Friday, May 29, 2015

Enchanted - Althea Kontis

Title: Enchanted
Author: Althea Kontis
Publication Date: 5/8/12
Pages: 308
Date Completed: 4/13/15

Summary: This new fairy tale follows the youngest of the seven Woodcutter daughters, Sunday, as she meets a frog, kisses him, ends up in love with a prince, and entangled in the tricky realms of both family and kingdom politics.

What I Thought: This book was so cute! I realize that may not be the ideal word Kontis would choose to describe her work, but it fits! Kontis mentions in her dedication that her mother encouraged her to write a new fairy tale and she has lived up to their expectations here.

The book follows the story of the Woodcutter family, of which Sunday is the youngest child. She is the seventh daughter, a fact her family recognizes and particularly special. They live in a magical kingdom, yet Kotnis somehow makes their lives seem pleasantly ordinary. You would think the story of a girl who talks to frogs and has a magical journal yet finds herself bored and feeling trapped in the ordinary would be difficult to accept. Kontis really marries the magical with the ordinary quite convincingly. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

The Red Tent
Title: The Red Tent
Author: Anita Diamant
Publication Date: 11/1/05
Pages: 336
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: On Reserve for ages
Date Completed: 4/7/15

Summary: Based loosely on the Biblical story of Dinah, the daughter of Jewish patriarch Jacob, The Red Tent explores early Meditteranean culture and the bonds between women.

What I Thought: I have heard about this book in passing many times, but still did not know fully what to expect. I was surprised to realize it is based loosely on a Biblical figure. Loosely, being a key word.

The protagonist and heroine of the story is Dinah, daughter of Biblical patriarch Jacob and his first wife Leah. Dinah takes us back before her birth and shares the story of Jacob and the four women who bore his children. Each mother (two wives, two concubines) has her own distinct personality and relationship with Jacob. Dinah celebrates their unique qualities and recognizes each as an important part of the family and family culture.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Delancey - Molly Wizenberg

Title: Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
Author: Molly Wizenberg
Publication Date: 5/1/14
Pages: 241
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: You know me and food memoirs...
Date Completed: 4/12/15

Summary: Wizenberg recalls the years she and her husband spent getting their pizza restaurant from a concept to a reality.

What I Thought: Sometimes memoir subtitles irritate me. They can be too long or too pithy or downright misleading. Somehow, the subtitle for Delancy (A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage) sums things up perfectly while avoiding those pitfalls. It truly is the best way to summarize the book.

Wizenberg's stories of how Delancey the restaurant came to be are charming and down to earth. She and her husband come across as people you could really be friends with - particularly if you love food as they do. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Dismantling - Brian DeLeeuw

The Dismantling
Title: The Dismantling
Author: Brian DeLeeuw
Publication Date: 4/28/15
Pages: 288
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: Haven't finished yet!

Summary: Simon Worth is a med-school drop out now working as an organ broker. He connects wealthy, dying clients with desperate donors. It's all totally illegal, of course. His job is to make sure things go smoothly and the hospitals do not discover the real transaction happening between their patients. Things get tricky when a poor California woman donate a portion of her liver to an unlikable former NFL player.

What I Thought: This is the first time I have not finished a book before posting about it, but this is when I'm schedule for the book tour, so here goes! I'll post a little update once I finish.

At this point, I'm about 100 pages into the book. Between all our traveling lately, I simply haven't been able to get any further. It's not for lack of desire. I am genuinely interested to find out what happens to Simon Worth and his troublesome clients. I have not actually discovered a whole lot more than what is in the summary - at least not yet. I can tell that I am right on the verge of things picking up. The book, which has been largely reflective and action-free thus far, is about to turn into a thriller of sorts. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Royal We - Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

The Royal We
Title: The Royal We
Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Publication Date: 4/7/15
Pages: 464
Genre: Royals / Romance / Chick Lit / Fiction
How I Found It: The real question is, how could I not have?
Date Completed: 5/3/15

Summary: American exchange student Rebecca "Bex" Porter ends up in the same dorm hall as HRH Prince Nicholas at Oxford. Fairy tale moments, paparazzi stalking, and royal drama ensue.

