Monday, June 26, 2017

Movie Monday: The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials
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: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Book Title: The Scorch Trials
Release Year: 2015

Summary: After escaping the maze, Thomas, Teresa, and the others are facing a new challenge. They head across the barren land in hopes of finding refuge from WICKED. 

What I Thought: Sigh. This movie series seemed doomed from the start. 

I talked about this a lot with the first movie (follow the link to that Movie Monday if you want a delightful High School Musical 2 flashback). There were too many changes from the book. I didn't even like the book version of The Scorch Trials that much, so it follows that the story plus the sloppy rendition of it into film wouldn't work for me. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Shockaholic - Carrie Fisher

Title: Shockaholic
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publication Date: 11/1/2011
Pages: 176
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've been reading Fisher's writings since her death.
Date Completed: 5/29/17

Summary: Fisher returns with another memoir, a look at her joys and tragedies through her unique comedic lens. 

What I Thought: I really enjoyed Wishful Drinking, the memoir Fisher wrote before this one. It was the first thing of Fisher's I had read and it certainly whet my appetite for more. Her untimely passing at the end of last year was so tragic and I think made many of us want to know her more as a person, beyond the fictional persona of Princess Leia. Isn't is sad that we often don't recognize people for their talents until they are gone?

Fisher actually references her inevitable death several times in this book, which was a bit disconcerting considering her recent passing. She certainly had no qualms about discussing the eventuality, but it makes it sadder in many ways to have seen which of her predictions came true and which did not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gilead - Marilynne Robinson

Title: Gilead
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Publication Date: 10/28/2004
Pages: 247
How I Found It: It's a well-known, popular novel.
Date Completed: 5/28/17

Summary: An elderly father writes to his young son about life, faith, and their small town of Gilead, Iowa. 

What I Thought: This Pulitzer Prize winner has long been on my list to read. I know so many have raved about it, including Barack Obama and Rachel Held Evans. Now, having read the book, I understand why.

It's literary fiction at it's finest. It's a beautiful book about family, faith, and friendship. It's set in the mid-1900s and told from the perspective of an elderly pastor, John Ames. Ames is purportedly writing to his young son, the blessing of a late-in-life marriage. 

One could certainly argue that not much actually happens over the course of the book. A fellow pastor and friend's long lost son returns home and Ames struggles with his presence in town and his relationship to both his own family and the Ames family. Beyond that, there is little actual plot. Rather, the book is about ordinary life, the beauty in mundanity, the reflexions of a man who has reached the end of his life and is assessing its virtue. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Calling on Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on Dragons
Title: Calling on Dragons
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 244
How I Found It: I've loved the series since childhood.
Date Completed: 5/25/17

Summary: Once again, the Enchanted Forest is under threat from a bunch of magic-stealing wizards. Queen Cimorene heads out with her motley crew of friends in hopes of resolving the situation before it's too late.

What I Thought: Though I read the first book in this series countless times as a child, I think I only ever made it this far once. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I ever even read the last book. We'll see how much, if any, of it is familiar to me once I read it. I definitely did not remember much of this one, although the ending was familiar. 

Since I'm not sure I have ever read the last book in the series, I don't want to speak for it yet. Of the first three books, though, I find this one to be the weakest. Morwen the witch, a character who I genuinely adore, plays the central role rather than Cimorine. I think that was a miscalculation on Wrede's part. Fiesty Princess Cimorene is what endeared me to the series to begin with. I like Morwen quite a bit as well, even more now that I am an adult and her sensibility seems impressive rather than droll, but she doesn't carry the story in the same way. I find her cadre of cats excessive and a bit obnoxious, though I do like their dry humor. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven - Susan Jane Gilman

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
Title: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
Author: Susan Jane Gilman
Publication Date: 3/24/09
Pages: 320
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm not sure.
Date Completed: 5/25/17

Summary: When Gilman set off on a round-the-world trip with her college friend Claire, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. Their first stop was 1980s Communist China, hardly an easy start. It proved to be a far more challenging place than either of the girls anticipated, though not for the reasons they would have expected. 

What I Thought: This book is such an interesting journey. It starts out largely as a travel memoir. Two recent college graduates embark on a trip around the world rather than get jobs after graduation. As a display of their intense hubris, they start with Communist China. 

