Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday Check-In



Dear Reader,

Hope you had a good reading week!

FINISHED:

I enjoyed listening to The Power of Habit, and I figure I picked up a few interesting and useful tips, so I'd give this a 3.5/5. The best part of the book was listening to all the anecdotes - those are always what I like best, rather than the lessons learned. It's why I also enjoy fiction as much as I do - what's important to me is trying to understand how the human psyche works. And it's never the same! So I am continually fascinated.

In any case, definitely a fun one to pick up. Not very heavy-handed with the "business advice", either, so don't let that part of the title scare you away.


CURRENTLY READING:

Trevor Noah's book is still incredibly enjoyable - now to add to the unforgettable pooping story is the one about Hitler! Oh my gosh, I was laughing so much while listening to this - I am certain people think I'm insane, because they can't see my earbud when I'm listening. And I don't want to give anything away, so all I can say is just: Do yourself a favor and read it! - What I love most about it, and what is making it a 5-star book for me, is that Noah not only masterfully relates his formative years, he also delves quite deeply into many social issues with - unsurprisingly - quite a bit of depth and perspective. For every memorable story, he also has some great insight into the way things work - in South Africa, in America, and in the world.

I've begun My Name is Lucy Barton, and so far (maybe an hour in?) it's...slow, but kind of poetically bucolic (although not everything in the town where Lucy grew up was sunshine & roses, of course). I am enjoying listening to the narration of this woman's life in bits & pieces. I have no idea where the story is going at this point, but...it's not unenjoyable to listen to, nonetheless.

The other books are slow but steady progress...I kind of pick up each in turn. I'm about halfway through the Tolstoy, and I can't believe it! It's hefty but so engaging. And I'm still not totally into The Golden Compass, although it's a good adventure read.

So...I'll just keep chugging along! (I've been immersed in trains recently, as that's the current theme of my daughter's Kindermusik classes - hence the above turn of phrase.) See you next week!

Yours,
Arianna


Thursday, March 2, 2017

TOB 2017 - Thoughts, Progress & Updates 2


Tournament of Books 2017

Thoughts - Progress - Updates 2


Hello again! So glad you came back. Last time I gave you a little update on why I've been away for some time and now I'll divulge on that a little further. I had so many changes this past year: job, relationship, moving. I am now happily living in Newington, have a new boyfriend (who gets me surprisingly well) and might even have an opportunity to snag a part-time book related job (something I've been trying to do for a very long time).

Back to the books. As I mentioned last time, I've been slacking in the reading department (due to all the distraction). I gave some thoughts on a few of the ToB books that I enjoyed so far. I wish I could say I've kept the momentum up, but I haven't. I think this might be due to the fact that the last few books have been letting me down, sadly.

First up? I tackled "Grief Is the Thing with Feathers" by Max Porter, which is a very short book and I read it all in one sitting. This was DEFINITELY not my kind of book. Not only did it remind me of "Department of Speculation", which is another book that didn't "do it" for me... but I am not a poetry/prose gal. I'm struggling to rate this book. It's not poorly written... in fact, it's beautiful in many ways... it's just not for me. I have never been a poetry person and this is pretty much that. I could definitely see someone giving this 5 stars and loving everything about it... and my rating (2-Stars) reflects exactly why books are so subjective. I'm glad that the TOB brought this to my hands because I think it's important to keep trying things outside of the box... tastes do change over time. Who knows, maybe later down the road poetry will start to "click".

I've also picked up "All the Birds in the Sky" by Charlie Jane Anders and this was a book that I should have LOVED. Filled with magic, a little science fiction, child narrative mixed with coming of age... how did I not like this? I didn't. Ugh, very frustrating. Part of me thinks it's because I wasn't in the mood or something... but that's not it. Talking it over with a few readers in the ToB Goodreads Group (check it out and join if you haven't already), a few mentioned something about the similarities with this and "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. After that was brought up... things clicked... Yes, that's it! That's the frustration I was having. It just so happens that I read "The Magicians" very recently with a group of my friends (Arianna, Marsha and Jess). We not only read it but hashed it out. I don't think ANY magical school "potteresque" book would have a chance with me after such a recent breakdown of "The Magicians".    

So after reading two books that didn't do it for me, I am finishing up "Sweet Lamb of Heaven" by Lydia Millet (another "okay" book) and I've started listening to "My Name is Lucy Barton" by Elizabeth Strout (which so far has been pretty darn good). I'm hoping things look up for me (in the reading department). Next up on my list will be "Version Control" by Dexter Palmer, which should be another book that has all the bits I love and crave (science-fiction, current events, technology, physics, scientific philosophy). Hopefully this one will be that itch I've needed scratching.

Have you read any of the books yet? Any you'd recommend for me to pick next? Which book do you think will take the win? So far, I have no clear book to cheer for... this is the first tournament that it's happened this way. I can only cross my fingers and hope I find that gem before the tournament starts!  

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Check-In



Dear Reader,

I managed to finish two whole books last Thursday, what a red-letter day!  Both about 3 stars for me, I think.

