Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gone Girl

This book left me feeling gross.  Like I went out alone, drank too much, and woke up next to some guy I don't know.... and it was awesome.  Maybe I'm not reading the right books, but it's rare that I find something that completely surprises me.  This one did.  I don't want to say too much, because I believe this one is best read clueless, but I'm tempted to go back and read it again to see if I can connect all the little dots.  Any married person out there can find a little bit of their own relationship in this couples'.  Hopefully not too much.  I think every relationship comes to a point where both people realize they probably haven't been 100% themselves with their partner, and maybe they never will.  Gillian Flynn puts this into words perfectly with these characters.

If you are open to a few sleepless nights (you won't be able to put this one down) and a total reading hangover when you're done, READ IT.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Struggle that is Hilary Mantel and my YA Break

So.... I've have been working my way through Wolf Hall for almost two months now.  When it comes to my reading method, two months is an eternity.  I don't necessarily read quickly, I just sleep very little.  There is no question that she is a genius writer.  It's probably also safe to say that she is just a general genius given her knowledge of history.  It would take me about 500 years to get a thorough enough understanding of the Tudor period to write a piece of historical fiction like this.  I don't dislike Wolf Hall.  I am genuinely interested in the story line and the characters, I just can't pull it all together.  I am constantly flipping to the character list at the front of the book to figure out which "Thomas" is speaking.  I have to stop every few paragraphs to make sure I'm really understanding what I'm reading and not getting caught up in dialect.  Worst of all, I worry about all the other great books I'm missing out on while I toil over this one.  Even when I'm reading the best of books, I'm like an impatient toddler who has no more picked up one toy before they are thinking about what they will play with next. 

In the interest of my sanity, I took a couple days off from Wolf Hall for a YA break.  Recently, I got into this series by Michael Scott, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.  There's no use trying to lie and convince myself or anyone else that I just happened to stumble upon this series.  Finding this author was purely the work of my Harry Potter obsession.  It has been years, and I still mourn the ending of the series.  So when I saw this on the shelf, I jumped; Nicholas Flamel, the philosopher's stone, alchemy.  What if this is the next series I've been waiting for?

Well, it wasn't.  Nothing will ever compare to Harry, but it is good, and smart.  It's a series I will read all of for the enjoyment of it.  Not out of a sense of obligation.  I am currently on the third book of the series.  They books continue to be smart and incredibly engaging.  The characters seem to be historically accurate, whether they be from history or lore.  I appreciate that the main characters are brother and sister, and I don't have to deal with a ridiculous adolescent love story in the middle of it all.  The series is definatly one I would recommend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I finished this around 2:00 am and I still can't find the right words to relate how it has left me.  The only way to describe is to say that at a certain point in reading this, I drew in this huge gasp, and since then, the air has sat in my lungs making it feel like a truck is sitting on my chest.

What I'm ReadingThis book is one of the most disingenuous I've ever experienced.  It makes the entire thing more bearable, but more heartbreaking all at the same time.  After moving to "Out-With" due to his father's new job, Bruno lolls around in an angry daze until he meets Shmuel, his new and only friend.  Bruno is a selfish friend; something he is totally unaware of due to his naivety.  He complains about the unfairness of being stuck outside the fence. He opines about the Schmuel's luckiness in getting to wear comfortable pajamas every day. He regularly brings the starving Shmuel snack, but he also regularly eats them on his way to their meetings.  He whines about hating the Lieutenant because he insists on calling him "little man" while Shmuel is regularly subject to his physical and mental brutality. Schmuel is the exact opposite of Bruno in every way.  He only sees the good in his friend and sees him as a kind and giving acquaintance. 

The story ends with a turn around.  Bruno's final and only act of selflessness toward his friend. 

The Boy in the Stryped Pyjamas is jarring to say the least.  It paints a disturbing picture of the holocaust that can only be achieved through the eyes of a child.

Monday, November 26, 2012

She's Back...