The first chapters focus on the culture shock and just what an undertaking it was to travel to China during the 1980s. Though China has its challenges now, to be sure, being a Westerner within its boarders was an even more intense experience back then. Gilman's descriptions of the dirty accommodations, public "bathrooms" (a.k.a. troughs over which multiple people would squat at once), and intense language barriers felt overwhelming just to read about. It reminded me on the simplest level of my trip to Japan in high school. There were huge cultural barriers, but at least we had clean, safe places to stay and guides to help us navigate the world around us. It's easy to understand why the hubris of Gilman and her friend Claire fell away more with each day of their trip.

It wasn't just their hubris that began to disintegrate, however. It starts with slight suggestions early in the book. Something is not quite right with Claire. The stress of the experience is impacting her in a different way than it is Gilman. Or maybe Gilman just doesn't know her college friend as well as she thought she did. As the book goes on, it becomes less and less about the travel and more and more about two girls in a desperate and dangerous situation miles from home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pawn - Aimée Carter

Title: Pawn
Author: Aimée Carter
Publication Date: 11/26/13
Pages: 347
Genre: Dystopian / Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR since somewhere around when I started this blog.
Date Completed: 5/21/17

Summary: In a world where every person carries a rank between I and VII, equality is an illusion of the system. It's nearly impossible to rise above your station and you certainly have no hope of reaching the upper echelons of power. So, when Kitty Doe, a III, finds herself swept into the world of the VIIs, she must adapt quickly or face deadly consequences.

What I Thought: Over the years, I have read a lot of dystopian YA novels. It's such a huge subgenre within the world of young adult literature. For goodness sake, I even did my masters thesis on The Hunger Games. Nevertheless, I have a really high standard for these books. It's so easy for them to go badly for me. It takes a lot for me to really fall for a series. I enter each new series with trepidation and hope for the best.

I have had Pawn on my TBR for literally years. I think it was one of the very first books I added to my list when I started this blog over five years ago. Somehow, though, every time it has come available through my library's digital collection, it hasn't seemed right for the moment. I'm trying to do a better job lately, though, of reading intentionally through my list, even if something doesn't feel ideal for that moment. So, here we are. Years since adding it, I've finally completed it.

It was good. It was. But not great. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Movie Monday: Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun
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: Under the Tuscan Sun

Book Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Release Year: 2003

Summary: A newly divorced woman heads to Italy at the insistence of her friends. There, she finds new life in a villa and the Italian community surrounding it. 

What I Thought: I totally fell in love with the memoir upon which this film is very loosely based. It was charming and engaging and left me wanting to book tickets to Tuscany immediately. 

The movie was fine, not bad. But certainly not as magical as the book. For one thing, they've totally changed the story. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Still - Lauren F. Winner

Title: Still
Author: Lauren F. Winner
Publication Date: 1/31/12
Pages: 240
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I honestly can't remember
Date Completed: 5/20/17

Summary: In the wake of her mother's death and her divorce, Winner contemplates faith and her crisis thereof. 

What I Thought: I've been reading about faith journeys recently. As I get older myself, I'm coming to a better understanding that faith is just that - a journey. I think I've always known this on some level, but the truth of that is becoming more real to me these years. 

As Winner notes, the faith journey typically begins with a burst of enthusiasm and fervency. Kathy Escobar talked about the same thing in her book, Faith Shift. While Escobar approached the journey from a more academic nature and covered a variety of stages, this book by Winner focusing on what Escobar would call the Shifting stage. The ground is moving under your feet and you're not sure where things are going to land.

For Winner, this stage was ushered in specifically by her mother's death and her divorce. Though the two events were years apart, each impacted her faith in big ways, as one might expect. Winner doesn't give many details about either event in the memoir. In fact, as she points out, calling this a memoir at all may be a bit of a misnomer. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time
Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Publication Date: 1962
Pages: 211
Genre: Children's Literature / Classic / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: I haven't read this classic in years, but I picked it up at a used book sale recently.
Date Completed: 5/16/17

Summary: Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, along with their friend Calvin, are whisked off on a terrifying and tremendous in hopes of rescuing their father.

What I Thought: I haven't read this book in so long. It has been years. I know I read it once as a child and I had a loose recollection of the plot. It has been long enough, though, that much of the book still felt delightfully fresh to me.

