W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

How can it be Wednesday. Very little reading progress this week as work has kicked into high gear, but I’m trying to at least remain consistent in posting weekly, even if I can’t get to much more than that.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for inspiring so many of us to get involved in WWW Wednesdays. It’s always a great way to connect.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

A Curious ManWhat are you currently reading?

Feeling plateaued 300 pages into A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley. The man and the time period are so interesting but the writing is not as engaging as the book wears on. I haven’t opened it in quite a few days.  I set aside the audio version of The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. I like it too much to suffer through bad narration, so I’ll look for a print copy. Instead, listening to the perfectly pleasant Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by the always reliable Anna Quindlen. About half-way through.

Hyperbole and a HalfWhat did you recently finish reading?

Yesterday I read Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosch in one sitting. Not my typical read at all — a collection of comedic illustrated essays — but I had heard really great reviews from readers I trust. And I’m glad I snapped my mini-reading funk with this book. Fast-paced, acerbic humor (as in I was laughing out loud at the pool) balanced with heartbreaking honesty. I recognized myself several times throughout. It’s  really good read.

The Flying TroutmansWhat do you think you’ll read next?   

I finally settled on my Dusting Off the Bookshelf August choice (aided by what was on-shelf at the library this week). I’m going to read The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews, partly because I also really want to read All My Puny Sorrows so I want to get to know this author’s writing. Looking for me next great audio…

Happy reading everyone!

 

*All book covers are images saved from Goodreads

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.

 

#100HappyDays: Days 31-40

#100happydays began as an Instagram exercise in gratitude, a challenge to take a moment to be purposefully thankful for the many happy moments that make up my days.

Because this is an Instagram project, I am limiting myself to something I can photograph. Likewise, I use very few words to describe these images. I read that many people who started this project gave up somewhere in the 20s, so I’m feeling pretty happy that I’m still going strong.

As summer winds down and the school year begins, I know this challenge will get even more difficult. Busy schedules, less down time will mean I have to dig deep, but I am determined.

31Day 31: Time to play! #hangman Nothing beats game time on the deck.

32Day 32: I really do love #backtoschool shopping. The boys were great sports @target

33Day 33: Despite a gas main break ruining our zoo plans, we’re making the most of my last Friday off. — at La Cabanita.

34Day 34: Hanging out @brookfieldzoo with these guys on a beautiful Saturday morning. Nothing better. — at Brookfield Zoo.

35Day 35: Mini golf yesterday at Navy Pier. Still laughing at the ridiculous fun.

36Day 36: The day almost got away from me, but luckily I have these two smiling faces on my phone. I’m so lucky to be sandwiched between two generations whom I love & who love me. — with Karen Skinner.

37Day 37: Oh happy day that brought my beautiful cousin Lauren to Chicago and to my house for a long overdue visit. Love this young woman! — with Lauren Arnieri.

38Day 38: Because it makes me happy that while I read the biography, my son reads one of the many books inspired by Ripley.

39Day 39: I was too busy enjoying these lovely cocktails with friends to post my happy moment last night, but I was aware of the moment — good friends together to celebrate good news.

 40Day 40: Nothing says happiness like ice cream. TGIF — at Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor.

 

 

 

How about you? How do you practice gratitude?

All the images in this post are my own. Please don’t use them as yours.

The deep, dark and ugly of Fourth of July Creek

Fourth of July CreekThe Montana Visitors Bureau will not be hiring Smith Henderson any time soon. The Montana of Henederson’s gripping debut novel is bleak and desolate, filled with alcoholics, addicts, guns, separatists and loneliness. Even his brilliant depictions of the state’s wilderness seem hard-edged and dangerous. Henderson’s characters are beyond broken; they are fractured into tiny pieces and spinning out of control.

This is not a pretty novel.

“The children were like children from anywhere, maybe a little less so.”

Pete Snow, a Department of Children’s Services social worker, should be our hero, but he’s an alcoholic who abandoned his own child and shelters more than one criminal. The fact that I still have sympathy for this man is a testament to the strength and power of Henderson’s writing.

