Monday, August 24, 2009

The Literary Lunatic

I'm surrounded by books. Piles of them. And it's all my fault.

I'm talking about those darn New Year's Resolutions! Back at the end of last year I came up with a list of New Year's Resolutions. I've been doing pretty good so far, although there's only (YIKES!) four months left to knock 'em all off.

Let us recap, shall we?

1.) LOSE WEIGHT.... I'm workin' on it! I am down a good 15 lbs. from January 1st...was down a couple more, but then I sort of fell off the wagon this past month. I'm back on, though, and like I've said about the time I quit doesn't matter how many tries it takes, the end result is all that matters. I was kicking myself and then I finally stepped on the scale last week...and although my first thought was "You gained three pounds", I stopped myself before the tears came and said "You lost fifteen pounds." So, I'm going to go ahead and say: Lose Weight? CHECK! (Besides, we ALL KNOW this one will make the list again for 2010 anyway...)

2.) VISIT MY PARENTS MORE OFTEN... Um, yep. Check. Except for this month - August has been horrible at work, hectic at home and the folks have been neglected more than they should have. I talk to them often, but haven't seen much of them. The good news is, that sometimes it's because of their busy social lives that we have been unable to hook up. And those bingo games, dinners and other social obligations are what keep my parents going, so God bless 'em for being too busy to sit around waiting for me to show up. ;)

3.) CLEAN HOUSE...Let's skip this one.

Well, technically, I did clean house the week before the masses descended upon my house for my daughter's birthday. So, CHECK! (Pay no attention to those marauding dust bunnies standing behind me...)

4.) VISIT TEN NEW PLACES...Ah! This one is all but complete! I won't count things like "spending 3 minutes going through the drive-thru at Burger King in Wilkes-Barre, PA", yet already I've accomplished something here....Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton (Air Force Museum...oh wait, I forgot to tell you about that, didn't I?), Buffalo (OH BOY! Do we have catching up to do....) and even though technically I had been there before, Niagara Falls. And even some little local places - blueberry picking at Tougas Farm, a jaunt to Hartford, CT where we actually got out of the car, for a change, and I even pulled over and got out of the car to visit this place...

Cool, huh? If I had a nickel for every time I said "We've got to check out the Old Stone Church"...I could probably BUY the Old Stone Church. Anyway, more on that to come....

5.) READ...Now this one I'm pretty proud of, and I have to thank for it! It's a great website! You get books for free - you can keep them if you like or pass them on when you're done. The only cost is when someone requests a book you have made available for swapping, you agree to pay the postage (media mail rate). I've sent books all across the country and have never paid more than $3.50, and that was for a hardcover copy of "Twilight". Best part is, it's addicting. These books keep showing up in the mail, or I send out books I've read and book credits keep showing up on my account! Why, actually I think I can say I have cleaned my house, because I've gotten rid of at least 20 books...oh wait. I have about 25 sitting around waiting to be read. Never mind on the cleaning thing...but did I tell you I cleaned the week before my daughter's birthday party?

Anyway, I've read a couple best sellers, as well as a couple of off the grid books. Here's a little sample (and my reviews/ratings!):

"The Life and Legend of Leadbelly" by Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell
"Biography of one of the most famous black folksingers of American history", this meticulously researched story of Huddy Ledbetter, who began his career singing and playing guitar in the red light district of Shrevesport, LA, to a couple stints in prison - one for a murder he may not have committed - to his rise to fame in New York City, Leadbelly has been cited as an inspiration by other artists, such as Woodie Guthrie and Janis Joplin. ****

This one had been sitting in my closet for years. Diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma at a very young age, Lucy Grealy's childhood is filled with memories of cancer, a disfigured face (she had half of her jaw removed), to countless surgeries - most of which failed to rebuild her face - and the desperate loneliness of being "different". I would have said it was an inspirational story, but when I was searching on-line for an image of the cover, I found that Lucy died in 2002, at the age of 37, of a suspected drug overdose. *****

I bought this one off the bargain book table years ago...what made this one interesting to me was that, although a work of fiction, it is a historical novel. The main character actually lived during the 15th century, and using historical facts, the author created a very realistic portrayal of her. Towards the end, it is revealed that the real-life sister of the main character was the woman who inspired the building of the Taj Mahal. (The one in India, not New Jersey...) ****

