Catching Up

22813605I made a good decision to abandon a book this weekend.  It was tough because I really liked the author’s previous book so much.  I was highly anticipating this one, but it just felt reeeeaallllyyyy slooooowwwww and incredibly detailed, and I just didn’t feel compelled to pick it up again.  I got 90 pages in and then I had to cut bait.  I think perhaps it was just my frame of mind and I’ll try it again another time.  But, by letting it go now I was able to dive into a book I was genuinely eager to read:  Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger.  I’m racing through it and find it most compelling.  Tough subject matter (Gay was brutally gang-raped at the age of 12, and has struggled with morbid obesity ever since) but I was prepared for that going in.  I’m drawn to books about weight and body image struggles because I’ve always been a bit on the chubby side myself and have gone through ups and down with body image my whole life.  But honestly, I think even if you’ve never experienced a “weight problem” you might still want to pick this one up.  It’s a searing examination of what it’s like to be a fat person today, in our world, with our society’s fat phobia and miniscule airline seats and reality TV shows about losing weight.  It’s a brave book, and I’m really into it so far.

51jNORv6nQLI’m also listening to an audio book that is about as far away from Hunger as one can get:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, read by the amazing Jim Dale.  I believe that my audio book reading for the rest of the year will be the remaining books in the series.  I’ve read them in paper form years ago, of course, but experiencing them again in this format is a true treat.  I’d forgotten how insufferable Gilderoy Lockhart was – Dale nails his smarmy voice perfectly.  I’m one disc from the end so the action is really getting good.  Yes, I listen to audio book CDs (from my library) in my car!  I haven’t succumbed to an Audible subscription yet.  I keep thinking I will one day, and then I remember the gazillion podcasts I subscribe to and listen to on my phone, so I hold off.  One day!

As for 20 Books of Summer, I’ve read books 10 and 11, but haven’t yet written about them.  Look for a mini-review post in the next few days.  I am most certainly NOT going to have read all 20 books by September 3!  At this point I honestly don’t even remember what books are on my original revised list, ha ha!  I’m pretty sure that Hunger wasn’t on there.  Oh well, who really cares?  At some point in the next couple of months I’ll have read 20 books and written about them, right?  It will all work out.  🙂

So, if you’re participating, how are you doing with 20 Books of Summer?  If you’re not, how are you at abandoning books?  Do you feel a pang of guilt, especially when it’s an author you’ve previously enjoyed?  What’s the last great audio book you listened to? let me know in the comments.

 

 

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Reading Update

How’s it going, guys?  Today’s my last day at work for a week (woohoo!) since it’s my son’s fall break and I want to spend time with him.  We were supposed to be going to South Carolina on Sunday but had to cancel because of the hurricane.  I feel so badly for all who live in its path.  It’s scary stuff.  My family and I will do some fun things over the next week and we’ll try again for a beach trip in March or May of next year.  Let’s all send out some heavy prayers for the people of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

9780385678414I just finished Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley, the eighth book in his Flavia De Luce mystery series.  I have enjoyed these books up until now.  Flavia is a precocious twelve year old heroine in a small British village in the post-war period, who just happens to help solve murders.  Sadly, this one may be my last.  Not only did it unfold at a dreadfully slow pace, but the mystery wasn’t that compelling.  And the ending!  Ugh! A terrible thing happened and I think it was completely unnecessary.  Oh well.  It was a good run.

I just started reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.  Only 29 pages in and it’s beautifully written so far, as I expected it would be.  It’s for my book group meeting on the 16th, which I may not attend due to a conflict.  But I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, so I’m glad to have the prompt.126381

I recently finished Hope Jahren’s excellent memoir Lab Girl. If you’re the least bit interested in nature or science, and you enjoy memoirs, I highly recommend it.  It’s not the least bit dry or overly scholarly, yet I promise you’ll never look at trees the same way again.  She’s so smart and she has such a passion for the natural world.  She really lays it out there about how challenging it is to be a scientist in America and constantly have to scrounge around for funding.  Here’s my favorite passage, where she is reflecting on her love for her only child, a son, who happens to love beating on a palm tree with whatever implement he can find.

