Gaydos
Published: Not sure. Early 2000’s
Read in: May 2016

I put this on hold at the library shortly after Netflix released their  “Jessica Jones” series and I’m so glad I did. It took several months for me to finally get it and it was such a fun read. I am by no means a Marvel expert, nor a graphic novel aficionado and I’m guessing this isn’t typical Marvel stuff, with the cursing and the “mature content.” It was still an incredible world to imagine, not unlike Fables, which I read a few years back, where fantasy meets reality in the oddest settings.

The anti-hero/outsider view of Jessica Jones is wonderful and seeing her interact with superheroes is also fun. Also, she dates Ant-Man! Did you know that? Are they going to add that into the Netflix series? Is Paul Rudd avaiable?

Graphic Novel vs Netflix (just imagine Krysten Ritter saying those very words as this guy is hanging over her door)

Rather than go in depth with this graphic novel, I’d like to take a few moments to compare it to the Netflix series, which I enjoyed equally as much. I’d already heard that there were a few setups in the series that mirrored the novel (see above), which I thought was clever. I was very fascinated with Kilgrave because, well, hello, Davd Tennant. In the GN he doesn’t show up until Vol. 4 which was cool to me as he was such a key character is the series. There are other cases to cover but none that are as compelling as Purple Man (Does Kilgrave show up in other Marvel series? There is so much I don’t know).

I am also intrigued with what becomes of Luke Cage. I believe in later issues of the novel (titled The Pulse, yes I’m waiting for it from the library)  Jessica and Luke get married and have a kid, which is so opposite how the Netflix series ended. I actually ache with how Netflix chose to end season one due to the storyline between the two (spoiler, in Netflix, there is conflict as Jessica finally reveals to Luke that while she was under the influence of Kilgrave she killed Luke’s wife. On the other hand, that was the final act that allowed her to fall out of his spell. Wait, does that also happen in  The Pulse and I just haven’t gotten there yet? So much going on!). 

So anyway, I can’t review this very well. Just I liked it. The adult nature of the comic book, the non superhero hero, the cracks a jokes about S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers and others. I’d like to find more types of graphic novels like this. I’ve already asked the one GN nerd I know to recommend something and he has suggested Queen and Country. Anyone have other suggestions?