Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! Let’s get this holiday weekend kicked off with some fifteen-word (or fewer) book reviews:

1. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Unsure about the dual narrators initially, but both Jill and Mandy were real and distinct.

2. Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai by Ming Tsai, Arthur Boehm
Interesting recipes with well-balanced flavors. Probably not for a beginner cook.

3. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
With great (fire) power comes great responsibility. Nice look at the costs of war.

4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
First chapter is arresting. Wish I’d been as captivated by the rest.

5. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald
The “Thought-You-Saiders” cracked me up. First memory of a book making me laugh like that.

Summer Reading

Welcome to summer, everyone! Living in New England, I always feel like summer is a revelation. Trees are green! You can walk outside! You can leave work and it’s still sunny out! Sometimes I forget that a few months ago, I was wrapping myself in scarves and trudging through snow drifts. But I think having the long winter makes me appreciate the summer so much more.

One of my favorite parts of summer when I was a kid was summer reading. Not necessarily school-assigned summer reading, but my own piles of library books. Any book can be a great summer reading book, but why not read books that feel summery in some way? Here are a few of my suggestions for summery reads:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
With an opening line about the first week of August hanging in the air like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel, you know you’re in for a book that radiates summer heat and tension. I’ve mentioned this before, but Tuck‘s a favorite.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (The Penderwicks #1) by Jeanne Birdsall
Who doesn’t want to take a summer vacation with the charming Penderwick family? I still have to read the third in the series, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette; that might have to do go on my summer 2013 reading list.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Not set only in summer, but barbeque, strong Southern women, and a murder mystery in Alabama feel distinctly summery.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
All of Dessen’s books have a great, summer-y feel, but I especially like the combination of ridding bikes, summer jobs, and a beach town.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gatsby’s parties feel like they could only happen during the wild summer months. Whenever it’s the summer solstice, I always think about Daisy’s reference to waiting for the longest day of the year and missing it.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
On a hot summer day in 1935, everything changes forever for the Tallis family and Robbie Turner. McEwan really captures the tension of an isolated summer day.

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
I love island books, and L’Engle more than delivers the summer goodness (dolphins!) while balancing out major issues like death and grief and hope.

Share your favorite summer books in the comments!

48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

My first 48 Hour Book Challenge is complete and I consider it a huge success. It was so nice to have a weekend specifically devoted to reading. Although I didn’t get as hardcore as many people, I was still really pleased with my results. The books I had in progress are finished and I even added two new books to my pile. The final stats:

  • 13.75 total hours read
  • 1599 pages read
  • 7 books finished
  • 3 cups of tea consumed
  • Extra credit*: 1.25 hours reading time, 154 pages read

The Books

-1I don’t think I had a bad book in the batch. I felt like I had a nice mix of contemporary realism (The Moon and More, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named HamletDirty Little Secrets, and Jellicoe Road), fantasy (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Shiver), and adult crossover (Tell the Wolves I’m Home). I’d definitely recommend any of the above. It also felt really good to finally cross a lot of those off my list–they’d been hanging out on my nightstand for far too long.

For me, this was a great reminder that sometimes you need to put away the phone, close the laptop, and shut off the TV. It’s easy to get sucked into “just one more Tweet,” but that ultimately means missing out on lots of good reading time. I’m going to try to be more mindful of this moving forward, because I loved reading all weekend. It reminded me of being a kid again and holing up in my room with a pile of library books. (You know, in the olden days when we used to have to call people to find out what they were having for lunch or when we couldn’t stream our favorite shows directly to our computers.) Any tweets or blog posts you miss will be waiting for you once you’re done with that chapter.

Thanks so much to Ms. Yingling for hosting this year’s challenge! (Also, major props to her 30 hours of reading time. Holy cow!) And high five to everyone else who spent the weekend

*If you didn’t see yesterday, the extra credit was from not having finished Jellicoe Road in the allotted 48-hour period but not being able to stop reading because of all the feelings.

