Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a man from California who is thrust into the turbulence of World War II and somehow lives to tell the tale.

Several people recommended this book to me since it came out and I finally gave it a read. I'm so glad I did. Louis Zamperini's life/story is nothing short of extraordinary. It begins with his childhood in California before moving on to his time in the war where he was a POW in Japan. Zamperini endures so much during and after the war, it is mind boggling.

There is so much history, knowledge and information in this book, it is truly impressive. It is a very involved read, but worth it. Read it and prepare to be amazed by this man's true story of survival.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is the story of Clay Jensen, a high school student who returns home from school to find a box of cassette tapes on his front porch.  He plays the tapes and discovers they were made by Hannah Baker, a fellow classmate who had committed suicide two weeks earlier.  On the tapes, Hannah shares the thirteen reasons why she killed herself and Clay learns more about Hannah and some of his other classmates than he ever could have imagined.

This novel was pretty good.  It is written from Clay and Hannah's point of view, so you get to hear Hannah's side of the story as well as Clay's reactions to them.  I got to certain sections where I wish they would have just let Hannah share her side instead of going back and forth to Clay, but for the most part the writing style was enjoyable.

I wouldn't recommend this novel to anyone younger than twelve or thirteen since it talks about some intense stuff such as suicide, underage drinking, sexual situations, bullying, etc.  However, I do think it is a great read for teens to address those topics and perhaps even start a dialogue about them.  I felt like the novel was able to do a good job of capturing how young people treat each other and how the effects of that treatment have the potential to be so damaging.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Countdown City

After a (too long!) reading hiatus, I just finished Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H. Winters.  This is book two in The Last Policeman Series, you might recall I reviewed the first book in this series last year ( 

I was really looking forward to Countdown City, as I quite enjoyed The Last Policeman.  It picks up not long after the first book leaves off and we continue to follow the story of Detective Hank Palace as he makes his way in a world that is counting down to doomsday.  In this book, "detective" Palace is on a new case, which leads him to meet some very interesting characters and shows us how people react as the end of the world looms closer.

While I enjoyed the first book more, this one was pretty good.  It's still written in the clear and concise manner I enjoyed in the first installment of this series and I think he moves the story along fairly well.  Knowing this was book two of a trilogy, I didn't expect a ton of action/excitement to be in this book and that turned out to be true.  It's not as much of a page turner (or kindle button clicker) as the first book but it does end well and leaves you looking forward to book three.  I look forward to seeing what happens to Detective Palace in the series' final installment.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First, Break All The Rules: What The Worlds Greatest Managers Do Differently

Yes, this is another one of those 'how to be an effective manager' books.  No, this one is not the same as the rest.  I often find management books to come from the perspective of 'me, the author'.  They preach and like to talk about what's worked for them, and why they are great managers. 

This book is different from the rest.  This book spends the first chapters explaining the RESEARCH behind the opinion.  Not once does the author says 'in my experience' or 'this worked for me, I'm great'.  What the author does do is refer to the research that was done in many different organizations, sizes, industries, countries, etc.  The author used an independent research firm to ask thousands of questions, and conduct hundreds of interviews.  Then they analyzed the data.  They found 12 questions that were accurate indicators of effective managers.  Effective managers have the most engaged employees, lowest turnover, and highest output.  This is not only a good read for current and aspiring mangers, but anyone who works on corporate culture and HR, or anyone who is curios about how some organizations thrive and others don't.


Saturday, July 27, 2013


Wonder by R. J. Palacio is the story of August Pullman's fifth grade year.  August is different from the other students for a couple of reasons:  he's never been to a real school before and he has a genetic mutation that caused him to be born with a facial deformity. 

This is a wonderful children's book.  I'd actually recommend it for kids and adults alike.  Auggie is a character you really care about and can relate to; since everyone has felt like they didn't belong at some point or another.

The book is written from the perspective of many characters (Auggie, some of his friends, his sister, etc.), so you see how Auggie's struggles affect the lives of everyone he knows.  It is a wonderful story about kindness, cruelty, acceptance, friendship and love.  With the amount of bullying that goes on with kids today, I highly recommend kids and their parents read this book.

