Sunday, October 12, 2014

Currently: It's October?!?!?

It's too late on Sunday afternoon/evening for comfort, and I am coming to you more or less live from the wreckage of my overcluttered desk.

Listening\  To Train's new album, Bulletproof Picasso.  I became a colossal Train fan, like, two albums ago, and I continue to be.  The last track, Don't Grow Up So Fast, may or may not have made me cry.

Making\  Plans.  (Ha! No I haven't taken up knitting or cross-stitching or anything, and the world breathes a sigh of relief.)  I've been contemplating seeing Straight No Chaser on tour for a few years now.  Their a cappella awesomeness makes me smile.  They'll be in Hershey this year.  Maybe I will be, too?  I just need to find a some poor sucker to take with me.  In the meantime, I'll be serving as my dad's "poor sucker to take with me" as we make the journey to Pittsburgh to see the first NFL game I'll ever see in person, and his, too.  He's been an Indianapolis Colts fan for as long as I can remember and probably a lot longer than that.  So, we'll be a couple of Colts fans in hostile territory, but I'm looking forward to it anyway.

Hating\  Fall.  I know, I hate myself for hating fall, but I do.  You see crisp, colorful leaves.  You feel refreshing cooler temperatures.  Pumpkin spice lattes, bonfires, high school football games, hot cups of tea, reading books while wrapped in fuzzy blankets.  That stuff is all nice, don't get me wrong.  Unfortunately, I have to build a fort of distraction around myself to stop from fixating on the coming 6 months of undiagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, not to mention cold and flu season which has already started at my house.  *sniffles*  All this potential misery amplified by my rapidly forthcoming shift change which will call for me to rearrange my life schedule right before the dreadful winter months set in.

Returning from\  The first of two October trips to Boston (see above re: Fort of Distraction).  My college BFF and I took Boston last weekend.  We stayed in a beautiful inn in Cambridge that served a full breakfast and afternoon tea everyday, wherein we were decidedly *not* the target demographic, which, okay, was awesome.  We stayed in a room with two twin beds like a 50s sitcom married couple and dined every morning in the presence of older couples from foreign countries with grown or semi-grown children living in the area.  We also rode the cool Greenway carousel and spent a rainy day observing penguins, seals, and sea turtles at the New England Aquarium to skew our age group back the other way.  We also, of course, ate lots of delicious food including the ubiquitous Mike's cannoli, went book shopping at Porter Square Books, paid a quick visit to my old neighborhood to enjoy some Indian food, and enjoyed the best entertainment the basement of a CVS has to offer at the Improv Asylum (hilarious!). 

Going to\  New York City for the day on a bus next Saturday.  It'll be my cousin's first time in said city, and I'm looking forward to showing him the sights, one of which will surely have to include The Strand, right?  I mean, you can only tolerate the top of the Empire State Building and Times Square for so long before you need to be soothed by vast amounts of books, am I right?

Missing\  Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon.  So sad to have booked something over it, but alas, I seem to be on tour this month.  I guess I'll have to read on the bus in honor of Dewey and all the dedicated participants. ;-)

Reading\  I just finished Allegiant thus wrapping up the Divergent series.  Roth definitely made an interesting choice about how to end her series.  I guess I didn't hate it with the vitriol that some people have, but, on the whole, I think the first book was the best and the series very slowly declined from there.  Nonetheless, I was kind of in a reading funk, so I'm satisfied to have simply finished a book that was moderately absorbing.  Now I'm on to The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood whose Wicked Girls I enjoyed earlier this year.  Lately, books written for grown-ups haven't really been working out for me, but I'm pretty sure The Killer will be the one to break that trend. 

Watching\  I finally saw The Fault in Our Stars movie.  It was good, but not as good as I wanted it to be.  Oddly, in text Green's main characters' precocious pretentiousness was the stuff dreams are made of, on screen, I'm afraid it all just irritated me the slightest bit.  Still good, still cried, but I don't know, something just wasn't quite right.  I also saw the movie version of This is Where I Leave You.  I haven't read the book because I'm seriously sucking at getting to the book before the movie lately, but the movie was great.  It was one of those that gets you laughing and crying at the same time (which is different from crying with laughter, if you must know), very well cast, and most satisfying. 

Blogging\  Wait...what's this blogging you speak of?  I haven't been, and I'm pretty sure I missed another blogiversary in there, too.  That means Leafing Through Life just (very unceromoniously) turned....7? Yeah, 7, I think.  I know this month has been kind of a bust because I've kind of been "on tour," but other than that I was happy to see my desire to blog come back for a lot of this year.  It's been fun being a part of things again, and I've pretty well sunk into the groove of blogging when I want, and not blogging when I don't feel like it, in a way that has been largely guilt free.  This, I'm pretty sure, is the mark of the mature B-list (okay, C-list) blogger. Expect more of this guilt-free slacker blogging to continue while I spend several more weekends away from my desk enjoying the last few weeks of passable weather before the SAD kicks in.

