Tag: nonfiction

July 29, 2012

Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison

Title: Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment
Author: Suzanne Morrison
Publication Date: August 2011
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: Library
Links: Amazon – GoodReads
My Rating: Four Stars

What happens when a coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking, steak-eating twenty-five-year-old atheist decides it is time to get in touch with her spiritual side? Not what you’d expect…
When Suzanne Morrison decides to travel to Bali for a two-month yoga retreat, she wants nothing more than to be transformed from a twenty-five-year-old with a crippling fear of death into her enchanting yoga teacher, Indra—a woman who seems to have found it all: love, self, and God.
But things don’t go quite as expected. Once in Bali, she finds that her beloved yoga teacher and all of her yogamates wake up every morning to drink a large, steaming mug…of their own urine. Sugar is a mortal sin. Spirits inhabit kitchen appliances. And the more she tries to find her higher self, the more she faces her cynical, egomaniacal, cigarette-, wine-, and chocolate-craving lower self. 
Yoga Bitch chronicles Suzanne’s hilarious adventures and misadventures as an aspiring yogi who might be just a bit too skeptical to drink the Kool-Aid. But along the way she discovers that no spiritual effort is wasted; even if her yoga retreat doesn’t turn her into the gorgeously calm, wise believer she hopes it will, it does plant seeds that continue to blossom in surprising ways over the next decade of her life.

You gotta admit, it’s a catchy title.

I picked Yoga Bitch up because a) it was a bright cover, b) I am horrible beyond horrible at 
yoga, but I want to learn more and c) I had to read a book with that title.

I didn’t really expect a whole lot, because this was an unknown author on a topic on which I am utterly clueless. But I immediately fell in love with Ms Morrison’s writing. I loved her tone right off the bat; cynical, witty, with just the right amount of sarcasm mixed in. When she enters the yoga studios, it is with the same sense of apprehension and curiosity that I feel regarding the subject. It felt like she was writing to me.

Ms Morrison’s descriptions of Bali are fabulous – I felt transported to the unknown world. I could see all of the landscapes, the exact images she painted with her words. I didn’t want to put it down. Most of all, I was really jealous – I wanted to go to Bali and do yoga all day!

That was until the pee-drinking was introduced. I had to read that section a few times to make sure that it actually said what I believed it did. The others in her class accepted this practice without blinking an eye, but both Ms Morrison and I were flabbergasted.

In a world where cynicism is the main currency, organized religion is dying, overwhelmed by the onslaught of the non-believers. I loved reading a memoir of a woman who didn’t buy any of it, no matter how much she wanted to, and how she ended up actually finding herself. That’s what we’re all trying to do in the end, isn’t it? And she got to do it in Bali

Happy reading. 🙂

Posted July 29, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 1 Comment
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July 27, 2012

Review: Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

Title: Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey”
Author: Margaret Powell
Publication Date: 1970
Hardcover: 177 pages
Source: Library
Links: Amazon – GoodReads
My Rating: Four Stars

Synopsis from GoodReads.com
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants’ entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s.  As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. Margaret Powell’s true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.

Have you seen this show?

In a nutshell, this is why you should read Below Stairs.
This book was fantastic! I loved the tone of the novel; it feels as though I am actually sitting down with this wonderful lady and listening to her ramblings of her life. (I particularly enjoyed the few times she went off-subject and had to pull herself back onto topic). There were even a few “back in my day” comments that solidified the image of a little old lady sitting next to me with a cup of tea and her knitting or some sort of crafty project in front of her.

I loved reading about all the different personalities of the houses she worked in and how they corresponded to the master/mistress of that house. Powell, I believe, tried to be as open minded as possible when she wrote about her former employers – the ever-present “THEM” – but some of her bias still got in the way, which only made the story ring more true. The differences in the mistresses was astonishing. Lady Downall, who appeared to be the most kind of the group, went out of her way to make sure her staff was happy. Reading about Powell’s experiences with her were almost something of a relief after the dear Lady Gibbons, who wanted to be referred to constantly as “Her Ladyship” and inspected the pantry every morning with the intensity of a drill sergeant. 

