Review: The Self-Care Solution

Title: The Self-Care Solution

Author: Jennifer Ashton, M.D., M.S.

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: self-improvement

Source: library

Publication Date: December 30, 2019

Dr. Jennifer Ashton is an ob-gyn and top medical correspondent for Good Morning America. In January one year, she announced on air that she was having a dry month – thirty days of no drinking. By the end of the month, she felt so good and inspired, she decided to set up monthly challenges for herself including push-ups and planks, drink more water, eat more plants, and walk more. By the end of the year, she felt fitter, healthier, and happier than she could remember being in the past.

Part memoir, part self-improvement, The Self-Care Solution is a light, informative, and entertaining read.

I loved this book. Between the topic and Ashton’s narration on the audio book, I loved listening to it and implementing her advice. At first I wasn’t sure if it’d be for me; I don’t drink, and therefore couldn’t really relate to her “dry month” challenge. However, once we got past January and her challenges branched out, I was hooked. Even though she does things month by month, I’ve rushed ahead and have been trying to incorporate some of her challenges in my daily routine. I’m up to 16 push-ups and 1 minutes of planks. I’m drinking 96 oz of water a day and I’ve started walking during my lunch time.

This book is similar in content to The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine, but I enjoyed this much better. It was written in a more engaging manner and a lot easier to follow for me.

I also liked the mixture of memoir and advice. Each chapter starts with Ashton’s story, then delves into the science before turning to how the reader can accomplish the same challenge.

If you like books on self-improvement or books about people tackling challenges during their year, this is one for you. I highly enjoyed this book and hope others give it a chance.

If you were to try and improve one habit for thirty days, what would it be? Let me know below!

Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Title: Modern Girls

Author: Jennifer S. Brown

Publisher: Berkeley Books

Genre: historical fiction

Source: borrowed from Mom

Publication Date: May 1, 2016

Dottie Krasinsky is a modern girl. She’s a bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan who’s just gotten a promotion, has a steady boyfriend, Abe, with whom she’s madly in love, reads all the latest fashion and home magazines, and has a group of girlfriends with whom she regularly socializes. At the same time, she’s a good Jewish daughter to her immigrant parents on the Lower East Side. However, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself pregnant after a drunken night with a charming and totally unsuitable man.

Rose Krasinsky, Dottie’s mother, has had five children and assumes that she’s done. She’s anxious to get back to her own life of social activism. As a young woman, she’d been on the front lines protesting and rabble rousing and, now, with tensions rising in Europe, she’s ready to get back to it. And then, disaster strikes: at forty-two years old, she finds herself pregnant once again.

Both mother and daughter are in impossible situations and have to navigate a changing world, making choices they never thought themselves capable of.

I am so glad I finally read this book. I kept putting it off as my TBR list grew, but I finally made time for it, and it’s really a gem. As a Jewish person removed from my heritage, I like reading about Jewish families and how they navigate the world. This book was rich with descriptions of Sabbath, food, Yiddish terms, and the Jewish immigrant experience. It also explores the differences between the families on the Lower East side and the more wealthy families in Manhattan and how they navigate being Jewish in the modern world.

Beyond the Jewish aspects, it’s just a great story. I really felt for both Dottie and Rose and loved reading their unique perspectives on life in their voices. To Dottie, at the beginning, her mother is quaint and old fashion, very traditional, and living in the past. When you read from Rose’s perspective, though, you see a woman with strong beliefs and passions who is determined to put her stamp on the world and make it a better place. Like Dottie, she views herself as a “modern woman” who is settled in the new world and navigates through with confidence.

Truth be told, I liked reading Rose more than Dottie, although I did enjoy both POVs. Dottie is so headstrong and determined to fix all her mistakes herself. While admirable, she’s also very young and doesn’t always think things through. Rose was more steady and thoughtful in her decision, although she runs into trouble as well. Maybe it’s just my age showing, but I related more to Rose even though I haven’t had five children while living in a two bedroom apartment.

This book has a vivid setting, wonderful characters, and a gripping story. It was hard to put down and kept me engaged the whole way through.

I recommend this one two levels. One, if you’re Jewish or interested in Jewish life, this is a great book to read and a picture of that life. And, two, if you like reading realistic historical books about the 1930s and see a slice of life, as fraught as it is, then you’d like this book a lot.

Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Title: The Vampire Lestat

Author: Anne Rice

Publisher: Balltaine Books

Genre: paranormal, vampires

Source: library

Publication Date: 1985

The vampire Lestat, the villain from Interview with the Vampire, is back and ready to tell his side of the story. Rising from his grave after being drawn by the irresistible music of the age, he decides to flaunt all the rules that he’s learned about being a vampire and expose the supernatural to the human world. He joins a band and writes an autobiography, detailing his long life of looking for love and answers in the world.

So, going into this book, I remembered three things:

  1. Lestat’s mom tells him that sometimes she thought about letting the men in town bang her.
  2. After they were both vampires, they kissed and shared blood.
  3. Louis was wearing a sweater when he and Lestat met again.

So, I didn’t remember much (and have no idea why the detail of the sweater stood out so much to me). Two of those things happened fairly quickly, and I reread the rest of the book almost totally unspoiled. I really liked it and like Lestat better than I ever did before. I still prefer Louis, and I loved him in this book. I really wish the rest of the book were nothing but the love affair of Louis and Lestat, which is funny because I never shipped them as a teenager.

I really like vampire history, and this book had it in spades. I enjoyed the creation of the Theater of the Vampires, but more than that, I liked the history that Marius told of the first vampires. I remember enough of Queen of the Damned to know what was true and wasn’t, but it was cool reading his version again.

The only part when I started to get lost was when Lestat was writing the story that Marius had been told by Mael. I seriously don’t like stories of stories of stories. I want less narrators in the way. But when Marius took over again, it was okay again and I read the last part of the book with a lot of interest.

I really enjoyed this reread, and wish I didn’t have so many books to read before I could get to the next (and, for me, final) book of the series.

I do recommend this if you like vampires and want to read a classic in vampire mythology.

Review: Beyond the Grave by C.J. Archer

Title: Beyond the Grave

Author: C.J. Archer

Publisher: ?

Genre: paranormal romance, mystery

Source: library (audio book)

Publication Date: November 24, 2015

When her stepson goes missing, Lady Hartcourt asks Lincoln to investigate. Even though she’s supposed to be recovering from her ordeal at the hands of a madman, Charlie throws herself into the investigation. Inadvertently, she raises the spirit of a woman who has the ability to override Charlie’s control over her. Now, a spirit is loose in London, Lincoln is furious, and the Ministry is becoming increasingly disapproving of Charlie’s presence in Lychfield. To top it off, Lincoln continues to run hot and cold with his feelings for Charlie, much to her ever increasing exasperation. But when the investigation begins to reveal the darker side of London, one that even Charlie had never known, she and Lincoln find themselves united.

At first, I was very frustrated with this book. The last one ended in an entirely satisfying way for my romantic heart, only to immediately have it dashed by this one. Charlie and I were both bewildered and frustrated by Lincoln’s pig-pigheadedness and stupidity. I had a hard time enjoying it at the beginning.

However, once Charlie began investigating and exploring the dark underbelly of the medical scene in London, it got much more interesting. I loved that she met the spirit of a woman who was competent and smart and who knew a little more about her powers than Charlie did.

The mystery was well done as well. Lady Hartcourt’s stepson goes missing and it seems like it has something to do with the Ministry of Curiosities, since he’d been reading his father’s journals on it. The investigation is complex and requires Lincoln and Charlie to use all their wits to figure it out. I was completely lost for much of it, which made it lots of fun.

The ending was also very satisfying. It calls on one of my favorite tropes, which I can’t tell because it would be a spoiler, but was amazing. I can’t wait to read the next book.

I highly recommend this whole series. Charlie is a wonderful protagonist, her romance with Lincoln is tense and romantic, and the characters are colorful and fun. Please pick it up if you get a chance.

Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Title: Atomic Habits

Author: James Clear

Publisher: Avery

Genre: self-improvement

Source: bookstore

Publication Date: October 18, 2018

Making new habits and breaking old ones come down to a simple idea in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: clear systems. If your habits are bad, it’s because your systems are bad. Clear walks through the four laws that define habit building: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. He also explores the inverse of each law and gives actionable examples of how to set the laws in motion to change your systems. After all, as he posits, greatness doesn’t come from making huge sweeping changes, but becoming 1% better in your life. Every time you improve by 1%, it builds until you have something great.

