We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I am going to do my best not to spoil this for you.  However, I went into this one knowing what the big twist was because of blog.  I didn’t want to know.  I intended to read the book eventually.  But the spoiler was on its own line right under the spoiler warning with no extra spacing and I saw it before I could look away.  Then I shook my fists in rage and have bitched about it numerous times since.

Because *some people* don’t seem to get how to properly warn of spoilers.  ~Some people.~

That did put me in an interesting spot to start this book because I went in knowing the truth and got to look for clues along the way.  I STILL missed stuff, you guys.  I mean, I knew what was coming and kept thinking, “How is she going to do this?  What is her plan here?”  When the twist came, it was still a surprise and I still HAD TO KNOW.  Kudos, Lockhart.

Cady Sinclair leads a charmed life.  She comes from an old family with trust funds and an island.  Every summer she goes to the island with her family and spends it with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and Gat, who she calls the liars.  Everything seems to change during Summer Fifteen when Cady finds herself in love with Gat.  But then an accident sends Cady away from the island and into a reeling sickness of amnesia and headaches.  When she returns, everything is different and nobody will tell her why.  She only has four weeks to figure out what happened during Summer Fifteen.  Was she the victim of some terrible crime?  What did she do wrong?

This was a great read.  It pulled me in right away and I devoured the first half of the book in one sitting.  (The internet was down.  That probably helped.)  I didn’t want to read but once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.  I held the pages open with baby feet so that I could keep reading.  So, the question then becomes: Can you still love a book if you hate the ending?  I did not even hate the twist, just the way that it was executed.  It felt, I don’t know, unnecessary to me somehow even though it was the whole point of the book.  The sense I get is that you will either hate it or love it.  I can tell you that hating it did not make me love to rest of the book any less.

Also, fabulous summer read.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Marrow Lindbergh

I finished this book a week ago and just haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet.  Reviews are one of those things that I tend to push to the wayside when I am busy and I am busy.  Working full time, managing a household, mothering, wifing, friending, daughtering.  It is a lot and that is kind of the point of this book, which I came across after it was mentioned in another of my favorite books.

Lindbergh used a two week vacation on the beach to work out some of her thoughts on being a busy woman and finding balance.  Her argument is that we all need a little space and solitude in order to continue giving.  We give until our cup is empty and then we must fill it back up with some solitude.

It was a relief to hear someone else say that women need solitude.  I found myself jealous of Lindbergh’s vacation, remembering a girls’ trip last year when I stayed in the cottage one night and read in the blissful quiet.  I missed my quiet mornings in my office, journaling and meditating behind a closed door.  Mostly, though, I realized how important it is for me to take time for myself.  It’s kind of like how you get more done if you just slow down.

I’ve noticed that I am accumulating a little collection of women’s books that I’ve been underlining and really thinking about, a kind of special collection.  This book will go there to be looked back at time after after.

The Stand by Stephen King

A few years ago, I read the original release of The Stand. I decided to do so because it was shorter and I was kind of afraid of the book.  It had grown to the heights of War and Peace in my mind but I love King and I wanted to get through it.  I loved the book but once I finished it I started to get the feeling that I had made the wrong choice.  If I was going to spend three weeks reading the book, I may as well spend those weeks reading the complete uncut edition.  I finally gave into that nagging voice and decided to read the big one.  I mean, what if I missed something?

My honest opinion:  I’m glad that I read the long one and I still love the book but you could probably get away with reading the shorter version.  There was only one thing that I actually noticed being different and its absence from the original release didn’t leave a gaping hole or anything.  I prefer the time setting of the original release, actually.  The small updates to pop culture and dates felt a little wonky to me.

I’ve heard of people who read this book again and again.  I can understand it.  It’s a great book.  The post Captain Trips world that King creates was vivid enough to seep into my dreams.  The characters feel real, even the bad guys.  They all have a real sense of humanity about them.

Repeatedly now I have tried to come up with a plot summary for you and I just can’t.  There is so much here and so many stories and characters that I feel like I would be doing the book a disservice in leaving something out.  Suffice to say that The Stand is a post-plague world that feels close enough to our own world to be scary, that he seems to really think things out down the line and around corners, if you will.  This is 100% worth the read for me.

Graphic Friday- Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux

As part of my new, much more relaxed reading plan, I decided this morning that I was going to select a comic from the shelf and read it.  I can say that the end goal is to be more familiar with the comic section at work or to boost reviews on the blog but, honestly, I kind of just want a little thing to look forward to on Fridays that isn’t the BuzzFeed cat newsletter, though I do look forward to that too.

I began with Sidescrollers because I had been meaning to pick it up for a long time and whenever I walk past it it mocks me.

Now, I’m going to do some things that I never do.

First, there were a lot of things that I liked about this book.  It was fun and funny.  It reminded me of a high school movie.  It was kind of like Superbad where everything that can go wrong does go wrong.   I felt like it was full of tropes and stereotypes but they are tropes and stereotypes that I love.  Plus, shenanigans, including evil and good cats, lobsters, and even a scorpion.

But then.  You know, do we have to talk about people being pussies all of the time?  Or, like, do we have to talk about “tang”?  And I hate to be that person because sometimes you have to take things as they are but why do all of the female characters have weird boobs?  Why are they basically only there for boobs?

So, yes, I was amused and I laughed and I enjoyed it but I could not in good conscience give it a glowing review.

