Category: Books

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a geishaAfter seeing the film version of Memoirs of a Geisha, prior to reading the novel, I wasn’t convinced of the hype. I admit, I was a naive high schooler when this film came out and it was beyond my level of comprehension. In the years following, I heard from my mom, sister, co-workers, and seemingly everyone that Memoirs was a must read.

I finally caved after having this book on my to read list for over two years and I am so glad I did. Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful account of a geisha coming of age in the era of the Great Depression and follows her through her struggles during World War II, followed by the American occupation. Golden captures the female voice so perfectly that you would never know it was not written by Sayuri herself.

The geisha lifestyle is one that is often misunderstood. Many people assume they are prostitutes which is not entirely the case. Yes, sex can be a part of the job, but geisha are almost mythical creatures who spend years of dedication to become masters of their craft, all while maintaining a pristine reputation, and dressing in elaborate kimonos that are worth more than they are (according to the mother of their okiya). Even pouring tea, a seemingly mundane task to us Westerners, is to be done with such precision and provocation to warrant the attention of a potential danna, or patron, to support their lifestyle.

I would like to revisit the film after finally reading the book because I think it will take on a different meaning for me. If you are looking for an escape from your everyday to a foreign land full of grace, grandeur, and beautiful kimonos, Memoirs of a Geisha is a great read!

x B

Go Set A Watchman

go set a watchman
Like any avid reader, I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of Harper Lee’s latest novel, Go Set A Watchman when it was released earlier this year. This book picks up from To Kill A Mockingbird, once Scout is a grown woman of 26. Still her rowdy self, she is struggling with coming to terms with domestication and settling down. (You know I love books about young women not ready to settle down, it makes me feel less alone).

Scout returns home to find her sleepy hometown turned upside down by the growing rift between races. To Kill A Mockingbird touches on similar themes, but with the heightened tension of the civil rights movement, things have shifted. Not quite ready to let go of her youth, she still uses Atticus as her moral compass. I don’t want to give away too much, but this book, though not as touching as her first, still has a great message. Just like its predecessor it reads quickly so be sure to add this one to your reading list if you haven’t already.

x B

Loving Frank

nancy horanI’ve been sucking at reading lately, but I finally finished Loving Frank, a book that has been on my list for years now. As a design nerd, you learn about Frank Lloyd Wright quickly. I even grew up around the corner from one of his houses (yes, in SC!). Despite my “wealth” of knowledge on the man and his ground breaking designs, I never knew Mamah Borthwick existed.

This book takes you on a journey through an affair that took place over 100 years ago. It is fascinating how progressive these two were and how much they were chastised for their actions. Especially since we live in a world where women are allowed to vote and be independent thinkers. This story is tragic on so many levels and sheds an interesting light on Wright. He is constantly praised for his work, but this book explores the darker side of being such an innovator.

If you are looking for an interesting pieces of historical fiction this is a great summer read!

x B

Yes Please

amy poehler
Our next book club selection was Yes Please by none other than Amy Poehler. I read this book in a matter of days (impressive for my lack of reading time lately), a testament to the quality of this memoir. Amy covers everything from childhood, to career, to parenthood, and all of her hilarious moments in between.

Poehler’s stories made me laugh out loud multiple times and I really appreciated her candidness. She opens up about how difficult it is to write a book — such a breath of fresh air when it seems that everyone and their mom is popping out a book these days! She also talks about her career and how despite how easy it may seem, she has struggled just like the rest of us. Amy, I love you, and your book.

x B

The Glass Castle

jeannette walls
I recently finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (I know, only seven years after everyone else). I loved to hate this book and how ridiculous their parents were, but I constantly had to remind my self that this was not a work of fiction. I needed to not pass as much judgment since this was Walls and her siblings’ reality.

It is sad that so many people face the same challenges as Jeannette, but we hear very few success stories. Reading this made me appreciate my upbringing so much more and realize how very lucky I am/was to have parents who were responsible, reliable, and stable.

x B


wanderlust: a love affair with five continentsFor February our book club selected Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents. I had a love/hate relationship with this book for several reasons, the first being that I am jealous of this lifestyle. It is extremely romantic to be nonmaterialistic, uninhibited, and to travel the world. But as an adult living paycheck to paycheck and using a credit card as a means until the next paycheck comes along, world travel isn’t exactly an option for me. World travelers would respond to this by saying you work odd jobs between trips to save up the money, but what about leases, careers, student loans, and credit card debt? I have been extremely fortunate to go on several trips, but all were only 2-3 weeks long because that’s all I can afford/work allows us to take off. Maybe it will all work out one day, but in the mean time I will keep reading books like this to feed my insatiable hunger for travel.

