Stepping Out a Review: Italian Shoes

Happy Tuesday!

Today we have another review. It was a book originally given to my mother as a retirement gift solely due to its name given that my mother loves shoes. However, the book has very little to do with shoes; nevertheless, it is a fascinating read.


Title: Italian Shoes; Author: Henning Menkell; Genre: Fiction

The Gist- A grumpy, old doctor who lives on an icy island as a recluse receives a visitor that send him on an odd journey and a new way of thinking about his life.

What Stuck- Mankell’s writing style is beautiful.

Should you give a flip?- Yeah. It’s a small book, but a weighty read. There is a lot to nibble, so don’t let its size fool you into thinking it will be a quick read.  But it’s definitely a journey worth taking.



Playing Booky: A Re-Cap

Last Friday was the much-anticipated book date, and it was magical!  It was a beautiful day.  We visited three amazing bookstores.  I came home with about ten books and Kelsey obtained nine.  I haven’t done a book haul of this magnitude in years, and it felt divine.  I hope to have the pleasure to repeat it.


We started the day off with brunch at the Bongo Room with fabulous brunchy cocktails. Since the Bongo Room is about 45 minutes from my house I had plenty of pre-reading time on the way.  It won’t be the last time I bring a book to a book haul.


After brunch we went to Myopic Books.  It is a used bookstore and an absolute magical place.  It’s gigantic and smells of that delicious bookish smell.  The only bad news is that they asked that no photos be taken in the shop.  So, I can’t show you just how expansive and impressive their collection is, but that just means you will have to visit yourself which we would certainly recommend.

Kelsey and I would also recommend that you create a list like we did. It can be overwhelming, so having a list will help you keep your wits about you in this lovely labyrinth.  We also recommend making a slightly longer list than we did. (We had a list of about 10 books each) This is especially helpful if your only stop is Myopic. It is a used bookstore and while their collection is large, they do have their limits.

Kelsey, for instance, struck out on quite a few of her list items.  I was luckier and was able to obtain copies of:

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryI by Gabrielle Zevin

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

However, Kelsey was able to get Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Alienist by Caleb Carr off her list.  She also added Dead Wake by Erik Larson to her acquisitions.


After Myopic we decided we needed a little refreshment, so we grabbed a tea and proceeded to take pictures and ogle over our new found reads. Once we were slightly more hydrated we went off to Quimby’s



We didn’t know what to expect at this second stop given that it is a very niche bookstore.  It has many unique reads and focuses on local authors.  They had some absolutely gorgeous books and a few hilarious ones such as the well-named Cocktails for Ding-Dongs. In retrospect, I should have probably purchased it despite its price tag. I did, however, purchase The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay which was not on my list, but seemed like an intriguing read.  Kelsey also made an off-list purchase of The Circle by Dave Eggers.



After Quimby’s, we found a local pub for a quick bite and brew.  We took more bookish pictures and had some Instagram story fun.  We then hopped an Uber and landed outside Unabridged Books which is an awesome, locally owned bookstore.


Here we were able to procure many of the books on our list and a couple that were not.  After much searching, perusing, and decision-making I left with five wonderful books:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson


Kelsey left with five great books as well:


Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

All the books

At this point, we took our backpacks and hoofed it to my neighborhood to a bar where we ordered a drink and with no shame unpacked all of our book purchases onto the bar.  It was a glorious sight.  Luckily, we were in an arcade bar so nerds be welcome.

We have some serious reading to do in the coming months, but I’m so excited to read our treasures and compare notes. We will update you along the way.

So, what do you think of our picks?  Did we get some hum-dingers? Let us know in the comments below!

Playing Booky Today

Today is the day!! We are beyond excited!  A budget has been set. A loose itinerary has been established. Backpacks for easy carrying are ready to go.

The first stop is the Bongo Room for a delicious boozy brunch to fuel up for the day.  We will also be comparing book lists.  The idea is for us to buy different books and then do a big swap-a-roo.

