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Nikole

The Nearly Reader

My life in (mostly) books

Money, money, money

I got an email from Amazon telling me I had $11 in credit from some lawsuit, I already had some money from a gift card so now I have just under $20 to spend. Guess who's going to be buying books.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void By Mary Roach(A)/Sandra Burr(N) [Audiobook] - Author
"Weightlessness is like heroin, or how I imagine heroin must be. You try it once, and when it’s over, all you can think about is how much you want to do it again."
— feeling angry
"It was also very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was parked making by machinery, pork making by Applied Mathematics. And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the Hogs; they were so innocent comma they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in theit protests- and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury, as the thing was done here, swinging them up in this cold-blooded , impersonal way, without a pretence at apology, without the homage of a tear. Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering-machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory."
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair, Earl Lee, Kathleen DeGrave

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Chapter 3

Page 44

My reading week

The Color Purple - Alice Walker The Jungle - Upton Sinclair, Earl Lee, Kathleen DeGrave Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void By Mary Roach(A)/Sandra Burr(N) [Audiobook] - Author Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End - Atul Gawande The Diary of  a Teenage Girl, Revised Edition: An Account in Words and Pictures - Phoebe Gloeckner

This week I finished one book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I found the book to be hard to read. Not so much because of the subject matter but because of the way the book was written. I found myself having to read parts of it out loud in order to "hear" the characters talking, especially where Cecie is the narrator. I now have the movie version queued up on Netflix.

 

After finishing that, I also finished reading the diary of a Teenage girl which I can't say I enjoyed but I was a big fan of the illustrations. For much of the book I felt like shaking Minnie and screaming in her face because she annoyed me so much, although to be honest, the adults in her life were total sleaze bags so it is not surprising how fucking awful Minnie was. 

 

Now I made the mistake of starting four books at once. I started The Jungle, but immediately realized I needed a more modern book to balance things out and I stared Career of Evil Then on my Kindle I started Packing for Mars, only to immediately get informed that the electronic hold I had on Being Mortal came in so I downloaded and started reading that. So in the space of like a day I had four books going.

 

I think that next week I'll be on vacation, and aside from cleaning I'm going to be doing a lot of reading. 

Heartbroken

Today was the day I thought that perhaps I'd be able to return to blogging. I had gotten my writing mojo back, somewhat, and I planned to spend a good portion of today plowing through past books that still needed to be reviewed.

 

Instead, I spent way too much time on Twitter trying to make sense of what happened in Orlando. 

 

Because of the nature of what happened, there are countless arguments. There's a camp rallying against Islam. There's a camp rallying for and another against the LGBTQ community. There's a camp focused primarily on gun control. Each camp is screaming on top of their lungs, trying to tear the other camps down. People who support the LGBTQ community are being torn down by the "Christians" by spewing forth their opinion that the victims brought it upon themselves by their lifestyle. People who nothing about the Muslim faith are ready to ban Muslims from the United States. And gun lobbyists and supporters are doing their damnest to distract everyone that the perpetrator was allowed access to the guns he used, legally, because we still cannot come up with a proper gun law in this country.

 

After being told to fuck myself and subsequently blocked for pointing out that there was a 10 Commandment law against murder, but not one against being gay I finally gave up Tweeting my opinion. The people I follow mostly shared my sentiment anyway, and all it was doing was causing me to become anxious and even less willing to join society. It was just making me more scared for my openly gay friends and scared for my Muslim allies, allies who would NEVER hurt another human being in the name of Allah.

 

I hate guns with a passion, but I love people who are responsible gun owners. I understand why they want to hang on to their right to own guns. Banning guns won't stop incidences like this from happening. 

 

I don't think we will ever again live in a society where being in a public place is safe.  People are too invested in themselves and creating laws that will benefit them (I.E. White CIS Males) that they conveniently forget that there are many other demographics out there that need and deserve protection. The government is doing a grave disservice to its citizens, but I cannot see it changing any time soon. 

 

I suspect we will always have Sundays like today, where we are in mourning but know, deep down, that there is NOT going to be a silver lining.

