Dog Days of Summer Reading: August

Hello all! I am so sorry for the lack of updates – I got married on Saturday in my hometown of Sacramento, CA! We journeyed back to Sacramento on the 14th, and it was a whirlwind week of bachelor/bachelorette parties, lots and lots of errands and last minute tasks, visiting family, MAKING A LIFETIME PROMISE TO MY HUSBAND, seeing friends from near and far… whew, it was magical and amazing and I’m a little sad to be back in my normal life again.

I’ve read 4 books in the last couple weeks:

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Oh crap, these are actually in backwards order – oh well.

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill was a roller coaster of a read. I read “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright last year, and of course watched the HBO documentary earlier this year, and am pretty interested in Scientology. Jenna Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, who is in charge of the Church. That her story is SO NUTS and she is family to the boss is just incredible. Growing up without parents, no education, manual labor, separated from anyone she became close to, her parents are declared Suppressive Persons, psychologically tortured, the list goes ON and ON … the isolation she suffered is awful. I liked this memoir because it was very direct and honest – she isn’t the best writer, but her story is engaging enough to overlook the clunky writing. I was really rooting for her to make her escape with her husband at the end. I’m genuinely happy that Jenna has a happy ending after her ordeal of a childhood/young adulthood.

Longbourn by Jo Baker was a wonderful, beautiful, lovely read. The premise is that this is the Pride and Prejudice story from the perspective of the servants. Sara is the main character, and we see her grow, develop and fall in love during the same course of events as the Bennett girls deal with Bingley and Darcy. There is the dashing badboy footman of Mr. Bingley that distracts Sara’s heart from her true love James, a mysterious young man who arrives at Longbourn and has secrets of his own… ugh. It’s wonderful. Also, I felt very vindicated because I do NOT love P&P and Jo Baker paints the Bennett girls as less than lovable and sympathetic – they seem shallow, and oblivious, and spoiled in this book. Which I like! It seemed more realistic.

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles – I was really excited to finally get this book from the library after reading the proceeding book in the Penn Cage series Natchez Burning last year. Penn Cage is a former DA and current mayor of Natchez who uncovers a KKK Civil Rights era murder that has had lasting effects and repercussions on his town and family. Basically, Cage is trying to defeat the Double Eagles, a old KKK offshoot still active in LA/MS, and deal with the sins of their fathers from the 60s. Oh, and throw in connections to the JFK assassination. There is A LOT going on in this book. Unfortunately, most of the mystery and suspense is built upon the main characters hiding information from each other. I found myself skimming through pages of unnecessary drama that I think was created just to add length to the book and artificial character development. I think it was a dud, a very clunky 850 pages. It wasn’t as good as Natchez Burning, which had crazy pacing and revelations throughout all 800 pages. I wanted to give up on this one, but I powered through.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was great, as we all could have predicted. Rereading in quick succession as a grown up, I feel much more in tune with the increasing complexity of the characters/story. I read this cover to cover during our journey home on Sunday – we spent ~8 hours in airports/planes, and it was nice to lose myself in Hogwarts. I think I’ll do a big round up of my Harry Potter experience when I finish the series.

Alrighty everyone! I’m currently reading The Vacationers by Emma Struab, and I have the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd up next.

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Recently Read: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I read Still Alice last week in 2 sittings – it was a very very moving read. At first I thought the writing was a little simplistic, almost like a fiction story you’d read in a women’s magazine, but once the story gets going, I was so engrossed in the characters that I didn’t notice anything else. Alice is a professor at Harvard who thinks she is suffering from menopausal memory lapses/distraction before getting a diagnosis of early on-set Alzheimer’s. The book is written from Alice’s perspective, and as her disease progresses, her POV is altered, too – making the reader feel as if they too are descending into the hole with her.

That quote up in the photo is a great little wrap up of the book – uncomfortable, terrifying… it’s an emotional read! I’m glad I checked it out from the library, I feel like I have more insight into Alzheimer’s – a disease we hear so much about but probably don’t know much about.

This is a very quick read – not a very uplifting one, although it ends on a fairly positive note. Worth checking out and reading one weekend!

Still invested in Outlander

I read the 5th book in the Outlander series last week, The Fiery Cross.

I am now over 5,000 pages into Claire and Jamie’s story, and I’m still trucking along. I haven’t experienced any Outlander fatigue, although sometimes I do laugh at the story lines that go on for 100 pages only for the outcome to have no actual import on the big picture. If I didn’t love the characters so much, it would drive me crazy.

Things that I enjoy:

  • Claire and Jamie’s relationship is just as engaging as it was at the start.
  • Bree and Roger are more fully fleshed out, which makes their story lines more interesting – in the last few books I wanted to rush through their chapters to get back to Claire and Jamie.
  • The historical detail – I love it!! Especially the medicine – some reviewers say they are tired of all the attention bestowed on Claire’s medical practice, but I think it’s fascinating, and fairly well done!

