Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Top Ten Tuesdays - Books To Pull You Out Of A Slump

This week’s prompt for Top Ten Tuesdays asks us to recommend ten books that will help you get out of a reading slump. At first I figured this one would be a piece of cake. But then I realized that what grabs me in a book isn’t necessarily what will grab you. For example, I raced through Lincoln In The Bardo and while this one was a big hit, I know that some folks really couldn’t get into it. Are you not reading right now because you’re feeling down? Well then I wouldn’t recommend Me Before You, although that’s another book I recommend to everyone but it will give you the ugly cries even if life is going great. Do you usually read fiction? Maybe it’s time to throw in a little non-fiction to shake things up. Or maybe it’s a good time to let someone else read to you for a while and audiobooks are the way to go. You see my problem with recommending books?

So I can only recommend to you what has worked for me, books that made me want to keep reading regardless of the subject matter or writing style. Many of them aren’t even among my favorite books of the year - they didn’t have to be great books, just the right book at the right time.

1. Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller – a memoir of life in post-colonial Africa that is filled with warmth and humor despite an often grim life.

2. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – scary in that eerie way that makes your skin crawl. This one’s coming out as a movie shortly but I’m not sure I can handle it on the big screen.

3. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman – I read this one in one sitting which is rare for me. It was definitely the right book at the right time. It’s got a love story, family drama, and a woman trying to find herself all told in a very comforting way.

4. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron – nobody did funny like Nora and I could relate to so many of the stories. But it is also incredibly sad; I cried as I drove listening to it.

5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – young love, the pain of trying to find your place, angst, family dysfunction, and Rowell’s incredible humor and insight.

6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – I cried I was laughing so hard. Lawson has an incredible talent for making tough times funny. I'll definitely read it again sometime.

7. The Martian by Andy Weir – science fiction made funny. I loved the idea of someone being able to survive on his own wits.

8. The Breakdown by B. A. Paris – here’s one you won’t find on my top ten list. It’s not great writing but good enough that I couldn’t put it down after about the half way point.

9. Any of the Hamish MacBeth books by M. C. Beaton – M. C. Beaton writes what I like to call dark cozy mysteries. In this series, I’m smitten with Hamish and adore the cast of characters in his tiny village of Lochdubh.

10, The Changeling by Victor LaValle – this one is WAY out of my comfort zone and I would highly recommend you look at the publisher’s summary before you pick it up. BUT…I was completely sucked in by the story; evidently what I really needed at the time I read this was something that was entirely different from my usual fare.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bout of Books 23

So my house is pretty clean and I have audiobooks again - that must mean I have time to give Bout of Books. Because I've got two books that need to be returned to the library in four days if I can't renew one of them, I'm going to plan to spend a lot of time running the battery down on my phone.

Today I've already finished Neverhome and knocked out about two hours of Special Topics in Calamity Physics (you may remember this is the book I was listening to on CD when I no longer had a CD player in my car so I'm happy to be able to pick it back up again). Because I'd already started that one, I'm almost half way finished with it already.

In print, I'm hoping to finish Jojo Moyes' latest, Still Me. If there's still time, I'm hoping to get back to Rebecca Traister's All The Single Ladies, which I'm slowing making my way through.

Maybe this time I'll actually succeed at a readathon!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Life: It Goes On - August 19

I spent all of the beautiful day that was yesterday cleaning for company that was coming late yesterday afternoon. I had planned on doing some projects that needed to be done outside this weekend but today, of course, it's raining. Not that there aren't plenty of things that can be done around here - think I'm headed up to work on my office and to finish listening to Neverhome.

Last Week I:

Listened To: 
I hadn't realized when I checked out the audiobook that the loan was only for a week, which I will have no time finishing, but that is going to make longer books tough to get through. Not only that, but two books I put on hold both came in the day after I check out Neverhome. Looks like I'll be listening to a lot of books in the next week!

Watched: Mudbound, based on the book by the same name, which I've been meaning to read for a long time. But, damn, it's so, so hard to watch! I'm not sure I can read the book not that I've seen the movie.

Read: I started Jojo Moyes' Still Me and so far I'm enjoying it but with so much time spent listening to a book, I haven't had a lot of time to actually read one.

Made: Miss H's favorite goulash, caprese pasta, and The Big Guy made baked beans with rhubarb. That doesn't sound any where near as good as it tasted!

Enjoyed: An evening with old friends. She is the one who introduced me to BG; BG and her husband  have been great friends for more than 40 years. We started the evening at a dive place that sits on the banks of the Platte River. Terrible service, stupidly noisy but still we enjoyed the view. Had dinner on a rooftop restaurant in town then wandered down the street to finish off the night at a bar that's filled with old video game machines.

This Week I’m: 

Planning: On getting to the painting projects that I couldn't get to this weekend.