Okay kids, it has been a very long time, but I'm ready to go at this again.  While, I haven't been blogging, I have been doing a TON of reading.  It's time to get back to writing it all down.  There have been some amazing books on my reading list in the past few months, and I've decided the only thing that could make some of the good ones better and some of the bad ones worth the read would be to share them with the world and find out what everyone else is thinking.  It will definitely take me awhile to get completely back into the swing of things, so your patience and blogger love is greatly appreciated.  In the spirit of getting started, her are some of the better works I've read lately with a mini word review.
  •  The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Polluck - Terrifying yet unavoidable
  •  The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg - Heartbreakingly hilarious

  •  The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - Incredibly good writing, incredibly horrible circumstance

Friday, February 17, 2012

In Cold Blood

When I first started this book, I was thinking I would probably describe it as the quintessential true-crime novel.  Now that I've finished it, I know that would be a grave injustice.  In Cold Blood laid the foundation upon which all true-crime novels are built.  The fact that it was written by Truman Capote only makes it even more amazing. 

In cold blood chronicles the murder of a family in western Kansas in the late 50's, and the subsequent hunt for their killer/killers.  What makes the book especially interesting, is that the murderers hadn't been caught when Capote commenced research on the novel.  Yet, he still walks the reader through the story with the organization necessary to keep track of the evidence, but the emotion required to bring about the question that any good true-crime novel provokes: Why? 

Capote places himself in an unusual situation as an author.  There is no suspense revolving around who did it or will they get caught.  Everybody new the answer to these questions by the time the book was published.  From the beginning, the book sets out to profile the type of men who could commit such a horrible crime.  We learn about their backgrounds, families, and their relationship with each other.  Endlessly twisting and turning in the mind why they did what they did. Did Dick talk Perry into it?  Did Perry have a plan ulterior to Dicks?  Were both men just insane?

In addition to the why, Capote leaves us wanting to know how; regardless of how gruesome it is.  Early on you learn the outline of how the family ideas, which only leaves you wanting to know more about the scene of the crime.  There are clues dropped here and there in the sections describing the murderers' trek after the crime, but the suspense of it builds and builds until it reaches an apex in the confession room. 

In Cold Blood is suspenseful and well-written.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays 2/7/12

I'm a day late, but the stomach flu is not conducive to heavy blogging (or anything for that matter.)  Since I'm late making my list, I got the chance to read a few that other people posted.  This week, Top Ten Tuesday's calls for a list of books for book haters.  What would you throw at someone who claims to not like reading? 

  1. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson This is a YA novel, which makes it perfect for a proclaimed non-reader.  The writing in this novel is simple, but completely powerful and effective.  I managed to read the entire thing in one sitting, which I would imagine to be appealing for a non-reader. 
  2. Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris David Sedaris always has, and always will end up on my lists.  His books are hilarious.  Anyone who claims to dislike reading will reconsider their claim when this book has them laughing so hard they're about to pee their pants.
  3. The Lovely Bones - Alice Seabold This choice is very similar to Speak in that the narrative is from the perspective of a young girl.  The writing here is a bit more polished, and the story is gripping enough to keep anyone reading.
  4. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell This book can be terrifying due to its size, but anyone who starts reading won't be able to put it down.  Margaret Mitchell manages to throw everything into a single novel: history, society, love, hate..... Everyone should be able to find something they enjoy about this book.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee No doubt, this will end up on many people's lists this week.  A classic must read that brings to light the humanity we are capable of.  If someone reads this and still claims to be a non-reader, they will at least walk away wishing they were capable of enjoying books.
  6. James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl Of course I couldn't compose an entire list without at least one children's book.  These books are easy to read, they remind us of the imagination and joy of being little.  All of Roald Dahl's books are fun, but this one is especially light hearted.
  7. The Stranger Beside Me - Ann Rule Generally, I don't read a lot of true crime, but I do think that Ann Rule does a good job of turning true events into a "story".  If you ever start drifting while reading this, you just have to remind yourself that it actually happened, and you won't be able to put it down.
  8. The Giver - Lois Lowry It's likely that the majority of people of my generation had to read this at some point during their middle school years.  If you not, read it.  If you did, read it again.  This dystopian story keeps you in the dark and then hits you over the head with reality about 1/2 way through. 
I'm cutting it short this week.  I'm going to use the sick excuse.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Read To Me Picture Book Challenge - January

Ok, so maybe I'm going a little challenge crazy, but I couldn't resist this one: The Read to Me Picture Book Challenge..  It's basically a no brainer given that around 7:00pm every night I'll have little man chasing me around while carrying two or three books he has to read with mom before bedtime. We're aiming high and hope to reach the "growing" level (120 picture books with child during the year).   I'm really excited to get some new ideas for books we can be reading together.  Here are my first few reviews from the new books we read in January.

