Sunday, April 15, 2018

Life: It Goes On - April 15

Winter...cover your eyes, It needs to be gone two weeks ago. We dodged the blizzard that shut down roads north and south of us but our driveway is covered in ice and snow this morning after a day of cold temps, high winds, rain, sleet, and snow yesterday. This, mind you, after we were able to eat dinner on the patio three nights last week. Enough already - we cry "Uncle!"

So bummed to realize that Dewey's Readathon is the same weekend we will be in Dallas. I love the spring edition; for some reason, I always seem to get more read than during the fall one. I may just take a day next weekend and give myself permission to spend the whole day reading. Or not. It wouldn't be as fun as knowing I'm doing it with thousands of people all over the world and I have a hard enough time not feeling guilty about getting nothing done on the official days.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts including The History Chicks, Gretchen Rubin's Happier, and Terrible Thanks for Asking. I'm continuing work on my Spotify playlists and have been listening to everything from the playlist I put together for the bridal shower to The Offspring, AFI, and Muse.

Watching: I was poking around Netflix the other night for something to watch late night that wasn't too in-depth (you know, in case I dozed off in the middle of it!) and found BBC's The Great Interior Design Challenge. I'm enjoying it as much for getting the chance to see how different architecture is in Great Britain as for seeing what the designers can pull off.

Reading: I finished Anna Quindlen's latest, Alternate Side last night and I'm still processing my thoughts on it. I love Quindlen's writing and this one had some great thoughts. But...

Today I'll likely start Lisa Genova's latest, Every Note Played.

Making: Spaghetti with meat sauce, tacos, flatbread pizzas, steak salads. Saturday, in lieu of bundling up to go to a movie, we stayed in and I made a loaf of Outback bread and an Gooey Butter cake just for an excuse to run some extra heat in the house!

Sookie feels the same way I do!
Planning: I had lots of plans for the weekend but I've caught a niggling cold that kept me mostly home yesterday and may do the same today. If it were a beautiful, sunny day I might head on out and bask in the sun. But since it's still miserable out, I'm not sure I want to catch a chill (as Jane Austen might have said). If I stay put today, there is plenty to do here. My office has gotten out of control again and we are in the midst of making some changes in Miss H's room that need to get finished up.

Thinking About: My mom's cousin who passed away last week. Her funeral was on Friday and I can't help but think how much better off the world would be if more of us were like her. She was a sweet, giving, caring woman who had the most delightful ornery streak.

Enjoying: Helping Miss H put together a bullet journal. She's doing hers the way I did my first one, in a binder so it's more forgiving as she figures out what will work for her. She's had the stuff to do it since Christmas but, being a perfectionist, has put it off for fear of it not being perfect. She's got so much going on, though, that it's time to help her keep track of everything.

Feeling: Excited for my married kiddos! Ms. S has finally gotten the go for the job she's been waiting on for months and they will be moving the end of May. They will be sad to leave Milwaukee, having absolutely loved it there. But they are ready to start this new part of their lives and we can't wait to have them three hours closer!

Looking forward to: Leaving for Dallas in eleven days. Can't wait to be with family, get in a little vacation time, and, celebrate my nephew's wedding.

Question of the week: Dallas area friends, we have at least one day that's completely free. What do we absolutely need to see? And, how far from downtown are you? Maybe we could even meet?!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Published September 2002 by Knopf Canada
Read by Kristoffer Tabori
Source: my audiobook purchased at my local library book sale; I also have a physical copy, the origins of which I don't recall

Publisher's Summary:
In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides finds herself drawn to a classmate at her girls' school in Grosse Point, Michigan. That passion -- along with her failure to develop -- leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. The explanation for this is a rare genetic mutation -- and a guilty secret -- that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.

My Thoughts:
"I was born twice: first, as a baby January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage August of 1974."

Once upon a time, I suppose I had some inkling what this book was about. Then I forgot. I just knew that it was a book that people raved about. So I bought it. Twice. Then, shortly after I bought the audiobook, I read somewhere that it was the first popular book with a hermaphrodite as its main character; and, I'm ashamed to say, I moved it to the bottom of the pile. And then I listened to podcasts instead of popping in the first disc. I could not imagine 500 pages about a hermaphrodite that wasn't just sensationalized. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If you've been reading my Sunday posts, or follow me on Instagram, Snapchat, or Litsy, you've been hearing me rave about this book for the past few weeks, "One of the best readings of a book I've ever listened to; Kristoffer Tabori is amazing,""just blown away by Eugenides writing. Why did I wait so long?!" When the end-of-the-year post goes up with my favorites for the year, it's going to be pretty tough to top this one as my favorite audiobook of the year.

But just how did I overcome my qualms about a book featuring an hermaphrodite? I'm not going to lie; some parts of the book made me a little uncomfortable. But, then I've been working the past couple of years to read more books that make me uncomfortable so I appreciate the ways that Eugenides made me learn about human sexuality. In the end, what he seems to be saying about all of that is that it is who we are inside that makes us who we are, not what we are on the outside.

But this book is about so much more than gender identity. It's a coming of age story that's also about war, passion, immigration and the immigrant experience, the rise and fall of a city, racial tensions, religion, nature versus nurture, societies, the American Dream, gender roles, and, most of all, it's about family. The characters in this book will stay with me for a long time: Lefty and Desdemona who escaped the great fire of Smyrna and pursued the American Dream while never leaving their Greek customs entirely behind; Jimmy Zizmo, who was married to their cousin and took them under his wing but who also exposed them to the seamier side of America; Milton, who worked hard to leave behind his Greek roots and become a big man with his Cadillacs and unusual house in the tony suburb of Gross Pointe; the aunts, uncles, and family friends who made up the Sunday dinner crowd. They all made Callie/Cal who she/he was as much by who they were as by genetics.