FINISHED:

The Goldfinch turned out, ultimately, to be severely disappointing. It started off amazingly, and I couldn't put it down. What promise! What great characters! (Loved Boris!) But...it lost me about midway through, and then I just couldn't wait to be done with the thing. Too much pointless introspection at the end, which I kind of just half-listened to. For some reason, I just couldn't seem to muster up any interest in Theo's life when he was in his thirties. Blah. It's too bad, because Tartt really is a great writer, but her stories always seem to fall flat for me. I think it's going to take a lot to convince me to read another from her.

The House We Grew Up In was a nice little diversion; more of a light read about a dysfunctional family, stories of which always intrigue me. This book outlined a bunch of memorable characters that made up this family which really fell apart one awful day in the early 2000s, and it took them decades to find their way back to each other, to forgive, to understand, to accept each other again. It was a good diversion read when I couldn't get into my heavier books (read: when I was nursing my daughter at 5 in the morning!).


CURRENTLY READING:

So I've since begun two new books to replace those above. The first is Trevor Noah's autobiography, Born a Crime, which I freaking LOVE. I knew it got good ratings, but I still wasn't sure I was going to like it as much as I do! Oh, my goodness. You'll be sold once you get to the pooping part, hah! Having him narrate his own story is really enjoyable to listen to. And he's just got just a great storyteller's personality. I would recommend this to anyone & everyone.

And the other is My Not So Perfect Life, which I received a ARC of free in the mail - it's my replacement "light read." I haven't read Sophie Kinsella before, but she's typically "chick lit", right? Well, I could use a good, fun, girly read - and I like that this one points out that the grass isn't always greener. It came out in early February, so of course I'm already too late for a preview review, but...ah, c'est la vie. I have barely cracked the cover on this one, though, so I'll let you know whether I will stick with it.

I'm almost done with The Power of Habit, which has been really very enjoyable. I'm still upset, though, by the story about the woman who gambled away everything she had just because she was - Oh, poor me! - a bored housewife. I get that she had a problem that she couldn't control once she was in really deep, but...why did she have to go to the casino in the first place?! What I wouldn't give to have some down time to get chores done, much less more time to pursue all of my interests! She could have taken a class, joined the PTA, started going to the gym, read a freaking book! Man, her story infuriated me. Which, I know was the point - the author draws an interesting parallel between her story and that of a man who murdered his wife while sleepwalking (the horror!). But, still. I found myself yelling at my audiobook in the car all too often while the narrator was relaying her story.

ON DECK:
I'm trying to read more for Black History month. I know it technically ends today, but I feel I didn't get to read enough for it, so I'm going to personally continue it for a while longer. Any must-read suggestions??

Also, I've got to read My Name is Lucy Barton for my book club - I really haven't been keeping up with my book club, and I miss it! That's queued up to follow The Power of Habit.

Well, I'm off to go pick up 1491 for a bit. Happy reading!

Yours,
Arianna


Thursday, February 23, 2017

TOB 2017 - Thoughts, Progress & Updates


Tournament of Books 2017

Thoughts - Progress - Updates


Hello everyone!! I've missed you. I think Arianna has mentioned our hiatus and I think this was a much-needed break for both of us. It's kinda funny that we both had so much going on at the same time but you can never predict where life takes you.

So... I'm not going to lie... I've been pretty bad about reading as well as blogging during this time away. My reading lately has been all for the Tournament of Books. Yep, it's that time of year again and I'm SO behind. Normally, when the shortlist comes out I've read at least a few of the books on that list. This year? Only ONE. Ugh....

Okay, so I've been slacking BUT I have been catching up a bit. I finished "We Love You, Charlie Freeman". This book is going to elicit quite a conversation during the Tournament and I think with everything going on right now in the media, it'll be quite interesting to see where that discussion goes. If you haven't heard anything about this book yet, the basic premise is a family recruited to teach sign language to a chimp. This Institute that hires this family holds a secret past that is slowly revealed over time. One of the craziest things I learned while reading this was that back in the day people were afraid to let deaf people use sign language in schools, they thought that it would encourage the deaf community to marry only each other and "create a perpetuating race of non-hearers". They would actually force them to wear mittens so they couldn't communicate that way. Anyways, this book was a solid 3-Star read for me. It didn't come together the way I was hoping but I appreciate what the Author was doing.

What else? I read "The Vegetarian" by Kang Han earlier in the year. That was a solid 4-Star read but I'll admit that it's been too long for me to elaborate on what I liked about it. I am looking forward to revisiting it during the ToB.

Oh, and "Moonglow" by Michael Chabon, which I am sad to admit is the first I've read from him. Parts of it punched me and other bored me to death. The Grandfather and his existential angst told through his war experiences as well as his love for space - positively brilliant. The family stuff, the Grandmother... most of that didn't come together for me. I want to write more about this and perhaps I'll come back later for a fully formed review but my initial gut reaction was to give this 3 Stars... a few days later 4 Stars. That one part of the book - when he finds the rocket and talks about life, this planet, and the fragility of the human race - I felt so moved... I wish Chabon focused entirely on THAT. However, to be fair, this book was based on stories from his father on his deathbed. I did see glimpses of "The Tsar of Love and Techno" with this one and maybe that's my biggest disappointment... the stories didn't come together like they did for that book. I am a huge fan of that contender. However, the brilliance of this book can be seen in one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"The rocket was beautiful. In conception it had been shaped by an artist to break a chain that had bound the human race ever since we first gained consciousness of earth's gravity and all it's analogs in suffering, failure and pain. It was at once a prayer sent heavenward and the answer to that prayer: Bear me away from this awful place."
I have read a few more from the list and would love to get into that but I think that'll have to wait until next time. Stay tuned for my thoughts on a few of my LEAST favorite ToB picks so far.  

