Kitchens of the Great Midwest was terrific! I really enjoyed it. I was saddened to see gr reviews by friends who did NOT like this or read a review that convinced them they would not like it so are crossing off lists! I REALLY liked this book and found much that appealed to my reading emotional self. It’s all just crazy. That’s OK. Too each their own. But I would LOVE to make Joann read this and change her mind and then sit and discuss over wine…. (Wow – I don’t usually try twist peoples’ arms to read a book but it somehow keeps poppin’ up in my recall that she is thinking this won’t appeal to her…) I think that what one reviewer found annoying, I found tongue-in-cheek amusing, so it made me chuckle where the other person reacted with DNF and/or chucking the book across the room. Funny, huh?
I thought I missed one book to complete the What’s in a Name Challenge; the the Compass Direction category. A little late in the year for me to start worrying about it, but #shrug. But anyway, I decided to do a look-see through my goodreads My-Books Read list… I searched “North” –> nope, nothing for 2017. I entered “South” –> nothing, again, for 2017. Then “East” –> sure enough –> nada. OK, only one more compass direction to look up, “West”.
AND DING DING DING!!! We have a winner!
I did not do a dedicated review (in a timely manner, ahem) since I failed miserably at this task for most of the last six months. SO I am here now writing on to satisfy the challenge and give a little jig and celebrate a reading challenge for 2017. Kick up your heels and join me?
I give j.Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest FIVE SLICES of APPLE PIE!
Did you have some successes in reading challenges for 2017 that I can help YOU celebrate?
Thoughts by Jordan Sonnenblick, Brilliance Audio 2011 (orig 2004), 4 hours 31 minutes
Narrated by Joel Johnstone – great job!
Genre: YA/Middle School Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
Why I read this now: It was short.
MOTIVATION for READING: I don’t often remember by motivations, I sometimes just read things, buy books, let the mood and whim drive me. That said, I do know that I bought this purely because it had PIE in the title. Audible sent me an email specifically targeting my pie obsession and I didn’t think twice. Probably didn’t think once.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: When I hit play on my phone to start this audiobook, I didn’t have one clue what it was about. I didn’t know it was kid lit. I only expected drums, girls and pie. Sure, I suppose I could have guessed that a book with this title could be about a teen boy who plays the drums and chases girl. Shrug. I didn’t really think about it at all. I just hit PLAY.
And what I found out was that Steven is in a middle school jazz band and he is a very good drummer. He is infatuated with the prettiest girl in class and has a girl best friend that he really doesn’t treat very well. We (yes, I just switched to the plural all of us, ‘we’) learn that Steven has an annoying little kid brother named Jeffrey, age 5, who — of course — knows just how to annoy his big brother, whom he idolizes, of course.
Then we find out that Jeffrey has leukemia.
WHAT’s GOOD: Kick in the gut good. Heartfelt and compassionate. And it’s FUNNY! Yes, there is humor.
What’s NOT so good: As a teacher, I found myself getting very emotional to those suggestive thoughts that we never quite know how to help our students and don’t often know what hard things they are dealing with. This hit close to home for me. I feel like I didn’t do enough for my students this year and I also don’t know what I could have done but there is always ‘never enough’. This isn’t a complaint or criticism of the book but I actually wish I had listened to it before May. I don’t have time to fix any of the never enough cases I want to attempt to help with. Prayers will have to do at this point in the school year.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you are a middle school teacher or any teacher who appreciates a funny and loving book that has teacher-student interactions, I recommend.
As a goodreads friend reviewed, “Very very sweet. And it’s even a cancer book.”
RATING: Four slices of apple pie. (The dangerous pie isn’t edible.)
Type/Source: eBook and Audio / Amazon
Why I read this now: It’s a hot book right now!
MOTIVATION for READING: This story is getting lots of praise and I wanted to get in on that.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Starr is a sixteen year old black girl who lives in a depressed area of a big city and attends a prep school in a predominantly white area. One night after a party, Starr is given a ride home by young black male friend and he is pulled over by the cops. He is shot and killed; Starr has to navigate this event up close and personal. Her cultures clash, her identity is fractured; she is scared and angry.