Does Eugenides sometimes get a little verbose? Oh, yeah, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. But I'm willing to forgive all of that for the empathy, sadness, humor, and insight that he has imbued his story with. As I said when I was getting near the end, I'm going to miss this book.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Life: It Goes On - April 8

So, spring - that's a thing, right? Wednesday I wore my winter coat, hat and gloves into work as we recorded record low temps (I'm talking 12 degrees at 6 a.m.). Yesterday morning, record lows again. Today snow flakes swirled about. We are supposed to get a few days of spring this week but I'll believe that when I feel the warm sunshine on my face.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Middlesex in the driveway on Friday and I'm sort of glad that I don't have another book to jump into on audio right away. If you've never read Middlesex, I can't recommend you listen to it enough. One of the best readings of a book I've ever listened to; Kristoffer Tabori is amazing.

Watching: I started typing that we've managed to leave the big box in the corner off a lot this week when it occurred to me that televisions are no longer boxes. I'm wondering how old are the young people who don't even remember a television that looked like a black box? Whereas I can remember rabbit ears, having to get up to change channels, and even when people only owned one (gasp!) television. I feel old.

Reading: Nook, Netgalley, and I have been having quite a go of it for the past couple of weeks. Numerous people from Netgalley have jumped in trying to figure out why I couldn't download books from their site to my Nook. I was pretty darn excited Friday to figure it out myself. Then Saturday night, Bluefire Reader wouldn't open, which is where I download all of the Netgalley books. Emailed their support system and got a canned message that they would respond in three working days. So I uninstalled it, reinstalled it and it works. Thanks all of you tech people.

Making: We've been making good use of Easter leftovers this week so I haven't cooked much. One night The Big Guy used leftover ham and made a ham and vegetable soup that (don't tell him I said this because I really hated the smell of it when it was cooking and might have been a little rude about it) was not bad. Back to the reality of having to plan meals this week.

Planning: Our trip to Dallas, another bridal shower in May, and a trip to Minnesota in June. My Milwaukee kiddos are finally getting moved in May and I can't wait to visit them in their new home. Although we are going to miss going to Milwaukee.

Thinking About: Blogging. I'm sort of terrible at it right now, especially the part where I visit blogs and let my friends know I've stopped by. So, is it time to give it up? Or is it the only thing that pushes me through reading slumps?

Enjoying: My first ever political fundraiser for a friend who is running for office. So excited for her and need to make sure I find some time to help her as she reaches out to people.

Feeling: Frustrated and, to be honest, more than a little bit stupid. Yesterday, without even thinking, I dumped a big container of rice down the garbage disposal. More than 24 hours later, we still cannot use the kitchen sink, after trying all of the tried and true methods to dislodge that clog. I'm don't even want to think what the plumber is going to charge us when he gets here in a bit. Luckily, I think we're getting the "my friend is your daughter's boyfriend" discount. At least I hope so. Because The Big Guy is not exactly my biggest fan just now!

Also, feeling very sad today. We got the call this morning that my mother's cousin, who has been more like a sister to her all of my mom's life, passed away in her sleep last night at 98. It is a blessing for her but the world has lost the sweetest person I've ever known.

Looking forward to: Did I mention spring-like days this week? This girl is looking forward to at least one dinner on the patio!

Question of the week: On top of being cold and damp here, it's also been grey almost every day. What's your go-to way to pick yourself up on grey days?

Paper Ghosts by Julie Heaberlin

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
Published May 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my e-copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life—since she was twelve years old—for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn’t believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn’t believe him.

Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip, just the two of them, to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs.

Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist? Or is she?

My Thoughts:
Two-ish years ago, I read Heaberlin's Black-Eyed Susans (my review) and was impressed enough with it that I didn't even read what this one was about before I requested it on Netgalley. The truth is, I had been disappointed by the ending of that book; but it gave me the creepies big time and I raced through it so I knew Heaberlin was capable of taking me for a ride again. And, oh, what a ride!

Like Black-Eyed Susans, there is almost no violence in the book, and almost no description of the murders of the girls Carl is supposed to have killed, which I very much appreciate in a book. My imagination can handle that part just fine and I really don't need to read descriptions of things that will keep me up at night. The thrill factor relies almost entirely on Heaberlin's ability to get into her readers' heads by making them think about what might happen (or what the heck just happened?) and she is certainly up to the task. More than once, I almost dropped the book in surprise and if this had been a movie, I would have watched peering through my fingers. Heaberlin made great use of Carl's photography; including descriptions of his photographs at the beginnings of many chapters to help readers climb into his head and to paint scenes. It managed to cast an extra layer of eeriness over the story.

Texas comes alive in the book - I found myself, as I so often do when a book piques my interest, turning again and again to the internet to see pictures of the areas Heaberlin is writing about, to see a map of the route Carl and Grace are taking, and to learn more about the historical events Heaberlin writes about.

All that being said, at the heart of this book is a story about the relationship between two people and how it changes and what those changes reveal about each of them. That's something you rarely see (at least in my somewhat limited experience) in this kind of book. I really liked this part of the story and it's what kept the book moving, even in places where the story lagged.

The book is not without flaws. It sometimes drags a bit, as we spend a lot of time in our heroine's head. The biggest flaw, for me, was the fact that, for a person who talks so much about how much she has trained for all situations, that Grace seems to find herself in bad places without a backup plan all too often. And given that most of the "action" is psychological, there wasn't much need for all of her physical training anyway. Perhaps the point was that no matter how well prepared we think we are, there will always be surprises in life we can't foresee. At least that's the reason I'm giving Heaberlin because I liked this book well enough to want there to be a reason for the things I questioned.
"Bad people are to be found everywhere, but even among the worst there may be something good."
I was much more satisfied with the ending to this book than I was with Black-Eyed Susans. Parts were unexpected and other pieces tied up exactly as I wanted them to end. A very satisfying read!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel

Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel
Published June 2017 by The Unnamed Press
Source: my pdf copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
At a Caribbean resort built atop a former slave plantation, Myrna works as a maid by day; by night she trespasses on the resort’s overgrown inland property, secretly excavating the plantation ruins the locals refuse to acknowledge. Myrna’s mother has stopped speaking and her friends are focused on surviving the present, but Myrna is drawn to Cruffey Island’s violent past. With the arrival of Mrs. Manion, a wealthy African-American, also comes new information about the history of the slave-owner’s estate and tensions finally erupt between the resort and the local island community.

