Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I'm Reading, Listening to, and Thinking About

Ok, there's been a bunch of books I've listened to on audible since my last post...

1.  Rules of Civility
This was ah-ma-zing.  I loved it.  I don't know how you couldn't love it.  But one of my real life friends only gave it two stars on goodreads and I don't know how to feel about that.

Rules of Civility tells the story of Katey and Tinker and Eve, three friends who meet randomly on a New Year's Eve night in NYC in the late 1930's.

Towles seems to be channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald.  But maybe "channeling" is unfair, he's writing about the same time period, with skill, and a strong voice, but I wouldn't say they are interchangeable.  And maybe that's why some people don't like him.  Maybe  because he isn't Fitzgerald 2.

this lady has got it made, or does she...

I read another book that was set during this era at the beginning of the year.  That book became grating.  The way that other author was trying so hard to sound like a peer of Fitzgerald or Hemingway shined through every sentence and made the experience of reading almost unbearable.  Towles has clearly done his research and is comfortable crafting his own story.  Rules of Civility isn't trying to be something it's not.

The characters were believable but not lovable.  They didn't make the same choices I would make but I was ok with that.  The narration was well done and the narrator's tone and style helped me form an image of Katey and her world.

This is good, strong literary fiction and I will be giving this to friends for Christmas.

2.  Cinder
I had received so many recommendations to read this book.  I was getting more than a little annoyed.  I am not a fan of sci-fi, futuristic, teen writing.  I caved to pressure and listened to it on audible last month.

It was so good, for what it was.  This book is not trying to be literary fiction.  It is trying to be a fun retelling of an old story.  It is meant to appeal to teens and I appreciated that it wasn't rife with sex or violence.  I gave it to my oldest daughter and she plowed through it in a few days and was asking for the sequel.

So, the premise here is that Cinder is part cyborg part human and she lives with her wicked stepmother who won't let her go to the ball and meet the prince.  Well, that's a rough outline, but Cinder is also facing a worldwide epidemic, strained relations with the beings from the moon (Lunars), and dealing with falling in love when you're insecure about yourself.

If you need some fun in your reading life, this is it.

The only thing I got really frustrated with was that this book ended with a complete cliffhanger.  The story was not finished, and the author is baiting you to buy her next book.  To me, that's annoying.

(3.  The End of the Affair)
Just started this one yesterday but am already loving it.  It's narrated by Colin Firth and I think I could listen to him read all day.  Such an interesting premise, sort of examining an affair through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards.  And, great insight into love and hate and jealousy.  I'll tell you more about this when I'm finished with it...

So, what have I been reading...

I'm still working at Owen Meany.  It's good, but not the kind of thing I can get through quickly.  It will be finished by the end of the year, but I'm taking my time with it.  Also, it's hard to focus on a classic while at a million soccer games.

My second child is participating in Battle of the Books through our county library.  It's a competition for fifth graders.  I'm coaching and reading all 14 of the books they have to read.  So far, I've read The Penderwicks--major snooze fest and The Case of the Missing Marquess--ok...but still not that great.

Then I went on suspense binge:

The Couple Next Door
I got this one and was super excited about the creepy premise--a baby is kidnapped under what seem like impossible circumstances.  The plot unwinds the mystery and eventually all is revealed.  It was a quick, suspenseful read with some deeper themes that weren't really delved into, but brought to light and made the reader consider for a second what society's view of postpartum depression is, how moms and dads are viewed differently, and what happens to a family when a child goes missing.

Not literary fiction, but good for what it was.  I did feel as though the title was a misnomer, though.  The couple next door could have been so meaningful, but it wasn't.  I will leave it there to prevent any spoilers.

creepy book = creepy cover

Good as Gone
Another suspense/quick read.  This one was also about an abduction.  But instead of a baby, the child is 13 and her sister is the only witness.  This book tells the story of Julie, who disappears at knife point one night, and then miraculously comes back to her family eight years later.  But some of Julie's behavior doesn't add up, so her mom goes on a quest to figure out if it's really Julie or someone impersonating her.

There is a lot of tension in this novel and you can't stop turning the pages to figure out if this is Julie or not Julie.  It also is a book that is interesting from an empathetic perspective--how would I react?  how would I feel?