Friday, July 19, 2013

With or Without You

With or Without You:  A Memoir by Domenica Ruta is the story of how a young girl (raised by a very troubled women), realizes as an adult that the only way to save herself is to leave behind the one she can't seem to quit.

Oh, how I am drawn to a memoir about troubled families.  I don't know why I find them so engrossing but I do.  In this case, Ruta mostly talks about her dysfunctional relationship with her drug addicted, narcissistic and manipulative mother.

It was well written, authentic and brought up the proper emotions that the stories she was telling elicited.  Like many memoirs, it goes back and forth in time and tells stories that are painful to read.  I think what I enjoyed most about Ruta's style is how her personality really comes through.  A lot of times when I'm reading memoirs, it feels like the author is telling you about what happened but not about how it sits with them today.  I felt like the brokenness of Ruta was tangible to the last page and beyond.  Definitely a good read if you are into memoirs.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The BFG by Roald Dahl is the story of a young girl named Sophie who is taken to the land of giants by the BFG.  There Sophie and the BFG decide to take a stand against the other giants (who are human bean eaters!) with the help of a powerful ally.

One of my SIL's recommended this read.  It's a children's book and would be a great read aloud for kids 7+.  It was a pretty quick read and I think kids would like the way the giant talks. 

It has themes of friendship, education and morality.  Since it deals with giants coming after kids while they are sleeping, I wouldn't recommend reading it to little ones before bed.  It would make a great classroom or independent read for elementary kids though.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone is half non-fiction and half cookbook.  The book is informational about vegan/vegan macrobiotic diet and is broken up into three parts.  The first part is information about "Kind vs Nasty" foods.  The second section is about different levels of the "Kind Diet" which Silverstone labels as "Flirting, Vegan and Superhero".  The third part of the book is recipes.
Being a semi-vegetarian/pollo-pescetarian (the only meat I consume is poultry and occasional seafood), I have always been interested in veganism.  It seems so very hard to me (since I LOVE my eggs and cheese) so I thought this book would be an opportunity to learn more about it. 
I really enjoyed part one of this book.  A lot of vegetarians are vegetarians because of the cruel treatment of animals in our country's factory farming system.  This of course is reason enough to become a vegetarian, but Silverstone also discusses the impact that the meat/dairy industries have on our environment.  She has some really great arguments about how cutting out meat and dairy will not only be kind to animals, but kind to our environment and our own bodies.
I also enjoyed part two of this book, since it broke things down into different levels of veganism.  The Flirt kind of dabbles with things, the Vegan abstains from all meat and dairy and the Superhero is hardcore.  While I don't plan on being a Superhero anytime soon, I found some information and products in the Vegan section that I might try at some point. 
Part three focused on the recipes and I'll admit I did not read all of the recipes word for word.  Each has a little intro and a list of ingredients and then goes into the details of how to make the recipes.  I found some of the ingredients would be something I wouldn't use/would be very hard to find in my area.  Some of the vegan recipes looked pretty good though!
I enjoyed Silverstone's writing style, very light and easy.  It felt like you were chatting with a girlfriend but getting a lot of information at the same time.  The Superhero "diet" isn't something I'm interested in and a lot of the vegan things she mentioned included soy products (which I am wary of) but I feel like I learned a lot and could make some changes in my diet to eliminate some of the dairy I eat. 

I'd recommend giving this book a read if you are interested in healthy living, veganism or just learning more about how consuming meat and dairy is harsh on animals and our environment.  I also highly recommend watching the moving Food, Inc. if you haven't yet.  Very eye opening to our nation's food industry.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Potty Mouth at the Table

The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro is a collection of humorous essays about the many everyday things Notaro finds infuriating, hilarious, mortifying and mind boggling.

I have been a big fan of Laurie Notaro for many years now and love the majority of her books.  All of her collections of essays are funny and relatable, which is why I like her so much.  She has a very sarcastic, dry and wonderful sense of humor.  She thinks things we all think and says things some of us only wish we could say. 

