Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
315 pages, published March 2012
Genre: Biography/Memoir
Source: Borrowed from the Library

I'm relatively new to Cheryl Strayed as an author. I read Tiny Beautiful Things  and liked it, but didn't love it. Perhaps it was the style of the book (all in letters) that didn't work for me. However, a friend and fellow blogger Christina at The Wordy Rose has been raving about how fantastic Wild is for months --and now that I've read it, I completely understand why. It quickly made its way to my list of favorite books!!

When Strayed was 22, her life fell apart. She lost her mother to cancer. Because of the grief, her family was torn apart.  To make it worse, she went through a divorce. Four years later, she made an impulsive decision to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail  (PCT) from the Mojave Desert in California to the Oregon/Washington border all by herself.  Though she had no experience as a hiker, she made the decision to go on the trip in order to put her life back together. The book details her journey from start to finish.

I read this book in less than four days.  It sucked me in immediately. As someone who has lost a parent, I completely related to the first part of the book, where she described her mother's death. The feelings, emotions and reactions she had were not unlike my own. Because of that, I was drawn into the book from the beginning.  Though I'm not a backpacker or hiker, I do love camping and the outdoors, and thoroughly enjoyed her detailed description of her trip. She vividly describes every aspect of her trip from her injuries to her triumphs.

What struck me most about this book was her brutal honesty. I don't think I've ever read a memoir that struck me as so honest and vulnerable. She conveys her thoughts, feelings and experiences eloquently in this book, no matter how personal, embarrassing or crazy they might be. Taking on a backpacking trip of that magnitude by yourself is absolutely amazing to me. I applaud her courage and strength.

The only negative I can think of is that I wanted more about her time spent in Oregon, but I think that's a selfish complaint due to the fact I'm an Oregonian! This book left me eager for more--more of her writing, more about hiking and backpacking, and more about the PCT.

Despite living in Oregon my whole life, I knew very little about the Pacific Crest Trail. I've been to most of the places in Oregon it crosses through but was not aware of the trail itself! Strayed mentions stopping to eat at Elk Lake in Oregon--a place I've been camping many times.  For those who are also unfamiliar, the PCT stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada--all through the peaks of the mountain ranges. According to their website, 2,964 people have completed the full 2,650 mile trail!
There is a really nice photo gallery on their website as well. Definitely worth checking out!  The more I read about the PCT, the more I want to take up hiking! Even a super short portion of the trail would be awesome.

You won't regret reading this book--it's one of the best books I've read in a very long time!

In honor of the PCT and hiking, here's a photo of me taken at Lava Lake (right down the road from  Elk Lake, where Strayed was on the PCT) in Central Oregon!

Overall rating for "Wild": A

Happy Reading (and hiking!!)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bout of Books 10!

While browsing through other book review blogs that I like, I came across another reading challenge on the blog My Life in Books. I loved participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon (read about my readathon experience here) and I am eager to participate in more challenges like this and networking with other book bloggers.

The newest Challenge I'm signing up for is Bout of the Books 10!  What is the Bout of Books? Here's their official blurb from their blog:

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team"

Excited for another reading challenge, and a whole WEEK of reading :)

Bout of Books


Readathon Report!

Well friends, I participated in my first Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon! As I mentioned in my post last week, I spent the weekend at a beach house with some friends this weekend, so it was a perfect spot  for reading!!

Due to the fact I was with other people, I didn't get to read as much as I ideally would've liked--but still read over 300 pages combined during the read-a-thon! I snacked on Pepsi, chips, popcorn, and all kinds of goodies throughout the day :) Here's what I read:

1. Finished "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. Review on the blog later this week!

2. Continued working my way through "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin.  It's a long one--700+ pages in the edition I have--and I've been reading chunks of it throughout the year. Determined to finish it! Read just over 100 pages in it during the read-a-thon. It's a pretty dense read, but excellent so far!

3. Started "For All Their Lives", a nice, easy romance novel by Fern Michaels that my mom recommended I read. Needed an easy read after spending that much time in Winter's Tale!

