Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review – The Other Wes Moore: The Story of One Name and Two Fates by Wes Moore

Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in the same decaying city within a few years of each other. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation. 
– From book homepage
I heard about this book when it was being discussed on a number of talk shows.  I thought it sounded interesting and added it to my To Be Read list.  I honestly forgot about it for awhile as I do with most books I add to that list, but then a few things happened that brought it back to my attention.  Before I talk about what brought it back to my attention I want to talk about why it was of interest for me.

Like Wes Moore I know there is someone out there with my same name, who lives in the same area I live in.  Unlike Wes Moore, I’ve known about her since I was about 9 years old.  They brought her file into the room I was in at the doctors and quickly realized that they had two patents with the same first, middle and last names.  Growing up, more so as a teen and now as an adult, I’ve “bumped” into her.  At stores, the library and other locations where they’ll look up your information if you don’t have your discount card or pass to sign in.  It was this connection that had me take interest in the book and add it to my list.

What brought the book back to my attention first was a conversation I had with my mom.  She had talked to my cousin on the phone earlier that day and my cousin told her that a co-worker (who knows my family) had asked her how old I was, when questioned he showed her the police blotter in the paper that reported that Amelia Rodriguez had been arrested for shoplifting.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been waiting for something like this to happen, that she would get in trouble.  This time I added the book to my holds list at the library, which is one step closer to me reading it than the book just being on my To Be Read list.

The second thing that brought me back to the book was the list of author events at one of my local Barnes and Noble and saw that Wes Moore would be coming. So this seemed like a great opportunity to do just that, so I read the book and rather quickly too. 
“Wes won­dered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two com­pletely dif­fer­ent des­tinies.” –
The book discusses their lives and the choices made by family members and the choices they made themselves which lead them to where they are now.  I’ve read some other reviews and quite a few people have started reading the book with the idea that the differences would out weight the similarities of these two men and in truth they really weren’t that different. The story really highlights how sometimes the course of your life is changed by only a few choices.

I question sometimes how my life would have been different had my parents not made the decision to move out of the city before I started school or if my father hadn’t of passed away when I was 16.  Would I have my masters degree in a field I think is perfect for me or would I be doing something completely different with my life. I have always wondered how my life differs or is the same to the other Amelia and what choices her parent(s) have made have changed/influenced the direction of her life.

Author Event Update:
Wes gave a great talk and it was a really interesting Q&A session.  When it was my turn to get my book signed I got to talk with him and he seemed to really listen and take in what Mom and I were saying about our relationship to the book and the story and how we feel about the importance of the book’s message.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

We are bored with play, we prefer to work!

         This idea came up in two books I have recently read.  Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and Fannie’s Last Supper by Christopher Kimball. Both books came to this idea differently but it just stuck me as interesting that two books on two different topics would each make that point and that I’d read them one right after the other.

In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal points out why reality is broken and how fixes taken from the world of gaming can help fix reality.  One of the key points is that many of the popular games on the market today rely on overcoming obstacles and in a sense is a form of work.  Games ranging from Golf, to Solitare, to a MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) like World of Warcraft. We get a sense of pleasure from working hard at these games to get better at them, yes we have fun but we feel the pay off of the work we put into getting better. 
In Fannie’s Last Supper Christpher Kimball describes the details and years of work that when into preparing a Victorian 12 course meal.  He talks about the different ways they tried to make the original recipes from the ingredients found into today’s kitchens/stores and the number of times they tried and tweaked until they got it right.  He talks about the night of the dinner and how at the end, after his team worked unbelievably hard they enjoyed themselves.  All that hard work was fun, because they reached a goal that meant something, they did something they loved and it was a success even though they were in what most people would consider unbearable conditions. (They mistakenly overheated the wood burning stove they were using and turned the kitchen into a boiler room.) 

I rather work hard at a game for multiple hours than sit and watch TV for hours on end, that’s probably the reason I have at least 3 weeks’ worth of television programs still sitting on my DVR but my WOW characters are leveling at a good pace. With Easter nearing my family is talking about getting together to make our Easter Bread.  We spend one whole day mixing up the dough and at the end of the day yes I’m tired but it was so worth the work and the sore back.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World

Shows how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy, and utilized these discoveries to astonishing effect in virtual environments. This title reveals how gamers have become expert problem solvers and collaborators, and shows how we can use the lessons of game design to socially positive ends.