I know there is a fresh adaptation of this coming soon, and so when I both picked up a copy at a used book sale and then there was one in a book of old books my mom gave me, it just felt like all the sides were pointing to a reread.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

10 Books About Politics and Activism I've Recently Added to My TBR

I'm starting something new around here. A lot of my book blogging friends have been doing it for ages and I'm jumping on the bandwagon. It's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there's a different top ten list that book bloggers around the world post their own version of. I don't plan on participating every week, but I want to start doing the ones that feel relevant to my reading life. Here's what you'll typically see at the top of these posts:

Every once in a while, I like to jump in and join The Broke and the Bookish family for Top Ten Tuesday (these are the same friends that do #TBTBSanta in December!). It's an opportunity for book bloggers around the Internet to talk about the same thing once a week. It's a fun way to connect and also to talk books with you Read.Write.Repeat. readers. Please jump in with your additions to my Top Ten list!

With that said, let's get started! I'm really excited about today's topic. These are books I cannot wait to get my hands on. 

10 Books About Politics and Activism I've Recently Added to My TBR

Monday, June 5, 2017

Strangers in Their Own Land - Arlie Russell Hochschild

Strangers in Their Own Land
Title: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Author: Arlie Russell Hochschild
Publication Date: 8/16/16
Pages: 288
Genre: Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: My favorite podcast, Pantsuit Politics, discussed it for their book club.
Date Completed: 5/14/17

Summary: Hochschild, a member of the UC Berkeley community, sets out to Louisiana to answer what she calls the Great Paradox. Why do some southern conservatives often vote against their own interests?

What I Thought: Oh, man. I could talk about this book for days. It is SO GOOD. I'm gonna try and reign myself in a bit, but prepare yourself. I have a lot of thoughts.

I picked up this book after the ladies at Pantsuit Politics talked about it for their podcast book club. By the way, if you aren't listening to their podcast, you must. They are on fire and the perfect companions for interpreting our crazy world with nuance and empathy. Once I heard the podcast conversation about the book, I knew immediately that it would be a must-read for. I had also recently had a conversation about American poverty and politics with a dear friend, so I texted him and we decided to read it together. No luck so far getting our spouses interested. We haven't actually chatted about the book yet, but I wanted to share my thoughts while I still have the book from the library and it's all still fresh in my mind.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Morning Star - Pierce Brown

Morning Star
Title: Morning Star
Author: Pierce Brown
Publication Date: 2/9/16
Pages: 524
Genre: Dystopian / Science Fiction / Fiction 
How I Found It: I read the first two books of the series. 
Date Completed: 5/14/17

Summary: System-wide war erupts as Darrow and those loyal to him attempt to end the dictatorial rule of the Golds. 

What I Thought: I've had an interesting journey with this series. I've liked it, overall, but I've also felt really bored with it at times. The first book was easily my favorite of the series. I struggle some with book two. This one felt so far removed from book one, I'm not even fully sure how I feel about it. 

First off, let me say how thankful I am that Brown included a "Previously On..." type intro. He summarizes the story of each of the first books in a couple paragraphs. Man, did I need that. If you remember when I read Golden Son, you remember me complaining that it had been too long since I read Red Rising and I was hopelessly lost for a while. Including this summary of previous books did not completely eliminate that feeling for me here, but it definitely helped a lot

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 2017 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.  

May News 

Glorious May.

Spring semester comes to a close and ushers in the busy, but much quieter days of summer. I often see summer as a secondary New Year. I have a chance to reset goals and challenge myself to make good use of my summer days. I'm teaching online this summer, so I have plenty to do, but at least I can do it from home. This year, I'm really trying to buckle down on exercise, healthy eating, and self-improvement. I don't always have time for language study or writing or music during the school year - ok, I don't make time for those things. But summer springs hope eternal and I'm trying to be disciplined about making time for things I care about but for which there is no tangible payout.

