Leave of Absence

To those of you who read my blog, I apologize for my absence over the past few months. I have my reasons, which I will share, and I hope you understand.

* Hawaii trip – Though it was mostly fun (the road to Hana was nauseating and we were stuck in O’Hare for 8 hours), it was also exhausting. I spent a good deal of time after our return napping, which continued for the next couple of months because…

* I’m pregnant! My husband and I are expecting our first little one, due March 1. We should find out if we’re having a boy or girl in two weeks. So far, the pregnancy hasn’t been too bad. I’ve been sick, but I’m not sure how much of it is from the pregnancy and how much of it is from allergy related sinus drainage. I have been extremely tired, so tired that just thinking about my normal activities (reading, writing, and crocheting) exhausted me. I am starting to feel back to normal now, so maybe, just maybe, I will start reading and writing again.

* New puppy – Yep. My husband and I adopted a puppy. She’s quite a handful right now, but I’m hoping, in the next couple of months, she’ll calm down and be my couch companion while my husband is glued to his Xbox.

Trinket

Trinket

Well, that’s it. I’m hoping life will calm down for awhile (at least until the baby gets here) so I have some time to read. Hopefully I can get more reviews up soon.

A Fine Balance (book 4 of ? in book hoarding purge)

It’s been almost a month, but I finally finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry yesterday afternoon.  It was a fairly lengthy book, but one I probably would have been able to finish in a week and a half or so if presentations, finals, and home buying hadn’t gotten in the way.

This is another book that was given to me, this time by a co-worker.  I read the synopsis on the back cover (a bad habit of mine) before diving into the pages, but I still didn’t know much of what the book was about.

Other than a few flashbacks toward the beginning of the book and a jump into the future in the epilogue, the story is set in the mid-1970s in India.  It focuses on four main characters: a college student from the mountains, two tailors trying to escape caste system violence in their village, and a widow trying to make a living without asking her elder brother for help.  Mistry tells the history of these characters, how they came to be together, and the relationships they formed along the way.  Through these characters, you see the corruptness of the city officials and politicians – tearing down slums for “beautification”, collecting the newly homeless people for slave labor, and enforcing mass sterilization.

Between all of the bad things that happened to the characters and the crude male humor spattered throughout the book, there were a few times when I wanted to stop reading.  But I didn’t.  Because of the situations the characters kept finding themselves in and all of the interesting relationships they formed with minor characters along the way, I overlooked the things that made me uncomfortable.

Aside from the crude humor, I found Mistry’s writing style to be quite eloquent for the subject of the book.  Many times I found myself reflecting on certain passages because they touched me in some way (see previous post about favorite quotes).  And even though many of the events that occurred throughout the book were sad and depressing, Mistry displayed humor and generosity through the characters, making the story more bearable to read.

I honestly didn’t think I was going to like this book, but I enjoyed it a lot (and we’re back to the “wanting to learn about different cultures” thing).  Although there was some back and forth about what to do with the book now that I’ve finished it, I’ve decided to keep it.  Only it’s going to live on a bookshelf at work. I already have a professor wanting to borrow it.

Favorite book quotes – part 1

When I read, I am always looking for quotes that represent who I am or how I feel.  As I was reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry this past weekend (yes, I’m STILL reading it – more about that later), I came across this gem on pg. 228:

In twenty-four years of proofreading, flocks of words flew into my head through the windows of my soul.  Some of them stayed on and built nests in there.  Why should I not speak like a poet, with a commonwealth of language at my disposal, constantly invigorated by new arrivals?

- Vasantrao Valmik to Maneck Kolah

I am fascinated by Vasantrao Valmik’s character because I have difficulty conveying what I want to say through speech.  I wish I could speak eloquently like a poet, but I can’t.  I think my words get nervous and flee – they’re more comfortable when I write.

Mystic River (book 3 of ? in book hoarding purge)

Synopsis:  Friends, Sean, Jimmy, and Dave, were playing in Sean’s neighborhood when a car pulled up and two men abducted Dave.  Dave returned to his family days later, but he was never the same.  Many years later, Sean is a law enforcement officer and is working to solve a murder case.  The victim happens to be Jimmy’s daughter.