Suffused with the sun-drenched beauty of the Caribbean, Fingerprints of Previous Owners is a powerful novel of hope and recovery in the wake of devastating trauma. In her soulful and timely debut, Entel explores what it means to colonize and be colonized, to trespass and be trespassed upon, to be wounded and to heal.

My Thoughts:
I don't usually include the parts of the publisher's summary that are like that last paragraph. I prefer not to have the publisher try to sell you on the wonders of a book but to do that (or not, as the case may be) myself. But I have just finished this book and it's time to write the review so it can be posted in the morning and I find myself almost speechless.

When Lisa, of TLC Book Tours, first emailed about this book this is the summary she gave: "This is a literary fiction title/coming of age story set at a Caribbean resort atop a former slave plantation." And that was all it took for me to agree to read it for review. And then I forgot all about it (seriously, I completely forgot I needed to get it read and missed my first review date). So when I finally picked it up, I had entirely forgotten what it was about. And, once again, that was a good thing because this book completely took me by surprise and washed over me with its pain in a way that would not have happened if I'd gone into it with any expectations.

In these times when we talk so much about race relations and white privilege, this book seems more timely than ever. By looking at the long-reaching effects of slavery in a place where things have moved at a slower pace, where the ancestors of those slaves remained so close to the place where their forebears had suffered, Entel makes it that much easier to understand the ways in which those scars have been passed down. It is not a comfortable read. That's ok. We need to be made uncomfortable.

All that being said, I don't want to shortchange how well written this book is - Entel's focus is on Myrna but all of the inhabitants of Cruffey Island play vital parts in the novel and Entel allows each of them to tell their stories, slowly revealing truths that many of them had hidden from each other for decades. I could feel the heat of the days, clearly envision the trash washing up on the beaches, feel the sting of the haulback plants tearing at Myrna's skin as she works to uncover the past. I wanted to yell at the resort owners who go through their employees bags at the end of the day to make sure that not one penny has gone missing while they throw away mountains of perfectly good food. I wanted to hold Myrna's mother who has suffered so much. I wanted to be able to go to that island to help those people find a better life but then understood that those people wouldn't want my pity.

It makes me sad to think that I had never heard of this book until Lisa wrote me about it and I can only hope that being on this tour will get it into the hands of more people. For other opinions about the book, check out the full tour here.

Rebecca Entel began this novel while teaching on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. She is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College, where she teaches African-American and Caribbean literature, creative writing, and the literature of social justice. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

Her short stories and essays have been published in Guernica, Joyland Magazine, The Madison Review, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and elsewhere, and several have been shortlisted for awards from Glimmer Train, Southwest Review, and the Manchester Fiction Prize. Fingerprints of Previous Owners is her first novel.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Mini-Reviews: A Short Guide to A Happy Life and Shakespeare Insult Generator

One of the great joys for giving books as gifts is that you just might get to read those books yourself - sometimes after, as with the book I gave my husband for Christmas, or before you've even slipped it into the mail. And as bad as I've been about getting anything read, these two gift books were just the length of book I 'm able to finish right now!

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
Published October 2000 by Random House Publishing Group

I don't often pick up self-help kinds of books but I knew that Anna Quindlen was incapable of writing something I wouldn't like. This really is a short guide: 50 pages, many of which are photographs. Quindlen may not break any new ground here but somehow Quindlen manages to say it in a way that makes me enjoy it just a little bit more. This is her big thing: get a life.
"Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off you regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present."
Sometimes we just need someone to remind us to that even when things seem bad, there is so much to appreciate about life. I'll be passing this book along to my sister who is working hard every day to appreciate the beauty all around her. I hope she enjoys the way Quindlen reminds her that she is doing just the right thing.

Shakespeare Insult Generator by Barry Kraft
Published March 2014 by Chronicle Books

You know those books they make for kids where every page is cut into three pieces with a head on the top piece, a body on the middle piece, and legs on the bottom piece? Well, this book is just like those except you get to make up all kinds of funny insults using the words of William Shakespeare's words. On the back of every piece is the definition of the word of phrase you've chosen. For example, I selected at random three pieces that read: "finical barren-spirited cot-quean." Flipping those pieces over, I learned that "finical" is foppish in matters of dress: fussily fastidious; "barren-spirited" is empty, unoriginal; and "cot-quean" is a man who busies himself with women's household tasks. How great is that? I've learned all kinds of new ways to insult people, in ways they won't even begin to understand and I've learned a lot of new words! This book is so popular that my son even ordered another copy to give as a gift to a friend who works with our annual summer Shakespeare festival.

There you have it - two gift books that I highly recommend!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg
Published March 2018 by Holt, Henry and Company
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those "right books at the right time" books, coming as it did for me on the heels of a monster historical fiction book. Familiar stories that harken back to the darkness most of these stories originated from, Ortberg takes on fairly tales, folk tales, children's stories, and myths.

In Ortberg's hands, the Little Mermaid is no fawning girl just yearning to "where the people are;" Beauty isn't much of a beauty and the Beast truly is a beast; and the Velveteen Rabbit is, well, sort of evil. There's a whole lot of gender bending going on here - females are husbands (or wives, if they want to be) and female names and daughters turn out to be male. Ortberg explores obligation and the ways it can be abused in many of the tales.

As a lover of fairy tales, I really enjoyed the retellings of some of my favorite. But my favorite tale in this collection was "The Rabbit," in which Ortberg plays on the original premise of the children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit, exploring what that stuffed rabbit might be capable of if it truly imagined becoming real. Not for your kiddos!

I downloaded this one from Netgalley, but I may just have to buy a copy to have so I can read it again! Some of you may know Ortberg from The Toast - clearly something else I need to check out. Off to do that now!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Life: It Goes On - April 2

I'm so ready to start using a spring picture to lead off these posts but winter just will not let go. I know we're much luckier than some and I'm grateful for that; just south of here they got 10" of snow on Easter morning.

It's been a busy week with not a whole lot of reading going on, what with book club; a baseball game; family spending the night Wednesday; Easter dinner shopping (it took four trips to different grocery stores to find strawberries for the strawberry pie!), cleaning, cooking, and the actual getting together with family and friends. I hope those of you who celebrate had a lovely Easter!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll finish Middlesex this week and I'll be sad to be done with it.

