Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 2014 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

April News

Looking back on this month, I could not quite figure out how I read so much. It has been a crazy grad school month, yet, somehow, I made it through ten books! Maybe, more than ever, books are proving to be a quiet refuge in the midst of a whirlwind schedule. Oh, and it didn't hurt that I spent a week on the beach in Florida with my two best friends. Yeah, I might have gotten some reading done there, too.

I mentioned last month that Movie Mondays may get knocked down to once a month. Considering I did not get around to doing a single one this month, I am leaning more toward eliminating them entirely. Well, not entirely. They just won't be regularly scheduled. When I see a movie, I'll do a special Movie Monday, but I will not be seeking them out as I have before.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kim - Rudyard Kipling

It feels as though it's been forever since I've done a 100 Best Novels post. I guess it kind of has. The last one was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and that was over a month ago now.

I have been a slacker. You all know that.

I slipped Kim in at the very end of March. The classic Rudyard Kipling novel played out as I got ready for work in the mornings thanks to the wonderful world of audiobooks. I may not be ready to talk to other humans that early in the day, but I'm perfectly content to let someone tell me a story. It works well. I'm working through Howard's End the same way right now.

Kim is one of those novels that I have always been peripherally aware of over the years. For whatever reason, I always have gotten Kipling confused with Robert Louis Stevenson in my mind. Although, that should be forever fixed now that I've read all about Stevenson's life. I associate Kim with Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I never really knew much about the story, other than that the main character was a small boy named Kim. I think I imaged him sailing around the world...likely due to those same invalid Stevenson connections.

In reality, no boats for Kim.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Empty Mansions:
The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark
and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Back at the beginning of the year, Heather from Capricious Reader wrote about Empty Mansions.  It's the true story of one of America's wealthiest families and their journey into obscurity.

The story is completely intriguing. A bit slow at times, but incredibly interesting. The Clark family, who were launched into the public eye by patriarch W.A. Clark in the late 1800s, are as near to American royalty as we're likely to get.

Their money was made in the same era as other iconic families, the Rockefellers and Carnegies, to name a few. The first half of the book covers how W.A. made his money and the family became prominently known in American society circles.

The second half talks more specifically about W.A.'s youngest daughter, Huguette. She lived a long, reclusive life, largely shrouded in mystery. She worked her way through her families fortune with incredible generosity and extravagance.

The book gets its title from the large homes built and purchased by the Clark family. These homes each stood empty for decades while Huguette lived our her days in a small hospital rooms.

Sound weird? Yeah, it is.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home - Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home:
A Novel of the Titanic
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic. It's such a tragic moment in history; although, in reality, it pales in comparison to some of the wars and genocides humans have inflicted upon one another.

Perhaps it's the poignancy of the event or the irony of the sinking of the unsinkable. Perhaps its the multitude of human stories tied up in the doomed ship. In reality, it probably has a lot more to do with the emerging telegraphy technology of the time. After all, intercontinental news was fairly new at the time. 

No matter what draws us in, there is no denying that I am not the only one bewitched by the tale. I mean, James Cameron is basically obsessed. 

All that to say, when TLC Book Tours offered me the chance to review a novel based around the Titanic, I could not resist. This type of book definitely is not among my normal genres of interest. In fact, in recent years, I have largely avoid historical fiction like this. I hate the way authors romanticize things and manipulate history. My best word for this genre is typically 'kitsch.' And I hate kitsch.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman

Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Public Discourse in the
Age of Show Business
I have wanted to read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death for quite a while. I feel as though I've had it On Reserve for years. I just never quite got around to it, though.

Imagine my surprise and delight when it popped up on my required reading list for one of my first grad school courses. It seemed like fate. Yet another small sign that I'm on the right path.

Postman's reflections on public discourse are now nearly 30 years old. Originally published in 1985, the book talks about how human communication and the sharing of information has changed since the invention of the telegraph. 

Ok, ok. I know that does not sound like a thriller. And, maybe in 1985, it wasn't. Fast forward nearly three decades, though, and Postman looks almost like a prophet.