Hopefully, that will include charity work this summer. The political turmoil (ugh - it just keeps getting worse!) has, if nothing else, pushed me to question how I can affect change in my community. That. in turn, is causing me to do some reevaluating of my career path, but that's another story for a different day. For now, I'm hoping to translate a desire to change the world into practical work. And I don't want my volunteerism or activism to end this summer. Kevin finishes his graduate studies at the start of August and we've discussed how we can get involved in community service together after that point. As we enter the next decade of our lives, we are becoming increasingly aware of the gift of time and how we use it. We want to give back not just financially, but with our time and talents as well. If you have any awesome volunteering or community service ideas/experiences, I'd love to hear them! We're just starting to dip our toes in the water over here and it's exciting and scary all at once!

All the free time means I have been watching a bit more TV, too. Not so self-improving, I know. But it's relaxing. Movie Monday posts are becoming a more regular thing again. And, if you missed it, you'll definitely want to check out my thoughts on Netflix's new series, Anne with an E.

When school ended this spring, I basically flopped myself onto the couch and into the new hammock swing we have in the backyard and read for days. I was exhausted at the end of the term and needed some serious self-care. Plus, we spent a delightful Memorial Day weekend at my parents' new house in Wilmington (read: the beach). So, I have blazed through books this month. This month, I tried to focus on one or two books at a time rather than reading five or six and once. I think doing that gave me a greater sense of accomplishment. I'm not always reading exactly the genre I feel like, but I'm getting through books faster.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Movie Monday: Anne with an E

Anne with an E
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: Anne with an E

Book Title: Anne of Green Gables
Release Year: 2017

Summary: It's L. M. Montgomery's classic story, but with some modern additions and attitudes.

What I Thought: I know there are so many feelings out there on the Internet about this series. As when I talked about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I feel a bit superfluous adding my voice to the cacophony. However, I want to get a conversation going. I know all you Anne-lovers out there have feelings about this series and I want to talk about them! So, consider this a mashup between Movie Monday and Let's Talk About.... Just know, there are spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

Let's start at the beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start... wait...wrong movie. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 288
How I Found It: I've read other Ishiguro works and I really liked the film adaptation of this novel.
Date Completed: 5/7/17

Summary: Kathy recounts her years of friendship with Tommy and Ruth. From their days confined to boarding school to their years as carers and donors, their story is haunted by questions and rumors about their life's purpose.

What I Thought: I saw the film adaptation of this ages ago. I fell completely in love with it, in part because it has one of my favorite film scores ever. Looking back now, I'm not surprised I enjoyed the movie. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Gafield, Kiera Knightly... The cast was stacked before any of those three really became major stars. 

I haven't seen the movie in years, but I've been enjoying Ishiguro's work lately and really coming to respect him as an author. It seemed like a good time to visit the source. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Take Tuesday: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran
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: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Author: Azar Nafisi
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 356
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
Previous Readings: November 2012
Date Completed This Time: 5/3/17

Summary: Nafisi reflects on her time teaching Western Literature in post-revolution Iran. She talks about her experiences and how the books impacted her and her students in the midst of their changing world. 

What I Thought Before: You should definitely go back and read my first post about this book. I think I covered my thoughts pretty well.

What I Think Now: I recommended this book for book club and, thankfully, it was a hit. We had a wonderful discussion about the purpose of literature, gender roles, and the arch of revolution. Good stuff. It's such a treat to share books like this with an intellectual group of people.

Friday, May 19, 2017

100 Best Novels Roundup, Vol. 3

As I near the end of the 100 Best Novels challenge, I've been condensing my reviews into these roundups. Here are mini reviews of the two novels from the list which I read in April:
The Naked and the Dead

Title: The Naked and the Dead
Author: Norman Mailer
Publication Date: 1948
Pages: 721
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 4/11/17

What I Thought: I'll be honest... Sitting down to write this review, I remember very little of this book. I only finished it nine days ago, but I'm struggling to recall much of what happened. I think such an admission is actually quite representative of my feelings of this novel in general.

I'm sure I'll grouse about this more when I do my final 100 Best Novels overview post, but I am just so tired of war stories. I recognize what hugely impactful events the world wars were. It makes sense that every book written around that era at least references them. Still, it's hard for me to connect with stories of soldiers on the battlefield. I have absolutely no life experience which can help me understand such circumstances. I know, I know. That makes it even more important for me to be reading these stories. I get that, too. I just...I'm tired of them. There are so many unique stories to tell in the world and I'm annoyed by the high number of stories from the trenches that made it onto this prestigious list.