Watching: Basketball, The Voice, and live rendition of "Jesus Christ Superstar." One of my all-time favorite musicals and, even though I felt some of the acting was a little weak, mostly I loved it.

Reading: Fingerprints of Previous Owners, which I completely forgot I was supposed to read for review a week and a half ago. Review soon!

Making: Layered lettuce salad, cheesy hash brown casserole, ham (well, Honey Baked ham made the ham, I just heated it up), strawberry pie, roasted asparagus, Red Drummond's chocolate French silk pie. I was concerned we'd run out of food because Miss H's boyfriend can put away a mountain of food but, of course, we had leftovers. Although, I wouldn't have complained if there had been more leftover potatoes!

Planning: I never got 40 Bags In 40 Days finished yet and with a quiet week this week, I'm hoping to get that done.

Thinking About: Gardening and changes in our landscaping.

Enjoying: Time with both The Big Guy's brother and his wife and my brother and his wife: two couple we really enjoy spending time with.

Feeling: Tired.

Looking forward to: BG has agreed to go through his clothes this week. Once he gets started, he's pretty good about getting rid of things so I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more room in my closet!

Question of the week: How are you keeping your spirits up during these wintery first days of spring?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published January 2010 by Random House Publishing Company
Source: bought my copy at the Omaha Lit Fest

Publisher's Summary:

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

My Thoughts:
I'm always impressed with the amount of research Melanie Benjamin does for her books. It always feels like she has a good grasp on her characters and she can really make settings and time periods come alive. Alice I Have Been is no exception. For this book, in particular, that helped make the characters easier to understand, to an extent (more on that later).

The book essentially has three sections: young Alice, the girl who inspired Charles Dodgson to write the book that would make him Lewis Carroll; Alice as a young woman in love whose past comes back to haunt her; and elderly Alice looking back on her life as a married woman. It was in writing about Alice in her later years and her boys that I really felt the heart of the book. Alice Liddell Hargreaves lost two sons in the first world war and Benjamin's description of their loss is absolutely heartbreaking.

As interesting as the story of young Alice was, though, I did have some problems with that part of the book. First, I felt like Alice's voice was much too worldly for a girl between seven and eleven years old. I can't remember being that age, and I was certainly never in the same situation, but I don't know that it would have occurred to me that a family friend might be touching me inappropriately.

My other issue might not even be an issue. After reading the book, I felt that Benjamin's research had lead her to believe that Dodgson was a pedophile. That seems to be a popular opinion amongst Dodgson's biographers, so it stands to reason that Benjamin might work with that idea. Some research  turned up the fact that parts of Dodgson's life, that might have countered this opinion, were hidden by his family after his death. Also, the opinion that Dodgson was a pedophile is, to some extent, based on 21st-century mores. But Victorian-era mores were quite a different thing. So I'm left not entirely sure how I feel about Dodgson but concerned about a fiction author painting him as a pedophile. But here's the thing: my book club friend, who also read the book, didn't feel like Benjamin had painted Dodgson as a pedophile at all. If you've read this one, I'd be curious to learn what you thought.

My book club was a bust on getting this one read, so we didn't get to have much of a discussion about this book; but I would still recommend to book clubs, in no small part because of the very things that were issues for me but also because of all of the emotions this book stirs up.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Life: It Goes On March 25

The bridal shower is in the books, my overnight guests are well on their way to home, and the house is clean so I've had a lazy afternoon. I should have spent it getting some projects done around here but these grey skies are leaving me without ambition. Spring needs to hurry up and actually arrive.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Bailey's Shower Playlist. One of the games we played at the shower had to do with popular first dance songs so I put together a playlist of those songs. I've found myself actually enjoying some country music but my favorite song on the list is Sara Bareilles' "I Choose You.

Watching: Basketball. That's pretty much it.

Reading: I haven't done much of this, either. Finished Alice I Have Been for book club which got postponed to this week and now I'm back to The Merry Spinster.

Making: I made a new dip for the shower. It called for light sour cream and light mayonnaise...and a pound of bacon. I couldn't imagine putting an entire pound of bacon in a dip (and didn't) but why in the world would you bother with light fats if you're using a pound of bacon?! Also, Mrs. S sent me a recipe for bread that tastes like the bread at Outback Steakhouse's bread. It turned out perfectly and, let me tell you, bread with cocoa baking it in smells delicious!

Planning: Easter, although we won't be doing too much since no one from my side of the family will be around and Mini-me and Mrs S will not be here.

Thinking About: How much I need to get done if I'm going to reach 40 bags in 40 days by this coming Sunday. This has really gone by the wayside this past month. I may not make it but I'm determined to at least get through some more areas still.
The bride - can't wait until she is
officially part of the family!

Enjoying: The bridal shower and being with family.

Feeling: Like I need to get something done before the day is done. Maybe I can talk The Big Guy into cleaning out his closet. Ha!

Looking forward to: Book club.

Question of the week: I'm hosting book club this week so I need to think about what to serve. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Classics Spin Number Is....

Completely forgot on March 9 to see what the Classics Club spin number was; lucky for me is was 3, which didn't end up being 9 which would have been The Portrait of a Lady for me which I would have needed to start right away. Instead, number 3 means I'll be reading Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. My copy of this book came to me from the lovely Care of Care's Books and Pies  who kindly sent it to me after I read her review of the book and expressed a desire to read it. Thanks, Care!

Monday, March 19, 2018

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Read by: Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer, Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman
Published: August 2008 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: audiobook bought at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love, family, and faith.

My Thoughts:
Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young
taken between 1869-1875
Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young Denning was a real person, the woman who called herself Brigham Young's 19th wife. I know this because, as I was listening to this book, I found myself more and more curious about how much of what Ebershoff had written was based on fact, particularly in light of the fact that Ebershoff has included many segments that purport to be items from the Mormon church's archives. You know how much love I have for any book that can make me want to do more research!