WHAT’s GOOD: Thomas decided to give the world this gift of fiction, a story, in response to and an exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement. It isn’t a story specifically addressing the movement, rather a situation that stresses the realities and the complications that many blacks face in our country. Where to live, where to go to school, how to navigate threats to body and soul?
“We have a sustained problem in America,” Thomas said. “When officers take off that uniform they’re no longer a ‘blue life’ – I can’t take my black skin off. I wanted this book to explain why we say those three words.”
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it extremely well done on so many levels – a gripping read, a sympathetic character, believable and complicated supporting cast members, a forceful not-unreasonable emotional tone, great pacing. It offers humor, some punches to the gut, a candid look at humanity.
“Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?” – Angie Thomas
Thoughts by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages
Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend
MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.
So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.
Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.
FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?
A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.
So for the ‘now’ of 2017, many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.
WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.
Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.
What’s NOT so good: Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.
I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.
As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.
“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”
I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.
Thoughts by Anne Kreamer, Little,Brown&Co 2007, 206 pages
Full Title: Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters
Challenge: What’s in a Name – Alliteration Category (two words in a title have same starting letter)
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir? Aging, Fashion
Type/Source: Hard cover / Bookmooch…
Why I read this now: It’s short!
MOTIVATION for READING: I somewhat remember an article or a review that suggested this book and since it was available on BookMooch, I scooped it up.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: One woman’s decision to stop dying her hair and how she navigated through all her notions about aging, fashion, attractiveness, and her role in the world now that she was approaching ‘middle age’. It really is mostly her research on gray hair and what it means and not so much personal sharing on all that ‘everything else’ she lists in the extended title.
WHAT’s GOOD: She does do a bit of research but it is also conducted in a personal way – which I guess is more fun, so I wouldn’t call it an academic study. It did confirm for me that a female attempting to get a new job after age 50 is S.O.L. It is so sad how we don’t consider and value experience and society wants to ignore old people. Terribly sad.
In fact, she seems to conclude that gray hair is certainly NOT less sexy so we all can feel good about that. But finding a new job will be impossible. New lover? not a problem. Impressive to anyone hiring? not a chance.
What’s NOT so good: She tends to make a few blanket statements that some careers are more youth-oriented than others but I think it is every job category out there.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I really need to figure out how to write a best-seller… or even a moderate-seller. I really am well-suited to the working conditions of being a writer. Now I just need to figure out how to produce something. Maybe I should write a nonfiction memoir study on some odd topic and then write some self-help books… Do I sound bitter?
RATING: Two to three slices. It was short, not really memorable and no pie was mentioned.
I have read much, listened to much while not blogging of late. I have much to recap. I have read and enjoyed much. Much is the word.
I purchased this Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky for the children of a friend who required birthday presents. (the presents were for the kids’ – 4 of them – birthdays not the friend’s) Don’t worry! I also sent candy and confetti and garland and more books. But this was the one I purchased in hopes to influence young minds. Personally, I thought the tone a bit ‘piled-on’. OK, already; women are great. “Thou dost protest too much.” Sigh… Yea, I own my bad feminism. I also took off a point for the dark font on dark background. Guess I’m old. Which is why I’m hoping these youngin’s will read, appreciate and larn sumthin’. That women can and have done way far more than they get credit for and will continue to do so and people should pay attention and give credit and respect. Three slices of pie.
Citizen by Cynthia Rankin. I want to read more poetry. I know I need to read more poetry. I feel like I should read more poetry. I realize this book is not quite poetry as I expect – is that the best kind? This book is powerful and heavy. Felt it in my bones and heart but still realize that there is much I cannot ‘get’ and that’s ok. I’m willing to keep attempting to reach and learn and respect and lean in and lean out and lean humble, probably lean strong. I purchased this book at my local Indie bookstore.
