Monday, October 12, 2015

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (10/12)

Phew..I survived this week.  Have you ever had one of those weeks that are over-scheduled before they begin and then NOTHING goes as planned?  Well, that was my week.  I'm hoping this coming week is better, and it might be.  My daughter has 2 days off school and I canceled a few appointments, but then the following week is supposed to be crazy busy again.  I guess I'd better just accept this as my normal....sigh!

Right now, I'm reading:
The Main Book:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I just started this last night, so I really can't say much about it yet.  It is my last postal book club book of the year.  I belong to two of these groups and it has really been great fun!

The Phone Book:
Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves
Another self-published book and another romance.  A year ago, that would have been two strikes against this book, but I surprise myself.  I will say that self-published books can be a chore to navigate, but there are some good ones out there.

With My Daughter:
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Because this week has been so crazy, we haven't been able to get my daughter in bed early enough to hear a chapter.  Sigh....

The "A Few Pages Before Bed" Book:
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
I feel kind of guilty putting this on here week after week when I only read a few pages at a time.  It isn't that the book is dull, it is just that I'm so tired by the time I roll into bed that I can't manage more than that...

Last week, I finished reading:
These are the Moments by Jenny Bravo (review to be posted 10/14)
I actually shuffled some reviews around to get this one up sooner (I pushed The Wanderer back a few weeks).  Oh, and there will be a giveaway!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (review to be posted 11/18)
This one was a hard, but rewarding read.  I actually still have to write the review (again, busy week), but I think it might be a tricky one to do.  We'll see how it turns out.

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino (review to be posted 11/25)
This was a quick phone read--I've found that on busy weeks, I get a lot of phone reading done.  Romances are a genre that work well for this because they are easy to pick up and put down and can stand up to a lot of interruptions (in other words, great for reading in lines and waiting rooms....)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - October 10

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Folks, this week just about killed me.  I feel like I haven't been able to just sit for days and, in all the craziness, I don't think I took a single picture this week.

But I did go through my Flickr feed--I actually haven't really used that site for a few years because, when it comes to putting pictures into the blog, Picasa/Google has been much easier.  Has been.  Past tense.  Now, I'm leaning towards Flickr again and, in doing so, I decided to go through my feed.  Much to my surprise, I found some pictures my husband scanned from his childhood and, folks, I just couldn't resist.  Don't worry, I got the okay from the hubs first!

Doesn't he look like an opera singer?  Don't be don't want to hear him sing!

I have to put a fishing picture up....It was part of the agreement

And, my favorite....My husband, the Surfer Dude....

I'm a lucky, lucky woman.....
Who knows...if next week is as crazy, you may see more of my favorite male model!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies Lauren Groff
Published: September 15, 2015
ISBN: 9781594634475
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (Kobo)

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart. 

My Thoughts:
The first time I heard of this book, it was prefaced with "the best book of 2015!"  I decided that, for a change, I'd try to beat the hype on this one.  I can't say that I was entirely successful with that as I continued to hear and read the merits of this book as I began to read.

And, honestly, I was perplexed.  You see, this book was just painful to read.  I'm not talking about the subject matter--while I quickly tired of Lotto and Mathilde's rather narcissistic life, I didn't find anything they did that objectionable (or, frankly, interesting).  The language of the book, at least in the first section, is overly stylized in a way that makes it overly laborious to slog through.  I found the constant asides that Groff includes--they litter the first section and are used occasionally in the second--disruptive to the flow of the narrative.

The second part of the book is better than the first.  The first, "Fates" is told from Lotto's point of view and the second, "Furies" from Mathilde's.  Both sections tell roughly the same story, but from the two different viewpoints.  Mathilde's story is far more interesting than Lotto's and the language in her section is more organized and easier to read.  I'm perplexed as to why Groff spent so much time on Lotto's narrative and not as much on Mathilde's as more actually happens in the latter (the book is 60% Lott and 40% Mathilde).

As I was reading this, I had posted in a couple of different places that I was having trouble with this book and the response I would receive would be to hang in there, the 2nd half makes it all worth it.  I'm not arguing that the second half (or last 40%) is much better than what comes before it, but does it make up for the "Fates"?  A number of readers believe so, but I am not one of them.  Groff lost me with this book and, by the time Mathilde got to tell her story, I was too far gone.