His adversary, Benjamin Pearl, is a wild near-animal zealot, raising his son and hiding from society. (Conspiracy theorists will love his philosophy and anti-system rants.) Again, he is the antithesis of everything I believe in and yet, my heart broke for him and I was unable to compartmentalize him in the role of “bad guy.”

Is it any accident that these men have the names Snow and Pearl which evoke images of innocence and purity? I’ve got to hand it to Henderson. Down to the characters’ names, he doesn’t leave any detail of this novel to chance.

Snow and Pearl almost dance around each other through the events of this novel, alternating between trust and betrayal. Their relationship illustrates all the themes and questions of freedom, relationships, loyalty and democracy.

Meanwhile, Snow’s daughter is missing. In some of the most emotionally powerful chapters of the novel, we hear directly from Rose.

“What was it like on the way to Texas? It was Wyoming, which means to drive forever through ugly subscrape the color of dirty pennies. It was just wyoming along.”

The way in which Rose continues to use “wyoming” as a verb, noun and adjective to describe the nothingness she feels is absolutely brilliant.

All of these journeys are incredibly sad. I never shy away from dark reading material. In fact, I couldn’t help but compare this book to The Painter, Once Upon a River and Girlchild. All of these are fiction about the darker underside of America. The difference is that Fourth of July Creek, I found no hope. I could not put this book down, but I didn’t want to read it.

“the world is a blade and dread is hope cut open and spread inside out.”

Read-alikes:

The Painter by Peter Heller

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

Hooray, it’s Wednesday — my favorite day of the blogging week.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for inspiring so many of us to get involved in WWW Wednesdays. It’s always a great way to connect.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

A Curious ManWhat are you currently reading? Just about half-way through A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley. So far it’s a fascinating read and a surprise in that it’s the first thorough biography of Ripley ever written. I’m always fascinated by oddities so this is non-fiction right up my alley.  On audio, I’m still loving the content and writing in The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman, but still not a fan of the narration. It’s all good until she starts “embodying” the characters’ voices. Then I want to run out of my car. I think I’ll have to order the print.

 

Fourth of July CreekWhat did you recently finish reading? Posted a rave review of Brain on Fire earlier this week. I also finished Fourth of July Creek, which I haven’t yet reviewed because I haven’t wanted to return to it’s deep darkness. That’s not to say it isn’t excellent — it is. Brutal, honest, ugly. This is a terrifying look at a part of the US I know nothing about — separatists, conspiracy zealots, farmers, drifters. Dark as it was, I couldn’t put it down. Hard to believe it’s a debut novel. Great writing.

 

Still Life with BreadcrumbsWhat do you think you’ll read next?  Still need to start 1984, which my 13 year-old has almost finished, but definitely didn’t love. I also want to read Virginia Woolf this month, although I haven’t settled on which book. Plus, I need to finally choose my Dusting Off the Bookshelf August choice. On audio, I ordered Still Life With Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen which I hope will be an improvement over the Rachman narrator.

Happy reading everyone!

 

*All book covers are images saved from Goodreads

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.

 

Brain on Fire: Emotionally Disturbing in All the Right Ways

Brain on Fire

“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear, go with it.”

I have been blessed throughout my life with reasonably good health. It’s not a blessing I take lightly or take for granted. I have seen, especially through my parents, how quickly health can be ripped away – it only takes one small disaster. Susannah Cahalan, a young journalist for the New York Post, met such a disaster as she unexpectedly faced an onslaught of health emergencies and lost her grip on reality. Her memoir, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, captures the terror and helplessness of that time, even while acknowledging that she is one of the lucky ones. I found this book emotionally disturbing in all the right ways. This could easily have been me or someone I love. Her crisis came on fast, with no explanation or diagnosis for seemingly endless weeks, with little hope of remedy. Susannah went from a capable, outgoing, ambitious woman to a victim of her own body almost overnight.

“The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitable, on day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability.”

