Holiday Reading

image

I’m running a bit behind on this year’s Christmas-y listens, and haven’t quite finished The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, but since it’s about the 12 Days of Christmas and those go beyond Christmas Day, I figure I’m good. The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the 6th installment of Her Royal Spyness series, and one of the most grisly. Our fearless gang finds themselves in a quaint English village for Christmas were a death a day occurs in the order of the 12 Days of Christmas song. Doesn’t sound very Christmas-y, nor very quaint, but I love it. Probably because Georgie and Darcy finally make some headway in their “relationship.”

image

I started with my annual re-listen of Lauren Willig’s Mischief of the Mistletoe. I believe I’ve mentioned my love of Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation series before, and I think this is one of my favorites! It’s so hard to decide sometimes… Mischief of the Mistletoe is the only one in the series not to include Eloise and Colin, our modern day frame story couple. When I first started reading the series I really enjoyed the Eloise storyline. I was also a student in England and could appreciate several of the dilemmas Eloise found herself experiencing. However, as the series went on, I found myself skipping the Eloise and Colin chapters (much harder to do in audio), so I really appreciate not having to deal with them in this version. Also, I love Turnip. He certainly isn’t a swashbuckling hero, but a nice, loyal, (if goofy one), which is a nice change of pace.

image

Since my parents moved up north we have a 4 (ish) hour drive each way. To pass the time I checked out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which is my husband’s favorite Christmas book. Maybe it was lack of sleep (we hosted my high school friend’s annual holiday party the night before), or maybe it’s the cultural/political climate today, but I almost cried at the end. I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in the past.

*updated for pictures and links*

Lonesome Dove

I do apologize for my long blogging absence… My husband and I have several new(ish) house projects and an adorable new(ish) puppy dog that are taking up lots of our time. However, I have been reading! And listening.

A while back I downloaded Lonesome Dove onto my Audible account. At the time it seemed like the best way to tackle the 945 page saga. Then when I read through  the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge categories I decided I would use Lonesome Dove to check off “a book that’s more than 600 pages” and “a book and it’s prequel.” Generally I decided not to use a book to check off more than one category, but in this instance, I made the exception, since any of the two prequels were also 900+ pages.

image

In the end, I decided not to use Lonesome Dove or Comanche Moon as the “book and its prequel.” Mostly because I waited too long to start Lonesome Dove and it took me more than a month to listen to it, even while painting kitchen cabinets and walking the dog. I certainly couldn’t cram it in the last few weeks of December.

This is all really pointless and muddled information, but it’s all kind of related…

As for Lonesome Dove, I loved it. Lee Horsely narrated the audible version and he is fantastic. Sometimes, when I listen to a book I can’t read it simultaneously because I need the narrator’s voice, or it feels wrong. This is one of those instances. Horsely really made the story for me.

I can’t quite explain why I liked the story so much. Maybe it’s because the “main” characters are older, which seems to be uncommon today. Maybe because McMurtry skillful creates a multitude of believable characters, and tells the story from each of their perspectives. Maybe because I could really sense his love of the American West throughout his writing. Maybe it’s because the concept of driving cattle from Texas to Montana with no roads or modern amenities is completely foreign to me and I admire their strength and determination. Maybe because the writing is so vivid and the characters so timeless I felt like I was on a cattle drive in the 1800s.

While there are flaws (I wish the Native characters were given a stronger voice, for example), it is overall a skillfully written saga of the American West as told by a multitude of historical viewpoints. I can completely understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

image

The miniseries on the other hand, did nothing for me (except that Robert Duvall reminds me of my grandpa). I felt it was way too short and unless you read the book you have no understanding of most character’s motivations. Also, Tommy Lee Jones is practically impossible to understand, he mumbles so much. I wish Lonesome Dove and the rest of the series were turned into a real TV show like Outlander or Game of Thrones.

Popsugar Reading Challenge Roundup

Book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with:

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

image

While perusing the Goodreads reviews on this book, I noticed it received a lot of comparisons to the Little House series. While it is certainly a similar time period and the illustrations are reminiscent of the Little House series, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. Each are wonderful in their own way.

For me personally, I enjoyed reading about life on Madeline Island in the 1800s. It’s so very different from today (obviously) and being able to visualize the beautiful island really helped put  me in the story. Despite growing up in Minnesota and spending most of my life in the area, I know very little about the Ashinaabe culture, and this book definitely piqued my curiosity.