"The Shack" by William F Young
There was a lot of hoopla around this one - both hype and controversy. A young girl is abducted and presumed murdered, and two years later her grieving father, who has lost his faith over this tragedy, receives a mysterious note from God, inviting him to revisit the scene of the crime for a weekend. I flipped through some pages, as I thought it was kind of cheesy, but I must say I did get something out of this. Maybe not to the extent that the author intended, but there were things I can say helped me further whittle down what my personal beliefs are about God and religion and faith, including the occasioanl differences between the three. ***

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I just love poignant memoirs! This is one of the best I've read. Ms. Walls' childhood is just insane, raised by two of the most irresponsible, "free spirit" parents I've ever heard of, yet you never get the feeling she wrote this looking for sympathy. She tells her story matter-of-factly, and she's a perfect example of how some people grow up successful and well-balanced despite having not so great parents. Fascinating and inspiring read! *****

"The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland" by Jim Defede
My husband says they should make a movie about what happened in Gander on 9/11. I totally agree. This tiny town of about 5,000 took in and cared for thousand of travellers left stranded while U.S. airspace was shut down. They opened their hearts and homes to these strangers - just an amazing story. Not many books make me laugh out loud or bawl my eyes out - this one did both. *****

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini
I love a book that gives you the ability to clearly visualize the characters, the culture and scenery, so you feel you are connected. I feel like I was not only entertained, but I learned something without feeling this was a history lesson. I felt there was no boring "down time" in this book, it moved seamlessly from one chapter to the next and kept my interest the whole time. Without giving too much away, I also like that the story is true to life in a way - the ending is neither too tragic not too happy, yet at the same time it is both. *****

"The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman
Over 300 people owe their lives to the zookeeper and his wife - during WWII, the Warsaw Zoo became a sort of underground railroad and hiding place to Jews trying to escape from the Nazis. The book does focus mainly on the wife, hinting at the husband's own involvement in the resistance. Fascinating wonderful people, and a beautifully written book that makes you want to visit Warsaw.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society"
One of my all-time favorite books! I first read of Guernsey and its fascinating history, particularly during WWII, in an Elizabeth George novel. This book is written as if it's a collection of letters written between the characters, and at first it's a little annoying, but as you read on you really become emotionally atteched to these characters. Because of Elizabeth George's novel and now this one, Guernsey is on my list of "must visit" places! *****

"The Weight of Water" by Anita Shreve
Great mix of truth and fiction - a photographer travels to the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire to photograph the scene of a horrific double-murder (which actually did occur in real life) 100 years earlier. The author shifts back and forth between then and now, creating a spellbinding parallel between the one survivor of the attack and the modern day photographer. I had already seen the movie but didn' quite understand things so I looked forward to the book - the book answered my questions, but also threw in a twist at the end. Beautifully and hauntingly written. *****

"The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox" by Maggie O'Farrell
A young woman receives word that the aunt she never knew is being released from an asylum that is due to close. Bouncing around between characters and past/present, it was a bit confusing at first, but when it clicks it's an amazing suspenseful story. My only complaint is that it ends abruptly, leaving you wanting one more chapter. ****

"Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer
Yep. I got sucked in, too. Wanted to know what all the hype was about. An entertaining read, but coming from someone who was on the Anne Rice bandwagon years ago, this is definitely written with teens (and maybe tweens, judging by my niece's obsession) in mind. I liked it, but I found myself wanting to reread Rice's Vampire Chronicles instead. ***

So, there you have it! My summer reading list! And I have about 17 books on my To Be Read list, and another 33 on my Wish List. I may just have to quit my job!


Chicago Mom said...

Isn't it wonderful when you have a few quiet hours to sit down with a book and good cup of coffee or glass of wine and just lose yourself in the story? Who am I kidding?! We have kids and husbands and jobs and houses to clean! haha! But we can dream, right?

Willoughby said...

It sounds like you've got some great posts coming up (stone church, Air Force museum, Buffalo). Can't wait to read them!

I had never heard of, now I can't wait to check it out!

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

Your book list looks great, and I would LOVE to visit that stone church.

ChristineM said...

Tattoos, I took a bunch of pics of that church! I'll be posting something on it soon - we may even go back for a picnic. It's really cool! Neat history too!

Lissaloo said...

Grat list :) Who wants to clean house when there is a good book waiting to be read?????? :)