The 19th Wife was written in the period when it seemed like all novels had two story lines and, just like so many of those, this book suffers from one story line being stronger than the other. Here the historical piece is so fascinating, and Ebershoff spends so much of the book on it, that it often felt like Ebershoff had forgotten he even had another story going.

Ann Eliza Young was an interesting character, a woman who defied one of the most powerful men in the country when she left the Saints, a woman who was thrice divorced in a time when divorce was rare. She was instrumental in the United States outlawing polygamy and toured the country and wrote a book in that pursuit. But she was also a woman who became estranged from both of her sons as adults and whose second edition of her book tried to erase her own flaws.

The Mormon faith is something that I know very little about but haven't thought much of some of their beliefs, to be honest. Ebershoff, however, does a good job of explaining why a group of people would be willing to follow a faith with rules that are so difficult to follow and he highlights the value Mormons place on family and philanthropy. On the other hand, with Ann Eliza Young at the center of the story, the practice of polygamy, and the Saints willingness to accept and encourage it, is only one of the ways Ebershoff looks at the hypocrisy of the faith, particularly that of Brigham Young. I'm going to guess that this book is no more popular among the Latter Day Saints as Ann Eliza Young's original The 19th Wife was.

It's too bad the modern story line wasn't stronger because the modern polygamy is certainly interesting. When the Mormons gave up polygamy, there were some who refused to do it. Having been told for so many decades that polygamy (or plural marriage) was God's will, they felt like the Mormons were turning their backs on their true faith. It's these Mormons who gave us people like Warren Jeffers. Ebershoff calls these people "Firsts" and bases his present day story on them, making many of them descendants of the original characters. His focus is on what becomes of the young men in these sects, young men who the older men are eager to get rid of so they can take the young women for their own wives. It's a story line that deserves at least an equal share of a novel.

Despite the modern story not being as strong, I still enjoyed the book and learned so much. It would make a good book club selection, with a lot to discuss with both the historical and modern pieces.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Life: It Goes On - March 18

Happy Sunday! How many of you were part of the crazy masses out celebrating St. Patrick's Day yesterday? We did our usual reuben sandwich version of corned beef and cabbage and tipped some Guinness. The Big Guy and a friend went off to hear another friend's band play in the evening but this girl stayed home. I hate being in crowded places!

We are officially in that in between part of the year where one day you come out to find some sleet on your car and the next day you are eating dinner on the patio. Yep, you read that right - we ate dinner on the patio on Wednesday. BG thought I was crazy when I ran in the house telling him to help get food ready in a hurry so we could get outside while it was still 70 degrees out. But you know how much I have been looking forward for dinner-on-the-patio season!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides which I have been putting off for several months since I found out it was a book about a hermaphrodite. I just wasn't sure how anyone could write a book that long about that subject. I'm about 20% of the way through it now and just blown away by Eugenides writing. Why did I wait so long?!

Watching: College basketball since Thursday. "Our" teams haven't fared well this week but I am so into cheering for the teams I picked on my men's bracket!

Reading: I finally finished The Revolution of Marina M and had to turn to something completely different which ended up being Mallory Ortberg's The Merry Spinster. Fairy tales always pick me back up!

Making: Besides the aforementioned reubens, I made some chicken and rice last Sunday which we've used in a number of ways this week, including chicken nachos. We also did BLT salads.

Planning: The bridal shower is next weekend so I'm putting the final touches on that, including putting together a game which is taking much longer than I anticipated.

Thinking About: My kids are big on my mind this weekend.

Enjoying: My new hair color! I wish I could have gotten a good pic the day I walked out of the salon so that you could really see the red in it. So fun!

Feeling: Edgy and unable to focus. Which is not good considering I need to read a lot today to finish my book club book before Tuesday. Which leads me into...

Looking forward to: Book club Tuesday and shower next weekend. The shower means I get to see family I haven't seen in months so I can't wait for that!

Question of the week: Games at bridal showers - yea or nay?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic - What's On My Nook?

E-readers really do give new meaning to the Stephen King phrase "uniquely portable magic," don't they? Taking up no more space than a novella in my purse, I can carry multiple books at once and read whatever strikes my fancy.

Every day my Nook gives me recommendations of books I might enjoy based on my recent activity. I'm not always sure what activity it's looking at to make that determination. The day after I first set it up, it had recommendations based on my "recent activity." Really, Nook, I hardly think we knew each other well enough at that point for you to be telling me what to read.

I got my first Nook several years ago as a Christmas gift, before the price of Nooks plummeted. Given what my family spent, I'm sure they expected to see me with that thing in my hand constantly. Certainly, over the years, I have used it to read quite a lot of books, especially "big" books that I definitely appreciated not having to hold.

My use of my Nook as changed as the capabilities of my phone have increased. My almost sole purpose now is, again, as a reader, and I tend to download several books a month. There is much more activity now on which to make recommendations. It turns out those algorithms can be pretty accurate. And how do I know that? Because so often what my Nook recommends for me to read are books I've already read and enjoyed. But algorithms can only go so far unless you have enough books loaded up for it to really see what you might be interested in reading.

So what does my Nook have to look at when it's making recommendations for me? I think I must really confuse it sometimes!

Of the 103 books currently loaded on my Nook, 29 are nonfiction and include biographies, essay collections, and self-help books. Three of the books are collections of short stories; one is a play. Nine are mystery/thrillers; seven are considered classics. Several are what I would call "light" reads for when I need to cleanse my reading palate. Three I have already read and need to archive or delete. About a third have been published in the past three years and an equal number were published at least ten years ago. To be honest, two or three are books that I now feel I might never get around to reading.

Once upon a time it was pointed out to me that I was reading vastly more books by men than women. So I worked to rectify that and now find that I read more books by women than men. But slightly more than half of the books on my Nook are by men.

In many ways, I almost feel like my Nook is a better representation of my current reading interests than my bookshelves are. I'm a person who wants to read more nonfiction, toys with short stories and essays, likes to throw in a mystery/thriller occasionally, and doesn't read as many classics as I'd like. All of which means, that Nook algorithm might be better at picking out books for me than I am these days!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch

The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch
Published November 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times.