What I Thought: Let's be honest. This book is Will & Kate fan fiction. I mean, look at that cover. There is no getting around it and authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (curators of fashion and celeb gossip blog Go Fug Yourself) freely admit their story was inspired by the British royals. That being said, there is enough fact included to continually remind you of the real couple and enough fiction to keep readers interested and invested in Bex and Nick in their own right.

I cannot cite the book as anything particularly original or groundbreaking, but it is fun. I raced through it, soaking up every word, loving the comparisons to the real life Cambridge family and the escapades of the fictional royals as well. I loved feeling like I was getting a peek behind the scenes, even while knowing the look is an entirely fictional one. Even with that in mind, reading Bex's perspective on entering royal life made me wonder how much our dear Duchess of Cambridge may have had in common with her thoughts or experiences. If nothing else, it is a great reminder that Will and Kate are real people with real feelings and real problems, not just fairy tale figurines for our enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Jesus Cow - Michael Perry

The Jesus Cow
Title: The Jesus Cow
Author: Michael Perry
Publication Date: 5/19/15
Pages: 304
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 5/11/15

Summary: Small town Wisconsin is turned upside down when unassuming farmer Harley Jackson discovers the face of Jesus on his newborn calf. 

What I Thought: I had the pleasure of being on the book tour for another of Michael Perry's books (Visiting Tom) back in 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed his work then and jumped at the chance to join the tour for his newest work and first novel, The Jesus Cow.

Perry's writing makes me almost nostalgic for the Midwest - almost. He glorifies the simple way of life in a way which makes it incredibly appealing. I have absolutely no desire to live on a farm or move back to a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Yet, Perry stirs the part of me that longs for simplicity, even if it comes in a different form than cow milking and town hall meetings. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh

A Handful of Dust
Title: A Handful of Dust
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Publication Date: 1934
Pages: 308
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 2/25/15

Summary: Another early 20th century satire of upper class Britain. A married couple have plenty of money, but nothing else worth mentioning. The wife, bored with her extravagant life, heads off to have an affair.

What I Thought: I finished A Handful of Dust sometime this spring and promptly forgot to mark it down on my master reading spreadsheet for the year. So, here we are, months later, talking about it anyway. 

I cannot think of a better description for the work of Evelyn Waugh than this astute Goodreads user's remarks:
"Reading Waugh is like being air-kissed by a socialite who clutches your shoulder in mock affection with one hand while raising an ice-pick behind your back with the other. You know you should be on guard for certain disaster, but charisma sweeps you away in an intoxicating wave of champagne and caviar." (Julie of Chalk the Sun)
She has it exactly correct. Waugh's work sweeps you up in its grandeur and simultaneously prepares to introduce dark twists. Waugh has two other works on Modern Library's list, the most familiar to me being Brideshead Revisted. Yet, this work is actually the first Waugh I have read. I look forward to the others.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
Title: Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Publication Date: 9/30/07
Pages: 270
How I Found It: Required reading for my Gender in Contemporary Literature course
Date Completed: 3/24/15

Summary: A collection of short stories set in small-town Crosby, Maine all weave in the character of Olive Kitteridge and give the reader a glimpse into her life and emotional journey.

What I Thought: Today, as I was reading another novel from the 100 Best Novels list, I contemplated what modern novels would make the cut on such a list 100 years from now. Fortuitously, I now sit trying to think what to say about Olive Kitteridge. One of my first thoughts: I could see this book on a best novels list decades from now.

Two years into the challenge and knowing what I know now about the types of books chosen for such a list, I think Olive Kitteridge would fit right in. It's complex and philosophical in the most ordinary ways. The characters are rich, yet plain. The depth of the novel far surpasses any surface level entertainment value.

Not to say the book isn't entertaining. It is, in its own way; much more than entertaining, though, it speaks to human nature and needs in a quiet, wise voice.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Movie Monday: The Help

The Help
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Film Title: The Help
Book Title: The Help
Release Year: 2011

Summary: Three women in Jackson, Mississippi set out to share their stories of racial tensions and civil rights during the 1950s. White woman Skeeter Phelan, trying to find her niche as a writer, begins to secretly gather the stories of black maids within the community.

