In Life, Style, What I bought, What I read

June 2016: What I bought, watched and read

WHAT I READ

BARGAIN FEVER

This is one of the best, if not THE BEST book on shopping I have read this year.

What a beautifully written, concise, clear and logical take on everything from the history of shopping from bargain basement to luxury, and with how bargains and coupons fit into it.

The bonus is of course all the tips slotted in there on how to make the most out of your shopping experience at retailers.

I read through it totally wide-eyed at the practices of what goes on, and how much money some driven people can make from coupons (over a million a year just clipping & mailing them for sale).

Incredible. Run, don’t walk to read this book.

It is so good, I am going to re-read it once I am done because I am sure I will have missed something in the wealth of information being presented.

I would want Ellwood to write more books. Please.

MAPHEAD

I am obsessed with maps and map-printed items. I love looking at them, seeing the way it looks, the way it looked in the past and how it has changed.


I have map accessories like scarves, map shirts.. you name it.

So I figured I’d read this book by Jeopardy All Time Champ & Killa Ken Jennings, but I had NO IDEA he would be so witty, funny and ridiculously awesome as an author.

Read it. It can get a little dense with facts here and there (I gloss over listings of names and countries in a row), but the anecdotes on map culture, mapheads, geography, geographers, history and maps in general is fascinating.

TODDLERS ARE A**HOLES

Obviously a humorous parenting book, and I rather liked it even though some of the humour and language was a touch too crude for my reading taste.

I also connected with about 25% of what is described in there of what a toddler does, an am happy that Baby Bun doesn’t do the rest of it (knock on wood).

He is an excellent eater with a great appetite like his Mommy and a generally good natured child but has terrible sleep issues I cannot fix because he refuses to sleep longer than his body wants to. *sigh*

OPENING BELLE

While I agree it is a bitingly honest, pull-back-the-curtains look at what it means to be a high-earnin’ ($500k) woman on Wall Street in a group full of testosterone charged boys, it was not a book I would read again.

It is sort of toted as chick-lit and it is anything but.

I don’t get the hype.

Felt more like a non-fiction exposé on the inner workings of Wall Street and its disgusting environment masquerading as chick-lit; a move which I actually commend in theory because it touched on some excellent issues about being the female breadwinner, working on Wall Street, being a woman in a male-dominated industry… but as an avid chick-lit reader, I was disappointed.

Didn’t have enough of a story arc, kind of rambles along exposing bits and pieces here and there, and the ending was disappointing. Not really a happy, triumphant ending in my opinion which is sappy hallmark of ALL good chick-lit books.

I read it and I really only enjoyed the non-fiction exposé. It should have been written as such rather than masked as chick-lit.

That said, the ‘bros’ culture there on Wall Street is destestable, despicable and disgusting (alliteration… it’s a beautiful thing) but who today is holding these companies and these men accountable?

WHERE WE BELONG

Giffin is an excellent chick-lit writer. This was a great book about the different perspectives of an adopted child and I very much enjoyed it and felt every emotion from every side.

I only wish the ending was more satisfying, but I guess it is setting itself up for a sequel. I hope.

IT IS ONLY MONEY AND IT GROWS ON TREES

Disclaimer: I got the ebook for free as they emailed me to read it and review it.


This is a beginner’s book for someone in high school, or even elementary school (6th or 7th grade). It helps kids put into perspective how to look at money, and then the concepts being brought up like investing, savings, etc.. can all be explored in detail in another book entirely.

It talks about how money is seen from the perspective of different cultures, religions and even socio-economic levels (very poor to very rich). It covered the breadth of situations which I had not seen before in other PF books.

I found it to be a decent read (the stories being engrossing and even more interesting if true and not made up), although the narrative and the storytelling aspect of the book seemed very contrived.

It didn’t feel as natural as the way children would really talk these days, and it felt like an adult (obviously) who was writing a book in the way they think children speak and converse.

Conversation aside, the concepts are good and a nice read for early personal finance aficionados. It is very much in the vein of “The Wealthy Barber“…

It would be nice to make kids in Grade 6 or 7 read this book and discuss its concepts in the classroom.

LOVING AMY

Amy Winehouse was and will always remain one of my favourite voices of my time.

I will never forget her husky sweet tone belting out my favourites like Rehab, and F*ck me Pumps.

