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My love for reading a.k.a. my obsession

As I said the other day, one of my New Years Resolutions this year was to read at least two books per month.  (read here)  For documentation’s sake, I thought I’d give a brief summary of the ones I’ve read thus far.  One of William’s good friends, Cody, suggested writing a mini book report on the books I read.  I really wish I had done that.  Or been able to do it.  I have discovered that after being out of school for so long, I am not very good and reading and discussing my thoughts about it anymore.  Oh lets be honest, I was never very good at it.

No matter, here are my little brain dumps on Books 1-10–likely for no one’s pleasure but my own.

  • Book #1: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter

My first read of 2013.  I’ve always been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln.  Such a stoic human.  Such a tumultuous time period.  The premise of this book starts with Lincoln surviving the attempted assassination by John Wilkes Booth and continues with what the author thinks would have happened had he lived.  A few things in particular stuck out to me about the themes in this book. Carter did a wonderful job outlining the political climate, albeit unrest, at this time in our history.  How far we haven’t come from those days. I loved that Carter was able to make the former President the central figure of the book while only having him appear in about 5-6 scenes.  According to an interview he did after the book was published, he said it was quite daunting to attempt to “put words into Lincoln’s mouth” and have them be historically sound while still in keeping with the plot of the book.  The result was a developed character that was as equally present as not while remaining the novel’s underlining protagonist.  This was a “just for fun” book as there is, clearly, no historical basis behind it, but I loved it all the same!

  • Book #2: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Not even going to lie to you guys, I did not love this book.  I think I would have actually enjoyed it a lot more had I been reading it in a discussion group or lit. class.  I read the entire thing thinking, “Wow this is one of those books.  There is a heap storm of symbolism going on in this sucker that I do not understand, nor do I care to.”  I do like a good “coming of age” novel, however, the protagonist in this one annoyed the poo out of me.  I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him to snap out of it.

  • Book #3: What is the What by Dave Eggers

This was my first Dave Eggers book.  Loved it.  It is by no means a light read, however, it touched me immensely.  Easily one of my top 5 favorite books I’ve ever read.  My words wouldn’t come close to doing it justice, but what a powerful story of human suffering, perseverance, and will to overcome.

  • Book #4: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This was a quick read.  You’ll notice that a lot of my pairings thus far this year have been a long and a short book.  What is the What is about 600 pages long so I needed a quick one to stay on track!  I own a few Agatha Christie novels, but this was my first to read (reoccurring theme with me).  I love a good suspense novel and this one was wonderful.  I’m a gluten for period novels as well and this one was first published in 1939.  I loved that the copy I have still uses ‘electric torch’ instead of ‘flashlight’.  Ah, so good.

  • Book #5: 39 Steps by John Buchan

A while back, I purchased the Boys’ Adventure Series put out by Penguin Classics.  Not going to lie to you, I purchased them partly because I’m in love with the covers that were designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith who is also behind the beautiful cloth-bound classics that Penguin has put out that are carried by Anthropologie among other stores.  Regardless, several in the series I had never read before so I purchased them.  I enjoyed 39 Steps.  It was a fun novel first published in 1915.  It was Buchan’s first “shocker” novel.  The main character is a man on the run for most of the book, and I really liked how Buchan loosely tied the novel’s time period to actual events in British history.  It was a quick, fun read.

  • Book #6: Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson

This one was recommended to me by a dear friend of mine.  I would like to read this one again sometime.  I enjoyed it, however, I don’t believe I enjoyed it to the extent I should have.  The story is epic and tragic all at the same time.  The author experiences so much in a few short pages.

  • Book #7: Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

This book was given to me by my grandmother the day my college roommate passed away.  Inside she wrote me a message reminding me of the angels in our lives–both here and in Heaven.  It has taken me 5 years to bring myself to read it.  I cried through the whole thing.  It is a wonderful story.

