Review: The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine

Title: The Wellness Project – How I Learned to Do Right by My Body Without Giving Up My Life

Author: Phoebe Lapine

Publisher: Pam Krauss/Avery

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/self-helpish

Length: 374 pages

Phoebe was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and gluten insensitivity in her twenties. Feeling that taking care of herself and doing her job as a chef were incompatible, she took a haphazard approach to her health until she finally realized she needed to get serious. She decided to spend a year getting her health under control by setting goals for each month, such as eliminating sugar, exercising, skin care, and becoming more mindful. This book is her memoir of that year, along with tips for launching your own wellness project and recipes that go with each goal.

I saw this book reviewed on another blog a few months ago (and I’m so sorry I can’t remember who reviewed it) and thought it sounded interesting. I love reading books about people who set a year project for themselves and have read several. This was interesting, but in terms of writing style, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in some others. There was just a spark missing that made me want to read and go on this journey along with Lapine. It took me a lot longer than it should have to read this.

However, I did get enjoyment out of it. I bookmarked several of the recipes. I also found the section on mindfulness and meditation interesting. I’d never heard of Vedic meditation before and found it appealing. I actually tried it a few times last week, but found it to be one too many things to add to my schedule right now. I’ve already added getting up early to write and now journaling, and since both those are new, throwing meditation on top of it made me crash and burn. I’ll try it again once I’m in the groove.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting book in content, if not style. I recommend it to anyone looking for tips to improve their health and/or enjoy reading memoirs of one-year projects.

Review: Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Title: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class to the Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Author: Marie Kondo

Genre: Self-Help (I think?)

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Length: 291 pages

In this companion to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo takes you step-by -step through her process of decluttering and tidying. With explanations, illustrations, and anecdotes from her career, she sheds light on her method and gives persuasive arguments on how and why to tidy your home.

This book was a very fun read for being about what can be a dull subject. However, the way Kondo explains her method and takes you through the process is engaging and fun. You never feel as if she’s lecturing you. Instead, it’s like she’s there to guide you through a journey that will make you happier.

I’ve been decluttering on and off for the past year. I thought I had pared everything down to the things that sparked joy, and then, after putting down the book, I suddenly thought, “Why do I have that white T-shirt in my dresser? I hate that T-shirt.” And, thus, I realized I had some more work to do. I’ve now gone through my wardrobe, folded my clothes the Kon Marie way, organized them by color, rearranged my closet, gone through my books… etc., etc. I donated about five bags of stuff that absolutely did not bring me any joy. And I haven’t even started on the komono yet.

I think my favorite part was the illustrations. I actually propped open the book to the pictures and used them while I folded all my clothes. They were helpful.

I do not own this book. I got it from the library. But, considering how much joy it brought me, I think I’ll purchase it soon.

I always feel a little weird about rating self-help books because, to me, ratings are about enjoyment. So, I’ll just say that if you’re interested in reading how to tidy your home, and you’ve read The Life Changing Magic, I recommend this book.

Review: As You Wish

Title: As You Wish Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride

Author: Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Publisher: Atria Books

Date: October 14, 2014

Genre: Memoir

As a young, fairly unknown actor, Cary Elwes was chosen to play the dashing and romantic Westly in William Goldman’s adaptation of his book, The Princess Bride. Years later, he writes about his memories, recollections, and experiences on set. He also gets others who worked on the film to add their thoughts as well.

This was such a wonderful book. Told with love and a lot of heat, Cary goes back to the moment his agent called him about auditioning to years later when this little film that almost didn’t had turned into a huge hit. He tells personal stories about the other actors with a lot of fondness, especially about Andre the Giant, whom he greatly admired.

I put off reading this for a long time, and I wish I hadn’t. This book made me super excited to both rewatch and reread Princess Bride again. The way Cary wrote about it made me remember how much I love it.

Story time: When my parents decided to rent the movie, I flat out refused to watch it. I threw a fit in the middle of the video store (a small one, just tears) because I was so sure I’d hate it. On the back of the box was Westly lying in Pit of Despair with his shoulder bloody and torn, and I. Did. Not. Want. To. See. It!

Fast forward three hours later, it was my favorite movie and I was going to marry Westly when I grew up. I wrote two books with him as my hero. I’ve memorized almost every line. It’s magic.

As is this book. If you haven’t read it yet, get a copy. Even better, go get it on audio and have him read it to you. You won’t be sorry.

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: May 28, 2018

Length: 451 pages

For years, Donatella Dragna has been corresponding with a mysterious “friend”, desperately trying her mother, who disappeared leaving Tella and her sister Scarlett at the mercy of their abusive father. Now, that friend has demanded his price for the information: Tella must tell him Legend’s true identity.

The only way to find out the master of Caravel’s true name is to win the game, so Tella plunges into the game once again. But this game is different. Played in the very capitol the week before the Empress’s birthday celebration, the game changes and becomes all to real. With each clue, Tella finds herself closer to the truth–about Legend, about her mother, about herself. But will the price be too much? Or can Tella manage to win this game?

As excited as I was to read this book, I have to admit that excitement was a little tempered when I realized that Donatella was the protagonist. I liked her okay, but Scarlett reminds me so much of me, that I felt an affinity for her. But, man, did Tella win me over. I love her wild heart and the way she plunges herself into everything with a passion. I love how she’s hedonistic and adventurous, and I love how she was open to romance at the same time she shied away from love.

I also really enjoyed the romance in this book. I admit, at first I wasn’t too sure of Dante, but he had some wonderfully romantic lines that I’m going to have to copy down and save. They thrilled my heart.

The game was interesting and fun to follow. It didn’t feel as prominent as it did in Caravel, but it’s a different story. It’s still important, but the ancillary characters, while they made an appearance, aren’t as central to the world.

