Sunday, August 19, 2018
Last Week I:
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!
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
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
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.
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.
Monday, August 13, 2018
Published May 2018 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: bought for my Nook
Who says you can't run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes--it would be too awkward--and you can't say no--it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.
QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?
ANSWER: You accept them all.
What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.
Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.
I've started this review three times. What remains of two of those opening paragraphs can now be found at the end of this review. They included points I wanted to make but they didn't say enough about this book. This book that won the Pulitzer Prize despite being a book that includes humor that made me laugh out loud. How often do serious prizes award books like that? How did that happen? Well, it probably happened because Less is really so much more.
This is a travelogue, the story of a man reaching middle age and feeling that he hasn't accomplished anything, a tale of friendship, the story of one man's life. Less is, above all, a love story. It is filled with pain and sadness, it is self-deprecating and funny, it is filled with yearning for the past without hope for the future.
Poor Arthur. He is a man who feels broken in so many ways! He travels the world with a glass half empty view on life and finds, time and again, that life is full of surprises, some of them amazingly wonderful. As Arthur travels, Greer moves the book back and forth in time, effortlessly, so that we learn just how Arthur became the man whose most prized possession was a medium blue suit, lined in fuchsia - "There is no Arthur Less without the suit."
Greer is a master at painting a picture, using the mundane to make the scene come alive:
"It was the year the cicadas returned: less had not been alive when they buried themselves in the earth. But now they returned: tens of thousands of them, horrifying but harmless, drunk driving through the air so they bumped into heads and ears, encrusting telephone poles and parked cars with the delicate, amber-hued, almost Egyptian discarded shells. Girls worse them as earrings. Boys (Tom Sawyer descendants) trapped the live ones in paper bags and released them at study hour. At night, the creatures hummed in huge choruses, the sound pulsing around the neighborhood And school would not end until June. If ever."
"...the endless series of shops, as if made from one continuous concrete barrier, painted at intervals with different signs advertising chickens and medicine, coffins and telephones, pet fish and cigarettes, hot tea and "homely" food, Communism, mattresses, handicrafts and dumbbells and gold by the ounce; the low, flat temples appearing at regular intervals like the colorful, elaborately frosted, but basically inedible sheet cakes displayed at Less's childhood bakery; the women sitting roadside with baskets of shimmering silver fish, terrifying manta rays, and squid, with their cartoon eyes; the countless men standing at tea shops, variety stores, pharmacies, watching Less as he goes by; the driver dodging bicycles, motorcycles, lorries (but few cars), moving frenetically in and out of traffic, bringing Less back to the time at Disney World when his mother led him and his sister to a whimsical ride based on The Wind In The Willows - a ride that turned out to be a buckle-whitening rattletrap wellspring of trauma."When we talk about reading more diversely, my brain always goes to the idea that I need to read more books by people of color. Which, of course, I do. What I tend to forget, in that conversation, are all of the books about people whose lives are nothing like mine, even though their skin color may be the same - inner city youths, back country "hill billies," and gay people. It's a shortcoming I'm going to work to remedy in the future. Because everyday I'm reminded that it's incumbent upon us to learn more about each other if we have any hope of understanding each other and coming together. And Greer taught me so much in this book.
I knew in 2009, after I read Greer's The Story of A Marriage, that I would read more books by Greer but for some reason I just haven't gotten around to it, even though I have two others on my Nook. It may be hard now to go back to those. Because Less won the freaking Pulitzer Prize for literature. I mean, how can those other books live up to that?! I suppose they may not. But, given my track record with Greer, I imagine they will still be well worth reading.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot this little gem that reminded me so much of watching baseball when my brother was playing and when my sons were:
"Nothing has happened in right field all season, which is why he was put there: a kind of athletic Canada."It's a funny line but one that always reminds me how sad it was to watch those boys (including my younger son) who were stuck out in right field. They are so often the boys who have no interest in the sport, but whose parents so badly want them to be part of the team. Like Arthur's father, we parents often need to do a better job and finding the things that bring our children joy, instead of trying to make them fit into our expectations.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
I've had this weekend all to myself, while The Big Guy is off celebrating his 40th high school reunion. For some people this means reconnecting with people you haven't seen in years. For BG, this means seeing people he hasn't seen since the last class reunion just five years ago, or last weekend when we went out to dinner with them. His class has remained remarkably close and his closest friends remain those boys he befriended when he moved to the town he graduated from at 14 and some of the people who most often do things with. We should all be so lucky!
Last Week I:
Listened To: Mostly the podcast S*Town. It's been very much like listening to the audio version of a narrative fiction book. I have really enjoyed it, but it's certainly not for everyone. My mom, for example, would hate it. I may even review it.
Read: I'm finishing Homegoing for book club this week (such a tough read!) and I'm still working on All The Single Ladies which is a book I think all women should read and share
generously with the men in their lives.