Being a daughter was so difficult for both my mother and me; maybe our line needs to skip a generation in order to extinguish the cycle such that it cannot be repeated.  So I’ve set my heart on a granddaughter – as always, my greed for love is unreasonably premature.  Based on my projections, there’s more than a small chance that I’ll die before she’s born, particularly if our line continues to skip or bifurcate.  And perhaps this is the way it was meant to be, for me anyway.

Nevertheless, here on this sunny day, I can’t resist my temptation to put a message in a bottle: Somebody remember.  Somebody someday find my granddaughter and tell her.  Tell her about the day that one of her grandmothers sat looking out of her kitchen window with a pen in her hand.  tell her that her grandmother didn’t see the dirty dishes or the dust on the windowsill because she was busy deciding.  Tell her that in the end, she decided to go ahead and love her granddaughter several decades too early.  Tell her about the day that her grandmother sat in a sunbeam and dreamed of her to the soundtrack of a tree being flogged.

812c5592-fb87-11e5-8b45-86e4300cc57e-780x1163As a mother of an only child, a five year old boy, who also loves to beat on trees, I can share that I bawled when I read this.

I hope you all have a great weekend and that you’re reading some great books!  Have you read any of these?  Tell me what you’re currently reading or what you just finished in the comments.

(Sort Of) In Progress

My son starts kindergarten Tuesday.  His dad and I are feeling all kinds of feelings, as you can probably imagine.  Excitement, nervousness, sadness, disbelief all rolled up into one state of what I call general “floopiness.”  Consequently, I can’t seem to concentrate on reading.  I finished Lumberjanes Vol. 1 on July 15 and since then I’ve been reading things in dribs and drabs.  (It was cute, by the way.  I’ll definitely get the second volume and see how I like it.)  I find myself wanting to watch movies and The Great British Baking Show on PBS more than I want to pick up a book.  (I am slightly obsessed with that show – it’s everything delightful!  Beautiful, intricate baked goods, humble, adorable British people who seems to genuinely like one another and want one another to do well – I just love it.)

I had to return Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl to the library today – woe is me!  I was only 164 pages into it, but it still has a pretty lengthy holds lists.  I couldn’t keep it any longer in good conscience.  I really am enjoying it.  She’s a marvelous writer, marrying memoir with passion for botany.  She makes botany really interesting!  She makes me want to plant trees!  I may go ahead and buy it before a copy makes its way back to me at the library.

16158542I’m listening to The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown on CD in my car.  It’s the sort of thing that I probably wouldn’t pick up to read in paper form, but Michael Kindness’s glowing recommendation on Books on the Nightstand persuaded me to try the audio book.  Oh, and the fact that it’s narrated by the late Edward Herrmann, a.k.a. RICHARD GILMORE from Gilmore Girls!  As promised, he does a fantastic job narrating.  I’m a little over halfway through and think I’ll be able to finish before I must return it to the library.  (More holds!) It’s pretty fascinating, weaving the biography of one of the young boatmen in particular with history of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the rise of the Nazis in the lead-up to the 1936 Olympics.  I am enjoying it much more than I thought I might!

9781481440875_custom-83c869fee28f9137f21e4e8c5eae3529468e813a-s300-c85I’ve started Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon but haven’t gotten far.  It’s definitely intriguing.  Some sort of shapeshifting alien has landed off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, and a diverse cast of characters are all dealing with the aftermath.  I think I’ll try to get back to this one tonight!  And I’m also halfway through Fables Vol 9: Sons of Empire .  Graphic novels seem to be about my speed these days with my short attention span.

So it seems that I’ve got a case of what Stefanie from So Many Books calls “The Middles.”  I predict that in a few weeks, when my family settles into our new schedule, I will bounce back with more focus and a renewed zeal for reading.  I hope that you all are having a good summer!  Tell me what you’re currently reading in the comments.  Or if you’re like me and having trouble concentrating, what is holding your interest these days?

