March 2017: What I bought watched and read
WHAT I READ
If you want to see all of my picks from years of reading and roundups (I only put my favourites), categorized by subject/topic check out What Sherry Reads & Recommends.
I have been reading a LOT MORE in an attempt to keep my brain occupied, but sometimes there is only so much reading you can do unless the book is totally engrossing.
This month, I discovered no less than five novels that I would consider must-reads and some of the best page-turners I have read in a very, very long time.
Here they are:
THE GLASS CASTLE
You’re in for a long, glowing review. Buckle up.
I am rarely struck by a book to the point where I would rather give up sleep in exchange for reading this book especially these days with a toddler.
It is definitely one of THE BEST books I have read all year; I know it is early and only March to be saying this but … WOW. A book to top this one would have to be truly spectacular.
For one thing, the book covers poverty to a level I have rarely read in print before, with such raw, honest, fact-filled matter-of-fact storytelling. Some events in the book gripped my heart because I heard my mother in the pages. I read at the deepest level possible what my mother really went through as a child of poverty and hunger. I have always heard her stories and anecdotes but I never really strung them altogether for a complete picture of what she really went through.
Secondly, it goes into depth about the firsthand experience of what alcoholism does to your family. A lot of what happened in the book (through anecdotal tales) due to alcoholism, is eerily similar to the abuse and addiction of gambling, something I am unfortunately all too aware of. There was a disturbing amount of instances where I felt a kinship with the author, realizing that she had the same thoughts and experiences as I did as a child and later, a teenager who couldn’t understand why we didn’t have money when there was clearly more than enough.
All that talk about “turning the paycheque over to the man of the house so he could spend it properly?“… hit a little too close to home. It’s a blessing in disguise however, as it is the main reason why I am so fiercely independent and adamant about properly investing it to the point where I wrote a book on it.
Thirdly, it goes into the pure joy that can be had out of nothing especially through an innocent child’s eyes. It talks so much about the deep love and trust every child has in their parents and reminded me how much I have to not only be grateful for in terms of my life and opportunities so far, but what I need to remember as a parent trying to raise a toddler without screwing him up too badly.
Fourthly, it opened my mind to things I didn’t think were possible like how to survive with a family in the desert, or just how freethinking and open her parents were to have raised such brilliantly educated children who had a thirst for knowledge and life. It is just a bit of a shame her parents weren’t parental figures who provided the basics every child deserves. I want to take some of that freethinking behaviour with a grain of salt and be the same with Baby Bun (no free style independent hot dog cooking on the stove at his age though. I almost burst into tears reading that and imagining Baby Bun in that position…)
Lastly, it was such a book of hope and inspiration for me. My mother didn’t make it to an Ivy League school like the author from the depths of devastating poverty that she was raised in, but she certainly changed her luck enough through the same perseverance and grit she shares with this author to become someone who earns in the top 10% of Canada? Stats for Canadian income here.
Her anecdotes of living in trailers, in the desert, scrapping with kids in a time when black people weren’t allowed to swim at the same times as white people or just how poor people are viewed and treated are truly compelling.
At the end of it, I am just grateful. I looked at my family, was warm and cosy in my clothes in an insulated home, and felt at peace.
MUST. READ. BY. EVERYONE. OF. ALL. AGES.
Man, Woman, and any Literate Dogs!
THE LAST AMERICAN MAN
WHAT A BOOK. Another glowing review.
I am SO lucky to have found not one, but
TWO FOUR books this month that have blown my mind. This is book #2.
What serious luck.
It is along the same lines of The Glass Castle but a little less anecdotal from the person’s point of view, and a little more from an objective look into the world of a man named Eustace Conway, living in the wilderness dependent only on himself and nothing else with the whole idea of an culture and society that seems to be stumbling along into the unknown, and a need to fix it.
For men and women alike, this book has it all. It is not some sappy book, yet it will tug at your heart strings, and it gives you so much to think about the way you live.
FOR MINIMALISM & MODERN LIFE
Can I just quote a section from the book here which I think he took a little from Nietzsche about the circle of life:
“Do people live in circles today?
No. They live in boxes.
They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up.
They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box.
Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them.
When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment.
They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box.
Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.”
What a powerful speech.
FOR THE LOST BOYS
I have over the years, been reading an increasing number of articles about boys in our culture becoming lost.
They’re angry, they are frustrated, and while girls are finally getting a chance to shine and be who they are in school, life and work, asserting their own independence and choices, boys and later, young men, don’t seem to have a clear path to transition into adulthood.
If you’re a guy, maybe you have felt this too.