The Words are Broken...

Or maybe it's my brain. Whatever it is, I am having a massively hard time writing. I used to write all the time. And then I fell out of the habit and figured that when I felt like writing I'd just fall back into it. And now I want to write and I just can't form the words. The idea of getting words out of my head down on paper makes no sense. Even a simple email for work is enough to exhaust me. 

 

Something is broken and I don't know how to fix it.

That Summer

That Summer - Sarah Dessen The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen

From Goodreads: For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

 

 

My first Sarah Dessen book was The Truth About Forever, which I read in 2009 in the trailer my best friend and I had just moved into together. It was my first time living away from home (I lived at home for college) and I was discovering that YA fiction was comforting.

 

Since that time, I've read a good chunk of Sarah Dessen's books and while I didn't love all of them...I still enjoyed them. That is, until I read That Summer. 

 

I did not like That Summer. At all. I found the characters kind of deplorable, and the plot was boring. And oh, this happened.

 

I know I wrote another review where I criticized the author for using the R word. Thankfully in this book it was just the one time, and I'm fairly certain that this was the first (and hopefully) only time I have read this in a Dessen novel but it still took me aback.

 

So this book was definitely a miss for me. I'm still looking forward to reading more Dessen books but perhaps I'll stick to the ones that are more recent, then ones that are 20 years old.

My Life in France

My Life in France - Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Julia Child, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle Julie and Julia : 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen - Julie Powell

From Goodreads: In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found ‘her true calling.’

From the moment the ship docked in Le Havre in the fall of 1948 and Julia watched the well-muscled stevedores unloading the cargo to the first perfectly soigné meal that she and her husband, Paul, savored in Rouen en route to Paris, where he was to work for the USIS, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn’t speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu.

After managing to get her degree despite the machinations of the disagreeable directrice of the school, Julia started teaching cooking classes herself, then teamed up with two fellowgourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book they were trying to write on French cooking for Americans. Throwing herself heart and soul into making it a unique and thorough teaching book, only to suffer several rounds of painful rejection, is part of the behind-the-scenes drama that Julia reveals with her inimitable gusto and disarming honesty.

Filled with the beautiful black-and-white photographs that Paul loved to take when he was not battling bureaucrats, as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Above all, she reveals the kind of spirit and determination, the sheer love of cooking, and the drive to share that with her fellow Americans that made her the extraordinary success she became.

Le voici. Et bon appétit!

 

 

I don't remember a time in my life where I didn't have at least a rudimentary sense of who Julia Child was, yet, I have no idea how. I don't remember my Mom watching Julia's cooking shows on television when I was growing up. I certainly know that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was not one of the (many) cooking books my Mom had around the house. But Julia Child had that presence. You didn't have to actively watch or read her to know who she was. 

 

Then, when I was in my 20's I read Julie and Julia (which annoyed me) and saw the movie which was actually pretty enjoyable (RIP Nora Ephron). It was the movie that piqued my curiosity of who Julia Child was.

 

I loved My Life in France. I had no idea what to expect. Maybe an entire memoir related to the kitchen? That was my best guest...but to my joy, My Life in France was so much more. It was Julia. It was her before she even picked up a spoon. It was her during her time at Cordon Blu, and it was her with her soul mate, Paul Child. I absolutely fell in love with her in reading My Life in France. She was such a personality.

 

I probably will never pick up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking...hell, I've never even been to a French restaurant but it did give me the courage to do more in the kitchen at work. While I was in the middle of reading this, I was tasked with cooking up a turkey breast at work. I have never made anything like that, but I asked myself...what would Julia do and found decent directions and cooked that bird. Granted...Julia probably would have slathered the thing in butter-and I choose a healthier olive oil, but still...Julia Child came to my rescue.

When She Came Home

When She Came Home - Drusilla Campbell

From Goodreads: Frankie Byrne Tennyson stunned everyone when she decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Now-after bravely serving her country in Iraq-she's finally come home. Home to a husband whose lingering feelings of abandonment make her wonder if their lives can ever be the same. Home to a daughter whose painful encounters with bullies can only be healed by a mother's love. And home to a father who still can't accept his daughter's decision to serve in spite of his own stellar career as a brigadier general. But the most difficult part about coming home lies within Frankie herself. To save everything she holds dear, she must face the toughest battle of her life . . .

