Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top 10 Bookish Confessions

This week's Top 10 Tuesday is Bookish Confessions. 

I hereby confess

1.  I am not nice to my books - as much as I love having pretty bookshelves covered with pristine copies of books, I'm just too messy to maintain that.  Forget the simple stuff like dogearing pages and cracking the spines (I totally do both of those).  I like to always have books in my car in case I have to wait somewhere.  Those frequently get thrown into the backseat hastily when I need to make room for a passenger (or vice versa to make space in the back for my dog).  My books get spilled on and the jackets get ripped with some frequency.

2. I don't review romance novels (or even count them in my books read), but I definitely read them.

3.  There are still books from high school that I pretend that I finished but really just did Cliff's Notes.  In fairness I just can't remember which I read and which I didn't.  Fairly certain I didn't finish Tess of D'Urbervilles and did read The Scarlett Letter, but that could be flipped or maybe neither .

4. I enjoyed all the Twilight books

5. I accumulate library fines.  This is especially embarrassing now that you can monitor everything online.   

6. I like writing bad reviews more than good ones.

7. I have mispronounced words in conversation because they look different when reading.  If they where obscure words it would be one thing, but mine were "chaos" and "epitome".

8.  I attempt to read and walk at the same time and have fairly constant bruises on my legs to show for it.

9.  I reread to the point of memorization.  I've laughed out loud at things I remember are coming up in a few pages.

10. I am constantly reorganizing my books.  WHY can't all paperback be the same size so I could just alphabetize and be done with it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Lionel Shriver
Harper Perennial
2003, 400 pgs

Summary from Goodreads
The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry
Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

My Summary / Thoughts

The book starts out slow.  You have to adjust to Shriver’s writing style (have a dictionary handy) and it takes a few pages to get into, but once you do it is both captivating and horrifying.  I got mad reading it several times, slammed the book closed, put it down, only to be compelled to pick it back up 5-10 min later.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is told in a series of letters from Eva to her estranged husband, Franklin.  Eva begins writing them two years after Kevin’s rampage or as she refers to it, Thursday. 
Maybe I do not know what to call it, that Thursday.  The atrocity sounds torn straight from a newspaper, the incident is minimizing to the point of obscenity, and the day our own son committed mass murder is too long isn’t it?
Each letter contains information about Eva’s life post Thursday, and recollections of her life with Franklin as they decided to conceive Kevin and up to that terrible day.  Eva struggles with how much blame for Kevin’s actions she is responsible for. 

From the moment Eva discovered she was pregnant her response was ambivalent at best.  She wanted to make Franklin happy and he had the picture in his head of the perfect American family.  Additionally, Eva’s mother was an agoraphobic and that lead Eva to force herself to do the things she feared most.  In reality she was terrified.

None of the characters in this book are particularly likeable or sympathetic, although I will admit to having sympathy with Eva from time to time which may mean I’m horribly selfish.  Eva is accustomed to being somewhat highly regarded.  She started her own successful business of low budget travel guides and immediately is frustrated that being pregnant becomes the whole of what people see in her.

Then Kevin is born and she doesn’t get that immediate outpouring of love that she had expected to get for her first born.  Add to the fact that Kevin won’t take her breast and she feels rejected. 

As she tells the stories of Kevin’s childhood and adolescence he starts to come across a little evil almost immediately.  From constant crying when she’s the only one home, to destroying her newly wallpapered walls at three, and refusing to potty train until six, in each of these occurrences really appears that Kevin knows EXACTLY what he’s doing.  Franklin lets Kevin get away with the few things he sees, but it feels like Kevin is accomplishing what he sets out to do immediately – pit Mom and Dad against each other.

I did not like Franklin at all.  I frequently had to remind myself that I was only getting Eva’s perspective on things, but as Kevin’s behavior escalated and Franklin continued to be manipulated by him I actually lost respect for Eva for staying with him.  I want kids and Kevin didn’t scare me away from having them.  But Franklin made me think long and hard about who I would want to have them with.   Most of the times I threw down the book it was Franklin related.  Anytime Eva corrected or discipline Kevin in front of Franklin he would contradict her.  Grrrrr, I’m getting frustrated just thinking about it.

