Thursday, June 25, 2015

Absolutely Magical

Thank you, once again, Nancy Pearl!  I bought this for P. a few years back for Christmas.  He was after me to read it but I kept putting it off.  Toward the end of June I picked it up and was sucked into the Circus.  I wish I would have had more time, and attention, to read it in larger chunks.  Never fear if you are a slower reader - it's very easy to put down and pick back up without forgetting the plot.  A truly magical book.  I loved the stories, the characters, the scenes.  It would make an incredible movie if done correctly.  I want to knit something in black and white and red now.  You will understand once you read this.

If you are going on a trip this summer and have a long drive or flight bring this one along!  We have it in print but I actually ended up checking out it via Overdrive so that I could have it with me on my phone or iPad at all times.  It was also good for a few nights when I could not fall asleep.  The iPad is great for sleepless nights - which thankfully don't happen that often - because it is a book and a nightlight all in one.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I'm so Sick but not of you, Jack Reacher

In the 50s one day, the 80s the next = summer cold a few weeks back.  Ugh....it was so awful.  I had one day I just stayed in bed.  I finished "Personal" in a day.  I had checked it out from Chicago Public Library on Overdrive so I even read it on my iPhone because I could curl up in bed and easily hold the phone and read.  You don't read Jack Reacher books as much as look out for the familiar signposts - his hyper awareness, his experience, his stature among his peers, his drifter lifestyle, etc.  In this one he actually does read (something he has not done in previous books and one person I know gave up on the series because of that).  So enjoyable even while using huge amounts of Kleenex and napping in between cold medicine doses.  Thank you Jack Reacher for keeping my company when I wasn't feeling that well.

Novella Group - Year #9

9 years!  Can you believe it?  The idea I had 9 years ago to get my friends to meet during the summer when Newberry takes a break is still going strong.  We have read some really interesting, and thought provoking, books under 200 pages.  "So Long, See You Tomorrow" by William Maxwell kicked off the start of our new season.  I thought this book was much older but it was published in The New Yorker in 1979 and came out as a book in 1980.  Which reminds me, I want to see if I can find The New Yorker and see where the story was split for serial publication.

I can see re-reading this one - even just picking it up and skimming it.  There are so many layers.  We had a great discussion even though we had to meet inside and compete with some disco on the stereo since the 50-degree Chicago weather did not reflect summer at all.  William Maxwell reads the audio book for this one and I would like to hear his voice tell this very quiet, powerful story.  Another one where children are affected by events way more than adults can understand.  Also a story where children my understand more than an adult realizes.

So thank you to my friends who join me each summer to discover more novellas!  This one would be a solid selection for any book group.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Three Winners - Summer Reading List Additions

Looking for some good beach reads or something engaging for summer travel?  I read three in a row that fit the bill.

I thought I was going to have to wait forever for "The Girl on the Train" when I put it on hold via Overdrive at Chicago Public Library.  I think there were over 600 people on the waiting list when I added my hold request.  I would check every once in a while but was resigned to wait.  Imagine my surprise when I got the email that the book had been checked out to me!  This one is a fun ride.  Unreliable, but sympathetic, narrator.  Some creepy story lines.  You will never ride the train the same way or look out the windows into the homes without thinking about this book if you read it.  Fast paced read.

I never watched Veronica Mars on TV but may have to check out the series.  A person we know, Chad, who owns a bar in Berlin, had a song included on the soundtrack.  I saw this book come up on the Overdrive site and thought "hey, I will read the book!".  I really liked it - a not as scatterbrained Stephanie Plum, a more mature Nancy Drew.  I thought the story was original and I liked the fictional town of Neptune as well as Veronica's relationship with her father.

The third in this mystery run.  Wow.  "Gone Girl" meets "Strangers on a Train".  That is what people say and it's true.  This is the kind of book where you will be reading it and someone will try to talk to you and you will have to say "I'm reading!".  I could not put it down because I had to find out what happened next.   You would think with the comparison to other stories it might not be that original but it was - and I won't give anything away but some of the plot twists caught me by surprise in a good way!  Fun, fun, fun.  And dark.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Love of Reading

I was on the Chicago Public Library's website today and they have a summer program called Take 20 which encourages parents to read to their children 20 minutes per day.  It started me thinking about reading, why people read, people who read and people who don't read.  I know my parents read to me but I don't remember it.  What I do remember was my favorite room in our house when I was growing up.  We had a guest bedroom with a sofa bed and tension shelving that housed the paperback collection.  My parents never stopped me from reading anything - if it was in that room I could have it.  The hardcover books were on display downstairs and required a bit more parental supervision.

One of my favorite books of all time is Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer.  It's a sweeping saga of good and evil and twists of fate in the style that Archer has perfected.  When he came to Chicago a few years ago I got to meet him and he, and Maurice Sendak, are the reasons I read.  I can't imagine not being able to read or not wanting to read.  I know people who aren't readers and I know I can't change their habits so I will just wonder what they do instead of reading.  I do have a friend that I manage to suggest one book a year so I consider that a success.  I just feel that reading is one of the greatest hobbies.  You are never alone if you have a book.

So, on that note, Archer has another series.  My mom read these as they came out but I held back a little.  Yes, he's been around for a while and he's recycling some themes and poking fun at events in his life.  That said "Only Time Will Tell" was a great story.  All the great Archer themes - intertwined family histories, mistaken identity, weaving in of current events, greed and business.  I tore through this one and quickly followed up the second book, "The Sins of the Father".   (Spoiler alert:  The only strange story line is why would you marry someone if there is a possibility that they are your half brother?  That sort of bothered me but I got over it).  I'm hoping the energy and excitement continues through the rest of the books in the series (there are 5).  Shame on me that I don't keep up with Archer's website because there was a Binge Read for the series.  That is a great idea!  Instead of binge watching tv - why not binge read some books?

Friday, April 24, 2015

City of Women, Berlin

For Christmas I received two fiction books set in Berlin.  This one was the more recently published of the two but is set during WWII and the rise of the Nazis in Berlin.  Some of the sex scenes made me cringe - so weird and awkward.  Once the story got going, though, I enjoyed the book.  The narrator is not totally likable.  She is a bit standoffish but maybe that is because of her situation and current surroundings.  A good book for anyone who likes historical fiction.

2x the Cold - Winter with a Classic

"The Left Hand of Darkness" was the Winter bonus selection for our Novella group.  It was also the March selection for Women & Children First's Women's Classics book group.  So 2x the fun!  Or 2x the discussions about gender identity, other worlds and political issues.  This is one of those books I had heard about and it makes the Best of Science Fiction lists regularly.  It's a classic.

I liked learning more about LeGuin in the course of preparing for our discussion.  She is an interesting author.  This book can be a challenge at times if you are not a fan of science fiction.  Some parts of it can get long - like the journey across the ice which some of us were reading when Chicago was at its coldest.  Brrrr....

I have questions for the narrator because he tells others stories but not his own.  He mentions that he volunteered for his mission?  Why?  Was he trying to escape something?  Did he have anyone he missed?  Anyone who missed him?

Both discussion groups agreed that when this book was written it was probably really pushing the envelope but now gender issues, and questions about male/female identification, are mainstream issues.  We could have done more to discuss the political issues in the book but there was only so much time.  If you are interested in reading this book I would suggest reading it with a group to make sure you finish it and also to talk more about it when you are done.