Monday, July 31, 2017

July 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.  

July News 

It's hard to believe the end of summer is here. I know some of you will protest that characterization, but, for those in the world of higher ed, summer ends with July. Not that I haven't been doing fall prep all summer, but it begins in earnest this week. I've got syllabi to finalize, pre-semester meetings to attend, and all that jazz. Thankfully, by this time, I'm usually ready for it. Plus, it feels a little weird knowing this may be my last year working exclusively as a professor. I'm hoping I have transitioned fields by this time next year. Your guess is as good as mine as to what that new field may be.

July was pretty good for us, albeit completely exhausting. We spent the first half of the month in Michigan with my in-laws. My father-in-law had major surgery to remove some cancerous parts of his body. He's doing really well physically; surgery went wonderfully and he's recovering like the fighter he is. Still, it was a big deal and we obviously wanted to be there to support him and the family. Two weeks is a long time to be anywhere, but spending it in a hospital isn't the most fun. We are so thankful we both have jobs that gave us the flexibility to go for so long, but I was so happy to be home, too.

While we were there, we did a lot of helping, but also a lot of sitting around. Hospitals are particularly good for that. I finished 11 books in 12 days. Perhaps one of my most prolific period of reading ever. It was impressive even by my own standards. Once my father-in-law came home from the hospital, my pace slowed down, but I still got to read so much. That was really nice, especially after June was kind of a dud month for me.

Speaking of June, I told y'all last month about how I'm buckling down on fitness. The journey continues. I've lost over 10 pounds, which is so exciting. I'm definitely stronger than I was at the start of the summer and I'm slowly seeing my body change in exciting ways. Seeing as I turn 30 in August, I'm so thankfully to be entering a new decade of my life as a strong, healthy, balanced person. That feels better than I could have imagined. I mean, I still completely loathe exercising and watching what I eat, but I do love seeing the results. I'm trying to ease up on myself some as I head into the school year. I know I need to continue to work toward a sustainable, balanced lifestyle. I don't want to burn out or reach my goal and then settle right back into life as it was previously.

The big reading news is that I finally finished the 100 Best Novels challenge!! It feels amazing and surreal to be done. I have a big post coming your way in a couple weeks reflecting on the experience. Definitely be watching for that as I have, unsurprisingly, a lot of thoughts.

That's the update for July. Not much else happening. I'm hoping August is great. I love birthdays and this is a big one. Adult birthdays always kind of suck a little, but I'm really hoping that won't be the case this year. I want so badly to have a fun, enjoyable, birthday. While I normally stay out of the spotlight, I love birthday attention. Feel free to send some my way on or around the 17th. ;) For now, though, here's what I accomplished in July:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cravings - Chrissy Teigen

Check out my post from earlier in the week to see why I'm talking cookbooks this week. Plus, you won't want to miss my thoughts on Anthony Bourdain's Appetites. Today, though, we're talking Teigen...Chrissy Teigen, that is. 

Title: Cravings
Author: Chrissy Teigen
Publication Date: 2/23/2016
Pages: 240
Genre: Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: So many of the cooking sites I read have been talking about it. 
Date Completed: 7/4/17

What I Thought: I'll be the first to admit I had mixed feelings about Chrissy Teigen not long ago. It's only recently that I've really even known who she is. The release of this cookbook launched her into my pop culture bubble in a forceful way. Because I hadn't followed her career to date, I was confused as to why people cared about this model's recipes. But, they kept popping up everywhere. People kept raving about the cookbooks. Now that I knew who she was, she seemed to pop up everywhere. After all, her husband, John Legend, is having a pretty successful career himself. Plus, they just had that adorable baby. In the last year, I have somehow gone from feeling very ambivalently about her to following her on Twitter and reading her cookbook.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Appetites - Anthony Bourdain

Since discovering the amazing website Plan to Eat, I have been on a bit of cooking kick again. I mean, I always love cooking but having this website help me organize my cooking life has spurred me to seek out new recipes again. I've always had trouble corralling my recipes, particularly ones I have yet to make but would like to. Plan to Eat is making it easy for me. When I add a recipe there, I schedule it a few weeks or months out so I remember to give it a try when that date rolls around. Plus, the website has about a million other awesome functions. Seriously, if you are responsible for most meal planning in your household, you should check it out. It will save you so. much. time.

Anyway, cookbooks. I don't read them super often, but I do like picking them up every now and then. I have a small collection, but I like reading through them and copying out recipes I may like more than I like owning them, in general. Most cookbooks only have a few recipes I really want to try.

In the past couple years, several celebrity cookbooks have caught my attention. I read two of them over the July 4th weekend, so it made sense to review them together for you. Anthony Bourdain and Chrissy Teigen are certainly an odd couple to pair together, but I really enjoyed both books and their unique approaches to food. Today, I'm talking about Bourdain's book. I'll be back on Thursday to share Teigen's with you. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 39 Clues: Beyond the Grave - Jude Watson

The 39 Clues: Beyond the Grave
Title: The 39 Clues: Beyond the Grave
Author: Jude Watson
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 190
How I Found It: Kevin and I have been listening through this series on road trips.
Date Completed: 7/1/17

Summary: Oh these crazy Cahill kids. This time, they're running around Egypt learning about ancient queens and goddesses. All still in the pursuit of their family secret and in avoidance of their dangerous relatives.