This is a dense book, 400 pgs isn’t that many, but it took me some time to get through.  What’s amazing is how well Shriver tells the story without really giving answers to the real question; was Kevin born evil or did his upbringing make him that way?  Nature vs. Nurture.

Side questions that go along with this one
How early does Nurture start?  If Eva had been bubbly or at least content during her pregnancy would Kevin have been born happier?

If Eva had stood her ground with Franklin earlier would it have made a difference?

If Franklin hadn’t been so easily manipulated by Kevin would things have turned out differently?

After reading the book I’m still conflicted about the nature vs nurture, but at least in terms of this novel am leaning towards nature.  But after reading a few other reviews I think it depends largely on the reader which means Shriver accomplished what she set out to do.  I’ll be thinking about this novel for a long time to come.

My rating
9 out of 10 stars

Other Blogs

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

This week's Top 10 Tuesday is Favorite Books I've Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog.  My blog's lifespan isn't super long so you're seeing almost 20% of the books I had to choose from.

Stay Close by Harlan Coben – One of my favorite authors.  He fairly prolific and I’ve read all of this novels so getting a new one is great, because I’m already familiar with the writing style and it barely feels like reading.  It feels like I’m in the story.

Stolen Prey by John Sandford – Ditto above

Partials by Dan Wells – This is by far my favorite YA dystopia I’ve read this year and after several disappointments in that category I needed a good one.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – I love Lola and Cricket and her dads.  This book is just super well put together with fun details and a teen relationship that I cared about.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – A welcome departure from current YA trends.  No vampires and no romance!  How did she get this book published?  But seriously folks, it’s an excellent read.

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti – A book that changed how I view everyday things.  Also gave me a growing appreciation and interest in feminism.

The Passage by Justin Cronin – A truly scary post apocalyptic book.  Every word was chosen carefully and matters to the story.  Cannot wait for The Twelve.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I laughed and I cried.  This is one of the most quotable books ever.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – This one broke my heart a little, but in a good way.  It made me remember first teen love in a very real way.

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver – This one broke my heart a lot and not in good ways.  My review will go up on Thursday, but I just want to keep discussing this book. It’s not the kind of book I typically enjoy.  In fact there are several things that the author does that might even be pet peeves of mine, but Shriver makes it work.  The book is stronger for them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars
John Green
Dutton Books
2012, 336 pgs

Summary from Goodreads

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

My Thoughts

I didn't review this the first time I read it.  I just didn't have the words.  I don't know that have the right words now, but I feel like I can actually make an attempt.

I can review this like any other book and say that I loved Hazel and Augustus because they were smart and thoughtful and funny.  I can say that the way their relationship developed was entirely natural and drew me into it.  But these statements don't really encapsulate what made this novel great for me.

Augustus frequently says, "I'm on a roller coaster going nowhere, but up".  Obviously that sentence is an oxymoron.  If the roller coaster only goes up, it's not a roller coaster.  What struck me is what a effortless roller coaster The Fault in Our Stars is.  One page you are laughing and then suddenly you're crying and at no point does it feel manipulative (ala Extreme Home Makeover).  It feels true.  Most people have had to deal with illness and death of a loved one and I don't think I'm alone in feeling that humor is the best coping mechanism. 

I loved the contrasting outlooks provided by Augustus and Hazel.  Augustus is some what obsessed by the fact that dying of cancer isn't heroic.  He wants to be remembered.  Hazel is scared of the hurt the people who care about her will suffer when she dies.  She doesn't want to leave scars.  I identified with the struggle between extremes. 

My Rating

9.5 out of 10 stars (Hazel quote - "I'm saving my ten")

Other Reviews

Don't Take My Books Away
All the Books I can Read
Books I Done Read

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson    
Vintage Books
1998, 204 pgs

Book Summary from Goodreads
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.