We will then be off to our first book stop.

Once we have discovered all there is to find at Myopic Bookstore, we will push directly ahead to book stop number two:  Quimby’s.

At this point, we will most likely be thirsty and in need of a little refreshment and thus we shall find the nearest pub for a little nom-nom and a little brew to re-energize us for the afternoon.

We will then take a bit of a bus ride to Unabridged Books (one of my favorite bookstores) in my old neighborhood.  Back when I was a single lady, I spend a lot of time perusing here.  It will be a delight to re-visit.

At this point we will assess our leftover time and budgets.  There are a couple of used bookstores that we might pop into; otherwise, it will be on to finish line cocktails where we re-cap this bookish day!

We will be sharing our journey, book finds, and delightful cocktails as we go, so feel free to be a part of the fun via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

A Telling Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling


Title: The Cuckoo’s CallingAuthor: Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling; Genre: Fiction

The Gist– A struggling private detective is hired by a former schoolmate’s brother to investigate the supposed suicide of his ultra-famous super model sister.

What Stuck- Rowling once again creates realistic, complex characters. I am personally very impressed by authors who seem to be writing about real people as opposed to people they invented. Rowling accomplishes this with ease.

Should you give a flip- Yes.  It’s a good tale with multiple sub-plots that add to the story’s complexity. I admit that it was in many ways a standard crime novel.  The ending wasn’t a jaw-dropper, but it was a solid story and strong debut into the genre.

Happy Reading!

P.S. This Friday is the book date, so don’t forget to tag along! For those who may have missed last Friday’s post about the impending day of epicness check it out here.

It’s a Date- A Book Date!

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I realized my “to-be-read” pile sitting on my bookshelf at home is dangerously low…as in only five books left low! This is terrifying and unacceptable, so next Friday, September 29th my good friend (and superb editor of this blog) Kelsey and I are going on a book date…all day!

We are starting off the day properly with a boozy brunch and will then proceed to several locally owned bookshops here in Chicago. We will be sharing our adventure and finds along the way (here comes the shameless social media plug).

So please follow along as we attempt our very first instagram story! We will also be sharing our adventure via Twitter and Facebook. We -by which I mean mainly me- are new to this social media game, so Friday will be a real learning experience.

Come along for the ride; it’s going to be absolutely wonderful and probably hysterical. Kelsey and I are both stoked about this, and will be breathing a huge sigh of relief once we have secured more reading material.

Speaking of reading material, if you have any book recommendations let us know so we can check them out!



A Classic Tale of the Classics

If you are a sports fan or know a sports fan, you may have heard of the “Sports Illustrated” cover jinx.  This is simply an urban legend that if a team appears on the cover of the magazine they will become jinxed. Fans (and I would assume players/coaches) have been known to become upset when their favorite, and currently winning, team gets selected for this “honor.”

I wonder if writers don’t feel something similar when their books are dubbed or compared to “classics.” Because let’s face it, readers tend to look at them with a certain amount of dread and distain especially when we were assigned to read them in school.  They really can be dull and laborious, and the assignments due upon completion could be such a drag.

In my academic career, I was always less than pleased when I would have to digest, process, and regurgitate the “hidden” meaning of underlying themes and messages that the author may or may not have intended. Granted, I enjoyed writing, but not necessarily about literature. Thus, for many years, the unassigned volumes of so-called “greats” went unread.  Dickens looked daunting.  The Bronte Sisters dreary.  Dostoevsky confusing.  And while everyone had heard of books like Fahrenheit 451, they weren’t in the free reading pile.

However, a couple of years ago, I decided that my classical reading was supremely undernourished. If I was going to tout that I was a reader and think of myself as well read, it was high time I cover a few of the basics I hadn’t been assigned.  So I made a list. I decided I wanted to read at least one book by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Austin, Tolstoy, etc.  I wanted to read A Picture of Dorian Gray, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and yes, Fahrenheit 451.