Made: BLT's with a tomato big enough that one slice was enough to cover the entire slice of bread, a new marinade for steaks I grilled last night, cucumber dip with a cucumber from our garden, and tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh picked tomatoes and basil from the garden.
Enjoyed: Dinner with work friends; it was so nice that work didn't come up at all.
This Week I’m:
Planning: On working on some painting and furniture refinishing projects.
Feeling: Not gonna lie, if Miss H and her boyfriend hadn't come for dinner and football last night, I'd be getting lonely about now. But don't tell BG because I told him I'd be happy to have 48 hours to myself!
Looking forward to: Book club on Tuesday. We'll be discussing Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing. Have you read it? It's an eye opener.
Question of the week: If you ran amok in the grocery store like I did on Friday, what would be in your cart?
Friday, August 10, 2018
published 2009 by Random House Publishing
Source: bought the ebook for my Nook
Lanie Coates’s life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.
These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.
Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.
Katherine Center is one of those authors who always delivers exactly what you expect. This is the third book I've read by her and I know by now that I can count on her for a little drama, a little fluff, a mostly happy ending, a fair dose of humor, and some serious stuff that usually includes parenting and relationships. I can also always count on her for some great gems of truth, like the ones I shared with you yesterday.
I can relate to Lanie. Although I often felt like Center made living with three small kids much worse than it really is on a daily basis, I was also once the stay-at-home mom of three young children. There are days when you'd sell your soul for a conversation with an adult. It is easy to stop feeling good about yourself when finding time for a shower means after the kids go to bed and you can forget having time to put on a full face of makeup and ironed clothes before you leave the house. It's a constant balancing act with your partner, especially when you feel like the children are your "job," even if that means that your job is 24 hours long and his isn't. I could relate to moving to a new city and away from my parents, who still live in the house I grew up in to this day, and all of my friends.
I wish the day I was at the playground with my kids and someone asked me if I was pregnant when I wasn't, it would have had the same effect on me that it had on Lanie. I couldn't help but admire her for working to squeeze in the time for herself and for her dreams, for being willing to ask for help to make that happen.
Some things here are just a little too convenient, in order to make the story work. Lanie's parents suddenly sell her childhood home and move to Dubai, thus making it impossible for her mom to just hop a plan and come help. And some of it is predictable - of course Lanie's children were going to make a mess of her new friend's white house.
Because I know what to expect now with Center, it was easy to pick this one up at just the right time to read it. A quick, enjoyable read with a message worth listening to - beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and it is never too late to follow your dreams. Maybe I'll still go back to school and become a teacher!
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Here are a few from Katherine Center’s Everyone Is Beautiful (which I apparently forgot to review when I read it so that review is upcoming):
“I knew exactly how your body could wander off like a toddler at the supermarket, leaving you racing through the aisles and shouting, “Where are you? This isn’t funny!”Fortunately, Center’s character found her body again. Mine was abducted; haven’t seen it in years!
“…I was coming more and more to believe that women’s desire was different from men’s. Women’s desire seemed to come from their feelings – a physical ache in the heart that ravaged the body.”
“Because the truth was, there was a dark underbelly of terror to motherhood. You loved your children with such an overwhelming fierceness that you were absolutely vulnerable at every moment of every day…The threats to your child were infinite. And the thing was, if any of your children’s lives were ruined, even a little bit, yours would be, too.”I believe every mom understands the truth of this.
And this one, just for fun:
“Amanda, who held herself to the most excruciating standards of beauty of any friend I’d ever had, was married to a truffle pig”
Sunday, August 5, 2018
I spent part of Thursday weighing my options regarding audio books. Priced them on iTunes and my Nook but at $24 a book (as opposed to the $2 for the CD versions I'd been buying at my library sale), it seemed like a monthly subscription to one of the services might be a better option. Or the library, where the books can be gotten for free, although I'm not sure I'll every get them them "read" in as short a time as they allow you to have them. Do you use one of the services? If so, which one and what are your thoughts about it? I'm really missing books on audio.
Last Week I:
Listened To: I started listening to the podcast S Town, which is done by the same people who did Serial. I'm only a couple of episodes in but it's definitely grabbed my attention. When I went to grab this image for this post, I found myself going down a rabbit hole of stories related to this podcast. I'm certain I'll find myself looking into some of the related stories again.
Watched: An episode of Sharp Objects on HBO. I wish I'd read Gillian Flynn's book more recently so I could remember the story better. Also, watched a documentary about Hedy LaMarr. Such a beautiful, intelligent woman - such a sad life.
Read: I haven't done much reading in the past few days. I found a new game to play on my phone that I haven't been able to put down. It's a good one for keeping my brain active but I'm already starting to bore of it - which is a good thing!
Made: In the past couple of days? Not a thing, unless you count raisin toast. We've eaten out three of the last five meals. Today we need to eat salad!
