BINGO!

My Lita loved BINGO. I have fond memories of accompanying her to the church hall, where’d she set up her cards, red plastic discs and lucky elephants while she sent me to the concession stand for potato chips and pop. It was a weekly date and I loved her focus as she quickly scanned dozens of cards. I remember her excitement when she’d yell BINGO and raise her tiny hand in the air. I eagerly awaited the last game of the night when Lita would bring out her BINGO stampers and let me choose the color I wanted. (Of course I wasn’t technically allowed to play as a minor, but she always let me watch a card or two.) We never won the big jackpot, but I won something much more important those nights.

Reading-Bingo-smallSo when I saw a Reading BINGO card pop up on Facebook in January, I knew I had to play along. (The game was posted courtesy of Random House Canada and can be found here.)

I started strong, getting multiple BINGO lines in the first couple months of the year without having to try too hard — female author, different continent, short stories, non-fiction– this was a cinch. But, around April, I realized which squares would provide the challenge: B1 (more than 500 pages); I2 (non-human characters); I5 (scares you); N2 (funny book); G5 (second book in a series) and O3 (bottom of the TBR). I had to consciously go looking for those.

But I’m proud to raise my tiny hand in the air and yell BINGO!!! Tell the man with the microphone to get ready, I hit the big jackpot. I know my Lita’s smiling down on me.

Here are my BINGO titles. I’ve included links to those titles I reviewed on this blog and my 1-5 star ratings.

1) more than 500 pages – What is the What *****
B2) written by someone under 30 – How To Be a Good Wife ****
B3) one-word title – Cartwheel **
B4) 1st book by a favorite author – Songdogs (Column McCann) ****
B5) your friend loves – The Enchanted *****

I1) forgotten classic – BUtterfield 8****
I2) non-human characters – Hollow City****
I3) short stories – The Color Master: Stories ****
I4) heard about online – Black Swan Green ****
I5) scares you – 101 Great American Poems **** (and, yes, reading poetry scares the hell out of me)

N1) became a movie – This Boy’s Life ****
N2) funny book – Same Difference **
N3) FREE- Quiet Dell***
N4) best-selling – Eleanor & Park ****
N5) more than 10 years old – The Daughter of Time **

G1) published this year – Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir ****
G2) female author – The Book of Unknown Americans ****
G3) set on a different continent – Sister of My Heart ***
G4) based on a true story – When I Was Puerto Rican***
G5) 2nd book in a series – You Suck ***

O1) number in the title – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore ****
O2) a mystery – Speaking from Among the Bones ****
O3) non-fiction – Orange Is the New Black **
O4) bottom of your to be read pile – The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes ***
O5) blue cover – All the Light We Cannot See*****

 

Anyone else playing along? What were your hardest spots to fill?

It’s not too late to climb aboard to Reading BINGO train.

Paperback Picks – July

Summer really is the season of paperbacks isn’t it? Some of my favorite titles have been/are being released in paperback this summer, so if you haven’t read these, I highly recommend the following:

Gone GirlGone Girl, Gillian Flynn

I find it difficult to review this book without giving the whole thing away, but with all the buzz around the novel and the upcoming film adaptation, I’m pretty sure there are few people left who haven’t heard about this book. I chose it for my list because Flynn’s talent for storytelling has forced me to completely re-examine my belief that I’m not a fan of thrillers. Flynn investigates the bonds of marriage, obsession and identity in the modern world. She uses language to expertly pull her characters apart and put them back together.

“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless amount of characters.”

The Cuckoo's CallingThe Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J.K. Rowling

Another thriller that is well-written, well-crafted, surprising and engaging! I wouldn’t have guessed it was Rowling, but in retrospect it has the same depth of character and setting I’ve felt in her Harry Potter novels. Just a terrific mystery. And now, with the release of The Silkworm, is the perfect time to get hooked on this series. (Just a side note: the hardcover edition’s cover was so much better than the cheesy paperback cover. Don’t let that distract you.)

“But the lies she told were woven into the fabric of her being, her life; so that to live with her and love her was to become slowly enmeshed by them, to wrestle her for the truth, to struggle to maintains foothold in reality.”

And the Mountains EchoedAnd the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini writes with such agonizing beauty that I could have stopped every few pages to copy his words, pull apart sentences and admire his gifted storytelling. Using the complicated politics, displacement and fractured lives in Afghanistan, he manages to both expand the setting to Europe and America and make it more intimate by so closely examining the lives of his characters. At its core, this is a book about family. Who are they? What are the bonds that tie? What does it mean to love someone?

“Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”

The LowlandThe Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri has such a light touch in her books, it’s almost as if you forget there’s an author behind the story. She treats her characters delicately, simply placing them in front of the reader without judgment and seemingly without premeditation to get them from the beginning of the plot to the end. Nothing ever seems forced or contrived in her books. She also evokes setting better than almost anyone I’ve read. Her sketches of Calcutta and Rhode Island were so real to me that I feel I’ve been to both places. My one criticism is that I never fell in love with any of the characters. I felt for them, but not as deeply as I hoped.