I also brought my Nook with me in case  I wanted something other than the physical books I brought with me, but I ended up sticking with the books I brought :)

Overall, the read-a-thon was a success!  I definitely plan on participating in the next one in October. Some goals for next time:

1. Participate more online--blog updates, cheerleading other blogs, and mini-challenges. The beach house where I was had ZERO service. No internet, no cell signal, nothing. So I couldn't interact with other bloggers, which I really want to do!

2. Read even MORE! This time I read during pretty normal daytime hours. Next time I would love to go crazy and wake up at 5am to start reading and stay up super late.

I definitely encourage you to participate in the next read-a-thon! It's a fun personal challenge, and fun to know that others are doing the same challenge as you are!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!

Yesterday I saw another book review blogger that I follow, My Life in Books, post about a 24 hour reread-a-thon called Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon.  They host two read-a-thons a year, one in April (coming up this Saturday the 26th) and one in October. The goal is to read as much as you can in the 24 hour period of the read-a-thon day (starting at 5am Pacific Time), post to your blog about what you're reading, visit other blogs of those participating, and participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. How could I resist? I immediately signed up!

I'm going to the beach this weekend with some friends and the goal of our weekend is to relax and hang around the beach house, so it will be a perfect time for a read-a-thon.  Of course, I was planning on reading anyway :) I will be posting a full blog about my day on Monday (goal is to unplug a bit at the beach house) but I will instagram  updates about the books I'm reading throughout the day on Saturday. I was planning on packing a tote bag of books to take this weekend anyway, so now this is extra motivation!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Book Night 2014 Part Three: My Day as a Book Giver!

I did it! I completed my first WBN Book Giving experience! It was definitely an exciting and memorable day!

I work for a small public liberal arts university in Oregon, and live in a neighboring small town. So the community I l both live in and work in are small communities.  The university I work for has a large (approximately 50%) population of first generation college students--meaning neither of their parent's earned a Bachelor's degree.  I was excited at the prospect of handing out free books in these small communities!

Above: my tote bag of books, and a shot of my book, Eleanor Brown's "The Weird Sisters." I love the cool WBN covers!You can read my review of The Weird Sisters here!

The first books I gave out were to some of my surrounding neighbors--I put the books in a plastic bag and dropped them off on their front porches before leaving for work this morning.  I would've loved to see the looks on their faces when they found their free book! I also gave a book to my coworker to give to her daughter. When reading the book I thought of her and that she might relate to one of the characters. She took it home to her daughter at lunch. When she came back to work, she said her daughter was super excited to receive the book and thrilled that the book was just for her!

I wanted some face to face interaction while giving away the book, so I packed up my bag of books  and took them with me to work to give around campus. I gave books away both during my short lunch break, and at the student center on campus with friend, fellow blogger, and fellow Book Giver Mel at Double Stacked Bookshelves . Most of my encounters went like this:

Me: "Hi! Do you like to read?"
Other person: "Um...yeah..." (weird look at me)
Me: "I'm volunteering with an organization called World Book Night, and we're giving away books today for free to promote reading and literacy! Would you like a free book?"
Other person: "Um....sure!!" (big smile)

We had a couple people say no, but most people walked away happy, reading the back cover of the book excitedly.  It was so cool to be a part of that joy as they walked away, especially because that joy was due to something that brings ME great joy--books! I was actually pretty sad when my bag was empty!

Tonight I looked at all the photos on instagram of other book givers (using #wbn2014) and was excited to see countless photos of fellow book givers across the country handing out books. It was so special to be doing the same thing on the same day as THOUSANDS of other book lovers.  It was an honor to be a Book Giver this year, and I can't wait for next year's event!!

Happy Reading!!

The Here and Now

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
256 pages, published April 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Borrowed from the Library

I've been reading a lot of young adult (YA) fiction lately. I really enjoy the genre in general, and have been reading it a lot because so many have been made into movies--The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, The Fault in Our Stars. I really enjoy Ann Brashares' books--most recently I read "My Name is Memory" (contemporary adult fiction) and loved it. So when I saw that this book was coming out, I immediately wanted to read it.