My Summary
I could really summarize Fear and Loathing in a similar manner to The Road. 
Man and Lawyer get high on LSD.  Man and Lawyer have paranoid episode. Man and Lawyer get high on ether. Man runs from cops who aren’t really chasing him, etc, etc.
I’m going to have to retract a few things a said in my review of The Road, because Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas doesn’t have a plot or character development.  It's a rambling, long weekend acid trip to Las Vegas.  I didn’t love Fear and Loathing, but I felt like reading gave me an experience that I never would have had otherwise.

I’ve never tried drugs (I’ve actually never smoked a cigarette), but reading this book is the closest I’ll ever feel to being on them – and from that I’ll just say “No thank you”.  I felt the narrator’s paranoia and mania.   Hunter S. Thompson uses/invented a writing style referred to as “Gonzo”.  It’s almost a stream of consciousness that puts the reader in the mind of main character and it’s effective.

It’s not a hard read, but it’s not something I could fly through because I could only take 10-15 pages of paranoia at a time.

My Rating
Rating this is a struggle because if I rate it purely from an enjoyment of reading perspective it’s probably a 5.  But rating it taking into account the original writing style and the effectiveness at making the reader feel like they are living what the writer is would warrant a 9.

Splitting the difference – 7 out of 10 stars

Monday, August 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Post on my blog that best represent me

Each Tuesday The Broke and The Bookish provide a book related Top 10 theme.

This week's top 10 are the posts in my blog that most represent me (the posts I would want everyone to read)

Book Reviews where I was able to express my thoughts clearly

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 
April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay
The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal

Books I loved that say something about me (I may or may not be happy with these reviews)

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Elizabeth Perkins

Top 10 Lists that I especially enjoyed writing

Proudest DIY moments

Office Stencil - This took forever but I am so happy with the result
Kitchen Light fixture - I learned to drywall!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Window Shopping......OK Online Shopping

I mean who really window shops anymore.  Plus I'm coveting stuff at IKEA which we unfortunately don't have here in Nebraska.

First of all I love so many of the fabrics, these first two are pretty and somewhat understated.  The gray, Berta Ruta, is subtle, but with a little bit of texture to it  I love the little pops of green in the Cecilia (2nd) fabric.

This one is my favorite.  It's called Gullan Bloom.  Wouldn't it be awesome as a small accent pillow or even framed as art.  I love color - it's problem cause I'm not drawn to neutrals and you can't decorate exclusively with color.

Of course there's a problem with buying fabric - I can't sew.  Or at least I never have.  I'd like to give it a try just for simple things, hemming the occasional curtains, making throw pillow, you get the picture.  But I've looked into buying a sewing machine and always get overwhelmed.  Of course then I find this!

That's right.  IKEA makes a beginner's sewing machine.  Online it says the price is $69, but can vary by store.  Totally cute, won't take up a lot of space, but is it functional?  So I check to see if there are any reviews and confirm that it should accomplish what I would need of it.

Ikatbag review of the IKEA sewing machine

Sounds perfect for my needs!  Now here is where I go a little nuts.  You can't order it online.  And the nearest store to me is 6 hours away.  I almost took an impromptu trip to Minneapolis to buy it.  Yeah,  even if I did it in one day (12 hours of driving + 3-4 hours in the store) I'd still be out the gas money to get there and back so now my $70 sewing machine is running closer to $125.  Like I said, NUTS!  But seriously folks, if there was an IKEA within a 3 hour radius - I'd have hit the road. 

So I am forced to take a breath and consider things (always a good idea).  I think I'm going to plan a weekend visit to some friends in Minneapolis in October.  If I still want it in 2 months good deal!

So now that that I've left crazytown here are a few more things I love at IKEA.  This lumbar pillow, Malin Fransar, is gorgeous.

These Somrig vases are so much fun!  I can see them in a line down the center of a dining table or mantle.   
I also thought this Stockholm bowl would be great as a fruit bowl in the kitchen or a center piece.

And these Klipstrig placemats are so much fun.  I think they would be especially cool when eating alfresco.

