Friday, October 30, 2015

October 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.  

October News 

As I am writing this, I am looking out the window at some very dreary rain and gray skies. It's almost like being back in Ohio. I really do not mind days like these. A little cold weather and rain can do me good once in a while. It's the snow which is my mortal enemy. How thankful I am to be living somewhere where I see the white evil so rarely! The cold air and rain signal our without-a-doubt transition into fall. The clocks change this weekend and Thanksgiving is only weeks away (to my delight). I've worn boots more days than not in the last week and I wore a coat to class today. The leaves are shifting hue to show their versatility and beauty. Adele has made her triumphant return and lives on repeat in my speakers. Autumn is officially among us here on the East Coast. It's beautiful, even in the dreary rain.

Of course, maybe I can admire the beauty of autumn fully since last weekend Kevin and went to the beach to celebrate our third anniversary. It was perfection. We ate buckets of fresh seafood and walked the beach in bare feet and reflected on a wide spectrum of topics, including how we have grown in the past years together. The sun and the waves made it hard to believe it is the end of October. Additionally, next weekend, I am going to see one of my very dearest friends at her home in southern Florida. So, of course I can love autumn in this moment; I'm bookending its entrance with beach trips.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March
Title: The Adventures of Augie March
Author: Saul Bellow
Publication Date: 1953
Pages: 586
Genre: Classic / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 10/15/15

Summary: Augie March, a Chicagoan born during the Great Depression, recounts the story of his life and the adventures therein. Bellow's classic work comes across as almost episodic as Augie has one unique experience after another.

What I Thought: This book could so easily be turned into a TV show or a miniseries. As Augie goes from one (mis)adventure to another, an astute reader can easily see episodes forming under the right direction. The right writing team could drag it out quite well: a season containing Augie's trip to St. Joseph (which, ironically, is my husband's hometown and, thus, was quite fun for me to read about in an historical context), a season of Augie and his unscrupulous brother trying to climb the social ladder, a season with Thea in Mexico....I'm picturing this British-TV style with 6-8 episodes per series; or, better yet, as a two-hour episodes of a miniseries. It really surprises me that this has not been done already.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Unbecoming - Rebecca Scherm

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Rebecca Scherm
Publication Date: 1/22/15
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: Not sure
Date Completed: 10/11/15

Summary: Grace, whose going by 'Julie' these days, lives in fear. Every day, as she goes to her job as an antiques restorer in Paris, she worries about the life she left back in Garland, Tennessee, specifically, those two boys who have just been paroled from their jail sentences. After all, they went to jail because of her.

What I Thought: I really enjoyed this novel. I wish I could remember how I discovered it, because I want to go back to that source for more recommendations. The book was not perfect; there were some mild writing downfalls, as can be found in most thrillers. As a whole, however, I found it unique and engaging. 

I absolutely loved the art & antique aspect of the book. As someone who holds a Master of Liberal Arts and teaches a Humanities course, it should not come as a surprise that I delighted in this choice of Scherm's. Integrating fine arts happens to rarely in modern novels, at least of this genre. Sure, Donna Tartt explored the art world to an extent in The Goldfinch, but I don't think back on that book fondly, despite its Pulitzer Prize status. What I like is when an author, such as Scherm, utilizes the fine art world as a plot point, but also allows a character to grow and learn through it. Grace does just that. Her exposure to the art world shapes her as a person and a character. She uses her newfound knowledge as both an excuse and an escape. Since the novel pivots around art theft, the subject if never far in the background and Scherm does a lovely job of showing us how Grace falls in love with true art: that which has meaning and intention beyond the surface level.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Pages: 445
Genre: Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: So many book bloggers love Rainbow Rowell - I had to give her work a try!
Date Completed: 10/3/15

Summary: Cath and her twin sister Wren are starting college in Nebraska. Cath would rather be at home, watching over their bipolar father and writing fan fiction about the Simon Snow series (a total Harry Potter knockoff). College, however, brings new personal challenges are she takes a Fiction Writing course, begins to bond with her roommate, and navigates her own love life.

What I Thought: I honestly did not know what to expect going into this book. I have seen so many other book bloggers raving about Rainbow Rowell's work, but I was wary it would fall into a more cliché YA lit category (i.e. not well written and a little too emotional and romance driven for my taste). I found myself pleasantly surprised when I, too, raced through Rowell's work, enjoying it far more than I had anticipated.

First and foremost, I love how self-aware Cath is. Rowell's decision to make Cath not only aware but snarky about some of the more cliché college moments happening around her kept the story from veering too far into a classic coming-of-age story. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sous Chef - Michael Gibney

Sous Chef
Title: Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
Author: Michael Gibney
Publication Date: 3/25/14
Pages: 240
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: You know me and food memoirs...
Date Completed: 9/27/15

Summary: Gibney captures a unique look at life in a prestigious restaurant kitchen. With his use of second person narrative, he describes one day as a sous chef, with all its highs and lows.

What I Thought: You all know how I love books in this genre. Give me a memoir about food and I will devour it (no pun intended). Lately, though, I have begun to feel like the genre is either becoming over saturated or I have lost that same early fervor I felt for it. Several of the books I have read have felt far more solidly in the memoir genre, rather than having anything to do with food. That's not always a bad thing, but it leaves my craving for knowledge and experience of the food industry unsatisfied. Wow...I'm using so many food metaphors completely unwittingly here...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Keep Moving - Dick Van Dyke

Keep Moving
Title: Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging
Author: Dick Van Dyke
Publication Date: 10/13/15 - Today!
Pages: 256
Genre: Memoir / Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: NetGalley
Date Completed: 8/18/15

Summary: Dick Van Dyke shares his approach to aging gracefully and maintaining an active lifestyle long past the point when culture expects you to do so. 

