Friday, November 7, 2014

Hey it's Fall - Let's Catch Up!

For the three of you that check in my with my blog sorry about the delay in posting!  I presented a webinar for work based on the books I read over the summer and just did not get around to putting them up here.  The webinar was well received and I hope I can do it again.  I showed how all the books I read tie back to the products I support - yes, I can find something to relate to Congress in almost everything.  I also have had some distractions and that is something I want to work on over the Fall.  I don't mind having a lot going on but sometimes I know I'm just wasting time.  Which is different from taking a break which you need every once in a while.

Plus I did not want you to miss out on some suggestions that might be good if you have a book group.  So let me catch you up on what I read over the summer and what I have started for Fall.

Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel by Francoise Sagan
"Bonjour Tristesse" was the Novella selection for July.  This is a great, short book with lots to discuss.  It's a classic.  But if you buy the edition with the forward by Diane Johnson DO NOT READ IT BEFORE YOU READ THE BOOK.  Thanks Diane for giving so much of the book away in your introduction.  Four of us met to talk about this book and I was still thinking about it the next day.  It's that involved.  I also found out that one of our fellow marathon runners wrote her dissertation using this book and a few others by French authors.  I would seek out more by Sagan - who had as interesting a life as her characters.

As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
Well, what I can say about Lethem is that when he's good, he's really good. When he's bad, he really stinks.  This book was terrible.  I only finished it because it was in my bag during a work trip and I did not have another option with me.  It was a slog.

All Dogs Are Blue by Rodrigo de Souza Leão
"All Dogs are Blue" was the Novella selection for August.  I can't remember where I picked this one up but I know the purchase decision was based on size and the fact that it was a foreign author.  How reliable is a narrator who is in a mental institution?  How reliable is a book that has been translated?  This one read more like poetry.  It was frenetic and made me anxious reading it.  The discussion was a little sad for a sunny afternoon in August.  Another book where the author and the narrator might be hard to separate.
To The Nines by Janet Evanovich

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

Something really weird happened in our house before the Chicago Marathon this year.  We could not stop reading.  We were just devouring words and could not get enough of them.  P. finished 3 books over a weekend!  I had a panic attack because even though you can read the Plum series our of order I have been keeping up the series so I had to order #10 from Abebooks.  I found #9 and one or two more at Newberry but had a gap.  Never fear - I am back on track and just rollicking along with these books.
Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks
"Maud Martha" is the only novel Gwendolyn Brooks wrote.  The language!  The people!  Chicago!  A fascinating story about growing up on the South Side of Chicago.  It's a crying shame that this book is out of print or else I would make it a selection for the Novella group but it's just too hard to find.  If you see it used, or at the library, pick it up.  It's a fast read and the type of book that just makes you feel better when you have finished it.
Murder in the Sentier by Cara Black
We stayed in Chicago this year for our vacation.  Wow, Chicago is a really fun place!  We would be out at midnight on a Sunday and think "so this is what people do when we are asleep!".  It was so much fun and I can highly recommend Chicago as a place to visit.  If you will be here in the near future do not miss the Bowie exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  It's only around until January 4th so you will have to hurry!  I also attended Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago and can not say enough good about it.  If Vogue Live is in your area don't miss it.  The event had amazing teachers and I learned some new techniques and was re-energized about knitting.  So since I was home I enjoyed reading about Paris but realize I'm getting a little tired of Aimee.  I think I have one more from this series lurking in the house and then will call it quits.

Remember how much I loved "Gone Girl"?  I went to go see the movie the day after the Chicago Marathon.  I thought the cast was great.  The actress who played the sister was really good.  Ben Affleck was the perfect choice for Nick.  I thought the ending of the book was just ever so slightly different from the movie.  I won't give it away but would discuss with you if you are interested.  I still like the book better.