The Steel Flea by Nikolai Leskov

I had one of those interesting experiences where the universe seemed to place things perfectly.  This Little Black Classic happened to fall after my reading of War and Peace.  A number of times I thought about taking a break from the Tolstoy to read the Leskov but I thought that I would end up confused.  I managed to put it off and so my experience was kind of like reading Tales of the Beedle Bard after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.

The Steel Flea is kind of like a zany fable and it was vastly enjoyable.  The Russians and the English are always trying to outdo one another and the result is a tiny steel flea with an even tinier wind up key and a simple craftsman on an adventure.

This is one of my favorite Little Black Classics so far.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Egads, it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this review.  So long that I am over 600 pages into the paperback of The Stand already!  Having a baby hasn’t cut into my reading time much but it sure seems to have cut into my review writing.

I started reading War and Peace five years ago when Hubby was moving in with me.  It was the last weekend he had the lease on his apartment.  His brother was already moved out but Hubby still had a lot left to pack up.  (We’re not very good at doing things around here.  In fact, some of that stuff is still packed.)  He insisted that he didn’t need my help packing, only loading and unloading the truck, and I settled down with his copy of the book as a way to kill time.  When the moving was done, I downloaded the free version on my Kindle and said I’d read it someday probably.  One thing was for sure, the Kindle version would be easier to hold and would have bigger print.

Fast forward to earlier this year.  I’ve been working my way through my ebooks by reading on my Kindle at night.  I’ve decided to start with the last book in my library and work my way forward.  That book is War and Peace and it suddenly seems to be the perfect time for it.  People keep telling me how little time I’ll have to read after having the baby and I am feeling ripe for spiteful reading.  I start it and I plug on.

Never in a thousand years did I expect to actually like the book.  I mean, really like it.  Almost love it.   Now, before I dove into this whole thing I did some research online.  I looked at a lot of blogs about reading War and Peace first and I saw all kinds of suggestions, the most frequent being to skip the parts you find boring.  The second most frequent tip seemed to be to keep a list of characters so as not to get confused.  Then I looked for some good chapter by chapter summaries because I was afraid that I would lose track of what was going on with all of these different characters.

When I started reading, I had a hard time figuring out what was happening and who was who.  BUT I seemed to think that I needed to know a lot of information going into this book and I found that I was getting frustrated with myself for not knowing who so-and-so was and how they related to such-and-such.  I was on the first chapter and felt like I should know everything about everything.  I had to tell myself some very important things.

  1. Trust Tolstoy.  It’s true that there are a lot of characters and I felt lost in the plot before there even was a plot to get lost in.  I had to remind myself repeatedly that Tolstoy was going to tell me everything that I needed to know.  And, you know what?  He did.
  2. Sit back and enjoy the ride.  This is not like The Age of Innocence, a book that packed a lot of punch at the end, and I seemed to get that from the start.  Also, it is a BIG book and it was going to take me a while to get through it.  When I caught myself rushing to finish, even though I was only 10% in, I forced myself to slow down and just enjoy the story.

As a woman who loves books and has an English degree and is a librarian, there are a lot of books that I haven’t read that I have a basic idea about.  War and Peace was not one of them.  Going into it, I had no idea what it was about.  War and peace, maybe?  Do you know what it’s about?  It’s about life.  It’s about the mistakes people make and their day to day worlds and the way their paths criss-cross over time and it’s about pride and it’s about, yes, war and peace.

Tolstoy managed to create so many characters that I loved.  I found myself switching favorites constantly.  I even liked the ones who were not meant to be liked.  I got caught up in their stories enough to exclaim things aloud to Hubby, who thinks I’m crazy.

So, totally worth the read.  I’m glad I did it.

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

This book was originally chosen for my now defunct sci-fi/fantasy book club.  It took me a while to get to it because I just kind of got buried by other books and then my reading slumped a bit with the pregnancy and so on and so forth.  This was the last library book I had left to read before my maternity leave and I figured it would be fast because it is so very short.  I also thought that it might prove to be atmospheric enough to pull me in and distract me because I liked the idea of reading about hot, humid lagoons and jungles.

It didn’t work.

My reading of this book went in three phases, splitting the book roughly into thirds.  First, I was in for it.  I was interested in the setting and the people and the ideas.  I told Hubby that he would probably love the book.  I let the language carry me.  Second, I was a little bored.  I don’t know why, really.  It was like a struggle to read.  The language weighed me down.  I would get through a page or two and then put it away or fall asleep.  Finally, I hit the “I just do not care” point.  I didn’t.  I almost gave up on it a number of times, even when I was only 20 pages from the end.  I had to fight to finish and it took a very long time.

The Drowned World takes place in a time when solar flares have caused the world to warm up, melting the ice caps and causing the water levels to rise.  With the rising water, silt deposits have completely changed the map of the world and now most of the globe is covered in dense jungles and lagoons.  The only truly inhabitable places are the far north and the far south.  A group of military men and scientists are in submerged London but things are beginning to go bad.  People are haunted by dreams that seem to drive them slowly insane.  When word comes for everyone to move out and back to their base, Dr. Kerans decides to stay behind with Beatrice, the only woman in the area.  They have forged comfortable lives there in penthouses with air conditioning and food stores.  Kerans’ associate, Dr. Bodkin, stays behind as well, chasing down vague memories of his childhood in the city.  Before long, a kind of pirate arrives to loot the city and as he attempts to draw the three from their self imposed isolation, it becomes apparent that he is not to be trusted.

I will agree with many that the setting and the ideas are good and that the language can at times be poetic.  That is not enough to carry a book, though, not even a short one.  I found the characters to be flat and the plot felt a little too cliche and convenient.