A moving portrait of a modern American family, WHEN SHE CAME HOME reminds us that some things-honor, acceptance, and, above all, love-are truly worth fighting for.

 

I picked this title up blind from the library. I had not heard of the book, nor the author but I liked the synopsis and figured it would be nice to read something brand new.

 

Unfortunately I was underwhelmed by this title and instead of getting a well written, well researched novel about a soldier returning from The Gulf...I was treated with a Lifetime novelization of a soldier returning home from The Gulf. 

 

I think the biggest problem is that the novel makes such a huge deal out of how much Frankie has changed during her time away...yet, aside from an opening chapter where she is 12 years old and a few very thin references of the before time...the audience has NO idea what exactly is different and therefore there is no way of being able to sympathize...like truly sympathize. The most the book goes into Frankie's past is when the book delves into her time in The Gulf and her friendship with her interpreter and certain situations that she witnessed. Yes, those situations were impactful to the story...but neither one was written well enough for me to grab hold of. 

 

The supporting characters of this are weak, and no one in this book actually seems like real people, they are just characters in a story who are there strictly to move the plot along. They aren't there for any relationship building purposes, that's for sure. 

 

When I finished this book, I felt very little except relief that I had finished it and I have no desire to read anything else that Drusilla Campbell has written. Shoot, I think I've seen better watching Army Wives. 

The Fever

The Fever: A Novel - Megan Abbott

From Goodreads: The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security

 

Last month I went into a mild Megan Abbott obsession. I had read Dare Me sometime last year and had liked it and during a trip to the library picked up the two other Megan Abbott titles that were on the shelf.

 

As I wrote in a previous review, I liked the first book I read, The End of Everything but when I started reading The Fever I went into a mild obsession reading it whenever I had a few spare moments. 

 

After reading some Goodreads reviews, it seems a little weird that I got into the book as heavily as I did. It was NOT a very popular read...or rather, it was one of those books where the reader loved it or hated it. There were not many average, three star reviews. Out of curiosity I read the one star reviews and although it didn't change my enjoyment, I could see where the reviewers were coming from. For a book that was considered a thriller it had been kind of slow paced. The narrator switched from Dennie to her brother and their dad...a move that was not popular. And finally, a lot of readers didn't like the end. 

 

As I was reading The Fever, I forgot that I was reading a Megan Abbott book. Instead, I felt as though was reading a Tom Perrotta book, something similar to The Leftovers. I doubt that that was an intentional thing, but it was the thing that kept drawing me to continue to read the book. The ending was definitely Megan Abbott, and definitely not a Tom Perrotta ending...and that wasn't a bad thing although I'm still not sure about the end. I'm not sure if it truly fit with the rest of the novel, but I guess it worked.

Lazy Day

My schedule is finally back to normal at work and just knowing that is making me feel a lot better. For the last few weeks I had been going into work each day not sure who I was going to be working with, not sure how I was going to manage to get everything done that needed to get done. The shift I was working wasn't a radically different schedule, but seemed more time consuming and definitely included a lot more travel time because of the way my hours were set up. 

 

Today is my third day off (and I have two more days off, so YAY!). Yesterday I did some housework and took the cat to the vet and today is pouring outside so I'm totally justifying a lazy day. I ventured out long enough to drive over the mountain to the library to check out some new books and although originally was going to start reading them at the coffee shop decided to just come home. Just way too nasty out and I was already soaked. So came home, changed into sweats and a teeshirt and have started my rainy day hibernation. Totally plan to read, catch up on my book reviews and hopefully my emails. I have emails from February to reply to.