1.   The Little Engine That Could - Watty Piper  - I ordered this off my favorite used book website and was so surprised to receive a pristine version with huge colorful pictures.  Little man loved pointing out all the different toys and food that the train was carrying to the little kids over the mountain.  I loved all the different bad attitude engines and have now designated certain attorneys I go against regularly with corresponding names.  Great story. Great pictures.  I would definitely recommend it.

2.     Humphrey's Corner - Sally Hunter - Humprhey is an adorable elephant trying to find the perfect atmosphere for the perfect day of play.  He searches the house the house for everything he needs to achieve his goal, including his beloved stuffed animal.  Humprehy is sweet, and I love any book where mama makes a cameo to bring it all together.  Little man like the repetition, but the picture's weren't quite bold enough to keep his attention the entire time.  This one may need to be reserved for the older crowd (meaning those beyond 19 months).

3.     Dear Zoo - Rod Campbell - This is one I may have to buy an extra copy of to bring out when the first one just can't handle anymore little hands.  Dear Zoo was perfect for my little animal lover.  The hiding pets gave us a great opportunity to practice the names of animals and the sounds they made.  The windows kept my busy bee's attention for the entire story. 

4.    Miffy - Dick Bruna - Miffy is a book about family that is taken down to the toddler level.  The way that it explains mommy and daddy's family growing is age-appropriate and adorable.  The bright colors and geometric pictures were great for little man.  There have been several mornings where I run to check on him and find him sitting in his chair reading Miffy.  I'm excited to explore more of the Miffy series and suspect there will be plenty of other Miffy reviews by the time this challenge is over.

5.    The Runaway Bunny - Margaret Wise Brown - Another momma story that I could read over and over.  Unfortunately, little man was not very interested.  The pictures in this book are beautiful, but more in an artsy kind of way than a keep my 2 year old interested way.  The pictures actually were confusing for someone so little.  (i.e. a bunny swimming in the lake like a fish).  I did find that "acting" out some of the mommy parts kept him intrigued and entertained.  This sentimental story is one that all mamas should read.

6.  Goodnight Alfie Atkins - Gunilla Bergstrom - Alfie Atkins is amazing for several reasons.  First; a bright orange book.  Without even knowing why, little man can't stop himself from grabbing this one off the shelf.  Second; it's laugh out loud funny.  Alfie is a silly little boy (a trait that is almost exaggerated by the silliness of the illustrations) who won't let his daddy go to bed.  Little man literally screamed with merriment when Alfie dropped his drink on the sheets.  He giggled when Alfie had daddy get him out of bed to "pee".  I laughed when Alfie discovered daddy knocked out cold from exhaustion.  Read it!

7.    Good Dog Carl - Alexandra Day A pure picture book.  Good Dog Carl is hilarious and sweet and the entire book only has two sentences.  Carl, a big rottweiler, is left in charge of baby for the day (a little weird, I know).  They play, make messes, have a great time, and clean up just as mom walks back in the door.  Good Dog Carl is a testament to the power that good illustrations can have on a book.  Little man and I have "read" this several times and made up our own little stories about Carl and baby's adventures. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Bear Went Over the Mountain vs. The Bear Went Over the Mountain

I've been on this quest to expand my son's book collection.  I've found a few really awesome sights to buy used children's books for great prices (and the proceeds generally go to good causes).  My latest purchase was what I thought was the John Prater Children's Classic.

Much to my surprise, I ended up with the story of a bear who found a briefcase under a tree and decided to throw himself into the financial world of the early 90s. 

Needless to say, I don't think my 19 month old will enjoy it that much.  I'll probably keep it around in case I need to change things up.  Who knows, Kotwinkle may be my next favorite author. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays 1/31/12

