Summer 2017 Book Reviews

 

In June I wrote about the 7 books I wanted to read this summer. Now that it is officially fall (!) I thought I’d share what I thought of some of these books. I didn’t read all 7 because finishing my other book (Dark Moneytook me way longer than I anticipated, but I did manage to read 4 books, so that’s what I’ll be sharing today.

*This post contains affiliate links.* 

Truly Madly Guilty 

I had big hopes for this book since it’s written by Liane Moriarty who wrote Big Little Lies. But I have to say that I was quite disappointed by this book. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the big event to happen only to be disappointed by it.

The premise of the book is that a group of friends all gather for a BBQ when something tragic happens. The book is told from each character’s perspectives and it bounces back from the BBQ scene of the crime to present day. The writing is well done and the characters are definitely developed but I did not think the climax was all that great. And I actually was pretty upset and exhaling like crazy when I would finish another chapter and be pissed that nothing happened.

Would I recommend a friend to read this book? Probably not.

Into the Water 

Now this book by Paula Hawkins, who also wrote Gone Girl, was the opposite of Truly Madly Guilty. This book got better the more I read it. Initially, I was nervous about it because it was slow to start, but the suspense keeps growing.

This book is about a town in England that has a reputation of witch hunting and then years later, women continue to go into the water as suicide. A high school girl is found in the water and not shortly after, the girl’s friend’s mother is found the same way. The story is told from different character perspectives, which I love, and you learn the backstories about what made the women go into the water. There’s a lot going on, ranging from a manuscript to a forbidden relationship to a marriage on the verge of divorce because of cheating. It’s a deep book but I thought the twists and turns were really well done.

Survey says, this book is worth reading, but probably not if you’re headed on a beach or lake vacation!

Talking as Fast as I Can 

A memoir from Lauren Graham is all about her life as an actress on Gilmore Girls, Parenthood and the Gilmore Girls reboot. If you’re a fan of her shows, you will like this book. She doesn’t go into super detail or share too many behind the scenes drama instances, but I enjoyed it. It was especially interesting to read about how she became an actress and struggled to land roles in the beginning. The stories of her childhood living on a boat with her dad are extremely fascinating and funny.

As far as memoirs go, I thought Lauren could have gone deeper and shared more of her feelings instead of just, “Oh, I went back to the set. It’s so weird being here.”

Read at your own risk. It’s a fast read but you won’t walk away knowing a bunch of new information, a bunch of on set drama or much of anything else.

Option B

I just finished this book today, literally. I read it in four days. It’s a book about facing adversity and building resilience by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, and Wharton Business School professor, Adam Grant.

Sheryl famously lost her husband suddenly and had to rebuild her life and be strong for her two children, while also being the COO of Facebook. She shares her experience of going through the most horrific event imaginable and Adam Grant shares more psychological and researched practices of overcoming obstacles. The two share their own experiences and experiences from others with facts and research sprinkled throughout.

Everyone will go through something difficult in life, whether it’s losing a spouse, parent or child, getting fired or being abused. We will all go through something. I recently lost my grandmother and this book was a reminder that while life does go on, relationships are forever.

I would recommend everyone to read this book even if you haven’t gone through something awful. It will give you the tools to go through the stages of grief and to get to the other side. Word to the wise, don’t read it in public, like say, on a train. You will ugly cry.

I am now going to read the final three books from my summer list before moving on to more books this winter. I am so happy that I am back in the groove of reading and find that reading before bed helps me sleep and helps me accomplish one more thing a day. Next on the list is Small Hours

Have you read any great books lately? 

Latest Books I've Read and Their Reviews

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5 Must-Do’s in Tokyo, Guest Post from Tea for Dinosaurs

 

Today I have something a little different. I have a guest post from fellow Marquette alum, Victoria, who moved to Tokyo with her husband and son about a year ago. We have connected and bonded over being expats and adjusting to life abroad. Victoria has a blog, Tea for Dinosaurs, and we decided to swap posts about the top 5 things to do in our respective countries. Be sure to follow along her journey if not only to see the cutest pictures of her three-year old son! 

Hi, Room for Gelato readers! First of all, thanks to Jessica for letting me guest post today. I’m Victoria, an expat mom (both my husband and I are fellow Marquette alums) living in Japan and blogging over at Tea for Dinosaurs.

Tea for Dinosaurs, Living Life in Japan as Americans

Japan has so much to offer tourists, it’s definitely a must visit destination! Here are my top 5 recommendations if you find yourself in the world’s largest city. Hint: they aren’t where ALL the tourists are hanging out!