Then I jumped into an audiobook with comedienne extraordinaire, Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair. I am not sure I have laughed this hard in a long time (I read it before the election and already feels like eons ago). Ms Robinson explained a few things (ok, lots of things) to me. I probably could/should re-listen. Very enjoyable and extremely informative to my demographic, (ahem.) She mentions the movie Michael with Travolta which has one of the best pie songs ever recorded in film. (I wrote Ms Robinson a fan letter. I wrote Lindy West of Shrill, too. I like to write letters…)
I listened to an audiobook by John Scalzi that was being offered free by Audible.com. It was wonderful! It was 2+ hours. Enjoyed it very much. I follow Mr. Scalzi on Twitter and should read something longer by him. Someday. (I already had him on the authors-I-must-get-to list, I think, but a sample is nice.)
I quickly moved on to another audiobook that was utterly delightful. Realizing it is Nonfiction November and I had failed to plan for this AND having just read TriniCapini’s lovely Litsy post of how good it is, I used an Audible credit to get As You Wish, written and narrated by Cary Elwes. SO GOOD. I also watched the movie again. SO GOOD!
Overlapping with As You Wish, I read Barbara Claypole White’s debut novel The Unfinished Garden. I really REALLY enjoyed it. I think it is one of my favorites of hers. Maybe Perfect Son is my favorite, and this was lovely, too. I am now in a state of fandom where I have to wait for an author to publish again – I’ve read everything else by her. This is a rare thing. I usually don’t ‘follow’ an author. One more fun fact: I read all of her books in this calendar year. Another no-small-feat accomplishment for me. It would be remiss of me to fail to mention some of the BEST pie references are in this book!!!! I hope to capture in another post.
I just yesterday finished Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I will write another post just for this book soon…
Also, FYI – I just today started The World According to Garp. O.M.G. Oh, Mr Irving, you are a rascal. Yowza. I’m already to Garp’s birth scene. The whole Garp conception scene was … memorable. Let’s go with ‘memorable’, shall we?
Keep reading, friends. Keep on, keepin’ on. Be vigilant.
Thoughts by Wiley Cash, William Morrow – Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 2012, 309 pages
Genre: Southern Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library (Book Club Set)
Why I read this now: Club discussion on Oct 6
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Carson Chambliss is the leader of a church up in the sparsely populated Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina. His ministry is focused on faith-signs; which means that he believes that if you have faith enough, you can withstand fire and poisonous snake bites. One of his congregants however, does not quite trust his methods and to compromise, she holds Sunday School classes for the children so that they don’t have to witness the insanity. She tells one side of the story, as does one of the children: nine year old Jess. The third viewpoint is from the Sheriff. The plot focuses on an event involving Jess’ older brother who is mute and what happens when the church decides to hold a healing for him. It ends badly.
“The book is a thriller, but it’s so beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction filled with whiskey, guns and snake-handling.” – NPR
The writing is spectacular. It felt so real. Even as I did question if Jess had a true balance of being naïve or wise (I’m still not sure), he was a great kid and I wanted to rush in and help him sort it all out but devastated knowing there was nothing I could do. I thought how the adults treated him was spot on. I really loved Adelaide’s back story but she frustrated me and I wanted to know much more about the Clem Barefield, the sheriff.
“A beautifully written morality tale.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
What’s NOT so good: I wanted just a little more! A little more into Clem’s grief, perhaps, but also, I should recant and recognize that I think it might just be perfect. The holding back of just enough keeps the reader wondering and engaged.
FINAL THOUGHTS: What is revealed is subtle in that regard and yes, it might be almost perfect that we didn’t get the ‘more’. Pacing and plotting of what happens is SO GOOD and the switch in viewpoints was executed very well – the story was well structured. For such heavy stuff, the writer seemed to have a light touch. He is very talented and I will read his latest, This Dark Road to Mercy.
RATING: Four moon pies. Can’t slice a moon pie, right!?
