readerly rambles

Readerly Rambles: 21 July 2014

readerly rambles

What I Read: A few weeks ago I finished my first Alice Munro collection, Dear Life. Holy cheeseballs why didn’t I pick up Munro sooner?!?! I’ve mused for weeks how to perfectly sum up this collection and there is nothing I can say that will do it justice. I will try my best to tie this collection together in a simple way. The stories are very much driven by the protagonist and his or her thoughts and interpretations of the the situations they find themselves in, their memories of the past, and the their reactions to those around them. If I had to pick some words to describe the stories — from characters to scenes to dialogue — I would pick words like: interior, close, introspective, circumspect, careful, still, introverted. The “action” doesn’t make the heart of the story so much as the fallout of those actions or the — often unvoiced — choices characters make. The characters are pulled-back, set-apart, alone and it is so very effective. For example, in a story about a woman remembering the death of her sister when they were children, the crux of the action isn’t about the actual death, but rather about the living sister being haunted by her inaction when her sister was in trouble. Another story is narrated by a man (most of the stories have female protagonists) who abruptly leaves a female companion after learning something disturbing about her childhood. The odd and traumatic childhood isn’t the focus, rather it is what drives the protagonist to keep leaving and abandoning people in emotional situations. The first 13 stories in this collection are fiction. The last section, “Dear Life,” is composed of vignettes about Alice Munro’s childhood. I found these tales of babysitters, insomnia, and memory fascinating. I will certainly be picking up more Munro in the future. She is a expert storyteller and can build troubled, sympathetic characters in the style of Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor. I’m resisting an urge to binge purchased every Munro collection.

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Trollope’s Doctor Thorne and it is even better than Barchester Towers and I adored that book. Trollope just keeps getting better and better. I’m set to finish the book this week as long as my reading goes according to plan. I’m beginning to think that Trollope is a good “gateway” book for those intimidated by chunky Victorian novels. Trollope is hilarious and the dialogue rivals the rapier wit of Jane Austen.

I’m also about half-way through listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m enjoying it, but I save my audiobooks for when I’m exercising or doing some data-entry like work that I have to do at work. Things were too chaotic to listen to an audiobook at work last week, but I hope to get back to it this week.

Lastly, I started reading the second book in George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series — a Clash of Kings. I’m reading it on my Kindle which means this has become my lunch break, stuck in line, up with the baby at night book. I’ve forbidden myself from reading it at other times because I know I will read too much of it. I want to savor this series and not blow through the entire thing.

What’s Up Next:  I was planning on reading another classic, but between Trollope and reading other large books I feel like I need a break. I was staring at my shelves last night trying to decide what I wanted to read: modern? kids’ book? memoir? I had no idea. Then I saw a book my friend Michelle lent to me ages ago, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction is about General Alex Dumas, father to The Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classic novels and I’ve read it twice. This sounds both literary AND swashbuckling. I’m 99% sure it will be my next read. Besides, I really need to return the book!

Bookish Miscellany: I’m one pound away from reaching my next weight-loss goal. That means another *new* book purchase. I’ve been only buying books as I stumble upon them at thrift stores and I’m dying to buy books off of my wishlist.  I’ve been buying a book for every five pounds lost. My goal is to lose that pound this week so I can order the Penguin Deluxe Threads edition of Black Beauty. I have all of the Penguin Threads with the exception of Black Beauty and Little Women.

That’s it for this week. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Percolating Blog Ideas

This weekend the blogosphere is celebrating Bloggiesta. Bloggiesta is blog event that encourages bloggers to spruce, plan, update, and improve their blog. I’d love to gung-ho participate, but this will be a very busy weekend. This week I thought a bit about Fig and Thistle and what I would like to do in this space in the future. I am big on ideas and short on time and I really need a way to organize and maximize my posts. I usually jot down ideas in the my journal or on post-it notes, I “pre-blog” a bit in the evening and I usually end up writing the bulk of my posts on my lunch break. It feels like a scramble sometimes.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having “themes” for each day of the week. Initially I thought this might be too restrictive, but it would at least allow me to focus my thoughts. How about a trial run through the rest of July and August and if it sucks I can go back to willy-nilly blogging?

sunday scribbles

 

readerly rambles

 

list love

 

works in progress

 

thurs

 

photofriday

 

thrifted

 

 

Sunday — Sunday Scribbles: a place to talk about journaling, show a bit of my journal, showcase stationary, and talking about writing.