1, Gyoza & Champagne

Kampai! For a unique dining experience head to Akasaka. Tokyo Champagne & Gyoza Bar is a delightfully small establishment featuring gyoza (fried dumplings) and champagne. You’ll love rubbing elbows with the locals and the surrounding area is great to explore afterwards as well. They do have an English menu so you won’t be totally lost when ordering.

2, Real Life Mari Car

Something that just screams “only in Tokyo” is commandeering your very own Mari Cart through actual city streets. This has by far, been my most favorite activity! You are able to choose from a few different courses which makes this a fantastic way to get in some sightseeing as well. Costumes are also involved, bring your own or use one from the shop (included in your tour fee).

One final note is to contact them via Facebook prior to book your tour in advance as time slots can fill fast. Also, you will need an International Driver’s Permit to participate (US citizens, simply visit AAA and pick one up for $10).

Tea for Dinosaurs, Living in Japan as Americans

3, Explore Shimokitazawa 

Dubbed the hipster’s paradise of Tokyo, this neighborhood is a favorite with locals for vintage shops, antique hunting, fun cafes and bars. Plan to spend at least a few hours wandering around – just be sure to arrive after 11 AM as most shops and restaurants open late. Some great places to check out are:

Madoche Cafe – you’ll love the 80’s Americana decor and the food is mostly avocado based

Shimokitazawa Gardena – the flower shop that turns into a bar at night

Ballon D’ Essai – coffee shop serving up some impressive latte art

Tea for Dinosaurs, Living Life in Japan as Americans

4, Shop Daiso 

Daiso is one of the largest 100 yen ($1.00) shops in Tokyo and it is amazing. I had heard great things but was truly amazed by the selection, quality and price of the goods! Around Japan you will find 100 yen shops which are like dollar stores back home. The difference, is that Daiso (a branded 100 yen shop) is not your average Dollar Tree. They literally have everything from food, to crafting supplies, to dress shirts. Some things are more than a dollar but I haven’t seen anything over $5. In general, the quality is very good for the price and the selection will leave you laughing if nothing else. In fact, just writing about the store has me itching to go back to find more treasures!

Tea for Dinosaurs, Living Life in Japan as Americans

5, Asakusa 

OK, this suggestion IS touristy but it makes the list because you get a lot of culture in one stop. A few things to know before you go:

  • it will be crowded
  • the main attraction is Senso Ji Temple – be sure to get your fortune there!
  • bring cash for all the fun shops along the way
  • there is an adorable, old timey amusement park located very near the temple – exit to the left of the main temple (if you’re facing it directly head on from entrance) and then turn right, you’ll eventually find it!

Life in Japan as an American

Bon voyage and hope to see you in Tokyo!

Victoria

www.instagram.com/tea_for_dinosaurs 

www.teafordinosaurs.com

www.kawaiidirect.etsy.com

Thanks, Victoria! Be sure to check out her blog and Instagram for more. If you liked this post, please share it on Facebook and leave a comment below of which must-do you’d do first.

Also, if you liked this post, would you want to see more stories from other expats? Let me know in the comments below!

What to Do in Tokyo that Aren't Touristy

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Surviving German Office Culture, 5 Small Differences

 

I am lucky that when my husband and I packed up everything and moved from Michigan to Germany in February 2016 for his job that I was able to get a job in my chosen field 5 months after moving. You can read that story here. I had visited a German office once before so I had some idea of what to expect, but there are many subtle differences that make a day in the office in Germany far different than in the US.

And I’m not talking just that Germans work fewer hours or that anyone beneath a management level has to clock in and out and track their time. I’m talking about super small things that create an office culture and impact how you handle your work day.

Here are 5 seemingly small differences in a German office compared to the United States.

1, Greetings 

I’m used to a good morning greeting from people as they pass you or in the first meeting of the day, but in a German office, when you walk in, you say, “Guten Morgen” to everyone as you walk by. Not as you pass but as you walk in. You say it to everyone sitting at their desks already working. At first I found it strange, but now I actually really enjoy it. It’s a lovely way to say hello to all of your co-workers in the morning.

The same goes for when you leave in the afternoon. In fact, if you’re carrying your computer bag, people you don’t even know will say goodbye to you. I think I’m most surprised by this since Germans have a reputation of being unfriendly. In this way, they are quite the opposite.

In the same theme as greetings, when it’s your birthday, people give you a hug and if you’ve been on vacation for a few days or a few weeks, you’re welcomed back with a handshake along with your Guten Morgen. The handshake is a very big deal in the German office and is used at the beginning of a meeting if you haven’t seen someone in a while and not just when you’re first introduced to someone.