This week for Top Ten Tuesday's, book club picks populate the list.  This will be hard for me.  I've never participated in a book club before the Huffington Post started theirs, and I'm not sure that I have the hang of it yet.  Since I'm basically clueless, here is my list of books that I have found myself reading and REALLY wishing I had someone to talk to about them.
  1. Lolita - Vladimir Nabakov I'm just going to admit it.  This is one of my all-time favorite novels.  I struggle with telling people this because those who haven't read it, or haven't paid attention while reading, assume I'm some sicko who sympathizes with a pedophile like Humbert.  The truth is, there I times during the novel  that I do sympathize with him, which is a true testament to the genius of Nabokov's writing.  It would be nice to find a group of people to have an intelligent conversation about it. 
  2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski The chapters spoken from a dog's perspective are some of the most interesting and beautifully written that I've ever experienced.
  3. Black Girl/White Girl - Joyce Carol Oates This is only the second list I've done, but this is already the second time this book has appeared.  This is one that has stayed with me since I read it nearly 2 years ago.  You spend the entire novel knowing something awful is going to happen and feeling like you know exactly what that awful thing is, and then you are knocked off your feet when you actually get there.  Great writing, and a good opportunity to explore how our individual feelings and ideas shape our expectations of a story line.
  4. Siddartha - Hermann Hesse I don't practice any particular religion, and I consider myself non-secular but spiritual. I love Siddartha and with my little knowledge of different religions and ideas throughout the world, found it comforting to think that almost anyone could find a tie into the book.  It would have been great to hear some of these from other people.  
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn -Tom Sawyer One of my favorite classroom experiences in college was a three week long discussion of this book. 
  6. Naked - David Sedaris I have read everything I can find of David Sedaris' and I have laughed nonstop through every piece.  Laughter is better when shared.  I can imagine a book club sitting around trading David Sedaris stories like old college friends would.  As hilarious as they are, I've also always wondered if anyone else felt the pain hiding behind the comedy. 
  7.  Mans Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl Novels born out of time in concentration camps are obviously heavy.  This one unusually so.  I was assigned this book in a college psychology class and was so hyped to explore it through that lens.  Unfortunately, it was a summer class and everybody couldn't have cared less, so I was sorely disappointed with the discussion.  It would be an amazing one to re explore with a group.
  8. 8.     The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry Sometimes a novel calls for so much speculation that it's maddening to try to get through it without someone else's ideas or predictions.  This was one of them .  I found completely missed with mark with this one, which is fine, but it would have been fun to see who could get the closest.
  9. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult So this one is way off base of what I would usually read, but the underlying legal story drew me in.  I am a guardian ad litem; meaning I regularly represent children in Court proceedings involving other family members.  It would have been amazing to read this with a group of GALs to contrast the ethics of the representation.  To decide where you draw the line between doing what your child-client wants and what is best.  Ok, enough legal talk for the day. 
  10. Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury I remember reading this in the 8th grades, on my own volition I might add, and making a million notes in the margin and realizing at the end that I was way above the ridiculousness I was set to endure through highschool (don't we all go through that faze?).  All weirdness aside, I think reading this book was one of the first times I longed for a book club.  The imagery of books burning branded in me the need to keep reading and the need to talk about it.  
It's only my second list, but it's the first one I got through completely!  I'd love to hear thoughts and opinions.


The Tiger's Wife: Part Three

I realize it has been absolutely no time since I posted regarding the second part of this book, but I hit my stride and could not put the book down. (Needless to say, I'm extremely tired today.) 

The Tiger's Wife is completed and I feel confused, and left wanting more, but still completely happy with the book.  Again, the sections that kept me up all night were the stories.  The deathless man and the deaf-mute girl make the entire novel worth reading.  I was so releived to find that the end of the book found Natalia giving into the stories and exploring thier truths instead of finding out that the entire book was standing on the crazy tales of an old man.  While the stories are what I loved about the Tiger's Wife, they are also what has left me so confused.  What was actually going on with the deaf-mute girl and the tiger?  Was he really so tame from his time at the Citadel that he developed a relationship with a human? Was Natalia's grandfather able to track down the deathless man to repay his debt?  What is going on with that dog that everyone is painting?

The thread that I was finally able to find that pulled Natalia's grandfather's story together is one that will stay with me.  Guilt.  A man that has to carry the guilt of what he's done as a boy.  To live life trying to make up for the fact that you killed another human being.  Even worse, to live life knowing that it was all for naught.  I still don't understand why they apothecary had to kill the tiger's wife, but I do know it was horrible for him to make the boy do it for him.  It was heartbreacking to think that she died thinking her one true human friend had killed her. 

There is one thread to the story that I cannot understand that is gnawing at my brain.  The deathless man-Luka connection.  I can't see the significance of it other than one of those small-world type coincidences.

I thought it was very bold of the author to leave so many quetions unanswered. I wonder if I read the book again at some point, knowing what I know now, if I would find answers, or at least be able to decide what I think about everything. 

I would recommend it.  I'm not sure that I'm a fan of the Huffington Post's book club format, but they did make a good first choice.