Whew - so that gets us all caught up.  More fun coming this month - have a surprise involving an upcoming read but will keep it secret for now.  Happy November!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Swearing and Summer

Second one by French - I knew I had another book hiding somewhere.  This is a great Summer read.  You will carry it around with you and hope for time to read it.  A great mystery but also a story about family.  French can really convey selfishness in her main characters - you think you like them and then....maybe not.  They might not be the real bad guys, but they aren't the nicest of people.  I also loved the dialog in this book and wish I could incorporate "Jaysus" into my slang but I know I can't pull it off.

My only complaint was that the ending was a little long and the class theme was repeated a few too many times.  I wonder if this is the work of editing.  I wonder if today's books just don't receive as much editing.  A few pages could have been cut and you would not have lost any of this story.

I will be on the lookout for French's other titles at the Newberry Book Fair.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nasty Doonan

Well, Pistache, I wanted to read "Nasty".  Of all the places in the entire apartment HOW do you find the book I'm reading and sit on it?  It's a true cat talent.  I took the dust cover off this book because it was nasty.  I did not understand how it related to the book until I read the memoir.

I'm glad I gave Doonan another shot after "Asylum".  He is a very smart writer, but he's at his best when he's writing about his friends and family.  "Asylum" was too much about famous people and did not have natural feel that comes across in "Nasty".  In this book he's writing about what he knows and it's very well done.  He keeps the chapters compact and you get a glimpse into his childhood.  It's cringe-worthy in parts.  Some is laugh out loud funny.  And other chapters will make you teary.  He's every bit as enjoyable at David Sedaris and I don't mean that as a backhanded compliment.  I just mean if you know someone who likes Sedaris you should tell them about "Nasty".  He's not as slapstick as Sedaris, he's a bit more reserved, but you can feel the love for his family in the way he writes.  This book is true to the maxim that you can make fun of your relatives, but that does not mean that others can make fun of your relatives.  "Nasty" was re-worked into a show on LOGO.  I'm one of the few people I know who watches LOGO (yay! RuPaul's Drag Race!) but I never saw this show advertised - maybe it was on before the station was added to our cable package.  And, yes, Simon Doonan's husband still has my favorite kiss-off line in all of reality tv - "See you later decorator!".  - Jonathan Adler on Top Design which I think only ran one season.

Not sure what I'm going to read next - maybe I should put a few books out and see which one Pistache sits on to choose!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two in a Row

It was rainy, foggy, humid and dark most of last week and weekend.  For our Saturday a.m. run I told people to watch out for werewolves.  I also had a trip to Milwaukee by train and bought "Hard Eight" at Downtown Books.  After I found the store cats of course!  They were lounging in the front window and I got to pet one of them.  "Hard Eight" fit in my clutch bag as I took myself out to dinner at Hinterland.  A single diner can always use a book!  And when it's lousy where you are go on a trip - so I went to New Jersey to hang out with Stephanie. Although it rains in the books because Stephanie mentions that New Jersey residents do not like rain because it makes their hair frizzy.  Downtown Books also had #9 in the series so you know I've got at least one more to go!

The Newberry Library Book Sale is coming up July 24th - July 27th and that is the perfect place to look for more in the Stephanie Plum series.

Novella June - where is the Thin Man?

I enjoy mysteries and we've never read one for the Novella Group.  So this year I included "The Thin Man" by Dashiell Hammett on our list.  If you are looking for a different kind of book for a book group discussion this is a good choice.  First, there is the language which we agreed takes a little time to get into to rhythm.  Second, there is the time period.  Third, there is the class system.  Fourth, there were plenty of characters and "characters" in this book to keep our discussion going for over an hour.

It was a bonus to learn more about Hammett.  I wish I had done more research prior to our San Francisco trip.  "The Thin Man" is set in NYC and Hammett wrote it in NYC but he is always associated with San Francisco.  He had a very interesting life and, yes, I've looked up the Careers page on the Pinkerton website.   While during his life he had problems with the IRS and was jailed for supporting Communist associates, in 2005 the Senate agree to "a resolution that recognized the importance of the writings of Dashiell Hammett to American literature and culture on the 75th anniversary of the first publication of 'The Maltese Falcon'".  