So am I the only one admiring IKEA from afar or are there others out there dying to visit?  If you are coveting any specific put links in the comments (I may need to add to my list).

Friday, August 3, 2012

TGIF....And the Medals go to...

Every Friday the Greads blog poses a book question and since I'm sort of Olympics obsessed I decided to participate this week.

Book Olympics: In the spirit of the Olympics, which books would you give the gold, silver, and bronze medals to? It can be from any genre, new or old. 

My chosen genre:  Nonfiction!

Underneath the Banner of Heaven by Jon Kraukhauer

Amazing non-fiction novel that perfectly balanced narative with historical facts.

April Fool's Day by Bryce Courtenay

Heartbreaking, but uplifting true story of Courtenay's son, Damon's struggle with hemophilia and HIV.

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Valenti took home the gold with the book that changed the way I view the world and how events are portrayed.  I think something happens everyday that I consider in a different way than I would have prior to this book.

Joke's on me - I chose non-fiction because I don't read much of it so I thought it would be easy to pick just three.  Not so much.  Here are the other contenders:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
Come Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
2001, 298 pgs

Book Summary from Goodreads

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

My Summary

Code Name Verity defies review.  Everything I want to say about it feels like it would spoil something for other readers.

The book is written as a journal/diary/confession of a British Spy caught in Nazi occupied France.  She writes it to avoid further torture (none of which happens in real time - it's just referenced, but nasty).   The perspective in which she writes the confession (mix of first and third person) did make it difficult for me to really get into immediately, but I appreciated the reasons for the perspective.  Even though I had to adjust to the perspective, I really wanted to know what happened.  I was invested in the outcome from the very beginning.

As the story unfolded I fell in love with the unlikely friendship between Maddie and Queenie.  They were the perfect compliments to each other, but odds are they would never have met without the war.

This novel completely ignores romance which I LOVED.  There’s no dreamy boy to swoon over, but you should read this book anyway.  You will probably cry, but you should read it anyway.  The writing and the story amaze me.

Here was a section of the journal/confession that jumped out at me that doesn’t spoil anything (or does it?)

It’s awful, telling it like this, isn’t it?  As though we didn’t know the ending.  As though it could have another ending.  It’s like watching Romeo drink poison.  Every time you see it you get fooled into thinking his girlfriend might wake up and stop him.  Every single time you see it you want to shout, “You stupid ass, just wait a minute,” and she’ll open her eyes!  “Oi, you, you twat, open your eyes, wake up!  Don’t die this time!”  But they always do.

Other Reviews
Books I Done Read - I almost didn't review it cause this review is so awesome

9 out of 10 stars

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So great I've read it two times...or fifteen

Most readers have books they have to visit several times.  I'm a massive rereader, especially during busy times at work.   Since I have trouble putting new books down it's nice sometimes to read something where you already know what happens.  But for me there are a few books that I reread because I get something new from them everytime.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is one such book for me.  It was assigned my senior year of high school which should have cursed it (being forced to read something has a tendency to take the joy out of it), but I was drawn into the novel immediately.   I've realized since that it's amazing that I was so into it, because the pacing of the novel is slow at the beginning and speeds up as it goes along.

Peekay is the perfect protagonist for me.  He suffered as a child, but survives due to his intellect (I love smart).  As his life journey progresses there are multitudes of characters and friends who provide insight and build his worldview.  Characters that helped shape the path Peekay's life would take were only around for days or months, but I love how it shows how impressionable children are - that if a child looks up to you and you tell them they are capable of something they will believe you.  Unfortunately the reverse is true too.

There's diversity in the people who befriend Peekay, but what they all share is a thirst of knowledge and self improvement and that's a message I like (and definitely benefit from reading).  I've read this annually since the first reading and discover something new everytime.

Favorite quotes

“The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”

“Always listen to yourself... It is better to be wrong than simply to follow convention.”

“Your brain, Peekay, has two functions; it is a place for original thought, but also it is a reference library. Use it to tell you where to look, and then you will have for yourself all the brains that have ever been”