 

 

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927 - Bill Bryson

From Goodreads: The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.
     All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest ordert

 

I love Bill Bryson's travelogues. I first picked up In a Sunburnt Country when I was in college (and obsessed with Australia) and instantly fell in love with the mix of facinating facts about science and history and everything in between and Bill Bryson's sidesplitting sense of humor. My most vivid memory of reading In a Sunburnt Country is nearly giving myself a stroke from trying not to laugh out loud too wildly while reading a passage of Bryson falling asleep in the car during his travels.

 

So far though, I have been less than impressed with Bill Bryson's non travel writing. His childhood memoir was enjoyable and his other books were interesting enough but there was something missing. So I went into One Summer with guarded expectations. 

 

Although there were not any laugh out loud, probably shouldn't read this in public, moments, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book. I'm not much of a history buff, so I had no idea how much stuff went on during such a short amount of time. A lot of the people involved with the events I had heard of, but not in a very detailed way so it was nice to actually get a better idea of who they actually were and why they were so significant in history.

 

I was very satisfied with this read, and I think it would be a good starting point for someone wanting to explore history a bit more. I can't say it was a quick read (because there was so much to process throughout) but something that would be worth the investment. 

And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

And After Many Days - Jowhor Ile

From Goodreads: During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family's life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy, they embark on a painful and moving journey of immense power which changes their lives forever and shatters the fragile ecosystem of their once ordered family. Ajie, the youngest sibling, is burdened with the guilt of having seen Paul last and convinced that his vanished brother was betrayed long ago. But his search for the truth uncovers hidden family secrets and reawakens old, long forgotten ghosts as rumours of police brutality, oil shortages, and frenzied student protests serve as a backdrop to his pursuit.

In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family's ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.

And After Many Days introduces Ile's spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new. 

 

I won a copy of this book through The First Reads Giveaway on Goodreads.

 

I wasn't a huge fan of And After Many Days. I'm not sure exactly where the book failed me, it wasn't the writing...which was the best part of the book. It wasn't the characters, who were fleshed out. It wasn't even the story, which was actually intriguing. Maybe it wasn't anything in particular. Maybe it was just me. Maybe I was the one that could not focus enough in the story to get lost in it's pages. Maybe I just didn't care enough.

 

Truthfully though, I think it was the pacing that lost me. I wanted a book that moved forward, that showed the aftermath of the disappearance of Paul, and instead, the book was told almost entirely in flashbacks. Interesting, and a good way of experiencing the Nigerian culture...but did not match up with the expectations I had set up for myself. 

 

I'm still giving it a respectable three stars as I did feel as though it was well written and it was a good book overall, it just wasn't what I wanted at the time.

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

The End of Everything - Megan Abbott

From Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hood and her next-door neighbor, Evie Verver, are inseparable, best friends who swap clothes, bathing suits, and field-hockey sticks and between whom, presumably, there are no secrets. Then one afternoon, Evie disappears, and as a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the balmy suburban community, everyone turns to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, or upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Compelled by curiosity, Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power as the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secret after secret and begins to wonder if she knew anything at all about her best friend.

 

This was the second Megan Abbott book I read, and it was the book that made me realize that Megan Abbott is good at what she does. Really good. She is one disturbing writer and I love it.

 

This was a quick read and by the time I got to the end I was equally glad that it ended, but still confused and uncomfortable. I still couldn't decide all the people who were involved. I couldn't decide who were the bad guys and who weren't. I wasn't even convinced that Lizzy wasn't involved. It just seemed a little too suspicious.

 

If you are looking for a creepy mystery story, this is a great choice. 

Well...

I was thinking of doing the 24 hour readathon today....but then on Wednesday I was told asked if I would change my schedule to accommodate some vacancies...so instead of working a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday shift...it's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. This sucks on about 100 different levels, most being that I had a short weekend and I'll be at work around the clock from tomorrow at 9am until 9pm on Tuesday evening. I'm suppose to have time off on Tuesday...but no way of going home...so not into this week.

 

The good news though is that I'm getting a new bed. Finally broke down yesterday and went bed shopping. I also bought a new (used) desk from Goodwill so I'll have a separate computer station and writing station. 

 

I'm several books behind in writing reviews. Maybe I'll get to them today. Maybe not. I'll do my best.