I did want to hear more about Julie's sister, Jane.  She had the possibility to be such an interesting character but instead she was a bit flat.

Parts of this were reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart book which gave it a note of authenticity that made the story move even faster.  Now, I'm watching my 12 year old daughter very carefully and making sure she talks to me...I guess that's not a bad outcome?  A little dose of paranoia every now and then that makes me a more watchful parent...

And that's what's going on around here lately.

I've got to start thinking through my end of year reading goals so I finish the year strong.  It seems like each year the intensity builds from Halloween to New Year.  My whole family enjoys life so much more if I guard our time strictly.  With older kids comes more running around and I want to preserve time in front of the fire reading at night.  Maybe not every night, but some nights.  

Another thing I've been considering is going on a book buying fast.  I've been reading and listening to so many bloggers and podcasts and getting so many recommendations.  Over the last two months I've bought way more than I've read and I think I need to slow down and look at my shelves when I pick a new book.  

This fast will start promptly after this weekend when we head to NYC and visit The Strand.  I can't make any promises while I'm in there.  

Let me know what you're reading in the comments.  Or what you want to read before the end of the year.  Or if you're going somewhere fun this weekend.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Recent Reads

So...I plowed through The Woman in Cabin 10 super quick.  It wasn't high Literature, but for what it was, a fun summer mystery in the vein of And Then There Were None, it was great.  

spooky cover

Lo is a reporter who is planning to write a story on this fancy new luxury cruiser that only has 10 cabins and is super posh.  She struggles to make it to the ship, and when she does, a chance encounter messes with her head and seems to make her the target of someone looking to shut her up.  It was fast paced and fun.  The mystery kept me going up until the last pages.  

I had two issues with this book, though:  1.  The was easily confused with The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.  and, 2.  The unreliable narrator is getting old for me.  I just don't know if I can deal with another drunk girl second guessing her every thought and move.  Maybe it's relatable, maybe it's popular with our current culture, but I miss the Miss Marples, the Sherlock Holmeses, and any other classic sleuth who is not stumbling drunk at any given hour of the day.  I recently read No One Knows and this was a device that annoyed the hell out of me with that one too.  Ugh.

Looking for a fast paced thriller to keep you guessing late at night?  Give The Woman in Cabin 10 a chance, and most likely you will forgive the title and the drunk narrator by the end.  

Next, I listened to Circling the Sun on audible.  

I read McLain's The Paris Wife years ago and enjoyed it reasonably enough to be curious about her new work.  She is thorough but not stuffy in her research.  The character she studied, Beryl Markham, sounded really intriguing.  

Half way through I abandoned this audio book.  I was just getting tired of hearing her sexual exploits.  While that may have been true enough, I was really curious about her record breaking flight across the Atlantic Ocean which only surfaced at the very end as almost an afterthought.  

I wanted to like it more.  It just never clicked for me.  I finished listening to it--maybe the worst form of self torture is folding laundry for hours while listening to a book you can't stand, but I stuck with it.  And, listening to it was tricky because it vacillated between dull and sexy and the kids would always come find me during a sexy scene.  Lovely.

Most recently, I listened to Born Standing Up on audible.  I am a HUGE Steve Martin fan.  HUGE.  I heard found out about this book and immediately looked it up.  When I saw it was actually read by Steve Martin himself on audible I knew I had to listen to it.  I've enjoyed his fiction but this was his best work by far.  

It wasn't hysterical but I did laugh out loud a few times.  He goes through some of his stand-up material and it really enhances the book listening to him deliver the lines.  Martin covers his early days, as a child through the end of his stand-up career.  You could tell some of the memories were painful, the writing was moving.  He looks back with both realism and candor and the reader is allowed an inside view of Martin's life, what forces propel him and what held him back.  

I loved learning about my favorite actor and would definitely recommend this to any fans.  It was also a close look at a creative life and that makes it a good read for anyone pursuing a big dream.  

*Stops fan-girling*

I'm currently reading A Prayer for Owen Meany which is completely blowing me away.  The prose is beautiful and I'm already in love with the characters.  Audible's got me with Rules of Civility.  So good, so far.  I'm listening to another one I'm trudging slowly through: The Queen of the Night (similar to Circling the Sun I keep starting and stopping and then forcing myself to listen while I fold laundry).  