My Thoughts:
I just finished this book this morning, finally, and I'm not sure quite what to say about it. On the other hand, I feel that if I wait to review it, only the things that annoyed me about it will be left in my memory. Which is sort of what's already happening.

Before I put my thoughts into words, I went to see what others had to say about this book. Maybe someone could make me rethink what I've just read so that I might appreciate it more. Two authors I admire very much, Cynthia Bond and David Ebershoff (more on him later this week), had high praise. Huh. C'mon guys, tell me what I missed!

Let's go at this another way.

What I Didn't Like:
It's the Russian revolution, I get it. Lots to talk about. But this book did not need to be anywhere near 685 pages long. It wasn't all that far into the book before I started skimming liberally.

And when I got to the end? I couldn't believe that was how Fitch left it off; I was, to use a word my mother hates, pissed. I had expected the book to circle back around the opening few pages which were set in 1932. But it just sort of...ended.

One reviewer said Fitch "infuses her protagonists with transgressive sexual energy รก la E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey." Which is, actually, true, but not something I was looking for in a book about the Russian Revolution. There is part of the book that was very disturbing, related to sexual enslavement,  which I felt went on too long. Also, I'll give Fitch that Marina is a teenager, and teenagers don't always have the best judgment; but this girl seemed to be sexually aroused by almost every man who played any kind of significant role in the book. So, yeah, a lot of sex.

Those weren't the only scenes that played out much too long. The whole book could have used quite a lot of trimming up. It sometimes felt like the characters were just running back and forth. It was a time and place with a lot of tension but when things dragged out so much or seemed to become repetitive, I lost interest.

What I Liked:
I'll bet you were starting to think I might not get to this part, weren't you? Despite all of the above, there was a lot I did like about this book.

Fitch is able to make readers see the plight of all of the character - the good and bad of both those who were once the ruling class and those who did the work. There are certainly some very interesting characters in the book and I did find myself caught up in their tragedies and love.

Fitch studied Russian history when she was in school and her passion for the subject and knowledge of the revolution are clear. The extreme poverty, the desperation for food and eating materials, the fear are all vivid. I wasn't aware previously of just how confusing and uncertain the politics of Russia were following the revolution, how it tore apart the country and made everything so dangerous. I wish the publisher would have included a map of Petrograd and the surrounding areas as well as a listing of the historical characters and the various parties.

In many ways, this book is very timely - students rising up against their leaders, workers insisting on change, rural versus urban. One can only hope our own country doesn't end up with the same fate as Russia at the turn of the last century.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Life: It Goes On - March 11

Well, there goes another week without a single post. I would love to say it's because I've been so busy reading that I haven't had time to write reviews or because I've been so busy doing fun things that I just haven't had time to write. Unfortunately, it's neither one of those things. Just life and a book that I just can't make myself read or give up on.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I did finish The 19th Wife and will, finally, have a book review to post this week. It's certainly a book that has me thinking. I just finished listening to the book yesterday afternoon then got in the car in the evening and heard a story on As It Happens with the ex-wife of a polygamist in Bountiful, British Columbia. Of course, I was all the more interested in that story having just finished a book about polygamy.

Watching: A lot of Grace and Frankie and the new version of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Yesterday I watched a couple of episodes of The Crown. What a marvelous show; I always learn so much! Miss H and I also got in a couple of episodes of The Mindy Project which always makes us laugh.

Reading: See above. I will finish The Revolution of Marina M this weekend if only because I have so much time invested in it already. Then I'm on to The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg, a collection of "darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales."

Chicken and stuffing casserole
Making: Super nachos, homemade chicken alfredo pizza, pasta, and chocolate/butterscotch chip cookies. Miss H's boyfriend had surgery on Friday so I baked some casseroles for him to pull out of the freezer this week when he gets home from the hospital - a pasta/meatball bake and chicken and stuffing casserole. Because that's what I do, I feed people.

Planning: On finishing our taxes today then it's on to working on 40 Bags In 40 Days. I think I finally have The Big Guy on board to at least go through some things that he's been digging his heels in on. Let's be honest, we don't use at least half of our luggage now that we rarely check baggage so don't really use our bigger bags. Time to let those things go.

Thinking About: New furniture. Or a new rug. We need to make some changes but we can't quite decide what route we want to go (or, at least, we can't agree on what route to go).  Anyone else hate furniture shopping as much as I do?

Enjoying: The Omaha Film Festival and dinner afterward with friends. We saw a documentary called "One Vote."  If you ever feel like your vote is not important or if you don't have time to go vote, this movie will make you change your mind. It might also make you want to do something more to help people, whose voices are not being heard, exercise their right to vote. The movie follows five people on election day in 2016 and, following the movie, all of those people were available for questions. That might not seem like such a big deal until you consider that only two of those people on the stage were from Omaha. Two were from Alaska, three were from Southern states, one was from Chicago. The man standing is Omaha's own Warren Buffet. You'd think he'd be the star of the panel but, honestly, it was that little lady in the red, Dr. Brenda Williams who is tireless and fierce when it comes to making sure that everyone is able to vote.

Feeling: So happy for Miss H who has a boyfriend now who makes her so happy.

Looking forward to: A quiet week?

Question of the week: Spring is coming! What are you most looking forward to in the spring?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Life: It Goes On - March 4

I think I need a new "Life: It Goes On" picture for this time of year. Something that shows a mound of dirty snow melting in the sunshine, perhaps?

Yesterday the thermometer in my backyard showed that it was 77 degrees; that wasn't right (it sits in the sun) but it was ridiculously nice out. And where was I? I spent most of the day in the basement cleaning and organizing. That's some poor planning there, folks.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I will finish The 19th Wife this week. I think it's going to end up being one of those books that I would give "C+" to, if I gave grades. It's not bad, but it's not wow'ing me. Perhaps the last fourth will knock me out.

Watching: Some college basketball, some Grace and Frankie, The Voice. This week I also got on the  The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel bandwagon. I'm half way through the first season and really enjoying it. The costumes and sets alone are worth tuning in for at least once.