I applaud Groff for what she was trying to do here--I do appreciate when writers "color outside the lines."  However, in this case, it just did not work at all for me and I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone, despite all the buzz it is getting.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (10/5)

Another week, another post!  I have to admit, I kind of feel like a hamster in a wheel at the moment...I just keep going from one thing to the next without stopping to catch my breath.  My son's birthday is Tuesday and I have yet to wrap any of his gifts (and, by that, I mean have my husband wrap them).

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel....both of my kids have a number of days off from school this month due to parent/teacher conferences and a teaching convention.  Seriously...they have a Halloween Break coming up.  Well, they think that is what it is.  There is a teaching convention for both my daughter's school and my son's preschool the Wednesday through Friday before Halloween--but they think it is all for Halloween!

I got a fair amount of reading done this is amazing how much I can get done while waiting here and there for the kiddos!

Right Now, I'm Reading:
The Main Book:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I'm not someone who is scared by books.  I can't watch horror movies or go through haunted houses without peeing my pants, but books just don't frighten me.  In fact, I'm only ever been scared of 2 books: Salem's Lot by Stephen King (the first, last, and only horror novel by King that I've read) and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  I may be adding a third to that list. Obviously, Still Alice is not a horror novel and probably shouldn't even be mentioned with those other 2 books, but this book is quite frightening for completely different reasons.  It probably isn't a book to read if you suffer from even the faintest cast of hypochondria.

The "Phone" Book:
These are the Moments by Jenny Bravo
I'll admit that I'm kind of a book snob (shocker, I know) and I tend to stay away from self-published works  However, I decided to delve a bit into that world because, well, it is there and it is growing.  I hunted around for a book that looked promising and came upon this one. I'm about 20% of the way through it now, so I won't say much at the moment....stay tuned!

With My Daughter:
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
We are now on chapter 2! Woo-hoo!

The "A Few Pages Before Bed" Book:
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
I've got to be the rate I'm going, I doubt I'll have this finished in time for book club (sorry, Susan!)

Last Week, I Read (or listened to...):
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (review to be posted 10/7)
Finished it...finally.  Sigh....

The Wanderer by Robyn Carr (review to be posted 10/14)
In the past, I haven't reviewed romance novels, but I've decided to start doing so.  This was an interesting one for a couple of reasons, but you'll have to wait to find out those reasons.

Bossypants by Tina Fey (Audiobook)
I actually read and reviewed this a few years ago, so I won't be doing it again for the audiobook.  I will say, though, that it is definitely worth a listen.

Forever by Judy Blume (review to be posted 10/21)
I thought I should read something for banned book week and landed on this title, which I still can't believe I hadn't read before....I thought I had read everything by Judy Blume!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - October 3

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Welcome to October--my favorite month of the year!  It still feels, if not summer-ish, at least very early fall-ish here,so I've been trying to enjoy the weather whenever I can (which isn't that often because, as I said last week, my life is spent driving kids here and there!).

Here are a few pics from this past week:

Alice is on the hunt!

Nightly homework reading with my daughter

On the street where I live...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
Published: January 13, 2015
ISBN: 9781594633669
Genre: Mystery
Source: Personal Copy

You might enjoy this book if you like: The books of Gillian Flynn, love triangles, books dealing with alcoholism, books with unreliable narrators.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? 

My Thoughts:
I had to think about this book for a few days after I finished it to decide how much the hype around it affected my experience reading it.  I do realize that I'm one of the last people on the planet to read this....which means I went into reading this knowing that it was supposed to be spectacular.

Did I find it spectacular?  Not at all.  There was much I liked about it. Hawkins has a great writing style and sh mastered the pace of the book so that not only did she control the rate at which information became to available to the reader, but also so that she could build up the necessary dramatic tension.  The story is told through the eyes of 3 women, which sounds like a disaster.  Hawkins, however, successfully develops three distinct voices so that the reader is never confused about who is who.

Rachel, the main character, is expertly drawn.  She is at rock bottom at the start of the book and manages to go lower and lower.  My reaction to her was not that she was unlikable, but that she was pitiful and I believe that was what Hawkins was going for with her.

