I’m back? Recap of the last 11 months

Holy cow! I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my last post! I feel terrible!

The past year, however, has been a busy one. On March 7, my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world. When I was pregnant with her, sleeping took up a lot of my reading time. Now she’s taking up that time. Between my maternity leave and summer off, I had about 4 1/2 months at home with Baby K. Lots and lots of reading time, right? Wrong! Baby K is a great sleeper at night (anywhere from 10-13 hours), but she doesn’t nap well during the day. I spent a lot of my time trying to figure out how to keep her entertained. Now I’m back at work and the only time I have to read is over my lunch hour. Well, that and the time I have between finishing dinner and falling asleep on the couch!

I have read some, though. My in-laws are always handing me books to read. It’s nice because I don’t have to buy the books, but not-so-nice because the books are taking up precious room on my shelves. My mother-in-law is a big fan of Duck Dynasty, so I’ve borrowed most of those books from her (she just doesn’t have Miss Kay’s cookbook or the devotional). I still have to finish Jase’s book and read the book written by the women, and I’ll have all of them read. So far, Jase’s book, Good Call, is my favorite. And, these books are pretty easy and quick to read.

For Father’s Day last year, we got my father-in law Daniel Silva’s The Kill Artist and Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power. Of the two, Transfer of Power was my favorite. I couldn’t put it down (except when I had to). Flynn’s writing style flows well, and the action in the book kicked in pretty quickly. I was on my toes for pretty much the entire book. The Kill Artist, on the other had, wasn’t as good. I think I was halfway through the book before I felt like things really kicked into gear. Once it got to that point, the book was okay.

A couple of friends from high school and I decided to form a book club not long after Baby K was born. For our first meeting, we read The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. Here’s what I got out of this: decide how you want to feel and do whatever is necessary to help you feel that way. Which is all fine and good, but I could see that causing a lot of problems. This book sucked. Not only was the topic kind of pointless, but the writing was terrible. Up there with 50 Shades, terrible (come on, you know her writing was bad).

For the second, and final, meeting, we read Divergent by Veronica Roth. If you haven’t read the book, do! It is so good! It’s kind of hard to describe (at a certain age, kids are taken and undergo testing to determine which faction they belong to), but if you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll also love Divergent.

I also just finished The Hundred-Foot Journey. Blog post on that to come.

 

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.