The above quote is as about as melodramatic as Cahalan gets as a writer. Although deemed a memoir, she definitely takes a journalist’s approach to writing, laying out the facts in a fairly bare-bones manner. Partially, this is because she has few internal memories of the events in this book. She relies on interviews and research she did later, but still tells the story as a first-person narrative. It’s a tricky balance but she does an outstanding job. Most of the book is taken up with her mysterious symptoms and quest for a diagnosis, which she feels lucky to have finally received. After diagnosis and treatment, it’s more of a reflection of how lucky she feels that she had her family to advocate on her behalf, the random interest of a top doctor, and insurance and money enough to afford treatment. (Again, these are not blessings to be taken lightly.) All together captivating and terrifying. Highly recommend. Read-alikes: The Madness of George III (the play upon which the film The Madness of King George is based) Still Alice Unless We Need to Talk About Kevin (just in the “in could be me” sense of terror)

#100HappyDays: Days 21-30

#100happydays began as an Instagram exercise in gratitude, a challenge to take a moment to be purposefully thankful for the many happy moments that make up my days.

Because this is an Instagram project, I am limiting myself to something I can photograph. Likewise, I use very few words to describe these images. I read that many people who started this project gave up somewhere in the 20s, so I’m feeling pretty happy that I’m still going strong.

21Day 21: S’mores on the deck last night with loved ones.

22Day 22: Happy to be reminded of my theater days and all the wonderful, talented, hilarious people I’ve known. #shrubtown #circletheatre

23Day 23: Just being surrounded by so many books makes me happy. @TheBookTableOP — at The Book Table

 

24Day 24: On my deck at 5:15. Ahhh.#perfect

25Day 25: Making school uniform shopping a little more fun. #icecream

26Day 26: So blessed to have wonderful ladies on my life. This is my gorgeous niece @meghawk2 — at Palmer House.

 

27Day 27: I love that our weekend breakfast options include both fresh tortillas from Masa Uno and bakery from Vesecky’s #whyberwyn

28Day 28: Reading @nytimesbooks. Now an even bigger fan of @AmyBloomBooks. The sunshine & Fiore bakery definitely don’t hurt either.

Day 29: Connor’s been working on his flips off the diving board. Yesterday he really got full rotation. (This was an Instagram video, which I’m having trouble linking to my blog – sorry.)
30Day 30: Always happy to get a fresh pedi, but happier for quality time with Bethanny.

 

 

 

How about you? How do you practice gratitude?

All the images in this post are my own. Please don’t use them as yours.

W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

Hooray, it’s Wednesday — one of my favorite blogging days of the week as I get to share what everyone’s reading. I’m pretty pleased with my list this week.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for inspiring so many of us to get involved in WWW Wednesdays. It’s always a great way to connect.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

Brain on FireWhat are you currently reading?  I’m almost finished with my book club title, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. This is an incredibly disturbing and captivating read. I haven’t wanted to set the book down for the past couple days, even though I’m alternatingly fascinated and terrified by this young woman’s true story. Highly recommend. On audio, I’m starting The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman. I was a big fan of The Imperfectionists and I’m already finding some of that same dark humor in disk 1; however, I’m not a huge fan of the narrator’s voice and I’m wondering if I need to switch to the print edition.

The Dead in their Vaulted ArchesWhat did you recently finish reading? I am very sad to have completed the audio version of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, as it is the last in Bradley’s 6-book Flavia de Luce series. Rumor (aka the internet) has it that he’s writing a new Flavia series, but it won’t necessarily contain all the places and characters I’ve come to love from Buckshaw and Bishop’s Lacey. I have adored each  installment in the series. This is the only one, however, that I don’t think would stand alone without reading the preceeding novels. This finale ties together many outstanding questions left from the 5 murders Flavia has “solved” in her 11th year. Also finished Shotgun Lovesongs (reviewed here) and We Were Liars, which definitely deserves a review that I have not yet written.

Fourth of July CreekWhat do you think you’ll read next?  I was surprised and thrilled to find a copy of Fourth of July Creek on the New Release shelf at the library. I’ve heard such great things about it. Even though it’s almost 500 pages, I’m going to sneak it in before my next non-fiction, A Curious Man, and my classic, 1984 (which my 13 year-old is HATING by the way). No shortage of books to read this month.

Happy reading everyone!

 

*All book covers are images saved from Goodreads

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.