The Potty Mouth at the Table is another hit for Notaro in my book.  I'll keep pre-ordering her books and devouring them as long as she keeps writing things to make me laugh, gag, get misty-eyed and nod in agreement.  Highly recommend this book and all of the other essay collections she has written.  (Note:  Notaro has also written two fiction novels.  They are okay, but I prefer her essays).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey is the story of a man who went on a quest for the truth about his father's death.  Michael Hainey's father died when he was just six years old and after years of no one talking about it and things not adding up, he decided to seek the truth for himself.  He does this by digging up old files, interviewing people who knew his dad, ect.  In the end, he learns more about his father and himself.

The plot summery of this book immediately caught my attention.  My mother passed away when I was young as well and I've always had a lot of unanswered questions about it.  I was intrigued to see what this man would be able to discover and what he would do with those discoveries.

The book itself was a little wordy for my taste (lots of descriptions of places, people and time periods) but overall was well written.  The author takes the reader back and forth in time, and in doing so paints a very clear picture of what life was like when he was growing up. 

I was a bit disappointed in the story after he finds out what really happened to his father.  I wish it revealed more about how he and his immediate family felt after the discovery was made, but perhaps he didn't want to go into detail about that and wanted to keep the emphasis on his journey rather than the results.

Overall, it was a pretty good read.  I won't be adding it to my list of favorites, but it was a well written and interesting book.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Buddha Walks into a Bar...: A Guide to Life for a New Generation

The Buddha Walks into a Bar...:  A Guide to Life for a New Generation by Lodro Rinzler is a introduction of sorts to Buddhism for a "new generation".  It discusses meditation techniques, how to cope with today's world, etc.

Wow, this book was not for me.  It took me over a month to finish this 207 page book which makes it pretty clear it was hard for me to finish.  When I read the info for it on I thought it would just be a light read about Buddhism, kind of a into to what it was all about or something. 

Though it was described as not preachy, I felt it was.  The book is definitely more for someone who is interested in becoming Buddhist or is Buddhist, IMO.  I find different religions interesting, but as one who has no intention of meditating or changing my spiritual beliefs (I'm agnostic), I had a really hard time getting into this book. 

If you are into learning about religions or are interested in Buddhism you might enjoy this book, but if you are looking for a light intro or thought this was going to be humorous due to the title, grab something else off the bookshelf.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

I loved Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs!  It is a non-fiction book that follows Jacobs on his quest to become "the healthiest man alive" after he gets tropical pneumonia while on a family vacation.

Over a period of two years, Jacobs does a ton of research and tries to become healthier.  He tries different forms of exercise and diet.  He meets with leading health experts and everyday people who are committed to health.  He does all this with a sense of humor and personal stories that motivate you to make your own health changes as well.

I really enjoyed this book.  Jacobs is an excellent writer, who mixes facts, stats and expert interviews with humor, family anecdotes and stories of his own health triumphs and failures.  He breaks things down by focusing on one body part each chapter (heart, brain, stomach, etc) and giving the reader a monthly "checkup" with some stats on how he's doing. 

I feel like I learned a lot reading this book (he researches some things I'd never thought too much about) but he is so real it isn't at all textbooky.  The book is filled with stats and expert information delivered in a way that is really fun, entertaining and engrossing.  I highly recommend reading this book!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke is a quick, easy and fun murder mystery.  If I recall correctly, this book was recommended by a facebook friend of mine.  It looked like a nice light read, which I was looking forward to after my pretty involved other reads so far this year.

The story is about a woman named Hannah Swensen who lives in a small town in Minnesota.  She owns a cookie shop called The Cookie Jar and since it's a small town, knows anyone and everyone who stops into her shop.  One morning she goes outside her shop to discover a murder right outside her back door.  She teams up with her brother-in-law, who is a local cop, and sets out to catch a killer.

This book is the first in a series of many that have Hannah Swensen as the main character.  I enjoyed this book since it was a quick and easy read.  I used to read murder mysteries ALL the time (Patterson, Higgins Clark) so this was a nice return to that but on a much lighter, less violent side.  An added treat to these books is they come with cookie recipes!  I haven't made any of them, but they sure sounded delish.  I recommend giving this book a read.  It's a fun read with lots of quirky characters and it will keep you guessing until the last few pages.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed

This was a good book, I did enjoy it.  I think that it had a lot of different elements in it which each served a different purpose, but some days  I hated it, some days I loved it.  The first few chapters are just sad.  I know I'm a crier anyway, but I cried.  A lot.  Reading about how Cheryl's life was falling apart was difficult.  She lost her entire family over the course of 47 days and I couldn't help but to think about my life, my family, and my losses.