Monday — Readerly Rambles: book reviews, book hauls, book fangirling, TBRs, etc….

Tuesday — List Love: I participate in Top Ten Tuesday on occasion, but I love lists and I like the idea of making lists of non-book related things.

Wednesday — Works in Progress: On Wednesdays I’ll talk about projects including knitting, crochet, embroidery and non-crafty things like organizing, cleaning, and budgeting. Thrifted will be my back up category for when I have some thrifted goods to show off.

Thursday — Thursday Thoughts: A place to write about what’s on my mind on topics such as social media, motherhood, work, and anything else on my brain.

Friday — Photo Friday: A time to share photos or possibly participate in some of those Instagram memes I never remember to do on a daily basis

Saturdays — Other people’s themes: I may write a Celebrate 5 Things post or do a Weekend Cooking post. And, of course, Readathons and other book related events.

Whelp, there’s my wee-bitty bloggiesta contribution. Let me know what you think? Any other ideas?

Readerly Rambles: 06/24/2013

readerlyrambles mary

Auguste Reading to Her Daughter by Mary Cassatt

 

What I read: Last week I finished The Game of Thrones. WOW! I think it would be silly to do a review seeing as social media is saturated with the television show and you’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the premise of this epic, high fantasy novel. I did want to note some elements of the novel that truly made me love every word.

  • World-Building: The novel reminded me of many of my favorite novels that are lengthy, complex, and embody its own created mythology, language, and culture. In the tradition of Lord of the Rings and The Mists of Avalon, George R R Martin has created a vast world with different cultures, religions, and values clashing. More than battles, death, and intrigue, this book also explores relationships in this culture (romantic, parental, etc…) and there are lengthy passages describing the geography, food, and dwellings. I was able to immerse myself in Westeros and fully appreciate the complexity of this vast world.
  • Historical Novel?: While the land and people of The Game of Thrones is fiction, the conflict very much reminded me of The Wars of the Roses or a similar medieval event of historic proportion. Some readers may be shocked by the violence and betrayal, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction this isn’t so much shocking as it adds to the realism of the work. I know the work is fantasy (duh) but because the dress, customs, and culture mimic the Middle Ages the violence simply underscores the historical fiction feel of the piece (please see the death of George Plantagenet if you need an example of a bizarre execution).
  • Complex Characters: I love the duality of the characters. While some characters are downright evil (Joffrey, anyone?) others are simply troubles (King Robert), too honorable for their own good (Ned), too insecure and ignorant (Lysa), etc… Every character — good or bad — makes mistake. I think it is most heartbreaking when mistakes are made by people trying to do the right thing, but with disastrous consequences (*waves to all of the Starks*).

I am eagerly anticipating the next book — A Clash of Kings — but I am doing my best to wait until July.

What I’m reading: I’m a little over half-way done with Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor. WOW. I don’t quit know what to say about this book. I’m enjoying it, but I cannot help but compare it to Jane Eyre and Villette. The novel follows a young Englishman, William Crimsworth, as he becomes a professor in Belgium. He is really sort of dick. I’ve had pages of him describing every girl and woman at a school he is teaching at and he sounds like a creeper. Oh yeah, hair color, build, brown, eye, their intellect is also sooooo clearly displayed on the feminine brow and of course their form. He’ll describe a fifteen year old and then follow up with the fact that she was a “fully formed woman.” Okay, dude. Checking out the ladies, viewing them as dumb cattle, and then remarking on which ones are or are not “full formed” is gross. I don’t care if you’re a fictional Victorian man, you’re creepy. For example check out this gem I posted on Instagram earlier this week:  

Professor Creepsworth

Professor Creepsworth

 

 

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 06/16/2014

thetruth
What I’m Reading: I am so so so close to finishing The Game of Thrones. I should finish it by tomorrow night. I’ve been told that I will want to jump into the next book right away, but I really want to pause. I need to read a few other things and I am a big believer in leaving a bit of room to digest readings when reading a series. I don’t want to get so caught up in the plot because I’m afraid I will race through everything and miss details. That’s what happened the first time I read Harry Potter. Order of the Phoenix had just been published and I rushed through all five books. I missed a lot of details or didn’t make connections and I kept having to go back and look at the other novels after I finished the series to see all the little details I missed.