I did knock a star off because it took me quite a while to get involved in this book. I carried it around with me for a while, looked at it on my shelf for a while, and then when I finally pulled it down to read, my mind kept wandering for the first few chapters, which I now realize were mostly filled with social commentary that would normally appeal to me.  I wanted to dive right into the scandal (which Powell provides plenty of later on in the book), and it took me a bit to settle in to learning about the background and setting the scene.

Powell continues with her fun, witty writing style throughout the story, keeping me engaged (after those first few parts), and I could see her attempting to cook a souffle in my mind’s eye, or fishing out a kipper from the pig’s bucket when the mistress suddenly decides she wants it. Definitely a good read.

Posted July 27, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 24, 2012

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerrns) by Mindy Kaling

I love summer beach reads. : )
Synopsis (from GoodReads.com)

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Mindy Kaling is an amazing woman. Maybe she hasn’t survived cancer, saved the seals, or climbed Mount Rushmore, but she is one hell of a role model. Mindy Kaling is Everygirl – every girl who was uncertain and/or insecure in middle and high school can look up to this woman. I love her tone of voice throughout the book, allowing the same comedic writing that made her famous on The Office to infiltrate into her memoir. 

Usually, I think if you haven’t reached at least sixty years old, you aren’t allowed to write a memoir. What on earth have you done that would fill a book? (Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone…) However, Kaling doesn’t focus overly on her career or her aspirations. She talks about growing, the journey we all take early on in discovering who we are. That sounds sappy…I love this book because it is an example of a insecure young girl making her wau into the fame of Hollywood and how she got there. I think it’s incredibly inspirational.

I loved Kaling’s character on The Office, but it wasn’t until I read her book that I understood quite how funny she is. Her background gossip of The Office is only the top layer. I enjoyed her comments on the Indian culture and how it’s view by the American society at large. 

Kaling’s comments about the true meaning of friendship is probably one of my favorite parts of the book. It spoke especially true to me for I feel like I am at a point in my life where everything is changing, where people I once knew are leaving or going on with their lives and new ones are entering my social circle. Even though Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me seems to be focused upon younger girls, it was inspirational to me.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is a good beach read, an easy travel read, or something simply fun and enjoyable. 

Posted July 24, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 7, 2012

New Books!

I love getting new books to read! Since my budget is kinda tight, I can only buy books on sale, so most of my books come from the library or from friends. I found a bunch of really good ones at the library on my way home from work today. So excited to get reading!

Something About You by Julie James is first. This one was recommended to me by a WWW Wednesday post and it finally arrived at the library for me! I couldn’t pass it up after seeing so many positive reviews of it on GoodReads. I need a new romance author, since I’ve read through all the books of my favorites. This looks like a easy, lighthearted read, perfect for summer.

The Twin’s Daughter is another blogger recommendation. Her review was so stellar that I had to request it from the library (I wish I could remember where I found it and I could link her post here =[ ). I think the cover is amazing and hopefully that also means that the book is wonderful as well! Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s novel is found here on GoodReads.

I am in love with Downton Abbey, so I was thrilled when I found out the story had been based on Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs. This might be my next read out of this entire list, partly because I can’t wait any longer to get my Downton Abbey fix. Here it is on GoodReads.

 This was a random find at the library. I’ve read a few books along the same lines as this, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Poser: My life in twenty-three yoga poses by Claire Dederer is the journey of a woman exploring herself through yoga. I’m not the best at describing nonfiction, but these memoirs strike a chord in me, and I can’t not read them. I have skimmed the first chapter, and I adore the author’s voice. It’s like having a conversation with her instead of reading the words in print. 