In my mind these reads would be epic tasks that would require great strides of perseverance and stamina. But I would conquer them and then I would brush my hands off and be done with that silliness. This was to be my reading training so to speak; push my limits, and exercise my mind.

First up:  A Tale of Two Cities by the one and only Mr. Charles Dickens.  I chose it basically because it was the smallest Dickens novel I could find sitting on the shelf at B&N and thus appeared the least painful.  I began and, of course, encountered the famous beginning: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” I grimaced and marched forth.  My attitude towards this project is inspiring, isn’t it?

But I was stunned…

I not only read the first few pages at a reasonable rate, but I understood them. (I don’t know why but for some reason I thought that not only would these reads take me weeks to complete, but I wouldn’t have a clue what the hell they were talking about.) I found the meter of the writing beautiful and strangely inviting. I read descriptions that were amazing in their uniqueness and clarity.  I understood why Dickens was indeed a master.  I finally realized what all the fuss was about.

I finished A Tale of Two Cities in a matter of days, and I found myself wanting to read more Dickens not just the one I had personally assigned myself.  I acknowledged that maybe the classics weren’t all that bad after all.

Over the next year or so, I read all the classics I had put on my original list and shockingly out of all of them there was only one that I didn’t really enjoy.  It was Anna Karenina by Tolstoy that lived up to all my classical expectations.  But I found all the rest not only tolerable but enjoyable.  I admit that Dostoevsky was tough but worth the effort.

I read two more Dickens novels and added more classics to my reading list, but this time I added them not out of self-imposed obligation, but because I genuinely wanted to read them.

They are, at times, more difficult to read. Though while I do have to adjust to the writing style, they have great stories to tell.  And when I’m not worried about writing a paper after reading them, the experience is not as troubling or as grueling. Within the next year, I hope to tackle Sense and Sensibility, The Brother Karamazov, and The Prince.

I understand why classics are assigned in class, but I do feel the process casts a shadow on these stories and causes people to shy away.  However, they aren’t simply stories with which to torture high school and college students.  They are incredible tales of love, triumph, and intrigue.  Maybe we, as a free reading population, should cut them some slack.

Goodreads: A Discovery

I love lists.  I’ve always loved making lists, and growing up keeping a list of books to read was my jam. However, my list mania soon grew to include a list of books I had already read.  At first, I just kept it in a notebook, but then when I was a junior in high-school I got an actual book journal.  I didn’t journal about the books I read, but it was a good place to keep track of all sorts of reading things (i.e. lists of…books to read, book read, books borrowed, books lent.)  It was really a list markers paradise.

As I’ve gotten older this obsessive list making has come in handy.  Once after watching a movie with my roommate I said, “I feel like I’ve read this.”  At the closing credits, it showed that it had been based on a book.  I went and got my book journal and sure enough I have read the book about three years previously.

Recently, I began to wonder why more people didn’t have book journals.  Didn’t they want to keep track of all the things they had read and all the books they hope to read?  Why weren’t there more people who loved books and lists as much as I did? Then I remember this newfangled thing called Goodreads

I give you permission to laugh. I have the soul of an 89-year old, even though physically I’ll turn 30 in December.  I go to bed at 9 PM.  I am completely baffled by Instagram and Twitter, but I’m trying my best.  I have an apron collection.  So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Goodreads showed up on my radar this late in the game.  I had heard of it.  I just didn’t know anything about it until I decided to investigate.  I immediately understood why it wasn’t really necessary to keep a book journal or at least in the list sense that I do.

While I’m staunch in not giving way to too many electronics regarding reading and books, I will concede that Goodreads is pretty groovy.  And I think my account is here to stay.  It still gives me the satisfaction of making lists and checking things off, but Goodreads is a terrific help in finding new reads that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

I realize that this is not revolutionary news to anybody, but me, but I was surprised at how much I liked it.  Maybe all technological advancements aren’t so bad after all- Good Grief!  I do sound like I’m in my 80’s.