I am really enjoying my current book, What French Women Know, way way more than I was expecting and I want to tear through it like a dog eating homework. However, something is holding me back. That something is the fear of my next book. Because next, dear readers, I have some Faulkner. I have The Sound and the Fury. Now, I like Faulkner. In college I read As I Lay Dying for my American Modern Literature course and I LOVED it. I LOVED it. I was the only person in the class who thought it was absolutely the greatest. I was so excited about how messed up it was. Actually, just writing about it makes me want to go back and read it and see if it still stacks up. Now would be a great time, while I am still allowing myself little bits of grief here and there. My mother is a fish? The sound of decomposition? Yes, please!
But I know that not all Faulkner is like that. I know that I struggle with him. I know this will be hard. I also know that Oprah had it right. That’s right, I said it. Years ago, for her book club, Oprah had a summer of Faulkner and there is no better time to read Faulkner than the summer. I actually looked at when I’ve read Faulkner and I have one in May and one in July. As I Lay Dying is in March of 2013, which is wrong because I totally read that in like 2005. Anyway, Faulkner has the ability to make me both excited and scared when I think about reading him. This, I think, makes it some great literature.
So far this year, I’ve read 43 books. Not a bad number. I broke it down into some categories and this is what I have:
(Note, some books hit a couple of categories.)
Contemporary Fiction: 9%
Young Adult: 30%
Middle Grade: 16%
Diverse Books: 18%
Books by Women: 53%
Something to chew on, at least!
I feel like I need to start with a disclaimer here: My reading of this book was very distracted and disjointed. I had a hard time getting into it unless I read a couple of pages and I experienced the kind of week that just didn’t allow reading for more than a few minutes here and a few minutes there. I liked it and I wish that I could have done it the justice of a nice long night on the couch in a quiet house.
Julie has a happy, if introverted, life. She lives with her grandmother and her mother in a house that they love. Her mother writes for television and leads an independent and satisfying life. Julie spends her days with her grandmother, reading poetry and trying on her grandmother’s vintage clothes. All of that changes when Julie’s grandmother passes away suddenly. She tells Julie that there is something she needs to know and then dies without telling her. Things happen quickly. Julie’s mom loses her job and then the house. Julie finds herself living in an apartment and going to a new school. Not only has she lost her grandmother but her mother starts dating a guy in a heavy metal band who grosses Julie out.
Then, Julie meets Grant who is always smiling and wearing silly hats. She finds comfort and companionship with him but bristles every time her mother mentions him as maybe more than a friend. Julie doesn’t realize that anything is amiss in Grant’s life until the night they use the Ouija board Julie found in her new apartment. When Julie learns Grant’s secret, they are tied together in a mission to save his life.
There were a lot of things that I liked about this book. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I cheered Grant and Julie on. I protested loudly when she did something I considered stupid. There were even a few times when I felt like I was reading a true horror novel and I always like that. There was also some of that characteristic old school FLBness going on.
Now, let’s talk about some problems. First, I’m not going to say that there aren’t guys who are pretty much straight up sexual predator type jerks but do they really have to show up in every book? Can’t guys just be jerks in the good old fashioned way sometimes? Do we always have to imply that the men the characters don’t like are up to serious no good? Second, learning about Julie’s father felt like FLB was pushing it a little bit. I could buy everything but that and it didn’t even really have to do with how it played out in the plot but more with how it was kind of thrown in there at the end like, “Here’s this information. I don’t know what to do with it and the book is almost done.” It just seemed jarring that it was handled so cavalierly.
- Invitation Only by Kate Brian
- How to Lose Your Fears and Find Your Key to Happiness by Harold Sherman
- The Hope We Seek by Rich Shapero
- Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy
- Private by Kate Brian
- Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
- “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce
Surprise! Well, at least I’m surprised that I’m here. Today we drove back home from Ohio where we visited my Bestie and her family for the weekend. It was a long drive and when we got home there was the usual frenzied unloading of the car and unpacking of the bags and figuring out how we brought home so much more than we took. Then there was the indifferent cats and the dead garden and the surprising discovery that we don’t have any freaking laundry detergent. I showered with an Anchor Steam Beer, opened a 40 of PBR and realized that there’s still some fire left in me for the night. And so, here I am.
