Archive | book reviews

Giveaway of the Book “Paris Letters” AND a Letter from Paris! {closed}

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I loved reading all your enthusiastic comments on yesterday’s post about the memoir “Paris Letters.” So many of you mentioned you’d like to read the book, and so… your wish is my commnd!

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I decided to send the author Janice an email to see if she’d be interested in collaborating on a giveaway. I mentioned I like reviewing books on my blog and linked to this post, just so she could get a little taste of Making Room.

Less than 24 hours later, she emailed me back, and what a lovely email! It put such a smile on my face that I thought I’d share the whole thing with you. She’s a kindred spirit with many of us, I think:

Hello Becca,

First off, I read the link you sent and was so delighted that you had reviewed those books. “That part was true”… picked it up at the library because the cover looked so dreamy. Couldn’t get past the second chapter. Ugh. And I was wondering about “I’m having so much fun here without you” so thanks for clearing that up.

Second, thanks for reading and taking a shining to Paris Letters. I am happy to provide a book. I’ll include the latest letter as well when I send the book. Just give me the winner’s address and I’ll make it happen. Autographed and everything. 

Third, you have a nice looking blog. Clean and pretty acre of cyberspace. 


Isn’t she nice?! I just want to sit down in Paris and share a café crème with her. And did you see that she’s going to send one of you a book and one of her beautiful hand painted letters from Paris? Autographed and addressed to you? What a wonderful gift!

Here are all the ways you can enter this giveaway:
  1.  Comment on this post. Tell me why you’d like to read this book, if you’d like!
  2. Follow me on Instagram.
  3. Sign up for my mailing list (see the SUBSCRIBE // CONNECT tab in the left sidebar).
  4. Share this giveaway on social media or with friends.

Giveaway closes next Friday, February 13. Take it away, everyone. Good luck and happy reading!


UPDATE: And the winner, according to, is #26, Suzanne K. The winner has been emailed. Thanks for all your entries, everyone, and for such a generous giveaway, Janice!

61 :: in book reviews, giveaway, good reads, Paris

25 Ways to Save Up or Not Spend $100 a Day


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I just finished this delightful book that a blog reader recommended to me on Goodreads: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. Have you heard of it? It came out just last year, thus adding to the growing collection of Paris-themed memoirs out there for us Stateside-bound dreamers!

In the book, Janice describes her draining work as a copywriter in L.A. and her growing desperation to escape. Through regular journal writing, she finally decided to save up $100 a day for a year and then quit her job, travel the world, and figure out a new way to pay her bills and live her life.

You should read it to find out the details, but it all works out incredibly well for Janice. She meets a James Bond look-a-like in Paris, falls head over heels in love, figures out a thriving Etsy shop business selling hand-painted letters (check it out), and the rest — she writes — is history.

I found the whole story fun as well as inspiring, and the most inspiring part was how she made her dreams come true. She figured out how she could afford to quit her job for at least a year, and she calculated that would require saving about $100 a day for one year. At the back of the book, she wrote an exhaustive list of all the things she did to either save up or not spend $100 a day for a year. I loved the thriftiness and practicality of the list. I mean, who of us doesn’t want to quit our day job and have enough cushion to travel the world and paint/write/blog/create? (Or would you just like to end your year with $100 x 365 = $36,500 more dollars than you planned? Which is actually a great idea for all of us!)

Here are a few things Janice did, as recorded in her book:

1. Canceled my television service.

2. Sold my television. Saved money and time.

3. Used up my samples from Sephora.

4. Used up the creams that were just so-so before I repurchased my favorite.

5. Sold everything I didn’t use on a daily basis on Craigslist and eBay.

6. Invited friends out for hikes, coffees, or frozen yogurt rather than wait until they invited me to pricey dinners.

7. Used up my running shoes. I had enough with enough zip to get me through the year.

8. Drank all the tea in my house before buying more. Oh lordy, I had a lot of tea.

9. Ordered a small coffee instead of a latte. It would have been cheaper to make coffee at home, but less social.

10. Said no to dinners at restaurants.

11. Stayed home at night and painted instead.

12. Oatmeal.

13. Did my own nails with all the polish I already bought.

14. Accepted gifts from people. Strange, but the more I released, the more I received gifts, largely in the form of free meals and stationery.

