Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2nd Quarter Book Report Part 2

Here it is, Part 2 of the 2nd Quarter Book report....
If you are confused, the following posts will bring you up to speed.
The whole list is found here,
The First Quarter report is here
Part 1 of the 2nd Quarter link is here...

I was really lucky in this quarter to read books that really resonated with me and this next one exemplifies it perfectly...


#14.  A non fiction novel


A General Theory of Love by Drs. Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

How to describe this book?  It blends poetry and literature with hard and detailed science...  It goes into great length in the power and fragility of the limbic brain.  I struggled at times with the discussion of the animal testing and the cruelty it described, so if you are at all sensitive to that, be forewarned.  However, the underlying message of this book can not be missed---connections matter.  The connections we form with our parents, partners, and people around us, they matter,  A LOT, and modern life is telling us that we don't need them, but we do.  A definite must read.



#37.  A book with a color in the title.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The prose started out like poetry, beautiful and haunting, but quickly became manipulative and just wrong.  I get there are issues with the foster system, and I understand that some parents are not meant to be parents and are cruel and unkind, but do they all have to happen in ONE book.  The main character, Astrid, is 12 when her very messed up life falls even farther apart.  Her mother, Ingrid, a selfish *****, is there ever was one is convicted of murdering her ex boyfriend and Astrid is put into the foster care system.  The book is well written, the writing style enjoyable to read even if the content wasn't.  So, I say to you, be forewarned and proceed with caution.


#38.  A book that made you cry.
               
Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacy Bess 

Read, just please read, this book.  The author, who was a teacher at Salt Lake City's Homeless shelter school, weaves stories of her student's heartbreaks and setbacks with a paradigm shift for the rest of us...   It never gets too preachy or unrealistic about the problems, but it poses some hard questions for you to answer.  Please just read this, and really take to heart pages 221-228.....

#10.  A mystery or thriller

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I LOVE this book, so my review may be a little slanted in that direction, but hey, it's my blog, and I can be biased if I want to.  This book is a nod to the Gothic classics, ironically of which I'm not a huge fan, especially Jane Eyre.  It is set up as a book within a book with the main character, Margaret, unraveling the mystery as the reader is.  

#29.  A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit. (Ireland)

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (updated)

I had seen the movie with Minnie Driver years ago and as I read this book, memories and details came flooding back to me.  It took me a while to let go of the movie and enjoy the book.  1950's small town Ireland and Dublin then revealed itself to me.  The is a story of friendship, duh, and of a young woman finding her own....  The ending is SO much better than the movie, I gained quite a bit of respect for the main character, Bennie, with it...

#32.  A trilogy

Phillip Pullman's His Dark Material's Trilogy

Book 1 The Golden Compass
It took me a bit to get into the story, I had seen the movie when it came out a while ago and it is just wrong when compared to the book, but when I fell into the story, it FLEW!  A parallel universe, animals that are a part of you, corruption, and friendship drive this story.  It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis series 'The Chronicles of Narnia' where you might read it as a child and only see a fun story, but if you read it as an adult, you realize the stories are full of symbolism and allegory.

Book 2 The Subtle Knife
Well, I am officially hooked on this series and flew thru this book.  I read it on a flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City....  I always love book 2 of a trilogy, due to the fact that you have all the background, you understand the situation, so now you can get to the heart of the matter.  Characters grow and make big decisions, plot lines start to come together, and you get a glimpse of the future.  You've probably noticed that I haven't talked much about the actual story line and it is for good reason...one of the reason the movie messes the The Golden Compass up so bad is that it introduces things in trying to simply reduce the time to tell a story when they really need to be revealed at the right time...  Writing a book review is somewhat like that, I don't want to ruin a wonderful story by revealing things too soon....

Book 3 The Amber Spyglass
My least favorite of the three....it got a little chaotic with elements that did not seem to be needed and some of the characters got a little cliched, but my main issue is the force used to drive home the point of the trilogy.  During books one and two, it was there, but subtle, in this one is was like a sledgehammer to the side of the head.  The subtlety worked better in my opinion.  I am recommending the trilogy despite my reservations with the third book, however.

#16.  A book from an author you love that your haven't read.
Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich

This book is pure fluff;  this author is pure sugar, but sometimes, in life, you just need that.  This is the third book in a series that spun off of her popular Stephanie Plum series.  Lizzy and Diesel are on the hunt for stones that represent the Deadly Sins, yes those deadly sins, and in each book of the series they are on the trail of the greed stone.  If you have ever read a book by Janet Evanovich, you know there are crazy supporting characters and in Wicked Charms, there are a Broom, with an attitude, and Carl, the bird flipping Monkey.  It's screwball comedy that wouldn't work in a long book, but in this fairly short novel it's ok.