Enjoyed: Time with friends and family. Friday night we went out with friends for happy hour and, even though we'd just eaten dinner with them a couple of nights before, we still had to force ourselves to get up and leave three hours after we got there. Yesterday we went to Lincoln and spent several hours with my parents and then several more with The Big Guy's sister and her husband. We hadn't had time, just the four of us, in ages and it was so much fun and we didn't get home until much later than we had planned.
This Week I’m:
Planning: Construction of a shadowbox table. My mom gave me an old family autograph book from 1877 yesterday and I suddenly decided that all of the old things I have like that need to have a home where they are protected but can still be seen. I'd like to build it out of wood pieces I already have for the most part, so my brain has been working overtime trying to figure out what will work best.
Thinking About: Making a quick trip to my aunt's and uncle's this weekend to pick up some furniture they are kindly giving to Mini-me and Ms. S. They have such a lovely home and are such gracious hosts so it's always good to spend time with them. I just need to find someone willing to take a trip with me as BG will be off to his 40th class reunion.
Feeling: Younger again now that my hair isn't grey any more; thanks, Adriana!
Looking forward to: Dinner with work friends past and present this week.
Question of the week: Our cat is still really missing her brother. She's not allowed to sleep with us because of my allergies (I need one cat-free room!) and some nights she sits outside our door crying most of the night. Any one had to deal with pet grief before? If so, how did you handle it?
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Mini-him turned 30 last week and I can't get over how old that makes me feel! His girlfriend and sister put together a surprise party for him. This should have required very little of me, other than cupcakes and gifts. I should have known better. His gf made all of the food but I ended up having to pick it all up to store it overnight, get it all heated back up and ready to serve, get it to the venue and get the food table set up. I was a busy mama for a couple of days. The important thing is that Mini-him was surprised and had a great time! Last night we finally got around to having our family birthday dinner for him - it's not a birthday until he's had Asian chicken salad.
Over the weekend, The Big Guy, Miss H, her boyfriend and I headed south to meet my new great-nephew (who shall hereafter be known as The Little Prince) and to spend much needed time with The Princess. Oh, yeah, and to see the rest of my brother's family. It was much too short a trip but we had so much fun.
Last Week I:
Listened To: Some NPR, Sirius radio, some podcasts, and a lot of music. Miss H and her bf were surprised to find that I knew the lyrics to Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise. Good to know I'm still capable of surprising my kids!
Watched: We've caught two episodes of Maigret, a drama about a French detective starring Rowan Atkinson. It is dark, and atmospheric, and very French. Except that it's filmed in Hungary and stars an cast which largely speaks with a British accent! Atkinson plays it 100% straight, which is so strange since I only know him as a comedic actor. He's really quite good here.
Read: I started Rebecca Traister's All The Single Ladies. As soon as I started it, I had second doubts, not having been a single lady myself for 35 years. No worries; it's a book that speaks to all women. But with all of the highlighting and things I'm learning, it's slow going. I've also picked up Andrew Sean Greer's Less which I'm enjoying.
Made: Red velvet cupcakes, shortbread chocolate chip cookies, summer fare including a lot of salads, and the aforementioned Asian chicken salad.
Enjoyed: Time with my family last weekend, getting our fave Shakespeare's pizza and spending a good chunk of Saturday relaxing at a local winery where we danced (some of us better than others!), ate great food from all of the goodies we brought and a food truck that was there, and talked and laughed until well after dark.
This Week I’m:
Planning: Several weekend trips.
Thinking About: Taking a "me" day off work. And by "me" day, I mean a day that I can have the house to myself to get the jobs done that there just doesn't seem to be time for otherwise.
Looking forward to: Getting my hair colored this afternoon. I pushed it extra long between appointments and now there's an old lady looking back at me in the mirror. I'm not a fan of her!
Question of the week: Summer's winding down. What are you still hoping to do before the kids head back to school, the temps start to drop and the days get shorter?
When shy young heir Patrick is orphaned at the tender age of ten, the only family he has is his wealthy and eccentric aunt, a fabulous New York socialite named Mame. While prone to dramatic costumes, flights of fancy and expensive whims - not least her lives as a muse and a Southern belle - Auntie Mame will raise Patrick the only way she knows how: with madcap humour, mishaps, unforgettable friends and lots and lots of love.
The movie adaptation of this book has long been one of my favorite movies but the book has been sitting on my virtual Nook book shelf for several years. Despite encouragement from a fellow blogger, I just couldn't imagine Dennis' Mame could live up to Rosalind Russell's interpretation. Oh, but she does! In fact, Mame actually becomes even more three-dimensional through the stories in this book where we see her desire for love and need to feel young even more clearly.
Even though the time period the book is set in is very clear (beginning as it does in the 1920's), there is a timelessness to it that makes it every bit as readable now as it was when it was published. It's inconceivable that 19 publisher's turned down this story before it was finally published. Was it the political side of some of the chapters that scared them off or Dennis' stance on bigotry, racism, religion, and sexuality, topics that were taboo for popular literature of the time? Mame and Patrick talk about her queer friends on Fire Island, Mame stands up for Jewish friends, and Dennis makes his views about the treatment of blacks by the old guard of the South very clear.