Reading: At least I'm listening to a book. I cannot make myself sit down and read otherwise. It may be time to give up on The Revolution of Marina M. It's not necessarily the book, it's just not the right book for me right now.

Making: Chicken and noodles, pasta with crab, rice pudding, grilled steak and mashed potatoes, and scotcheroos.

Here's another thing I enjoyed:
it was warm enough to have
back door open all
Saturday afternoon!
Planning: On heading back down to the basement shortly for some 40 Bags In 40 Days work. Yesterday, just in prepping it for a party, I managed to get rid of a good-sized box of things. It's one big room that tends to look more like a closet than a usable room. Time for that to change.

Thinking About: Politics. My head hurts and I'm tired.

Enjoying: Celebrating both of our girls' birthdays - Miss H and Mrs. S have the same birthday! Also, what's turning out to be a regular Thursday lunch with Mini-him.

Feeling: Tired. Damn, getting the house ready for Miss H's party was exhausting. But it certainly does look better!

Looking forward to: My friend's annual Academy Award watching party. Always good food, fun cocktails, and a lot of judgment and laughter! I'm interested to see how the #metoo and #timesup movements will impact the night.

Question of the week: Will you be watching the Oscars? Do you have any favorites?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Classics Club Spin

I actually saw the post for the next spin before it was too late to post about it - yea, me! So the deal is:

List your choice of any twenty books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of April (details to follow). Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018.

Here are my twenty for the spin:

Five Classics I Can't Wait To Read:
1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
2. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
3. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
4. Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner
5. The Custom Of The Country by Edith Wharton

Five Classics I'm Dreading 
6. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
7. The Sound And The Fury by William Faulkner
8. Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
9. The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James
10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Five Classics I'm Neutral About:
11. Dracula by Bram Stoker
12. Miss Bishop by Bess Streeter Aldrich
13. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
14. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
15. The Phantom of The Opera by Gaston Leroux

Five Classics That Have Been Made Into Movies:
16. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
17. The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
18. All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren
19. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
20. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

If this spin number is 6, 7, 9, or 10, I'm hosting a readalong. I'm going to need some support with those!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Originally Published 1937
Source: my copy purchased for my Nook

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

My Thoughts:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the Omaha Bookworms' classic book selection for 2018; I picked it, as I've done so many of the books I've picked in the past couple of years, because I thought it was a book that would take us out of our comfort zone, a book that "should" be read. It's a short book, just 200 pages; but it is not a quick read.
This is a book that's dialogue heavy and the dialogue is written in dialect. I suggested to a friend that I would have enjoyed the book more if I'd listened to it, rather than read it. That's even more true once I found out that Ruby Dee reads the audiobook. While I very much appreciate the use of dialect, particularly in light of when the book was written, it makes reading this book more difficult and I often felt that I lost the beauty of the book in the work it was to read it. 

There is so much beauty in this book; Hurston's writing is often stunning.
"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don't wan tot remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly."
"So Janie began to think of Death. Death, that strange being with the huge square toes who lived way in the West. The great one who lived in the straight house like a platform without sides to it, and without a roof. What need has Death for a cover, and winds can blow against him? He stands in his high house that overlooks the world. Stands watchful and motionless all day with his sword drawn back, waiting for the messenger to bid him come. Been standing there before there was a where or a when or a then. She was liable to find a feather from his wings lying in her yard any day now."
Their Eyes Were Watching God is not a book now considered a classic because it was beloved from the moment it was first published. Readers in 1937 didn't know what to make of a woman like Janie, who simply walked away from her first marriage because it was loveless and who refused to grieve for her second husband in the expected way because she was more than a little relieved to be rid of him. Other readers may not have known what to make of Hurston's exploration of race in the book.

The very things, though, that made this a tough book for readers in 1937 to "get" are what makes this book one that is now considered so important and what makes it still so timely. Hurston explores gender roles, the value of women in relationships, the liberation of women, and women looking to find their own voices and equality. She also looks at race but primarily as it has created a divide within black communities and the impact it has had on African Americans' way of looking at the world.

Janie represents all of the women now fighting vigorously to find their own voices and make them heard. We find that in the #metoo and #timesup conversations, in the Women's Marches, and in all of the women now running for political office. The divides within the black communities in this book are still seen in the divides that blacks are struggling with today (favoring lighter skin over darker skin, for example). In the wake of the Black Lives Matter surge, I often heard black voices saying to other blacks things very much like this:
"Us talks about de white man keeping' us down! Shucks! He don't have tuh. Us keeps our own selves down."
I liked this book when I finished reading it. I appreciated it much more after taking some time to explore what makes it a classic. Because it truly is a book that should be taught and read and understood.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Life: It Goes On - February 24

credit: Max Lyrata
I am so over winter at this point - an entire week of precipitation of one sort or another, icy commutes, grey skies. We even had thunder sleet the other night. It's not even enough snow to make things pretty. Hurry up spring!

It hasn't been all bad. I had an exceptionally social week. Tuesday was book club, Wednesday I met friends for happy hour, Thursday I met Mini-him for lunch, and Friday Mini-him and I went to a play (The Cripple of Inishmaan). That's a whole lot of spending time with other people for this woman; I may hide in my room all day today! Not really. I have to get taxes started. Yuck.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'm about half way through The 19th Wife. It's one of those books that has been running to research, which is always a good thing.

Watching: The Olympics, duh. I may have watched the men's curling team's gold medal match more than once. As much as I'll miss them when the Olympics are over, there's also a part of me that's looking forward to getting back to watching other things.

Reading: I'm finally focused again on The Revolution of Marina M. Although last night I finally bought Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing and I really, really want to pick that up. So maybe focused is not really the appropriate word for my current reading.

Making: Winter comfort foods: breakfast for dinner, cauliflower and backed potato soup, goulash. Also, croutons with what was left of last week's loaf of homemade bread. And I tried my hand at sourdough bread. Not sure what I did wrong but let's just say that we'll soon have what we hope will be a lovely batch of sourdough croutons. We're going to have to start eating a lot of salads at this rate!

