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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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

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

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

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Climbing the Mango Trees (and a linkup)

Climbing the Mango TreesThe hardest reviews for me to write are always the ones where I don’t have strong feelings about a book, and Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey is a prime example of that sort of book.

It’s fine. The writing is nice, and there are some good stories, but it’s not as engaging as I wanted it to be. It always felt very surface-level, and even after finishing it I didn’t feel like I had a great sense of who she is. I wanted more from the book – more emotion, more depth, more details.

I’m still glad I read it, both because it is such a different life and background than other memoirs I’ve read, and because I kept running across it on “great food memoir” lists. I side-eye it’s inclusion there a bit, as I don’t think it’s truly a great food memoir like some are. However, not every book can be amazing, and this one was still enjoyable enough.

Recommended for devoted memoir fans – this is unlike to convert anyone to the genre.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of Burial Rites on September 1st.


If you’ve written a post about Climbing the Mango Trees, 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.

The Deliberate Reader

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.

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

Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford

Walking the AmazonWalking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. by Ed Stafford

Memoirs are one of my favorite genres because I find people fascinating, and sometimes the things people do with themselves astonishes me. Such as with Stafford’s book about his 860 days spent walking the Amazon. Eight hundred and sixty days. My youngest child hasn’t even been alive for that long. It boggles the mind.

So yes, I find it fascinating in an “I cannot even imagine doing something like this because there is NO WAY I ever would, barring having no other choice for survival or something like that.” Or to shorten that: UM, NO.

The writing is serviceable – he probably would have been well-served to bring in a ghost writer to help make it more engaging, and he doesn’t bring in the background information or humor Bill Bryson does in his memoir A Walk in the Woods. My husband would still argue Stafford’s book is better because: 860 days, walking the entire way. I would say that makes Stafford’s feat much more impressive, but doesn’t impact my thoughts on the book.

In 2014 I read Stafford’s subsequent book Naked and Marooned, and I wish I hadn’t read them out of order. Naked and Marooned ends up discussing some of the after effects of his walk, and I think I’d appreciate those elements more now after understanding what he did a lot more.

Recommended for fans of the genre, but I don’t think it would convert anyone who didn’t already like adventure/travel/amazing exploit type accounts.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
As seen on Discovery Channel and for readers of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and David Grann, a riveting, adventurous account of one man’s history-making journey along the entire length of the Amazon—and through the most bio-diverse habitat on Earth. Fans of Turn Right at Machu Piccu will revel in Ed Stafford’s extraordinary prose and lush descriptions.

In April 2008, Ed Stafford set off to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon. He started on the Pacific coast of Peru, crossed the Andes Mountain range to find the official source of the river. His journey lead on through parts of Colombia and right across Brazil; all while outwitting dangerous animals, machete wielding indigenous people as well as negotiating injuries, weather and his own fears and doubts. Yet, Stafford was undeterred. On his grueling 860-day, 4,000-plus mile journey, Stafford witnessed the devastation of deforestation firsthand, the pressure on tribes due to loss of habitats as well as nature in its true-raw form. Jaw-dropping from start to finish, Walking the Amazon is the unforgettable and gripping story of an unprecedented adventure.

Book Details

Title: Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time.
Author: Ed Stafford
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

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

The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

HNA6929r+YarnWhisperer_int_correx6_3.inddThe Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes

I’m not a knitter, so a knitting memoir seems like an unlikely choice for me. However, I stumbled across Parkes’ later book, Knitlandia, that sounded really intriguing, and I thought perhaps I should read her earlier book first. So I ended up reading a knitting memoir. And while I would undoubtably have gotten more out of the book if I’d been able to fully appreciate her metaphors, I still enjoyed her stories.

As a memoir, it’s skimpy: my understanding of who she is and her story is patchy, but what was there was quite enjoyable. She’s got a smooth writing style and I liked seeing how she connected various life lessons to knitting .

