When You Can’t Get Enough of SHARK WEEK

Sharks fascinate me (and terrify me too; there’s a reason I have no interest in scuba diving), and as much as I rarely watch TV I have been known to dip into the Discovery programming offered during Shark Week.

But what do I like even more than the shows? Reading about sharks from the comfort of my couch. No risk of shark attack there!

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo

What makes this one especially terrifying is the fact that one of the attacks took place eleven miles inland. That’s right, swimming in a river that far from the ocean itself, thinking you’re safe… (shudder)

In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

Close to 900 sailors survived the torpedo attack that sunk their ship in the South Pacific. By the time they were rescued four days later, only 317 remained.

The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey

So. Many. Great. White. Sharks.

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

When your life story is so amazing that the time you had to choose between staying in a life raft being strafed with bullets or diving into shark-infested waters turns out to be only a minor anecdote.

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks by Juliet Eilperin

Disclaimer: I haven’t read this one. I just can’t look away from the cover image.


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Three on a Theme: Jane Eyre

My in-person book club reads an annual “book flight,” inspired by a post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

This year the theme voted on by our members was Jane Eyre. (I’m excited about this, as I didn’t think it would be the winner, but it was my pick).

The first book in our trio is, not surprisingly, Jane Eyre.

For a reimagining of the Jane Eyre story, we’ll also read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. What sort of reimagining? Well, Jane is a serial killer, so I’m guessing a pretty creative one.

The final book in our flight is the 2016 biography Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, by Claire Harman. I’m hoping we gain a new appreciation for Brontë’s work through looking at her life and times.

I can’t wait to dive into these three, which is good because, at over 1500 pages between the three, I need to get moving on reading them before our October meeting where we’ll be discussing them. 🙂

Find Jane Eyre: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Jane Steele: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

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Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

lost-in-shangri-laLost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

I’ve read so much about World War II but I love that I can still come across new-to-me stories on some aspect of the war. The latest? A rescue mission in New Guinea that had me reading sections out loud to my husband (always a sign of an interesting book). What an incredible story!

The book is filled with photographs, which helps visualize the people and setting. One drawback to reading the book on my Kindle is that the included map was too small to be of much use, so keep that in mind if you’re debating which format.

Zuckoff does a decent job of bringing the individuals to life, but there isn’t as strong an emotional connection with any of them as the very best narrative nonfiction provides. I did appreciate his follow-up interviews in New Guinea, and assume he did the best he could with the historical record available.

There are some definite moments of “can you believe this!” that could lead to a fun discussion, and make me think it would be a good choice as a book club selection.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over Shangri-La, a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals. But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed.

Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside–a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio–dehydrated, sick, and in pain–traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.


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Cooking the Book: Swedish Visiting Cake

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie GreenspanOne of my favorite cookbooks (as I mentioned in one of my earliest posts), but it was after making the cake for my book club’s tea party and having two people request the recipe that I realized it’d be nice to have it shared here as well.

I have made a few changes to the way Greenspan wrote the recipe in her cookbook (I promise I made it her way the first few times). I always omit her optional almond extract, because I hate almond extract, and I up the vanilla extract. I rarely have fresh lemons, so I almost always substitute lemon essential oil for the zest of one lemon, and I changed the order for how ingredients are mixed, to make it even easier on me.

How I Now Make “Swedish Visiting Cake”:

1 cup (200 grams) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 drops lemon essential oil* OR zest from one lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
about 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan.

Combine sugar and lemon essential oil or zest. Mix together. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and vanilla extract and stir well. Stir in butter, and then add flour and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared cake pan and sprinkle top with sliced almonds and extra sugar. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.

swedish-visiting-cake-made-with-essential-oils

My verdict:

Love this cake. It’s easy to make, quick to bake, can be made with pantry ingredients only, and lasts well.

The kids’ verdict:

It’s cake. They’re kids. What’s not to like?

See all the Cooking the Book reviews and recipes I’ve shared..

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

* If you’re baking or cooking with essential oils, please make sure you’re using ones that are safe for consumption. I use and recommend Young Living, because of their standards, and they have a special line of oils just for dietary purposes.

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Recommended Nonfiction Reads

A quick look at four nonfiction books I’ve finished recently. Or, somewhat recently at least, and haven’t written full posts about them, so a quick comment about them is better than ignoring them completely.

GruntGrunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Typical of her style, with a funny narrative and look into military technology. If you’re a fan of her previous books, you’ll like this one. if you don’t enjoy her approach, this one won’t convert you.