Update #3: 48 Hour Book Challenge

Plowing through my “mid-read” pile this afternoon. Glad I can finally put these back on the shelves!

photoUpdate #3:

  • 1.5 hour reading time (6 hours total)
  • 196 pages read (697 pages total)
  • 0 cups of tea consumed (2 cups total)

The Books

Review #3: I was a little less than halfway through Dirty Little Secrets when I picked it up for #48HBC. It’s one I’ve meant to read for a while, since it deals with a big family secret and a mother with some emotional/mental problems (in this case, hoarding). My heart broke for Lucy through this one, as she feels a strange hope in getting to move on with her life if she can just clean out the house. Omololu manages to make Lucy’s mom into a real person, not just someone defined by her hoarding, and I liked those glimpses of her outside of the house (at work, as a child). I also liked that crush-worthy Josh Lee is revealed to be dealing with his own family problems; I love that “everyone has secrets” theme and it’s one I tend to use in my own work. The ending felt a little rushed for me, and I would have liked a little more of an emotional build there, but overall a great read for anyone interested in YA contemporary family drama.

photo-1Review #4: I was almost at the end of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and so glad to finally finish this one. It’s a tome, so even though I started it a while ago, I’d inevitable leave it at home and take another book with me. Then I’d want to finish the other book and, well, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell suffered for it. But it’s an excellent novel–fake British history plus magicians is a winning idea, and Susanna Clarke gets the tone perfectly. I loved seeing the various plot threads eventually come together, and the ending is surprisingly bittersweet.

Friday Fifteen

Anyone else feel like they’ve had about ten days in this week? Glad it’s finally Friday and time for the Friday Fifteen:

1. Lon Po Po by Ed Young
The wolf comes to visit in this gorgeous, creepy take on Red Riding Hood.

2. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
I think it’s supposed to be funny. Might have read it too young.

3. Samantha Saves the Day (American Girls: Samantha #4) by Valerie Tripp
I continue to want to spend the summer in Piney Point wearing nautically-themed outfits.

4. Richard III by William Shakespeare
At 16 I wrote a malevolent character with a hunchback, thought I was sooooo clever.

5. Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca Lia Block
Reread this collection a lot in high school. “Dragons in Manhattan” was probably my favorite.

Links Galore

A few fun links for today:

The Invisible Thread: the Anniversary of Mrs. Dallwoay

Buy the flowers yourself, like Clarissa!

Today in literary history, Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925. It’s one of my favorite books–the plot is simple, but the writing is so gorgeous. I love how Woolf imbues the everyday with so much meaning. And it makes me feel a deep connection with other people. For example, one part that sticks with me is when Lady Bruton imagines her connection with Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread after they leave her home:

“And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider’s thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down.”

I love that image so much and I totally feel that when I part from friends. Even though the thread may sag, I love the fact that it’s there at all. We’re deeply and invisibly connected with the people we love.

Buy yourself some flowers today and celebrate Mrs. Dalloway!

(image: Rubin Starset)

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s almost Mother’s Day, so let’s celebrate early with a few mother-themed fifteen-word book reviews:

1. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Quiet and sensitive novel about a mail-order bride who becomes an awesome stepmom.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Mrs. Weasley wins Mom of the Year for her line “Not my daughter, you bitch!”

3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag
Idgie and Ruth combat racism, serve barbecue in Depression-era Alabama. Read it, immediately started rereading.

4.Matilda by Roald Dahl
Clever Matilda has a heinous family, so she forms a new family with Miss Honey.

5. Grandma Gets Grumpy by Anna Grossnickle Hines
Grandmas get upset sometimes–they were moms once, after all.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! What better way to end the week than with some fifteen-word book reviews:

1. Friends by Helme Heine
I used to love this book, especially the rooster’s rainbow tail.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Just as cute and fun as everyone said. Can I study abroad in Paris?

3. Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten
The ones I’ve tried turned out well. Apparently Ina likes her Bolognese spicy—woohoo!

4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The most depressing Steinbeck book. And he wrote about dead puppies.

5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Not my favorite, but I like how Fanny holds it together amidst so much crazy.

Endure and Prevail

Last week my dad mentioned William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I’d read it before, but it feels particularly meaningful now. My favorite part:

“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Bold/italics are mine. Writers, we’ve got a job to do. Let’s help humanity prevail.

Make sure to click through to see the whole speech; you can even listen to Faulkner read it!

(image: Wikipedia)