2, Welcome & Going Away Celebrations 

You know when you start a new job and you go out to lunch with a small group of your co-workers on your first day? Well, during your first week or two in Germany, you are expected to bring in a spread of food and sometimes sparkling wine to welcome/introduce yourself to the team. This is called your einstand, or your first day as it directly translates.

In my office, I’ve had people bring in butter pretzels (a standard and expectation), homemade muffins, cookies, brownies, smoothies, cake, croissants and fruit. And this isn’t just for a few people. It’s for your entire department, which in my case is about twenty people. This is not a small or inexpensive thing.

And the same goes for when you leave your job and is called an ausstand. This is more of a lunch affair so people bring in homemade salads, more champagne, obviously butter pretzels, a meat spread, quiche, cakes, different juices, fruit, cheese and more. For one person’s ausstand, she had it catered and included waffles and sausages. It was quite impressive. Again, not something small or inexpensive.

It is the employee’s way of saying thank you for welcoming them to the team and thank you for being such a great team if it’s the ausstand. It’s a welcome cultural difference. Even the interns do this and there are new interns all the time in my office. In my just over a year of working in Germany, I have attended about 8 einstands and even more ausstands, because interns do one when they start and one when they leave. Typically the one when they leave is bigger and happen in pairs or small groups, especially for interns since they start close together.

3, Morning & Afternoon Coffee

This probably comes as no shock, but Germans love their coffee. My office has two huge coffee machines and there’s a barista in the office cafeteria. The coffee smell is always present.

There is also a culture around coffee. In the morning, you can hear the entire team saying to each other, “Kaffee?” and then they all go to the break room for a coffee. It happens at the same time every single morning.

After lunch, many people will get an espresso or a cappuccino from the barista. And usually this not to-go. It is in a mug with a saucer and enjoyed in the courtyard on a nice day or in the seating area inside.

At 3 PM, many people take a 15 minute coffee break that mirrors the morning coffee process. (Germans get 45 minutes for lunch and then a 15 break in the afternoon). Some people have tea in the afternoon instead and I usually just clean my mug from the morning because if I have caffeine after 3 PM I won’t be able to fall asleep.

4, Lunch Etiquette 

It is customary to eat lunch with your team. Most days. It is not the norm to bring your lunch. Or to run errands. Or to have a doctor’s appointment over lunch and then to come back to the office. Or to go out to lunch. Or to have meetings over lunch and order take out. All things I normally did in the States. Nope.

In Germany, teams walk from the office to the canteen (or cafeteria) and eat together. In my office, there are usually four or five hot lunch options and always a salad bar and some kind of vegetable and starch side.

Another thing is that the first person to finish paying for their lunch finds a place to sit. Then that person stands and waves at the remaining team members to  show where they are sitting. This took me by surprise because I would wait for people at the cash register if I was first and if I wasn’t first, I would still be standing there like an idiot looking around, not realizing everyone was waving at me.

This isn’t specific to the office, but Germans eat really quickly. I’ve since adapted (plus I don’t usually talk that much since everyone is speaking German, I’m getting better, though) but I used to be halfway finished with my meal and everyone would be finished, watching me eat. So, eating quickly is a survival technique.

The most popular lunch meals are schnitzel with fries, what is essentially a hot dog with lentils, a gyro salad, German ravioli (Maultaschen) and any sausage with some kind of potato. The lines are always super long when any of these are the lunch option and then you have to eat quickly because you’ve been standing in line for 15 of your 45 minute lunch break.

5, Small Talk, or Lack Thereof 

This last one probably comes as no surprise but there isn’t as much small talk in a German office or in Germany, in general. There’s usually a comment at the coffee station about your weekend or your upcoming weekend plans but that’s about it. If you’re in a meeting, there’s no talk about how you’re doing or how your kids are. There are people in my office I didn’t even know had kids until someone else told me! It’s just not a priority. There’s no time to waste on that!

There are more things that are different in a German office, but these five things are the ones that I would not have thought of before moving here and make a big impact on how I go through my day. Overall, I do like working in Germany.

Have you ever started a new job and had a totally different office culture? How did you adapt? 

HOW TO SURVIVE A GERMAN OFFICE AS AN AMERICAN. 5 SUBTLE DIFFERENCES

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Movies to Watch When You’re Sick

 

I have been on the couch sick for the past three days. And it is the worst. I have a sore throat, cough and a runny nose. A cold. I am not the best patient when it comes to being achy, but Vinn has been the absolute best. He’s made dinners, brought me tissues and really taken care of me.