Thinking About: All of the difficult movies I've watched and books I've read lately. It's good to do, to be reminded. But I'm thinking I may need to read some David Sedaris so something equally funny to lighten my load.

Feeling: Like I'd just like to curl up and sleep and read. It's cool out today, just 70 degrees, and we can finally have the doors and windows open (when it's not actually raining!) which is just bliss.

Looking forward to: Book club this week - can't wait to get everyone's thoughts about Homegoing!

Question of the week: I got onto Pinterest today, for the first time in a long time for anything other than to quickly find a recipe. I find that things are a lot different than they used to be, a lot of ads and I wasn't getting much variety in my home page. Do you still use Pinterest? I do have a lot of things pinned that I would like to try and miss Trish's Pin It and Do It. If you still use it, would you be interested in joining me in a kind of challenge to use what you've posted?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

Nine years ago when I started blogging, I made extensive use of my local library. It was the only way I could get enough current books to read enough to post a book a month without spending a fortune. It was before I realized that all of my holds would always come in at the same time and that I would never want to make the trip back to the library to return them until I was done with all of them and had racked up a hefty fine.

So eight and a half years ago, I stopped going to the library and my card lapsed.

In the meantime I found Netgalley, began to have more and more publishers offering me books, and found out I could get audiobooks for a couple of bucks at my local library book sale. Problem solved.

Until a couple of months ago when I bought a new car that doesn't have a CD player. Since then I've been exploring options for audiobook subscription services. I just couldn't make myself pay a set fee each month; that was adding an expense to the budget and that kind of it's-only-$15-a-month thinking adds up fast. So I've been listening to podcasts and trial of SiriusXM. But when I was listening to the podcast S*Town, which reminded me so much of a narrative nonfiction book, I realized I missed audiobooks.

So yesterday I finally took an alternative route home from work on my half day and went to the library to get a new book card. And, also, to pay the outstanding fines I apparently have had hanging out there for for more than 8 years. Damn, I should have gone in one of those times they've had fine-forgiveness!

I limited myself to only one physical book (which I'm pretty excited to get to) and I downloaded Overdrive's Libby app so that I could get audiobooks. I put two books on hold and started a third. I must say, I'm pretty stoked to finally be able to listen to my audio books when I'm NOT in the car now!

Now just to remember to get that book back on time!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Reviews of Adaptations

I must first admit that I have never read Anna Karenina so I can't speak to how well it has been adapted by Tom Stoppard and Joe Wright's in the 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's book. On the other hand, I feel confident you have never seen an adaptation like this before. Much of the action takes place in an empty theater - the floor, the stage, the balconies, the backstage area - that often blends into traditional sets. I found it a bit disconcerting in the beginning; but, as I got used to it, I came to like the idea.

One reviewer compared it to Baz Luhrmann. Visually, I'd agree - it's lush and vivid. The costumes and use of color are amazing. There was something about it that also reminded me of Wes Anderson's films, particularly early on. I was surprised to find so much humor and lightness in the early going and I began to think that Wright might have reimagined Tolstoy's masterpiece as a comedy. Have no fear. Anna will die in the end and Wright will have shown us all of the ways love can play out, just as Tolstoy imagined them. It's not an adaptation for purists and it certainly has it's flaws. But, in the end, I enjoyed it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, on the other hand, is a book I have read and enjoyed very much. It was also a book I felt certain would, at some point, be made into a movie. But it's been a long time since I've read the book so it's hard to me to say how true it was to the book.

Doing that would have been tough - it is an epistolary novel, after all; you can't do an entire movie through letters. But those letters were part of what I enjoyed about the book and I missed that in the movie. I recall the book having a much greater sense of tension than does the movie.  In looking back on the occupation of the island by the Germans, somehow director Mike Newell has made it seem more of an inconvenience than a seriously dangerous time.

But...it has the charming appeal of an old-fashioned romance movie with lovely settings, some very good performances, and enough of the book to satisfy those who loved it. It was sweet and predictable, which was just what I'd imagine almost everyone who watches it will want form it.

That tension lacking in Guernsey? Sharp Objects has it in spades. I watched the second episode by myself as it began to get dark and almost had to shut it off. The book is exceedingly dark. The HBO adaptation may well beat it, even with much of the action set in the bright light of day. The murders that are the background of the movie are not the only reasons it's all so hard to watch. Visually, it jumps around quite a lot - it demands you pay attention. Amy Adams is incredible - she's so deep into it that she has declined to do a second season because she can't live in that character another season. Patricia Clarkson is equally impressive. I'm as knocked out by how well the book as been adapted, at least in the first five episodes. I'd say I can't wait for the final three episodes but I must admit that I'm also a little fearful.

If you haven't already read Gillian Flynn's book, on which this series is based, be aware that this series is loaded with triggers, including cutting, rape, alcoholism, murder, psychological abuse, and a lot of talk about incest and pedophilia. This is not a book nor a series for everyone.