Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Post-Sandy Post

"This storm is kind of like love... you think you have it figured out, then it changes on you."
-NBC News 4 Reporter

Well, Sandy has made her presence known here in Silver Spring, but thankfully we are with power (which is truly amazing, really)!  The government has been closed for two days and metro is opening back up at 2:00 today, and frankly, I just need to get out of this apartment! But we are fine here, and thanks for all of your texts and thoughts while we weathered the storm! :) I filled the time by learning Moon River on the uke, reading a ton, baking, and watching Little Women. Not such a bad storm!

Anyway, I realized yesterday that I am sorely behind on updating the blog! Work has been so busy this past month and my weekends have been packed, so to be honest, my reading has suffered a little bit, but there are still things to update!

Here are the things that I've read since my last post:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: Actually to be more accurate, I listened to this book. As I mentioned back in July, my boyfriend and I have been doing a lot of driving around for weddings, parties, weekends away, etc. and to fill the hours of driving that we did, we picked a few books on tape to listen to and this was a book that we had both gotten at one point but had never actually read. It's a pretty long listen, but we finished it in about 3 separate trips. At first, I was super annoyed by the narrator's Southern accent, but then I came to fall in love with it. She had this amazing way of changing her intonation to let you know who was talking--very subtle, but very beneficial. The Poisonwood Bible blew up a few years ago when it was an Oprah Book Pick. The story is about the Price family who moves to the Congo in the 1960s for a mission. The father is a preacher and he takes his wife and four daughters with him. The chapters alternate between each girl as their adventures in the Congo escalate. Each girl is very different even though two of them are twins and their views on their lives in the Congo are fascinating. The book follows them through their time there and after when they leave the mission. A really interesting look at what family means when disaster strikes and when many of the family members don't really like each other to begin with, this is a great and engrossing book that makes you want to know how things turn out for the Price family.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout: A few years ago I read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and liked it well enough, though I didn't love it. I have to say that I did like Amy and Isabelle more. The story is about a mother and daughter who live in a mill town in New England. While not complete social outcasts, they are both a little on the edges of society when the book starts out. Isabelle, the mother, works as a secretary at a mill where the women there basically ignore her and where she is in love with her boss who is married. She wants what is best for her daughter Amy whose long, beautiful blonde hair both helps her to hide herself while making her desirable to many. The story revolves around the sexual affair that Amy has with her teacher while she is in high school, and that story line is fascinating, but Strout does this amazing job of weaving in the context of the surroundings and the community to make this story not just about the affair, but about life in this town in general. Strout gives you small peeks into the lives of the other people in the town which really makes the story much richer and fuller. A complex and dramatic story that gets into the nitty-gritty of mother-daughter relationships, this is a great read!

NW by Zadie Smith: There's a lot to say about Zadie Smith--some people love her, some people hate her. I read White Teeth last year and while I enjoyed it, I didn't love it. But there's something about Zadie Smith that I like and is sometimes hard for me to put into words. I think what I like about her is that she's very raw and real and she doesn't shy away from the realities and situations that life sometimes puts us in.  NW is split into four sections, each focusing on a different character. All of the characters live in the northwest section of London. One of the more fascinating chapters is the one that is told in short vignettes that range from instant messenger conversations to surveys to short stories about two of the characters friendship through the years. The characters in NW seem to be the focus of the book on the surface, but the book is also about London and about life--the characters are all connected somehow, but they all live these different lives in a very close proximity which is so accurate on how we live our lives today. Told in an unconventional way that doesn't sugar-coat the realities of human existence and life, this book is a really interesting read that will make you look around you and pay attention to your own surroundings a little more closely.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: This was one of the books on my To-Read-Before-I-Die list (from which I'm trying to knock out five this year) and is the fourth that I've read from that list this year (one more to go! What on earth should it be?!). In case you aren't familiar with the novel, it's the story of Charlie who is mentally disabled and has extremely poor writing and speech skills. His IQ is very low and though he escaped living in a state home, he works a menial job at a bakery and has very little life outside of that. Charlie is chosen to undergo a series of treatments that end up raising his IQ. The book is told through Charlie's journal entries that the scientists performing the experiment ask him to keep and you see his IQ raising through the course of the book through the way Charlie writes and thinks.  Charlie becomes more intelligent than the scientists and his intelligence isolates him from the world, then is deteriorated as the treatment begins to wear off. It's a really thought-provoking story that made me really think about the role of science in our lives and the ideas of how we should or shouldn't use the technology that we have available to us. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend it--it's a very easy read and one that, though written several decades ago, really applies to our world today.

With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge: Now, I haven't yet finished this book--I started it at the worst time possible (when I wouldn't have time to read it during lunches because I didn't get a lunch for about a week and a half or have energy to read it on the metro) so it's taken me a while to get through it, but I'm glad I'm reading it. My best friend's husband has been telling me to read this book for probably 2 years now, so when I went to their house a few weeks ago, I stole it from him and became determined to read it. Sledge was a Marine during World War 2 and fought in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Though Sledge is not necessarily a writer by trade, his very raw and honest portrayals of the battles that he was in, the training he went through, and then men that he fought with are told in a very impactful and meaningful way. Sledge does not sugar-coat the battles or the way the Marines felt about the Japanese and he certainly doesn't gloss over the terror and horror that the men went through in fighting for our country. Sledge's details of the war are very personal and emotional, and that's why they pack such a punch when you read about the horrifying trauma of war. It takes a little time to get through because there is a lot to take in, but it's really educational and well-written.

That's what was on the plate last month. I'm really excited because once I finish With the Old Breed, I have two books that HarperCollins sent me to read: Elegy for Eddie by Jaqueline Winspear and The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann! I'm really excited to read these, especially because one of them is a mystery and it's something that I usually don't choose for myself, so it'll be something new!

I hope that you all have survived any remnants of Sandy that you experienced and that you had some good books to keep you company during the storm! I'm hoping to have an update for you on the new books in less than two weeks.

Keep Reading (and happy Fall!),