Since I’ve been home all day, I’ve definitely spent a lot of time watching movies and tv. I have some go-to’s that I watch when I’m sick…and always seem to fall asleep at the exact same moment each time. Here’s what I’ve been watching this week:

Two Weeks Notice

(Source)

Oh man. Anything with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock is a win in my book. I’d forgotten about this movie for quite some time but it is so good. I love this movie because you don’t have to think at all while watching it. It’s the perfect sick movie.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

(Source)

Is there any movie better than this? Nope. I have probably seen this movie 7,000 times and it gets better each time. I love the soundtrack, too! This is a classic and I love that I can fall in and out of sleep and still know what’s happening.

West Side Story

(Source)

This is my number one sick movie and has been since I was in middle school. Before I had a tv in my room, my mom would bring in our “car tv” (the ones with the VCR in them) and I would watch this movie over and over again. It is surprisingly long but I just love the music and the dancing. It’s a classic.

Fever Pitch

(Source)

This movie is so underrated. It’s so funny and I love Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon together. I also love baseball, so it’s a win/win. Unfortunately, this one isn’t on German Netflix, so I haven’t watched it this time, but I used to watch this one all the time when I was sick and thought it would be worth mentioning. Ironically, Jimmy Fallon talks about sick movies and how his is Hot Shots. 

What are your favorite movies to watch when you’re sick?

What movies to watch when you just can't get off the couch

 

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7 Fall Recipes to Try

 

Germany has decided that there’s no need to transition from summer to fall slowly. We woke up one morning and Mother Nature just decided to be fall. No warning. No transition from the 90 degree weather to 75 degrees for a while. Nope, it went from 90 to 61 overnight. The air has been crisp, the mornings have been chilly and all I want to do is stay home, snuggled under a blanket, reading a book or watching TV, which is what I did all weekend.

I also spent a lot of this weekend on Pinterest (do you follow me?) searching for some new fall dinner recipes. I’ve been in a cooking rut lately and with the change in the seasons, it’s time to up my game. I want all the hearty meals, like macaroni and cheese, meatballs, mashed potatoes and lasagna. Basically, I want anything warm and not good for me.

Luckily, I found some great recipes to make this fall. I thought I’d share a roundup of the top 7 that are on my list. I’d love to know what are some of your favorite fall recipes or go-to websites when you want to make something delicious.

Cheesy Taco Pasta, Dinner Then Dessert 

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In our house, taco Tuesday happens every single week. And sometimes taco Sunday. And taco Friday. We love tacos. The Mexican restaurants in our area are not up to par, so we’ve really started to make more Mexican at home. This recipe from Dinner Then Dessert (don’t you love that blog name?!) looks like an amazing twist on taco night.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls, Cooking Classy 

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The start of September makes me crave everything pumpkin. Except for pumpkin spice lattes, sorry, I don’t get the hype and it hurts the roof of my mouth for some reason. But these pumpkin dinner rolls from Cooking Classy look absolutely divine. They seem like a lot of work but worth it in the end. Maybe for this year’s Friendsgiving?

Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo, Chef Savvy

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How good does this look?! I love fettuccine, especially how creamy it is. This version from Chef Savvy seems to call for the similar ingredients as the fattier version but uses milk and chicken broth instead of cream. I’d love to give this a try and see how it compares.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups, The Kitchn 

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Is there anything more hearty than lasagna? My mom makes the most amazing lasagna every year for Christmas, two in fact. Nothing comes close to a lasagna your Italian mom makes, but I really want to give this version a try. It’s a spinach roll-up version from The Kitchn that looks quite delicious. But shhh, don’t tell Vinn there’s spinach in there!

Broccoli and Cheddar Twiced-Baked Potatoes, Baker by Nature

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Cheddar cheese always makes it on my grocery list, as we must have it always on hand for my Wisconsin-born husband. I think this recipe from Baker by Nature will be right up his alley. Look at that cheesy-goodness. My stomach is growling just looking at this picture!

Oktoberfest Sheet Pan Brats with Roasted Veggies, Grab a Plate

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Brats are a staple in the German diet and my office cafeteria serves a brat three times a week. With Oktoberfest coming, this brat recipe with veggies from Grab a Plate is a great way to have some German food at home.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Stuffed Shells, Tastes Better From Scratch

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Clearly I am on a pasta kick. I never really cook with shells, though. I’m not sure why but for some reason I gravitate towards spaghetti or penne noodles. When I found this chicken and broccoli alfredo stuffed shell recipe from Tastes Better from Scratch, I knew I wanted to buy some shells on my next trip to the grocery store! Hey, at least it has broccoli in it!

Well, that will do it, 7 fall recipes I want to try. I think I will be spending some time at the gym and eating salads for lunch to combat these recipes, but hey, you only live once!

What are your favorite fall recipes? Where do you go for recipe inspiration?

7 Delicious Recipes to Try This Fall

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