Book Reviews

The following book reviews are written summaries of books covered during the Natalie’s Book Corner segment of The Donut Show.

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Bossypants
by Tina Fey Ep. 028
Even the title of this book is funny. If you’ve seen 30 Rock you know you’re in for a good time here. She chronicles her rising career and dues paid. The astounding thing about comedians is that crazy things happen to them. They tell their stories in a funny way, sure, but it’s like they attract crazy people and unbelievable situations, too. She also gives one of the most hilarious accounts of new motherhood that I’ve ever read. Plus, you get the inside scoop on the Sarah Palin extravaganza. The beauty of Bossypants is that as you read you just hear Tina reading it to you. Not as funny as Mindy Kahling’s book, but very close. Enjoy!
3 out of 3 donuts
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Little Princes
Written by Conor Grennan Ep. 026
Little Princes is the amazing true story of a normal guy who goes to war-torn Nepal, probably hoping to find a little ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ action. Well, he gets all that Liz Gilbert got and more! He volunteers at an orphanage only to learn that most of the children there aren’t actual orphans; they’ve been trafficked. At this point you’re hoping there is another hell below the first hell for child traffickers – and I’m pretty sure there is. Meanwhile, Conor sets off to reunite as many families as he can, risking life and limb. The goodness of this man and his suspenseful, legendary expedition will blow your mind. If you’re like me, you’ll cheer him on more than you’ve ever cheered on anyone before, because Conor Grennan is basically a real-life George Bailey. I can’t say it enough, “Read this book!” You’ll be inspired to find a way to make a difference in the world.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Born to Run
Written by Christopher McDougall Ep. 025
Running is a big deal these days. Running is the bee’s knees. Runners know this and non-runners know this. The question is: is running for everyone? Christopher McDougall decides to figure out for himself. He’s not a prodigy runner, but he postulates and proves that humans are natural runners. He studies and trains. He compares fancy shoes with barefoot running, and we get to go on this journey with him. He actually runs a race with the Tarahumara Indians, who are known for running 100 miles no sweat (not literally). It’s fascinating and motivating. You’ll be haunted ever after by the question: Do you stop running because you get old or do you get old because you stop running?
2 out of 3 donuts
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The House of the Spirits
Isabelle Allende Ep. 024
Whip out your sticky notes and grab a pen because you’ll need to take notes to keep this family tree straight. Set in Chile from the 1920s to the 1970s, this saga spans 4 generations and much political strife. Among one of the top five pieces of Latin American Literature and a classic, The House of the Spirits is magical and strange. It’s chock-full of stories within stories. It’s one of those books that you’ll remember as being “great,” but after time the fantastical details fade and you’re left with the wonderful opportunity of enjoying it again, as if for the first time.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy Ep. 023
Thomas Hardy is one of the greats. I mean it! His novels are all romantic and tragic tales set in the rural Victorian English countryside. Jude is our man; he’s golden and he works very hard to be able to achieve his life’s biggest dream. Right away he gets tangled into some real opposition and his journey gets … complicated. I could go on and on about how fascinating this topic is to consider in the context of modern life, but I’ll just let you imagine that I did. Profound, right? If you want to read a book that is deep, but not too deep — and sad, but not too sad, then this is your ticket. I love Thomas Hardy’s tales. To me they are each a lovely, heart-wrenching gem of an escape.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood
by Jim Fay and Charles Fay Ep. 021
I don’t even read parenting books, but I loved ‘Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood.’ I didn’t think that I needed parenting books. I figured that I was an intelligent and caring person and I have wonderful parents myself, so I thought that I would be a good parent naturally. Ha! Maybe I could just ‘wing it’ in other areas of my life, but come on! – I am the mother to 2 young children. Parents are literally MOLDING their children into little, future grown-ups every second of the day, so perhaps we should have a little more respect for our role and study up on it a tiny bit. I learned some great parenting tools and I saw immediate improvements in my kids. Reading this book was exciting. I just wanted to eat it and breathe it. I will read it again and again.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Two From Galilee: The Story of Mary and Joseph
by Marjorie Holmes
Everyone knows story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a beautiful, miraculous story that perhaps we take for granted. Two From Galilee explores what it must have really been like – really. If you think about it for just a minute, the events surrounding Jesus’ birth are fascinating. I love this book because it made Mary and Joseph real people. I feel like I understand now a little bit more about what they went through with their engagement, Mary’s pregnancy and the dangerous political climate, etc. Historical fiction — yes, but Marjorie Holmes researched for many years. Her portrayal of the setting and the main characters of Christ’s birth is right on point, a great remix of the original version — (The Bible). Read it anytime of the year.