Can I just tell you guys that Daring Greatly sent me into the empathy spiral of death? I wanted to like it. I really wanted to. But then I realized that I felt really bad for everyone because I love them so much and I was in this horrible funk for days before I realized that it was all Brown’s book’s fault. I haven’t really pulled myself out of it yet…
I feel like my stack is getting smaller and I feel pretty good about that. I want to devour books, I said every day of my life. Maybe that’s what I’ll do now. I’ll go and read some more and try not to fall asleep before I finish my 40.
Recently I have been trying to get around to reading all of those YA series that I thought sounded good when I was a YA myself. I am happy to report that I’ve been enjoying it and I think that I am kind of surprised about that. I read through Gossip Girl first and really enjoyed the earlier books in the series, before they were taken over by ghost writers. Next I moved on to A-List, which I only made it through three of before deciding that I wasn’t enjoying it enough to continue. I was wondering if maybe I was getting just a little sick of reading about rich girls, pretty girls. Enter Private.
If you want to know what made this book more appealing to me than the previous two series, here’s a list:
1. The main character is not perfect. Reed is from a working class, dysfunctional family from Pennsylvania. When she gets accepted to Easton Academy, a fancy shmancy boarding school, she is completely out of her depth. She can’t keep up socially, academically, or financially.
2. New England boarding school. I really feel like this is just one of those settings that most people like. Right?
3. Oh, thank God. Finally, a series that doesn’t drop designer name after designer name. In fact, Reed confesses to being a mostly Walmart shopper. How refreshing!
Reed is excited to get out of her hometown and her crazy house when she is accepted at Easton Academy but once she is there it doesn’t take long for her to realize that she doesn’t belong. Everyone else has money and she can’t keep up with her classes. She is awkward socially because she was always avoiding people in order to protect herself at home. One thing Reed does have going for her is a belly of fire. She sets her sights high and decides that she will do whatever it takes to get what she wants.
Besides spending all of her time trying to catch up in class, this also means that she wants to become a Billings Girl. Billings is the most prestigious house on campus. The women that live there go on to do great things. The girls who live there, particularly Noelle, Ariana, Kiran, and Taylor, have a certain something about them that Reed really wants a piece of. But becoming one of them isn’t an easy task. They can go from kind to cruel in a split second and they love to test Reed. What is she willing to do to get in? Where will she draw the line.
Add to this mix a hot, dangerous romance and you’ve got me hooked.
- Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre
- About a Boy by Nick Hornby
- “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benet
Seriously. What is up with my reading lately. I feel like I am sprinting. I’ll read half of a book in one day and then not touch it for two. Plus, I’m spread out all over the place. On my “Currently Reading” list on Goodreads there are 10 books in progress! 10 books!
Am I the only person who has very compartmentalized reading? What I mean is that I read Simple Abundance every morning when I journal, Daily Dose of Knowledge later in the mornings. I try to read one poem a day, which I was getting from The Poetry of Our World but then I checked out a short book of poetry called No Matter the Wreckage which is wonderful so I put Poetry of Our World aside for a little while. My actual reading book is Private and I break up my actual books with a short story palate cleanser in between, thus The Best American Short Stories of 2014 and The Golden Argosy. I am reading through the Oz books on my Kindle in bed at night. In my car I’m listening to Daring Greatly and on my phone I’m listening to Christy.
And you know what? I know that it’s crazy. I know that I have waaaaaay too much going on right now and that I need to tone it down. But I’m keeping the stories straight and I don’t feel like I’m having a harder time getting into anything or like I’m not spending enough time with anythings. It’s just that I feel, well, crazy and panicky and I know that I’m spread too thin. But really, honestly, this is one of those occasions where my reading life completely and utterly reflects my real life. I am spread too thin. I cannot concentrate on one thing. I cannot make myself slow down or stop. I just have to trust that things will clear up.