I got my book of the month box the other day with Behold the Dreamers, The Couple Next Door, and Siracusa.  Read any of them?  

I need another tween read, too, but can't decide...just finished The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place for mother-daughter book club.  

When I don't have my kids around, my reading (and blogging) really does increase!  Look at that silver lining!

What are you reading?  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back to School and DEAR

My kids went back to school last week.  This is remarkable for us because my baby got on the bus too.  For 12 years I've welcomed back to school time with a little one in tow.  My routines stayed (mostly) the same year round.  This year, my world has turned on it's ear. 

It started in the summer.  "What are you going to do?" is maybe the worst question you can ask someone who is sending all of their kids to school for the first time.  First of all, they may not know how to respond exactly.  

I went through a period of awkward responses:  When my kids get on the bus?  Cry...or not.  Maybe do a little dance.  With all the extra kid-free time?  Get a job?  Get another degree?  Do my laundry?  Sit in a room and stare at a wall?  No, really, I'm asking you, because I don't know.  

I fielded the questions as best as I could and found myself unprepared for the first day.  One friend suggested I just let it be.  Feel what I feel and do whatever I find myself doing that day without questions or guilt or a big schedule.  This seemed right to me.  

The bus pulled up and I was certain there would be no tears.  And then, he looked up at me and said, "Mom, quick, I need one more kiss."  I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and felt my own fill to the brim with tears.  "Ok buddy."  I kissed him.  In my ear, "I love you, mom."  I squeezed him, he pulled away, and jumped up the stairs on the bus.  

I went home and cried for a bit.  Pulled myself together.  Posted first day pictures for all of social media to see.  

Post after post from my friends detailed their celebratory measures.  "Getting a massage and a rainforest shower.  Treat yourselves moms!"  "Off to the spa, see you at bus time!"  "We made it!  Time to get my nails done."  

While a pedicure sounded nice (and also a bit cliche), what I really wanted to do was clean my kitchen.  Perhaps the most boring thing of all.  But I did it and felt happy.  

The last two weeks have been a bipolar existence.  With so much quiet during the day and four loud, emotional kids vying for my attention after 3.  The silence that fills my house when the kids leave can be overwhelming.  And then, by 8, I'm ready for them to go to bed and be quiet for a bit because they have all just talked at me for 5 hours.  When the morning comes again, I'm not sure how to fill the hours of solitude so I can be productive, fulfilled, and efficient.  I don't think I'm meant to figure it out so soon and thankfully my husband and friends are encouraging me to take it slow.  This is a temporary limbo.

So, as I'm navigating this new transition (which I suck at) I have found much more time for reading.  I use the Beverly Cleary prototype for DEAR (drop everything and read) and whenever I can, I pick up a book or stream audible on my phone.  

Books are my version of "me time."  I know I couldn't maintain a schedule filled with massages and pedicures (no matter how much I would love that) but I know that next month, when I will be tackling house projects, developing a regular cleaning schedule, and volunteering at school I will still have my books.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer Reading Recap

we get *VERY* excited about the library
Oh, hello there.  I've been a little busy lately with guests and hanging out with my four best friends who love to talk at me  

I'm gearing up for back to school (hallelujer) and back to blogging and reading regularly.  It'll be my first time with all four kids in school and I'm excited about the possibilities.  

But that's getting ahead of myself.  

Summer can be a tricky time for reading.  There's  a lot of laundry and dishes, no reliable schedule, and kids talking (did I mention kids talking yet?  because they do...they talk all day).  There have been weeks that have passed this summer without a single page read and I try to be understanding of that. 

clothes that were washed, dried, folded, unfolded, washed, dried, folded...on and on, forever and ever, amen.

Summer can also be an excellent time for reading.  Sitting poolside (if no friends are there, of course), lazy afternoons, and staying up late because you don't have to get up early in the morning.  Weeks have been spent finishing books and reading together, quietly, as a family.  

a few minutes without friends
Sidenote:  I often have the experience of taking a book to the pool optimistically and then running into a friend and not being able to open the book once and then going home frustrated and exhausted.  Is that just me?  Anyway...

