Reading Sara Review: When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

when breath becomes air

Rating: Read it!

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 12, 2016)

Reading Sara Review: Honestly, I do not feel like I can adequately rate this book. It’s great. You should read it. But it is too short–Dr. Kalanithi’s life was cut too short to unveil his remarkable insight into facing death head-on. It is a great book. It is a sad book. But it is a book full of truth.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon, truly at the precipice of an incredible career. 35 and married, excited by his work, and receiving offers across the country for positions he coveted, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This book is his chronicle of the journey he faced.

In this book, he proves that he was an incredible writer as well as a fantastic doctor. He explores the transition from his usual doctor-patient relationships to when he becomes the unexpected patient and has the reverse relationship with his doctors.

I will end with where I started: this book is too short. His life was too short. Cancer takes away people that we love every single day. For someone to face certain death with the grace, determination and insight that Dr. Kalanithi does is awe-inspiring.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his writing – but I assure you that there are many more incredible insights throughout this book. This book is one that you will not easily forget – and it is a reminder to live life now, and live it fully. We have no idea what challenges will come to us, but we can only hope that we live an incredible life like many before us, including Dr. Paul. Kalanithi

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

“Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?”

 

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review of The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin

Books & Wine Wednesday!

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin

swans of fifth avenue

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press (January 26, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/10 – a fun book, well-written and a quick, easy read!

 modern romance

Reading Sara Review: Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, and the Swans of Fifth Avenue was no exception. Telling the story of Truman Capote and his headline-making, fashionistas through their friendship and the ultimate fallout was a treat from start to finish. This is not the best book I will read this year, but it is fun to take a step back in time and enjoy the lives of the rich and famous.

This is not a spoiler, because this is historically accurate, but gives useful context to the book: Capote had a group of socialite ladies that he adored and adored him – he called them his swans. During their friendship, Truman published a work in Esquire, called “La Côte Basque 1965,’ betraying his swans secrets and trust. They never forgave him –and it is unclear if he forgave himself. After its publishing, Truman was a New York outcast and his decline into alcoholism and drugs became severe. La Côte Basque 1965 was supposed to be a part of his unfinished book, Answered Prayers.

Truman Capote was a character – while utterly brilliant in his writing, he was a gossip, obsessed with fame (and fortune) and beauty. I believe his friendship with Babe Paley was real and sincere.  Benjamin expertly guides the reader through their friendship, imagining some intimate and beautiful moments – so the reader is left wondering why did he betray Babe (and the other swans)? And did Babe forgive him at the end of her life?

Babe Paley is a marvelous character. She was smart, beautiful, and her mother raised her to be a good wife. Truman offers her an escape from that world for a time – allows her to laugh and show him a different side. She is just fabulous because she is full of flaws. My favorite parts of this book were the stories about Babe. I hurt for her, wanted her to fight to be so much more than she was, and was saddest for her when Truman broke her heart.

Ultimately, this is a story about friendship. The friendships between the women – who have affairs with each other’s husbands, fall in love with the wrong men and don’t confide in each other because they want everything to appear perfect and exquisite. In an age when appearances matter most, how was true friendship measured?  I think that their friendships relied on the secret-keeping, which is why the swans felt so betrayed when Truman exposed them and their lives to the public.

If you are a fan of Truman Capote’s, or just a fan of socialites, this book will be a fun treat. Benjamin creates a beautiful world for the reader to explore – and does not offer up answers to the many questions that you will have when you finish, but allows you to explore them on your own, which is just as fun.

For further reading on Truman Capote and the backlash of La Côte Basque 1965 and the unfinished manuscript mystery, I recommend this fun Vanity Fair article. And, if you don’t have time to read the book, this article gives some great socialite drama scoop.

Wine Recommendation: Many people think that rosé is just for the summertime: I’m here to tell you that it is a wine for all seasons, and you can find a delightful rose to pair with your winter reading. Because this book is about fancy people, I recommend a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. These are going to be a little more interesting, deeper flavor, and you can feel elegant while still finding a bottle for under $20. I like them because of their peppery and currant flavor, but sometimes they can have high acidity because they are not aged in oak. They pair well with everything from a hearty salad to pasta – again, entirely drinkable in the winter! The brands that I recommend are Mira Winery (Napa Valley), Mulderbosch (South Africa) and Chateau Bonnet (Bordeaux).

 

Reading Sara’s Favorite Love Stories

In honor of St. Valentine and this day of love that we celebrate every year on February 14, I have a love-themed post today. For those of us book lovers, we know that chocolate and roses are great (seriously, who would turn those down?), but we also appreciate some alone time to curl up with a book and get lost in the story. So, here are ten of my favorite love story related books, in no particular order. What are your favorites? Share with me!