Want some examples of what makes this book stand the test of time? How about this:
""You sit and talk like the New Republic or some parlor pink when another christian faces a serious..."Or:
" I wish you wouldn't use the term Christian where it is so obviously misapplied," Auntie Mame said steadily."
"At seven o'clock another couple, named Abbot or Cabot or Mabbit - I never learned just which - joined us. He was in banking and she was in Planned Parenthood."I had to stop reading and go find out exactly when Planned Parenthood was founded - turns out it was 1916. I also had to look up to see just when Fire Island began to be known as a party place for gay men since Patrick says to Mame at one point "They don't have to know about all your queer friends on Fire Island..." That, as it turns out, was around 1938. God love Mame who replied to Patrick:'
"Should they know that I think you've turned into one of the most beastly, bourgeois, babbity little snobs on the Eastern Seaboard, or will you be able to make that quite clear without any help from me?"
After reading the book, I have an new appreciation for the way the movie screenwriters kept so much of the dialogue and exact story lines from the book. I will say that I did prefer Pegeen, the woman Patrick marries, in the movie simply from the standpoint that she is more understanding of Mame. On the other hand, the way her character is written in the book gives Dennis another shot at the terrible way the upper class treated the working class.
There has never been, I don't think, a character quite like Auntie Mame in literature. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of the movie. Even though, after reading the book, I think Russell was a little old to play Mame, she simply is Mame.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
I have a confession to make: until I started blogging, I'm note sure I was very aware of book "hype." Oh, maybe The DaVinci Code, Stephen King's books, or Bridget Jones' Diary were buzzed about sufficiently that I really took notice. [A second confession: I read The DaVinci Code and even though I knew the writing wasn't great and didn't buy the supposed facts, I still enjoyed the ride]. But it wasn't until I started blogging that the buzz really got loud and really had an impact on my reading. When it did, not all of the books were new; many were older books that people just kept telling me I needed to read. So my list includes book from all of those categories. In no particular order, here are ten books that I really felt lived up to the hype:
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - still one of my all-time favorite books.
- Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - everyone was reading Lawson's blog and everyone was reading her first book. And, by God, they were right; it is every bit as hilarious and bizarre as billed.
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - this was one of the first books I read with my book club and it was such a favorite of our leader that she was making the club read it for a second time. To this day, I think of those girls growing up in Africa.
- Bridget Jones' Diary - I liked this book so much when I read it that I was one of the people furious that the filmmakers chose an American actress to play Bridget in the movie adaptation. But that didn't stop me from watching it again and again. Because I adore Bridget!
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - I had serious doubts about this one but it felt like one I wanted to be able to talk about with people. So I made my book club read it. I'll admit to getting a little bored when the action moved to Las Vegas; but, otherwise, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. And by how many others in the club did, too.
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - so, so beautifully written and such a lovely story. It's short but, if you haven't read it, don't plan to race through it. It deserves to be savored.
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - I got an ARC of this book but it really didn't sound like my kind of book so I gave it away. Then everyone started talking about it. So I ended up paying for it. And it was worth every penny.
- The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - yes, yes, I thought, Didion is a genius. But this is a book about death and grief. I did not want to read a book about someone's husband dying. But the library had it on CD once when I needed a book to listen to so I caved and picked it up. And I cried and cried while I listened to it. And then I bought a print copy. I may never read it again but I needed to know I could if I wanted to. Or needed to.
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - I don't generally do dystopian books. I mean, why do writer's always paint such a bleak picture of the future? But a readalong convinced me to finally pick this one up. It was one of the scariest books I've ever read, partly because so much of what Atwood predicted had already come true. It's even more relevant today.
- Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - I'd read Semple's first book and I didn't much care for it at all. So the buzz had to get really loud for this one before I finally broke down and read it. I couldn't believe this book was by the same author. I love the story, the unique style of the writing, and found myself relating so much to this book.
What books would you put on this list?
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.
Monday, July 30, 2018
Published October 2016 by Penguin Publishing
Source: loaned to me by a book club friend
Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away—to anywhere—before. Traveling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone—including herself—wrong. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, Paris for One is quintessential Jojo Moyes—as are the other stories that round out the collection
That summary is absolutely right, Paris For One is quintessential Moyes in this collection. The title story, Paris For One, is a novella and the book is rounded out with eight short stories about women who are unsatisfied in their love lives discovering inner strength, new passion, and courage they didn't know they had.
Although none of the stories has the emotional depth of Moyes' Me Before You, they are not without lessons for all women. From reminding women to appreciate the man they fell in love with to reminding women that they deserve to be loved and appreciated. Also, that Twitter can be bad, as can affairs, and that the right pair of shoes can do wonder for a woman's self-esteem.
Moyes always adds an element of quirky fun to her stories and these are no exception. Which makes the entire collection a quick, fun read. There are some surprises, as well as some endings that are predictable but perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and recommend it to any fan of Moyes.