“I sat there in the car with the gravel dust blowing across the parking lot and saw the place for what was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and cracker jack and other things I hadn’t thought about tasting in years.”
Challenge: peer pressure?
Type/Source: ebook / Kindle
Why I read this now: Making a concerted effort to read my ebooks.
MOTIVATION for READING: I have so many blogger-buds say this is a wild ride. Had to sign up and see if I liked it, too.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Our main character, Carolyn, is a librarian; but the library where she works is most interesting and actually on a different plane. She is in charge of learning all the worlds’ (world’s or all worlds’? hard to tell) languages while a few of her ‘brothers and sisters’ know everything about war and death and animals and transportation and persuasively getting into people’s heads, etc. They all report to “Father” but he is actually some kind of godlike entity and his library is his store of knowledge. He needed to adopt these kids so he could pass along this knowledge but also keep the power decentralized. Then one day, he goes missing.
WHAT’s GOOD: This is one nutty action-packed funny wild ride, I will agree.
What’s NOT so good: About half way, when the adrenaline and the WTF’s are flying — while I’m chatting up the book and sharing how awesome it is — and the big WA LA BOOM BOOM! happens…. Then it’s late at night and I have to go to sleep and wake up the next day to finish; it felt like a balloon with a slow leak. So I suppose I could say the ending but more the lead up to the ending, felt draggy and almost unsatisfactory. Upon reflection a week later, I liked the ending OK.
I am still wondering if I missed how Carolyn met the military dude.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It is a wild and unique ride. It’s violent, a bit of an almost love story — oops, SPOILER!? It has a lot of humor, too.
Thoughts by James Baldwin, Blackstone Audio 2013 (orig 1953), 8 hours 45 minutes
Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White.
Challenge: Back to the Classics
Genre: American classic, coming of age
Why I read this now: This was the only audiobook I had on my phone at the moment I was ready to listen to a new one.
MOTIVATION for READING: I am curious. Baldwin is mentioned as an important writer and I had yet to read any of his work.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Not at all what I expected. I thought it was a going to be an essay on race relations in America. It’s fiction! I did not know it was fiction. I did not know it was semi-autobiographical. I was not prepared at all for this.
It is a story of a family and an individual family member grappling with his destiny against family history and expectations and cultural storms. It captures a certain place and time but the theme is universal.
WHAT’s GOOD: The writing blew me away. Here’s the blurb from goodreads; bold red font emphasis is mine:
Go Tell It on the Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Powerful.
RATING: Four slices of pie. The narration is excellent.
“after dinner, they brought up the pie and coffee and cream…”
Thoughts by Cynthia D’Aprx Sweeney, ecco An Imprint of HarperCollins 2016, 353 pages
Challenge: to keep up with newly published books
Genre: Dysfunctional Family Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover, Library 14-day Loan
Why I read this now: not sure
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The father of four kids sets up a fund that will only be accessible when the youngest turns 40. Typically, all the siblings are eagerly awaiting and counting on this cash to bail them out of questionable financial circumstances.
Unfortunately (oh how true IS that word here!), the horrible mother decides to access the money to bail out the oldest child who commits a royal screw-up. So the next three kids are hoping/demanding that their big brother fix it.
WHAT’s GOOD: It’s quite readable and paced well and has many interesting asides and commentary on New York, marriage, solitude, babies, the literary and art worlds… There are characters to like, be charmed by and not quite trust. I love a horrible mother so I enjoyed the matriarch. I was impressed I didn’t get all the characters confused.
What’s NOT so good: A few characters were only foils of perfection to contrast the neurotics of the main characters but this is a minor quibble.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Here’s what I wrote in goodreads: Overall, a good solid book of the type I like to read, whatever that is. It helped that I was given a few big blocks of time to read when I thought I had to do something else. Yay for plans that change in my favor! Will this be Rooster worthy? I kind of doubt this will make the shortlist… But I could be wrong.
RATING: Four slices of pie. No mention of pie noted.