What I Thought: If you've been following Kevin's and my adventure through this series, you probably already know everything I'm going to say here. These books are cute, fun, and a bit ridiculous. 

The madness continues here. Once again, Amy and Dan are galavanting all over a foreign country with minimal supervision. How does everyone they run into speak English? Why does their nanny, Nelly, always let them go running off? Our main questions about these books have nothing to do with their main mystery.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bittersweet - Shauna Niequist

Title: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
Author: Shauna Niequist
Publication Date: 7/14/2010
Pages: 252
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I read another book by Niequist, Bread and Wine, earlier this year and wanted more. 
Date Completed: 6/24/17

Summary: Reflections on life, family, and friendship from Niequist. 

What I Thought: I really loved Niequist's Bread and Wine when I read it earlier this year. I mean, stick recipes in a book and I'm halfway to adoration already. Add in faith and some philosophical reflections? I'm sold. 

Once I finished that book, I knew immediately that I wanted to read more of Niequist's work. As with some of her peers, particularly Jen Hatmaker, Niequist makes me feel welcome at her table from miles away. As though I am walking into her home and being welcomed with delicious food, a cold beverage, and an open heart. It's a nice feeling to get from a memoir. I like knowing there are people out there who are living lives not dissimilar to mine. We are dreaming similar dreams, bearing similar burdens, and, simultaneously to those things, having totally different lives. There's a connection of the soul when I read the words of these women. I just know we'd get each other. Shared faith is a powerful connecting point. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad
Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publication Date: 8/2/2016
Pages: 306
How I Found It: It's the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner!
Date Completed: 6/19/7

Summary: When things shift in an even worse direction on her Georgia plantation, Cora sees her chance to run. She finds herself on a long, difficult journey to freedom.

What I Thought: I had high expectations going into this book. The Pulitzer Prize and Oprah's Book Club? It's hard not to expect a lot. 

I'm happy to say it more than lived up to my high expectations. It's a beautiful, heart-breaking book. Whitehead is a wonderful writer. I know some have said they would have preferred the book to be written in first person as they felt the third person narration made the characters feel distant. I disagree. I prefer third person narration and, in this case, it made the interjected chapters about other characters feel more in line with the rest of the book. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Talking to Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede

Talking to Dragons
Title: Talking to Dragons
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 255
How I Found It: I've loved the series since childhood
Date Completed: 6/17/17

Summary: Years after the cliffhanger ending of Calling on Dragons, the Enchanted Forest is still hanging in the balance. Daystar knows little of the predicament but suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of the fight for the Forest.

What I Thought: I have owned and loved this series since childhood. Yet, somehow, I don't think I ever read this last book. Rereading them now, the third book has definitely proven to be my least favorite of the four, so maybe I got annoyed and quit after that. Or, maybe I realized my beloved Cimorene wasn't the star of the show here and passed because of that. Whatever the reason, I am 90% certain this was my first reading of this book.

I wish I had had the presence of mind as a child to push forward, to see this book as its own entity. While we do meet several familiar characters throughout its pages, it is focused on Daystar and the motley crew he befriends, not our familiar friends from the previous three books. Cimorene appears briefly at the start and finish and, even then, is seen only from the perspective of her son. Yet, the tone of the book is more similar to the first and second book than the third. It captures some of the same magic that Wrede had at the start of the series. The characters are mostly different, but the charm and wit are back.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Wild Shore - Kim Stanley Robinson

The Wild Shore
Title: The Wild Shore
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Publication Date: 1984
Pages: 384
How I Found It: I can't remember, but it's been on my list a while.
Date Completed: 6/11/17

Summary: Set in an apocalyptic future California, Hank Fletcher is a young man who dreams of bigger things than those in his small fishing village. When men mysteriously arrive via railroad from San Diego, he finds himself on an unimaginable adventure.

What I Thought: This book was really interesting. Really...unique. Reading dystopian/apocalyptic books from several decades ago is always an interesting experience. The dystopia genre is so flooded now, mostly with books that fit into a very specific template. 

I didn't realize this book was from the early 80s when I picked it up, so it caught me off guard a bit. The style is different than what is mainstream in this genre now. It's not as flashy or formulaic. Rather, this book moved slower and was more character driven. The romantic relationships were not centralized. Instead, one of the strongest relationships explored in the book is between Hank and the oldest man in the village, who serves as sort of a secondary father and teacher to the young man. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

100 Best Novels Roundup, Vol. 5

Another small installation into my series of 100 Best Novels reviews. After this, I just have two more left to cover. I'm so excited to be almost finished! 
Pale Fire

Title: Pale Fire
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Publication Date: 1962
Pages: 246
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 6/9/17

What I Thought: I read this classic out of a collection of Nabokov's work. Pale Fire joined Lolita and a few other works. So, knowing nothing about the book, I found myself confused. The novel has a really unique structure which definitely caught me off guard. It's setup as a 900+ line poem and subsequent literary commentary. You see where I'm going here. I thought the poem was the whole thing and the commentary was...a commentary. I was baffled and ever so thankful for Wikipedia helping me sort it out.

While I've grown in my admiration for Nabakov because of Azar Nafisi's high praise, I still struggle to find his work personally captivating. I think there's a lot of depth here, but it's not light summer reading by any stretch. I struggle. But, I thought the structure was fun once I figured it out and it was a nice change of pace from other books on the list. I definitely see why Nabokov has transcended time as a skilled writer. It certainly takes skill to put something like this together. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Doubtful