I finished reading Mystic River last weekend and, honestly, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be.  The book is very much a man’s book, Dennis Lehane’s writing style and tone seem to indicate that, and coupled with the story of one of the boys being abducted at the beginning of the book…  Well, I wasn’t all that interested in finishing it.

But I kept going, and I’m glad I did.  The book was a great murder mystery, with many twists and turns (though I haven’t read much Grisham, Lehane’s writing style seems pretty similar, in my opinion).  I had no idea who actually murdered Jimmy’s daughter up until the very end.

Little did I know, Mystic River was made into a movie.  I’ve still not watched it (maybe if Netflix ever gets it), but I would like to.  My mother-in-law told me that she didn’t think the movie was that great, but I thought the book was decent, so maybe I’ll like it.  My mother-in-law is also the one who gave me the book, which she didn’t read because her feelings about the movie.

Who’s heard about the new Rowling book?

It appears that I’m a little behind in book news.  I just read an article, published in February, that’s how behind I am, talking about J.K. Rowling’s upcoming book for adults.  The book is said to be very different from Harry Potter, and there’s speculation that it might even be crime fiction.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I’m excited that Rowling’s coming out with something new, who wouldn’t be?  But I’m also concerned.  Concerned because she’s writing for a different audience and possibly a different genre.  Concerned that the book, whenever it comes out and I get around to reading it, won’t live up to my expectations and anything else Rowling writes in the future will be ruined for me.

I just can’t wrap my mind around how someone can switch from writing children’s/YA fiction to adult fiction and do it well.  To me, the writing style and language is very different.  I would think it would be easier to do the opposite, as James Patterson did with the Maximum Ride and Witch and Wizard series (though I’ve heard the Witch and Wizard books are poorly written).

I do applaud Rowling for trying something new.  And I hope the new book fantastic, because I’d hate to rip on the creator of Harry Potter in my blog.

A traveling funeral? What the heck?

I didn’t know what to think about this book before I read it, but it was a gem.  I highly recommend it.

Annie Freeman is dead.  And yet she still manages to assemble a traveling funeral with some of her closest friends as the pallbearers.  These women travel across the country, to places that meant something to Annie, to scatter her ashes, which happen to reside in a pair of red sneakers.  Along the way, the women learn new things about Annie and how important it is to take a break and truly live.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites.  The characters are so real and easy to relate to and like.  Kris Radish’s writing style is simple and eloquent, and allows the reader to feel as if they’re along for the ride.  And the fact that these women are celebrating a life, while trying to cope with loss, and having a good time makes me wonder why people don’t do this more often.

It was so touching to read about a group of women, who really didn’t know much about each other, who dropped everything, though it wasn’t as easy for some, to say good-bye to their friend.  The experiences and things they learned along the way moved me and made me realize that I, too, may be trying to do too much, and I need to slow down and enjoy life.

The Hunger Games Movie

It’s been kind of a struggle for me to read much these past couple of weeks.  I’ve been pretty busy with school, preparing for midterms and presentations, and I’ve also been helping my husband edit a book he’s written.

And I went to the opening of The Hunger Games, so I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep.  I guess my body thinks it’s too old for midnight showings.

Words cannot express how much I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, so I was extremely excited, and nervous, about seeing the movie.  The only book adaptations that I’ve actually liked have been The Help, Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada and Eat, Pray, Love (the Harry Potter movies were okay, but the Twilight movies were pretty bad…of course, look at the books – the writing isn’t great).  I really didn’t want The Hunger Games to disappoint me.

Like the Harry Potter movies, The Hunger Games was good, but not great.  They had to leave out a lot in order to make it 140 minutes.  They also made a few changes, but they didn’t really bother me.

They did a great job with casting (Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson were perfect for their roles) and extra little details that aren’t really shown in the books.  The scenes with Seneca Crane added a mysterious element to the movie.  Also, showing how the Capitol was able to manipulate the games was pretty cool.

I don’t know if I’ll see it in theatre again, the camera work was a little shaky and gave this girl a little motion sickness.  However, I did like it enough that I’ll probably end up buying it when it comes out on DVD.