Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Standalong!

I'm excited!  I'm astonished!  I'm...insane?

That's right, I'm going to attempt a read-along.  When Trish announced that she was going to host a read-along of Stephen King's The Stand, I knew I had to give it a shot.  I'm always thinking I should do a read-along and always thinking I should read The Stand, so what better opportunity than this?  Of course, I'm over committed as usual, so I'll probably blow it, but darn it, I'm going to try.  There's nothing better than getting sucked into a massive Stephen King tome for the summer.  It reminds me of my younger days, when I had far more time to be sucked. 

Plus, the Standalong comes with a fun introductory meme.  Behold!

1. What makes you want to read The Stand?

Once upon a time in high school, I loved Stephen King.  Okay, I still love Stephen King, but I've wandered astray and not read a book of his in many many...years?  Years!  Okay, the answer to this question is about to wander astray, so let's bring it back.  I started reading The Stand one August when I was still in high school.  I was really enjoying it, but alas, the summer ended, I went back to school, and poor The Stand fell by the wayside only half-read.  It's time to pick it up again!

2. Describe your preconceived notions of The Stand.

What?  Other than the fact that it's huge?  And post-apocalyptic?  And should be something that I should totally love if I would just buckle down and open it?

3. What was the last scary(ish) book you read or movie you saw?

I have a strict no scary movie rule.  They're too...scary.  I literally cannot stand that moment when you know something terrifying is about to happen.  Watching Criminal Minds on TV is about as much as I can handle, and half the time I'm watching that from between fingers, too.  Scary books are a differnet story, love 'em!  That said, I haven't read a great scary book in a long time either, hence...Standalong!

4. Which version of the book will you be reading from?

The extra-big one of course.  The uncut zillion page one.  Go big or stay home, right? 

5. What are you previous experiences with Stephen King?

Insomnia, The Green Mile, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, 'Salem's Lot, Dreamcatcher, Misery.

And some don't forget good old Richard Bachman, too.  Can't forget Thinner and The Regulators, too.  I have such great memories of staying up late into the night reading because I just couldn't put them down.  Hope The Stand is the same way.  If so, this oughta be a breeze!

6. Anything else you'd like to add (bonus points for being extra random).

Come Stand with us!  Hold my feet to the fire, so I actually read it instead of wandering off to look at shiny things (or my hundred other commitments)!  Sign up here!

Are you a Stephen King fan?  Have you ever tackled The Stand? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Inside

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Inside by Alix Ohlin

Knopf, June 5, 2012


When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress, as unencumbered as humanly possible by any personal attachments. And Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he’s desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. We follow these four compelling, complex characters from Montreal and New York to Hollywood and Rwanda, each of them with a consciousness that is utterly distinct and urgently convincing. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to—and responsible for—those dearest to us. 

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon

Shh, do you hear that?  It's the sound of a healthy spine, sleeping dogs, and a house to myself, the perfect conditions in which to attempt my return to blogging!  I've returned from my weekend outing and promptly taken up a week+ of live-in dog-sitting of three very energetic but mostly self-maintaining yorkies.  Except for the escaping and the killing of small animals and the waking me up at 6 in the morning, everything is going swimmingly so far, but I've still got a week to go.  The good news is that but for the dogs, my life is currently free of distractions, like, say, other humans or various and sundry social interaction, and with some ingenuity, I managed to get the internet working.

With that, I think it's about time to get started chipping away at the book review backlog that has accumulated since the chiropractor maimed me.  Up first is my first ever read by Beth Gutcheon.  Honestly, she's yet another of these authors that I tell myself that I should like, collect a bunch of titles by, and then fail to read them, so I've again used a review copy to get me over the hump.

