This picture has nothing to do with book reviews, I just thought I'd let you in on a little secret. People really do take their dogs paddle-boarding here. It's a thing. The dogs even wear vests. That must be a rule.
Books: I have a lot of reviews do to, and I'm going to follow suit of my friend Kerri and just do a multi-review post. Here are a few of the books I've finished in the past few weeks.
*The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a large novel based in Eastern Europe and is a piece of historical fiction mixed with thriller tendencies. It's a 'history' of the myth of Dracula, and the two main characters, a historian, and an anthropologist who continue to look for him throughout the ages. One of my best friends had recommended this book for years and finally bought it for me to enjoy at my own pace. I usually have trouble finishing a fictional book within the 2-3 week time period that the library gives, so I was really glad to have this copy of my own, because it took me about 10 weeks to finish it! This was also while moving across the country, and the fact that the book is almost 700 pages, or was it 800? The book is beautifully written and Kostova has won many awards for her work. Certainly worth the read if you enjoy historical fiction, and well contrived writing about setting throughout Europe--ancient and modern. I look forward to reading her next book, The Swan Thieves.
* Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert will of course only appeal to a small niche of readers, as the entire book is about a minority group of home schoolers that call themselves Unschoolers or Freedom Schoolers. This book was something I bought for myself with birthday money because I couldn't get it at the library. It's a well-formed topical book about how to encourage kids of all ages to continue their learning by self-directing, and all-encompassing projects that are meaningful. This sounds a lot more simplistic than what is outlined in the book, and it's certainly not a how-to manual, but I felt this book wasn't as clear as her outstanding blog, Project-Based Homeschooling. She does write some posts that are covered in the book, but her information, in my opinion, is best taken in these short bursts that are posts, instead of chapters. The ideas flow really well together week to week from her blog and the passion Pickert writes with is engaging and contagious. She helps parents and children alike to make their lives abundant, creative, and purposeful, and she's clearly an encourager.
*Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris is one of his better humorous essay compilations. Sedaris went through a really...weird phase with his last three books. They were totally misses for me, and I stopped buying his books because of the disappointment I felt after his first couple books that I loved, and laughed out loud in public over. This is like vintage Sedaris humor with the delight of new stories, but the same (Parisian and New Yorker) scenery. I laughed very hard reading this, and often stopped to read snippets to Stefan, who unfortunately, doesn't share David's humor as I do. This book is often quite crude, so reader be prepared. I wish I still had the book in my hands to write out a funny line or paragraph, but this book was finished in 48 hours. Read it and cry with belly laughs.
*The Element by Sir Ken Robinson has been on my booklist for literally three years. I have no idea, or good excuse, why it's taken my so long to read it, especially since the nonfiction material he writes about (creativity, passion, and the brain) is so fascinating to me. This book was a quick read for me, and my desire to read it was based on his animated TED talk I saw years ago about Education. That video was another piece of the pie that got me more enthusiastic to homeschool. If you haven't seen this 11 minute video, watch it. This book goes in depth with what this video talks about.
*Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist was my most recent foodie memoir. What a joyful book to read. It's full of everything a good book needs: part love story, tragedy, sweet times, beautifully written, and of course, a number of good recipes. Right now, Bread & Wine is the video "book club" on (In)Courage, though I have to say I don't really like these video conversations. The book is a story about Shauna's purpose to create community around the table. She has gained life-long fellowship through feeding others, and has even created a group of women who cook together once a month and the tells the story of how that group has evolved. Although I had to give this book back to the library before I got to try out any of the recipes, her bacon, feta, and date appetizer is on my list to make. (Yes, those are the only 3 ingredients!) This book is one of my favorite of 2013 so far.
*Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is one of those controversial books that started a Mommy War back when it came out a year ago about American parenting philosophies. I wanted to read this for a few reasons, which I shared on facebook: I love memoirs about ex-pats in France, and I read a lot of them; I also think that American parents are (blanket statement next up) frazzled, overly-anxious, and unhappy with their parenting role, that they don't enjoy it as much as it can be. The French, or at least Parisian, who are interviewed and observed in this memoir, have a much different way of parenting than the general American culture, and it's one that I resonate with. Although it is stereotyping two very different countries, I think it's safe to say that if the pediatricians, day care providers, and parents are all enforcing the same rules & cadre (French for "frame"), it's a fairly normative way of bringing up children in France. This book talks about Druckerman's ex-pat observations from everything to careers after baby, to "French children don't throw food", the overall sense of French parenting philosophy is sage (French for calm), within the frame, and much more relaxed on parent and child. I found a number of French parenting models were things we did when our children were babies and toddlers--even though they seem against the American grain--because it seemed to be common sense to us. I still have about 50 pages left, but you get the gist.