15. Got a cheaper phone plan.

16. Searched my medicine cabinet before I went to the pharmacy. What I needed was usually there.

17. Stopped falling for coupons. You know what’s cheaper? Not buying at all.

18. Took care of unfinished business instead of ignoring it and going shopping instead.

19. Spent all my coins. The bigger your coin jar, the bigger your coin collection.

20. Cashed in all my free coffees from loyalty cards.

21. Listened to all the music I already had in my collection. There was so much I didn’t know I already had.

22. Convinced my family to not get each other big Christmas gifts. Instead we got each other a small stocking stuffer. It was delightful, and no one missed the lack of presents.

23. Used up all the half-filled journals I already had around my house.

24. Popcorn popped on the stove.

25. Welcomed overnight guests into my home. Strange, but they basically fed me half the time out of gratitude for the free place to stay, and I was delighted to see them.

Have you done some of these things already? I try to do some of them, but I need to work on others, like using up all my coins (such a good idea) and taking care of unfinished business before starting something new. Actually, Janice’s section on finishing her “unfinished business” was amazingly inspiring. She finished all the paintings she had started, did her taxes in March instead of on April 14, sent all her half-finished letters, and used her expensive health insurance to get her annual physical, dental exam, and eye exam. Her goal was “finish my unfinished business by the end of the calendar year,” and that got her cracking on projects that might otherwise have sat around her house for years.

I love this idea. I have a thousand items of unfinished business all over my house. Especially after my sister died, I thought about trying to tie up loose ends now so there wouldn’t be a lot of unfinished things if I died suddenly… but time has gone by and there is plenty I could finish. Like organizing our files before tax season, tidying the garage (again! I already did it once after this post!), finding the mysteriously missing car registration sticker, clearing out and selling all the clothes the kids have outgrown, and so on and so forth.

Which is your favorite suggestion on this list? If you haven’t already, are you going to read Paris Letters now? ;)

P.S. Check back tomorrow for a lovely letter and an exciting bit of news from Janice MacLeod herself! I just got an email from her and decided it deserved a post of its own. I’ll share it on Friday morning!

31 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf, thoughts

On Becca’s Bookshelf // December Edition

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Well, my Decembers reads were… meh. I made some hasty choices before leaving for vacation AND I read several dry-ish parenting books. But ya win some, ya lose some, right? Here’s the scoop on what to read and what to avoid!

  • That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay. “When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food.” What… that sounds delightful! And the cover has the Eiffel Tower on it! Letters and Paris and books and cookery? As Amy Poehler would say, “Yes, please!” But unfortunately the book touched only lightly on all these themes while focusing much more heavily on the absurdly wealthy characters, predatory divorcée neighbors, stressful family relationships, and — the greatest disappointment of all — emails (not a single letter!). For those who like love and letters, try 84, Charing Cross Rd or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society instead. — 2 stars
  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book promises “12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.” Despite such a promise, I didn’t find anything revolutionary about the book; it seemed to mostly be scientific explanations for well-known life issues. Example: you should help your child connect his feelings (right brain) with logic (left brain) to effectively work through frustration. Great info, but not  profound. I would recommend NutureShock or Simplicity Parenting for truly revolutionary parenting research. — 3 stars
  • Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. As you all know by now, I love cross-cultural memoirs, especially when they involve France! The author describes her rather fairytale life — meet a cute French PhD student, move to Paris, get married, visit lovely in-laws on the Brittany coast, puh-lease you’re killing me — and then describes the real life side, too, like buying an apartment in Paris, making real friends with Europeans, and watching her father-in-law being treated for cancer in the French medical system. She is an opinionated woman from a small slice of upper class American politics and privilege, though, and her narrative voice is heavy-handed at times. For all this… — 3 stars
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I loved Bossypants and really enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, so the natural next step is to read the next comedienne‘s memoir, right? Well, not quite. Turns out it helps if you actually watch her on TV. I’ve seen Baby Mama and a few YouTube videos of her SNL skits, but otherwise I mostly love Amy by osmosis… because everyone else loves Parks & Rec and because of Tina. I felt like I couldn’t appreciate a lot of the humor and anecdotes because of this, and thus I missed the point of the memoir. Also I thought she complained a lot about writing a memoir when… wasn’t it your decision to write it, Amy? — 2 stars
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I grabbed this one at the library quickly before leaving for Christmas, but maybe I should have thought through the premise more. A husband cheats on his wife, his wife finds out, and then he decides to win his wife back again. The book would have been better if it focused less on the former (too much flashback about his affair) and a lot more on the latter (in which he proved himself a very clumsy and selfish husband, and I’m not sure I would take him back either). It earns a half-hearted third star for the final redemption. — 3 stars
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Ahh, at last, something good! Something pure, golden, and enduring! This book (first published in 1969) is a priceless resource for any book lover who wants to pass on the wisdom and delight of a good story to their children. The first 1/3 is an engaging treatise on reading together as a family and building a foundation of good books; the second 2/3 contains lists of wonderful children’s books for age 0 to adult. Highly recommended! 5 stars
  • Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. Another incredible resource to add to your parenting library. The first half of the book is an apologetic for preschool at home with a Montessori and Christian approach, a combination which is unusual and inspiring. The second half is a manual of practical activities you can do with your child with bowls, buttons, pitchers, marbles, and other everyday objects in your home. — 4 stars