I recognize Mailer's skill and why this book became such a sensation. It just didn't work for me personally. It did, however, make me wonder if there will ever be such an event that every single story of this era will center around it. Is there anything left that can unite our stories in such a huge way? Would it take another world war?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Nope

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Gammage Cup - Carol Kendall

The Gammage Cup
Title: The Gammage Cup
Author: Carol Kendall
Publication Date: 1959
Pages: 288
How I Found It: I read it as a child and have been searching for it for literally years. 
Date Completed: 5/5/17

Summary: The Minnipins have lived in their peaceful valley for centuries without disturbance. When a few social outsiders sense a threat, the natural order of things is threatened. 

What I Thought: This is such a great book. No surprise that it's a Newbery Honor book. Though it was written back in 1959, it has themes that feel so relevant today. Social acceptance, heroism, speaking truth to power...the messages of the book are still wise in 2017. And, it's still totally fun to read as an adult. 

It's a quick read. I read it in two days. It was the perfect thing to get my mind off of the AHCA passing the House. Escapist and inspirational all at once.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher

Wishful Drinking
Title: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publication Date: 12/2/08
Pages: 163
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've been wanting to read some of Fisher's work.
Date Completed: 4/28/17

Summary: Fisher recounts the highs and lows of her life in the spotlight, including her struggles with alcohol and drugs, her celebrity parents, and that time a friend died in her bed. 

What I Thought: I have been wanting to read Fisher's books since her death in December. When she died, I had heard a bit about her most recent memoir, but I had no idea she had been such a prolific writer. I am a Star Wars fan, but really did not know much about Fisher beyond her tenure as Princess Leia. So, when I was looking for a lighter read late one night and this was available via my library's digital collection, I jumped. 

I am so glad I did. I read the whole thing in less than two days, sneaking bits here and there when I could, devouring chapters at a time when I should have been sleeping. It's not a long book, so two days is not quite the accomplishment it sounds. Still, Fisher's writing style made it easy to devour and hard to put down.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Magician's Land - Lev Grossman

The Magician's Land
Title: The Magician's Land
Author: Lev Grossman
Publication Date: 8/5/14
Pages: 402
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
How I Found It: I read the first two books in the series.
Date Completed: 4/28/17

Summary: Grossman's series about young magicians and their journeys to and from other worlds comes to its conclusion.

What I Thought: This series is so fascinating to me. The three books contain the same characters and are very directly intertwined. Yet, each book has a very different tone. The first centers largely around the Brakebills crew during their time at Brakebills, the magical college; it's dark and heavy with party atmosphere and the consequences thereof. The second book reads like a classic fantasy adventure, practically ripped from the mind of C. S. Lewis and the Narnia series; it's a seeker's journey. This third book, set practically a decade after we've first met our characters, feels different yet again.

Whether purposeful or not, Grossman has really captured the journey of young adulthood. In the beginning, Quentin is emotional and often irrational. He and his friends are typical college students, very rarely considering the consequences of their actions or relationships. They go through some terrible things until, at least, they seem settled on the thrones of Fillory. But, in the second book, it turns out that living such a scripted life is not all its cracked up to be for Quentin. He wants adventure. He misses the thrills of life before, perhaps because he's blocked out the traumas that came with them. So, he has an adventure and, in the end, finds himself alone and starting from square one.

Enter The Magician's Land

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Killing Lessons - Saul Black

The Killing Lessons
Title: The Killing Lessons
Author: Saul Black
Publication Date: 9/22/15
Pages: 400
Genre: Thriller / Fiction 
How I Found It: A student loaned it to me.
Date Completed: 4/23/17

Summary: A serial killer is on the loose, leaving tortured and disfigured corpses in his wake. Valerie Hart is on the case, but can barely keep her personal life together. Will she catch the killer before her depression and drinking catches her? 

What I Thought: I mentioned in one of my classes this semester how much I read. My students were more than a bit taken aback. As always, when I reveal my love for reading, people have recommendations. This time, one sweet student even brought me a copy of this book, which she had enjoyed recently. 