  • Book #8: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

Summer of the Swans was the Newbery Medal winner in 1971.  Yes, it is technically a children’s or young adults book, however, I read it anyway.  Several years back, I asked my grandmother for “old books” for Christmas.  No idea why I did such a thing but it is on of my favorite gifts I’ve ever been given.  My copy of Summer of the Swans was one of the books given to me that Christmas in my “old book” collection my grandmother painstakingly put together for me, though I had never read it.  It was a quick read, but it will definitely be one I read with my daughter one day should I have one.

  • Book #9: Night by Elie Wiesel

I cannot believe I hadn’t read this before, but I had not.  What a powerful and poignant account of a horrible time in our history.  I have also never read The Diary of Anne Frank but after reading Night, has moved up to the top of my list.  The fact that the story is true breaks my heart, but it was the power of Elie’s writing is what drew me in.  I’m not sure what else I expect from someone who lived through one of the worst crimes in our history, but his writing was wonderful.

  • Book #10: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Again, surprising that I have not already read this but I am really enjoying it.  There are several passages that Bradbury so astutely writes in the early 50s that are 100%% spot on for how our culture is today.  As a huge advocate of the physical, written word, you can imagine the thought of premise around this book is simultaneously intriguing and disturbing to me.  I can definitely identify with the old woman who choses to go up in flames with her home once she’s discovered to be harboring books.  (No, I wouldn’t do such a thing for books, but I understand her emotional attachment to what reading gives to us as humans)

For Book #11, I’m reading The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard.  I’m actually 1/3 of the way in to it and really enjoying it.  I discovered my love for reading Westerns after reading Lonesome Dove last year.  A fact which is shocking considering I grew up in a household with one of those GIANT TV satellites in the backyard–which was really neat when it snowed and made the perfect place to make snowballs, but was NOT cool the other 364.5 days of the year when it monopolized every TV in the house.  How I complained when Dad took control of the TV to watch Tora! Tora! Tora! for the 3,022nd time or some all-weekend John Wayne marathon.  Ah well, yet another time my father was right.  And I’ll leave it at that because he does read my blog and I don’t want to give him too much joy in being right.

I’m always up for new book suggestions, so if you have them, I’m all ears!  🙂

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Confession: I have never kept a New Years Resolution.

Go ahead.  Judge me.

This year I made two New Years Resolutions.  One I’m right on track with, the other, is a little harder.  (Be prepared to judge me again)

My first New Years Resolution was to make sure I kissed William before bed every night.  Yes, you read that correctly, I do go to bed without kissing my husband goodnight.  If you’re one of those couples who doesn’t struggle with this, more power to you.  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, do not.  William is a night owl, I…used to be a morning bird and now I am more of a neither avian.  Regardless, it is a struggle for me and so I decided to make a conscious effort of it this year, especially since he has been in grad school we rarely go to bed together anymore anyway.

My second New Years Resolution was to read at least two books a month for the entire year.  I stole this resolution from a dear friend of mine, Allyn.  Go ahead.  Judge me again.  Judgment all over the dang place.  Alas, I like the resolution and wanted to piggyback on her good idea.  I love to read and would imagine that on average I read more than two books a month anyway, however, I go through spurts typically.  I’ll read three or four books then not touch one for two months.  My goal with this resolution was to keep myself reading consistently.

So far, I’m right on track!  I will say, this month I’m on the road more than normal for my job so I have enlisted the help of Audiobooks to keep me going, but I’ve decided that those “count” in my book towards my resolution so I feel good about it still.  The sub-goal of the aforementioned resolution was that I was to read books that I already owned rather than buying new ones.  I have more books than I care to admit that have never been read which I what I was attempting to solve by this rule.  There had to be an amendment to the above rule, however, because I didn’t want to purchase/rent Audiobooks for ones I already physically owned, thus paying for them twice.  So in my mind, I added said amendment and the rule-breaking crisis was averted.  (Yes, I like rules)  KBB, you’d be proud of me.  (I wish I could tag your TEDx Portland video but I cannot find it on the interwebs anywhere yet!)