Planning: Bridal shower planning is in full swing. I got the invitations designed and printed yesterday and those will go out in the mail tomorrow. They went surprisingly smoothly and maybe took less time to do than it would have to write out the details on prepackaged invites. Maybe too smoothly? I keep wondering if there's a glaring typo I have missed that everyone else will notice immediately!

Thinking About: How much I could accomplish if I just had a week off work to get things done around the house.

Enjoying: See second paragraph. I am blessed with the people I have in my life and especially grateful to have raised children who want to spend time with me and who I very much enjoy as adults.

Feeling: Like it's time to make some changes in my life. I'm tired of not wanting to go to work everyday.

Looking forward to: A quiet week. I need to get caught up after last week.

Question of the week: I need game ideas for the bridal shower. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein. or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, read by Simon Vance*
Published: originally in 1818
Source: bought the audiobook at my local library book sale

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering "the cause of generation and life" and "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

My Thoughts:
Frankenstein is one of those books that I've long felt like I "should" read but I really didn't have any interest in it. This was, of course, entirely based, almost entirely, on the movie adaptations I've seen of it. I envisioned a great lot of discussion of the piecing together of body parts, long passages of trial and error. But when I found the audiobook for only $2 at the library book sale, and it was only seven discs long, I decided to knock this one off the need-to-read list.

Certainly this is the perfect book for the R.I.P. challenge in the fall, but it is so much more than a horror story. Is it a science fiction story, then? Not entirely, even though science plays a big part in it early on and some sources say that it may well be the first real science fiction story written. For me, Frankenstein is more a psychological morality tale than anything else. It is certainly a book that remains relevant.

Recently scientists cloned monkeys; certainly there have to be those who think that humans can't be far behind. Mary Shelley seems to suggest we should rethink that. What of the consequences? Victor Frankenstein was certainly a man who allowed his obsession and intelligence to carry him into uncharted waters without thought of the ramifications.

Over the years, people have mistakenly called the creation "Frankenstein." More recently, the popular opinion has become that Victor is the real monster. I defy you to read this book and not come away from it still wondering about that.

Certainly Victor, immediately upon seeing what he had created, walked away, leaving his creation to fend in a world Victor knew would not accept him. On the other hand, the creation is a thinking being, who educates himself and then chooses violent revenge. And would it be right or wrong for Victor to create a mate for his Adam, as the creation demands?

There is so much to think about in this book and there are no easy answers.

*If you have never read this book, I highly recommend the audiobook. Simon Vance is, as ever, amazing. He truly makes the story come alive. Even though I often sat in my car a little longer than necessary to keep listening, I was never tempted to pick up a paper copy of the book so that I could keep reading because I wanted Vance to read me the book.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Life: It Goes On - February 18

The Olympics have started and that means nothing much is getting done around my house that can't be done while I'm sitting in my family room. I've got a problem, no doubt about it!

I did start 40 Bags In 40 Days on Wednesday. I've largely been going over areas that I've gone through in the past few months so the bags that have been going out of my house have been small. The Big Guy, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he was ready to start getting rid of some things, has now dug in his heels against being made to go through his things. Argh! So frustrating!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Frankenstein; I'm so glad I finally read this book but even more glad that I "read" it on audio. Simon Vance is so good! Friday I started The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff. I do have this one in print so may make it a read/listen combination at some point.

Watching: When I'm not watching the Olympics, I have watched a couple of episodes of The Crown.

Reading: I'll finish up Their Eyes Were Watching God today for book club this week then I'm back to The Revolution of Marina M.

Making: Chicken noodle soup - Miss H's new boyfriend tells me his mom has competition now. Always good when you can measure up to a boy's mom's cooking!

Planning: A dance-themed bridal shower for my nephew's fiancee for next month. We've found it's easy to find ballet-themed party ideas but I'd like the decor to include other forms of dance as well. Any ideas?

Thinking About: Starting taxes today. At least I can do that while I'm watching the Olympics!

Enjoying: BG and I went with some friends to a chamber music concert on Monday held at a local art gallery. It was a night of tango music and dancing, wine and chocolate. Thursday I met a former work friend for drinks. Yea for time with friends!

Feeling: Cranky. I hate when the idea of tomorrow being Monday makes me cranky on Sundays!

Looking forward to: Book club this week.

Question of the week: What was your favorite job you ever had?

Friday, February 16, 2018

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
Published January 2018 by Melville House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.

My Thoughts:
Tom Malmquist is a poet which becomes immediately apparent. There is not a word wasted nor does Malmquist waste any time in pulling readers into the pain that is to become Tom's life. From the moment the consultant stamps down the wheel lock of Karin's hospital bed in the opening sentence to the moment he leaves his daughter off a preschool alone for the first time, Malmquist makes readers feel every moment of the balancing act that Tom's life becomes in a moment.

Because the book is more memoir than work of fiction, the pain feels so much more palpable. It's hard to read the vivid details of Karin's rapid decline, the agony of her parents who are kept, inexplicably, away from her deathbed, the mad pinball existence Tom lives as he watches his wife die and his premature daughter grow, and the terror he feels knowing he will be left to raise her on his own. But all of that is not where his sorrow ends because, just months after Karin dies, Tom must deal with the death of his father, a man he has had a complicated relationship with all of his life.

Although the book is only 240 pages long, so much is packed into it, and it is so intense, that it feels like a much longer book. But it is not just all of that pain that makes it read that way, it is also the style of Malmquist's writing. The book moves back and forth in time, allowing readers to visit Karin and Tom as they meet and become a couple. But that can be extremely jarring at times as it usually happens without a break in the writing. Also, be forewarned, those of you who must have quotation marks in your books, there are none here. Not only that but whole conversations are often lumped into a single paragraph. I often found myself re-reading passages to make sure I understood who was talking.

When the book moved into Tom's relationship with his father and his father's death, the back and forth in time became even more complicated and hard to follow. For me, it also overwhelmed the story, although, it retrospect, it seems it was important to understand Tom's relationship with his father to understand his fears about being a father himself.

The longer I've blogged, the less often I find myself taking chances on books, which is a shame. Because without doing that, I would not have discovered this book. Despite it being a tough read, it's a book I'm very glad to have read.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions about this book, check out the full tour.

Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.