Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake
Title: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 05/03
Pages: 374
How I Found It: I've been wanting to read more Atwood
Date Completed: 8/26/15

Summary: In a futuristic landscape far different than our own, Jimmy, who goes by "Snowman" these days, wonders if he's the last real human left on Earth. He wanders mentally and physically into his past as he searches for the answer to that question.

What I Thought: In my mind, I have this great desire to be a Margaret Atwood fan. In my mind, I am one of those fans who picks up everything she publishes and devours it. In my mind, I have read every Atwood work.

I'm not sure why I feel this way. In fact, this book, Oryx and Crake, is only the second Atwood novel I have ever read. I think The Handmaid's Tale made such an impact on me, though, I find myself believing I am a more ardent fan than I actually am. 

Coming from Atwood's most popular work and with some weird sort of faux-fan complex, I picked up Oryx and Crake. I am not really sure why I chose this one with which to venture further into Atwood's world. In retrospect, I think there would have been a lot of other, better choices. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coda - Emma Trevayne

Title: Coda
Author: Emma Trevayne
Publication Date: 5/7/13
Pages: 320
Genre: Dystopian / Science Fiction / Fiction
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR for quite a while.
Date Completed: 9/17/15

Summary: In Trevayne's future, music has been encoded with addictive properties and the corrupt government uses it to control the population. Any unauthorized music is illegal and every citizen is monitored to ensure their need for the hallucinogenic melodies.

What I Thought: I love the broad concept of this book. I think Trevayne has hit on a plot idea here that has yet to be exploited by the mass migration to the dystopian genre. The integration of music into the future is a concept that few have broached. Suzanne Collins touches on it a bit in The Hunger Games series as Katniss sings to her sister and the mockingjay birds repeat back short melodies. Yet, I have not seen another author fully explore what a dystopian future centered around music would look like.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Provence, 1970 - Luke Barr

Provence, 1970
Title: Provence, 1970: M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
Author: Luke Barr
Publication Date: 10/22/13
Pages: 320
Genre: Food / Historical / Nonfiction
How I Found It: A list of food books
Date Completed: 9/10/15

Summary: Once upon a time, in the magical region of Provence, France, a group of culinary giants spent time together sharing their inspirations, their ideas, and their meals.

What I Thought: As I have fallen in love with cooking over the past several years, I have also more and more enjoyed learning about the chefs and writers who brought culinary revolution to America in the mid-twentieth century. As with many, my knowledge and interest began with Julia Child, the accessible and irresistible friend who brought high-minded French ideals to the lowly home kitchen of the American housewife. From there, however, I have come to "know" many of her friends and colleagues. There are many to whom the shift in the American mindset can be partially attributed and very many of those appear in the pages of this book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J. K. Rowling
Publication Date: 7/21/07
Pages: 759
Date Completed: 9/6/15

Summary: Harry, Hermione, and Ron search the English countryside for Horcruxes and are ultimately led to a final battle at Hogwarts, where self-sacrifice, teamwork, and love are the strongest magic they have at their disposal. 

What I Thought: Where to begin?

Here at the close, I always feel so many emotions. It's like saying goodbye to a good friend. I know I'll return to the series again and again, but coming to the close always feels so final in a way. 

After nearly two years of taking the journey together, Kevin and I finished the final book at the start of this month. I had worried (unnecessarily) about having time to get through this final book before the fall. Yet, once we got going, it's hard to put it aside. We listened while we drove, while we painted, while we organized our new house. Pretty much any excuse was good enough.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad

Lord Jim
Title: Lord Jim
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publication Date: 1900
Pages: 455
Genre: Historical / Classic / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 8/19/15

Summary: After a disastrous and haunting decision at sea, Jim escapes from social life to the jungles. There, he becomes "Lord Jim" to the natives until his character is tested again.

What I Thought: Look. I don't like Joseph Conrad's work. I recognize it's skill and importance in the canon of Western literature. But I do not personally enjoy it. The fact that I still have two of his novels left before I can concur the 100 Best Novels list tears me up. 