Monday, January 30, 2012

The Tiger's Wife: Part Two

I'm enjoying this book more and more as I get deeper into the stories.  I still feel like I'm missing something.  Like there is a thread holding all of these people and events together, but I can't find it to grab onto.  It either lies in the history of war that the characters always talk about, but rarely expand upon, or some event that is yet to reveal itself.  When it comes to history, I am admittedly ignorant and know very little about the Balkan war; so I don't know what this war means for the people. 

Again, the most enjoyable part of this second part have been the stories/tales/fables that have been shared.  The deathless man returns, but I don't find him nearly as gentle as I previously did.  In this section he is harsh and matter-of-fact.  His philosophy on the impact of knowing when you will die seem to fly in the face of what is commonly believed.  The deathless man believes that instead of causing panic, knowledge of impending death brings peace.  In a strange way, I like the idea of the sick and weak giving up on a hopeless battles and finding calm in their last moments. 

The stories of Darvisa the Bear and Luka created the perfect opportunity for comparison.  Luka has no interest in women as a boy and this disinterest turns to hate when he forced to take a bride as a man.  Darvisa's love for women begins with his sister.  His respect and love for women later extends to his work in the various villages and his desire to protect women leads to him taking on the undesired task of hunting and killing the tiger.  The tiger's wife finds both men in her life, and finds that both only intend to bring her pain and suffering. 

If anything, I am very grateful that this novel has opened my eyes to the world of "magical realism".  As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have never read Kipling or Marquez.  Now I can stop fearing their work and actually start reading it.


Friday, January 27, 2012


After letting it sit on my shelf for years, I recently dusted off and read Saturday by Ian McEwan.  This was my first time reading any of McEwan's work, and he's definitely a writer I will return to.  Saturday follows one man, over through the course of a day, in a post 9/11 London.  McEwan's ability to develop a character is amazing.  Henry Perowne is a successful neurosurgeon with a wife and two grown children.  His day begins as he witnesses a plan catch fire in the air through his bedroom window, and goes from there.  Through the course of the novel you learn of Perowne's intense love for and closeness with his children, without ever having to step away from the overall story.  McEwan is even able to make his relationships with secondary characters (i.e. his father-in-law and the stranger) crystal clear without ever veering off course.

The plot here was secondary to the character himself and the environment and backdrop.  It's difficult to find a novel in the post 9/11 genre that's plot has very little to do with 9/11 or terrorism.  McEwan does that.  The events are used to further develop Perowne and his view of the world without interrupting the trip McEwan is taking you on through his day. 

Much of the narrative consists of Perowne contrasting his privileged life with the lives and circumstances of others.  It's almost as if he cannot reconcile his good fortune with the terror, protests, and upheaval that surround him.  A sudden and unexpected event throws him, and his family, into this world quickly and unexpectedly. Throughout the day, every step has a consequence effecting the eventual outcome of Perowne's plans.  Every move brings him closer to experiencing the emotions that he spends the majority of the day trying to understand in others. 

For me, much of this novel was about self-awareness.  Perowne is a man who has worked hard for everything he has.  He is and should be happy with his life, but he is not content dwelling in this happiness and never seeking understanding.  Instead, he is often looking inward, trying to explain his happiness.  Unlike many characters whose creators attempt to explain their characters joy out of guilt or insecurity, Perowne is confident in his happiness, and is only seeking to better himself by understanding how he and it fit into the world. 

I have yet to determine a rating system for my reviews, but Saturday is a must read for anyone who enjoys learning about the characters themselves as much as (or more than) the plot.


1001 Books You Must Read

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Smooth Criminals Challenge

Instead of working this morning I've been blog hopping, and came across a new challenge I have to try: The Smooth Criminals reading challenge hosted by Dead End Follies.  I've been reading Ben's blog for over a year now and he totally intimidates me, but it will be good for me to check out a genre I know absolutely nothing about.  I'm going to have to do research to even figure out what some of the categories are.  I haven't made any picks yet, but I'll update when I do. 


Tournament of Books Announced

It's that time of year again.  The Morning News has announced the contestants for 2012 Tournament of Books.  I have made an insanely expensive book order and will begin my bracket ASAP.  Stay tuned for my picks and updates.  I would love to hear from others who plan on joining me! Maybe even a little friendly competition.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Tiger's Wife: Part One

Huffington Post Book Club

Since I check Huffington Post at least ten times a day, I was really excited when I found out they would begin hosting the Huffington Post Book Club.  I'm still not sure on what basis they select their books, but it definitely got me to read something I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. 