IMG_0018 (1)

1. What best love story list would be complete without the ultimate love story? Pride and Prejudice, a Jane Austen classic (and not the only Austen book on my list today) is the original romance story with a happy ending (looking at your, Shakespeare). It is the base for almost every chick-flick movie – girl meets boy. Girl hates boy. The girl likes some other guy. Other guy turns out to be bad. The original guy turns out to be great (and super rich, and lives in a castle). Girl and guy realize that they do not hate each other and love each other. The end. Though Pride and Prejudice is so much better than that description that I just gave. Read it. And watch the BBC movie – so much love to celebrate.

2. Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes, is a modern day love story that will make you laugh and cry. When I finished this book, I read it again right away because I did not want to lose the characters from my life. Moyes is a brilliant storyteller. And, the movie comes out in June – so pick up the book first!

3. If you have not read A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams, it’s a perfect beach read that you will fly through – but one that you will still love and remember. It’s 1938 and socialites are vacationing in Rhode Island. Ex-boyfriends, ex-lovers, secrets and gossip all play out in a marvelous love story.

4. I have not read this book in a long time, and it is a remarkable book in many ways, but the star-crossed lovers story is what helped it get on this list. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of the most creative books, full of magic, mystery, and suspense that I have read in the past decade. Celia and Marco are illusionists, a part of a mysterious circus that pops up across the world unannounced. When the competition becomes deadly, they need to fight for their love against all odds…The Time Traveler’s Wife by

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is on almost every best romance list, and I will not disagree. It is a story about a love that conquers time, beats the challenges and is really, really hard – but worth it.

6.      Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is a serious love story – time traveling included. I do not know if I have written about my Outlander love on the blog yet, but either way, it is a great addition to your guilty-pleasure book list. And after you read it, I highly recommend getting together with a friend and watching the Starz show with a bottle (or two) of rose.

7.      Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is so wonderful and full of love. I remember reading it and it being such an unexpected surprise. Not only are most wonderful romances set in England, but this one is about second chances and love after loss of life. Just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it!

8.      The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, is a light-hearted and fun love story. There is a short review of it posted here. It is predictable but cute and easy to appreciate. Especially for fans of the Big Bang Theory – you will enjoy this quirky love story.

9.      Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale, is a trilogy, definitely meant for young adults – and I am not ashamed to say that I found it so sweet. The story is about Miri, who lives in a small town in great kingdom where the prince will choose his bride from – which means that all girls of a certain age must attend an Academy to learn how to be ‘proper ladies.’ I won’t spoil it, but I will tell you that it is much more creative than the description will lead you to believe – and not nearly as certain (only parts). It’s a love story between friends, family and first loves – and it’s a quick fun book.

10.  Emma by Jane Austen is my final love-story related book that I recommend. Emma is full of charm, wit and delight. It is impossible for any girl not to fall in love with this story. It is absolutely my favorite Austen title, which is a difficult decision for an Austen-fan like me! After you read it, curl up with a loved one and re-watch Clueless!

 

Reading Sara Review: Almost Famous Women: Stories, by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Almost Famous Women: Stories, by Megan Mayhew Bergman

almost famous women

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (July 14, 2015)

Rating: 7/10 – entertaining and fun book!

modern romance

This book was so much fun. I do not read a lot of short stories in general because I usually like to read things that I can sink my teeth into and dive deeper. But Bergman kept my interest with these short stories from the first to the last. I am so glad for the recommendation, and I hope you are too.

 
What I love about books like this is that you can read them in one afternoon or over multiple months. It’s a great book to read alongside something more serious, a nonfiction book or the next Gone Girl-type book. Each chapter contains a short vignette about a person (or persons, in a couple of cases), which have some historical relevance, but not quite enough for them to be household names. You will likely have heard of two or three of them, and if you are like me, you’ll end up googling several others to learn more about them.

 
It is a work of fiction, so the creative scenarios and dialogue are all in Bergman’s mind, but the way that it comes alive on the page, to the reader, make it possible. She adds depth and interest to the women that she explores in each story. I had favorite chapters and wished that she continued some more than others – but I loved the feeling of just getting a small piece of the puzzle, and allowing the reader’s imagination to take it further.

 

I recommended this book on my holiday gift guide post, and if you haven’t read it yet – add it to your list. Now that it is available in paperback, there are fewer excuses.

 

Also, that cover? Amazing! If you don’t trust my review, trust the cover!