Now to read Erdich’s adult novels… and visit her book store.

Book with a Blue Cover:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

image

I am a bad youth librarian. I started listening to Between Shades of Grey back in 2012 and never finished the book, despite the massive amounts of praise and accolades it received. I’ve also been in a bit of a reading rut, and came across the audio version of Salt to the Sea and decided to check it out and hopefully get out of my rut.

While I can’t say I got out of my reading rut (still have several books at home piling up), Salt to the Sea definitely kept my interest and taught me about an incredibly important event in history that is, unfortunately, often skipped.

The narration style initially confused me– I couldn’t keep the characters straight, but after the first CD I was hooked. Knowing the ending of the story, historically anyway, also added an element of desperation as a listener. You want the group to reach their destination safely, yet we know the boat sinks. This,combined with Sepetys’ no holds barred style of writing really kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the audiobook.

War is horrible, and while reading about a baby’s diaper frozen to his poor bottom is not pleasant, it is the reality, and I think it does a great disservice to our young people to gloss over these horrors.

A Book you haven’t read since high school:

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

image

I read this book in high school for our Mother Daughter Book Club and I remember loving it. This time around, not so much. Sidda is obnoxious and overly dramatic (melodramatic?) in her reminiscing and the love scenes between her and Connor are totally cringe worthy. I’m glad I re-read it, since it opened my eyes to a lot of issues I did not remember. This might be one of the rare occasions where the movie is better than the book.

A book that takes place on an island:

The Rumor  by Elin Hilderbrand

image

I have to admit, I passed over this book many a time when I saw it at the library. I assumed it would be the fluffiest of the fluffy and poorly written. The cover does the book no favors. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but everyone does. If you say you don’t, I bet you’re lying.

Anyway. I liked it a lot more than expected, I actually couldn’t put it down for a while. While I can’t say I loved all the characters, they seemed very real. It also cemented the fact that I could never live in a small community like that– the gossip train stressed me out!

Book published in 2016:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

image

I really really really really wanted to like this more than I did. Going into reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I knew JK Rowling did not write the script, but gave input. Given the input factor, I was disappointed by some of the characterizations. The portrayal of Ron seemed like a caricature, and he deserves better. Also the chemistry between Ron/Hermione and Ginny/Harry was off entirely (although it’s arguable they never had any). I’m willing to concede my latter complaint since the original series took place in high school, the age of angst and feelings with capital F, but I’m not willing to budge on the treatment of Ron. I had one other HUGE issue, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. It has to do with a certain dark wizard…

A big complaint I heard about Cursed Child  is the script format, which confuses me. I thought it was very clear when I first heard about the publication that this would be in script format. It is, the script of the London play, after all. And secondly, many people found reading script difficult. This was also odd to me, since most people (public school Americans anyway) had to read at least Shakespeare in high school. Script format is nothing new.

I can empathize with the complaint that script format left out details so common to the previous seven books. Maybe I find the other issues with the play so frustrating I don’t have time to take issue with the format. It also makes me think schools need to do a better job of incorporating a variety of texts in the Literature curriculum.

Book that takes place where you live:


The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

image

I found this book while shelf reading at work. While I no longer live in Milwaukee, I did at one point. Since I already read The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and The Rumor and Wuthering Heights I decided to read a book that takes place in every place I lived. I still have to read a Minnesota book…
All I say about The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is that it made me miss Milwaukee. Other than that, the writing is awful and the characters are incredibly one dimensional. If I did not have the Milwaukee investment, I’m don’t think I’d make it past the first few chapters.

Looking for Alaska

I wanted to love Looking for Alaska by John Green, but I just didn’t. Maybe I just don’t get John Green. I enjoy his books, so far Paper Towns is my favorite, but I don’t love them the way everyone else does. 

When I last mentioned  Looking for Alaska I had high hopes. My husband and I laughed and commiserated with Miles (Pudge) as he integrated himself into his new boarding school, befriending Chip (The Colonel) and Takumi and falling head over heels for Alaska. 

Then the “after” happens. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot, but Pudge drove me crazy. 

Despite not loving any of his books, I’m still not going to give up on John Green. An Abundnace of Katherines is still on my to read list.