So far, I've like (not loved) the book.  I have really tried to take my time with it and make sure I'm keeping track of everything that's going on, but a lot of things just aren't clicking with me.  This could be one of several things: (1) I'm just not smart enough to get this book (2) It's too early in the book for anything to be "got" (3) This is my first serious read on the Nook, which is a whole new experience for me.  Since I try to maintain some confidence in myself, I'm going to guess it's 2 or 3. 

While I haven't yet picked up on an overall theme, there are certain parts of the book that I have loved.  The story of the deathless man is nothing less than magical.  I had a smile on my face despite reading such a strange account.  I have this image of the deathless man in mind: a kind faced man with messy dark hair that looks like he's just woken up.  I would have loved to read more about his travels, and secretly hope that the author decides to follow him in some sort of spin off. 

The deathless man is still a huge mystery to me.  Many of the book club comments have described the author's style as "magical realism,"here obviously impossible events are spoken of as if they were true. I tend to agree with this description, and a part of me hopes that is the intent. It would be difficult to find out later in the novel that this was a made up story of a crazy old man who carries a copy of the Jungle Book around in his pocket.  I feel much better about the possibility of people walking around this Earth with stories like this that they don't tell because they know these are moments that belong only to them.  Just as Natalia's grandfather taught her while they watched the elephant walk through the city in the middle of the night.  

It's a secret pact you aren't in on until you've had such an experience.  If you've never had these experiences, you don't know they exist until a grandparent or elderly friend tells you such a story knowing it will be taken as craziness or dementia.  It makes me think of a story my grandma told me several years ago just before the onset of her dementia.  A story that I won' share because it belongs only to us. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays 1/24/12

This week is a freebie on Top Ten Tuesdays so I've picked an old topic: Fictional BFFs.  Here are my Top Ten
  1. Charlotte the spider - Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.  Surely no one saw this one coming from a mile away.  My long-time favorite book also happens to star my ideal BFF Charlotte.  Charlotte is kind and smart.  She is always using her vast knowledge of the world to help others without asking for anything in return.  Wilbur was selfish and dumb and always asking more of Charlotte.  She always came through.  I think we can all see ourselves in Wilbur's selfishness.  Hopefully we all have the privilege of a friend like Charlotte to pull us through despite our flaws.  
  3. 2.  Charles Pooter - The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith.  I highly value laughter in any relationship. This book is one of the few that has actually made me laugh out loud; due mainly to the antics of Mr. Pooter.  What makes this even more amazing is the story was firsts published in 1889.  Mr. Pooter is a comfortable member of the middle-class who strives to be anything but.  Mr. Pooter takes himself entirely too seriously, takes offense at everything, and is never happy with anything of his own.  Why the hell would you want a friend like that?  Because if you could get over the faults, he will keep you rolling.                                                                                                                                
  4. Lisbeth Salander - Millennium Series by  Stieg Larsson.  Two words: Bad Ass.  Anyone would want a raging computer hacker on their side for the possibility of any number of situations.  Her methods may be extreme, but Lisbeth is a role model for the empowerment of women who have been put through hell by the various males in their life.  If nothing else, I would want to be Lisbeth's BFF because she needs and deserves love.                                                                                               
  5. Genna Hewett-Meade - Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates.  It may not be a good reason to want someone as a fried, but I choose Genna because I see a lot of myself in her.  I am not privileged in life, but I think it's fair to say that I'm often self-effacing and am a pleaser.  Genna also feels this responsibility to overcome darkness in her family's past.  My lineage doesn't hold any horrible past that I'm aware of, but I do understand the sense of wanting to be yourself, as opposed to a member of a family everyone has preconceived notions about.  I understand the satisfaction of shocking people when they are faced with you and your background at the same time. Genna also feels responsible for overcoming the bad acts of her entire race and generation.  It would be comforting to have someone to share the burdens of such impossible goals.                                 
  6. Elizabeth Bennet - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Yes, being BFFs with Elizabeth Bennet is risky.  She is extremely judgmental, and breaking through to her initially would be difficult (and potentially painful emotionally), but once past her flaws, Elizabeth is a gentle soul.  She is extremely intelligent and funny.  She is quick to express her views and tell the truth despite the social consequences.  Most importantly, Elizabeth is staunchly loyal to those she loves most.                        
  7. Lux Lisbon - The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.  We all need a friend to help us realize our parents aren't as bad as we think.  We all need a friend who makes our parents look at us like we're angels.                                                                                   
  8.  Matilda - Matilda by Roald Dahl.  Matilda is the friend I always wanted, but never had as a little girl.  I had these dreams of spending hours at the public library reading book after book.  With Matilda, this dream would have been a reality.  We would have spent our days curled up in cushy chairs taking in as much information as possible.  We would have spoke very little, but found immense comfort in knowing that our companion shared our same love of books.  *sigh*.
  9. Rob Fleming - High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.  A BFF who owns a record store and is as obsessed with lists as I am = awesome!
I do know how to count, I just can't come up with anyone else worthy of the list.  Top Ten Tuesdays may be a challenge given that I don't feel nearly as well read as I should (or want to) be.  Hopefully, as the weeks go by, my lists will become more and more complete.


