Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Should Be Packing. I Don't Feel Like Packing: Books

I am a night owl, and lately I’ve been getting up early too. This means I am tired all the time. Sometimes being tired all the time also means I may be crabby. But here, I’m meant to be talking about books.

Waking up this morning, early, I planned to get further in the packing process of our house. [We accepted a nice offer last week and the family requested a quick close so their children can be somewhat settle before school starts. We have exactly two weeks from today to get the heck out of dodge. We’re fine with this, with the small exception that we have yet to find somewhere to go (with all of our stuff). Hopefully, this will be remedied today when we go apartment hunting in the city.] However, what I really felt like doing was heading to yoga. I vowed that after yoga I would begin packing.

On the way home from yoga, I ran into a neighbor who was sweeping her driveway. I like this neighbor, and I may never see her again after the move, or not for a long time because you never know what will happen over the course of time. I stopped to chat. It felt so nice to take the time to just talk and catch up. I told her about the move, and that I should be packing instead of chatting. “It’ll get done,” she said.

When I got home, I hung up my yoga mat to air out and planned to get further in the packing process. However, what I really felt like doing was writing and talking about books, both of which I haven’t done in a very long time because I’ve been busy selling this house and contemplating packing. After I finish writing and talking about books, I plan to get further in the packing process.

What have I recently finished?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I expected more from Straub, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I just did! Here is my short review on Goodreads:

[I just changed this review to 3-stars. It was okay, and I liked it more than I didn't. I think it was me; I've been crabby lately.]

It has been a while since I've been annoyed, dulled, and disappointed by a book. It took an un-Godly amount of time to finish. I felt the writing trite. The storyline never really went anywhere, and then tried desperately, it seemed, to tie up too many loose ends too tightly. It didn't work for me. So disappointed this book didn't live up to my expectations, or the hype. I suppose I'm not an Emma Straub fan after all.

What am I currently reading?

I am listening to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At this point, about three quarters of the way through, I am anticipating that I’ll give this book 5-stars. It may be that the narrator is fantastic. She is Nigerian so she gives this book all the nuances only someone who is narrating a book about Nigerian people can do. Plus, she nails the British inflections as well (and, boy, do I love me some British accents!). This story is about race, and about romance, and about struggling. I am loving it and will be recommending the heck out of it as well.

I am reading a short story collection called Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis. Short story collections are always difficult to describe. This is one has some of the most unusual writing I have ever read. I am not entirely sure how I feel about it at this point. Some stories, I like very much. Others are confusing.

Lastly, I am reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. I won this in February as a “first read” from Goodreads. Just now getting to it. This writing is very, very good, and clever, and funny. The perspective of the protagonist is unlike any I have ever read (or can remember reading). More to come on this one!

What will I read next?

I will let you know after I vacate these premises!!!

What are you reading? I am always interested in suggestions and perspectives!

Thanks to Should Be Reading for letting us drop off our book lists at her premises. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Books, Baby!!!! It Is Wednesday, After All...

Not too much in my world of books has changed dramatically since last week because the holiday weekend was extremely full. Fun. But crazy F-U-L-L.

What am I currently reading?

I am still reading Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. I am very much enjoying this very different collection of short stories.

I began Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is what Goodreads has to say about the book:

            “A story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.”

I am not far in, but it is funny, and sweet, and incredibly readable to this point. It’s one of those books you can let lazily wash over you. So enjoyable!

What did I recently finish?

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. All I can say is WOW!!! It is a powerful book. It is, at times, difficult to read due to subject matter. It is not pretty. That said, I was glued to it every single free moment I had from cover to cover. The writing is sparse. I liked that. It is dark, dark, dark. I liked that, too.  Here is the Goodreads link:

What will I read next?

I think I will next read The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I haven’t read historical fiction in a long time. Or I could finish up The Vacationers by Emma Straub, which I lent out after 100 pages, but now it’s back.

As always, so many books, too little time.

Thanks to Should Be Reading for allowing us to hook up with other book lovers!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

People Who Spoil All the Fun: Yeah Write

Ever looked forward to an adventure, something really cool and fun, then someone has to spoil your carefree feeling and excitement by mentioning the pitfalls, and scary parts, of actually doing it? Yeah, me, too.