Friday, July 27, 2018
I certainly wish I'd started Paris in July earlier - I've had a lot of fun looking back at the books I read that were set in Paris or France and I wish I had time to highlight more of them! This week I'm highlighting a book set in Paris that surprised me.
Ernest Hemingway has been an author who I can appreciate but whose books I haven't very much liked. Until I read A Moveable Feast.
Who'da thunk it - the only Hemingway book I've ever read and actually enjoyed would be a memoir? If you're a Hemingway fan or even a person who feels like you "should" read Hemingway, I'd definitely recommend A Moveable Feast. As a look into life in Paris in the 1920's. As a window into the lives of several literary greats. And, as a honest look into a few years of one young author's life.
I put this book on my nightstand and read a chapter at a time, each an individual story about an event, person, or part of Hemingway's life in Paris. Reading it this way is probably one of the reasons I appreciated this book as much as I did; I'm not sure I would have had I tried to just read straight through. Then I might not have appreciated gems like this:
"The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit's foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit's foot long ago and the ones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there."
The title, as the publisher's summary says, refers to a literary feast but I could easily have read it as part of Fall Feasting. Hemingway writes extensively about eating and drinking in the bistros and restaurants of Paris and other European cities he visited. I kept having the urge to go sit at a little table in a quiet cafe and while away the afternoon drinking wine and writing.
While Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, were poor and he talks about going hungry and cold because of it, it's plainly clear that he knew it was the price to pay for living the life he wanted and never seemed to feel sorry for himself. It pained him more to be without books until he discovered the "library" in the legendary Paris bookstore "Shakespeare's." Hemingway was not just a writer, he was a voracious reader and I finally found at least one thing I could really like about him. That and his willingness to admit his flaws, including the infidelity that cost him his marriage to a woman whom he clearly adored.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
When I told you earlier this month what my book club is reading, I mentioned that I have a family full of readers. As if I had already mentioned that once or twice! This month my family has shared with me that they are reading:
- Mini-me is switching between The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles (loved it!) by Haruki Murakami and Dune by Frank Herbert. Happy to have turned him onto Murakami!
- Ms. S, who recently started working for the federal prison system (medical, not enforcement, thank heavens!) is interested in learning more about our prison systems and is reading The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison by Pete Earley. She just might be able to pass that along to....
- Miss H, who is studying criminal justice, with a certificate in chemical dependency. She is currently studying the Narcotics Anonymous basic text.
- The Big Guy is making his way through Paul Theroux's latest, Figures In A Landscape. He's been a fan of Theroux's for a very long time.
- My dad is enjoying his Father's Day present from my sister, Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed The World by Eileen McNamara.
- My Rhode Island uncle and aunt have a couple of recommendations, which I'll share in another post, but they are otherwise devouring crime thrillers including those by Jo Nesbo, Kent Anderson, Trudy Nan Boyce, James Lee Burke, Craig Johnson, and Ken Bruen. Australian Garry Disher's books are new discoveries in that vein. They are also looking forward to Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach (eagerly awaiting the verdict on this one).
- My Iowa aunt has picked up Thrity Umrigar's sequel to The Space Between Us, The Secrets Between Us. I can't wait to hear what she thinks of us as Space is one of my all-time faves.
- My Iowa uncle is devouring all of the books, I think - he's been reading (I'm including his comments on the books):
The Restless Wave ~ by John McCain [somewhat interesting; lacking extensive editing I feel that a better title would have been 'The Righteous Wave']
Something Wonderful: Rogers and Hammerstein's Broadway revolution ~ by Scott Purdum. [I LOVED it, particularly about how 'South Pacific' and 'Oklahoma' came to be. " All they cared about was the show "]*
I'm presently reading Welty ~ Complete Novels including Eudora Welty's books The Robber Bridegroom; Delta Wedding; The Ponder Heart; Losing Battles; and The Optimist's Daughter. WHY am I reading this? I've long been had the feeling that I ought to give her a try. This Faulkner contemporary was born in 1909 and lived her entire life in her parents house in Jackson, Mississippi. So far 'The Ponder Heart' is the only book that much interests me. In regard to the recent criticism of racist language against Indians in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, it occurs to me that Eudora (whose novels were written between 1942 and 1953) would be criticized today for Negro racism)
NEXT up ....thanks to Brother 'Joe' I fell in love with Donna Leon's novels about the Venetian police commissario, Guido Brunetti. I'm almost to the end of the series and am about to read the next-to-last book 'Earthly Remains'And there you have it, folks! See, I told you I come from a family of readers! How's that for a diverse range of books?
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Published June 2018 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.
On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life—wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.
You'll have noticed over the years that I don't read many mysteries or thrillers. This book makes me wonder why that is. It's certainly not the first thriller I've read and thoroughly enjoyed; but, maybe, it's the one that will make me start reading more of them. Because I could not put this book down (and by book, I mean Nook).