#3.  A book that became a movie. (will be released 12/15)
 In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Phillbrick

A non fiction book, that read like a thriller, of an event that inspired Herman Melville to write 'Moby Dick', that is the simple way to describe a complex and interesting book.  Mr. Phillbrick pulls from multiple sources and the survivor's accounts to piece together what happened.  He is balanced in his criticism and praise, yet also understood the basic danger of whaling in the 1800's.  A definite recommendation!!!!

If you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed that in the first two quarters, I've read quite a few books.  This challenge has 52 books, and I have only have 19 left.  I have a feeling that I will finish early, but that's ok, because my to read list is kind of long.......

With my nose still in a book,
Melissa

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Adult's View versus A Child's Memory


This past week, I journeyed back to Georgia for a Celebration weekend of my Dad's life and did something I had not done in a very long time, I spend some time in the town where I grew up in and realized some things...

Even sleepy, quiet Southern towns change and grow and Pine Mountain, Georgia is no exception.  Some things I recognized right off the bat, others I did not remember at all, and most shockingly, there were some that had been added since I left......Isn't weird that we think our childhood haunts will never change?

A bit of my personal history, from the time I was 6 to 13, I lived in Pine Mountain.  It was the first place I had lived for over a year and a half.  There is a part of me that still considers it home.  The years there were ones of my childhood, before teenage rebellion and change started.  I have a lot of happy memories of that time....

My Dad was born in Pine Mountain, so his family history is there too...  During my childhood years, he worked for Callaway Gardens, which more information and history can be found here, so Callaway became my playground.

Every summer, I LIVED at the Beach...but I guess I better explain how landlocked west central Georgia has a beach.  It is a man made lake that they trucked sand in and made beaches on the shore.  
I'm probably the only person to ever capture humidity in a photo...my camera was having a hissy fit and kept fogging up...
Walking down the grassy area to the beach, I had a Child's Memory versus my Adult View moment.  I SWEAR to you the grassy area was longer.....I guess it was just my shorter height and child perspective that made me remember it that way.  It was a weird shift to see it as it really is.

a view of Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens
As I strolled along the beach, for a quick visit, and to get some sand for my sand bottle, I was bombarded with memories that I had not thought of in YEARS..friends, first crushes, events, you name it came back to me.
The WaterSki Pavilion at the Beach
One memory that immediately came to mind was the day I learned to water ski on this lake.  When I was growing up, there was a waterski show every afternoon at the Beach and the performers taught lessons.  On Junior skis and with a very cute instructor, I found balance on skis and got up for the first time.

I bet you are wondering why for a resort named Callaway Gardens, I have not even mentioned the gardens...It's another Child's Memory vs Adult's View thing.  The beach was my playground, as a kid, and where if I had my choice I would go.  The gardens were for behaving and walking slowly, not so much fun for an adventurous kid.  As an adult, however, and especially on HOT, HOT, HUMID days, the garden is where I chose to go...
for the beautiful colors

for the variety
And what I began to realize was even in the calm and quiet, you can still find whimsy and laughter....
A Lion....

And his Tamer....
And  fun and adventure....but also enjoy the peace....
The Chapel at Callaway Gardens

The amazing stained glass windows
In the Chapel, I had my most profound Child's Memory vs. Adult's View moment.  Along the side walls, not pictured, are more stained glass panels.  I was immediately drawn to them....
and noticed details I had never seen before....
Nature was infused into the glass....
The small details that make up the bigger picture are beautiful and taking time to realize they are there and a part of the bigger picture gives you a better understanding of the whole.

I'm glad I got to go back for a day to get this new view and bring together my Childhood Memories with my View as an Adult.  My only regret is that I did not get to see everyone from my memories.....

Appreciating both perspectives..
Melissa




2nd Quarter Book Report, Part 1

Instead of trying to remember my thoughts and feelings as I finished a book a month or two after, for this report, I am going to review them as I finish them.  The result, the numbers will be out of order, but I feel this is a more authentic report of my Reading Challenge, first written about here, and the First Quarter Report, here...

#6.  A book written by someone under 30

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It took me a bit longer than I expected to read this book, not because I did not enjoy it, but because there was a lot of information to absorb, especially in the first part.  I arrived in Nigeria in the early 1960's in the first pages and was introduced to the five main characters, which in the beginning, I was concerned one would get lost in the fray, but that was not the case.  The novel covers a coup, then a brutal civil war that tore Nigeria apart and for a while led to a smaller independent country that that only Rwanda acknowledge.  Chimamanda writes with compassion, yet honesty on what happened and while it is heart breaking to read of the starvation and brutality, it is well worth reading.