I think I've talked about this here before, but detective novels are not usually my thing. J. K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith's books are the only ones I have ever really enjoyed much. I mostly read detective novels via audio book while in the car with Kevin. They are one of the only genres that will hold his attention on long road trips. But, under the circumstances, I felt I should give this one a chance. 

My verdict? 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Movie Monday: Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette
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: Marie Antoinette

Book Title: Marie Antoinette
Release Year: 2006

Summary: Supposedly based on Antonia Fraser's extensive biography of Marie Antoinette, this movie views the story through a lush lens.

What I Thought: I had seen this movie before, somewhere back around when it came out. I remembered liking it and that it fell in line with the assumptions I held then about the young queen: she was flirtatious and flighty. Reading Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette, however, challenged a lot of those ideas. Since the movie is supposed to be base on the biography, I decided to give it a re-watch.

First off, I had completely forgotten what an incredible cast this movie has. I'm not usually a big Kirsten Dunst fan, but she really does a lovely job in this movie. She handles the part well, although I do think some of her acting choices contribute to the image of Marie Antoinette as naive and flighty. Mostly, though, I think she's doing justice to the script given her. I was also especially excited to see Rose Byrne and Molly Shannon, both of whom I have seen in other things and forgotten their presence here. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist
Title: Bad Feminist
Author: Roxane Gay
Publication Date: 8/5/14
Pages: 320
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've seen lots of people talking about it. 
Date Completed: 4/23/17

Summary: A series of essays exploring feminism in modern culture.

What I Thought: When this book came out a few years back, it got a lot of press and traction in the book world. I've had it on my list to read for a while. It felt like a good time to finally pick it up, given my recent effort to read more by people with different perspectives and experiences than me.

Let me say right off the bat, Gay is feisty. Her tone is self-deprecating...and others-deprecating. She has strong opinions and is not afraid to share them. She also has plenty of skill with words and the messages they convey. 

The book is a series of essays, most fairly short. Many of them revolve around popular culture and the depiction of women therein. The essays with pop culture references with which I am familiar were, unsurprisingly, more enjoyable to me. Any reference to The Hunger Games and I'm in. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Killing Wonder Woman - Tenaya T. J. Tison

Killing Wonder Woman
Hey! There's a giveaway at the bottom of this post! Make sure you read all the way through and enter for your chance to win!

Title: Killing Wonder Woman: Setting Weary Women Free to Win at Work and Soar in Faith
Author: Tenaya T. J. Tison
Publication Date: 3/13/17
Pages: 264
Genre: Chick Lit / Faith / Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 4/15/17

Summary: Tison encourages readers to conquer "Wonder Woman" also known as the unattainable ideal to which so many women find themselves striving. 

What I Thought: Book tours are great, but I especially love when I can tell the books came straight from the author. When I got this one, it seemed to have come from Tison's home address and she had written a personalized signature on the title page for me. Authors, my reviews are as impartial as I can make them, but that's a good way to leave a positive first impression of your book. 

On to the book itself...

Tison clearly is passionate about her subject matter. She has poured her heart out onto the page. Her enthusiasm for empowering women of faith radiates on every page. She has had a transformative experience and wants desperately to share it. That much is clear. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

April 2017 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 

As always, April has lived up to my expectations. It's been a really crazy month for us. We are always so busy during April. It's Kevin's busiest month of the year for work, plus he's taking two of his final MBA classes, plus he's been traveling for work and family reasons. The end of the semester always finds me drained and desperate for respite. I have had my own family events this month, too (my parents just moved to North Carolina!). Plus, we had Kevin's birthday. To say we're exhausted is an understatement. It's been a good month, but a very busy one. I, for one, am longing for the languid days of summer which lie ahead. Ok, they probably won't be particularly languid knowing us, but they won't be April and for that, I'm thankful.

April also marks the start of summer weather here in North Carolina. We had some truly beautiful days in the 70s and then spring waved goodbye and now we're having upper 80s and the beginnings of summer humidity. We planted our garden and everything is vividly green around here. We love summertime, the heat and all, so we're not complaining. But, I did reluctantly turn on the air for the first time because I just can't sleep in an 80+ degree house.