Instead of breaking this post out into a bunch of posts, I'm going to try to keep it concise here and go through what I've been reading lately.  So, here goes:

Raymie Nightengale

Love.  love.  love.
DiCamillo had me at the cover art.  My mom was a baton twirler so that aspect of the story drew me in.  Raymie is a middle schooler whose life has just been turned upside down.  She devises a plan to set things right again and meets two girls along the way.  I felt like I was in the south when I read this.  The simple but profound sentences and the short chapters helped me fly through this middle grade novel.  I will definitely be forcing my girls to read this and probably sending a copy to my mom.  

Moone Boy

I also loved this middle grade book.  Chris O'Dowd (of Bridesmaids fame) wrote this and stars in the series on Amazon.  I have been enjoying the adaptation as much as the book.  While reading this in the allergist's office, I would often burst out in laughter.  Martin Moone is 12 and struggling.  He is considered an idiot by everyone and is bullied at school.  He decides to get an imaginary friend but has difficulty imagining anything.  I would highly recommend this to 8th grade boys and adults who need a good chuckle.  Check out my more detailed review and giveaway! here.  

The Irresistible Revolution

As much as I burst out laughing over Moone Boy, I burst out crying over this one.  This tugged on every one of my empathetic heartstrings.  Claiborne is a self proclaimed ordinary radical who urges contemporary Christians to examine their lifestyles and beliefs in light of what Jesus really says.  It was hard, but worth it.  I found this book because of Jen Hatmaker and felt similarly about her Seven and Interrupted.  He draws heavily from Mother Teresa, whom he lived with for a summer,  Martin Luther King Jr, and of course, the Bible.  This wasn't depressing at all.  I would call it enlightening, inspiring, and difficult to stomach at times.  His controversial beliefs don't come off as preachy, but more, "this is what I'm thinking, but I accept that not everyone thinks the same thing."  This is a very refreshing take for Christian non-fiction.  

date night for nerds ie me and my husband

I'm getting back into the grown-up fiction genre now at the end of August.  I'm currently reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and am considering giving Les Miserables a go this fall.  I have a VERY deep tbr (to-be-read) list of fiction so I will throw myself into that for the remainder of the year.  

What has been the best thing you've read this summer?  Or, is it impossible for you to read while kids are out of school and the sun is shining?  What's on your TBR for fall?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Love That Boy

Ok, so today I'm talking about Love That Boy, which I just finished.  But, because I wasn't a huge fan of the book, I'm also going to talk about Book of the Month Club.  

The book details the real-life experience of a father and son going to visit various presidential libraries, locations, and even a few presidents themselves.  Tyler, the son, has asperger's and his father is slowly coming to accept that fact and how this diagnosis will change their lives.   

I wanted to love this book.  I'm a big fan of parenting books and I thought this one would come off much less heavy handed on the didactic advice.  While that was true, it still didn't live up to my hopes.  The story and research didn't weave as seamlessly as I would have hoped and some of the author's connections seemed a bit of a reach.  

That being said, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a child who is being diagnosed with asperger's or adhd.  Though I can appreciate the lessons Fournier shares about his parenting journey I thought some of them were pretty obvious.  

That's my spiel about the book...but, the way I found the book was through my book of the month club membership.  I love it.  

As a reader, I'm often getting recommendations thrown at me from various friends and family.  Sometimes these pay off big (Lonesome Dove) other times, not so much (Shogun).  Book of the month club is a subscription service that is curated by people in the book world and one celebrity that changes from month to month.  I always feel like I'm getting a book that should be pretty good or have a sufficient amount of buzz around it to make me feel like I'm in the know.  

This time, the book wasn't my favorite, but I'm ok with that.  You always have the opportunity to skip a month if none of the choices look good to you or you don't have any time to read.  

I love getting my book box with a monthly surprise: a twisty straw, a ring pop, or even just the super sweet bookmark that comes in each book.  Also, you can add two more books to your box for just $9.99.  

I'm not being paid to say any of this.  I'm not getting any free books (sadly).  I just love this service and want to tell my fellow readers about it.  