Loviah "Lovie" French doesn't have upper crust roots, but she finds herself wrapped up in their lives nonetheless when she attends Miss Pratt's boarding school.  There she meets her best friends, Dinah and Avis.  Dinah came to Miss Pratt's on scholarship, like Lovie, but found her social savviness gave her what she needed to hobnob easily with the wealthy and the powerful which eventually translated to a career penning clever gossip columns about New York City's elite.  Avis, whose social pedigree was far higher than Lovie and Dinah's, was quiet and awkward at Miss Pratt's, but her study of art helped her to rise to prominence in the New York art world.  While Avis and Dinah are starting their own dysfunctional families, Lovie takes a much older lover and opens a dress shop.

Unfortunately for Lovie, despite the fact that Dinah and Avis are the best of friends to her, they can hardly stand the sight of each other as a result of the most minor of social faux-pas years ago.  When Dinah's son, Nick, falls in love with Avis's daughter, Grace, it seems like the perfect match to Lovie, since she is like a well-loved aunt to each. However, the relationship forces Avis and Dinah into each other's orbit with unexpectedly disastrous consequences.

Gossip is a detailed story of the slow disintegration of two well-off families told from the unique perspective of an unmarried friend.  Telling the story from Lovie's perspective is a clever device, giving readers the view of an outsider who has never been married or had children but also an insider as the friend to all parties who is bearing witness to family tragedy.  Interesting, too, is the look at the things Lovie has both lost and gained by choosing never to marry, and to pin her hopes on her married lover. 

I had mixed feelings about Gossip.  I loved Gutcheon's style, how she takes readers into a lifestyle they know little about and makes it feel genuine.  I loved how she was able to work several angles, depicting the dysfunction of married life for the two friends as well as Lovie's more unique heartache.  Also, it was interesting to read a story that comes from the perspective of women who are aging past their prime.  It's not a demographic that has much storytelling time dedicated to it. On the other hand, many of the characters in this novel become more and more off-putting the better you came to know them.  It often seemed that Gutcheon was headed in too many directions and leaving me feeling unfocused.  It seemed as if I were missing things because I was paying more attention to Lovie's storyline when I should have been picking up something about Dinah's, for example.  The tragedy is heavily foreshadowed but when it finally came to pass, I found that I didn't care enough for the characters to be emotionally involved in it.

While Gossip might not end up being my favorite of Gutcheon's books, it definitely had plenty enough ingredients to tempt me to tap into more of her work.  Her writing is artful and has a great flow, her characters, for better or worse, certainly come to life, and her ability to convey several different uniques experiences at once is uncanny.  I'm looking forward to more!

(Thanks to William Morrow for a providing me a review copy in exchange for my honest review!)

Has anybody else read this one or any other books by Beth Gutcheon?  What were your impressions and can you recommend me a great book by her?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Loose Leafing: Ow

Let me tell you a sad, sad sob story, dear readers...

Once upon a time, in a land not nearly far enough away, Megan went to the chiropractor.  The chiropractor who usually can be adored for keeping Megan from having to walk on all fours, did a very mean thing and broke Megan.  For almost two weeks, Megan's upper back is so owie that the mere thought of booting up her laptop sends chills down her (stiff, achy) spine. 

The good news?  The wayward chiropracter has *knocks on wood* gotten the wayward spine back on the right track, so the thought of computing is not quite so terrifying.  The bad news?  This is still one of those posts where I make excuses (Sorry, I am broken.  That is why no good book reviews or comments!), insist that I love both my blog and its readers despite my absence (I miss my blooooog!  I miss my reaaaaaders!  I miss the blogs that I reeeeeaaaad!  When can I have my life baaaack??), and then ask you to bear with me while I am MIA for yet a few more days.  My spine is getting happier thus enabling me to embrace the blogging world once more, unfortunately (okay, maybe not *unfortunately* per se), I am taking my "healthy" spine (and the rest of me plus my mom who has courageously borne my weeks of whining and crying about my back and my no-good chiropractor) on a weekend getaway to Pennsylvania Dutch country where I will ogle horses and buggies and rolling farmland or, more likely, eat at vast smorgasbords, shop at outlet stores, and, uh, continue to neglect my poor empty blog. 

So, please, please, do bear with me while I get myself back (heh heh) on track, and I hope to be fully healed and blogging again shortly.