Reading

Show us your books: October 2017

Up to 32/50 books read this year and now I’m only 6 books behind where I should be. This month’s drop in reading volume was due to the fact that I got a new PC and that messed with how Adobe Digital Editions interfaced with my Philadelphia Free Library account. I could download books when they became available, but not open them, likely because I didn’t deauthorize ADE off of my dead computer and had to create a new id, which didn’t work either. I ended up losing 2 of my available holds that way.

It’s so tiny and light!

My consumerist solution was to get a Kindle Paperwhite and I am tickled pink to be done with side loading books onto my Nook. I still have plenty of purchased books on the Nook (thanks to BookBub). AND it also interfaces with Goodreads. I think I have achieved corporeal assumption into the Amazon Universe. I AM KIM PRIME!

Onto the books! For reviews, I use the Goodreads scale, which is:
One star: did not like it
Two stars: it was ok
Three stars: liked it
Four stars: really liked it
Five stars: it was amazing

The Folded Clock: A Diary – Heidi Julavits

This is a journal covering about two years in the author’s life. What made it charming was that every entry started with “Today I,” which is how she started her diaries as a child. About 15% through the book I realized that the diary entries weren’t in chronological order, which I HATE and I WHINE and MOAN all of the time about how this stuff messes up my enjoyment of books. However, part of her reason for writing this was because at her age she was finding that her time isn’t measured anymore by mere days, but weeks, months, quarters, etc. Even I, without the multiple residences, children, jet-set writer’s lifestyle, hundreds of ex-boyfriends who adored me, etc, can relate. I tried to let the lack of chronology go and focused on the recurring themes and … it was a good read. Julavits herself seems a bit unhinged at times but you know what? So are we all. She carries a tap handle with her, I wear special earrings on the days I travel home. My diary is free online and remains mostly chronological. Three stars.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

Whenever I pick up a book of Helen Oyeyemi’s I know I’m in for a difficult, twisty read and I LOVE IT. This was the second ebook library loan I couldn’t fulfill on my nook and I was pissed enough to drive to my local library to borrow a hard copy. This is a collection of short stories with the theme of locks and keys. Like her other books, the characters here are wonderfully diverse and mostly human. Characters drift in and out of each other’s stories. My favorites of the stories were “A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society” and “Books and Roses.” Five stars and I’m going to start diving into her backlist.

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual — Luvvie Ajayi

This is the book from AwesomelyLuvvie.com blogger Luvvie Ajayi. It sucks you in with funny observances about how crappy people can be in real life, and then hits you with essays on sexism and racism and homophobia before whip-lashing back into funny essays about poor behavior in social media. I didn’t mind the serious stuff — we all need to be reading that — but I’m an adult and I don’t need my vegetables pureed and hidden in my spaghetti sauce to trick me into eating them. And most of the blurbs were of the “LOL I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING!!!” type. The book was funny and well-written, but I’m about 20 years beyond the audience that would benefit most from the life lessons inside. Three stars.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear — Elizabeth Gilbert

Oh my gosh I was so disappointed in this book, probably because I lloOOOOOooooOOOoooooVVVVVeee Elizabeth Gilbert’s writings so much, even the books that aren’t Eat, Pray, Love. Even the fiction books. This was … nice … and all, but there was so much woo (and I like woo) and name-dropping of her famous friends, and casual reminders that she happened to write Eat, Pray, Love I wanted to check out after every single chapter. To save you time, here are my takeaways: We’re all creative, we don’t have to quit our day jobs to be so, and actually it’s best that we don’t quit our day jobs, and that if an idea pesters you and you dismiss it, it will find its way to someone else who will fulfill it.

Two stars. Watch her lovely TED talk instead. And if you want fiction, read Signature of All Things.

Lincoln in the Bardo — George Saunders

Bardo: (in Tibetan Buddhism) a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death.