So, what have you been up to while I've been distracted?  Reading great books?  Having exciting adventures?  Blogging bookish content that isn't linked up to Top Ten Tuesday?  Tell me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Hard is Good

This week's topic for the Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday is books that were hard to read for any reason.  Turns out, hard is good.  With the exception of #9, I liked or even loved all of these books regardless (or because of?) the extra difficulty in reading them.

1. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - This the first book I ever read that I think I ever considered hard to read in a "good" way.  The plot centers around an Iranian family and a mistakenly evicted woman fighting over the house she was evicted from, and oh, how very frustrating it was to read about their stubborn resistance to each other when if each side could have given a little bit, their conflict might have been resolved.

2. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh - Trainspotting is hard to read in a bit of a different way.  It's written all in Scottish dialect which is just difficult to comprehend without a lot of effort, and then there's all the pretty raw depiction of junkies in downward spiral.  Tough to read, but still a good book!

3. A Wolf at the Table by Augustine Burroughs - Burroughs' loveless, disturbed, occasionally abusive father is definitely hard to read about. Reading the book causes kind of a horror-movie tension, where the creepy music crescendos and you know something horribly dreadful is about to happen, but you can't quite look away. 

4. Schindler's List by Thomas Kenneally - I've read a good few Holocaust stories and memoirs in my life, but this one, for reasons I can't quite figure out, was one of the harder ones to read.  Keneally definitely doesn't flinch from the untold horrors of the Holocaust from survivors' stories, oh, but I wanted to.

5. The Stand by Stephen King - Is there anybody that can read the beginning of this book with all the plague raging across the United States and the world and not worry immediately that they too are falling ill, like, right now?  Likewise, can you read it without thinking King's depiction is just all-too-possible

6. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty - I'm not sure how many similarities I actually have with the main character of this book, but I can tell you, when I was reading it, it sure felt like a lot.  I was so wrapped up in this character, that when she was struggling, I was crushed right along with her. 

7. One Hundred and Four Horses by Mandy Retzlaff - I'm a huge animal lover, so animal stories tend to be hard reads for me.  This one is filled with the triumph of saving a massive herd of horses from a hostile Zimbabwe.  Retzlaff gets you all attached to her beloved horses, but in such a dangerous situation, you know it can't all be good news.  Alternately, uplifting and heartbreaking, this one is tough read for any horse lover.

8. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink - Fink's account of Memorial Medical Center is an absolute page-turner, but reading about the failures in communication, how unprepared a major medical center can be for disaster, the loss of life both by natural causes and apparent euthanasia make this one as hard to read as it is hard to put down.

9. The Wentworths by Katie Arnoldi - This is one of those books where the characters are just so utterly reprehensible and most of the things that happen are similarly disturbing that it proved almost impossible to read and completely impossible to like.

10. The Blue Notebook by James Levine - And then there's this book about a child prostitute in India.  Shockingly, this also makes for hard reading. 

What books do you find especially hard to read?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Need More Of

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic with The Broke and the Bookish is a super-easy one for me.  They're only asking for 10 authors I've read only one book from, but need to read more of but I've probably got about a million.   Here's a few authors that I definitely need to read more of, and soon!

1. Simon Van Booy - I thought Everything Beautiful Began After was unique and fantastic.  I've got a copy of The Secret Lives of People in Love awaiting me on my Kindle, and I'm eager to try out some of these short stories that also come highly recommended.

2. John Green -  I know, right?  I've only read The Fault in Our Stars, which was quite fantastic, if heartbreaking.  I enjoyed Green's style, and I'm looking forward to getting to Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns which are both waiting on my TBR pile.

3. Jennifer Donnelly -  I loved A Northern Light, and Jennifer Donnelly happens to have been the very first established author to have commented on my blog away back in the olden days.  I've got both Revolution and The Tea Rose on my shelves, and it's about time I read at least one of them!

4. Meg Rosoff - I loved How I Live Now, but somehow no other books by this author have made their way onto my shelves.  This is a situation that needs to be rectified. 

5. Deirdre Madden - Molly Fox's Birthday was one of my very favorite books last fall.  I felt like it gave me a ton to think about.  Madden is definitely an author whose work I want to explore more, especially with the good things I've heard about her more recent release, Time Present and Time Past.

6. Trish Doller - I spent a lot of my time on the DC Metro during my last vacation-lette devouring Something Like Normal.  Loved it, and I'm so glad I've got Where the Stars Still Shine already waiting for me on my Kindle.

7. Tana French - I hadn't read any of French's Dublin Murder Squad series until I received a review copy of Broken Harbor, which I loved more than I expected to.  Now I'm not sure whether to start back at the beginning or dig right into The Secret Place which landed in my mailbox not too long ago.

8. Alice Hoffman - I read Skylight Confessions a good few years ago and really liked it.  It seems like I've got a million of her other titles on my shelves, but I haven't managed to read another one yet.

9. Patrick Ness - Because I'm the worst at reading series, I read The Knife of Never Letting Go and then never finished the rest of the series.  Now I'll have to start over at the beginning to refresh my memory and get it read for real this time.  Plus, there's plenty of Ness's standalone books that sound great, too.  Here's looking at you, A Monster Calls and More Than This.