Seventeen year old Prenna immigrated to New York when she was twelve--not from a different country, but from a different time. She came from nearly 100 years in the future, where a mosquito-bourne illness has caused the Blood Plague, killing millions. Prenna and many others were able to escape through time travel back to 2010, and they must follow strict rules: never reveal where they're from, never mess with history, and never EVER form any kind of intimate relationship with a "time native." Prenna follows the rules for four year...until she meets Ethan.  Then everything changes, and Prenna learns the world is a very different place than she thought it was.

Let me start by saying I read this book in two days.  This was an exceptionally quick read. The story sucks you in an moves fast.  It is creative, easy to follow (despite the time travel element) and entertaining.  I liked the characters, and the premise of the story.  I again liked seeing a female heroine that is the trend now in YA books.  However, I thought the book  needed a lot more depth. It was too brief for me--I feel it touched on the surface of what it could've been. I would've liked more character development and more plot development.  The story was good, but  I wanted more details.

The book cover  called it an "unforgettable epic romantic thriller."  Though I did enjoy the book, I would not call it epic, overly romantic, or a thriller.  There are small spots of hope for all those things,  but nowhere near the level I would expect from that tagline.

When I began reading the book and learning the premise, I immediately told my best friend that "I bet this book gets made into a movie." Told my husband the same thing.  Well...a quick Google search found I was right! A movie deal is already in the works. It fits the futuristic, teen dystopian story that Hollywood is loving right now--and I think the story will work well as a movie.

So--it was a good book, worth reading, but lacked depth, character and plot development, even for a YA novel. It's a great read if you're looking for something light and fast paced.

Overall rating for "The Here and Now": B-

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shine Shine Shine

Title: Shine Shine Shine
Author: Lydia Netzer
336 pages, published July 2013
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Purchased for myself

I picked up this book at Target. The cover looked interesting, the back cover indicated it had many honors including a New York Times Notable book, Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, Publisher's Weekly Best Book, and Library Journal Best Book. The synopsis looked interesting. So I thought, why not give it a try?

The book is primarily about two people--Sunny and Maxon. They grew up together, fell in love, got married, have a young autistic son, and another on the way. At the beginning of the book, Maxon, a scientist (who appears to have autism as well--but no diagnosis is mentioned) is an astronaut lost in space on a mission to the moon, while Sunny's struggle to be the perfect wife falls apart. Sunny was born with no hair--no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes. She's spent years hiding under wigs and false eyelashes and eyebrows. Then, her secret is revealed. She must then deal with Maxon being in space, being very pregnant with her second child, her mother close to dying, and her young autistic son. The novel alternates between flashbacks of their lives and the events during the week Maxon is on his space mission.

Normally these themes and ideas in a plot are something I gravitate to and get excited about. I love a little bit of crazy mixed with examples of life's struggles and the journey to improve oneself.  I expected to love this book, and I even was loving it up until about 70 pages in.  From then on, my opinion of the novel slowly declined--the story was just all over the place and scattered. While many novels use flashbacks and memories to tell the story, the flashbacks in this novel were a bit random and disjointed. In my opinion, some memories and flashbacks don't particularly relate to the "big picture" of the story.  Instead of enhancing the story, they seemed to take away from advancing the story.  It jumped around so much that it was difficult to follow, and didn't hold my interest.

I also found the characters difficult to relate to. I thought at first this was because I am not a mother, and I don't have much experience with autistic children, but I don't believe that is why I didn't relate. There were plenty of themes I should've been able to relate to here--the mother/daughter relationship between Sunny and her mother, feeling "normal" (or not), being yourself, accepting yourself, trying to be perfect, and so on. But I just didn't relate to any of the characters at all.

The ending was a bit awkward and quick for me. Despite the fact that I wasn't connecting to the book, I expected the ending to be more developed since the author spent all that time on back story and flashbacks. Then, in just a few short pages, the book was over. Instantly, without a lot of description.

So, despite all the praise and good reviews for this novel, it just wasn't for me. I never regret reading a book, so I am still glad I read it. The book just didn't speak to me and I didn't personally relate.  But--that doesn't mean you won't love it! I'd love to hear what others thought of the book.