Moby-Dick: I’m shelving Moby-Dick for now. I am absolutely enjoying the book, but I feel my mind wandering. It isn’t wandering because I’m bored or overwhelmed. I just find I am making myself read a little bit of Moby-Dick so I can get back to The Game of Thrones. This means I’m not really focusing on what I’m reading. I want to fully immerse myself in both novels, but I cannot. Maybe if I quit my job and hired a nanny and a maid, but that isn’t really feasible.

What’s Up Next: I swear I will take a break and read something else before digging into A Clash of Kings. I WILL read my Classics Club Spin book (The Professor) and Trollope’s Doctor Thorne.

General Malaise: I am so behind on reading. I see so many folks finishing book after book. Granted my reads are a bit thicker now, but still! I feel like such a fakey-fake book girl. To compound the problem I have an intense desire to go book shopping, and to go to the library, and to pretty much overwhelm my life with books. I may have to break up with book blogs for a while; they just seem to underscore my stagnation. Except I’m not stagnate! I am reading for at least an hour to three hours a day, but I am having trouble completing things as quickly as I’d like. I’m whining (stamps foot).

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 06/09/2014

metal

 

What I’m Reading: Sigh. I’m still working my way through The Game of Thrones. Alas, I cannot read it at night because I don’t want to stop reading. I’m reading it on my lunch breaks and when I get the odd moment alone through out my dad. And yes, that does mean in the bathroom (but also in the school pick up line, while “watching” RescueBots with Atticus, etc…). I’m really enjoying it and since I haven’t seen the show I am pleasantly surprised at each turn. Sure, I know all the major deaths, but I’m constantly like “oh no!” “GASP!” and “WAHHHH?????” I also tend to throw up metal horns at particularly gruesome scenes. This book is METAL.

Moby Dick: I’m also reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville for Roof Beam Reader’s readalong. I am a few chapters behind, but I can say that I’m enjoying it more than 16 year old me enjoyed it. The prose is gorgeous. Thus far the narrator, Ishmael, has met Queequeg, they’ve roomed together, Queequeg saved someone from drowning, they went to church, and now they’ve had chowder. And that’s the first 75 pages. It really flew by for me more than I thought it would. I will say the droning on about Queequeg being a Noble Savage is grating on my nerves, but hopefully that will not carry through the entire novel.

Bookish Movies: This morning I watched How I Live Now on the Netflix. It is a 2013 dystopian movie based on the novel by Meg Rosoff. I enjoyed the book when I read it years ago and all I remember not liking is Rosoff’s absence of quotation marks when people are talking. That got on my nerves. Anyhoo, the movie was very good and it is every bit as bleak as The Hunger Games but more lonely and alienated and with little explanation as to what led to the war ravaging the world. The ending isn’t tidy, it is uncomfortable, there’s violence, and certainly a scene that makes obvious women are being raped at a “rape” camp (there’s your trigger warning!). Essentially — it is how I would image the world to be if World War III were to come about.

Reading Goals for this week: Catch up on Moby Dick and finish The Game of Thrones.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 06/02/2014

 hopper
What I read: May was not a successful reading month. I read one book. ONE. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope was freaking amazing, but still… ONE BOOK.

What I’m reading:

I’m nearly half-way through The Game of Thrones. I pretty much wish I could quit being a grown-up and read all day. Alas, there are five gigantic books in the series thus far and I must read all of them — NOW. We’ll see how long it takes me to give up cooking, cleaning, and sleep to spend all my time reading about Westeros.

I’ve also embarked on reading Moby Dick with Roofbeam Reader’s read-along. I’m only a few pages in, but I can already tell that 34-year old me will enjoy and appreciate this book far more than 16-year old me!