“The future haunted but kept her alive; it remained her sustenance and also her predator.”

W…W…W…Wednesday

I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting.

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?

AmericanahWhat are you currently reading? I am slowly making my start in Americanah. Only 70 pages in after 3 days and I can tell I will need to spend some time with this novel. The writing is great and I already love the two narrators, but it’s dense. The Nigerian names and culture are very unfamiliar to me, so instead of devouring it, as I’ve done with books recently, I’m really trying to absorb it slowly. So far, so good. (I am also slowly making my way through the audio version of The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress — an interesting, based-on-real-life story set in the 20’s. I just haven’t had enough time alone in the car to finish.)

the book of unknown americansWhat did you recently finish reading? I posted a full review of We Are Called to Rise, which is a great book, but I also finished The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez this week. Not sure how I ended up reading a string of books in which immigrants play a major role, but they’ve all been really good. The Book of Unknown Americans is a teenage love story set against the backdrop of an apartment building inhabited by immigrants, all Spanish-speaking, but from many different countries. I like how Henriquez balanced the main story (which has all the makings of great YA) with the short narrations from so many other people. There were times when the book seems to lose its rhythm, but all in all, a really enjoyable read that opened my eyes to the world around me.

The Invention of WingsWhat do you think you’ll read next? I finally picked up a copy of The Invention of Wings. It’s the summer read for the high school where I work and I’ve been wanting to read it since it’s release.  I loved The Secret Life of Bees, but didn’t love The Mermaid’s Chair. I have high hopes for this one.

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles?

W…W…W…Wednesday

I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting.

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?

Death Comes to PemberlyWhat are you currently reading? Today I will start my book club book for this month. I’m not too excited about reading Death Comes to Pemberly. Actually, I’m not excited about reading P.D. James. I was not a fan of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, another Book Club pick. I have been told that this one is very different so I’m trying to keep an open mind. I have to remind myself that book club expands my reading horizons and selections.

 

China Dolls

What did you recently finish reading? Just finished China Dolls by Lisa See and I’m contemplating my review. My initial reaction is one of frustration because it didn’t live up to my personal Lisa See standards, but I enjoyed reading it. Loved the WWII time period and learning about the Chinese nightclub scene. She creates such wonderful atmospheres for her books. The problem is that I didn’t like the characters. I kept waiting to like them, but it didn’t happen.

 

We Are Called to RiseWhat do you think you’ll read next? I don’t have anything on hold at the library or waiting on my shelf so I’m in the happy position of being able to peruse the shelves. I do have some titles at the top of my To-Read, including We Are Called to Rise, which has gotten under my skin so I’m hoping to get into that soon.

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles?

Why I Love Flavia de Luce

(If you’ve visited alenaslife looking for my usual Monday Quote, I’m taking this Columbus Day off. Monday Quote will return next week. In its place, I offer a short review of my most recent audio read, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.)

“You are unreliable, Flavia,’ he said. ‘Utterly unreliable.’
Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself.”

I just love Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11 year-old narrator of Alan Bradley’s entertaining mystery series. I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a couple of years ago, based on its title alone. I never thought I’d be so engaged by a British mystery, but Bradley has a way of making me almost forget that there’s a murder to be solved. Instead, I’m swept into the mind of Flavia, the incredibly bright motherless chemist and amateur detective.

I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”

Indeed, Flavia spends many remarkable paragraphs cooking up concoctions in her laboratory, located in one of the wings of her family’s troubled estate, Buckshaw. Never one for chemistry formulas myself, I am still engaged by how her knowledge (obsession really) with organic principles, poisons and death, always seem to embroil her in Bishop Lacy’s latest drama. The trouble in these books just seems to find Flavia.

Flavia takes me back to my love of Trixie Belden as a young girl. The difference is that, unlike Trixie’s loving family and band of best friends, Flavia seems quite alone. Her sisters are “horrid;” her father is aloof at best; and there are seemingly no other children in the vividly imagined Bishop Lacy. When Bradley does introduce a heartfelt moment, as he does with Flavia’s aunt in this book, those scenes resonate even more for their rarity.

“There’s a lot to be said for being alone. But you and I know, don’t we, Flavia, that being alone and being lonely are not at all the same thing?”

This storyline revolves around the sudden appearance of a puppeteer and his female assistant. There is, of course, a dead body (more than one actually), and a cast of extremely complex supporting characters, most of whom are suspect.

It’s remarkable that over the week I listened to this book in my car, I was often reluctant to turn off the CD, and always eager to return to driving alone. The narration was charmingly British. I never guessed the mystery, which is an added treat, but not what makes me love this series. Flavia de Luce has joined Scout Finch and Trixie Belden as among my favorite young heroines, wise beyond their years and beautifully innocent at once.

I can’t wait to find out what awaits her next.