The story itself is interesting, although I will admit to figuring out the mystery well before I think the author wanted me to. For most of my life, that would be a major strike against the book. However, I've become such a critical reader in the past few years that I've learned to just accept that as par for the course in my reading now.  Because of that, I don't think I'm a good source for someone wanting to know if they'll be surprised by twists and turns in this book.

My biggest problems with the book was that I couldn't find a single character to really root for.  As I said, Rachel was pathetic to the point that she felt like a lost cause. All the other major characters, whoever, were just downright unlikable.  I couldn't stand any of them.  I think Hawkins tried to make two of the minor characters--Megan's therapist and Rachel's roommate--somewhat "nice" but she essentially failed on both counts.  Megan's therapist, well, makes some bad choices.  Rachel's roommate, Cathy, on the other hand, is just downright unbelievable.  Most of the time, she's little Miss Sunshine and, when she's not, she doesn't really have any teeth in her bite.  I'm not saying that Hawkins needed a nice hero in this book somewhere but, as a reader, I needed someone--even a minor character--that I felt had some humanity and who I could root for.  Without that, I never felt completely pulled into the book.

In line with that, I really felt that there was some serious male-bashing in this book.  The men, like everyone else, are not "nice," but they are not nice in very stereotypical and predictable ways.  I wish Hawkins had found a more unique way to create the male characters and had stayed away from tired cliches.

In the end, The Girl on the Train didn't live up to the hype for me, nor did I feel that it was unique enough to deserve all the hype.  However, I can recognize why others would enjoy this book.  While I would recommend this book, I would be selective on who I would recommend it to.  This book is really for people who are looking for something dark and twisty and are able to get sucked into a book without needing a character for them to root for.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (9/28)

Welcome to another week!  I'm hoping that this one will be less hectic than last week.  Yeesh, I'm not sure how I was able to make it through to Friday in one piece.

On the upside, even with a few rainy days under our belt, Pacific Northwesterners are being led softly into fall.  Really, the weather here has been just absolutely gorgeous--we even cheered our rainy days as they were desperately needed after our dry summer.  Looking at the forecast, it seems we are in for low to mid-70s for the next 10 days which means I can get away with wearing sandals a bit longer!  Sandals?  Oh yes...if you knew my hatred for washing and then pairing up socks, you'd share my sandal love!

Anyway, I didn't get too much reading time thanks to all the running around I did this week.  

Right now, I'm reading:
The Main Book:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
This seems to be the book that everyone is talking about and, since I've decided to take a more relaxed reading schedule, I decided to treat myself to this one.  I'm about 70% of the way through and, frankly, I'm not sure it is a treat after all.  The second half is better than the first (the first half was painful, to say the least), but the jury is still out on whether the second half is good enough to make up for the first half.

The "A Few Pages Before Bed" Book:
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
Sadly, I made little progress on this book this past week--only because I've been so sleepy when I've finally made it to bed that I just can't keep my eyes open to read it.

The "Phone" Book:
The Wanderer by Robyn Carr
I've found that romance is a wonderful genre for phone reading--and it is a genre that I'm exploring.  I've read a number of romances that left me cold, but every once in a while I'll come across a good one.  This is my first book by Robyn Carr, but I've heard good things about her, so we'll see how it goes!

With My Daughter:
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
This is another one that fell by the wayside this week.  We were only 1 chapter in so I told my daughter we'd start all over with it.

The Audiobook:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Yes, I finally got back to audiobooks--simply because I can finally get back to the gym on a regular basis.  I actually read and reviewed this book back in 2012 (so I won't review it again), but I'm a big Tina Fey fan and it is well worth visiting again in audio form!

Last week, I read:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (review to be posted 9/30)
I actually plowed through this one fairly quickly, which really wasn't surprising.  The review will come out next week, so you can read my complete thoughts there, but I do have one question for those of you who have read it. I've seen this book as a book club selection in several places but, when I read it, I didn't really think it would make for a good discussion (mysteries tend not to be great discussion fodder).  If you read this book for your book club, how did it go?  I'm not talking about the quality of the book--whether or not people liked it--but whether or not it sparked a good discussion.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - September 26

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Phew...another week in the books (heh heh....see what I did there?)  I have another selection of random shots from this week.  This will probably be what I post for a while--our schedule is just so hectic that we haven't really had any chance to do anything DSLR-worthy. But, every time I post something like this (which, let's face it, has been quite often) I get at least a couple of comments saying people like them, so there you go!