Overall rating for "Shine Shine Shine": C-

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 21, 2014

World Book Night 2014 Part Two: Review of The Weird Sisters

Title: The Weird Sisters
Author: Eleanor Brown
320 pages, published January 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction

Welcome to my second blog post of my World Book Night series! In this post I will review my WBN book, Eleanor Brown's "The Weird Sisters." As a Book Giver, I got to pick my top three choices of WBN books to give away, and this book easily made my top three based on the synopsis of the book.  Despite the mixed reviews on Good Reads, I was eager to read this book (and now, to give it away!).

The Andreas family shares a love of reading and learning.  The father, a well known Shakespeare professor, named his three daughters after Shakespearean characters, and speaks almost entirely in verse. When their mother becomes ill with breast cancer, the three grown daughters return home to help care for her and run away from their own troubles. Rose (Rosalind), the oldest, is having doubts about her upcoming marriage when her fiance is offered a year long research fellowship in England. Bianca, the middle daughter, moved back from New York City after things weren't as they seemed. Cordelia, the youngest, returns home after aimlessly traveling he country for years. In coming home,  they rediscover who they are, who they want to be, and what they've each been running from isn't so bad after all.

One of the main reasons this book got such bad reviews by several people on Good Reads was because of the narration style--it's in first person plural. I'll admit it threw me off at first. Sentences would start off as "Our mother...." and "Our father..."and then would mention all three sister's names in the same page. More than once I looked back to the beginning of the book to see if I missed someone...who was narrating this story?? But then I came to understand that it was all three sisters telling the story together, and I came to absolutely love this style of writing.  By the end of the book, I felt as if the sisters were telling me the story while sitting in the living room having a cup of coffee.  It was as if the sisters got together to tell the story after the book's events had happened. It totally worked for me once I got used to it. 

Though somewhat predictable personalities of the stereotypical oldest/middle/youngest child,  I found the characters  interesting and easy to relate to.  I related most to Rose--her desire for everything to be perfect, her need to control things, her fear of stepping out of her comfort zone.  I feel most readers would relate to these sisters well, whether it be one sister or traits of all of them, even if you were an only child or don't have sisters.

Brown's writing is eloquent, flows well, and keeps you entertained.  It was a difficult book to put down.  The ending tied everything together, though it did leave me with questions that I could see as the makings of a great sequel.  If you're looking for a feel good, family oriented book, then you'll love this novel.  I especially recommend it for those who love reading and literature (due to all the Shakespeare references) but feel this book would be enjoyed by those who don't know Shakespeare as well, as any Shakespeare reference that is important to the story is explained. Overall, a good book to grab a cup of coffee or tea and snuggle up on the couch with!

Overall rating for "The Weird Sisters": A-

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 18, 2014


Title: Moloka'i
Author: Alan Brennert
384 pages, published October 2004
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased for myself

I read this novel in December 2013 and absolutely fell in love with it.  It instantly became one of my favorite books of all time.  I have to share with you all why I love this book so much, and why you should go to the library, bookstore, or go online right now to get yourself a copy of this book!

Let me start by saying I have quite the love affair with the state of Hawaii.  A love affair in the sense that my soul aches daily for the laid back lifestyle, tropical breezes, pristine beaches, the WARMTH. The Aloha Spirit.  I first visited Hawaii when I was five (but don't remember it).  Most recently I went to Maui with my husband in September 2012 and in December 2013 with my Mom. I can't wait to go back, and I WILL be going back!

Anyway, back to the book! I first heard of this book while in Hawaii in 2012 with my husband. Our condo had a large collection of books (AWESOME!) and I was drawn to the book since it was set in Hawaii and I was eager to learn more about the culture and history of Hawaii.  I started reading a few pages at that time but with almost 400 pages of small print, knew I wouldn't finish it before we had to go home. So I added it to my "to read" list and didn't think too much more about it. Fast forward to my December 2013 trip. Mom and I were in the Portland airport with time to kill before boarding the plane.  Despite the fact that I had a purse full of reading material for the trip, a stop at the airport Powell's Books was an absolute must.  While browsing, Molokai caught my eye.  I immediately bought the book (the only copy on the shelf). 