I work at the aquarium in Chicago as a volunteer diver (all 86 divers are volunteers except for the dolphin and Beluga whale trainers, who may or may not be divers. They are probably just trainers, which is so cool.). While doing pre-dive preparations yesterday, the Aquarist of the Amazon Rising exhibit, asked me for a favor. He’s never before probably because I’m low man on the proverbial totem pole. Yep, a peon!

“Have you noticed the difference between the turtle shells?”

(I love turtles!)

“Yes.” (which really meant I sort of noticed.)

“Will you grab one of the two bigger ones (approximately 2.5' long, 18"wide) with the curved shell? I need to do a procedure. Doesn’t matter which one. See it halfway under that stump.”

I stuck my head underwater.

“Yes, I see it.”

[I was so excited because I have many years of experience catching turtles at the lake with my kids.  We’d mark their shells with red nail polish, put them in a homemade turtle terrarium (read tub), and feed them fishy food and bugs for a few days, if they didn’t crawl out sooner, or failed to survive evening (bloody) raccoon raids. (Imagine explaining to young ones why it is suddenly important to keep the terrarium inside at night, without, of course, any mention of the covert task of massacre clean up, but including a tall tale about turtles needing to be with their mommies, too.)]

“The little ones are friendly. These big guys will bite.”

“Did you have to tell me that?”

“They’re more aggressive. Don’t get your face or hands anywhere near their mouths. (I WON’T) They have very long, sharp claws, too, that can slice skin wide open. You have gloves on. You should be fine. Just be careful. Here’s the net.”

Well, that spoiled the whole freaking turtle catching adventure because now I was nervous, tentative, a little scared, which is not how I wanted to feel when trying to exude bravery and secure the turtle. Plus they aren’t the only creatures in these tanks. There are three giant Arapaimas the size of 300-pound men, 5-foot long, butt-ugly catfish, and Stingrays with barbs scattering underfoot.

I swear that turtle knew I was coming because when I got back in the water, it was long gone. I had to go looking while wading amongst every other animal in my way. Did you know it’s possible to break into a full-on, fearful sweat underwater? I found that sneaky thing wedged into a corner, adjacent to the sand-colored stingray sucking face with the glass. Her head and claws (temporarily) drawn into her shell.

She fought me some as I gingerly carried her up for her procedure. I did it. I was sweaty and scared, but I did it.

On my way home, I thought a lot about the ways other people sometimes, purposely, spoil our excitement about adventures, and things we look forward to doing. I don’t believe he was purposely trying to do so, or ruin anything, even though I do believe he was testing me (Did I mention he’s the same guy who, a few weeks back, purposely sprinkled turtle food above my unknowing head, and I couldn’t figure out why the turtles wouldn’t leave me alone?). I don’t always understand when it happens at other times, with other people. I also wonder why I let them.

(2nd Try!!!) My Beach (Lake) Read Stack For The Next Eight Weeks

Moments to myself, and for reading, have been few and far between lately. I brought a stack of books to the lake yesterday with the hope that reading time will be plenty, and I can leisurely make my way though them all.

What am I currently reading?

I am thick, thick, thick into An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Have you heard of it? It has received some major buzz by many of the literary sites (like Book Riot, which I love, by the way. Their articles are interesting, insightful, and fun (if you like to read about books as obsessively, or incessantly, as I do)). This is what Goodreads has to say about it:

"Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents."

This book sucks you in right from the very first page. It won’t take long to finish this one!

I have also recently started a book of short stories called Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. It has one of the more interesting covers I have ever seen. Too early to tell, as I’ve barely cracked it open.

What have I recently finished?

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia (accent over the “i”) Marquez (accent over the “a”). I loved it. It is a beautifully written story of unrequited love. Oh, it made my heart hurt! The only resistance I had to the book was keeping track of all the names! They are so similar!!! Give it a whirl.

What will I read next?

Remember I told you about a stack? Also, add Cutting for Stone to it, too! AND The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (which I won a "first reads" from Goodreads!). There are three short story collections in this pile. I am most looking forward to The Book of Unknown Americans, and No One Belongs Here More Than You. But as always, this is subject to change because the Amazon drone knows my lake address, too!!!