It was heartbreaking to read a mother’s memoir on her daughter, and while it might seem like a crass money-making move to many, the money gets donated to a foundation to help those who have struggled and are struggling like Amy.

What a sad, poignant book looking back wistfully on the life of a wilful, energetic, fearless yet clingy baby, toddler, child, then young woman.

Her family has been through so much and no one more than her mother I think, particularly since what she has written many times has resonated with me as a mother.

I don’t understand blaming the parents for any of it. She did the best she could, and in her position, I can’t imagine having done any better. You have to be in it to understand it, and luckily I have had no brushes with any kind of addiction but that doesn’t mean I can’t empathize.

If she had the clean habit and the drive of stars like Adele, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Beyoncé or Rhianna, she would have been a megastar today with that voice.

Tant pis.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT

This is a very interesting memoir and if you have sensitive ears and a more conservative mindset, it may not bode well to read it unless you can wade through all the slang, swearing and very colourful anecdotal stories.

I liked it because it was very brutally, truthfully honest and real. I’d really like to go eat at Baohaus now just to taste the food.

His assessment and view on life in America as what he terms a ‘rotten banana’ is also interesting because almost any immigrant caught between two cultures and of any race but Caucasian can say the same of their treatment.

Very interesting indeed, he is an extremely insightful, smart man but would probably catch more flies with honey if he cleaned up his approach.

Still, he is who he is, who am I to judge?

URN BURIAL – PHRYNE FISHER

The only thing I can say that was a little strange about the book was how many names there were. Yes, I know, characters, bla bla bla.. but all of their names seemed to start with an “M” and my pea brain is NO GOOD at memorizing superfluous characters while I am trying to get the gist of the story.

Other than that, great read, a little too short and probably needed another 100 pages to flesh it out some. 🙂

UNNATURAL HABITS – PHRYNE FISHER

I love Greenwood’s writing because she is refreshingly feminist without being militant, and open to facing head one any and all issues that were problems in the past (and still have traces lingering as issues today).

The writing is engrossing, and the days are passing by so quickly because my nose is stuck in the book as I am feeding Baby Bun, or doing anything that doesn’t require my attention or more than one hand.

Once I start, I can’t stop, so it has been great powering through the mysteries, particularly since I have been watching the TV series and I can picture the actual characters now as so brilliantly portrayed on the show by top notch actors.

This particular plot touches on slavery, the treatment of women, girls having babies out of wedlock and homosexuality. All excellent subjects and properly, and respectfully treated by Greenwood via the avenue of fiction.

CASTLEMAINE MURDERS – PHYRNE FISHER

Another excellent book and the plot of this one about the treatment of foreigners, particularly the Chinese during the Gold Rush along with detailed historical & cultural information (always a bonus to have in reading fiction).

Really wonderfully written with excellent plot twists with interesting turns and endings.

RUDDY GORE – PHRYNE FISHER

Another excellent book. I like how each book has a theme, and a serious one at that, that is drawn upon and laid out in detail with different viewpoints.

This one has a theme of lost lovers, which she seems to touch upon a lot in her writing; that, and the treatment of women.

RAISINS AND ALMONDS – PHYRNE FISHER

This one touches upon the treatment of Jews and anti-Semitism. An excellent, EXCELLENT read. I could really hear the accents in the way she highlighted the words, and almost felt like I was in the midst of that crowd.

GREEN MILL MURDER – PHYRNE FISHER

The theme of this one is jazz and class distinctions between the upper and lower. Quite a good read, as usual.

QUEEN OF FLOWERS – PHYRNE FISHER

A sick and sad theme, but a real one nonetheless of the abuse of young women seeking for a sense of belonging. I don’t want to spoil it but it was sick.

MURDER IN THE DARK – PHRYNE FISHER

This book was so well written that I could really see everything happening as the words washed over me. I honestly think Greenwood is a brilliantly gifted writer and I especially like her treatment of mysteries and tough social issues prevalent in the 1920s.

MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE – PHRYNE FISHER

AGAIN! She does it again. Excellently done and you can really see the whole story develop properly unlike her earlier works.

MURDER AND MENDELSSOHN

This was not one of my favourites. A little convoluted with so many plots happening when there should just be one and brilliantly tied up with connections to each other.

I still enjoyed it of course, but not one I’d want to read again. Too much singing.