What I Thought: I love this movie, just as I love the book. When you put Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain in as your team of protagonists, you are bound to have a hit. Plus appearances from Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek? It's like a dream team of female powerhouses. If they just could have worked in roles for Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Janzen

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Title: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Author: Rhoda Janzen
Publication Date: 10/13/09
Pages: 241
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Read for my Gender in Contemporary Literature course
Date Completed: 3/28/15

Summary: After Rhoda Janzen's bipolar, bisexual husband leaves her for another man, she returns home to spend time with her family. Upon her arrival home, she is plunged into the close-knit Mennonite community in a way she has not been since getting married over a decade earlier.

What I Thought: Before I say anything else, I have to admit this book had me laughing out loud. My mom's family is deeply Mennonite and so I could relate to so many of the funny anecdotes Rhoda told about her family. A night where everyone in the family just brings a different kind of soup? Yep. An affinity for international travel and world peace? Yep. While Janzen may or may not have meant all of these anecdotes to come across as flattering, to me they represented people I care for deeply and ideas I greatly respect, if not adhere to exclusively. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Residence - Kate Andersen Brower

The Residence
Title: The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House
Author: Kate Andersen Brower
Publication Date: 4/7/15
Pages: 352
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 4/10/15

Summary: After interviewing dozens of White House staff members from over the years, Brower has compiled an interesting collection of stories and insights regarding what goes on in the private part of America's most famous house.

What I Thought: I am a political nerd. I am the girl who is stoked for the 2016 election, rather than immediately blocking anyone who mentions it on Facebook (ok, I am doing some of that, too. Come on, people. Think and research before you post!). Even more than my political interests, however, I am fascinated with the process and persons of the presidency. Pretty much from the moment my mom I made a White House replica from styrofoam in the fourth grade, I have loved the house, its history, and the stories it's held.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Take Tuesday: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: 8/24/10
Pages: 400
Previous Readings: 2010 / 3/29/12
Date Completed This Time: 3/11/15

Summary: After being rescued from the collapsing arena during her second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the mysterious District 13. Despite suffering from some serious PTSD, Katniss is expected to serve as the face of the revolution against the Capitol.

What I Thought Before: I first reviewed this book for the blog back in 2012, then I gave some revised thoughts in 2014 when I reviewed the film adaptation. First time around, I complained the book was hurried and left important action unexplained. I called it "a rocky conclusion" to the series. Two years later, I was singing a slightly different tune - one I continue to stand by.

What I Think Now: I think I explained my stance pretty well in that 2014 post, so I'll let it speak for itself and then add some additional comments:

Friday, May 1, 2015

April 2015 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 

My adoration of North Carolina spring continues. I'm obsessed. My allergies are not nearly as bad here, the colors are amazing, and the weather is divine.

The last month has been a wonderful realization of life as I thought it would be when we first moved. No formal work hours, just online teaching and tutoring. I spent an entire week immersed in thesis writing and it is now officially done! As of this week, I have completed my Master of Liberal Arts and could not be prouder. On to the doctorate!

We are fully immersed in a house hunt and hope to buy sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile, it looks like I will be spending the summer putting in some hours at a local boutique which sells attire and home decor by local artists and fair trade organizations. The owner is in our small group at church; she also has two adorable little girls who I may quasi-nanny a bit as well. The first thing I told Kevin was that I'm bringing all my children's books back from my parents' house next time we visit so I can read to them all. summer. long. All in all, the summer is looking more and more appealing. Oh, and best of all, my sister and her husband are moving to NC, just a few hours from us! I feel like I want to use #blessed without being cliché...but I'm not sure that's possible. So, let me just say how thankful I am for the life I get to lead. It's not perfect and we certainly have our share of struggles, but overall I know I have far more than I deserve.

As far as the blog goes, I must admit I have been feeling some fatigue lately. I think it's just been the push of finishing grad school and feeling the pressure there. I am hoping to find some fresh inspiration and motivation this summer. I am reading more than ever and loving what I am reading, but writing has been a struggle some days.

This month, Movie Monday covered Holes and Gone Girl, two movies which could not be more different. I read 12 books, which seems crazy and about accurate. I am in the middle of a whole bunch right now - I have been loving the library lately - and excited about most of them! If you are looking for fun reads this summer, I promise to hook you up!