Did you set reading goals for 2015? Here’s an amazing reading goal list from one of my favorite blogs. I read a lot of books in 2014, but I am wondering about slowing down in 2015 in order to write more… hmm…

What did you read in December? Any recommendations for all of us?

15 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

On Becca’s Bookshelf // November Edition


November was a good month! I read a diverse bunch of books this time: one teen fiction, one mystery, one historical novel, and two memoirs — one that takes place in Paris and one that takes place in prison. Without further ado:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I read Landline last month and didn’t love it, so several of you told me to try Fangirl. It’s the story of a college girl who writes wildly successful fan fiction in her spare time, and there’s a sweet love angle in this coming-of-age story. I breezed through the book (easy to do with Rainbow’s novels!), but in the end I was left with a flat taste in my mouth. This typically happens when I don’t end up admiring or wishing I knew any of the characters. Fun to read but not much substance. Eleanor & Park still wins. — 3 stars
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. Harry Potter for grown ups! J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith’s real name) has got a good thing going. Her flawed hero, Detective Cormoran Strike, feels real enough to walk off the page, and Rowling paints layers of detail and intrigue with her trademark skill. I loved the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and this second one did not disappoint — although the premise of the murder was more disturbing than the first. I’m not much of a mystery reader, but and I’ll be reading every installment in the series. — 4 stars
  • The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes. If I’ve talked books with you this year, you know I love Jojo Moyes. Me Before You broke my heart and One Plus One stole it away completely. Therefore I was excited to learn that some of Jojo’s earlier novels were being reprinted in the States. I loved the premise of The Ship of Brides: the journey of the British soldier’s new wives from Australia to their new home and husbands after WWII ended. However, despite the alluring title, it was a dull disappointment. I felt like I was wading through a mud of research and inexperience with the author, and even the most intense parts of the novel felt heavy-handed and underwhelming. Skip it and focus on her later novels. (Although I am trying another of her first novels — Silver Bayin December and will report back!) — 2 stars
  • The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. Simply delicious, but unexpectedly so. It started off slow: David Lebovitz, a famous chef I had never heard of (my bad!), recounted his rise to fame in Alice Waters’ kitchen and eventual decision to move to France. Blah blah blah. But then the memoir took a fascinating turn as David arrived in Paris and began the all-too-familiar journey of making a foreign land his new home. I laughed out loud at his fascinating cultural observations, delighted in his transformation into a true Frenchman, and took note of restaurants and shops to visit on my next trip to Paris. (A girl can dream.) Refreshing and beautifully written, and includes recipes! — 4 stars
  • Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Fascinating premise: a successful New Yorker with a handsome fiancé suddenly finds the Feds on her doorstep, charging her for a 10-year-old drug offense from the days when she was living in Southeast Asia with her drug-dealing lesbian lover. I kid you not. It’s all true, and Piper is real, honest, and just the kind of girl you want to know in prison. She’s adaptable, kind, cautious, and observant. Her experiences in both minimum- and maximum-security women’s prisons provide an unparalleled look inside the U.S. prison system. I hope most Americans read it, if only to start a grassroots movement to improve the terrible state of our rehabilitation system. — 4 stars

Which of these books would you like to read? Or have you read them already and agree or disagree with my reviews? Please share, or tell us what you read in November!