This week I’ll be finishing up Book #10 for the year and on to Book #11.  I thought I’d give a brief run-down of the ones I’ve read so far for documentation’s sake, but this post is already a little lengthy so I’ll save that for tomorrow!  10 down, 14 to go!

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We’re here! Bagdad Theater for the Wildwood release (put on by Powell’s)

Last night was such at treat.  I posted yesterday about the release of Wildwood, the new book written and illustrated by the collaborative efforts of Colin Meloy of the Decemberist and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis.  The event was hosted by Powell’s books and I think turned out to be a HUGE success (must have been–the tickets were sold out!).  I was interested to see what kind of crowd the event drew. Like I said yesterday, the book is technically a “children’s novel”, however it definitely has an adult sophistication to it.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of children-teenagers who were at the debut.  I definitely didn’t have the chance to do anything like that growing up.  I will take a momentary pause to say that it was not my parents’ fault.  How wants to debut a highly anticipated novel in Texarkana, TX. I’ll tell you.  No one.

Got my copy! Got my seat! Ready to hear Carson & Colin speak! (100% did not realize that rhymed until I was proofing this post)

The one thing I was disappointed about was they did not do personalized signings.  All of our books were signed already when we arrived and were handed out as we walked into the theater.  I was a tad bummed, but I completely understand why they did it.  The Bagdad Theater holds 590 people (yup, had to google that) and we would have been there all night if each guest had 1-2 books signed and personalized.  I was thrilled, however, to see that they both signed each book.  Not sure why I assumed that only Colin would sign them but both of their signatures are there on the front page!  Personalized or un-personalized, this marks my FIRST signed first edition book.  That the book is a children’s novel, set in Portland, and I attended the premiere makes it all the better.

Colin Meloy of the Decemberists reading from Wildwood.  Map of Portland, as interpreted from the book, in the background.
Carson Ellis talking about her process of illustrating the novel. AMAZING to hear her speak about it!

In case you’ve never been, the best part of a book premiere, hands down, is hearing about the book from the author(s) themselves.  This experience was unique in that we heard from both the author and illustrator.  They talked about their inspiration, process, struggles, future plans, etc. etc.  For some reason, hearing a reading from the author makes me enjoy a novel SO much better.  I think it derives from hearing the enunciation and tone the author’s voice gives the passages.  You hear how the characters’ voices sound in the author’s head, the ups and downs of their voice while reading–it makes the experience for me.

There would be no way for me to go through everything they talked about last night, but I have jotted down a few of the things I found most interesting to share.

  • The illustrations in the book were created with pen, well ink, and gauche.
  • Wildwood is the first edition of a three-part (potentially more) series.  Colin is already about 40 pages in to the next installment and they hope to have it on shelves in about a year.
  • There is a brief mention of a badger carrying a rick-shaw in the novel.  Colin said it really didn’t fit but he put it in the book just because he knew that Carson would love to draw it.  Turns out, the publisher pushed to remove the illustration but they fought to keep it.
  • The process of developing the coyote soldiers was very interesting.  They started, in her first sketch, looking more dog-like, on all fours, wearing armor.  They went through a few different sketches before they decided to take a Wind in the Willows approach to animalanthropomorphism and make the coyotes a little less realistic and a little more imaginative. Thus, the coyote soldiers depicted standing on two legs wearing Napoleonic regalia.
SALLYN after the event! SO READY TO GO HOME AND READ! Ha!
Signed first edition of Wildwood!

I fell asleep while reading last night but I am already hooked on this book and encourage everyone to go out and grab a copy!!  The last thing I’ll mention, because I’ve had a few comments posted regarding this, is yes, the language in this book is challenging.  That said, Colin addressed it so well last night when asked about it.  There is no reason a middle school aged child couldn’t read and digest this novel and understand its content.  There is also no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging young readers to have a better understanding of vocabulary.  SO, in answer to the questions, I don’t see any reason why a young teenager couldn’t read this.  I admit I even had to look up one word last night on the ‘ole Webster’s app on my phone.  It’s simultaneous learning and reading enjoyment! (and isn’t that the best kind of learning anyway?!  The kind disguised as something fun!?)

