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Book Recap: The Book Thief

6 Jan

I just LOVED this book. It was so different from anything I’ve read in a long time. It was so moving and so painful and so beautiful. It was a perspective flip, for me, and it was refreshing.

It is narrated from the perspective of Death and tells the story of an adoptive orphan, her new family and their neighbors.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants to read something great.

Book rewind

16 Dec

While I haven’t been blogging on the reg, I have been reading. A lot.

In the past 3 weeks, I’ve finished 2 books and started a 3rd.

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The first was a dark and pretty gritty Italian novel called As God Commands. Think of it like this: if the Cohen Brothers ever wanted to adapt a dark, twisted and dirty novel that takes place in Italy, into a movie, THIS would be at the top of the list. There’s a skinhead with a young son. An alcoholic friend who is obsessed with his e wife and a dim witted sidekick who brings “Lenny” from Of Mice and Men to mind. The whole time I read the book, I felt dirty and cold. But it was a book I did like. It presented an in depth look at a group of people struggling with passion, addictions, rage and love.

The second book I read was Bad Monkey. It was a pretty funny novel, one with satirical notes and a colorful cast. In fact, the characters almost seemed like characachures of themselves. It is set in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. The story is about insurance fraud and murder. And a monkey. I don’t want to give too much away because its so twisted! And fun!

The third book, that I’m still reading, is The Cellist of Sarajevo. The book is fiction but during the siege of Sarajevo, there actually was a cellist named Vedran Smailovic who played his instrument regularly in the ruined building of the city. And that is enough of an inspiration to keep me reading.

P.S. I am fascinated with this point of history because I was alive when it was happening. And I knew very little about it. And that horrifies me. Angelina Jolie made a movie called In the Land of Blood and Honey and it is a stark and somber look into the lives of the people who endured and survived the Bosnian War. There is nothing happy or light about the film but it will touch you in a way you’d expect from a film about the Holocaust. Or genocide. And it happened only 20 years ago.

Book Rewind: Beautiful Ruins

30 Oct

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

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Ok, guys, this book is like 3 stories rolled into one… Which I LOVE!

~First story~
Scene: Italia 1962, at Hotel Adequate View
Players: Pasquale (which is Italian for “Passover”. Who knew?!), Dee Moray, Pasquale’s crazy Aunt and his dying mama.
Also: throw in one Richard Burton, who is also in Italy filming “Cleopatra” and simultaneously falling in and out and back in love with one Liz Taylor.

Ok, so this beeeautiful American actress, Dee Moray, shows up in this teeny little place in on the coast of Italy. She was acting in “Cleopatra” but now she thinks she has stomach cancer and this is her final act. (See what I did there, clever, clever.)

~Story 2~
Scene: Hollywood, CA present day
Players: Michael Deane, an aging Hollywood producer and Claire Silver, his assistant who is dreaming of not being a slave to a creeper. And Shane Wheeler, a youngish man looking to pitch his movie idea and change his life.

Michael and Claire end up in a meeting, listening to Shane pour his heart out during his pitch and guess who walks in?! Pasquale!! Yep, the same Pasquale from 1962 Italy.

~Story 3~
Scene: CA 1960’s, UK early 1990’s (I think) and Idaho present day. And Italy too.
Players/Plot: A mix of the characters and how their lives played out. Here we are introduced Dee Moray’s son, Pat
Bender. But who is his father?!? And what do all these characters need from each other? How in the heck are they reunited? Or more importantly, why?

I liked this book a lot so i don’t want to give anything away! It was easy to read and kept me interested. I love, love, love an interconnected plot that bobs and weaves and joins lives and memories together. If that’s your thing, this is a book you should read.

And yes, I took that pic from my PC. I’ll do better next time, promise.

Book rewind

10 Oct

Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussman (who, fyi, is Herman Melville’s great-great-great granddaughter!).

This was a good book. Like B. Solid B. Not great! Not terrible.

So the story starts in the late 40’s and has flash forwards into the 50’s and 60’s. It revolves around the Derringer Family and takes place mainly at the family estate,Tiger House, which was left to Nick Derringer (the wife) by her father.

Nick has a cousin, Helena, who is like a sister to her but Helena is troubled. She is a widow who remarried a man who prostitutes her out to Hollywood execs for his own gain and even though everyone in her life tells her to leave him, she can’t. But she does stay at Tiger House for a good long while and entertains the idea of divorce. She has a son, Ed, who is… different. Sort of like a creepy anthropologist. He is always saying he is studying people, you know, for his work. Buuut he tends to catch people doing um, well, things you don’t really want an audience for.

And then there is Hughes, the good looking but distant husband of Nick. He was a solider in WWII and is totally in love with another woman… A woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in decades.

And Nick. Lovely, unhappy Nick. She is so in love with Hughes. And she is so desperate to be someone who isn’t ordinary but she is trapped in her life because compared to everyone else living in her world, she is a seductive, mysterious and desired creature.

And then we have Daisy, the daughter if Nick and Hughes. Daisy is fair haired like her father but wants to be exotic like her mother.