That first line pulled me in right away. It didn't take long for Nugent to even tell us why. Even knowing all of that, Nugent still had plenty up her sleeve to keep me guessing.
Curiously, this book is less about the murder and much more about the people effected by it in the five years after the murder. How does the murder effect the family members of both the murderer and the family of the victim? How does the stress of the murder effect the murder? What happens when the police and the media turn up details about the victim that are hard for her family to learn about? What's the toll on a marriage?
Nugent has crafted some great characters and the relationships between the characters are as interesting as the mystery, particularly the one between Lydia and Laurence. Poor Laurence. Mommy is a little off her rocker!
The tricky part of reviewing a mystery is telling you enough about it to make you want to read it but not to much to ruin the surprises for you. All I can say for sure, is that this is a book both lovers of mysteries will enjoy, but also those who just enjoy a good study in characters.
If you read this, I'd love to know if you saw the last 25 pages coming. I surely did not but I'm never sure if that's because I don't read many mysteries or because the book is just that good. I think Lying In Wait is just that good.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
When I wasn't sure that I would have time to read very many book for Paris In July, I figured I'd at least be able to work in a couple of movies. Turns out, I've had time for a lot of books this month, what with a readathon. I've also had time for a lot of movies in the past couple of weeks - all set in France, two in Paris. Two I've seen before, three are book adaptations. Here are my quick thoughts on each of them:
Up front, I’ll admit that I am not a fan of Gustave Flaubert’s novel, on which this movie is based. Nor am I a fan of Emma Bovary; I like her even less in this adaptation. The one exception is that the movie portrays her much more as having been lured into spending lavishly by a man (played marvelously by Rhys Ifans) who convinces her, time and again, to dig herself deeper and deeper into a financial hole. With the changes the screenwriters have made to the book (Emma doesn’t have a child, for example), it feels more like Emma is spending money and having affairs as much because she is bored as because she is looking for love. Yes, yes, Charles Bovary is a bore. But he’s not cruel nor does he rule with an iron thumb. It feels like Emma has some leeway. Yes, I understand she wants more than she has; but I really just want to slap her and tell her to get over it. Make some effort to find happiness where you’ve been planted.
Also, is Mia Wasikowska now the queen of movie adaptations of classic books, after starring in the Alice In Wonderland movies, Jane Eyre, and now Madame Bovary?
This movie is beautifully filmed, the costumes are amazing, and the settings more true of life in rural France than most adaptations of books set in this time period are so the movie has that going for it. If you are a fan of the book, I’m not sure how you’ll feel about the movie given the changes to the story. If you’ve never read the book, I think you’d have even less patience for Emma than I had.
This movie is based on the book by the same name by Irene Nemirovsky, who was writing the book as part of a five-part project. She died in the Holocaust before being able to finish her series. I have never read the book so I can’t report back to you as to whether or not the movie lives up to the book. Given the praise the book has received, I suspect not.
It’s an interesting story; it may well be a story that played out where enemy soldiers billeted in invaded lands. The cinematography is beautiful, the sets well done, and the movie touches on the many issues that arose in these situations. But the movie lacked the level of tension that would have made it feel true; it by and large only hinted at the atrocities that German soldiers committed and the repercussions of the collaborators actions. Michelle Williams is usually so good but there was mostly a lack of passion in her performance. Even so, both the hubby and I did get invested enough to want to watch to the end. Now to pick up the book.
I’ve watched this movie three times now and (even though I have serious moral issues with Woody Allen) still find it charming and quirky and fun. I love the fact that Owen Wilson’s character gets to rub elbows with so any of the great writers and artists of the twentieth century. I even like the way his portrayal of Gil blends both Wilson’s usual persona and Allen’s usual persona, both of which can grate on my nerves. Rachel McAdams, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll, Adrian Brody, and Kathy Bates all seem to relish playing their characters. Marion Cotillard is, as always, wonderful and incandescent.
You know I’m not a fan of time travel in my reading so the fact that I like this movie so much should tell you something about how well it’s done. And Paris is so very much a character in the movie.
When I’ve watched the movie before, there was a character that I kept thinking looked so familiar. This time I looked her up; she is none other than Carla Bruni, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France.
I’ve seen this movie several times; in fact, we own it. But this was the first time I’ve ever watched it by myself, late at night. I had to stop watching the first night because it was too “scary” for me to watch. And now you know why I don’t watch actual scary movies. It also says something of the mood the creators of the movie achieved. The settings, the costumes, the staging are all so good.
This is the first time I’ve really thought about the singing as I’ve watched the movie, and who was actually doing the singing. Minnie Driver as Carlotta? Not doing the actual singing. I don’t know what Minnie Driver’s voice sounds like but Carlotta requires a powerhouse operatic diva’s voice so choosing Margaret Preece to sing that part was a good choice. Emma Rossum as Christine? She is doing her own singing, as is Patrick Wilson as Raoul. Both are so good I assumed their singing parts had been done by others as well. Gerard Butler as the Phantom? Yep, that’s his voice. Why? His singing is what made me check to see who had sung their own parts. Otherwise, I would have assumed the producers had decided to farm out all of the singing. Since the producers had already chosen to do a voiceover for Driver’s role, why didn’t they choose to do that for Butler? He’s not bad but it’s too big of a role to hand over to someone who isn’t terrific.