I’m not a man, but I can see a bit of it in my siblings and my guy friends; they have at times stumbled around in life and are feeling unsure and awkward.
What you do and say to your child matters a lot. If you read The Glass Castle and didn’t get the message, this one hammers it home with a sledgehammer.
This book is excellent in outlining the phases from boy to man, although as a mother with a little boy I really felt my heart break when I read some parts of it.
I wanted to cry at some parts.
A must read by all … again, Man, Woman, and any Literate Cats!
THE QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
What. A. Book. Amazing Book #3. It is so amazing, it became a TV series.
It starts off dynamic, sharp and thrilling, and it just gets better and better. I couldn’t put it down. I again, was walking around the apartment, nose glued into my e-reader and was absolutely unable to do anything but keep reading and reading. A real page-turner in every sense of the word.
He is such a fantastic writer, I feel as though I don’t want to read any more of his work because what could possibly live up to the perfection that is this book?
The whole story is fictional, about a woman named Teresa Mendoza. I don’t want to talk about it in detail because I will give away the thrill of discovering the first half of the book in an eagerness to find out why she is the focus of the book. It is fantastic, talking about drugs and crime…. it is really a good book if you enjoy thrillers but nothing to do with science-fiction or aliens.
BOYS IN THE BOAT
This is the fourth book I read (in a row) for the lucky streak of being a total page-turner. I am not giving anything away by saying that it is about how underdogs persevere but that journey is such an incredible read, I couldn’t put it down.
I also love the personal touch of going into Joe Rantz’s background and life, I had to hug Baby Bun a little closer a few times and smell his toddler warmth.
It is all about how 8 boys made it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I know a lot more about “crewing” now than I ever thought I’d want to learn about, and it is now for me, quite a respectable sport. Now I know what they mean when they say “I rowed crew for…”. Hugh Laurie of ‘House’ fame and one of the finest actors (and pianists), rowed crew and so did his father Ran Laurie.
I loved the entire book. Some parts were a little dry and technical but the words just leapt off the page. I wanted to know what happened next, how did they do it, make it, and more about Joe Rantz.
HALF BROKE HORSES
This book is just as good as The Glass Castle. Engrossing and this time about her grandmother, who was one tough lady. My goodness.
I loved it. LOVED IT. I want to read it again, it was so good.
THE SILVER STAR
This is by the same author Jeannette Walls, and it is a fictional book.
It was hard (emotionally) to read in some spots but equally as compelling as her other work. I just prefer real-life stories, although I will say her fictional book has a lot of parallels to her life experiences in way of the mother Charlotte and the environment the girls grew up in, where whites didn’t mix with blacks.
A great book.
If you want to learn how to be more present and confident, this is the book for you.
It is all about being your best self and overcome challenges of getting there. I loved the deep research given in this book and found it to be a good, albeit long (remember? research) read.
I didn’t realize I did half the things mentioned by Cuddy, but now I am way more conscious of them.
It’s a nice fictional (with a healthy dose of fashion and style) about a girl living in New York City who finds herself in an odd but exciting proposition to become a pseudo-food writer.
I liked it. It wasn’t a page-turner or a gripping book where I can’t put it down, but it was a fun, light read.. I especially enjoyed reading about the style and the fashion, and the descriptions of clothes.
The only thing about this book is that after having read Ruth Reichl’s book Garlic & Sapphires (one of my favourite food-related books), the character of the food critic is all wrong. He would have done a better job of disguise and would have been a little less obvious about the whole thing.
You might need to read Garlic & Sapphires first before this one to see what I mean, and how it was lacking in reality and substance in the depth of the character itself.
THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
I liked the book and enjoyed reading it, but overall was disappointed with the ending.
It felt very …. flat.
Not flat in the descriptive writing and the way Gilbert so skilfully creates a world that it exists in your mind so vividly but flat in that I, like every other typical person, was hoping for an uplifting, happy-to-me American-style ending but in return I got a very French book that deals in the harsh realities of life without any mincing of the words.
To be frank I don’t know what I think. I truly enjoyed the writing but didn’t get that satisfying ending I wanted. Does that constitute a recommendation? Hmm. Perhaps. It was still a good read, I couldn’t put it down.
I’d tell you more but I don’t want to give the plot away, all I can say is it covers the life of a woman named Alma Whittaker who has a true passion for botany and it is set in the era of the 18th and 19th centuries where the Dutch controlled commerce worldwide and slavery amongst other very outdated ways of thinking ran rampant.
As for a recommendation, I couldn’t put the book down for about 3/4 of it (particularly the part where it is described how Henry’s fortune was made) and the last 1/4 I just wanted to know what happened so I kept reading.