Things I don’t like:

  • Bree was breastfeeding for the majority of this book, and hearing about her leaking breast milk and wet splotches on her bodice was tiresome after the first 100 times
  • Like I mentioned before, the plot lines that go nowhere. At one point, the militia is mustered, on the march, they find an abandoned cabin, adopt some orphans, find a weird medical emergency that Claire needs to solve, have a run in with a panther (??), and then get a note that calls off the whole thing. So the militia goes back home, after 250 pages of trekking around.
  • The pacing – the book opens at a Gathering, where all the displaced Scottish settlers in North Carolina gather for a 3 day festival. Specifically, it opens on the last day, and the first 200 pages take place all between dawn and noon? SO MUCH HAPPENS, and I keep assuming that the afternoon has gone by, and we’re getting close to the evening’s activities but no, it’s still “mid-morning” and they haven’t had breakfast yet. Very disconcerting.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this. I spent a day off reading all day! I barely touched the internet! I was 100% in the early 1770s with Claire and Jamie and the rest of the gang at Fraser’s Ridge. That being said, I do need to take a break between each book in the series, I don’t think I’ll be ready for #6 until next month, or maybe even the end of summer.

June Reads: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Tyler, & Cheryl Strayed

Lately I have found myself in the company of some amazing women.

I know I already wrote a little about Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert, but when I realized I had been on a winning streak of women writers, I had to include her again. Plus I have more to say.

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
Committed unflinchingly explores the history of marriage (it hasn’t been so awesome for women) while fleshing out Gilbert’s own worries and concerns over her current and past relationships, her divorce, and her upcoming nuptials. I’m getting married in less than 2 months, and have been thinking a lot about my past relationships, what my future holds, and what my marriage will be like! So this was a timely read. I’ve read so many articles about weddings and marriages, and one thing that continues to pop out at me is “being intentional” in your relationship. Ha, I see this most often in Christian, stay at home mom blogs, which could not be further from my reality, but there’s a good lesson there- communicate clearly, choose love, compromise, put your marriage first. But to me, being aware of the history of marriage is also important. I’m entering into this crazy legal bond for the rest of my life, I need to be prepared! Gilbert ultimately finds solace with the idea of marriage as a subversive act of 2. No matter how the state or church tries to regulate marriage, it keeps happening! The family unit of 2 committed partners has stood up to dictators, priests, legislature, and has thrived against the odds. I liked that idea, too. I’m glad I read this book. I might include that quote up there in my wedding ceremony. There were other passages I highlighted in my kindle, here are 2 more:
“The emotional place where a marriage begins is not nearly as important as the emotional place where a marriage finds itself toward the end, after many years of partnership.”
and:
“Marriage is those two thousand indistinguishable conversations, chatted over two thousand indistinguishable breakfasts, where intimacy turns like a slow wheel. How do you measure the worth of becoming that familiar to somebody—so utterly well known and so thoroughly ever-present that you become an almost invisible necessity, like air?”

I read Anne Tyler’s latest novel A Spool of Blue Thread, and liked it. I like all her books. I like living in her world for a few days, it’s my favorite thing about her novels. Total immersion in this every day life of a fictional family or person. I always laugh to myself about trying to describe “what I’m reading” to other people – with Anne Tyler books, it just makes no sense. “Well, it’s about this family, and the oldest son is a deadbeat, and the daughters worry, and the parents are aging, and they can’t figure out what to do with their family home, built by a long deceased grandpa.” Doesn’t sound that interesting, it just sounds like life.

I don’t even know where to begin with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Tail. I think I might have found the perfect time in my life to read the perfect book. Wild is about Cheryl Strayed losing everything in her mid-twenties and hiking the PCT. Her mom died, her young marriage fell apart, her family disintegrated, she was using heroin, bouncing from city to city waitressing. I feel like I could have been her! That could be me! In the early 90s as a young twenty-something… its just so utterly relatable for me, the taking stock of your life at age 26 and wondering “wtf.” Actually none of her life experiences are similar to mine, and I think that’s the beauty of her writing. She gives her awful, individual experiences a place in the cosmos, making them universal to everyone. Especially to women of a certain age. Actually, all women, since everyone was once a confused 24 year old.
I’m looking at quotes from Wild on goodreads, and I’m just like “YES”
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
and from the end, which I love and cherish:
“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.
How wild it was, to let it be.”
Yes, my life and my present, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. Ugh. I love it. I must buy a copy for myself, to highlight and dog ear. I returned my library copy with such a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude. Thank you Cheryl, for writing!