3 out of 3 donuts
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It Just Gets Stranger.com
By Eli McCann Ep. 019
My book review for this week isn’t exactly a book, but it could be a book – it should be a book. It’s a blog. This has to be the funniest thing I’ve ever read. It’s written by an attorney named Eli McCann who, in his free time, . . . um . . . basically . . . messes with people. This blog documents his e-mail, yahoo forum and text exchanges with perfect strangers. Seriously, get ready to laugh so hard you cry. Read the “messing with people” tab, watch the videos and give yourself the gift of laughter!
3 out of 3 donuts
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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand Ep. 018
This book is absolutely epic. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so emotional caught up on a story. This true story is an account of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star turned prisoner of war. It’s a doozy, and I say that with all due respect. Buckle up for a brutal and graphic ordeal. Many people find this book inspiring because of the way Louis Zamperini triumphs over his suffering. For me though, the violence was too horrifying for my young-girl heart. I’ll never be the same after reading it. I think he is a remarkable hero-I am in awe of people who overcome this kind of suffering-I’m terrified that these kinds of things go on in our world. Forgive the cliché, but everyone should read this book, if only so that they see the costs of war and develop a realistic understanding of why the US dropped the big one. Movie set to release Christmas 2014.
3 out of 3 donuts
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The Husband’s Secret
By Liane Moriarty
I have to admit, I picked this book because of the cover, a means by which one should not judge books, but … it paid off. The Husband’s Secret takes you through the intersecting drama of 3 Australian families. So, picture a loving wife who happens upon a letter addressed to her from her not-dead husband to be opened after his death. When she asks him about it he begs her not to read it-interesting, right? Then, picture a tragically realistic love triangle, and then picture a heartbroken mother who has lost her teenage daughter in a murder mystery. Then, picture all three of those stories braiding together. It’s muy bueno. And, it has the best epilogue I’ve ever read.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Heaven is Here
Written by Stephanie Nielson Ep. 016
Stephanie Nielson was successful mommy-blogger (I don’t really love that term, but oh well . . .) who suffered a terrifying, fiery plane crash. She was in a comma for several months and awoke to find her body full of pain. You probably saw her on Oprah or 60 Minutes. So, do you want to know why bad things happen to good people? I sure do. I think that after reading Stephanie’s words I’m a little closer to understanding that mystery. She’s grateful, happy, strong and just as zany as ever. Everyone’s challenges are different, but the key to overcoming them is surprisingly similar this book is definitely a must-read.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Joan of Arc
Written by Mark Twain (or as pretentious people call him: Samuel Clemens) Ep. 015
This is one of those books that I wish everyone would read. Joan of Arc is one of the most famous heroines of all time and yet I don’t think many people know how remarkable her story really is. She received a divine calling and struggled to lead the French army through victorious battles during the Hundred Years’ War against England. This biography recounts her entire journey. It’s an intriguing and emotional read. The depiction of her tragic martyrdom is very maddening and yet moving. I’m very glad that Mark Twain took on this project; it is a treasure.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Written by Mindy Kahling Ep. 014
Mindy’s book is a veritable treat! Reading this book is more fun than eating Doritos on the couch and watching a movie with your your 4 best friends. She has the most hilarious things to say about growing up, friends, dating, work and even funerals. She is funny when you don’t even expect anything funny. If you have ever wondered about: 1. the most fundamental differences between men and women, (who would have guessed it all boiled down to how you put on your shoes?) or 2. the codes of friendship (hanging up your own towel, etc.) or 3. ‘the behind the scenes’ of The Office, then this book will not disappoint. Funnier than Tina Fey’s book Bossy Pants. Just sayin’.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Glimpses Beyond Death’s Door
Written by Brent L. Top and Wendy C. Top Ep. 013
There are so many inspiring accounts of near-death experiences out there. This book takes ALL of them, across every culture, nationality, religion and gender and analyzes them. It’s fabulous. I find it fascinating just how each demographic of near death experiencers share common themes and elements that fit into their culture.