I kicked off 2008 with "The Maltese Falcon" and Hammett only wrote 5 novels so I have 3 more to go!  He did, however, publish over 80 short stories which I also think would make for interesting reading.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon - Novella May

I picked up "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon" at Book Cellar in Lincoln Square when I was browsing one day looking for Novella size books.  This one had a recommendation on the shelf.  It is part of a Pirates! and since last summer we featured pirates and exclamation marks it seemed like a good fit.
The book was witty and the author made a commitment to zany from the very start and held on to the end.  It was a silly book and a fun way to kick off the Novella group for 2014.  You will never look at bees the same way.  Good book for someone who's looking for a humorous book and it will make you laugh out loud.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Running like A Girl - or anyone

The Chicago Public Library recently changed their website and now it's a lot more dynamic.  It seems that the staff has responsibility for creating content and suggesting book titles.  When I was checking out the new site this book appeared in one of the content blocks and I thought it looked interesting so I put it on hold.  When it arrived at the library I read it in about a day and a half.

If you already run, you know that if you ask 10 runners the same question you might get 10 answers.  One of the golden rules of running is do what works....for you.  I ran with a woman last year during Marathon training who swore by a burrito the night before the long run.  A burrito from "that Mexican place under the El on Addison".  Those of you who live in Chicago know when you visit those places and it's usually not the night before a vigorous physical effort - it's usually at the end of a night of too much drinking.  But it worked for her!  I have a female friend who runs in men's basketball shorts, shoes from Payless and cotton shirts.  And she's fast!

Reading this book made me chuckle and it was good timing to read it as we get closer to the start of Marathon training.  She has the same discoveries as all runners - my toe nails!  Wow, a shower feels good after a run!  I love napping!  Etc.  I also appreciate her honesty about the ebbs and flows with running.  Just because you run doesn't mean you don't have times where you aren't as dedicated or as excited about it.

I agree with her on most points, although I think she ran her first Marathon too soon after starting running (CARA suggests one year of steady running), I think she is too reliant on technology (I try to run faster than people on their phones) and she doesn't wear shorts (I like to let my legs air out in the summer).  But, again, those are my opinions.  And, please, please, please, believe her one important piece of advice - if you are considering running do not be embarrassed.  No one is really paying attention to you.  The only people I ever heckle are the ones at the gym doing really dangerous exercises - kettle bell in front of the huge glass window on the second floor I'm talking to you!

Here are some of my own running tips/opinions -
1.  I don't wear exercise clothes except when I'm exercising.  When I put on my workout clothes my brain goes "ok, time to work".  For me I think I look sloppy in workout gear except when I'm actually working out - then I look great!

2.  I never say someone is jogging.  Jogging, for me, is derogatory.  It means slow.  Sorry - slow compared to what other runner(s)?  Because I'm never winning the Chicago Marathon but I'm not jogging.  I'm running!

 3.  You don't know any one's story.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes.  Don't assume.  I sometimes, on purpose, wear heels to the running store just to see them look at my feet.  Hey, I'm about to train for my 12th marathon and I like to wear heels (see #1).

4.  Keep running.  Age has its perks.  I have now come in the Top 3 in my age group in the past two 10ks I have run.  Me - the Polish Flash.  Me - the person who my parents say was born tired.  Me - the person who (in the past) has carried an extra 40 lbs across 26.2 miles.  Me - the person, who at age 28, watched the Olympic Marathons in Atlanta and thought "yeah, I might want to do that one day".  Now I am going to lead others this summer to help them reach their goals and it feels great.

I just watched an interview with Christian Louboutin and he said that woman will sometimes put on his shoes and say "but I can't run" and he asked "why do you want to run"?  That made me laugh.  You use the gear for the purpose designed - you wouldn't actually run in high heels.

Interested in running?  Talk to someone you know who runs.  Ask me any questions.  Surf the Internet.  Go to the local running store.  But, in the end, you are the only one who can run your run and I think that is the point of this book.