The book follows the life of Rachel Kalama, a Hawaiian girl who grew up in Honolulu in the late 1800's. Her father sails around the world for his work, and Rachel dreams of traveling the world one day. When she was seven, she discovered a rose colored mark on her skin which was diagnosed as leprosy.  In that time, little was know about leprosy, and Hawaiians infected with the disease were immediately taken away from their families and exiled to the city of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. As a young girl, Rachel feels like her world is ending--until she grows to love her new community and the people in it.  The book follows her life through adulthood and the lives of several of her close friends on the island.

I have recently discovered my love for historical fiction. Brennert beautifully showcases a time in history many of us aren't aware of. I personally was not aware of this time in Hawaii's history until reading this book. Through the lives of people viewed by the leaders of Hawaii as unclean, Brennert  eloquently illustrates the history of the settlement of Kalaupapa, the treatment of the disease, and the varying degrees of severity of the disease. Some, like Rachel, live a long life with the disease; others die within months or years of arriving in Kalaupapa. Through this story you read heartwarming and heartbreaking descriptions of friendship, love, loss, and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of horrible disease.

The character development is fantastic in this novel. There are many wonderful characters in this story,, but (besides Rachel) my favorite character was Sister Catherine--not only is she fighting her own battle with leprosy, she is charged with caring for  the children in the leper colony. Her struggles with her faith and why God gives children leprosy are beautifully captured in this novel.

In my reviews, I try to list both positives and negatives of the book--certainly there is no book that's completely perfect. However, I struggled with finding negatives within this book.  Despite the fact it was long book, I was sad when it ended.  It didn't drag on. It was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. The only negative thing I can say was that it ended. I wanted more!

In short: read this book. You will not regret it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and Rachel's story will change you--for the better.

To leave you with some Aloha Spirit--a photo of Polo Beach (Maui) at sunset.  Taken December 2013 by yours truly.

Overall grade for "Moloka'i": A

Aloha and Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

World Book Night 2014: Part One

Last year, my friend, coworker, and blogger at Double Stacked Bookshelves introduced me to the World Book Night organization. It is an absolutely fantastic program! WBN originated in the UK in 2011, and brought to the US in 2012.  Each year, approximately 30 books from varied genres are chosen, authors of the books waive their royalties, and publishers agree to pay the coast of printing the WBN special editions of the books--all in the name of "spreading the love of reading, person to person." The goal of the program is to get books in the hands of light or non-readers, encourage literacy, and get people in the community excited about reading.

These books are given out completely free by volunteer Book Givers on April 23 of each year. Why April 23? Three reasons: 1) UNESCO's International Day of the Book 2) It's Shakespeare's birthday and 3) it's the anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote). To commemorate Cervantes' life, people in the Catalan region of Spain give a book and a flower to a loved one. How cool is that?

This April 23, I along with over 35,000 others across the country will be handing out 20 copies each of one of the book selections for this year.  My book to hand out this year is "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown. I just picked up my Giver Box Tuesday night and am currently planning where in my local community to give away these books! I am SO excited to be involved this year. I am passionate about reading, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to share that with others through this organization.

Interested in learning more about this organization and/or becoming a Book Giver next year? Visit WBN's "Get Involved" page!

Up next--World Book Night 2014: Part Two! I will post my review of The Weird Sisters!

And finally--late next week--World Book Night 2014: Part Three: My experience as a Book Giver!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dark Places

Dark Places

Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
345 pages, published May 2009
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from the Library

I rarely read mysteries or thrillers.  I generally dislike books that are too bloody/gory or violent. However, several of my friends read Flynn's newest novel, "Gone Girl" and had good things to say about it, and so I read it for book group back in December.  Despite my rarely reading or liking this genre, I gave it a try and actually really liked Gone  Girl.  Crazy psychological thrillers are one part of the genre  I can get into, and Gone Girl was definitely crazy and psychotic!  So, after enjoying Gone Girl and hearing numerous positive things about her other novels, I decided to read Dark Places.