If you’re a knitter and you like memoirs, I’d really recommend this. If you’re not both, it’s not that I don’t think you should read it, it’s that I think there are lots of other books I’d prioritize higher. Unless I end up really loving Knitlandia and think you need to read this one first, in which case I’ll revise this review to mention that. Someday, when I finally get to Knitlandia. 🙂

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

Publisher’s Description:
In The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections on a Life in Knitting, renowned knitter and author Clara Parkes ponders the roles knitting plays in her life via 22 captivating, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny essays. Recounting tales of childhood and adulthood, family, friends, adventure, privacy, disappointment, love, and celebration, she hits upon the universal truths that drive knitters to create and explores the ways in which knitting can be looked at as a metaphor for so many other things. Put simply, “No matter how perfect any one sweater may be, it’s only human to crave another. And another, and another.”

Book Details

Title: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting
Author: Clara Parkes
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

32 Yolks32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers

My general dislike of celebrity memoirs runs into my love for food memoirs: which wins?

In the case of Eric Ripert’s new book, the food memoir trumps the celebrity angle: I enjoyed this quite a bit. It probably helps that he had a solid coauthor, Veronica Chambers, crafting the account.

I’m really only familiar with Ripert from his appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef, and the book stops long before his first TV appearance, so virtually everything in it was new information to me. (And by virtually everything I mean I knew that he was French.)

The writing is smooth and his story compelling – I finished the book in two days because I kept wanting to know just a little bit more. It feels like you’re listening in as he’s telling stories from his childhood, and even when they’re difficult stories, you can’t help but want more.

His love of food shines through the pages. This book isn’t a food memoir as that term is so often used (as in, a memoir interspersed with recipes; there are no recipes in this book), but it’s a food memoir in that it traces the impact food has had on his life. It made me wish I could try some of the things he described, and it made me so grateful that I’ve never experienced anything of the sort of on-the-job training that elite chefs go through.

My only complaints with the book are that it still felt a little distant – maybe it was because of the coauthor writing his story, but it didn’t feel as personal as a truly great memoir does. In addition, it was very disappointing that the book ended just as he came to America – I am so curious what happened after that! Hopefully that’s just because it’s the setup for a second memoir to come in the future.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In an industry where celebrity chefs are known as much for their salty talk and quick tempers as their food, Eric Ripert stands out. The winner of four James Beard Awards, co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant, and recipient of countless Michelin stars, Ripert embodies elegance and culinary perfection. But before the accolades, before he even knew how to make a proper hollandaise sauce, Eric Ripert was a lonely young boy in the south of France whose life was falling apart.

Ripert’s parents divorced when he was six, separating him from the father he idolized and replacing him with a cold, bullying stepfather who insisted that Ripert be sent away to boarding school. A few years later, Ripert’s father died on a hiking trip. Through these tough times, the one thing that gave Ripert comfort was food. Told that boys had no place in the kitchen, Ripert would instead watch from the doorway as his mother rolled couscous by hand or his grandmother pressed out the buttery dough for the treat he loved above all others, tarte aux pommes. When an eccentric local chef took him under his wing, an eleven-year-old Ripert realized that food was more than just an escape: It was his calling. That passion would carry him through the drudgery of culinary school and into the high-pressure world of Paris’s most elite restaurants, where Ripert discovered that learning to cook was the easy part—surviving the line was the battle.

Taking us from Eric Ripert’s childhood in the south of France and the mountains of Andorra into the demanding kitchens of such legendary Parisian chefs as Joël Robuchon and Dominique Bouchet, until, at the age of twenty-four, Ripert made his way to the United States, 32 Yolks is the tender and richly told story of how one of our greatest living chefs found himself—and his home—in the kitchen.

Book Details

Title: 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
Author: Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Out of Darkness

Out of DarknessOut of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation by Stormie Omartian

Hard to read at times, because the subject matter is so heart-rending. Omartian had a horrific childhood and it’s amazing to read her story and realize what she overcame.

The writing is fine, but more serviceable than spellbinding. If you’re familiar with her books such as The Power of a Praying Wife (and all the other related titles) it’s inspiring to learn how she developed into the woman of prayer she became.