His main thesis is that the increasingly fast and increasingly widespread sharing of information has led to a world where entertainment, rather than hard news, is the focus. In Postman's words: "Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education, and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Black Chalk - Christopher J. Yates

Black Chalk
Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post! I'm giving away a copy of today's book!

A while back, Lisa from TLC Book Tours contacted me. She had read that I enjoy the occasional thriller and had a book in mind.

Black Chalk showed up on our doorstep not too long after.

The book takes place at Oxford University in the mid-1990s. We are introduced to two freshman, Jolyon and Chad. Chad, an American transfer student, finds a friend in British Jolyon. The two become inseparable and, slowly, a group of friends forms around them.

The friends, who are, in some ways, a band of misfits, get connected with the "Game Soc," a mysterious campus society. They agree to play a game of their own invention, subjecting themselves to greater and greater humiliations.

As you can imagine, the stakes quickly rise and, what began as a fun diversion, becomes much more serious. Before long, the students are locked in a game with fatal consequences.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
We have slowly been making our way through the Harry Potter series since I first blogged about it back in January. 

Even though Kevin has been doing a ton of traveling for work lately, we have done little together, so our pace is leisurely, at best. 

We did take a weekend trip to Charlotte at the start of March (we were desperate for warm weather!) and happily used the opportunity to finish book two and start book three.

I won't go into a whole review of the book. We all know J.K. Rowling is awesome. No need to debate that.

Mostly, I just wanted to touch base, let you know we finished Chamber of Secrets, and get your thoughts on the series as a whole.

I still want to talk about our favorite parts of the books, favorite characters, symbolism, funny memes, interesting facts, whatever! Feel free to share any good Harry Potter stuff and I hope to put together a post of it all when we reach the end of the series.

Meanwhile, feel free to discuss what an amateur move it was when Lucius Malfoy stuck that diary in with Ginny's books. 

Pages: 352
Date Completed: March 9, 2014

What do you love about Harry Potter?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

Bel Canto
Good morning!

I had hoped to post this earlier today, but grad school got the best of me last night and then Kevin and I watched 12 Years a Slave. Not exactly the type of movie you can brush off and write a blog after watching. We've actually watched both Gravity and the Best Picture award winner in the last couple of weeks. I can definitely say that both deserved the awards they won. 

Ok, I am completely off topic, I realize. It happens.

Back in January, you may remember, I included a link in the monthly wrap up that mentioned this book. Half Price Books compiled a list of 100 Books You Can't Put Down

Bel Canto appeared on that list and sparked my interest. Since then, it's been popping up all over for me, only validating my choice to read it. 

The story takes place in an unnamed South American country. A birthday party is being thrown for a prominent Japanese businessman at the vice president's home. The government has spared no expense, hoping that the businessman, Mr. Hosokawa, will build a factory in their country. Knowing Mr. Hosokawa adores opera, a famous American soprano, Roxane Coss, has also been brought in to sing for the party. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 2014 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

March News

Last month, I promised by reading pace would pick up again. I can definitely say I delivered. I read 7 books in March. Unfortunately, if you read my mid-month update, you know grad school has significantly slowed my ability to post.

Hopefully, to this point, you have not noticed much of a difference. January and February reads are still sustaining post frequency at this point and I am trying to write posts in advance whenever I am caught up on schoolwork.

March was the first month where I took a full load for grad school. Thankfully, just these week we started getting into the good reading! I am so excited to share Amusing Ourselves to Death and Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders with you! Both are fantastic (thusfar) and thanks to my Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts course.

I am seriously considering knocking Movie Mondays down to once a month. I enjoy doing them, but I do not have the time to specifically seek out many movies these days. At least not ones that my husband is not also interested in. For now, if you missed this month's installments, I wrote about A High Wind in Jamaica, which thoroughly disappointed me, and A Doll's House, also not a big winner. Disappointing month. Maybe that's why I'm willing to cut these back. I do not want to waste my time on bad movies any more than I do on bad books. And we all know that a good book does not a good movie make!