Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Madam President - Nicolle Wallace

Madam President
Title: Madam President
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Publication Date: 4/28/15 
Pages: 352
Genre: PoliticalThriller / Fiction
How I Found It: NetGalley
Date Completed: 4/4/15

Summary: Three powerful women of Washington contribute their stories of one day in (fictional) White House history. While President Charlotte Kramer, Secretary of Defense Melanie, and Press Secretary Dale start out working through a normal day, things change quickly when the country comes under attack.

What I Thought: I really wanted to like this book. Actually, I wanted to love it. I adore the idea of a primarily female administration, such as depicted here. And, as well documented here on the blog, I am big into behind-the-scenes stuff on world leaders. The fact that I'm currently watching through The West Wing for about the 10th time speaks to that.

Yet, for all its attempt at reaching audiences like me, I just don't think Madam President has the votes. Ok, sorry, that was a sad political pun. But seriously...this book just didn't capture me the way I know it was intended to. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Movie Monday: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
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: Gone Girl
Book Title: Gone Girl
Release Year: 2014

Summary: Nick Dunne's wife, Amy, disappears on their fifth anniversary. All signs point to his involvement and some sort of foul play. There is more going on, however, than what appears on the surface and Nick has to figure it out before the police do.

What I Thought: If you've been around the blog long, you know I've spoken highly of this book. It's absolutely not for everyone. I told my own mother to skip it. It's gritty and dark to an extreme. It's like watching Breaking Bad - you walk away feeling dirty (at least that's what Kevin says. I have yet to jump on that particular train). 

We were both psyched for the movie pretty much as soon as we closed the cover of the book. We both have read all three of Flynn's novels (Gone Girl is the cheeriest of the bunch, if you can believe that). We had tentatively planned on seeing it in theatres, an honor we Netflix loyalists bestow on few movies. After being told the film contained excessive sexual content, we opted to hold out for the Blu-ray. After all, you can always fast forward at home, a luxury not afforded in a cinema setting.

So, here we are, months after the film actually came out. I feel so delinquent in sharing my thoughts.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bookseller - Cythnia Swanson

The Bookseller
Title: The Bookseller
Author: Cynthia Swanson
Publication Date: 3/3/15
Pages: 352
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 4/4/15

Summary: Kitty Miller, Denver resident in 1962, lives a happy life as a single woman and co-owner of a bookstore. Suddenly, she begins having dreams where she lives life as Katharyn Andersson in Denver 1963. The longer she stays in the dreams, the more she wants to stay and the less certain she is which one is reality. 

What I Thought: I flew through this book, reading the whole thing in a day or two. While its not perfect, it's an absolutely charming first novel. I think, particularly within a community that reads so many first novels, it's easy to become jaded and expect some combination of mediocrity, inexperience, and an author still trying to find her voice. I, personally, was very impressed with Swanson's introductory efforts with this book.

I think what made it interesting was knowing from the start that both realities could not be sustained. You knew one would have to be put aside by the end of the book. Yet, Swanson keep you tied to both, rooting for each one to be the "real" one at different points. I appreciated the gradual understanding you gained of Katharyn's world. What appears in the beginning to be perfection slowly reveals its cracks and hardships. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird
Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publication Date: 7/11/60
Pages: 336
Genre: Historical / Classic / Fiction
How I Found It: Had to reread for my Gender in Contemporary Literature course
Previous Readings: Many. The first of which was in sixth or seventh grade.
Date Completed: 3/7/15

Summary: A quiet Southern town is rocked when a poor, white girl accuses a black man of raping her. The novel itself centers around Scout and Jem Finch, children of lawyer Atticus Finch, who is defending the accused, Tom Robinson.

What I Thought: Where do I even begin?

This is my favorite book. Of them all. 

Kevin bought me the hardcover 50th anniversary edition for my birthday a few years back because my old paperback copy from middle school was literally falling apart. It was right about that time I knew I was going to marry him. The gift of TKAM must have subconsciously sealed it for me. To this day, it is probably my favorite gift he has ever given me. 

So why is it my favorite book? I've read so many - probably  thousands at this point in my life. To be honest, I am not completely sure I can articulate it for you. Reading it for the first time at the cusp of adolescence certainly had something to do with it. Nothing like reading a coming of age novel as you yourself are doing so. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

The Help
Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publication Date: 2/10/09
Pages: 451
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: Read again for my Gender in Contemporary Literature course
Previous Readings: 2011
Date Completed This Time: 3/15/15

Summary: Told from the perspectives of three different women in Jackson, Mississippi, Stockett's novel explores 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 book. The movie is phenomenal as well; Movie Monday coming shortly, I promise. It tackles tough issues so well. Stockett will have you laughing out loud but also thinking deeply about institutionalized racism and gender discrimination. The characters are complex with clear voices. There is a reason this book hit The New York Times best seller list and went on to become a star-studded film. It's that good. If you haven't read it already, what could you possibly be waiting for? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife
Title: American Wife
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Publication Date: 9/2/08
Pages: 555
Genre: PoliticalFiction
How I Found It: I don't remember
Date Completed: 3/22/15

Summary: Sittenfeld freely admits this novel is loosely based around the life of former First Lady Laura Bush. While some elements of Alice Blackwell's life do mirror those of the graceful public figure, much of the book is speculative and fictional.