I highly enjoyed this book and found it very informative. Like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Clear breaks a habit down into cue >routine>reward. However, I found Atomic Habits more actionable with clearer steps as to how to start building new habits and breaking old ones. I like his idea that you only have to get 1% better in every aspect of your life instead of having to go whole hog as well. In addition, the book was easy to read and written in an almost conversational style. The stories and examples he told were straight and to the point and clearly connected to the law he was expounding on. I also liked that he mixed up building new habits with breaking bad ones and clearly showed how good and bad habits were mirrored.

I highly recommend this book. With the new year, it’s the perfect time to start looking at what you want to change in your life and this book will help map out a road map to do that. It’s well written, engaging, interesting, and illuminating. Atomic Habits is a wonderful read.

Review: Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have journeyed to America. They are swept into murder investigations that seem to echo the Ripper murders. After a personal disaster that threatens their relationship, Audrey Rose and Thomas find evidence that the person they are looking for is in Chicago. They go to the Great White City and are swept away by the beauty and wonder of the World’s Fair. That wonder is quickly dimmed when reports of missing women and unsolved murders reach their ears. Soon, they are entangled in the most terrifying investigation of their lives and Audrey Rose finds herself in terrible danger.

This was such a great conclusion to this series. I loved every bit of the murder investigation and the tangled web in which Audrey Rose found herself trapped in. I continue to love her and Thomas’s relationship and the way it was resolved. There were parts in this book where I wasn’t thrilled how the events unfolded, but it all turned out satisfactorily.

Without getting into spoilers, I was amazed at the historical research that went into the book. Not just this one, but all the books. They were connected in ways that I hadn’t been aware of, and it not only makes me want to reread the series, but read some books on the ultimate perpetrator behind the crimes.

Kerri Maniscalco is masterful in writing truly gruesome and horrifying scenes that ground the reader in the place in a way that thrills. She has created really enduring characters and the a very sweet, if unconventional love story. Capturing the Devil is an epic conclusion to a wonderful story.

I would not recommend reading Capturing the Devil first, but if you’ve read the rest of the series, you need to run to your local library or bookstore and get this book ASAP. It’s incredibly well done.

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Title: Interview with the Vampire

Author: Anne Rice

Publisher: Balltaine Books

Genre: horror

Source: used bookstore

Publication Date: April 12, 1976

Louis, a vampire, tells the story of his long life to an unnamed interviewer. Starting with his human life on a plantation in New Orleans and spanning through the twentieth century, Louis tells of a life of love and loss.

I feel that to summarize this book, you either have to tell nothing or everything. I’m going with almost nothing because a) I think the story is so well known, it’d be redundant and b) less is always more. So… that’s my summary.

I still really love this book. When I struggled to get into it, I thought maybe my love for the story had faded and was just a high school obsession. But, no, once I sat down and really gave it my attention, I was enthralled. I read almost the whole thing in one sitting.

I love Louis. He’s my favorite vampire, and I’m very sad that the rest of the books are about Lestat, because I’m not as interested in him. Maybe rereading The Vampire Lestat will change that, but I doubt it. There’s just something so soulful about Louis, so broken and lost, and that draws me.

The writing is very dense, and it’s a lot different from things that are written today in genre fiction. It made getting into the book hard, because I’m not used to such rich descriptions and huge blocks of texts. As difficult as it was, once I adapted, it flows beautifully. There were a few things that made me pause, little inconsistencies in the text, but I put that down to an either an unreliable narrator (because Louis is, in the end, not the most reliable of people) or me reading to quickly.

So, in the end, I was swept away into this incredible world that Anne Rice created. I loved the characters, especially Louis and Armand. Claudia is interesting, too, and horrifying in so many ways. The story is complex and the writing is beautiful.

Yes. If you like vampires and haven’t read it, I recommend that you give this a try. So many of the books being written today (including mine) were influence by this book and it’s always good to see the origins of some of the mythology. If you’ve already read it… isn’t it time for a reread?