My second is the amount of lovers Elizabeth encountered on the road. As as single woman I can definitely appreciate picking up men as you travel (it is much easier abroad than it is at home!), but my issue is with the duplicity behind every relationship. It seems as though just before her latest boy was flying across the world to see her, she would seek out another to have sex with. Again, it is not my place to judge, but it doesn’t seem fair that one could have their cake and eat it this much without ever getting caught in the act. I’m obviously jealous since I’ve never had this issue, but I still wouldn’t want my significant other to do that to me. And no, this isn’t an anti-femisist double standard, this is about commitment in general.

Despite my quandaries with the book, it really was a fabulous read, and my issues clearly stem from jealousy. After reading I immediately starting planning my next trip to…Australia! Here’s hoping that one day I can forget about leases, loans, and debt to travel the world, meet it’s men, and live/get paid to tell the tale. 🙂

x B

The Language of Flowers

books to read
I joined a book club for 2015 so I am not creating a reading bucket list this year. That’s not to say I’ve given up my reading goals, but I just can’t predict all of the book selections to compile a list.

January’s book club selection was The Language of Flowers. This was an interesting read about family connections and the true meaning of love. It takes place in an ambiguous time period where characters use flowers as a way of communication. Without giving away too much, despite the fact that the book does go into (what I consider) gory detail about child birth and the following weeks, I found this to be an interesting read. I did not care for many of the characters simply because I could not personally relate to any of them. I did however love the secret language in which flowers can be used as a form of communication.

If you are looking for a quick page turner, this is a great book choice. Our next month’s selection is Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, a read I am looking forward to! More to come next month.

x B

Reading Update: Alias Grace


Since Becky didn’t manage to squeeze in all those great books during 2014, I decided to help her on the challenge. Alias Grace was the second Margaret Atwood book I read and it will not be the last.  I couldn’t put the book down and managed to read it in just a few days, despite it’s hefty size.

The book tells the story of Grace Marks, a real Canadian immigrant accused of murdering two people in the mid-1800s.  This story and Marks’ trial were sensationalized during this period.  Atwood chronicles the story by splitting the narrative between Marks herself and a young doctor who is helping Marks retrieve memories from the day.  Marks spent thirty years in jail for the crime and Atwood deliberately leaves it up to the reader decide whether this was a deserved sentence or not.

If you like Margaret Atwood, I highly recommend this book. It’s been my favorite of her’s thus far.

x K

Reading List Update: November/December

the goldfinch donna tartt

Well, it’s 2015, and I’m sad to say I didn’t reach my goal of reading 14 books in 2014. However, I did read more in the past year than I had in previous years so I guess the challenge worked in a way. I finished Goldfinch over my Christmas holiday which brings my grand total of books read to ten. Not bad, but I digress.

Goldfinch has been one of the most hyped up books of 2013/4. While there were many parts I did enjoy, I found this one difficult to get through. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t really enjoy reading about other people’s habitual drug use (or really abuse). While the basis for this story is riveting and some of the parts of the book are hard to put down, the in-between is a drag. Regardless of it’s irregular pace, I did enjoy Tartt’s interpretation of one of my favorite paintings. I think she captures the essence of the painting in the final pages of the novel.

I know people are on the fence about the novel, but I have to side with the nay-sayers on this one.

x B

Reading List Update: October

books to read in your 20's
Based on this post, you may have picked up on the subtle hint that I don’t have my shit together. Everyday is a battle of overcoming a mountain of anxiety, figuring out future finances, and trying to make friends (unsuccessfully) in a new city. My mom told me about a book that seemed to be right up my alley called, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse. I read this book over a long weekend and it was a lifesaver for me.

It is short, easy to read, and highly relatable. It is so great to hear from someone in our generation who isn’t flaunting their body, possessions, and status on Instagram. Who isn’t afraid to admit they don’t have their shit together. And most importantly someone who has a sense of humor about the entire situation. It’s tough not to compare yourself to everyone around you and feel that you are 10 steps behind. Nugent makes the reader feel less alone in an overwhelming sea of bills, student loans, and real-world work experience. If you’re looking for an inspiring read to get you through your mid-twenties, this is the book for you!

x B