This has been a long post, a rambling post.. I just wanted to share some quotes from these amazing books I’ve been reading. I know I’m late to the game on Wild, but has anyone else read it and loved it? Did you hate it? Go out and get it from the library so we can talk about it.

Recently Read: Nonfiction

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I borrowed 6 books for my 5 day trip back to Sacramento over Memorial Day -did I have a jam packed schedule of things to do while there? yes. Was I so tired every night that I crashed before doing any bedtime reading? yes. Was my only time to read the time I spent traveling? Also yes.

So 6 books was excessive. I started Death in the City of Light before finishing the Painter – I was very emotionally invested in the Painter and needed something more “light” for the plane – so of course a book about a deranged serial killer doctor in Nazi-occupied Paris was the perfect choice. I could not believe this book was true! It was nuts! David King did a great job with the pacing and bringing this story to life. If you like Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, you’ll like Death in the City of Light.

Speaking of Erik Larson, Dead Wake stunned me. I think it was better than Devil in the White City, which I’ve read a couple times. I had to return it to the library on Saturday afternoon, so I spent Saturday  morning finishing the last half of the book. Oh, I cried. I was anxious. My heart raced. I cried again! Even though you KNOW the ship is going to sink, you want to believe up until the last possible minute that it won’t happen. I think that’s the sign of a good history book – when the author brings you so close to the people and the events that you believe it won’t happen, or that it’s happening organically now, and things could be different… A++ from me.

The night before last I finished Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved The Signature of All Things last year, and really enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love. I like Gilbert a lot! So I finally got around to Committed, and it was interesting, especially since I’m getting married later this summer. Really interesting history of marriage and it’s historical/cultural/religious significance and how it’s changed over the thousands of years we’ve been doing it.

May 2015 Reads

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On Immunity by Eula Bliss – really wonderful history of vaccination and exploration of the anti-vax movement, from the perspective of a new mother making decisions about her new baby’s health. I think I read this in 2 nights, it’s a nicely done little book.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill – another wonderful short little book. This story is about a marriage and feels like you’ve been invited to a dream – the details are magical, ethereal, like sunlight coming through your window on a summery late afternoon…

The Painter by Peter Heller – I really like Peter Heller. I read the Dog Stars earlier this year and was entranced. The Painter was more gritty – about a painter in the Southwest who goes on a killing spree – well, he kills one man, then another. I can’t explain it, it was just really great – here is a good review from the NYT. 

Remember, you can always follow me on Goodreads – I love seeing what other people are reading, don’t be shy – add me!

April/early May 2015 reads!!

drumsofautumnamericanahtheorchardist

I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (finally) and loved it – I won’t go into much of a recap but trust – all the hype and praise and recommendations are much deserved.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was an interesting read – here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Haunted by the disappearance of his younger sister forty years earlier, William Talmadge has taken refuge in the careful tending of his isolated apple orchard. His solitary life is shared only with the local midwife, Caroline Middey, and Clee, a Nez Perce horseman and childhood friend. Then two half-wild, starving and very pregnant teen-aged girls arrive. They are Jane and Della, sisters who have escaped the abuse of a brothel and its proprietor Michaelsen. Curious, but respectful of their wariness, Talmadge patiently cultivates their trust and creates a haven for them among his trees. A series of tragedies leaves Jane’s baby daughter, Angelene, in Talmadge’s care and sets Della on a lifelong journey to reconcile her own demons.

But I don’t think the book is about Della. Della is an awful character. Well, she is a complicated character that a lot of awful things happened to, and she isn’t the person you are most drawn to. Angelene and Talmadge are the true stars, the ones you root for, and it is their trajectory that readers are most invested in. Their journey fuels this story, but the spark that brings it all to life is Della.

And I am still slogging through the Outlander series. Drums of Autumn… where do I begin? 1100 or 1200 pages later, I’m still hooked, but I feel like a jaded old timer when I talk to people who have one read the first book, or just watched the show. In Drums of Autumn, there are story lines that take 200 or 300 pages to resolve, and have NO EFFECT on the bigger storyline. But I read on anyway, I love Claire and Jamie, I love their little family, and although I wasn’t nuts about their daughter  Bree’s storyline, I have even gained some affection for her and Roger… So yes, I will be reading on until the bitter end, but for now I am on an Outlander break.

Hello world!

I currently have my reading blog on tumblr – however, I’m interested in expanding my blog and seeing what else the internet has to offer. My own .com? Maybe! Making a little money off something I enjoy doing? Maybe!

I don’t want to start a career as a book review blogger, but I do think that I’m a pretty awesome person who is reading some incredible books, and I want to share all that with the world/internet.

Welcome!

Please feel free to explore my preview posts on Rose Reads Books! on tumblr, I have almost 2 years worth of posts there.