10. Lesley Kagen - Whistling in the Dark was one of my favorite reads from this spring.  I'll soon have to tackle Tomorrow River which is waiting patiently on my shelves (among so many other books that are waiting patiently...).

 Who are some authors you're dying to read some more of?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Out of the Blue by S.L. Rottman

Stuart Ballantyne is used to moving.  His mother is a colonel in the Air Force, and as the story begins, she's about to take command of the Minot, North Dakota base.  Stuart might be used to moving to follow his mother's career, but this time it's just him and his mom after his brother departs for college and his father has to travel to deal with Stuart's grandmother's health issues. 

What attracted me to Out of the Blue is what it delivered, a different perspective.  I'd never read a story set on a military base, and I was interested to read more about the military families' different way of life.  Stuart, who's practically a pro at being a military migrant of sorts, is a good window onto the scene.  Rottman does an excellent job of portraying the ceremony and pride of country that go along with the setting, and also, the reluctance to meddle in the business of other military families despite their close quarters.

Stuart is a good, if confused and lonely, kid knocked off balance by facing this move alone and dealing with situations beyond his years without the safety net of his father and brother while his mother is off dealing with base business. He's a sympathetic but occasionally bland narrator.  Rottman's story offers an interesting perspective that doesn't seem to crop up in a lot of YA novels and a believable coming-of-age story to boot, but it's plagued by an unfortunate lack of memorability.  Worth a read, but not extraordinary.

(Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books

Okay, so, today's Top Ten Tuesday theme is the "most underrated books or authors in a genre."  I wasn't sure about doing this one, because I tend to be a bad judge of when a book is actually underrated, and also I couldn't really manage to pick a genre.  I guess these all kind of fit into some sort of historical or literary fiction mold, but generally I just went with books that I read and really liked that I guessed maybe you haven't heard of...?  Maybe?  Anyhow, here's ten good books that could use a little more loving, in my very humble opinion.

1. Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan - This is a dark read by a Canadian author about a feud between two families. Superb characterization, haunting prose, great story.

2. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - On the Beach is this author's claim to fame, but this tale of an elderly gentlemen fleeing France during the early days of its World War II occupation with a troop of children unexpectedly entrusted to his care definitely deserves sooo much more attention. 

3. The Grave of God's Daughter by Brett Ellen Block - I was surprised when I read this one that I couldn't find a single book blogger review of it on the internet.  It's a great coming of age story about a girl growing up in an impoverished Pennsylvania town that is busting at the seems with secrets.

4. Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu - Anne Ursu writes interesting books about what would be the real life reactions to fantastic events.  In The Disapparation of James, she dissected a family's psychological meltdown when their son actually disappears during a magic show.  In Spilling Clarence, a town is "poisoned" by a drug that unleashes all their memories good, bad, and ugly upon them, minus the buffer of time and healing.  It's an interesting look at memory, both how potent and how misleading it can be.

5. Falling Under by Danielle Young-Ullman - I read this one earlier this year and liked it a lot more than I expected to.  In it, troubled artist Mara has survived her parents' acrimonious divorce and her more recent troubled past to emerge to a more comfortable, if sheltered, life as an artist.  All that changes when she meets a guy in a bar and decides to take a chance on the love she stopped believing in a long time ago.  Just about every other chapter is a flashback told in the second person which is a great plot device for getting to know a character that might appear functional on the outside, but is actually deeply damaged by her history.  Great dialogue and a love triangle that I didn't hate. 

6. Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream - In keeping with the "troubled artist" tack, this one's about another troubled artist.  At the beginning of the book, Clementine is quitting therapy because she's decided she's really going to kill herself.  First she has a bunch of loose ends to tie up.  What materializes is a story filled with deliciously dark humor and a very well-drawn character with more reasons to live than she might have imagined.

7. Black & White by Dani Shapiro - This is a refugee from my pre-blogging days, which happen to be a loooong time ago now.  The story of a daughter estranged from her artist mother who saw her as more of subject for art than a daughter.  Clara fled her unwanted fame for a quiet life, but as her mother lies on her deathbed, Clara has to revisit her past, and it's a compelling story.

8. When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale - This author's English Passengers got a lot more attention than this little book that I read in the early days of my blogging that has one of the most accurate child narrators I've ever encountered that puts a unique spin on a not-so unique story.  It rates low on Good Reads and LibraryThing, which makes me kind of sad.

9. We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen - Whenever I try to summarize this book, it sounds kind of, well, soul-crushingly boring.  It's not!  It's a very thoughtful portrayal of the many children of a couple dedicated to a very fundamentalist sect of Christianity.  Some keep the faith, others turn away, but it all comes together to be a very thoughtful and balanced look at faith that makes for some good contemplating. 

10. Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith - I read this one earlier this year but haven't managed a proper review.  Smith writes beautifully and evokes both turn of the century Chicago and the islands of the South Pacific with equal skill.  Okay, I'll admit the plot isn't the most memorable, but Smith sets scenes you can really get lost in. 

Have you read any of these?  What are some books or authors that you feel are underrated?