What I Thought: I found this book very interesting. I cannot clarify my feelings on the morality of turning a real person's life into fiction in this way - at least not while the person is still living. Of course, we all read novels such as Mademoiselle Chanel or Z and think little of it. Somehow, when the person remains living and remains at least somewhat in the public eye, it seems different. Perhaps because writing and reading about a contemporary feel quite separate from writing and reading about somehow who is now classified as an historical figure. 

In this novel, Sittenfeld takes a close, but fictional look at the life of former First Lady Laura Bush. Fictionalized, she becomes Alice Lindgren Blackwell, a girl from a humble Wisconsin family. Sittenfeld breaks the book into four segments: Alice as a teenager, Alice as a single librarian who meets political son Charlie Blackwell, Alice as a wife and mother with an alcoholic husband, and Alice as First Lady.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Movie Monday: Holes

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: Holes

Book Title: Holes
Release Year: 2003

Summary: Same as the book. Innocent boy gets sent to juvenile work camp. He makes friends, makes enemies, dig holes, and unwittingly counters the curse on his family.

What I Thought: I saw this ages ago when it came out, so it was fun to rewatch it. In case you forget, I read the book for one of my grad school courses; I actually did the same for the movie. I had to write a paper comparing and contrasting the two.

I had plenty of boring, academic thoughts, but as I watched, I wrote down some more fun observations as well. Stuff I knew you'd enjoy and wouldn't work in my paper.

You may remember my Movie Monday review of Carrie. I did a Top 10 list of observations. That was fun and easy, so I'm repeating it here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Parade's End - Ford Madox Ford

Parade's End
Title: Parade's End
Author: Ford Madox Ford
Publication Date: 1928
Pages: 836
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 3/19/15

Summary: Christopher Tietjens stands in love triangle with his perpetually unfaithful wife, Sylvia, and a young family friend Valentine. Meanwhile, WWI erupts and the world becomes a wholly unrecognizable place. 

What I Thought: Sigh. This book took me months to get through. It's a beast. Two years into this challenge and I know that these long ones can take far longer than I expect. Thank goodness for audiobooks. 

I have to be honest. I didn't love this book. It was just so long.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven
Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publication Date: 9/9/14
Pages: 333
How I Found It: It's a recent best seller
Date Completed: 3/17/15

Summary: Station Eleven begins with the end of the world. A lauded actor ends his career on a stage in Toronto when he suffers a heart attack in the middle of King Lear. The next day, a deadly virus spreads out of control worldwide. Mandel jumps across decades as she pieces together the story of the actor's life, his death, the flu, and the wanderings of a small troup of actors and musicians spreading art across the changed landscape.

What I Thought: I loved this book. Mandel weaves all these different stories together so beautifully. Each one holds merit and interest, unlike many books of this type which tend to have at least one storyline you just have to get push through to reach the others again. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni
Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Publication Date: 4/23/13
Pages: 486
How I Found It: So many other bloggers enjoyed it!
Date Completed: 3/4/15

Summary: Chava, a golem, a creature made from clay at the hands of a mystical rabbi, finds herself in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Her husband and master died on the journey from the Old World, leaving her alone and confused. Ahmad, a jinni, is released from his lamp after hundreds of years to a life in Manhattan, far from his desert home. The unlikely pair stumbles through this unfamiliar world each trying to blend in with the humans around them.

What I Thought: SO many book bloggers talked about this book last year. Now I understand why.

Wecker weaves a magical story (no pun intended) in these pages. I loved the idea of two mystical creatures, each meant to answer to someone and fulfill that human's desires, finding themselves without their intended masters. Rather, they each, in their own way, struggle to find themselves while simultaneously hiding everything that makes them unique.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March 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.  

March News 

Oh my gosh do I ever love spring in North Carolina. I am sitting outside under a blossoming tree soaking up 70+ degree weather as I right this. I can easily say this has been the best winter of my life weather-wise and I am excited about experiencing summer here. Yes, we know it will be hot, but we like the heat! Just like some of you insane people like the snow...

I have my last official day with my Marketing job tomorrow. This journey has gone on so much longer than expected and, while we were grateful for the money, I am beyond thrilled to be wrapping it up. I would have rather been done months and months ago, but I felt too guilty leaving my boss in the lurch. Anyway, I am glad to be finally finished and moving on to other things.

April will be my final push to finish my thesis and my masters program. I cannot believe how quickly it went. I told Kevin I was going to miss school. He called me a weirdo and told me to start researching doctoral programs. Done.

As clearly evidenced by my increased reading rates, my part time schedule has allowed me to dive full force into the world of literature and I am loving it. I am currently investigating book clubs in Greensboro to join and I also bought and entire box of books at a library sale here in our town. The place was like a after room after room of books - all around a dollar! I really love that my new life here has allowed me to seek out things like this and look for ways to connect with people who have similar interests.

Ok, on to actual blog stuff.  This month, Movie Monday covered The Maze Runner (including an awesome High School Music 2 reference) and A Room With a Viewand I read ten books this month. It's hard to believe that just three years ago my goal was to read 52 books for the entire year. I've blown that goal out of the water every year since. Here's to many more months and years of the same!