Fannie's Last Supper: Two Years, Twelve Courses, and Creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook

In Fannie's Last Supper, Kimball describes the experience of re-creating one of Fannie Farmer's amazing menus: a twelve-course Christmas dinner that she served at the end of the century. Kimball immersed himself in composing twenty different recipes--including rissoles, Lobster à l'Américaine, Roast Goose with Chestnut Stuffing and Jus, and Mandarin Cake--with all the inherent difficulties of sourcing unusual animal parts and mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a coal cookstove and boiling a calf's head without its turning to mush, all sans food processor or oven thermometer. Kimball's research leads to many hilarious scenes, bizarre tastings, and an incredible armchair experience for any reader interested in food and the Victorian era.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Book Club

For March we read When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa james.


Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

Since our meeting was canceled for January and was a chocolate tasting and book browsing for February we discussed both the January and the March book selections.  Lucky for us they were books one and two of Eloisa’s Fairy Tales.  January was A Kiss at Midnight, based on the Cinderella fairy tale and March was When Beauty Tamed the beast, based on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
I enjoyed both books and I have to say I think everyone else did as well (well those of us that read both books), but I really liked the second book more.  When Beauty Tamed the Beast just felt like a more believable story, it was easier to relate to the characters, Linnet and Piers just seemed like people you could meet on the street, you know if you lived back then and they were real. With A Kiss at Midnight there were just aspects that didn’t work for me and I couldn’t connect with Kate and Gabriel. From the discussion it seems that there were others that felt the same or it’s just me thinking that *shrugs* either way we spent more time discussing When Beauty Tamed the Beast. 
One of the more interesting threads of conversation was the discussion of how our hero, Piers, resembles a certain bad tempered TV doctor.  One woman said she picked up on it right away, I drew comparisons but it wasn’t until half way through the book that I was pretty sure, and a few didn’t pick up on the comparison until reading the note at the end where Eloisa James states that Piers is based on Dr. House. 
The other interesting thread was the discussion of what really happened to the footman that was with Linnet.  Did he die or did they burry him alive?  I’m not quite sure but the group was leaning towards the burring alive thought. 
With both books there were scenes that just felt off, more so in A Kiss at Midnight and that plot than with When Beauty Tamed the Beast.  With A Kiss at Midnight the whole plot was just kind of screwy.  Kate was being forced to pretend to be her step sister to impress her fiancé’s cousin who is some kind of German royalty. A lot of the characters were over the top, yet lovable like Kate’s godmother, but it just started to get weird when her father’s faults started to come to light and what Kate thought she knew about her family was completely wrong.  Now When Beauty Tamed the Beast only started off this way and I didn’t think I would like it, but once Kate leaves her father and aunt in London things become “normal” and the character aren’t too over the top or put into awkward situations.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February Reading Review

Book Club

This month wasn’t a normal meeting.  We did a book browsing and chocolate tasting in order to get more B&N costumers interested in the Romance Book Club.  We’re hoping more people join so we can do more author events.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

2011 Support your Local Library Challenge

I checked out five books this month (as well as a bunch of DVDs and CDs). I finished reading two of the books rather quickly, A Shore Thing and Marrying Daisy Bellamy.  I’m still working on Claude and Camille from last month and really couldn’t focus more attention on Fannies Last Supper and Decision Points.  I returned Fannies Last Supper with Plans to check it out again and I checked Decision Points out as an ebook and couldn’t get very far in it during my 2 week check out period.  Assholes Finish First was just checked out so I’m reading that, Tucker Max can only be taken in small doses.

1.     Fannie's last supper : re-creating one amazing meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 cookbook by Christopher Kimball
2.     A Shore Thing by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
3.     Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs
4.     Decision Points by Geroge W. Bush
5.     Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max

I finished five more books during this month.  I found a new series about Navy Seals by Mary Margret Daughtride and I’m waiting for the fourth book to come out soon.  I also finished two more books in the Suzanne Brockmann series.  I’m finding I have quite an addiction right now to stories about Seals. 
  • SEALed with a Kiss by Mary Margret Daughtridge
  • SEALed with a Promise by Mary Margret Daughtridge
  • SEALed with a Ring by Mary Margret Daughtridge
  • Frisco's Kid by Suzanne Brockmann
  • Everyday Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann

I got back to reading Nora Roberts books this month.  I read Risky Business and Indulgence in Death.