I thought the mythology and world building were very well done. I’m so interested in the Fates and their powers. The descriptions of the different Fates were so vivid, I began imagining them as Halloween costumes.

I am so in love with this series. I cannot wait to read the final book.

Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Title: The Alienist

Author: Caleb Carr

Genre: Mystery/Crime Thriller/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 1996

Length: 498 page

John Moore, a police reporter, is brought into an investigation of a recent string of murders. Someone is killing boy prostitutes in 1896 New York City and Dr. Laszlo Krizler, an alienist, is determined to use the science of psychology to stop him. Assembling a team that includes two detectives, Theodore Roosevelt’s female secretary, John Moore, and two of his former patients, Krizlern and company throw themselves into the investigation. Inciting the ire of policemen, mob bosses, and some highly placed officials, the team has their work cut out for them. When tragedy strikes, however, they discover that everything they’ve built may soon fall apart.

I highly enjoyed this book. I loved all the main characters, especially Laszlo. I liked this genius and certainty, but I also liked his fallibility and blindness in certain areas. I wanted to know more about him and get some idea of his inner life.

John Moore is the POV character and he’s a strong one. He is observant and clever, and aware of his own weaknesses. I like how he related to the other characters, especially Sara, the police secretary, and Joseph, a young prostitute he befriends.

This was, at time, a difficult book to read. It was very good at explaining why no one was helping the murdered boys or trying to help the boys trapped in the many brothels in New York. Still, the idea that children were going through such atrocities was hard to read about, especially the mutilations done to the victims. Occasionally, I had to gloss over some of the details.

I found the setting very vivid, if dark and gloomy. Carr’s New York of the 18902 is not one I’d be interested in visiting, although it made a fascinating story. I also liked the science behind the book and some of my favorite parts were when the characters were speculating and drawing conclusions about their murderer based on the evidence. Once the murderer was identified, the action became very suspenseful and I had a hard time putting the book down.

I thought this was a great book and worth of the hype it’s gotten. I look forward to not only reading the next in the series but also checking out the show.

Review: The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Anchor Books

Length: 391 pages

Source: used bookstore

Celia and Marco have been bound together since they were children, even if they’ve never met. The students of two powerful magicians each determined to prove his way of teaching is best, Celia and Marco were entered into a competition in which one must prevail.

The venue is a circus. This circus arrives at night without warning and is full of unimaginable delights. Le Cirque de Reves has been designed to be the most unique experience in the world, and it gathers followers wherever it goes. The people in the circus are bound to it more deeply than they know, and the circus’s very existence is tied into the competition and Celia and Marco. When the two finally meet, the outcome was unforeseen by their teachers and puts the lives of the performers and patrons in a precarious balance.

I apologize for the terrible summary, but this book is so hard to explain without ruining the utter magic. I feel like I’m waking from a beautiful dream after reading this book. Everything about it is wonderful: the language, the imagery, the characters, the plot. I love this book. I was hesitant to read it, and I’m not sure why. I thought it might be too fantastical for me, even though it takes place in this world. But I still hesitated until I found a near pristine copy at the library bookstore and decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did. I fell instantly in love with the mystery of the circus. I could not only picture it, but I felt like I was walking among the black and white tents, seeing the contortionist and acrobats and, later, the more fantastical elements that I’ve never seen.

The characters were vivid as well. Celia was my favorite as I was drawn to her suffering and serene nature. She was so peaceful, even with everything she’d gone through. I loved her relationships with other characters, especially Thiessen, whom I wish we’d gotten more of. But, honestly, I loved all the characters and want more of all of them.

For all the magic and beauty of the book, the characters were very real and complex. I understood their motives and inner lives and felt for them while they tried to navigate their place in the world. This is a beautifully written book with a wonderful story. It’s truly a magical journey.

Review: Stepsister

Title: Stepsister

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Length: 352 pages (12h 52 min)

Source: library

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Isabelle did what her mother asked: she cut off her toes to fit into a tiny glass slipper so she could marry the prince. It didn’t work, of course; the prince found out her deception with the aid of some birds and a bit of blood. Worse, it turns out her stepsister, Ella, is the girl he’s been looking for, the one he loves.

Now, Isabelle and her sister Octavia are known throughout France as “the ugly stepsisters.” Reviled, scorned, and abused by the village, the girls are forced to retreat to their manor and hide away. But little does Isabelle know that Fate and Chance are fighting over her future. To top it off, Isabelle meets with the fairy queen who helped Ella. She agrees to grant Isabelle her heart’s desire, but only if Isabelle finds the three missing pieces of her heart.

Now, Isabelle is on the hunt for those pieces while her life falls apart around her. Despite the troubles that beset her and her family, she finds herself growing and changing and discover that she is stronger than she ever imagined. But is it enough to earn or happy ending? Or has it all been mapped out for her?

This book was amazing. It did such a fantastic job of humanizing both stepsisters, although, of course, Isabelle was the one who changed the most. From the very beginning I was enthralled by the duel between the three Fates and Chance personified. I have to admit, though, I went in a strange direction with them. It’s the Crone who is the main Fate and Chance is a young, handsome man. But I still shipped them hard. Every scene in which they bickered and battled, I was mentally rooting for them to do.

But they’re not as important as Isabelle. She was truly an ugly stepsister, although after the book ended, I really understood why. And she did too. She saw where her actions came from, and realized her deep complicity in the downward spiral of her life. But, despite her initial ugliness, she’s so darn likable. She’s brave and ballsy. Strong and competent. And I liked how she faced each tragedy in her life and grew from it.

I borrowed this book from the library, but I’m going to need to own it. It’s a special book with a deeply complex main character that I rooted for even when I was disgusted by her early actions. This really is a great book.