If you’re not a believer, I don’t think the book would be as interesting to you. It also helps if you’re familiar with her writing or musical career. I had no idea of her musical abilities and hadn’t heard of her husband Michael Omartian (that probably says more about my obliviousness than anything else).

She’s got a previous memoir, Stormie, but I never read that and can’t say how this one differs from it.

Recommended for those who have liked her other books, or those who looking for a story of transformation and redemption.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Stormie Omartian tells her compelling story of a childhood marred by physical and emotional abuse that eventually led her into the occult, drugs, and tragic relationships.

Finding herself overwhelmed by fear and on the verge of suicide, she shares the turning point that changed her life and reveals the healing process that brought freedom and wholeness beyond what she ever imagined.

In this poignant drama, there is help and hope for anyone who has been scarred by the past or feels imprisoned by deep emotional needs. It is a glorious story of how God can bring life out of death, life out of darkness.

Book Details

Title: Out of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation
Author: Stormie Omartian
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Born Round by Frank Bruni

Born RoundBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni by Frank Bruni

An inconsistent read – while the writing is always fine, the story itself sags in places. I enjoyed the traditional memoir aspects – the family stories, his time as a journalist on the Presidential campaign trail, working in Rome, and of course as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Unfortunately, one of the key themes of the book is tracing his food issues, and while those may be important to him, they end up being less interesting to me as a reader and contributes to an overall feeling of lifelessness. He’s had some amazing experiences – where are the amazing stories about them?

In many ways though, Bruni’s book mostly suffers by comparisons – there are so many fantastic food memoirs out there, and his, while ok, isn’t as great as other possibilities. While it’s not that *his* story itself has been told before, the themes he addresses at his best have been, and in books that are stronger and more enjoyable to read.

If you’re particularly interested in his story, or in aspects of it, this isn’t meant to dissuade you from reading it, more of a caution that as you prioritize your reading time, I’d probably put other ones as higher options unless you have compelling reasons for boosting Bruni’s book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The New York Times restaurant critic’s heartbreaking and hilarious account of how he learned to love food just enough

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and always hungry. His relationship with eating was difficult and his struggle with it began early. When named the restaurant critic for The New York Times in 2004, he knew he would be performing one of the most watched tasks in the epicurean universe. And with food his friend and enemy both, his jitters focused primarily on whether he’d finally made some sense of that relationship. A captivating story of his unpredictable journalistic odyssey as well as his lifelong love-hate affair with food, Born Round will speak to everyone who’s ever had to rein in an appetite to avoid letting out a waistband.

Book Details

Title: Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni
Author: Frank Bruni
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (with linkup)

The Black Count The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss by Tom Reiss

This month’s book club pick, and I’m really happy that I selected it – it coordinated so well with The Count of Monte Cristo, and added a lot to my appreciation of Dumas’ classic novel.

While I really enjoyed Reiss’ book, it’s not one that I’d recommend to just anyone. Despite being promoted that way, it’s not a true biography, as the available source material for Dumas’ live simply wasn’t there to support that. Instead Reiss has written a history, focusing on one individual and how his experiences were impacted by the world around him.

Dumas lived in a time and place where there were a *lot* of significant historical events to impact his life, so there is a *lot* of history in the book – looking at slavery in what is now Haiti and other French possessions as well as America and the British Empire, the sugar industry, the French Revolution and Republic, Napoleon, his ill-fated Egyptian excursion…

I’m a huge history fan, so I loved (almost) all of it. I got slightly bogged down in some of the military details, such as Dumas’ victory in the Alps and a significant battle in northern Italy. It made such an impression on me I can’t even remember the city, but those issues say more about my lack of interest in military history than Reiss’ writing skill.

If you’re a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I think you’ll enjoy this book, for the details about what aspects of those novels were inspired by the general’s life. If you’re not generally a fan of nonfiction, or of history or biography (or biographical history), I don’t think this is the book that will persuade you otherwise, and I’d recommend you skip it.


If you’ve written a post about The Black Count, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion on The Chosen March 1st. There will be a linkup for posts relating to that book on March 30th.


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.

The Deliberate Reader

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


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New On Your Stack (vol. 1)