In 1985 when Libby Day was seven, her mother and two sisters were murdered. Libby was able to jump out a window and flee the scene. Weeks later, she testified that her 15 year old brother, Ben, committed the murders, landing him in prison. Now, 25 years later, funds raised by well wishers are running out, and Libby needs a plan.  The Kill Club is a secret Society obsessed with famous crimes--and they're hoping Libby can provide them with details that will hope free Ben from prison. For a fee, Libby reconnects with people from her past to learn her testimony wasn't as solid as she thought in 1985. Told in alternating perspectives (Libby in the present and  her mother and brother on the day of the murders in 1985) the truth of what happened is pieced together.

Flynn's writing style is excellent. The alternating narratives and flow of the book encourage you to keep reading,  and Flynn creates complex characters that are believable and interesting. That being said, I at times felt like I was trying to just "get through" the book--a "just tell me who did it/what happens" rather than being invested in the process. That's what I loved about Gone Girl--it kept you guessing and had unexpected twists and turns.  Also, I found the topics in this book deeply disturbing  and unsettling to read (extreme violence toward humans and animals, abuse, drug use, and drug and alcohol use while pregnant, to name a few). I feel this tainted my opinion of the book and gave me the "I just want to get through it" feeling, as well as my reason for my 3 stars (though it really should be 3.5 stars) rating on Good Reads.  These topics may bother some people more than others, though, and if it doesn't bother you as much as it does me, then you'll probably love this book.

The ending of this book does tie up all the loose ends, unlike Gone Girl. Normally I love an ending where everything comes together, but the ending to Dark Places left me unsatisfied. No spoilers here, but the ending was a bit of a letdown for me. On one had, the outcome was not what I expected, but not in a way that lived up to the rest of the book.  Perhaps it was because Gone Girl had such a crazy ending.

Bottom line: If you're looking for something like Gone Girl, you won't find it in Dark Places. But if you're looking for a good mystery and don't mind violence and disturbing themes, this book is for you.  Regardless of the fact that I didn't love this book, I'm still planning on reading "Sharp Objects" and still believe Flynn to be a great writer.

Overall rating for "Dark Places": B-

Happy Reading!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Hop!

This is a new blog adventure for me, but my friend Erin over at Sutematsu asked if she could tag me in a "blog tour" where I answer questions, tag other blogger friends, and share the blog love! Here are my answers:

What am I working on?
In viewing other bloggers' posts who've done this Q&A...I realize my answers will be a bit different.  I'm not working on a novel or big writing project. I've attempted NaNoWriMo once and failed miserably. My main focus right now is writing book reviews for the blog--trying to have a stock pile of reviews that I can add one at a time to the blog when I'm still reading books for future reviews.  I do love writing--though I feel my strength is academic writing, research writing, and potentially non fiction. I've always said I'd love to write a book, but the idea for one hasn't struck me yet.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In this case--I'm going to change the question to: How are my book reviews different than other book reviews? In starting this blog I've been reading lots of other book reviews and book review blogs.  I wanted my book reviews to be more than the average book review. In my reviews I try to make a personal connection to the book, or learn more about a topic explored in the book, to go a bit deeper than the average review.  I love this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: "...That is part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong." After reading my first book review, my coworker and fellow blogger from Listening From the Back Row said that my book review wasn't just a book review, it was a "Lori book review." I took that as a compliment...whether he meant it that way or not :)

Why do I write what I do?
I post my #FridayReads on instagram and am constantly asked my opinions of the books. I always joke I want to get paid for reading books. So I thought, why not start a blog with my reviews and see where it goes? On a deeper level though, I am an introvert--and feel I express myself much better through writing than anything else. Except perhaps, dance :)

How does my writing process work?
In general, I'm a big fan of outlines. When I write anything I generally write in chunks--write a section of the paper or post, leave it, come back the next day or two, write some more.  I rarely can write an entire post in one sitting. I usually just write and get whatever I have to say on paper and then edit afterwards.