Despite our hectic schedules, I've been really proud of myself for staying on top of things this month. As much as it wears me down, I thrive under a busy schedule. It thrusts my organizational nature into action and I become a to-do list completing machine. I also often find that I read more during hectic months. I use reading as an escape and it's easy to fit it into the short breaks in between tasks, whereas if I sit down to watch a TV show I can get sucked into binge watching. So, here's all that I read and reviewed during April:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bread and Wine - Shauna Niequist

Bread and Wine
Title: Bread and Wine: Finding Community and Life Around the Table
Author: Shauna Niequist
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 285
Genre: Faith / Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: A lot of people have talked about this book.
Date Completed: 4/19/17

Summary: Told through a series of personal, poignant essays, Niequist welcomes readers into her life and to her table. 

What I Thought: The book is not what I expected it to me, but once I got it, I loved it. 

Niequist opens her doors and invites us to her table. She shares stories of her life, her struggles with infertility, her friendships, her family, and her favorite recipes. As with many similar memoirs, Niequist offers up the recipes at the end of chapters to which they correspond. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Danish Girl - David Ebershoff

The Danish Girl
Title: The Danish Girl
Author: David Ebershoff
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 336
How I Found It: I knew about the movie adaptation when it was nominated for Academy Awards and then Suzanne at Tattooed Missionary read the book and spoke highly of it.
Date Completed: 4/7/17

Summary: When painter Einar Wegener is asked my his wife, Greta, to stand in for a female portrait subject, something inside shifts. Lili is awoken. The book fictionalizes the real life of one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery.

What I Thought: I'm making a concerted effort lately to read more books by/about people who have had/are having very different life experiences than I am. I firmly believe that reading stretches your capacity for empathy and, in such a divisive time in our world, that's something I want to continue to grow in myself. Plus, I want to be serious about challenging my own biases and understanding what and why others feel and believe differently than I do.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me
Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Publication Date: June 2015
Pages: 152
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've heard a lot of people talk about it in the past year.
Date Completed: 4/5/17

Summary: Coates writes about his own journey, his hopes for his son, and what it means to be a black man in America

What I Thought: I have heard this book talked up so much in the last year or so. I was anxious to read it for myself and see why Coates' words have made such an impression on so many.

Coates frames the book as a letter to his son. He tells him about his own childhood in Baltimore, the violence on the streets, his college days at Howard in D.C., his first encounters with police violence, his response to the post-9/11 world, his hopes and fears for his son. The book centers around what it means to Coates to be a black man in America - the dreams, the struggles, the fears. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy
Title: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
Author: Jenny Lawson
Publication Date: 9/22/15
Pages: 329
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I read Lawson's first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Date Completed: 4/3/17

Summary: Lawson, a Texan with a quirky family history, keeps you laughing as she discusses her very real struggles with anxiety, depression, and mental illness. 

What I Thought: I read Lawson's first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, back in the very first year of this blog. I remember laughing out loud so much reading that book. Lawson touched some on her struggles with mental illness, but the bulk of the book was her wild stories.

This time around, there are less outrageous stories. I mean, they are definitely there. If this is your first Lawson book, there is plenty here to keep you well entertained. I found myself laughing a lot once again. This time, however, Lawson puts her very personal struggles front and center. The ridiculous is still along for the ride, as the dark humor and personal insight was in the first book, but now the dark humor and daily reality of Lawson's life have taken the reins. 

And it's powerful.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beyond the Label - Maureen Chiquet

Beyond the Label
Title: Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms
Author: Maureen Chiquet
Publication Date: 4/18/17 (That's today!)
Pages: 288
Genre: Memoir / Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm on the TLC Book Tour
Date Completed: 4/9/17

Summary: Chiquet takes readers through her professional life, starting as a high school exchange student and through her years as global CEO of Chanel. Along the way, she weaves in some advice for women who looking to forge their own leadership path. 

What I Thought: I was very excited to join the tour for this book. I had not heard of Maureen Chiquet before, although I have certainly heard of Chanel. You may remember another TLC Book Tour I did a while back for a biography of the brand's founder, Coco Chanel. I looked forward to reading Chiquet's book for very different reasons. A book about women and leadership? It was no question for me.