I had hoped that my disdain for Heart of Darkness would be limited to that novel and not all of Conrad's work. My hopes have been significantly diminished as I did not enjoy this novel any more - and possibly less - than the little novella. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blue Plate Special - Kate Christensen

Blue Plate Special
Title: Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites
Author: Kate Christensen
Publication Date: 1/1/13
Pages: 368
Genre: Memoir / Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Some list of foodie memoirs
Date Completed: 8/3/15

Summary: Christensen invites the reader to join her on a journey through her life and culinary explorations. 

What I Thought: My immediate reflection on this book as I sit down to write this review: it made me sad. It made me sad for Christensen and the life she has led. The book details the rough family life Christensen has experienced throughout her life. Abusive and then absentee father, unstable father figures following him, emotionally fragile family members...the list goes on.

Christensen seems to handle it all with a chin-up attitude, more of a this-is-how-it-is approach than a self-pitying one. Her transparency about the tough stuff is admirable; many stories she shares are not ones most people would want publicized. Yet, she faces them head on, as they have clearly shaped her into the person she is today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Sisters of Versailles - Sally Christie

The Sisters of Versailles
I'm giving away a copy of this book! Make sure you read to the end of the post to find out how it could be yours!

Title: The Sisters of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Publication Date: 9/1/15
Pages: 432
Genre: RoyalsRomance / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 9/4/15

Summary: The court of Louis XV has gone down in history not only as a height of absolute monarchy, but also a height of decadence and excess. Those qualities are certainly on display in this fictional account of five sisters and their experiences with both court politics and the king himself.

What I Thought: This is an era of history that has always interested me. The centuries of monarchical rule in Europe simply enchant me. There is no end to the scandal, the intrigue, the food, the clothes, the's all as plentiful as the strict social regulations which dictated every aspect of life at court. These stories pull me in.

Typically, I find the history itself plenty over-the-top and rarely read fictionalized accounts of royal life. When I do read royal fiction, I tend to like it altered enough so that the unsuspecting reader does not assume every detail as fact. Case in point: this delightful interpretation of the Cambridge romance. So often, historical fiction relies too heavily on the fiction to dramatize and scandalized. A good biography nearly always accomplishes the same effect for me, while maintaining a level of academic integrity.

Yet, I do like to veer off my own well-beaten path every now and again. So, when TLC offered me the chance to review this novel set at the height of Versailles's decadent court life, I thought I would explore the perspective on historical I so rarely enter.

My takeaway?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fortune Smiles - Adam Johnson

Fortune Smiles
Title: Fortune Smiles
Author: Adam Johnson
Publication Date: 8/13/15
Pages: 320
How I Found It: NetGalley
Date Completed: 8/3/15

Summary: A collection of short stories

What I Thought: I absolutely loved Adam Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 2013, The Orphan Master's Son. That book was the first I had heard of Johnson and, after reading it, I became a fan. When I saw NetGalley offering chances to read and review Johnson's latest, this collection of short stories, my hopes were high.

Short story collections are always a bit tricky for me. It's so rare to pick up a collection and love every story in it, or to detest every story in it. Yet, there is something about encapsulating a story into just a few pages - the length of one chapter in a novel. I am realizing more and more that I like the format of short stories and should expose myself to more of them.

In this case, I had moments of adoring Johnson's writing style and direction, and moments of wondering why he chose certain pathways. Maybe that is the real beauty of short story collections. We get to step inside the author's mind and see several of those ideas that have been bouncing around waiting for an escape route. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 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.  

August News 

Hello, all! It's felt a bit weird not actively writing and posting the past few weeks. I'm hoping to return from hiatus next week. Things are slowly starting to return to a normal pace around here. Granted, for us, normal is still pretty crazy, but we make it work.

We are officially moved into the new house and things are slowly coming together. We spent an awful lot of August with paint on our hands (and legs and arms and face, in Kevin's case) and our stuff in boxes. Little by little, though, this wonderful place is starting to feel like home. We just about have the whole first floor put together how we want it. In the next six months, we still anticipate doing a lot of painting and changes, but, for now, we are at least able to walk through most of our house and not feel sheer chaos. It's a start.

My classes are going well. I was so nervous getting started, but I think I'm getting the hang of lesson planning and classroom control and all that jazz. It's definitely a transition from teaching online, but I'm enjoying it. I just am still blown out of the water by the amount of prep work in-class teaching requires. Props to all you elementary school teachers out there; I cannot imagine having to have lesson plans for hours every day. 80 minutes twice a week is wearing me out.