After her losses, she decides that she needs to take matters in to her own hands.  After losing her family, her life spiraled down hill for another few years, and she couldn't handle it any more.  She walked past a book at a hardware store about hiking the PCT.  And just like that, she made the decision.  She was going to hike the PCT.  She'd been camping, how much harder could this be?  Hiking over 1000 miles from mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington?  No big deal.  She spent the next several months selling belongings, buying backpacking gear, and saving every penny she had in order to prepare for this trip.  She did not train, she did not turn on her camp stove, she did not fully pack her backpack until she was on the trail.  Until it was too late to make any adjustments, or learn that camp stoves don't take regular gasoline.  She struggled over the first few weeks, but eventually caught on.  She made friends along the trail and learned that she was not alone in this world.  She learned how to use some of her gear, and learned what she could live without.

By the end of her hike, she had found her safe place.  She knew that she was strong enough to handle everything that the world threw at her.  She learned to not be afraid.  Overall; a good book.  It reads quickly and her dialogue is clear and easy to follow.  It's a good easy read and left me feeling a bit more inspired to get out of my comfort zone... and plan my next backpacking trip! Life is an adventure, lets make the most of it!

~ Kelly Lynn

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

My latest read was Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow.  This book was on my sister-in-law's to read list.  I read the description and thought, I have never read a political non-fiction book before, might as well give this a try.  I was so pleasantly surprised to find this book to be REALLY interesting.

The book is about how the United States military has really drifted away from it's original ideals and how we seem to now be moving from one war to the next.

Apparently, going to war used to be hard.  It was also a big deal that affected many of our country's citizens directly.  Since Reagan's time in office, things have moved far away from that.  Now it's much easier for us to go to war and less people feel it directly.  I found the part of this book about Reagan's time in office to be fascinating!  I had no idea this guy screwed us up so badly, lol.  There are tons of facts, figures and information but it is presented by Maddow in a very engaging manner.  I don't consider myself to be affiliated to a political party, but I feel like this book would appeal to anyone, no matter what their politics.

I highly recommend reading this book, you will learn a lot!  If you are like me and have never picked up a political non-fiction book before, this is a good one to start with. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is about a young, gifted boy in the future who is thought to be the one to save mankind.  In the past, the human race defeated an enemy known as the Buggers, however their threat has returned and Ender is seemingly the only one who can save them.

This book was on my to read list from last year and I didn't get to it.  It's a science fiction/fantasy novel and though it was written in the 90's is still currently very highly rated.  I'm sure if you enjoy science fiction you might really like this book, I however was not a big fan. 

This book is short (226 pgs) and very easy to read, however I had a hard time finishing it!  I found it to be slow moving and very descriptive but not in an easy to visualize way.  The story is about "gifted" children, who in this case are supposed to be super smart.  I get that, but the way they talk to each other and such is hard to relate to when Ender starts out at as a six year old who talks and thinks like someone much older.

Overall, if you are into science fiction you might want to give this book a go, otherwise I'd skip it.  Not a must read in my opinion.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Glass Castle

Happy 2013 all!  I once again have set a goal to read 24 books (or more) this year and started it off with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

The Glass Castle is a memoir about Jeannette Walls childhood.  She grows up with her non-conformist parents and three siblings in various locations in the U.S.  It focuses mainly on her younger years (0-17) but also shows us a bit of her young adulthood as well.

I came across this book last year and thought it sounded interesting (we all know I love a good memoir) but when my sister-in-law said it was on her to-read list as well, I went ahead and took the plunge.  It is a wonderful memoir that shows how people can overcome an unpleasant childhood.  From her artistic mother to her drunken father, Walls had plenty that could have held her back but she manages to get out and tell us the story of a past that help make her who she is today.

I highly recommend reading this memoir.  It's an interesting study of characters, priorities and how life choices not only effect you but those around you.