See all my book reviews and recommendations here.

13 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

On Becca’s Bookshelf // October Edition {+ Introducing A New Series!}

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Welcome to a new series on the blog! I’ve been wanting to share little book reviews each month because I feel like I read and read and it all goes in my brain and never helps anyone but myself. I’m hoping this will be a way to share the best books I’ve read so that you can benefit from my discoveries and mistakes. No reason to keep all the good ones to myself… or the bad ones, for that matter!

Plus it’s always fun to find out what other people read and loved. I hope that this will be a place where we can discuss books, share our favorites, and find some new good reads. Please share if you agree, disagree, or have something to add to these book reviews, or if you have something similar to recommend!

But for now, here are the books that took me from the mellow days of late summer to the curled-up-in-a-blanket books of deep autumn:

Seven books, most of them good, a couple of them rather mediocre, that I read in October:

  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve loved two of Rainbow’s (what an awesome name!) other books, especially the sweet and endearing Eleanor & Park. Landline‘s premise is that Georgie and Neal’s marriage has gone sour and they are spending some time apart over Christmas — until Georgie discovers an old telephone on which she can call her Neal… in the past. Their lengthy conversations reignite their spark, but unfortunately they killed the spark for me. Skip the tedium and dive into Eleanor & Park or Attachments instead, which are far sweeter and better written. (Note: All Rainbow’s books include allusions to sex and quite a bit of language, so read at your discretion!) —  2 stars
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Liane is one of my favorite authors; I’ve read both What Alice Forgot and The Husband’s Secret each in about a day. She is so talented at twisting the everyday life of elementary school families into life-or-death moral dilemmas, weaving together stories with larger-than-life characters and believable situations that get wildly out of hand. As usual, her book was easy to read but left me wondering, “What would I do if that happened to me?” for weeks afterwards. — 4 stars
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I avoided reading this book for as long as I could, thinking, “Why would I spend 432 pages of my life on a horribly twisted marriage?” But Elliott read it and could barely put it down, and when the movie came out, he wanted to see it with me. So I finally got my hands on the book, read the first few pages, and barely looked up. Nick and Amy’s marriage is horrible, but Gillian Flynn does not shy away from showing people as they truly are — selfish and twisted — or from revealing what happens when couples manipulate each other for power in a marriage. On top of that, Gillian is a brilliant writer with a spectacular imagination, and her writing and plot twists will leave you breathless till the last page. — 4 stars
  • Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn Gardner. I loved this book enough to write a whole blog post and a book giveaway for it, which you can read here! Marilyn addresses the life of third culture kids: children who spent the majority of their childhoods outside their passport country. I grew up overseas, and her words unlocked whole rooms of memories and emotions for me. If you have an interest in living overseas or doing cross-cultural work, this book is a must-read. — 4 stars
  • Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. Modern Mrs. Darcy (aka Anne, the author of one of my favorite blogs) recommended this short and sweet little volume for book lovers. Published in 1917, it is the story of a farmer’s sister who decides to purchase a horse-drawn bookmobile and escape her life of household drudgery. Love and literature, of course, find her along the way. Morley writes with rollicking enthusiasm that will bring a smile to your face, and the sweet turn-of-the-century style is a refreshing break from modern literature. — 4 stars
  • Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer Scott. I’d been wanting to read this book for about a year, and finally I had to put it on hold at the library to get my hands on a copy. It’s always checked out! Yet unfortunately I found the book poorly written and implausible. The author spent one semester studying abroad in Paris during college, and — 10 years later — she resurrected the things she learned and describes implementing them into her LA lifestyle. Perhaps it was because all her personal anecdotes made her sound very un-Parisian, and because I had heard all her advice before elsewhere, but I found the whole book unbelievable and unoriginal. — 2 stars

What did you read in October? Share your recommendations in the comments!


P.S. The winner of the book giveaway is announced here!

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