Don’t think she’s just writing for laughs though, as I always learn something from her books, and she gives great shareable tidbits of info that I repeat to my husband. Just … not necessarily at the dinner table or in front of the kids. 🙂

What IfWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Get the audio version, as it’s read by Wil Wheaton and he’s a great narrator. I didn’t follow all of the science behind a few of the sections (and didn’t even try to; I’m not that interested in the specifics of the topic) but I still enjoyed the oddness of the questions and the seriousness of his answers.

Sleep SmarterSleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

Packed with great suggestions for how to get better sleep (and why you should care). I’ve made some of the changes, and can tell when I start breaking too many of the “best sleep practices.” Highly recommended.

animal-vegetable-miracle Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

A fascinating look at their year of eating locally, and it promoted a great discussion in my book club. While I don’t think it’s completely realistic to expect to follow her example exactly, it was motivating to consider what changes I can make in our current food habits.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing January’s Book Club Selection

animal-vegetable-miracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a non-history, non-biography/memoir nonfiction selection, and I’d heard good things about this, especially as a choice to start the year. Plus it’d been on my TBR list for ages.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion is just getting underway in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, forKindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up in February?

molokaiMoloka’i by Alan Brennert

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago: Book Review: Faith Girlz! Whatever

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David and Goliath (and a linkup)

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

While I expected to really enjoy Gladwell’s book, I found it to be a bit of a let-down. Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point were more compelling books, and all felt fresher. It may simply be that I’ve gotten so used to Gladwell’s style that this book was doomed to disappoint, but I felt like he was reaching more with some of his examples.

That said, I did really enjoy some of the sections. The chapter on choosing college was very interesting, and I’ve already had a side chat with someone about it. The dyslexia chapter was fascinating, and I found myself completely amazed at some of the individuals highlighted.

Fortunately, Gladwell’s books are easy to read, so I don’t feel like I ended up spending a lot of reading time on something I ultimately didn’t like enough to justify it. I’d recommend that if it sounds interesting, you give it a try but don’t hesitate to skip chapters that don’t appeal to you.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Hobbit on December 5th.


If you’ve written a post about David and Goliath, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to The Deliberate Reader – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Introducing November’s Book Club Selection: David and Goliath

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

Why Was This Title Selected

I typically enjoy Gladwell’s books, and they’re usually easy to read. Since November can kick off a busy season, I was looking for that in our final nonfiction selection for the year.

Anything Else to Know About It?

We’ll be starting the discussion about the book today, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in print, for Kindle or Nook, or on Audible.

What’s Coming Up in December?

The HobbitThe HobbitThe Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien

Why did I select it? I had to have a fantasy choice fo the year, and this is one that I’ve been meaning to read for years. I’m also hoping it should be fairly easy to read during a busy season.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook| Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. There are also several versions available, including one that is a dramatization.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Wrapping Up 31 More Days of Great Nonfiction
Four years ago: Wrapping Up 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

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Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I bought Year of Yes without having any idea who the author was. I think I had it mixed up with some other book, because I was quite surprised to discover when listening to it that Rhimes is really really famous and the creator behind many hit TV shows.

Oh. Well, clearly I am not the person to turn to when you play trivia games about Pop Culture.

I’m actually glad I had no idea who she was. Sound crazy? If I had known her name, I’m sure I’d have passed on the book thinking it was just another celebrity memoir. Celebrity memoirs = not my thing.

And it turns out I really liked this celebrity memoir that isn’t exactly a celebrity memoir like was imagining. Rhimes is funny and warm and a bit inspiring (what should I say yes to that I’ve been avoiding out of fear?)

If you are a fan of her shows, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t love this – there’s little bits about them and the characters, and most of it was lost on me. I’m sure there was more I didn’t even catch because of not knowing them. I still liked the book.

The audio was great as well – she did a nice job of narrating it and I think listening to it increased my overall enjoyment of the book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The megatalented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life – and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the ubertalented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side benefit of saying no for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: Just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed – and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life – and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Little by Little
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 25} A Homemade Life

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Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan SunUnder the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Mayes’ well-known memoir had been on my to-be-read list for years, and I was finally motivated to read it when my in-person book club was considering selecting it for our dinner party book next year. It’s been so much fun the last few years selecting books that lead themselves to nice menu ideas. 🙂

Ultimately, I don’t think we’ll end up reading this one. I expected to enjoy it, but found it somewhat disappointing. Mayes is a beautiful writer, but the story is rambling and felt bloated. I don’t know that I want to encourage my friends to spend their reading time on this, when I feel like it would have been better trimmed down substantially.

While I don’t regret reading it, I think any but the most devoted memoir fans would be frustrated with it. There are moments where she really brings Italy to life, but they become somewhat buried in the minutia of the renovation.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
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.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Traffic
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 18} Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!