Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reading is fun.

I am happy to share that I have found even more time to read, especially with less time devoted to social media. I squeezed in a few extra books before the August/September craziness, and then have picked right back up with more reading. Here are my thoughts on the latest batch of books - seven more for you to ponder.

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
I was so excited when my book club selected this book for one of our monthly reads because I loved The Devil Wears Prada, and I was in the mood for some light easy reading. Unfortunately, I did not love this book. I don't know if it is just because there was so much time between the first book and the sequel, or because the author was trying to match the movie more than the original story, but this honestly felt like reading a book about two totally different characters. The Andie who took on the cold and calculating Miranda was totally unlikeable and sort of a pushover here. And I don't get the title, because there was no revenge. Just a lot of pointless story lines that went unresolved, with nothing exciting to keep the book going. I finished it and was honestly disappointed. It did make for a lively book club discussion though - I feel like the books that people don't like generate a better talk. But meh. Don't bother otherwise.

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill
This was another book club read - our first non-fiction selection. As a whole, I liked learning more about the Kennedys through the unique perspective of Jackie Kennedy's bodyguard. It was an easy read that I didn't want to put down. It did leave me with a ton of questions, wanting to know more about some of the different stories that were shared. The author doesn't delve too much into the gossip, which honestly I wanted a little bit more of. Definitely intriguing. Happy to lend you my copy.

Inferno by Dan Brown
So I love me some Robert Langdon. But, at this point, wonder if Dan Brown will write another story about him that is as good as Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. I couldn't even remember the name of the third one, The Lost Symbol, because it was just okay. Cool that it was set in the US and involved some of our monuments, but not my favorite story. And then Inferno came around, and I was really hopeful. But I had a very hard time sticking with it. There were many nights where I just didn't feel like picking it up. I love the focus on symbology and enjoyed learning about the different historical places in Venice, Florence and Istanbul. It definitely made me want to visit Italy for sure, and possibly Turkey. But the storyline just wasn't carrying me along until that "you don't find out what is really going on until the very last second" writing device that Dan Brown always utilizes. It feels too much like more of the same, with the random hot, smart, young woman as his sidekick and a race against time as Robert Langdon runs around the city. Maybe I'm getting worn out on the style. I was surprised to learn that they are working on a 2015 film of Inferno with Tom Hanks, actually skipping The Lost Symbol. Maybe the movie will make me love the book more. Your call on this one.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gilbraith (aka JK Rowling)

As soon as it was revealed that JK Rowling wrote this book, I grabbed it from Amazon ASAP. The buzz had been pretty positive even before folks knew it was her book, and I wanted to see how she'd do at the private detective novel. Especially since I've been all about Sherlock Holmes lately. I was not disappointed. I thought Cormoran Strike was a unique and interesting character, who I wanted to root for, even though he's kind of the "anti-hero" in some ways - the total opposite of a Sherlock Holmes. Although the book doesn't have any magic, I think that Rowling's writing style works well with this type of book, because PI novels are all about the details and the interesting characters. And that's her thing. Is it the best book I've ever read - no. But it's one of the better crime novels I've read in a long time, and I hope she writes more with this character. I don't expect her to ever write something better than Harry Potter - that's too much to ask. I just want her to keep writing. Worth picking up. 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

This was our latest book club read, and will be our discussion for tomorrow. I can't wait to talk about it with others and hear what they thought. Having read and watched The Great Gatsby so recently, it was interesting to read this fictional account, told through the voice of Zelda Fitzgerald. I didn't know much about Zelda prior to reading, and had no idea that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby (which sort of bombed at the time) with such a huge foundation from their real lives, or at least how he portrayed how they lived - the crazy parties with their social circles of fellow writers and famous people, Zelda as his southern debutante that he had to win over with his financial success. I was also unaware that she was a writer herself, or that she struggled with mental illness. The book focuses on their lives as the "golden couple" living in excess of their means and their turbulent relationship with each other throughout the years until their deaths. The author did an amazing job of painting a picture of just what there lives might have been like, with a bit more empathy for Zelda. Sounds like she needed a win because her husband seemed like sort of a horrible husband and person in general. I would be interested to read some non-fiction biographies of Zelda to see how they compare. It also makes me want to read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which I believe takes a similar approach, but with Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Hemingway, who was featured in this story too. That one will be bumped to the top of my list. 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

So this is actually my suggestion for our next book club read. My mom had shared her copy, and I was planning to wait to read it, but then picked it up and finished it in two days. I would list it as a must read. It is a beautifully written story about an 18 year old girl who ages out of the foster care system, and is emancipated, with no plan and nowhere to go. Having bounced through a number of different homes and schools throughout her childhood, without a high school degree or any major skills, her options aren't looking great. Her challenging personality doesn't help. The only thing she has is her skill and knowledge of flowers. I don't want to give any of the rest of the book away, but add this to your reading list. It was great. The author is a foster mother herself, and brings a really unique perspective that I haven't seen in other books before. 

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Have you watched this show? It is one of my favorites. And the book was really great too. Jennifer Worth was a midwife in the East End of London during the 50s and the book tells the stories from that time in her life. This book is actually a bit older and the first in a series of three - I believe it came out in 2002, and Worth died a few years ago. She was trained as a nurse in a London hospital before moving to the East End to live in a convent and serve as a midwife to some of London's poorest families. She experiences quite a bit of culture shock from her more "cushy" upbringing, as the majority of her patients live and raise huge families in housing projects that were already condemned or would be within the decade. She does an amazing job portraying the spirit and personalities of the residents of her neighborhood, Poplar. The book has this really cool mix of stories about medicine and childbirth from which I learned a lot, to stories of poverty, domestic violence, and prostitution, that broke my heart, to these really fun and lively stories of the midwives and the nuns with whom they live and work that made me laugh out loud. I definitely want to read the other two books in the series. And I can't wait for season three of the show to make its way to PBS. The show told many of the stories directly from the book in its first two seasons. I am interested to see where they take the characters for the third one.      

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Social Media and I are on a Break

I couldn't write that title and not think of the all-time best tv show ever, Friends. So good.

Twitter and Facebook are out right now. I've turned them off. Well, technically I have only turned off Facebook. Twitter is still out though.


I just need a little bit of time with less social media, and more just being social. Interacting with people in ways other than "liking" their photos and posts. Feeling okay about putting down my computer or phone without worrying about missing out on something. Because the reality is that I am always going to miss out on things. And that's okay.

Facebook and Twitter are easy. They are there. All. The. Time. Always available for a fast distraction that ends up being a total black hole. Because I was also assisting with some of our social media management for work, it also means that I'm not only using them at home, but at work too. Too much.

I am sure the picture of your baby is cute. You know if I was on there, I'd like any picture of your cat. But is that the point? I feel like too much of my life can get wrapped up in my online presence, and I am not putting enough time in other areas. (I understand the contradiction as I post this on my personal    

So I decided my mind needed a little bit of time for a reset. I'm taking a break between now and the end of November. I'll be back, I'm sure. But for now, you won't find me there, personally or for work. Someone else is taking the lead on that.

I'm excited for the opportunity to communicate with folks in other ways. More texts. More calls. More hanging out. Heck, maybe even some snail mail. Perhaps my change will stimulate some much needed business for our post office system. Okay, probably not.

The blog isn't getting turned off. I may post less. But I haven't been posting that frequently lately anyway. And who knows if folks will find it if I'm not posting via social media.

Okay, back to real life.
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