Hello blogging world!  How I have missed working on my posts.  I think I can be qualified as one of the world worst bloggers on account of my three month hiatus. That said, I have returned to my blog with a new attitude towards it.  Thanks to my father as I blame him for my OCD personality (though he adamantly denies it, he’s far worse than I) which is what I attribute my failing blogging efforts to! Towards the end of last year, it had become overwhelming and strangely intimidating for me to try and post everyday which is what I felt that I needed to do to keep up. That’s the same reason that I can never stick with a diet plan or New Years resolution–it just overwhelms me somehow.  However, I find that if I go into things like this with the right mindset it tends to turn out a little better.  So I am pressing forward with my blog excited to share recipes, stories, things that I love, etc. as often as I can while making sure I am still enjoying it.

Along with my return as Mrs. Fancy Pantz, I am moving forward with four other things in my life that will require an unusual amount of dedication and commitment from me–whether or not I’m willing or ready to put it forward.  I am moving into a new position at work starting April 5, starting P90x on Monday to try and get myself ready for the summer, starting a Kaplan class to prepare for the GMAT for graduate school, and a New Years resolution that I didn’t commit to until March! Ha!  The change of pace at work should be good, I’m dreading P90x but it needs to happen, and lets face it, no one wants to study and work full time, so I’ll fill everyone in on my New Years resolution because it’s the most exciting of the four!

I love to read.  It’s a favorite hobby of mine…probably my favorite.  I’ve never had an organized or targeted approach to reading but that’s changing my friends.  I have lists on napkins and scraps of paper in drawers all over the place with lists of books that I want to read.  That said, my lists and the number of books that I own that I haven’t delved into yet far out number the ones that I have.  The majority of what makes up my lists are classics that I either haven’t read and am definitely missing out because of it, or I was forced to read in high school or some college lit class and never fully appreciated it.  A few weeks ago, I came across Random House Publishing’s list of The Top 100 Novels of All Time.  Brilliance.

Click here to view the list.

I will be first working from the “Reader’s List” and when I complete that one I’ll move to the “Board’s List”.  I’m excited to have a targeted approach to my reading and even more pumped that I’ll someday have read ALL of these timeless pieces of literature.  I’m committing to read 50 this year but I’m hoping that I’ll finish more than that.  The first one I read was #53 The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I have my wonderful friend April to thank for this suggestion!  I really enjoyed this read.  The story is about a woman named Offred who is a handmaid (essentially a modern day concubine) in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving.  The story is a very progressive representation of world in which men control women’s bodies–it is interesting to read this interpretation so clearly weighted on the side of women when it wasn’t too many years ago that women feared this type of society deriving.  I honestly wouldn’t consider myself too much of a feminist though it’s an interesting thought to ponder…

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

My next read is #2 on the list The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  Honestly this one has been a little tough to get into, however, I am pushing through!  Resisting the urge to become too long winded, I am going to end my post here. I’ll be posting again soon though. Happy Sunday!

Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin

Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin

Like many others, I enjoy a good book.  However, I inherited an unhealthy love of literature from my father.  Thanks dad.  There are few pleasures in my life that give me the same joy.  Mainly I enjoy the actual process of reading; it doesn’t have to be anything good, although that does enhance the experience, but to be honest I genuinely enjoy the act of reading.  I think you’ll find a different opinion with every person that you come across–whether reading acts as healthy release or if, in the case of my husband, reading brings back horrible memories of being forced to read Melville’s Billy Budd in high school and forever tarnishing the name of literature. For those of us that were able to move past the sometimes difficult “required” readings in grade school, what fascinates me the most about the mind’s reaction to literature is its ability to completely remove itself from reality and immerse itself into something else entirely–the opposite of reality, the fantasy, theory, or fiction created entirely from someone else’s mind.

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