I've been wrestling a lot more lately with my own professional goals and where I want my career to go. I thought I had it all figured out, but as my 30th birthday approaches, I'm rethinking some things and wondering if a reconfiguration may be ahead for me professionally. That being said, this book and the one I'm reviewing later in the month, Killing Wonder Woman, both came at a timely point for me. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove
Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: 8/27/12
Pages: 337
How I Found It: My book club is reading it.
Date Completed: 4/1/17

Summary: Ove, an elderly widower, is planning on killing himself. His neighbors, however, just keep getting in his way. 

What I Thought: You may have heard of this book if you watched the Oscars. The movie based on it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Or, like me, perhaps your book club is reading it. That's why I picked it up.

Ove is the perfect centerpiece for the story as well. He appears to really change over the course of the book. In some ways, he does. However, I think the kind-hearted, giving man was in there all along. In the flashbacks of his life, we see him making similar gestures and doing similar things. I think it just takes these new friends to help Ove see that in himself. When Sonya died, there was no one left to remind him of his tender heart until the new neighbors arrived.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun
Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Author: Frances Mayes
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 304
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 
Date Completed: 3/26/17

Summary: In the early 90s, Frances Mayes and her now husband Ed bought an Italian villa in the Tuscan countryside. It had been empty for years and required immense amounts of work. This is the story of their summers in Italy, spent restoring the home and its gardens. 

What I Thought: When I saw the twentieth anniversary edition of the book being offered on the Blogging for Books website, I could not resist. Kevin and I are in the midst of planning a trip to Italy and this seemed like a delightful way to amp up my excitement for said journey. It worked perfectly.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Movie Monday: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
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 Reluctant Fundamentalist

Release Year: 2012

Summary: Changez came to the United States to study and then took a job in the business world. However, the American way increasingly conflicted with his Pakistani roots. Now, the United States is trying to figure out how far he has descended into fundamentalist ideals and if he is a risk to the country he once called home. 

What I Thought: I read this book back in 2014 and found it very thought provoking. It challenged some perceptions I had as a post-9/11 American. These days, I think it's more relevant than ever. 

So, when Kevin and I were scrolling through the Netflix queue the other night and happening upon this movie, which I placed there years ago, I was happy to finally see the film adaptation of such a thoughtful book. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

You Will Not Have My Hate - Antoine Leiris

You Will Not Have My Hate
Title: You Will Not Have My Hate
Author: Antoine Leiris
Publication Date: 10/26/17
Pages: 144
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Someone posted about it on Twitter maybe?
Date Completed: 3/17/17

Summary: Antoine Leiris lost his wife and the mother of his young son in the Parisian terrorist attacks. These are his thoughts in the days and weeks following. 

What I Thought: On one hand, this book feels so deeply personal. Leiris bares his heart as he describes his relationship with his late wife and the grief he felt upon her tragic death. He recounts the pain mundane tasks took on and the overwhelming experience of identifying her body and explaining her death to his son. On the other hand, this book feels universal. Love and loss are familiar refrains around the world. Sure, most of us don't loose our partner in an internationally mourned terrorist attack. But the sentiments are still familiar.

Shortly after that terrible night, when his wife was killed in the Bataclan Theatre, Leiris wrote a Facebook post that went viral. Essentially, he wrote it to the terrorists who killed his wife and to the network to which they belonged. He vowed that they would not have his hate, nor the hate of his young son. He proclaimed that the memory of his wife would be one of joy, not of fear. He was determined to reclaim his wife's death as a victory for love, not for hate. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marie Antoinette - Antonia Fraser

Marie Antoinette
Title: Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Author: Antonia Fraser
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 512
Genre: Biography / Historical / Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Some list of royal biographies
Date Completed: 3/17/17

Summary: An exhaustive, and at times surprising, biography of France's most infamous and intriguing queen.

What I Thought: If you know me in real life or on the Internet, you know that I love the royals. Royalty throughout the ages fascinates me. Both fictional and historical ruling houses intrigue me and I spend a lot of my reading time exploring their worlds. 

Anyone interested in royalty does not get far without exposure to and developing an opinion of Marie Antoinette. One of my early experiences with her story was from The Royal Diaries series. They were historical fiction written from the perspective of famous princesses. Marie Antoinette's captured her early life in Austria and her journey to France to become la dauphine. It stopped upon her and Louis's ascension to the French throne. It was a good introduction to her story, and one which certainly sympathized with her greatly. I still have that book on a shelf downstairs. Maybe I should pull it out again...