A super-strong showing from the only dude on the list this month. This book captivated me. It was confusing — ridiculously confusing — at first, but then once I got used to the format and the multiple narrators it gelled. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, and uplifting. Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, dies at the age of eleven. His body is placed in a crypt in Washington DC. His father is distraught. We learn about this both from the ghostly residents of the neighborhood (think of a very adult version of the graveyard of Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride) and through selected passages from a wealth of historical documents. It’s a marriage of fact and faith and I read 368 pages in a little over 24 hours. Trigger warnings for rape, violence, and death.

Five stars!

Currently reading:

Console Wars – Blake J. Harris. Still. This is the book I pick up when I have nothing else available.
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky – Lesley Nneka Arimah. I just started last night and a woman was just shot in the back so we’ll see how far I continue. I might not have the heart right now for extended violence.

Missed due to stupid Adobe ID/Adobe Digital Editons/Overdrive/Nook issues:

Chemistry — Weike Wang
Idaho — Emily Ruskovich

The Holds list:

This is my current Philly Library holds list. I need to add a few.

To read:
I’m going on a (non-Disney) cruise next week and I’m looking for something upbeat and fun. Beachiness is preferred but optional. I may crack and buy Sourdough, because I adored Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Maybe A Night to Remember? 😉

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

Currently

Eating: Martha Stewart’s Snickerdoodle Crumb Bars. I had the ingredients on-hand today so I figured what the heck. They are tasty, but I had to bake them 15 minutes more than the recipe indicated for the middle to bake completely. That burned the bottom a bit, but I sliced off that part. Also, my streusel didn’t clump up like it should have. I’ll try them again for sure, but I think I’m going to bake it at 375 instead of 350 and adjust the streusel proportions so that it’s chunkier.

Watching: WWE No Mercy Pay-per-View. I pay $9.99 a month for the WWE network and get all of the monthly specials, so we turn them on. Even the lesser ones. On regulart TV this fall I’ll be watching The Good Place because I have a soft spot for the world of Mike Schur TV shows. I’m going to give the Will & Grace (slight) reboot a shot. I enjoyed it way back when until it became the Jack and Karen show. And I’ll probably start recording Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party because I am obviously still a member of the cult of Martha. Fuller House Season 3 is out, but I stopped watching Season 2 when 55 year old Aunt Becky decided she needed another baby. I didn’t even get to the NKOTB episode.

Losing: Words with Friends. STILL. Look at this shame…

I want to say I’m improving, but I’m really not. I’ll keep trying, though.

Aching because I started exercising again.

Reading: Chemistry by Weike Wang. Actually, I’ll start it tomorrow on the train. This weekend I read Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You, one of the books from my impromptu library trip Thursday night.

I can’t quit Elizabeth Gilbert. I want to, but am unable to.

Searching: For a nice photo editing app for my Surface that will let me resize photos and adjust the levels. Right now I’m resorting to Paint and Paint 3D. I know there has to be better.

Show us your books: September 2017

So far I’ve read 27 books this year, which SOUND fantastic until you realize I’m 7 books behind schedule for reading my goal of 50 books. Boo! This summer has been … problematic … but I’m getting back into the swing of things. I refreshed my ebook hold list at the Philadelphia library and making trips to the hometown library every few Saturdays to try and pick up hard copies of older books on the TBR list.

The pile by my sofa.

For reviews, I use the Goodreads scale, which is:

One star: did not like it
Two stars: it was ok
Three stars: liked it
Four stars: really liked it
Five stars: it was amazing

Read

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This is a memoir of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s life, ordered alphabetically like an encyclopedia. It reminded me of a child’s encyclopedia I had in the 70s, and it was charming. Her life is pretty darn normal, in her words, “I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.” That’s pretty much me. It was funny, poignant, and beautiful. Amy and I could have been fast friends and I’m sorry she’s gone. I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but time has warmed that rating up to 5 stars.

My Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor

This is Justice Sotomayor’s story from before she was born (thanks to some family history) until she became a judge. I was a little frustrated the story didn’t continue to her Supreme Court confirmation, but I can kind of understand why it didn’t. Justice Sotomayor came from a poor, working-class Puerto Rican family that experienced a lot of hardships, both financial and emotional. It was Sonia’s mother’s value for education that helped Sonia excel. That and some affirmative action along the way. If you know of someone who’s against affirmative action, they should read this book to see, “Hey, THIS is the person these programs are aimed at.” I appreciate a well-told story of a smart, career-minded woman. Four stars. Trigger warnings for what we today call child abuse (but back then it was called discipline) and angry, screaming families.

The Animators – Kayla Rae Whittaker

This is a messy and gorgeous book. There is so much going on sometimes that it’s hard to keep track, but honestly, life is exactly like that. I didn’t want to put it down, to the point where I’d be pissed when my train commute to work ended. This is the story of Sharon and Mel, two broken people from messed-up families who meet in their college art program. We see them meet, and then we flash forward ten years. Sharon and Mel become (work) partners, best friends, and each other’s chosen family. But success can’t knock out the (figurative) demons that have chased them their entire lives. Sharon is the narrator.

Whether you’re an animator or a cubicle worker, life is a seies of things falling apart, how you reassemble those things, and the mistakes you make along the way.
This book is chock full of triggers: off-page child rape and on-page aftermath, child porn, child abuse, medical emergencies, death, drug use, off-page violence, angry families, screaming from said families, etc. Five stars.

How Italian Food Conquered the World – John F. Mariani

The lone dude author this month. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, which went into Italian food and the origins of Italian-American food, which is (as we are beaten over the head with for the rest of the book) what most of us in the USA think of when we think of Italian food.

And then the author begins a chapter with a story of his honeymoon when he and his wife took a leisurely three weeks to drive across the country and eat at restaurants and American restaurants were so bad that his wife literally cried out that she didn’t know how she could do this for the rest of the trip. Poor doves. From then on after, he became a minor recurring character in the book, talking about the chefs he met and the high-end restaurants he went to, with a minor detour into the fashion world which seemed like padding.

Mezza mezza. Two stars.

Leave Me – Gayle Forman
A 44 year old mother of IVF twins has a heart attack because Life Is Hard and decides to run away because she’s unable to Use Her Words. She pulls $25,000 out of the savings account set up by her dead father’s trust fund (as one does) and heads to Pittsburgh to convalesce, canoodle with a doctor, have fun with some college kids, learn to swim and tepidly search for her birth mother. I am a 44 year old childless woman; therefore I have zero personal, professional, or financial problems and cannot relate to this book at all. I do have many peers who are working mothers, though, and although it’s a tough row to hoe, I REALLY don’t think they’d just effing run away. I wondered hard why Maribeth was acting like a precocious 16-year-old in a highly unrealistic situation. And then I read about the author’s YA background and it all clicked.

Two stars, and I only finished it because I am very behind on my reading goal for this year.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie – Wendy McClure
I gobbled this book up like the first loaf of bread made with white flour after a long winter. I used to think I was a Little House on the Prairie fan, mostly because every depressing January I say “February is short and March is Spring!” and because as a child I used to watch the show while wearing a sunbonnet bought for me in Lancaster, PA. But in reading this book I realized there are hundreds of people who have me beat. The author is one of them, and I enjoyed her wacky obsession with trying to find out everything about Laura World that wasn’t in the books.

This is not an Academic book so if you are a Learned Person looking for Cited Historical Sources, you’re not going to find them here, and you should probably find another book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the story of a passion project, that’s all. Four stars, because trying to shoehorn this whole project into the framework of a woman grieving her mother’s death was awkward.

On Tap:
A Hundred Summers – Beatriz Williams
The Folded Clock: A Diary – Heidi Julavits

You can find all of my reviews on Goodreads and more reviews by other bloggers by clicking on the link below or by vising Jana Says and Life According to Steph.

Life According to Steph

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