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Check-In



Dear Reader,

Hi, gang! This one's gonna be a short post, because I don't have much to report - I'm still in the middle of a bunch of books:



Making steady progress on all, but nothing much to report. I did love The Color Purple, which I flew through. Celie is an amazing character, and one I won't soon forget. I wish I had been older to see the talk about this book when it was first released.

I'd love to say more, but I just don't have the time today. Sorry this is such a lame post! I hope to have more (or at least better!) updates next week. Until then, happy reading!


Yours,
Arianna


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Check-In


Dear Reader,

Over the weekend, I finally finished City on Fire. I'd give it a solid 4 stars. Hallberg is a fantastic writer, and I'd like to see more from him. I thought the book was really ambitious and so many times it lived up to its accolades (well, pre-release), but it got a bit too wrapped up in itself and ended up being a bit disappointing, although overall very satisfying. Which is a shame, because that first chapter really shone with such promise. But it was such a great homage to the NYC of the 1970s - I was able to feel like I had been there, myself.

I had to admit, though, I was a bit frustrated by this author who seemed to really know SO MUCH (I loved how many casual references he threw into the book - I learned a lot!) and probably researched everything, but he didn't bother to find out that Vassar doesn't have sororities. Never has. That irked me. But, I know, such a small part in the grand scheme of things...

Anyway, with that behemoth under my belt, that means I'm only in the middle of TWO huge books now: Anna Karenina and The Goldfinch. Making slow but steady progress on both.

In other news, I've started to read The Color Purple for Black History Month, because that's been on my to-read for what feels like ever! So far (maybe 80 pages in) it's fantastic. A bit difficult to get used to Celie's writing, but once you do, the book flows wonderfully. I think this will be a pretty quick read for me, despite some difficult subject matter. I'm so glad I've finally gotten around to it. And, I'm looking forward to seeing Whoopi's portrayal after I finish reading!

I also picked up an ebook I'd let languish for a while while trying to get through City on Fire by reading it on my phone (originally I'd started with the ARC we received at BEA 2015, but I just don't find as much time for picking up books these days, unfortunately!). So my current phone read (started last November!) is The House We Grew Up In, which I received as an ARC via Netgalley ages ago - I'm trying to get through some Netgalley backlog before I request any more materials there. (I mean, the book was published at the start of 2013! That's how behind I am.) It's an intriguing British family story that revolves around this fascinating, perpetually childish matriarch who is a hoarder, and the effect that her problem has on her family - which includes the tight-laced eldest daughter with her reactionary cleanliness bug, the defeated husband who's divorced her but lives next door, and the lost-at-sea younger siblings. I am also really flying through this book; it's a nice break from the denser stuff I've been reading, but it's no fluffy novel, either. I do enjoy these close examinations of families and how these people - who might not have otherwise connected, but are forced into closeness because they were born into the same family - learn to grow together.

I hope you all are having lovely reading lives, these days. I feel like mine is really starting to pick back up!

Yours,
Arianna


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Check-In


Dear Reader,

Hi! I unfortunately haven't finished a book since my last post, but I wanted to check in anyway, as part of a new style of posting we're experimenting with.

Oh, wait! I have finished a book: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians! That was a fun YA adventure. I don't think I'll continue with the series, but it definitely might be something I recommend to my daughter when she is older. It was a great divergence from regular YA, and I do love that there was a strong female character (a warrior, who protected the protagonist). Again, the "Evil Librarians" part had me loving the book more than I might have otherwise, I must admit. But definitely a worthwhile read; I'll have to check out more BranSan, but now I'm thinking more The Way of Kings.

And what has replaced my morning commute audiobook, then, you might ask? Well, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This is an audiobook borrowed from my
sister, although I had been wanting to read it. I have a soft spot for pop psychology books! (I'm not huge into business advice books, but this one doesn't tread that much into that sort of territory, so I think it's safe.) I'm fascinated by the stories Duhigg tells of people who have changed their lives significantly by simply altering a habit (it all seems very Pavlovian to me, really), as well as the stories he told of those with brain damage who were able to maintain somewhat normal lives through the power of habit. I am about 1/3 of the way through right now, and reading about football - which normally would bore me to tears, but I'm eagerly reading about it in this book!

Otherwise, I'm just chugging along through the other books I mentioned in my last update post. City on Fire is actually becoming really engaging again during the last 100 pages, so I hope it holds up through the end! And I still can't put The Goldfinch down. I hope soon I'll have some more finished-book updates for you. Until then, happy reading!

Yours,
Arianna



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