The story is centered around an incident that Ed sees one evening that involves a prominent figure on the island (somewhere in NY, I think.) and a maid he is having an affair with… And one of the central locations during the story is a huge dinner party the Derringers host. And where Daisy falls in love with someone who betrays her in the worst way. And where her mother indulges and her father admits to past sins. All the while, it’s very Mad Men, what with the money and the booze and the sweat and the sex.

Ok, so read it. It’s good.

Book recap, yo.

2 Sep

I just finished reading Jenny Lawson’s hilarious, unbelievable and outlandish book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. A Mostly True Memoir.

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I have been reading her blog for awhile now and it never fails to make me laugh, question the ridiculousness of my life or want a dressed up, taxidermied animal. Or two. Or a giant metal chicken named Beyonce. Naturally.

PLUS I love how she and Victor, her husband, met and interact with each other. They are not right. And it’s fabulous.

Read it. It’ll make you appreciate the fact that your Dad never dropped a pissed off bobcat into your boyfriends lap, you know, just cuz. Or the fact that you know how to “properly” sit on a fancy couch. (Hint: you do NOT touch the pillows.)

Time for a book breakdown

9 Aug

One thousand white women by Jim Fergus.

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This is the story of May Dodd aka Mesoke or Swallow as told thru her journals in the 1800’s and ending in the early 1900’s. She was born into a wealthy Chicago family and was committed against her will to an insane asylum. She didn’t live her life up to the moral code that her family thought she should, i.e. she lived with a man and had two children with him out of wedlock. Her passion to make her own choices about the way she lived her life landed her in an institution with other women, some with mental illness and some just like herself.

During this time, the United States government made an “agreement” with the Cheyenne Indians… The agreement was this: if the government provided 1000 white women to the Cheyenne, the tribe would in turn provide the government with 1000 horses and thus the “Brides for Indians” campaign was born.

Ok, so May, along with some other characters, volunteer for the program because they see it as their only way out… Out of the mental institution, out of jail, out of a life of discrimination, etc.

I don’t want to give too much away but it is a good read and the relationships that form between the white women and their husbands and their husbands other wives is… Awe inspiring. They could only communicate by body language in the beginning and the bonds they formed really changed the women. There are births and deaths and drama… It’s pretty good.

Now, with that being said, it was not a book that I was DYING to read every night. I could put it down for days at a time and be fine with that.

I’d give it like a 2.5/3 stars rating.

Next up: A Lesson Before Dying

Time for a book breakdown!

30 Jun

Ok, so I am what you might call a “voracious” reader. I have been known to devour a book in a day or two. I will read anything, any genre, any author. I am an equal opportunity reader. And I am ALWAYS on the lookout for that next good great read.

Back home in Columbus, I was part of an awesome book club that was actually more of a book exchange. The group has a “membership” of probably over 12 girls but usually only 7 or so show up at every meeting… which is one of the beautiful things about this group. It’s very much “come if you can, you know it’s gonna be a GREAT time but if you can’t, we’ll see you in a month for the next one!” There is always tons of good food, good wine and good books.

The way we play is that everyone brings however many books they’ve recently read (some people bring one and others, like me, bring like 18. I know, over the top!). Then we put all the books into a usually overflowing pile in the middle of the room, usually on the coffee table and while everyone is visiting, drinking wine, etc. you can browse the selection. After we have a nice buzz humming, we sit down and go around the circle and talk about all the books we brought. I mean, I can sell a book. Sometimes I cry! Yes, it’s true… sometimes I can’t help it, I just get so MOVED!. Then we draw numbers and pick books! For example, we go 1 thru 8 or whatever and then 8 thru 1 until we have picked all the books we want. There is no limit! (Unless of course we run out of books but that is yet to happen.)

And now, sadly, I am no longer a part of that glorious little club but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still talk about what I’m reading.

I just finished “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I decided to read it after Meredith from thesocialchairdc.blogspot.com mentioned it in a few of her posts. It’s funny how things (books, ideas, ect.) can come into your life at the perfect moment… this book did that for me. It’s full of tips and suggestions on how to just be happy. After all, isn’t that the ultimate? Gretchen consistently encourages the reader to try their own happiness project and that every happiness project will look and feel and BE different. There is no wrong way to go about it. For example, it helped me realize that when I do something thoughtful or nice for Mr. V., I should do those things because I WANT to. Not because I want him to do something nice for me. I should get up a little earlier to make him coffee in the morning or plug-in his phone at night (because he almost always forgets to) because it is the good and right thing to do and it makes his day easier. Which makes me happy. In essence: Don’t keep score so much, you know?

One quote from the book that I underlined and haven’t stopped thinking about for a week and a half is this…”Happiness is neither a virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” This hit me. HARD. I am in the process of finishing my application for Grad school to teach English as a second language and it occurred to me that YES! I am happy when I am learning or teaching others. I was meant to read this book and those sentences right at this exact time in the life. So, thanks Meredith for the recommendation and thanks Gretchen for diving into this experiment, documenting it and sharing it with us.

Up next: “One Thousand White Women: The journals of May Dodd” by Jim Fergus.