What I Thought: Who doesn't like Dick Van Dyke? He's charming and vivacious, at least on television. And, I imagine, in real life - at least if his memoirs are any indication.

I read Van Dyke's earlier memoir, My Lucky Life, back in 2011. It was, in fact, the very first book I ever reviewed for this blog. How times have changed! I enjoyed his literary voice back then and did in this new memoir as well.

I found this guy on NetGalley. I don't know that a Van Dyke memoir is going to be getting tons of marketing at this point, so I was glad to have noticed it there. I enjoy these inside looks at the lives of celebrity personalities, particularly when told from their own perspective. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

French Women Don't Get Fat - Mireille Guiliano

French Women Don't Get Fat
Title: French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure
Author: Mireille Guiliano
Publication Date: 12/28/05
Pages: 263
Genre: Self-Help / Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's been around for a while now.
Date Completed: 9/25/15

Summary: Guiliano explores the idea that French women have a secret to staying thin. Their diet includes all sorts of things Americans find guilt-inducing: chocolate, wine, bread, rich foods. Yet, the obesity levels in France are far below those in America. Guiliano wants to get to the heart of the issue.

What I Thought: I am not in the habit of reading diet books. Although, I have put on a good 15 pounds since getting married three years ago, a fact with which I am extremely uncomfortable. Still, I know what needs to change if I want to lose that weight: diet and exercise. Portion control and physical activity are the way to a healthy lifestyle. It's well proven, but none of us like to hear or enact that wisdom.

Instead, Americans love diet fads. We love someone telling us there is another way - some secret path to success that doesn't require exercise and allows us to eat all of our favorite things. Guiliano is, whether she would admit it or not, appealing to that exact desire. The book is marketed in a way which makes you think it shares one of those secret pathways.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Underground Girls of Kabul - Jenny Nordberg

The Underground Girls of Kabul
Title: The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
Author: Jenny Nordberg
Publication Date: 9/16/14
Pages: 350
Genre: Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've seen it several places since its release
Date Completed: 9/19/15

Summary: In a culture where being a woman qualifies you as little more than property, a not-so-unique phenomenon has been taking place for centuries. Parents desperate for the prestige and protection provided by the presence of a son are parading their daughters as boys - at least until the practice becomes unacceptable at puberty. Nordberg explores the motivations, emotions, and the real girls living as boys.

What I Thought: As I have grown into womanhood, become a wife and a professional, furthered my education, I have also become increasingly sensitive to the burdens of women around the world. I know I was blessed to be born into an imperfect, but charmed environment. So many, at home or abroad, would see my life as idyllic. I know that. At times, that disparity makes me feel guilty for my own blessed existence. Though I had no control over my destiny, it makes me want to help those who find themselves oppressed and trapped.

Now, I'll be the first to say that, in these past few years as this topic has become more important and interesting to me, I have done far more learning than acting. I read, I watch, I study, I gather information. But I have done little. It's hard to know what to do, at times, though, that certainly doesn't stop amazing women like Katrell Christie or Malala Yousafzai. Still, I know I need to go beyond the thinking and take action if I really care about these women and girls. I'm just not sure what that looks like yet - at least for me.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tiger Heart - Katrell Christie

Tiger Heart
I'm giving away a copy of this book at the bottom of the post! Don't miss your chance to enter!

Title: Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling, and What I Learned about Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away
Author: Katrell Christie & Shannon McCaffrey
Publication Date: 10/6/15
Pages: 232
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 9/21/15

Summary: Katrell Christie was a pretty normal Atlanta citizen who happened to own a tea shop and play roller derby on the side - until a trip to India changed her life. Now, she runs a program empowering young Indian women and helping them get an education.

What I Thought: I found Christie's story pretty inspiring. She had no previous connection to India or even any particular desire to travel there. She went on little more than a whim and the trip changed her life. She continues to live her "normal" life in the States, but travels to India twice a year. She's a very normal person doing something extraordinary, and we do not see enough of that. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

September 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.  

September News 

How is it already October? I know saying that makes the most basic of, uh, girls, but I don't even care. September absolutely flew by and I simply cannot believe that fall is here in full force.

After coming off a (very) short hiatus in August, it felt nice to be back for September. As our lives has slowly returned to some semblance of routine and normalcy, so, too, has my reading and blogging schedule. I found myself in a serious reading funk for much of the month; I could not find anything I really was enjoyed and stopped reading more books than I finished - an absolute rarity for me. I think I have finally muscled through and am back on track.

This month, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting up with Maggie from Macarons & Paperbacks for the first time in person. I am so thankful we had the chance before she welcomes her little boy (any time now, really!). We had a great time chatting and getting to know one another in real life, even though the restaurant I blindly picked didn't turn out to be super great. I hope we have the opportunity to meet up again soon! Maggie is the first Internet friend I have met in real life and, despite Kevin's warnings that she was probably a serial killer in disguise, she turned out to be even more lovely in real life than online - inside and out.