Monday, January 23, 2012

1001 Children's Books - Stuart Little

Last night I finally finished Stuart Little by E.B. White.  As much as I wished my little man would sit and read this with me, he's not quite there yet.  Last night while I was finishing he did let me tell him about Stuart while he looked at the few pictures in the book. 

For years I have been obsessed with Charlotte's Web and would probably consider it one of my all time favorites.I have the dog eared version that my mom bought me in second grade and the insanely expensive Easton Press edition I got as a graduation gift when I finished law school.   Right after little man was born we read it out loud together and I spent hours crying my eyes out.  This past experience with E.B. White left me a little shocked by Stuart Little.  With what little I knew about the book, I was expecting some lesson on acceptance and the overlooking of differences from the book.  I guess there was some of that there, but the story itself didn't really offer a series of events leading to an ultimate lesson.  Instead, it was more of a compilation of stories about Stuart tied together by his love for adventure and a bird named Margalo.  

Despite being unconventional, I loved Stuart Little.  I don't know that anyone could not love him after reading about his adventures (and misadventures).  What I find most striking about Stuart is the intensity of his emotion which equips him with an uncanny ability to make friends.  His desire to be a sailboat captain lead him to walk right up to the doctor and ask him to man the ship.  The joy he experiences from being around other  people lead him to jump into a teaching job with no questions asked.  His desire to make every adventure fit into the image he creates in his mind leads to total devastation when an evening with someone his size falls through.  I'm so excited to read this out loud to the little man in a year or two, and I only hope he can pick up on Stuarts sense of joy and adventure.  I think he'll love Stuart as much as I do.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 - Intro

So I finally joined my first real reading challenge.  I'm pretty nervous considering it puts this blog out into the universe way faster than I ever expected.  I was really into the whole voyeristic aspect of starting a blog, but know I'm nervous as hell.  What if I sound like an idiot?  What if the books I pick aren't good/respected/scholarly enough?  What if, fear of all fears, I don't complete the challenge!?!  I guess there's not stopping now.

If you'd like to join me on the challenge check it out at Sarah Reads Too Much 2012 Classics Challenge.  I'd love suggestions or thoughts on some of the categories. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Yes, I admit it, I just finished the Hunger Games Trilogy.  I'm really not all that excited about the series, so I thought I better get some thoughts about it out now before I just don't care anymore.  I will say that I loved the Hunger Games.  I thought the premise was smart and that Suzanne Collins had really done a good job of coming up with a dystopia that had some originality to it. A community that was totally aware of social control, when the majority of the controllers themselves were clueless.  Without any spoilers, the next two novels were just too repetitive of the concept to be interesting anymore.  They weren't awful, I did read them, but they were overall kind of blah.  Definitely check out the first one, but unless you're totally sucked in, the others aren't really worth it.


1001 Children's Books - Intro

Given my love of lists, I was insanely excited when I came across this one published in 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.  I have been working on the adult version of the this crazy task, and now I have decided that my poor 19 month old must also accompany me on this journy of lists.  When he was first born we would spend hours rocking while I read him whatever was on my personal list.  By the time he was two weeks old he'd read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (maybe it was the hormones, but this was one of the most amazing and beautifully written books I've ever read).  After struggling to read a few more novels out loud, we switched to Roald Dahl, who appears on the list several times.  I have started a few of the young adult picks from the list on my own, but the younger categories give us a lot of options that are more on his level.