What’s up next:

If everything goes as planned I should wrap up The Game of Thrones this weekend. Then it is on to my classics club spin, The Professor by Charlotte Bronte, and then the next book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, Doctor Thorne.

Estella Society:

The Estella Society is back with their second season of the Estella Project. Last month the Estella Society elicited favorite book recommendations from readers and then made a list. The goal is to for other readers to pick 1, 2, or 3 of the titles to read between now and September 1st. I don’t know how many I will fit in this summer, but I know that I at least want to read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Now, time to dig into some reading.June has got to be a better reading month!!!

Readerly Rambles

I’ve finally accepted the fact that I was not meant to be a book blogger.  I keep trying to move towards more bookish blogging, but, frankly, it seems like such a chore.  I’m lucky if I get to read 5 book a month (I collect hobbies like I collect tattoos).  I’ve hated nearly every ARC sent to me.  I don’t give a damn about hosting book giveaways — especially book giveaways that are thinly masked marketing ploys —  and I am incapable of writing a well-thought out interesting review.  Books are my first passion.  Okay, my family is my first passion, but books are a close second.

I’m a nerd with a blog.  Not a book blogger.  Just a sorta blogger who loves books.  Given that I lack the ability/inclination/time to write stunning book reviews, I’m just going to pop-on and occasionally ramble about what I’ve read.  I might even have sentence fragments or lack transitions or *gasp* say nothing of value.  Whatever.  There are books to be read and no time to dither about structuring elegant prose.

What have I read?  Not much.  I’ve read about half the number of books I read by this time last year.  Hummmmm…. I wonder why… oh, yes…. Atticus.  Atticus is only my rolypoly baby boy for a tiny window of time and my books will always be there on the shelf.  I can read when he is older.  I will say that what I have read has been CRAZY good.  I don’t think I’ve read a single sucky book.  Yay!

Some of these books I’ve already discussed here, but for OCD’s sake, lets just run down the list starting with…

Silent Woman:  Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm:  I thought about writing a long post on Malcolm’s book about attempting to write Plath’s biography and dealing with issues of literary estate, memory, and point-of-view, but…… I didn’t.   This book is interesting if you are a Plath-fiend, but this book is less about Plath and more about writing biography.  I would teach it in a creative non-fiction class and not in an American lit class.  A very interesting book that will have your brain mulling over interpretations of the past for weeks (months!) afterwards.

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers:  meh.  This is the first Lord Peter Wimsey and I do plan on reading the others despite my lukewarm reaction to the book.  A murder mystery involving a body in a bathtub and a bevy of British characters (caricatures) this book was okay in the mystery department, but I was annoyed by the foppish behavior and speech.  I think I had high expectations for this book and was disappointed.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens:  I’ve already blogged this book, but let me express, once more, that I freaking loved it!  Easily my second favorite Dickens’ novel.

Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch This book took awhile to finish as it was so dense.  I really loved this book.  More than a biography of Sylvia Beach, this book has so much about Paris and the Lost Generation.  Fans of Joyce, Hemingway and other ex-pat writers will enjoy how Fitch immerses the reader into the streets, bookshops, and cafes of Paris.

The Queen’s Man by Sharon Kay Penman:  A historical mystery series in the time of Eleanor Aquitaine written by Penman.  Need I say more?  A definite win.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain:  This novel concerns Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Hemingway.  It took me a bit to get into the novel, but after about 50 pages I was hooked.  This story is heartbreaking and no, I still don’t feel sorry for Mr. Macho Hemingway.  Being a damned good writer is no reason to be a selfish prick (cough Ted Hughes cough).  I highly recommend this novel, but only if you are in the middle of a healthy marriage.  I imagine this book may be disheartening to single-folk and dismal for miserable married-folk.  Luckily, I read and thanked my lucky stars that Sam is hugely talented as an artist and devoted to me.

Not much reading, but it has all been pretty solid.  Right now I’m reading a book for work about Interlibrary Loan Best Practices (for work, duh) and I’m consumed by an Edna St. Vincent Millay biography.  Hopefully, I’ll ramble in a readerly-fashion at least a few times a month.