Friday, August 29, 2014

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

I was sure I was going to like this book. First of all, it came highly recommended from sources I trusted. Plus, the way the memoir was set up seemed to be fail-proof: the author juxtaposes her narrative of the rising of Utah's Great Salt Lake and the effect it has on the birds in the Bird Refuge alongside the narrative of her mother's slow death from cancer. Brilliant. Even more, it's by a Utah author, so I really had no choice but to like it.

...Except that I didn't. I hate to say that. I really do. This is possibly the biggest reading disappointment I've ever had because I just really wanted to like it. 

In the first half, Williams failed to make me care about the birds. The parts about her mother were the most interesting, but they were only snippets in the longer, much more technical narrative about the birds. I felt more like I was reading a newspaper article than a personal memoir. Williams made it clear how much she cared about the birds, but she didn't express this in a way I could understand. The birds were her job, and she left out no solitary technical detail. It was hard to keep my eyes from glazing over. 

But I thought, it'll get better. It has to. Everyone loves this book; it simply must get better. Well, unfortunately, it was actually downhill from there. In the second half of the book, I started to realize just how distant I felt from Terry Tempest Williams. Like her photograph on the back of the book--a black and white picture of a young woman on a boat, clasping her hands as her luxurious hair billows in the wind, looking toward the camera with a mystical half-smile that says, Oh, I didn't see you there--Williams paints herself as a mysterious, wise woman. Frankly, I didn't like this portrayal at all; I thought it was inappropriate for a memoir. Memoirs are a place to connect with your reader, to say, Look, I have these problems just like you, and I'm going to lay them out in front of you so we all can acknowledge that we're not alone. At least, those are the kinds of memoirs I like to read. Williams, instead, seemed condescending, as though she knew something the rest of us don't about nature and life and the universe. It didn't help that she started calling everything she did--driving, vacuuming, whatever--a "meditation." Oh, please. I progressed to the eye-rolling stage. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Belated Wrap-Up

Well. I pretty much failed at the last 3 days of the readathon. I did do some reading, but I didn't post every day like I planned and then even my reading kind of fell by the wayside at the end. I finished some of my goals, but not all....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 4

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: Marie Antoinette, The Da Vinci Code

Okay, I didn't do a challenge yesterday because I got sucked down the rabbit hole of The Da Vinci Code. But today I'm going to START the day with a challenge!

Bout of Books: Day 3

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: Marie Antoinette

Well, I failed in doing a challenge today, mainly because I got pretty wrapped up in The Da Vinci Code. (Don't worry, I wasn't surprised. I figured when I started it that it would be unputdownable.) I was planning on finishing it yesterday, and I definitely could have, but finally I decided not to. It was kind of depressing me. But I think I only have about 60 pages left, so I should be able to finish it tomorrow without a problem.

I do have a lot of plans for tomorrow, though, so I may not be able to get much reading done. We'll see!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 2

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code, Marie Antoinette
Books finished: Marie Antoinette

12:45 pm: I've been busy making a pie this morning, but I have gotten some time to read The Da Vinci Code. It's starting to take over my reading, I admit, but I would like to finish Marie Antoinette today, so I'd better get on that.

Later: I finished Marie Antoinette! I spent the rest of my time on DVC, which has become rather too exciting to put down. Still not a particularly amazing reading day, but pretty good! I'm planning on doing a challenge tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 1

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: None yet

I'm usually really bad at doing challenges in readathons. But I want to this time! So I'm doing the Scavenger Hunt challenge hosted by The Book Monsters. I found all the books for this challenge on my own shelves.

Bout of Books 11: Goals

Whoa! Okay! I almost forgot that Bout of Books starts today! But that's okay...I was needing some reading motivation today!

Right now I'm in the middle of several books that I'm feeling sort of apathetic toward. That's not really a recipe for reading success. So, for this readathon, I want to focus on finishing these books and getting excited about them again. And maybe starting some fun new books!

Here's my little currently-reading pile:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August Classics Club Meme: Adaptations

The question of the month:
What are your thought on adaptations of classics? Say mini-series or movies? Or maybe modern approaches? Are there any good ones? Is it better to read the book first? Or maybe just compare the book and the adaptation? 
This is a good question. *rubs hands together* Personally, I love adaptations of classics, no matter their form. And I really like modern approaches, too; I think they prove the timelessness of the stories.

Is it better to read the book first? In general I would say that it is, for me anyway, because I like to get a good idea of the characters are they were originally written before I see them played on a screen. With the book, you can really let your imagination run wild, no matter how detailed the character description, but once you've seen an adaptation, that particular interpretation of the character will always color the way you read the book. So I think reading the book first, then watching the adaptation provides the most "genuine" experience of the story. But I've been guilty of seeing the movie before I've read the book, and in some cases I think it's a good thing--if I simply can't bring myself to start reading the book, or I have a premonition that it will be horribly boring, then watching an adaptation can get me more excited to read it. Once I know the storyline, it's easier to get through the book; I'm excited to get to the good parts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

A Three Dog Life is absolutely one of the most appropriately written memoirs about tragedy I've ever read.

Not that I'm an expert on memoirs about tragedy. Far from it. But I know well enough that they are generally unbearably sad, that they make me think fearfully about all the horrible possibilities, and that they're often not uplifting. I don't want to be willfully ignorant, but I also don't want to be unnecessarily depressed. I don't want to avoid the mere mention of tragedy, but I don't want it to consume my thoughts when it hasn't even happened to me (yet).

Abigail Thomas does a beautiful job of gently guiding readers to an understanding of her own tragic experience. At the time of the memoir's writing, Thomas's husband had recently been in a car accident that had caused major brain injuries. He's so unlike himself that he can't even live with her anymore; Thomas has no choice but to put him in a care facility. He has frequent personality changes, often turning against his wife and being suspicious of her. Visiting him is an emotional roller coaster.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Classics Club Spin Results!

I got lucky! The spin number was number 17--smack dab in the middle of my "please pick one of these" category! So I'll be reading Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I've been wanting to pick this one up for quite a while, so I'm excited to get started!

Friday, August 8, 2014

When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson

This is a laugh-out-loud memoir about motherhood and family life. Amy Wilson talks about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising small children with an honest voice. I liked that she was able to be funny without being cynical or forgetting the joys of motherhood--something that's not often achieved when writers talk about parenthood. The book is probably aimed mostly at moms, but even though I don't have kids, I still thought it was relatable and hilarious.

Wow, this is a short review, since I've pretty much just said everything I wanted to say. I needed a really fun memoir, and that's exactly what I got with this book.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Classics Club Spin #7!

Originally, I decided to skip the Spin yet again. I have a lot of books I'm in the middle of, and school starts in a just didn't seem like a good time to add a random classic to my pile of books. But once I saw everyone else's lists, I just couldn't help it. I'm going to do the Spin! Even if I don't manage to finish on time, it'll still be fun to try. But I'm going to keep the books on this list relatively short--I don't want to put any pressure on myself to read War and Peace in the next two months.

Please don't pick one of these: 
1. The Odyssey - Homer
2. The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
3. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
4. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
5. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Very big, non-bookish news

I've been holding back this news for a while, this being a book blog and all and not really about my personal life. But this is big news...

I'm pregnant! 

Come December, I will have an adorable baby girl! I'm excited beyond belief. This is going to be my first baby and I can hardly wait. 

I think it's time to start compiling baby's library. What are your favorites--for small children, older children, little girls, etc.?