Monday, July 27, 2015

Recent Reads: A Little of This & A Little of That

I seem to be plowing through a lot of books this summer.  Here are my reviews and recommendations for the stories that I have been reading recently.

The Dinner:  I had heard this book described as the Dutch Gone Girl, so I instantly added it to my reading list for this summer.  The story is about two couples that meet for dinner in a posh restaurant in New Amsterdam one evening.  The two men are brothers.  One is an ex-school teacher with a vaguely identified mental illness that makes him prone to violent outbursts.  The other is a politician, and the likely next Prime Minister of the Netherlands.  It is slowly revealed throughout the course of the story that they are really meeting to discuss a situation with their children, who have committed a horrific act.  The parents must decide how to react and deal with the possible consequences and fallout.

I wanted to love this book, but I can only give it three out of five stars.  All of the characters are highly unlikable and the narrator is completely unreliable, which is usually a huge plus for my reading enjoyment.  The story just seemed so implausible to me.  I wanted more to happen, and even to see the characters grow and possibly learn something, but that never happened.  Then it ended predictably, the only way a story like this could.  I was hoping for so much more.  Maybe something is lost in the English translation?  

Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of our Everyday Lives:  If you read my blog regularly, it is no secret that I am a huge Gretchen Rubin fan.  I pre-ordered this book on Audible,com, so I could listen to it the day it came out.  As with all of her other books, I learned a lot about myself and why I do the things that I do. First I took her quiz on the four tendencies, to better understand how I deal with expectations.  Once I was able to identify which tendency was my strongest (I am an obliger), I also started to identify the nature of those around me, and figure out how to better interact with them.  

I find the science of how people form habits to be fascinating, and I feel like I gained a lot from reading this book.  If you are already a fan of hers, you will dive right into this book as well.  If you are new to her writing, I also highly recommend The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home.  It probably goes without saying that I would rate this book a t strong five out of five stars.  

Dirty Rocker Boys:  I was a child of the 80's and a teen of the 90's.  I grew up watching Star Search and hair band videos.  I thought Bobbie Brown (the girl in the Cherry Pie video) was one of the most beautiful women ever, and her life seemed to be the stuff movies are made out of. So, as soon as I realized she had written her autobiography, I was in.  Turns out her life wasn't all sunshine and roses, and the details of how things really happened for her were real page turners.

This book was sex, drugs, and rock n' roll.  I would give it five stars, because of her honesty. Yeah, it was full of all of the juicy details of who was sleeping with who and what it was like being in relationships with some big-time rock stars.  It was also about her trying to figure out who she really was while raising a daughter in the LA scene.  Bobbie faced addictions and a doomed marriage.  Her mother played a big part in giving her child the stability she needed.  In the end, I really ended up rooting for her and hoping she can could get it all under control before it was too late.  

Since You've Been Gone: Emily comes back from a family vacation to find that her best friend Sloane has disappeared.  She receives a letter in the mail from Sloane with a list of tasks to accomplish before the end of the summer, with instructions to find her after she finishes the list.  Sloane was always the more outgoing daredevil and Emily was more of a wallflower.  This isn't the first time that Sloane has given Emily a list of tasks to accomplish that are slightly out of her comfort zone, but she has never seriously tried to complete them all, until now.  This summer is different.  Emily makes some new friends and with the help of the list has a pretty epic summer, totally bursting out of her shell and coming into her own.  She just hopes that finishing the list will somehow lead her to solve the mystery of where her best friend has gone. 

I loved this book, and would give it four out of five stars.  It is geared toward young adults, but I a big fan of the genre.  If you enjoy the kind of "where'd she go" mystery a la Paper Towns, then this is a great book for you.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Conservatory of Flowers (The Post That Almost Didn't Happen)

Have you ever gotten an email from a friend that you meant to reply to right away, but you didn't? Every time you thought about replying, you wanted to send some great response, sharing some funny story about something crazy that just happened to you at Target.  You felt the need to have something meaningful to say, so you kept putting it off until you did.  Pretty soon it was three months later, and you felt like you had to come up with a reason why you hadn't yet responded, because why couldn't you just have sent an email right back in the first place?  You finally realized that it didn't have to be insightful and witty, it just had to be a response.   Well this post is my delayed email, only instead of three months later, it is three years.  

I had always been curious about the Conservatory of Flowers, a giant greenhouse on the east end of Golden Gate Park.  The building itself is beautiful, as are the grounds around it.  One day I noticed a giant dinosaur head poking out of the roof, and I figured it was time to explore the place.  

The inside was as beautiful as the outside.  Flowers everywhere. Exotic plants.  Light coming in through the ceiling and walls.  The best part was the special exhibit at the end, filled with prehistoric plants.  There was a loud roaring coming from the room where the exhibit was being held, and the children around me seemed to have a look of fear and wonder in their eyes. This was the room with the dinosaur head poking out of the roof.

At the end of my visit, I had hundreds of pictures.  I kept trying to sort through them so I could post the best of them.  I couldn't decide.  There were so many rooms, and I couldn't keep all of the species straight.  I kept trying to force myself to sit down and  put a post together, but if you have a blog you know that these things can't be forced. 

So here we are, three years and several special exhibits later, and I still have this incredible place inside the city that I want to share with you.  The post is still picture heavy, but I tried to keep only my favorites.  Of course, the dinosaurs are at the end.     

Note: If you visit today, the place is largely the same.  It is the special exhibit at the end that changes.      

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sam's Chowder Mobile & The Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park

Sam's Chowder Mobile is a cute little food truck that can be found inside the grounds of Golden Gate Park (across for the Japanese Tea Garden) on weekends.  There is usually a line, but they get their orders out fast.  It is the prefect place to swing by and grab a quick bite when you are on your way to visit some of the other attractions in the park.  I strongly recommend their lobster roll and clam chowder.  They also season their French fries with Old Bay seasoning, which I have since had to buy to flavor my own fries at home.  

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens are also located inside Golden Gate Park.  The area is divided up into specific sections, and you will see different plants in bloom depending on what time of the year you go.  There are 55 acres to explore (and for me to walk off my lobster roll and chowder).  I could probably ramble on and on about how pretty this place is, but I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

I'm Erin

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Hi, I'm Erin. I am living back on the east coast after 15 years out west. Currently readjusting to humidity and mosquitos. I love to take pictures and read fashion magazines.... and to talk about nothing in particular (ok, and my dogs).

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