2 out of 3 donuts
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Proof of Heaven
Written by Eben Alexander Ep. 013
So call me crazy, I believe in NDEs (near-death experiences.) Whatever, you don’t have to believe in NDEs, but neither did Eben Alexander, until he had one of his own. The cool thing is that he is a neurosurgeon, so he kind of knows a teeny bit about the brain on the verge of life and death. Life is precious and nothing can convey that better than almost losing it. I read every NDE book I can get my hands on because I’m fascinated by heaven and the purpose of life. Whether or not you feel the same way, I think anyone would find this book interesting, because it’s quite scientific.
3 out of 3 donuts
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Empty Mansions
Written by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. Ep. 011
Empty Mansions is unbelievable! It is about Huguette Clark, heiress to a disgustingly extravagant fortune. This book takes you from the beginning of the Clark family saga through to Huguette. It centers on her odd life, the way she spent her fortune and the ‘something’s not quite right-ness’ about her will. I could talk about this book for hours: the worldwide disparity of wealth, ethics regarding the elderly, healthcare, privacy, wastefulness, foolishness, generosity, paranoia . . . and Japanese dolls, of course. Read this so you can have astonishing anecdotes to tell by the water cooler.
3 out of 3 donuts
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The Mapmaker’s Wife
Written by Robert Whitaker Ep. 010
Don’t you just have those days where you want to remember what it feels like to be all smart and snooty like when you were in college? This book is rich with geography and history and astronomy and tribal culture. (I must have missed the course on commas. ) Basically, it’s a history/science adventure drama about an expedition to South America. Anyway, it starts out kind of like a textbook, but a super-interesting textbook. Hang in there, the set up is well worth it. I LOVED this book. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, and did I mention that it made me feel crazy smart?
3 out of 3 donuts
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Barefoot
Written Elin Hilderbrand Ep. 009
2, 4, 6, 8 who do we appreciate? Elin Hilderbrand! All I can say is thank you! Every single Elin Hilderbrand book that I’ve ever read has been such a delight, and Barefoot is no different! Her books are good ol’ love-filled page-turners. This one is about 3 women retreating to Nantucket. I stumbled on to her section in my small-town library and I feel kind of proud of myself, like I discovered a secret happiness. Go ahead, pick up any Hilderbrand book and get cozy because you’re going to have a lovely little weekend.
3 out of 3 donuts
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The Joy of Less
Written by Francine Jay Ep. 007
Get Ready. This book is going to spark a fire and change your life. I’m not kidding. The trickle-down effects of this minimalist guide will transform you better than any self-help book out there. This book takes you room by room through your house and dissects clutter down to each paper clip and movie stub. I loved this book. I’m truly a happier person after reading it. My house is clean and my soul feels better, too. 😉
3 out of 3 donuts
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Breaking Night
Written by Liz Murray Ep. 006
Geez! This book hits close to home. Liz Murray writes of her childhood, growing up in NYC in an awful apartment with two drug addict parents, her struggles as a homeless teen and her impressive hard work to turn her life around. I say it hits close to home because even if nothing of what I just said bears any resemblance to your life, IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU. I think the shocking thing about this book for me was to realize that this kind of neglect still happens all the time in every city on the planet. I recommend this book because it is an important reminder not to pass judgment on others. We really have no idea what kind of things other people have been through. It’s sad and it’s beautifully written, real without being too gritty.
3 out of 3 donuts
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