Next Blogger:

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking

Title: The Year of Magical Thinking
Author: Joan Didion
227 pages, published February 2007
Genre: autobiography/memoir
Source: Borrowed from Library

In College Prep Junior English I was first introduced to Joan Didion.  One of our first assignments of the year was to read her essay entitled "The Santa Ana." For some reason (my fantastic English teacher, perhaps?) passages of Didion's writing stuck with me and I still remember bits and pieces of that essay to this day, despite never reading anything else by Didion since. However, I'd heard good things about this book, it was on my "to read" list, and last week decided to check it out from the library.

This book is a memoir that Didion wrote during the year after her husband John died suddenly of cardiac arrest in December 2003. During that time, their daughter  was ill in the hospital with what seemed to be flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock.  She was in a medical induced coma at the time John died.  Four weeks later, the daughter pulled through but soon ended up collapsing and going through hours of brain surgery to relieve a serious hematoma. The book is Didion's attempt to make sense of her thoughts, feelings and actions in the year following these events.

As with "The Santa Ana," I found Didion's writing to be eloquent, descriptive, and beautiful in this book.  Her stories of her married life and being a parent showed honesty, compassion, and love.  She made sense of a period of time in her life in which nothing was stable.  She explained her thought processes, her reasoning, and her feelings of grief  in a thought provoking and interesting way. The books ends just days after the one year anniversary of John's death--her year of magical thinking. 

My father passed away in March 2013, just over a year ago. Despite the difference between our situations (losing a parent versus losing a spouse) I completely related to this book. The experience of grief from losing a close relative is unlike any other experience.  It hits you when you least expect it. Like Didion,I too experienced irrational thoughts and feelings. I remember not being able to think straight and had a horrible time making decisions. I would stand in my closet for long periods of time, unable to decide what to wear.  I remember crying in the grocery store because I didn't know what to get or how to plan for the week's meals. It was the worst in the first few months, but I still notice these issues. On page 125 in her book, Didion was explaining her reasons why she didn't want a tracheotomy performed on her daughter. Her feeling was that if she had a trach put in, they couldn't go out to lunch. They couldn't go sit by the pool.  All these things she couldn't do regardless if they put the trach in or not, but that was an example of her irrational thinking while dealing with grief.  Didion's explanation: "This (the line of thinking) was demented. But so was I."  That really stuck with me. During that time I didn't feel like myself.

Some reviews I read of this book accused Didion of using this book to capitalize on the death or her husband. Other reviews felt she was just whining about her horrible life. I completely disagree. I believe this book was her way to deal with her grief, to process her feelings, and to move forward in the best way she knew how--by writing about it.   I can understand why those who don't relate to her situation might not like this book--true of any memoir,  I believe.

 I was disappointed the book ended so abruptly, and didn't tie up loose ends. But then again, death doesn't always give us closure or tie up loose ends. Perhaps her ending was her way of illustrating just that.

  Overall grade for "The Year of Magical Thinking": B

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Library Book Sale!

This weekend is the Friends of the Public Library book sale, and that means one thing: cheap books for a great cause! I brought home five books from the sale today, and thought I'd share a list of my finds. If anything, this will show my wide variety of interest area in books :)


1. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs: I really enjoyed The Friday Night Knitting Club, and love "foodie" books, so I thought I'd give this one a try!

Henry's Sisters

2. Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb: Lamb's The Last Time I Was Me is a favorite of mine, so I've been working my way through all her books. Excited to find this one I wasn't aware of!

Miss Understanding

3. Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing: This one had very mixed reviews on Good Reads...but for 75 cents a book, why not? I love a chick lit read every now and then!

The Freedom Writers Diary (10th Anniversary Edition)

4. The Freedom Writers Diary byErin Gruwell, and The Freedom Writers: a book about an influential English teacher who used books and writing to give her students hope.  Working in education, this is a book I was familiar with but hadn't read yet.

Under the Tuscan Sun

5. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: Of course I've seen the movie, but haven't managed to read the book yet!  I've recently become interested in Italy since watching The Brian Boitano Project on HGTV, where he remodels a crumbling family home in the hills of Italy. I also recently read Beautiful Ruins by  Jess Walter, set (for the most part) in Italy. So I couldn't resist picking up this one!

What are you reading this weekend? Pick up any new books at the book store, book sale, or library?

Happy Reading!