Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Read this One

I loved Alan Cumming in "Circle of Friends".  It makes me laugh that he launched a men's cologne named Cumming.  (Which I just found out was made in conjunction with the person who now has the line I Hate Perfume that has an In the Library fragrance I like).  I also have seen him act in "Josie and the Pussycats" and "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion".  I wish he did more intros for Masterpiece Mystery because I love the way he sets up an episode!  I don't watch "The Good Wife" but I think after this memoir I am going to have check out more of his acting.

This is a hard book to read.  Alan Cumming is very brave to share his story so openly.  A chance to appear on "Who do You Think You Are?" helped him learn so much more about his family.  I thought the way he paralleled learning around his grandfather with his own experience with his father was very interesting.  Don't read about this book before you start it since you really need to find out what happens for yourself.  Suffice it to say that I greatly respect for Alan Cumming and am very happy that he is famous and has become successful.  He truly deserves it.  Read this, buy it for someone else, tell your friends about it.  "Not My Father's Son" is a difficult but necessary book.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Print, Electronic and Content

"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was the March selection for the Newberry book group.  Unfortunately, due to cold weather the book group discussion was moved and I missed it.  I can't complain too much because I was on vacation in Berlin, but still, I would have liked to talk about this book with the group.  Where to start?  This is an enjoyable book.  Read it soon, though, because it is going to be dated quickly.  Or maybe will be a funny reminder of the past.

I read this on the Kobo app and purchased the book from my local bookstore, Women & Children First.  Keep that option in mind if you have an iPad because you can download the Kobo app and read an e-book and still support your local bookstore.  Actually reading the book this way added a whole other layer to the themes the author covers.  I don't understand why people say they have to read books in paper/print.  I get the tactile sensation but, frankly, content is content.  This book wouldn't have been any better in print.  Also do I need to add another paper book to the world every time I read something?  I'm starting to think no and have been trying to use the library and Kobo more when I want a book.  Will I still buy books in print?  Sure --- and at a bookstore!!  That was a point that made me sad/mad in this book.  SPOILER ALERT - after everything that happens the bookstore closes.

Other parts of the book made me laugh because they are similar to things my company produces.  Let me tell you it's not that easy, or fast, to digitize content.  We digitize older content and it has to be done by hand by a human because of the fragile nature of the original.  Also, Google has a tendency to get bored with projects if they aren't going to make money so this idea that Google is going to digitize everything and put it online is not something I see happening.  I do like the parts in the book about Google making things easier that used to be hard and I do agree with that - especially trying to do general research for travel, eating out, restaurant reviews, researching products.  Again, I wish I had been able to talk about the book with the group at Newberry to hear their opinions on the changes in reading and formats.  Is this a good book for someone who loves reading?  I would say yes because it makes you think about favorite books or how we relate to books and the process of reading.**  Is it a good book for people who like bookstores?  I don't think so since it makes their future seem pretty bleak.

**In Berlin I saw a sticker at a bar for a book group that meets and everyone reads what they want at the same time and the same place.  The point was to get people to make reading more social and into public with others.  Interesting concept.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Similar but Different

I listened to "Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian" by Avi Steinberg on Overdrive via Chicago Public Library.  I liked this one as an audio book because of the different slang and accents.  I could have probably read it faster in print but it was entertaining while I was knitting.  While it is another prison book for me this year it is not the same as "Orange is the New Black".  Avi Steinberg is not a prisoner, he works in the prison library.  The book brings up interesting questions about working in a prison and trying to form relationships with prisoners.  Can you be their friend?  How do you not lose your humanity but still keep yourself safe in an environment that can become violent at any moment?  Plus Steinberg weaves in his Jewish education and upbringing and compares and contrasts his life with that of the people he comes in contact in the prison.  This was a good memoir and similar to "Orange is the New Black" raised issues about how a society handles people who break the law.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Off to a Great Start in 2015

I really am off to a great start with reading in 2015!  The new iPad (thanks again Mom & Dad) has allowed me to start using Overdrive from the Chicago Public Library so I have lots of books on my wish list.  Plus I am enjoying audio books more thanks to some wireless headphones.  I figure I can listen to books while I knit to "read" more and so far so good!  I also enjoy listening to audio books while I'm cooking and now I don't have to worry about chopping a headphone cord in half!

Here is how 2015 has started for me -

The "Poisonwood Bible" was the January selection for the Women and Children First's Women's Classics book group.  This was a re-read for me.  This time I enjoyed the story as much as the first time even though it got a bit long in parts because I knew what was going to happen.  The book discussion was challenging.  I wish people would stick to the content of the book.  To events and people as they appear in the book.  There are just some topics, like religious missions, that make for very tense book discussions.  However, if you have a book group this one does give you a lot to talk about!  I do remember the first time I read this book that many people (mostly men!) commented on how much they enjoyed it.  That's what you lose when people read on electronic devices - you can't book cover snoop.

I'm returning to Berlin so wanted to "read" something about the history of the city.  I listened to this one and enjoyed it although I think reading it would have helped me keep track of the names better.  In Erik Larson fashion he does an excellent job meshing a detailed historical story with something more sensational.  This book does make me want to do some research for work about the people involved.

I loved "Orange is the New Black"  I think Piper Kerman is a really good writer and she really balanced her own experience with observations of her follow inmates.  It made me think a lot about the legal system in the United States.  I have not watched the show and don't think I will because I liked the very straightforward non-fiction writing.  If you have been curious about this one read it - it's pretty fast and sucks you in and makes you think.  I checked this one out using Overdrive.

Ok, I use Danielle Steel as an example for work and she was the biggest selling author in the 80s, but, c'mon, my cat could see the plot developing in this one.  Yes, I read it in a few nights burrowed under covers and don't regret it but this one made even me think I could write a book.  I read this one on the iPad using Overdrive and found that I can prop the iPad on my chest and keep my hands under the covers right up until I have to turn the page.  Hey, it's been cold in Chicago!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best of 2014 and Welcome 2015

Happy New Year!  Goodbye 2014.  The year had many ups and downs but, thankfully, more ups than downs.  I learned that if you don't set aside time for reading you won't read.  I had a pretty poor total this year but I can't beat myself up too much for it - just make some changes for 2015.  I received a new iPad for Christmas (yay!) so I can check out audio books and e-books from the library.  I am also going to be more vigilant about turning off the television.  It can be a time suck for sure!

Here are my Top 5 books for 2014:

1.  The Stephanie Plum Series - I knocked out six - eleven of this series in 2014.  When things were going bad in real life the series was a comfort.  There is something about returning to a book series where you know the characters.  They can become like old friends.  Books are a comfort and this series, while silly and not very challenging, was a great escape this year.

2.  The Punch - I really liked this book and think of it when I watch the NBA.  Great book - so why not read this year during March Madness?

3.  Bonjour Tristesse - So many layers.  Great book for a book group!  I need to see if the library has other titles by Sagan.

4.  Treasure Island!!! - Re-read this in 2014 for the Newberry book group.  I led the discussion and - woo boy - did we have a good time.  Lots of laughing.  And thanks to Sara Levine for providing us some questions for the book group.

5.  Nasty - I love memoirs and this one is one of the best I've read.

More reading please!  I'm pooped and need a lap for a nap.

Monday, December 29, 2014

11 to Finish the Year

Thank goodness for Stephanie Plum or I may not have read many books this year.  #11 in the series was the last one for 2014.

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!