Taken on Tuesday--my birthday!  I spent the morning in the dentist's waiting room while my daughter had a cavity filled.  Festive, don't you think?

OF COURSE I have t include an Alice pic!

On Thursday, I did my monthly turn volunteering in the lunchroom at my daughter's school....and this was my reward!  You are never too old fora school lunch!

Fridays are crazy busy days for me--I'm running around pretty much the whole day.  My reward is getting to sit down and rest while watching my daughter's ballet class.

Random brain droppings 09.25.2015

One of my blogging goals is to do more non-review, non-meme posts.  The problem is that my blogging muse is frequently off somewhere else.  I really should fire her...

Anyway, I thought I'd post some random brain droppings to get this going.  You'll probably see more of these in the future--I even made a little button thingie, you know--so, I'd get used to it if I were you....

  • I'm really struggling with DNF-ing my current read.  I'm working my way through Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, which everyone is raving about and, honestly, I'm hating it.  Normally, I would DNF it at this point--and I probably should do just that--but I've heard enough of the structure of the book to think it might turn itself around in the second half.  That is apparently enough to keep me going.  Well, that and the fact that it has been a while since I had the opportunity to write a really bad review--and those can be so much fun!
  • If any bookish, web-savvy entrepreneurs are out there, I have an idea for you.  I'm looking for something that is like Book Riot in scope, but isn't Book Riot.  I like the basic idea of Book Riot, but I'm tired of feeling shamed because I enjoyed a book written by a straight white guy.  Don't get me wrong--I'm all for diversity and do enjoy reading authors with backgrounds that differ from mine.  However, my reading motivations are, well, different.  Book Riot has gotten to a point where they have formed their own philosophy of bookishness and, if you don't share this view, they make it clear that they think you're a lesser being.  Now, I know I'm not a lesser being and I stand by my previous view of Book Riot (they have an air of arrogance with more than a dash of immaturity).  But, I like the basic structure that they offer. I just wish someone would replicate that without all the self-righteousness.
  • You should follow me on Instagram at westmetromommyreads.  I promise I won't flood your feed, but I do post often enough that it keeps things interesting (or so I tell myself).  I also started something.  My birthday was this past Tuesday and I turned the unremarkable 42.  I'm not someone who is intimidated by "landmark" birthdays, or especially afraid of growing older. However, what I pictured 42 to be and what I'm experiencing are vastly different (luckily in a good way).  I had planned to do a picture today of something of my life and use the existing hashtag #ThisIs42 (apparently, a lot of people use that tag...whatevs...).  But, well, I took a picture on Tuesday and forgot to take one on Wednesday, so I had already blown that "every day" thing.  So it will be most days.  And I'll post other stuff...some bookish, some not.  But, anyway, follow me! But, hey, if you don't want to follow me, or don't do Instagram, no worries.  I'm sure a fair amount of these pictures will show up on Saturday Snapshot posts!
  • Oh, in my last post, I alluded to a "new project" that I was taking on and that I wasn't ready to share anything about it yet.  Well, a number of people said it sounded like I was pregnant and, when I went back to read the post, I agree--I did sound like I was pregnant.  But, I am not pregnant!  Read the bullet point before this one, I'm 42.  Yes, I know women in their 40s have babies (both my grandmothers had babies well into their 40s--my maternal grandmother was 43 when she had my uncle and my paternal grandmother was 40 when she had my uncle and 45 when she had my father). However, if I were to have a 3rd child, I'd have to give up my craft room...again.  And I just got it back.  And it is a mess and I am not in the mood to clear it out...again.  So, no baby.  (And, that is all I'm going to say about my new project right now.)
  • I feel bad that this is true for myself: I'm looking forward to TV shows starting up again.  I'd like to say that I'm the kind of reader who has given up TV, but I'm not.  I need my Big Bang Theory, Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family, Agents of Shield, and Grimm (but that last ONLY if they can get over the pure crapfest that was last season.  Seriously, I've never seen a show crash and burn as quickly and completely as Grimm).  I'm going to try to not add to that list, well, except for Stephen Colbert.  How can you not watch Stephen Colbert?   But, as I said, I'm going to try (although I don't expect to succeed) at keeping my viewing list short and my reading list long.  We'll see how it goes.
So, that's what is rattling around in the old noggin' right now.  Sigh..time to get back to the book I'm hating....