DEATH BY WATER – PHRYNE FISHER


Another excellent book with a good twist and turn although I sort of suspected who did it about 1/4 of the way through 🙂

COCAINE BLUES – PHRYNE FISHER

This is the FIRST book in the series and well worth reading beforehand to get an idea of how it all started. The book after this one is the circus themed one, but this was a good, solid introduction to the series which I really enjoyed.

FLYING TOO HIGH – PHRYNE FISHER

A short one but a good one. Excellently compact in its mysteries.

MARKED IN FLESH

I really like Anne Bishop but this book was not a great ending to this fantasy series she has created.

I still enjoyed it, I had to read it to find out the ending but what I think I really enjoy are the little anecdotal stories that warm the heart of things each character does for and to each other. There wasn’t enough of that warm fuzzy-heartedness in this book which is why it was just OK for me.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND

I was recommended this book by a very good, close friend.

I read it, and initially wanted to stop after chapter one, but the plot was so strangely engrossing that I ignored the fact that I don’t really like the way she strings the words together to tell a tale. It felt disjointed, in some places I couldn’t remember all the names of all of these people… but the ending was not at all what I expected and I rather approved of it.

The whole book, when I finished it, was a good read, but I didn’t feel like that in the beginning or even mid-way through.

I know that sounds really strange, but it’s true. It is not chick-lit, but it does touch on women’s issues and the way society perceives them.

Would I recommend it? … Perhaps. It would depend on whether or not you are willing to read something a little more serious and not lighthearted which is more my kind of fare.

OH NO SHE DIDN’T

I love Clinton Kelly on TV.

I really enjoyed watching What Not To Wear when I had access to cable TV. 

I even agreed 100% with every rule he has listed in here, and even enjoyed the images and pictures accompanying all of it.

….. it just read in some parts like some drunken rabble pieced together on a laptop and emailed haphazardly to an editor to try and meet a deadline to cash in on his name & fame to create a book for women to rush out and buy in droves.

It is not so terrible I wouldn’t recommend it, it just isn’t polished and as good as it could have been.

I am not a fan of books swearing in conversation, talking like a drunken teenager and not being polished up and refined for print.

The concepts, rules, ideas.. all great. Even the guy is great. I just wish he had been a little more Tim Gunn (read: refined and poised) in his writing and a little less … whatever this was.

I don’t appreciate jabs at ethnicities for the sake of a joke, and I found the humour crude and potty-like in a lot of the book. This is fine for personal conversation in real life, not so great memorialized in a book with your name & face on it.

WIDOW’S GUIDE TO SEX AND DATING

I thought that this would be more like a personal memoir like her first book: What Remains which was SO well written, but this was a work of fiction, a bit chick-lit in its style, and sort of disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still something I could read and enjoy, but it was not what I expected.

Warning: Don’t think of this book as a memoir when you go to read it, just pretend it is chick-lit and it won’t be as much of a let down to you as it was for me.

As a chick-lit book to pick up and read? MMmmm… read it if you feel like having a new twist on a plot (a widow).

THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING

THANK YOU Sarah for recommending Bill Bryson to me.

I am a huge fan of Peter Mayle’s work, except for his fictional piece The Diamond Caper because I tried reading a page and gave up as I am too used to hearing him in a non-fictional setting.

If you love Mayle’s work, you will love Bryson. Same dry British wit, except Bryson is a native American transplanted into England, but you could NEVER TELL from the writing save for the occasional references to being American.

This is in NO WAY a jab at Americans, it is just that the words he uses in the book like “splendid” .. or “looked wretched”.. are very, very British expressions.

(When was the last time you heard an American proclaim: ‘That was splendid!’ … or… ‘He looked wretched.’ Never. That’s how many times).

Anyway, the wit, the humour, the words, are all unmistakably coming from his being in Britain with that famous dry British wit, and I love it.

I am about to devour his entire library of work now.

HOW TO WIN AT SHOPPING

Great title, the book was.. so-so. I read it disinterestedly and I am REALLY into shopping & money, but it was not engrossing. I have read and written blog posts better than this book, I think.

GOOD ON PAPER

I wanted to like it… but I couldn’t get past chapter one.

I gave up. The plot line didn’t grab me, the character development was weak at the start and I am just confused. Too many twists. Not normal enough, and not good chicklit.

WHAT I WATCHED/LISTENED TO

I am obsessed with this song right now:

ELVIS CRESPO – SAUVEMENTE

It NEVER EVER fails to cheer me up. I listen to it on repeat to get my energy up and to make me feel like dancing, even when I am bone tired.

