“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House” by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Lately, it’s been hard to keep up with my reviews or remember what I want to say in them. I was more organized last year because I would jot down my thoughts soon after completing a book in my spiral-bound notebook. But at the beginning of this year, I was so lethargic and sluggish when it came to reading and blogging that I stopped recording my impression of what I read immediately after completing the book.

Most times I’m able to write a decent review despite not having recorded my initial thoughts. I highlight so many passages as I read that once I reread them, I’m able to recall why I highlighted it, how that portion of the book made me feel, and what that particular passage made me think. So a notebook isn’t necessarily needed, but it is helpful in easing the load of thoughts I store in mind as I read more and more books without posting reviews of them.

Such a notebook comes in handy when I read library e-books that disappear after its due date without me having posted a review. That’s what happened with Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir Who Thought This Was a Good Idea, which is about how she became the youngest woman to serve as deputy chief of staff at the White House.

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“A Time Code” by Ruth Ozeki

A Time CodeQuick overview:

A Time Code is the first in a series of books called The Face where a writer pens a short memoir about their face. Ruth Ozeki structures A Time Code using an observation method she found in “The Power of Patience,” an essay by Harvard professor of art history and architecture Jennifer L. Roberts.

In her essay, Roberts says she tries to teach her students immersive attention by sending them to a museum or gallery to spend three full hours observing a piece of art and detailing their observations, questions, and speculations. Likewise, Ozeki details her observations, questions, and speculations about her face while looking at it in a mirror for three full hours.

Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? Ozeki is a Zen Buddhist priest but even she began to get fidgety after a while. She records her thoughts by first stating the time and then jotting down her thoughts. For example:

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Shelf Control #2: “Under the Tuscan Sun”

shelf-controlShelf Control is a weekly meme created by Lisa at Book Shelf Fantasies where bloggers feature books they own and would like read. It’s a way for readers to take stock of what they own and get excited about the books on their shelves and on their devices.

This week’s book was made into one of my favorite movies. I bought it shortly after reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.


My pick for the week:

under-the-tucsan-sun

Title: Under the Tuscan Sun

Author: Frances Mayes

Genre: Nonfiction, travel memoir

Published: 1996

Length: 291 pages

Goodreads overview:

Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.  Under the Tuscan Sun

How I got it: Barnes & Noble

When I got it: July 2013

Why I want to read it: I bought it shortly after reading Eat, Pray, Love for the first time because I wanted something similar to Gilbert’s book, another story in which I could experience new places vicariously though the author. When a co-worker told me the Under the Tuscan Sun movie was based on a book “that’s way better than Eat, Pray, Love,” I went to B&N and bought a copy. But when I got home and read the first page, I wasn’t as entranced as I was with Gilbert’s book so I didn’t continue reading. However I’d like to revisit Under the Tuscan Sun to see if I prefer it to the movie.

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air1I tend to stay away from books about death, dying, sickness, leaving, abandonment. I don’t see it as me having a problem with others leaving or the permanence of a person who is gone, but maybe it is.

I grew up on a small island with my extended family. My parents were always away. They would visit or I would visit them; but no matter how long those visits were, they always seemed short to me. I hated saying goodbye and I still do.

Earlier in the year, Paul Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air was one of the most popular books. The buzz caught my interest and made me want to read it, but when I heard it’s about the author’s battle with cancer and that he later died, I procrastinated on picking up the book. Heavy emotions. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to cry. Life was heavy enough without the fall of my tears adding to it. So I avoided the book.

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“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love

Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that whenever I’m going through something difficult or about to, I read this book. Gilbert’s words give me hope. It makes me feel as if there is an end to the difficult situations I face.

This time around it’s not a difficult situation but difficult thoughts. I believe I’m suffering from a quarter-life crisis, the current trend on the internet these days. I don’t like trends much but this one seems fitting. I, like a number of 20-somethings/millennials, tend to get a bit anxious when comparing our future goals to our present situation. How will I ever get there? Will I spend the rest of my life doing the same things I’m doing now? Will I progress? When will I be successful? I had hoped that by the age of 25 I would be close to reaching my goals or at least half or quarter of the way there. But no, my dreams are slowly taking their time to come through.

The first time I read Eat, Pray, Love I was at a low moment. I was in a failing relationship. I could see it disintegrating and I had no idea of how to save it. It was also the end of my college years, the best years of my life. I could see myself heading towards a turning point and that turning point seemed to be directing me to go backwards. I realized that due to my exorbitant student loan bills, I would have to move back in with my parents—something I told myself I would never do. At that time, it seemed that I was failing at life: losing and regressing. As such, I was one sad student on graduation day. I didn’t want to leave school, didn’t want to face what would surely come, and my relationship was over. Reading Eat, Pray, Love during that tough time was a small ray of hope. It made me realize that bad situations don’t last forever if you are willing to work towards creating a happier life for yourself.

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“The Way In: Journal Writing for Self-Discovery” by Rita D. Jacobs

Cover of "The Way In: Journal Writing for...

Cover via Amazon

If like me you love to read books on writing in order to motivate yourself to write or if like me you like to read books on writing to get ideas of what and how to write or if like me you like to read books on writing just for the hell of it, then this little book is one you should pick up.

I have many journals (mainly because the attractive covers lure me into buying them so I’m almost always starting afresh in a new book) and usually I just write in them whenever I feel like and write about whatever I feel like at the moment. Most times I think I treat them like a diary – writing about all the things I did in a particular day. Other times I think I treat them as they ought to – writing about what I’ve observed on a particular day. My idea of a journal is a book where a person documents her observations of people, places, things, and ideas.

According to Jacobs, a journal is a place where all these things are documented and much more. To prove this to us, she opens with excerpts of journal entries, showing us how writers have used the journal in their daily lives. She also talks about whether or not there is a difference between a journal and a diary. Like any writing book, Jacobs also covers when to write, how often to write, and what to write. Basically, that’s all up to the writer. You decide when, how, or what.

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