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Review: "Who Do You Love" by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You Love Jennifer Weiner
Published: August 11, 2015
ISBN: 9781451617818
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy

You might enjoy this book if you like: Anything by Jennifer Weiner, "First Love" Love Stories, Forrest Gump-like travels through time, When Harry Met Sally

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are eight years old when they meet late one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she's intrigued by the boy who shows up all alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy's taken back to the emergency room and Rachel's sent back to her bed, they think they'll never see each other again.

Rachel, the beloved, popular, and protected daughter of two doting parents, grows up wanting for nothing in a fancy Florida suburb. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent that will let him become one of the best runners of his generation.

Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they've been running toward each other all along.

My Thoughts:
Jennifer Weiner is one of my go-to authors.  I find her incredibly entertaining, but not fluffy.  She is amusing without being comic and touching without being maudlin.  Mostly, I enjoy her take on modern women's lives.  This particular book has a special bit of notoriety in my reading life:  it is the title that drew me out of the worst reading slump I've ever encountered.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book  However, I can't say that I enjoyed all of it. The love story is pretty straightforward, but I never felt that in lacked in complexity.  While I didn't find it to be one of those love stories that just knocked the breath out of me, it was an entertaining one to read  I enjoyed how Andy's character developed.  He's quite different from other characters that Weiner has created and I found his growth both natural and surprising.  I understood his emotions as portrayed in the book and his actions made sense (even if they sometimes made me furious).

Rachel was a different story for me.  Frankly, she's a mess.  I don't mean she's an emotional mess (or a slob), but she is messily constructed.  She is initially presented as being defined by her heart condition and I found that interesting.  However, that is dropped completely as she grows older.  I understand that her condition is under control, but it was such a formative influence on her early life and then it was just sort of erased from her character.   I also found the trajectory of her character frustrating.  She starts as a young girl with a heart condition, then she is a teenager looking for love.  Once she goes to college, she becomes a shallow sorority sister who doesn't seem to be at all connected to her childhood.  Then, the next time she appears, she's the complete opposite of what she was as she becomes a social worker working with families in need.  Finally, she becomes, well, a character I know I've read in other books by Jennifer Weiner--the unsatisfied Jewish woman who, in her mind, is just not good enough.  That on its own is fine, except that Weiner has used that trope a bit too frequently in her books.  At the end of it all, I was never able to form any kind of connection with Rachel and I wished that the book had been Andy's story, with Rachel as a supporting character.

The book is told from Andy's and Rachel's viewpoints in alternating chapters.  This in itself is fine--and probably necessary for the way Weiner had constructed the book.  But I found it disconcerting  that Andy's chapters were in 3rd person and Rachel's were in 1st person.  I can't say I have a preference of one viewpoint over the other, but constantly switching between the two created what I considered an unnecessary challenge for the reader.

Weiner includes a lot of cultural detail in this book.  At first, I loved it--these characters are about my age and, when I was reading their stories in their younger years, I became very nostalgic.  As the story--and time in the story--progressed, however, it began to just be gimmicky to me.  Andy and Rachel found themselves in the midst of several "generation defining" events, the two most notable being 9/11 and the athletic doping scandals.  The latter was necessary for the story, but the former seemed a little too, well, Forrest Gump-ish to me.

But, as I said, I did enjoy this book--enough that it pulled me out of my slump (and, trust me, that is quite an accomplishment).  Do I think it was Weiner's best work?  No.  (I'd still go to In Her Shoes for that....), but it certainly wasn't her worst. If you are looking for a not-so-fluffy love story and are willing to overlook a few flaws, Who Do You Love might be for you.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Who Do You Love
by Jennifer Weiner