Despite all of the action in this movie, sometimes it gets a little drawn out. Still, music I enjoy, great costumes, a great set, and mostly great singing make for an enjoyable movie.
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Last Week I:
Listened To: I've been all over the place with what I've been listening to: NPR, podcasts, lots of music.
Watched: Two more movies for Paris In July: Midnight In Paris and The Phantom of the Opera.
Read: I finished Paris for One by Jojo Moyes and Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mama. I've started Rebecca Traiter's All The Single Ladies but may set that aside for today for something that's a faster read.
Made: Salads, pastas, s'mores - it's summer and we're keeping it light. I don't think the oven's been on all week.
Enjoyed: The play by my book club friend that a few of us went to see last Sunday. It's called The Dairy Maid-Right which may sound light and fun (and there are a lot of laughs in it) but it's also a very serious piece about immigration.
This Week I’m:
Thinking About: What my next project should be. Paint my office, perhaps?
Feeling: Happy to have finally gotten my front door painted!
Looking forward to: Mini-him's 30th birthday! How in the world can we possibly have a 30-year-old son?!
Question of the week: Mini-him's been requesting the same things for his birthday dinner for about half his life. Do you have a go-to food that you always have for celebrations?
Friday, July 20, 2018
In browsing lists of books set in Paris and France, I find that I've read quite a few already that fall into that category. I thought it might be fun to look back at those books this month.
I blame The Elegance of The Hedgehog for my inability to give up on books. At the half way point, I still wasn't loving this book and then something changed, it hooked me in some way. I became emotionally invested and by the end of the book, I was ugly crying. The copy I read was from the library so I don't have a copy. Right now. But I would really love to read this one again and see if I appreciate the beginning of the book more, knowing where it is going. Here's what I had to saw about it after I'd read it:
This felt like two books to me and it wasn't because the story alternates between narration by Renee and narration by Paloma. The first one-third plus of this book is Barbery introducing us to our two narrators by means of philosophical musings. It is very obvious that Barbery is a professor of philosophy. It is difficult going and, although it serves to give us a feel for Renee and Paloma, it is so slow moving I seriously considered giving up on this one before I hit the halfway mark.
That would have been a mistake because after that point, the story got going. I finally began to care for Renee and Paloma. Prior to that, I really didn't care for either of them--Renee goes to great pains to be the very person she feels the owners in the building will look down on then despises them for looking down on her.
Once Mr. Ozu arrives, things start happening and we really start to understand some of the things that Paloma and Renee have been discussing earlier in the book. I'm glad I stuck with this one. In the end, I really loved the book and got, let's be honest, a little emotional.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
So, I know what all of my blogging friends are reading because, well, blogging. But I'm also surrounded by readers, from friends, to coworkers, to most of my family. I seem to forget to ask them, regularly, what they're reading. Starting this week, I'll begin periodically posting a new feature called "What We're Reading," as a reminder for me to ask the question and maybe introduce you to some new books.
This month the members of my book club, who may or may not have read this month's book club selection, have been busy reading other things as well. Here's what they have found interesting lately:
- Prairie Fires: The American Dream of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (an especially interesting choice given the recent controversy surrounding Ingalls Wilder)
- The Knowledge by Martha Grimes
- The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (are you as impressed as I am?)
- The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (the member reading this asks, "Has there ever been an unsatisfactory book about a bookshop?")
- The Women's Hour: The Great Fight To Win The Vote by Elaine Weiss (this one's new to me but definitely getting added to my wish list!)
- Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigani
I have mentioned that my book club is chock full of smart women who read all kinds of interesting books and read across the spectrum, right?
My funniest response, when I asked the members what there were reading, was this:
"I'm reading Facebook, way too often; on page fifty."
Four days later, I got this update:
"Still reading Facebook, can't find the end..."
And now you know why we spend so much time just laughing at meetings!
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Published March 2017 by Crown/Archetype
Source: my ecopy purchased to read with my book club
“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”
After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.
I'm struggling with reviewing this book without discussing a major spoiler. Truth be told, readers know the truth of that spoiler long before Lane does. It's actually revealed fairly early on in the book so for me to tell you doesn't necessarily spoil the book for you. And I really wish someone had spoiled the book for me because, honestly, I might not have read it at all if I had known what was at the heart of the story. I certainly would not have chosen it for a book club read.
That being said, I'm not going to tell you the secret. Because I just can't do that. Just know that it might be a trigger for some people.
I'm also struggling to figure out my thoughts on this book beyond that key point, so I guess I'll resort to that simple review format I'm fond of when I'm struggling.