Podcast Talk and The Slump

So I’ve been in a little reading slump the past week or so.  I haven’t finished a book since June 21.  I’m currently reading five books (Middlemarch, Jane Casey’s The Burning, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brené Brown, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.)  The Marlon James is exquisite – he’s just a marvelous writer – but it’s really hard reading, emotionally.  So I’ve put it aside for the moment.  But I will definitely come back to it.  The Brené Brown is valuable and smart (self-help) but a little on the dry side, so I’ve just been picking at it a few pages at a time.  And I’m still loving Middlemarch, but I’ve only got one section to go, and I need to write about the penultimate section before I begin the final one.  I’m determined to finish at least TWO of these books before I start another one!  I don’t like the feeling of having all these books “open,” so to speak.  But I only have myself to blame for this predicament.  The one that is totally grabbing me out of that stack is the British mystery novel  The Burning.  In fact, it’s quite a page-turner, and I’m into the second half and don’t want to put it down.  I hope this means that I am coming out of the slump.  Fingers crossed!

In the meantime I continue to explore the world of podcasts.  You may remember that I only started listening to them last fall.  I began listening to Books on the Nightstand this past March.  This week brings the final regular episode of Books on the Nightstand.  (Sad face emoji here.)  Ann and Michael announced the end a few weeks ago, so we all knew it was coming.  I’m sad that I won’t get to have their conversation and recommendations in my ears every week, but I understand the hosts’ desires to be able to do more of their own free-range reading that’s not connected to recommending things for the podcast.  And we have all the episodes available – all 389 of them!  It’s quite an achievement, I think, to have been around that long.nightstand-illuminating

Their final regular episode (a special blooper episode is coming out next week) features Ann’s and Michael’s Fiction Preview for books coming out in the next nine months.  I haven’t listened to it yet (saving it, I guess?) but just scanning the list in the show notes, it’s going to make your TBR explode.  Quite a few of these are already on my list!

Since I’ll have some more room in my life for another podcast shortly, I’ve started listening to Reading the End, hosted by the “demographically similar Jennys” – Gin Jenny and Whiskey Jenny.  I was already regularly reading their blog, so I don’t know what took me so long to try their podcast.  It is just plain fun and delightful.  cover170x170The one I just listened to was episode 55, from February of this year, in which the Jennys discuss their favorite literary couples and talk about the book that Gin Jenny made Whiskey Jenny read because she thought she would hate it.  (It was Planetfall by Emma Newman.)  They each picked books for one another and called it “The Hatening.”  I just love their willingness to try fun experiments like this!  If you haven’t given Reading the End a listen, I definitely recommend it.

On a totally unrelated note, tomorrow’s my son’s birthday!  He’s turning five!  I can not believe it.  I’ve never felt five years pass so quickly before.  We had his party last weekend with family and friends, but tomorrow we’ll be celebrating with just the three of us.  I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend and let’s hope I can finish some of these darned books soon!

 

 

 

In Progress, and Jane Austen Bingo

I hope the weekend is treating you well and you’re finding time to read!  Lately I feel like I just can’t make much progress, but the tide may be turning, since last night I knocked out a big chunk of my current read, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

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Now I know I just wrote a post about not being able to choose a book on a whim.  But that’s pretty much how I chose this particular book!  I love the Goodreads List 2016: What Women Born in the 1970s Have Read So Far This Year.  This is the fifth year that the list has existed.  I am kind of obsessive about putting down what I read on that list and seeing where it falls, how many other people are reading it, etc.  I don’t know.  It’s just my jam.  So far this year the top two spots have alternated between The Nightingale and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

I read Girl on the Train, and it was just… okay.  I know so many people loved it, but I really feel like there are so many better written thrillers out there that didn’t get the attention they deserved in the shadow of GOTT.  So basically I decided to read The Nightingale because “everyone” else is reading it and I want it to beat GOTT for the number one slot on the Goodreads list!  Am I insane?  Quite possibly.22557272