Being in a book club is fun because you have to stretch your reading genres and themes.  This kind of serves the same purpose and since I'm not currently in a book club I have the time to read my botm pick.  

Let me know if you're a botm member and what your recent picks have been.  This month I'm getting The Woman in Cabin 10 and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.  I'll let you know what I think about them soon!

Next up I'll be writing about Moone Boy, a mother-daughter book club pick.  <----Oops, I lied about not being in a book club.  I guess, I'm not in a book club with adults...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Before the Fall

I snagged Before the Fall from my book of the month subscription a couple of months ago.  This is one of those books that generates a lot of buzz.  It seemed to be everywhere: on the blogs I read, featured in Barnes and Noble's window, and on my favorite podcast.  

I was not disappointed.  

rocking, reading, drinking coffee, and sunshine: #winning

This book begins with a plane crash.  A private plane, on a short trip, with important passengers.  The majority of the book is spent uncovering the mysteries generated by the plane crash and learning about the people who were on it.  If you like novels where a pivotal event changes everything, this book is for you.  

Because of the title, I was searching for Biblical allusions.  Instead of references to Adam and Eve, I found myself remembering War and Peace (which I just finished this spring).  Not only does much of the description seem reminiscent of Tolstoy's work, but there is even a direct reference to him.  However, this book is much less daunting and much shorter.

The themes were well developed and made me stop and think.  I certainly didn't plow through this one.  I would read a paragraph that made me consider just how much humanity has been altered by the 24 hour news cycle and stop to give it some actual thought.  Money, Art, power, work life/home life, childhood experiences shaping adulthood.  All great fodder for your next book club.  

Hawley's dialogue was so close to modern American speech that I wanted to read it out loud.  The staggered sentence fragments and subtle exchanges gave an air of reality to the characters that is missing from so much pop fiction.

The only thing that got a little tedious was Hawley's use of similes and metaphors.  At first, I was marveling and then, because there were just so many, I got a little bored with that particular form of descriptive language.

Have you read it?  What did you think?  

I'm totally anticipating the movie now.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Hello there!

I'm so glad you stopped by.  

My name is Noelle and I love to read.  I have always been a reader, since I was a child.  Growing up, my mom owned a little bookstore in our tiny town in New York state.  Each morning she would pack me up after my brothers and sister got on the bus and we would head to the store.  As a baby I've been surrounded by books, and it has made me a bit obsessive.

The smell of a bookstore puts my mind at ease, even now.  When I'm stressed, my preferred form of therapy is book shopping.  

<------Also Therapy------>

I surprised even my parents with how much I loved to read.  For fun, I would pick up books like Little Women or Gone with the Wind and devour them.  Whenever my parents introduced me to new people my name became, "Noelle, the reader."  

As an adult my love of reading has not wavered.  I graduated with an English degree with a focus on Literature (with a capital "L," of course).  After school, I found myself married and living in Maryland.  

My husband and I are raising four kids and discovering all the challenges and joys that come with having a big family.  I have been determined about giving my kids as much access to books as they want (and then, sometimes, more).  Over the years, I have refined my ideas about childhood literacy and ways to get my kids to chose books over screens--no easy task.  I've been at this mothering-gig for twelve years now and I'm still learning and adapting to each new season with my kids.

One of the constants in my life is books.  Before kids, after kids, late night, early morning, travelling, staying at home, in the line at target, I am reading.  

As I prepare to send my baby to kindergarten this fall I thought it would be fun to start a blog dedicated to tracking and sharing all the books I'm reading.  I'm also hoping to improve my writing, so bear with me!

You should know that I'm pretty open about giving any book a try.  Children's Lit and Middle Grade novels are what my kids are into now, so I'm hitting those hard.  But I always have a novel or two going for myself and I throw in some non-fiction here and there.  I'll keep you posted on what I think of the books I'm reading and I hope you'll share your reading lists.
audio books are fun while folding laundry

kindle reading is great for at the pool or waiting rooms
I love hearing new recommendations and having book discussions so please don't be shy about commenting or asking questions.  

I'll be back soon with my first post on Before the Fall.

Happy reading!

even our new puppy is encouraged to read...but then she eats the book so nevermind