What I Liked:
Engel writes terrific flawed, scarred characters. Lane, Allegra, and the boys they become inexorably involved with, Tommy and Cooper, are complex characters that drew me into their lives. I could feel their pain and their struggles.
Engel seems to have a knowledge of small towns on the prairie and the kinds of relationships small town inhabitants have with one another. She also seems to have a love of the land.
The ending was not altogether unexpected but it was satisfying, particularly in the way that Engel left somethings open.
I liked the way Engel interspersed the stories of the Roanoke girls that came before Lane and Allegra into the story as a device to further the story. It gave the reader insight that Lane and Allegra didn't have and I did find myself needing to remember that they were working with less information than I had.
What I Didn't Like:
On the other hand, this would have felt much more like a thriller if I had not known what I knew about the prior Roanoke girls, if that spoiler had been revealed much deeper into the book. Also, it kept making me hope that perhaps Lane was a really unreliable narrator and things weren't what they seemed.
There are two characters that work on Roanoke that know the truth. The way that one of them is convinced to keep the secret seemed a little contrived to me. And the truth of how the other was convinced to keep the secret was never really revealed. I would have liked that to have been played out on the pages.
Lane returns to Roanoke to help find Allegra. But very little of her time seems to actually be spent trying to find Allegra. Frankly, the local police don't seem to be doing a whole lot to look, either. I get that Allegra was for whom disappearing wasn't altogether out of the ordinary. But by the time Lane had gotten half way across the country, it seems like the search might have picked up. Small towns tend to pull together when one of their own goes missing, even when it's someone who isn't particularly loved.
I'm looking forward to talking about this one with my book club. I'm going to beat there were some who didn't finish the book because they couldn't make themselves. And I'm going to beat that I can guess what one word they would all use to describe the book if they were only allowed one word. But I can't tell you what that word is because I feel like even that much would be a spoiler.
I'll just leave you with this reminder that this entire book is centered around something that may be a trigger for some people. Maybe thumb through it a bit before you actually choose to read it.
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
I did so well with my last Task It Tuesday list that I decided to keep at it. In fact, really working on that list has me kind of excited about blogging again! I have only one thing that I need to work on from that last list still so it's going to the top of the list this time.
- Work on the error I'm getting on the Nook that doesn't allow me to get to Netgalley to download and read books.
- Catch up with my blog reader. And by catch up, I mean clear it out for a change, not just get it down to about 30 unread posts.
- Respond to all comments left on my blog this month. I am terrible about doing this and often have to add it to my Bloggiesta list.
- I've worked out my blogging calendar for the rest of the year (something I haven't done in the last few years is really keep a calendar for the blog). Now I want to go in and add the events I know are coming up in the next six months and plot out when I want to do features, like Mama Shepp's Family Recommends, Top Ten Tuesdays, Book Gems and Task It Tuesdays.
That's enough for this list as some of these things will take some time. But my hope is that they will all inspire me to love blogging again without returning to the feeling of it being work.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Last Week I:
Listened To: Mostly musicals on both Spotify and Sirius. My poor hubby even had to listen to them when he was in the car with me.
Read: I'm racing through Lying In Wait and should be finished with it by tomorrow. I really can't recall what made me chose it on Netgalley but it's not at all what I expected when I first started reading it.
Made: Light, light, light - I don't think the oven's been on all week. Salads, BLT's, grilled steaks - summer fare.
Enjoyed: A Cuban sandwich and pear cider at lunch with The Big Guy's brother yesterday. I am so fond of him - we've been pals since the first time we met.
This Week I’m:
Thinking About: Trips to see my new great-nephew, who arrived this week, and to Rochester to see Mini-me's and Ms. S's new place. Trying to schedule around everyone is turning out to be a crazy amount of work!
Feeling: Like I'd like to take a couple of days off just to putter around the house. It's so hard to get the things that have to be done and enjoy time out and about on the weekends, let alone work on projects around the house.
Looking forward to: The 24 In 48 Readathon this coming weekend. Yep, another thing to make time for in a mere two-day weekend but I really enjoy those excuses to just spend a lot of time reading and getting to interact with other bloggers, which I've been missing lately.
Question of the week: Honestly, how do you balance your time on the weekends to make sure have time for fun, housework, and bigger projects?
Friday, July 13, 2018
Yes, I know we're already 13 days into July. Put I'm finally in a place in my reading where I have time (and the interest) to join in some blogging fun. I'm still trying to find books set in Paris, or France for that matter, that I already own that appeal. But I can absolutely join in with some of the other French kinds of things. So I'm in!
Paris in July is a French themed blogging experience running from the 1st – 31st July this year. The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through actual visits, or through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French! There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in!Paris in July is being hosted this year by Thyme for Tea. It's never to late to join in the fun!
Some ideas might include: reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction, watching a French movie, listening to French music, cooking French food, experiencing French, art, architecture and travel.
Now I'm off to continue looking for books that will fit the bill. But, first, maybe a movie set in France?