 


FOR GRACE – CURTIS DUFFY

 

What a fantastic documentary on a chef growing up, the career, the sacrifices, and just how much you have to give of yourself for such a slim chance of succeeding.

If you think about how many people go to fancy restaurants at $300 a person, and you don’t consider yourself as one of them (I don’t anyway), you can just see how low of a chance you have to make it in the game and the industry.

(I have never been to a restaurant that has cost more than $100 a person max. Even that is pushing it.

$300 a person is really another level I have not reached and may never reach.)

A terribly moving documentary. I really felt it.

BEYONCE LIFE IS BUT A DREAM

Queen Bey.

I think she is fantastic and this documentary just proved it. I have even more respect for her than I did before, which is hard to believe.

She is an incredible performer and I love that she did the interview on the couch one-on-one as makeup-less as possible.. I am sure she still had makeup on her face to look ‘natural’…

CHEF’S TABLE (NETFLIX SEASON 2)

I seriously want to visit these restaurants now and eat there, particularly D.O.M. by Alex Atala in Brazil and Atelier Crenn by Dominique Crenn.

WHAT I BOUGHT

REVIEW OF THE TRAVEL JIFFY E-STEAMER

I bought this in April and I’ve tried it out on numerous items.

Here’s my short review:

PROS

  • Small and a real handheld, just as shown above
  • Reasonably priced
  • Plastic, so it’s lightweight
  • Easy to refill and dry out (unscrew the top part, it’s a lot like a screw top canister)
  • For things that are easily steamed like light fabrics, no problem, the wrinkles just melt away in seconds
  • No ironing board required or any setup

CONS

  • No On/Off switch, it immediately heats up & starts steaming after about a minute or two (depending on how hot the water is that you put in to begin with)
  • Will take about 15 minutes to properly steam a thick skirt with intricate pleats and even then, it might take a while depending on how thick the fabric is

Overall would I recommend it? HECK YES.

I much prefer steaming my clothes to ironing, it’s light and easy to use, and for light fabrics, this is the best.

Just check it out:

I wouldn’t do it for cotton shirts or thick fabric items, those would need an iron, but most of my clothes are fairly light so I’m pleased with how well this product worked.

LEATHER HONEY – $25

I have been looking for a good leather conditioner for a while now that is not going to cost me an arm and a leg.

I used to buy it from m0851 but their bottles are TINY and they’re something like $20 for 2 ounces. Ridiculous.

I googled and came across ‘Leather Honey’ which is silicone-free, natural, non-toxic, made in the U.S., bla bla bla. Can’t find a list of ingredients but I’m willing to give it a shot for my shoes.

I had been using coconut oil to condition my leather but it keeps hardening in cooler weather and leaving a coconut oil scum on there that I need to them warm up and buff out. Kind of time consuming.

HORSEHAIR SHOE BRUSHES – $20

I bought some shoe brushes to apply the shoe polish (see above) and to buff it out to make it shiny and clean.

CUPPOW GLASS MUG – $23

I have been searching high and low for a long while for something I can use as a travel mug that is NOT MADE IN CHINA.

Know how hard this is? Very hard.

Then I found this mug, and I bought it immediately. It’s basically a mason jar, everything completely made in the U.S., and we’ll see how it goes.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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4 Comments

  1. Cassie

    You weren’t kidding! You were an incredibly prolific reader this month. I’m going to see if I can get my hands on a copy of Bargain Fever, I have a couple gift cards to Chapters at the moment.

    I powered through the second season of Chef’s Table the day before I went into labour. Grant’s Achatz’s story about running a restaurant while not being able to taste anything blew my mind.

    Reply
    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      I have been reading like crazy. I just finished a couple more within the past day or so… I read quickly. 🙂

      I KNOW! Isn’t that incredible? Couldn’t taste a thing, it was all in his mind.

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    Just wanted to comment about the review on Opening Belle. The writer to write a non-fiction expose, but several people who gave their testimony weren’t willing to go on record. Also, some of the men in the story are still alive, powerful and would likely sue. There was a NYT article about it a while ago. But, I do understand false marketing it as chick-lit is annoying.

    Reply
    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      Thanks for the update. It was frustrating reading it and trying to parse out what it really was. I guess if I had gone into it knowing it was a non-fiction I would have ignored the fake chick-lit paragraphs sprinkled here and there.

      Reply

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