Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's Monday again. Can we introvert now?

Hey friends. What a week. This introvert is feeling like some quiet time and some time to evaluate what is important for this year and how I'm going to direct my time and my energy. If I'm honest, it's also time to eat snacks and watch Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. 

But still reading. Always reading. This week, I read Make Bright the Arrows and Swing Time. I finished listening to Brown Girl Dreaming as I made dinner tonight. Any suggestions for a new audiobook? Now I'm reading Bellevue and Kent Haruf's Plainsong.



What are you reading this week?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Orphan Train

Molly needs one last chance. When she steals something, her foster parents are about to kick her out. She reluctantly agrees to do community service hours for an elderly lady. Vivian's attic is a disaster and she needs someone who can help her sort through a lifetime of memories. As the two spend time together, Molly finds that they have a lot in common. Vivian was an orphan too, and she traveled across the country on a train with other children hoping to find a new home. 

It's clear that Christina Baker Kline has done a lot of research to write this book. She vividly portrays the uncertainty of a family traveling across the ocean, the squalor of a tenement building in New York City, and day-to-day life in a small Midwestern town. It's easy to feel outrage when Vivian is placed with a couple that uses her for free labor, and Molly's foster mother ignores her beliefs and preferences.

However, the story itself was very predictable. It was easy to tell from early on what had happened to Vivian in the past and what would happen between Vivian and Molly in the present. Most of the characters seemed a little flat and defined by only one or two traits.

Orphan Train is a quick read and it gives readers insight into the things that orphans endured a hundred years ago on orphan trains and experience today in our modern foster care system. It's a sweet story about finding home and family in the most unexpected of places.

Orphan Train
By Christina Baker Kline
William Morris Paperbacks
278 pages
Received for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher


                                                            
Make sure to visit TLC Book Tours for more reviews of Orphan Train! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review: The Underground Railroad

Cora is a woman enslaved to a Georgian cotton farmer. Her life is awful and brutal, as she faces isolation in addition to the horrors and indignities of slavery. But a new arrival to the plantation takes an interest in her and invites her to escape with him. Caesar and Cora decide to take the Underground Railroad. But in Colson Whitehead's imagining, the Railroad is not a code word but an actual train line that runs from slave states to freedom. But just escaping from their master and making it onto a train will not be enough. A slave catcher is tracking them and even the seemingly safe Northern cities hold new dangers for them.

The Underground Railroad was the 'it' book of 2016. Oprah started her book club again to endorse it, it won the National Book Award, and it seemed to be on the lips of every person who talks books. If you haven't read the book yet, rest assured that it deserves every bit of the praise. Colson Whitehead is an immensely talented writer and he manages to strike the perfect balance of brutally reporting the horrors of slavery while compelling you to continue reading.

One of the most powerful aspects of this book for me was the relentlessness that Whitehead portrays. In so many stories about slavery, it seems like a clean escape is the end of the story. Once a slave had escaped to the North, they were free. But of course it wasn't that simple. History is compressed in this novel, so the reader experiences new and terrible ways that white people oppressed and took advantage of black people throughout history.

This is a book everyone should read to experience a great modern author, to remember the horrors of slavery, and to join the conversation around this fascinating story. 

The Underground Railroad
By Colson Whitehead
Doubleday Books August 2016
306 pages
Read via Netgalley

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's Monday and I didn't post a thing!

I had plans for this week. I was going to write lots of reviews. I would have posts most days this week! But that didn't happen.

Instead, I spent lots of time with my family. All of my sisters were in town at the same time, so we ran away to Philadelphia for a sisters sleepover and spent lots of time with the whole family before my one sister went back home to California and another embarked on a semester abroad.

But maybe this week, friends. This might be the week I finally write some reviews! The reading has been moving along, as usual. I read Orphan Train and finished my first (hopefully not only) audiobook of the year. If you are thinking of reading The Book of Unknown Americans, I highly recommend the audiobook version. I'm currently reading Zadie Smith's Swing Time and Edna St. John Millay's Make Bright the Arrows.

 

What are you reading this week?

 

Monday, January 9, 2017

It's Monday and we saw Waitress!

Hi friends! It's been a busy and snowy week around here. D went back to school this week, so we tried to get back into our routine. Friday night, husband and I got to see Jessie Mueller in Waitress before she leaves the show. It was great. It's funny and heartfelt and a wonderful night at the theatre.

They sell little pies! How cute and delicious!
BG also got her own theatrical experience this weekend, when she saw Daniel Tiger Live with her Grammy as her Christmas present. There's still quite a bit of snow on the ground today here in NJ, but D is off to school and husband is off to work so little girl and I are cuddled up and enjoying our Monday morning!

Snow days are good for reading, aren't they? I finished This Is Where You Belong, which gave me lots of great ideas for loving my community. I was devastated (in the best way) by the short stories in Roxane Gay's Difficult Women, learned to be a bit more realistic about parenting with No More Perfect Moms, and raced through the stunning debut novel The Mothers






Up next for me is Orphan Train. What have you been reading?


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mini-reviews: Upstream and Hallucinations

Mary Oliver is a writer known for her poems that praise the beauty of nature. In Upstream, she uses essays to examine her favorite writers and extol the ways that nature can give us hope and put things in perspective. For the reader familiar with her poems, it should be no surprise that her prose is sparse and beautiful. Some of the earlier essays deal with Oliver's childhood discovery that both the quiet forest and the pages of a book could offer companionship. Another essay holds her musings on the nature of creativity and the meeting of hard, regular work and the spark of inspiration. Some essays focus solely on the life of animals, like fish and turtles and even a single spider, as she reports her observations.

As always, reading words from Mary Oliver is a balm for the soul. These essays are a reminder for each of us to pay attention to our lives, to the small joys of every day, and to the wonders of nature all around us.


Upstream: Selected Essays
By Mary Oliver
Penguin Press October 2016
178 pages
Read via Netgalley


Hallucinations are a manifestation of mental illness, right? Dr. Oliver Sacks reveals that, instead, there are a variety of kinds of hallucinations and reasons for them to occur. Some people experience hallucinations because of injury or illness. Others purposefully seek out these experiences by taking drugs. In this book, we learn about the wide range of hallucinations from a doctor who wants readers to understand them instead of fear them.

I have been meaning to read something by Oliver Sacks for a while. When I saw this book recommended as a starting point for his work, I found the audiobook through my library. I usually find nonfiction a good genre to listen to, and this book was no exception. The narration is good and Dr. Sacks teaches you a lot without losing those of us who don't have advanced degrees in brain science. Just be prepared for some strange looks when people walk into the room and suddenly hear about malevolent voices or the appearance of tiny people....


Hallucinations
By Oliver Sacks
Random House Audio November 2012
9 hours, 49 minutes
Listened via Overdrive through my library

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Monday and I'm back!

Hi friends! I took a week or so off to enjoy the holidays. For us, that meant church services on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day, lots of baking, a nine year old with a high fever that wouldn't quit, a quiet Christmas dinner with my family, a boisterous New Year's celebration with my husband's side of the family, and a few quiet moments in between!

 


Peanut butter reindeer cookies and
 milk for Santa and oats for the reindeer!

Christmas aftermath

Thankfully, there has been a lot of reading this past week or so! Here's what I've been reading lately:

 



The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope     The Paris Wife

I'm currently reading This Is Where You Belong, which gives some readers some tips for making the towns where they live feel more like home. I'm listening to The Book of Unknown Americans, so I would say reading in 2017 is off to a great start.

Tell me all about your holiday celebrations and what you're reading this week!