Happy to link this back up over at Should Be Reading

Monday, June 30, 2014

Not Making a Decision is Making a Choice

Are you a decisive person?

While some people are deeply convinced Zodiac signs, and the traits that each one possesses, hold credence with how we behave, I am not. I am a Libra, born smack dab in the middle of the date range. Libras are “supposed to be” notoriously diplomatic, and chronically indecisive. I am extremely diplomatic and fair, but I am also very decisive. Maybe a little too decisive sometimes.

I wholeheartedly believe you learn this skill. I learned to make thoughtful, and thought out, decisions from my father. My dad takes decision making to the “nth” degree, and considers, not only the positive results of said choice, but also the potentially awful (“and if you can live with those”…).

I don’t quite go to the depth of his process (not at all), but I did learn to, and do, ponder choices, and then MAKE THEM to the best of my ability usually relying on equal parts intuition and logic. I will admit to making far too many stupid, and quick, ones in my younger years. But I made them. (I was a math major through most of college; I don’t know why I think it helped, but I am convinced of it did nonetheless.).

I had a conversation yesterday with my daughter. Let me rephrase; she talked and I listened. She was reevaluating a decision she recently, and quickly, made to move out of our house and into a city apartment with some friends. Even thought the first month’s rent was already paid, and most of her things moved out, she questioned the rashness of her decision for a number of reasons.

She described with well thought out, and sound reasons, her decision, and it’s possible drawbacks. In her mind, the pros outweighed the cons, and I agreed. She’s scared, but making decisions then sticking them out is sometimes scary. I am intensely proud of her.

This discussion reminded me of many times when my kids were young. We talked a lot about making good decisions, and how not making a decision is also a decision, in and of its self. When you chose not to decide, or leave it up to someone else, you have no other option but to accept the consequences of your non-decision (good or bad). It is always better to make the choice yourself, rather than rely on someone else who may not be as thoughtful as you, have the same goals/values, or your best interests at heart.

My daughter made an uncomfortable, yet exciting, but difficult decision to spread her wings, exert her independence, and begin living her own life. It is bittersweet, and makes me sad because, as happy as I am for her, I will not be able to look at her whenever I want, or touch her soft skin, but she made a decision. For herself.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Doing Not Thinking: Velvet Verbosity 100-Word Prompt

It’s not the disrobing, or reaction my body exhibits as every single inch of exposed skin is caressed simultaneously while I swim, or even the guilty pleasure and sheer indulgence of being touched in a way like no other. It’s when the water changes back to air. Then it feels forbidden.

Did my sounds waft through cracked windows? A cigarette glowing next pier over? Whispers in the shadows?

Even though I’m alone. Even though it’s an ink-black moonless night. And even though there’s a towel for coverage, I take the stairs back up two at a time.

Not until hot water pierces my skin can I smile like I got away with something again, because self-consciousness ruins moments if you let it.


I don’t believe I’ve ever participated in Velvet Verbosity’s 100-Word prompt before. The word this week is STAIRS.

(I am so very sorry for your lose, and hope that time heals the pain.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reading This Week, You?

Showing at my house in 25 minutes! YIKES! This will be quick.

What am I currently reading?

I am reading The Vacationers by Emma Straub. It’s good so far, but not yet great. It has taken 100 pages to get into the story/characters (and I don’t like that with so many books in my “to read” pile). I feel it will be interesting…soon?

I am listening to Love in the Time of Cholera and LOVING the hell out of it. I have read several books lately by Latino authors. Maybe I just “get” them. It is romantic, extremely well written, and at times humorous. Although, I don’t think I could handle unrequited love for more than 50 years as this character has.

What did I recently finish?

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I liked it. I didn’t love it. But it makes the idea, for me, of living in a lighthouse very intriguing.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. I really liked it. I immensely enjoyed his last book (dark, dark, dark) The Dinner.

What will I read next?

Who knows? What about you?

Beds, dishes, fluffing? Check, check, check!

Off to hot yoga!