I have never read Kristin Hannah before, but I am told that this historical novel is a departure for her, because she usually writes contemporary women’s fiction.  (Whatever THAT means.  That seems like such a bogus, made-up genre to me, but what do I know?)  It’s set in France in World War II, and the main characters are sisters – an older one who is married, a mother, and more reserved, and an impetuous, brash younger sister.  I will say that the plot of The Nightingale has me turning pages super-fast.  But as I get over the half-way mark, the SAD STUFF starts really piling up.  And I find myself having to skim over certain sections, especially about mothers and children.  The writing is okay.  It’s not bad.  But it’s not really the quality of writing that rings my bookish bell.   However, the story is indeed compelling enough.  So I predict that by the end of the weekend I will be done with The Nightingale.  Next on deck after that:  Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.   Talk about bookish whiplash!

51gc1HCCV8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_On a totally unrelated note, I feel compelled to share something that one of my book group members put on Facebook the other day.  It’s a Jane Austen Bingo Card!  I think it’s been around a while, but you may have seen it floating around lately.  I absolutely cackled when I read it.  Click the link and be prepared to laugh.  You don’t have to be an ardent Austenite to appreciate it.

What are you reading right now?  Have you read The Nightingale, Girl on the Train, or The Sellout?  Tell me in the comments.

 

 

Where Did The Week Go?

I don’t quite know where the last week has gone!  I posted my last review, finished Alice Munro’s The Progress of Love, began Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil, and finished my audio book (The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber) and POOF, suddenly it was another Sunday!  This has been a hectic week, what with work and doctor’s appointments for everyone in the family.  I’ve also joined a new gym (huzzah!) and have been working out more there and at home.  And Downton Abbey has started again (yay!)  So my focus for blogging has been divided lately.

But of course, I’m still reading!  This particular novel is not fulfilling the requirements of the Triple Dog Dare TBR Challenge, but it’s one of the exceptions I made at the outset.  I’ve been on hold for this one for a while at the library and it came in last week.  I’m glad to say that the third installment of Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike mystery series is the best one yet.  Career_of_Evil_Oct_2015If you’ve not read them, you probably should begin with the first.  Strike is a very appealing character, a P.I., ex-British military, gruff and imposing physically, but with a good heart.  He and his secretary/partner (her role in the agency is sort of undefined,) the younger, beautiful Robin Ellacott, have a sweet, complicated “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship that I am rooting for.  The mystery in this outing is excellent, and totally grabbed me from the start.  Some sicko killer has sent Robin a HUMAN LEG, and is targeting Robin to get to Strike, not to mention ruin their business in the process.  Strike immediately thinks of four men who could be out to get him, all of them very unsavory characters.  Robin’s also about to get married and tensions between her and her fiance are high, so she’s dealing with that along with the stress of being in the sights of a psychopath.  I’m about 100 pages from the end and there’s SO MUCH yet to be resolved, so I’m sort of breathlessly turning the pages at this point.

My books for my book group count as another exception to the TBR challenge, and February’s book (discarded library copy) arrived in the mail this week   I belong to an awesome book group – smart, funny ladies who have a diverse range of interests.  Our pick for next month is Corey Feldman’s Coreyography!  IMG_2973I have a weakness for dishy celeb autobiographies, but this one was heavily lobbied for by another book group member.  I remember loving the movies that Corey Feldman and Corey Haim made in the last ’80s and early ’90s, Licence to Drive and Dream a Little Dream.  I didn’t harbor a crush for either guy, as many of my generation did, but I appreciated their work!  (Feldman was also in another campy favorite of mine, the underrated Tom Hanks movie The Burbs.)  Anyway, I think this memoir is going to be pretty heavy, with drugs, physical and sexual abuse, and family dysfunction in Feldman’s past.  It’s not our usual kind of book group choice, but I’ll let you know how it goes!  Anyone else have a weakness for celebrity memoirs?  I’d love to hear your picks.