Now that he has a million times my energy and can only stay entertained by the same book for a few minutes, this list has actually been really amazing at giving me good ideas that keep his attention for as long as possible.  We are working our way through the 0-3 year old category.  I can't really say what makes a children's book geared toward such small children good, but we have come across a few that we have really enjoyed, and some that have kind of weirded me out.

Owl Babies - Martin Waddell - This story is incredibly short, but immensly sweet.  Who wouldn't smile every time an owl baby says "I want my mommy."

Thomas the Tank Engine - Reverend Awdry - So unless you've been living under a rock, if you have kids you know who Thomas the Tank Engine is, but you may not know him as well as you think.  Did you know that Thomas started as a hyperactive and poorly behaved tank engine that everyone hated?  Read this one to find out how he came around.  If nothing else, it will give you insight into those crazy cartoons your kids are watching. 

Bedtime for Frances - Russell Hoban - I just don't get this book.  The repetitive prose isn't enough to keep up with my kid, and I was totally freaked out when Frances' dad started talking about spanking her and the moth hitting the window reminded her of the sound of being spanked. hmm......  If you use corporal punishment, maybe this book is a great way to get your kids to go to sleep.  If you don't, it's just kind of creepy.

Hope this gives some good ideas to enjoy with the little ones. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome to My World

So I'm new to this whole blogging scene, and totally aware of the fact that a single person (other than myself) may never lay eyes on this, but I've decided to give it a try. Generally, I envision this being a book blog.  At one point in my life I was a voracious reader and I sought out the most difficult works I could find and fought my through them no matter what (imagine a 13 year old reading Carl Jung).  Two degrees, one husband, three jobs, and a baby later, and I find myself going months without really visiting my first love, books.  I'm not one of those literary buffs/snobs who claim to find little known authors before they strike it big.  I am not delusional enough to think that my opinions of books hold any weight with anyone, but I do hope they are at least entertaining, and I do hope that if you're like me, they lead you to find a gem every once in awhile that really makes you think or feel or do whatever it is you strive for when you pick up a novel.

My desire, compulsion, need, or whatever you call it, to start a blog is based in a long list of reasons that even the most experienced psychoanalyst would find interesting, but in the interest of time here are a few of the main ones:
  1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - I have never been officially diagnosed with this condition, but I do know it operates on a spectrum and I'm fairly certain that I lie somewhere on the minor end of the line.  I in know way mean to discount or make fun of those who suffer from the disorder and have their lives altered due to its effects.  I do have certain compulsions.  I love lists and goal charts and the idea of having a finite end point to something.  In the interest of full disclosure I should note that I RARELY finish a list, or reach any of the ridiculous goals I set for myself, but I still find comfort in the fact that they're in the background.  Often my love of lists and my total inability to ever check of all the items leaves me feeling worthless and incapable of anything of substance, but those are entirely different issues.
  2. Addiction to Accumulation - So I'm not one of those hoarders you see on A&E who have fossilized dead cats living under their stuff, but I do enjoy collecting.  Just like the idea of a completed list brings me immeasurable joy, the idea of a full collection is pure ecstasy.  I can remember seeing the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast when I was seven and deciding that my life would not be complete until I had a library of my own that I could roll around in on a ladder with wheels.  I'm certain that this is not what the majority of children dreamed of when they saw the movie, but what can I say, I was/am weird like that.
  3. Post-Graduation Let Down - I spent years hiding out in school.  Seven years to be exact.  This may  not seem like a ton to some, but it is when you don't have the benefit of a college fund, and despite several full-time jobs throughout, the majority of your education is funded through student loans.  I spent four years of undergrad with no idea what I wanted to do, but loving every second of every class.  As that neared its inevitable end I woke up one morning and decided to go to law school.  My entrance essay would make you think I had this unyielding desire to advocate for justice and blah blah blah.  Really I was just excited about the really big books we got to read and the look of respect I would get from everyone I found a way to tell I was a law student.  I now have a JD and a license to practice in several states, but am lacking in satisfaction.  It is completely fair to say I'm a successful attorney, and I take my job very seriously, but the real world is totally lacking in discussions of meaning, virtue, purpose, or anything else of real substance.  I miss digging deep.  I miss feeling confused.  I miss the feeling of coming up out of the hole with a better understanding of my world.
I look forward to putting this out in the world.  If anyone actually reads it, I will place myself squarely back in the chair I've fallen out of, and I will smile (and check another item off my list).