Kelley Armstrong has been recommended over and over and over again to me, and I finally got my hands on a copy of the first of her Women of the Otherworld series, Bitten. I’m a bit worried this will be another angsty-teen-wannabe Twilight-drama, but there are so many good reviews, I feel like I should give this one a try!

Another shot-in-the-dark book I picked up in the library. It looks like it’s extremely popular, according to GoodReads, so I’m excited to try it! I know pretty much nothing about this book…we’ll have to see =]

Posted July 7, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 27, 2012

WWW Wednesday {June 27, 2012}

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: Yet another week I want to stay home and read! Unfortunately, this is the busiest week out of the year at my job (starting today! Whee!) so that’s not really an option. I always hide my Kindle in my purse though. 😉 

This is becoming a must-read. I haven’t been able to put it down yet! Benulis weaves such an incredible story that I can’t always put my finger on the difference between reality and fantasy. 

I am also reading The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (might take me a while…) and The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. Both of these are somewhat heavy works, so I’m reading lighter stuff as well. 

Recently Finished: I finished two very different books. First was Making the Corps by Thomas E. Rickman (review here), a book of the military lifestyle and history of Marines upon Parris Island. In the opposite hand (with a completely different genre), I read Meg Cabot’s Underworld, a take on the Greek mythology tale of Persephone and Hades.

Next: I wish my TBR shelf was neat enough that I could just attach a photo of all the books instead of trying to choose! 
Insurgence by Veronica Roth is a must. I’m thinking about trying Kim Harrison’s Death Witch Walking.  I accidentally picked up the 10th book in the series, Pale Demon, at the library, and even though I had no idea what was going on, I really enjoyed it! So maybe starting at the beginning would be a good idea. : )

What’re you reading?
Happy Wednesday!

Posted June 27, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 6 Comments
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June 23, 2012

Review: Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks

This is quite a diversion from my usual reading, but it came so highly recommended from my   dad that I had to try it. Ricks’ nonfiction novel following the lives of Marine Recruit Platoon 3086 was inspiring and entertaining, including tidbits from the guys’ day-to-day lives within the boot camp as well as bits of information regarding Marine culture and life.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
“Making the Corps” visits the front lines of boot camp, Parris Island, South Carolina. Here, old values are stripped away and new, Marine Corps values are forged. Acclaimed military journalist Thomas E. Ricks follows these men from their hometowns, through boot camp, and into their first year as Marines. As three fierce drill instructors fight a battle for the hearts and minds of this unforgettable group of young men, a larger picture emerges, brilliantly painted, of the growing gulf that divides the military from the rest of America.

The author, the senior Penatgon correspondent from The Washington Post, is a huge fan of the Marine culture and way of life. He states that “in a society that seems to have trouble transmitting values, the Marines stand out as successful and healthy institution that unabashedly teaches values to the Beavises and Buttheads of America” (pg 20). I admire the brashness and brute honesty in how the author delivers his opinions of…well, everything. Everything regarding the Marines, their culture, and the relationship between civilians and our military. 

To be honest, this book must be read with a grain of salt. It was a bit degrading to read the author’s [constant] tangents about how American civilian life is “undisciplined and lazy”, but in comparison to the soldiers of the military…yup. However, I do wish the author organized his rants and comparisons of the Army and Marines a little more thoroughly so I knew when to expect them. He almost interrupts himself in a few instances in his rush to instill us civilians with his vast military knowledge.

Regardless of the author’s opinions, the chapters detailing the life of the platoon were extremely fascinating. I loved watching them grow and develop into full-fledged Marine privates before my eyes. The different personalities of the men were what made the book for me; I wanted them to make it, to cheer them on when everything hit the fan. I enjoyed learning about their backgrounds and families, and the logic behind their decision to join the Marines. Ricks includes a very interesting section near the end of the book where he details the different journeys of the recruits we came to know and love. I felt like I knew them.

Posted June 23, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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