#41.  A book by an author you have never read before

One Thousand White Women:  The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

This is a 50/50 review.  There are some things that I hated, and yes, I do mean hated about it, but I also loved things.  The book poses an interesting, yet morally bankrupt, 'what if' to a small moment of American history.  The actual offer was made of 1000 Cheyenne horses for 1000 white women to become brides of the Cheyenne, in order to assimilate the Cheyenne into a world they were rapidly going to have to accept in order to survive......  This book follows the first 40 women West, and this is where some of my issues roll in....  This book is written by a man, not one review on the cover or insert  by other authors was a woman (this should give you a clue on what my issues are).  The way the 'women' written by a man talk, deal, and survive rape bugs me on a fundamental level.  If a man deals with rape from the female perspective, he needs to be very, very careful and sensitive, this author was not. I almost gave up on the book with this issue, because it happens early and often in the beginning.   If you can get past that and some other issues with a man writing about women and sex, the story is like a train crash you can see coming, but can not turn away from.  The period in history is fascinating; the broken promises by the US government for greed embarrassing; and the simple, yet called barbaric lives of the Cheyenne worth learning about.  Read it with caution.

#19.  A book based on a true story

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

You should know that for a while I, for a while, wanted to climb Everest.  I have since changed my mind, not only from reading this book, but from a heartbreaking story on HBO's Real Sports about the risks that the Sherpas take for Western indulgences.  Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to reach Everest's peak, has condemned the new lackadaisical attitude of 'climbers' who sit on chairs and eat First class meals on the mountain during their ascent.  It has become a luxury tour money making machine that is costing Sherpa's their lives and ruining Everest (and more importantly, the more holy names that the Nepalese and Tibetan people call it).  Now for the book....it was well written by a haunted author and participant of the events he was writing about.  Jon Krakauer described the process of not only getting to base camp, but the process of elevation acclimation and the eventual climb and ascent of Everest.  It is more frightening and life threatening than I ever imagined and that's when it all goes right.  The expedition that was written about in Into Thin Air did not.  The book is at times hard to read, not because of poor writing, but because of the brutal suffering and deaths that occur.  I am recommending this as a cautionary tale of what happens when Mother Nature reminds us that she is in charge, especially when humans get arrogant about the risks.

#35.  A book set in the Future

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Don't worry, you were genetically engineered to like your life and if something stresses you out, there is a drug to help.  Forget reading and art, they make you think, so you don't have to do that....
The scary part of this book is that it was written in 1932 and in 2015, it seems a lot of the population just wants to be entertained all of the time and as soon as something is wrong pop a pill for it.  I have a feeling that in 1932 this book was scandalous, but now, it has become, in my opinion, a warning......
that you can not push aside the uncomfortable, you have to work through it.  Happiness does not come by ignoring sadness, but by working through it.  Are you seeing a common thread, working through something....not ignoring it.  A highly recommended read....

#25.  A book you supposed to read in School

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The descent into madness is so slow, and reasonable, that the bottom hits you hard leaving you with the confusion and frustration that Esther, the main character,  feels.  A remarkable book written by someone who dealt with and ultimately lost her battle with mental health issues.  It's not a long book, but it took me a bit to read it, because I needed to take a break periodically, however, I still recommend it.

#36.  Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

A young girl from Indiana has unrealistic expectations about a Prep school in New England due to pamphlets and articles and photos in Seventeen magazine.  Lee, the main character, struggles to fit into a mold that she sets for herself, not realizing that by being herself she would of fit in just fine, even with her being a scholarship student.  The book pulls you right back into high school, no matter where you went and all of the emotions that went with it.  I do have a major complaint about the book and its in the way Lee treats her family.  Even thought she is on scholarship, there are still expenses for the family and they are a burden, but Lee never seems to appreciate it and is down right snotty and bitchy to her parents.  I got the feeling throughout the book that she was embarrassed of them and not on the high school level that most teenagers go thru, but a life long embarrassment.  All in all, it was an interesting read, but I can not say that I really liked it..

#30.  A book that came out the year you were born...(1971)

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

It started slow with details and information about a group that I had no prior knowledge of and a country's protection and police force inner workings.  I had my doubts, but after I got thru the first section, it started to fly and was very interesting.  They call this book the first novel of its genre and I can see why, I've read others and they all owe something to this book.


As you can tell, I read quite a few books in the 2nd quarter of the year, and this is not all of them, but I'm feeling like this post is getting really, really long, so I am going to break it into two parts...

Stay tuned for part 2....

Still reading,
Melissa