And that is true for my reading life, at least. In the next month that list of books being read will slim down by at least two as I finish up Daily Dose of Knowledge and No Matter the Wreckage. I’ll get through one of the short story collection eventually. That still leaves a lot but it’s better and I’m not going to let perfect get in the way of better. And my life? Well, that’s just life now isn’t it?
Every summer I get this urge to do some broad summer reading project. This year I’ve thought about doing YA or Native American fiction or the complete Hemingway or all of the Penguin Little Black Classics. It’s taken a lot of effort just to remind myself that I have enough to read right now without some extra little project. One day, maybe. Do you guys have any summer reads you’re particularly looking forward to?
Oh geez. What do I think about this book? I’m not sure. I’m going to lead in by saying that I have now officially ready all of the Hornby novels and this is one of my least favorites. I don’t think that it was the fault of the author and, in fact, by the time I finished it my opinion had completely changed. It was touching and it was great and it was totally bildungsroman, which I announced in a very ominous voice about two chapters from the end.
Will is a cool guy. He knows what bands to listen to and what clothe to buy but his life is pretty much meaningless. He lives off of the money his father’s Christmas song earns and does nothing. He thinks of time in units of thirty minutes and fills his days that way. He doesn’t want to fall in love or have children because he doesn’t want to complicate his life. Marcus is a twelve year old boy who has no friends and basically agrees with whatever his mother, Fiona, spoon feeds him. How do these characters come together? Will realizes that single moms are an untapped resource and pretends to have a little boy so that he can join SPAT- Single Parents, Along Together. There he meets Suzie who he begins to pursue, only to get sucked into the life of Marcus when Fiona attempts to kill herself. Marcus thinks that Will can fix things and so makes himself attached to him.
This is the story of two lonely males finding each other and maybe figuring out some stuff together and, yes, at times it was heart warming and funny and all of that. As a book, it was great. I easily read 50 pages in a sitting, which says something. I think what lost me was my inability to relate to the characters. I am not and have never been a lonely 12 year old boy, a thirty-something man with an empty life, a single mother. But do you have to be able to relate to a character to like a book? I don’t think so but it did keep me from falling into the world of it all. Still, in the end I thought that it was beautiful and I had laughed out loud a few times. Hornby has the ability to pull this story off where others would be out of their depths.
Last summer I got all self-righteous about challenging books one night and opened my big mouth about reading the top ten most frequently challenged books of the 21st century. I got my hands on this one and added it to my leaning tower of literature for a later date. What followed was months and months of hearing how great this book is and thinking that I really wanted to read but also fighting to stay on track with my giant pile of books.
Holy geez. I am so glad that I got around to it.
This is the story of Arnold, of Junior, Spirit. Arnold lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Arnold tells his story with words and cartoons, which he thinks are superior to words because they translate across languages. Arnold has a hard life. Sometimes there isn’t enough food in the house. The schools are atrocious. He only has one friend in the world, Rowdy. The rest of his tribe pretty much picks on him because he was born with fluid on his brain and is a little “brain damaged.” He has a stutter and a lisp, poor eyesight and seizures. Besides that, he is a great basketball player, a good cartoonist, and very smart kid. One day, Arnold gets in trouble at school when he throws a book at a teacher but the teacher surprises him by showing up at his house and telling him how important it is for him to move on. Arnold learns that his sister, who lives in the basement, wanted to be a writer and it lights a fire in him. He asks to be transferred to the white kid school and his parents agree.
At his new school, Arnold faces all kinds of new challenges. He is the only brown kid in school and there are a number of people who don’t like the Native Americans. Arnold knows that he can’t fit in and that he doesn’t fit in at the reservation either. His neighbors think he is a traitor and even Rowdy won’t talk to him. Slowly, Arnold makes friends at his new school and starts to carve out a niche for himself but nothing is ever easy. His freshman year is marked by tragedy after tragedy, trial after trial.
Yes, this is some serious subject matter but Arnold has grace and humor and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud with him. I enjoyed this book immensely and will probably go on to read more Alexie in the future.