MUCH DEPENDS ON DINNER
If you like reading about the origin of food and food history this is a good book to feast upon (pun intended). I wouldn’t say the format pleased me because unlike Steingarten, a thoroughly pleasing, dry witted writer of food, she doesn’t give the answer to the questions being asked right in the book such as: “The French call frying onions ‘making them come back’, I must find out why”… To which I said: “Well why?!? Tell me, author!! Where is that cursed footnote?!?”
Finally, I had to ask my French partner WTF she was talking about and he explained that when cooking onions, you use the verb “revenir” which means to come back, but it is not the verb’s usage of actually coming back, but to refer to the way the onions are cooked in the pan, being fried and pushed back and forth in the pan with a spatula, thereby making them “come back and forth”.
Couldn’t she have put that in a footnote or answered it right away??!? Minor point but a little irritating to people like me who like to read and get all the answers rather than having to research it on our own.
Anyway, I liked the book because she picks a topic like Corn and then deep dives into the history of it — how it was cultivated, where, by whom, etc.
DEAR MR. M
This is a mystery book but a rather creepy one which I guess is its appeal.
I readily finished it and was surprised at the ending but found the stalker-ish vibe of the whole thing a little unsettling to read as a murder mystery.
It is not in the style of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Hercule Poirot, nor Sherlock Holmes and if you’re expecting that storytelling format, this is not the book for you.
It is written in a stalker vibe along the lines of letter writing to a Mr. M saying “I planned to meet your wife and daughter that day and knew their schedule, so I sat across the street pretending to read a newspaper…”, that sort of deal.
It is an unusual format to be sure, but not one I enjoyed.
Again, if you want to see all of my picks from years of reading and roundups (I only put my favourites), categorized by subject/topic check out What Sherry Reads & Recommends.
WHAT I BOUGHT
Note: all of these items were purchased in February or earlier but we’re not received until afterwards. After I instituted my Semi-Emergency plan, I stopped all shopping completely and have stuck to it.
CLAUDINE MONCION COPPER NECKLACE ($175)
I can’t find a similar necklace, Claudine seems to have sold all of them online, but the smaller versions of the necklace (Medium & Small) are still available at Parchemin in Montreal @ Place des Arts the last time I checked.
What a beauty this necklace is! It is large, bold, and a true statement piece.
To save money (I even had an inkling when I looked at it that it might be the last piece I ever buy), I almost went for the Medium size of it, a good $50 cheaper but knew I’d regret it because I’m not a person who shies away from large, bold statement pieces. So.. The Large version happily came home with me.
There is something so simple yet complicated about the way Moncion wrapped a pleated copper piece around a silver circle that is both minimalism personified, feminine but not too much of either.
Quite pleased with this purchase.
You can check out more of this local Montreal designer here on her Etsy page or if you’re in Montreal itself, there is a boutique (Parchemin Jewellery) across from the Complexe Desjardins (you know, that large sidewalk in between the buildings where a lot of the major festivals of Montreal are held and the sidewalk gets closed off?) near the metro Place-des-Arts that sells her work.
Address of Parchemin Jewellery:
175 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H2X 1Z8 (Map)
LIGHT GRAY ALL SAINTS SUEDE MOTO JACKET (Store Credit: $400)
I had a store credit just the right amount for a leather jacket on sale, with an additional 40% taken off so when I saw this jacket as a Slim Fit, in a US10, I took it.
A US8 would have probably fit a lot better but I can wear thicker sweaters and even blazers under this and not feel too constricted. It is a buttery soft suede and in an unusual light gray colour.
I think my leather wardrobe is rather complete now save for perhaps a khaki green or navy piece. I don’t like burgundy or bright colours in leather jackets so neutrals are my only pick.
HERMÈS VINTAGE ROMAN NUMERALS WATCH ($600)
Similar watches Hermès with a double strap, but this one is far more affordable and similar in a black strap or in a dark brown strap as well, and here is a Tory Burch version, but this Marc Jacobs one in grey and rose gold stole my heart.
I have been stalking a nice vintage Hermès watch for a while now and when I saw this 18K gold plated face with ROMAN NUMERALS I jumped on it.
It was this or a $9000 Hermès skeleton watch and I found this one to be a better deal 🙂
I like the watch face but more importantly the strap is a casual but elegant “double tour” which means it wraps around your wrist twice which reminds me a lot of those cool leather wristband bracelets you see and I’ve always coveted but felt silly wearing as-is. Now, I have it with a nice watch face attached to it.
It is a manual wind so I have to turn it every other day or else it dies but there is something satisfying about it because I can hear an audible tick-tock and it’ll never need a $20 battery every 5 years.