Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I am probably about a year late on reviewing this book since the Oprah fueled phenomenon of Wild has come and gone, but it is a book worth reading and noting.

At the age of twenty-two, Cheryl loses her mother to cancer and shortly thereafter falls into a life of recreational drug use, affairs which eventually destroy her marriage, and has an abortion. In 1995, in an attempt to find herself and process her loss and grief, Cheryl decides to journey 1,100 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail on her own.

 I began this book not knowing what to expect. I absolutely love reading memoirs, second only to my love of the classics. It fascinates me to learn how experiences in life shape our perspectives of ourselves and the world around us. Cheryl is a beautiful storyteller. She bares her wounds on the page with strength and fierce independence. So much independence that for me, it felt at times that even though she shared many intimate details with us, it lacked vulnerability.  Being the LOST fan that I am (geek alert), her writing style had me envisioning a LOST "flashback" episode. A song, a flower, a smell would spark memories, some heartbreaking and some joyful that take us into particular times of her life that helped to form her present self. While I like watching this on a LOST episode, it felt contrived in the book. It was a little too neat and compartmentalized.

I enjoyed Wild, but I never connected. It has taken me some time to process the "why."  Something did not sit quite right with me when I finished, and I was not sure what it was. I realize now that I wanted a fairy tale. I expected Cheryl to be "healed" by the end of this journey, as the back of the book promised me. I was looking for a conversion, an epiphany but I felt my heart sinking when mere chapters away from the end, Cheryl has casual sex with a stranger just as had been the pattern in her life pre-PCT. I wanted her to stop holding on to this idea of being "independent" and make a true connection with someone. I wanted her to notice the blessings on the trail of people, safety, water etc. as God's presence. I wanted her to give Him some of the burden from the weight of her pain. I wanted this book to be a neat and tidy beginning and end of a journey, but that is not real life.

I do think that this book is a beautiful beginning of a journey toward healing and self-discovery, but like in life, that does not come quickly or easily. If I look at this novel from that perspective, I like it much more.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Reading

I have taken a bit of a break from blogging over the summer, but I have made up for my lack of blogging by the amount of reading I have been doing. Yes, the reading slump is over! I have read Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie this July.

I will be reviewing Wild very soon. I am still wrapping my head around this novel. There is a lot to unpack. Agatha Christie was just what I needed after the emotional intensity of Wild; a breath of fresh air (if you can say that about a murder mystery). :)

I have been loving all things British lately...Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and of course watching the arrival of Prince George. My Irish husband has been giving me a hard time about this! A friend suggested I try Agatha Christie since I have found a love for the British culture. I attempted Agatha Christie in high school and felt bored stiff, but this time around I could not put her down. It is funny how taste changes over time, or certain novels speak to us differently at particular times in our lives. I am excited that I have stumbled upon a new author that I enjoy!

Enjoy these lazy summer reading days. Have a wonderful weekend.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Books on the Cheap

For Mother's Day, after a delicious breakfast made by my husband and three-year-old son we took off for a day at the park. On the way home, I noticed a book sale at the library and just had to make a "quick" stop. Well, it just happened to be the last day of the sale and it was $1 for a bag of books!! Best. Mother's. Day. Ever.

Although things were picked over, I still was able to find some goodies...

My favorite find is probably a 1941 illustrated edition of Vanity Fair. Some I have read before, so I traded them on If you have not heard of this website, check it out. It is a cheap way to get some great books!

On another note, the Classics Club book spin picked #6, so I will be reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff. I started this read last night, and look forward to digging into this one.

Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Classics Club Book Spin

This spring I have been in somewhat of a reading slump. I have had this pattern where I will get extremely excited about a book (problem number one: my expectations are always so high), get about halfway through and feel so bored that I can't continue. I think that it might be me and not the novels themselves, because one of them is Jane Eyre! How could I be bored by a Bronte? I think  it might be the pattern of distractions from little ones and the sheer exhaustion that sets in every time I sit on the couch with a book. In an attempt to break out of said reading slump, I'm going to take part in the book spin that the Classics Club is hosting.

I make a list of 20 books...some that I would love to read and others that I am dreading/hesitant. Tomorrow (yes, I am coming in right under the wire), a number will be drawn and I will be spending May and June reading that particular novel (all the way through, I promise).

1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolff (yes!)
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (neutral)
3. A Tree Grow in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (would love to read this one)
4. One Thousand Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (yes, please)
5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (neutral)
6. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff (neutral)
7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (hesitant )
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (reread/love it)
9. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (hesitant)
10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgkins Burnett (neutral)
11. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (please roll this number)
12. True Grit by Charles Portis (hesitant)
13. Canterbury Tales by Geoffery Chaucer (hesitant)
14. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (hesitant)
15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (neutral)
16. The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien (would love to read this one)
17. Emma by Jane Austen (I love Jane)
18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (hesitant)
19. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (yes!)
20. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (too long!)

There it is...I look forward to finding out what I will be reading!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books You Thought You Would Like More/Less

Hello and happy Tuesday! I am linking up with Broke and Bookish for another great Top Ten Tuesday! Here we go...

Books I thought I would like more:

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I even hesitate putting this one on the list because I know so many people love this novel, but I have to admit, my expectations were way too high. I wanted to love it, but just could not connect with or admire any of the characters. I laughed out loud the other day when Rachel from Book Snob wrote, "In my eyes, Wuthering Heights has always come across as nothing but teenage histrionics. The characters behave nonsensically, the plot is absurd, and I can’t bear the melodrama of beating breasts and rain lashed windows." This sums up my thoughts perfectly.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Yikes, another adored classic! Again, the combination of sky high expectations and an array of characters that I could not stand. Everyone was so self-absorbed. The only character that touched me in any way was Teddy and his battle with addiction. I know that the plot line is supposed to speak to redemption and perhaps conversion but it was too subtle to really have an impact.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
I actually love Willa Cather's writing style. She is so incredibly talented. It was more the tone of sadness that penetrated throughout most of the book....and I have to admit, even though this novel in an of itself is seen as something of a love letter from the narrator to Antonia, I wanted a little more of a love story in the plot.

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I was hoping for a guilty pleasure like Twilight or Harry Potter but even though I liked it, the wow factor was not there for me.

Books I thought I would like less:

  • The River Why by David James Duncan
A beautifully written book that I happened upon through the recommendation of a good friend. It became my favorite book and still is.

  • Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
I opened this one up during a spring break road trip a few years ago. I had low expectations (because sometimes I am a book snob, I admit), but I liked it!

  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. buck
This one had the feel of something I would be assigned to read in high school English class so I began reading with no plan to finish this one, but I was wrong. This novel follows a family in pre WWII china. Very eye opening.

I know this is only seven books and not ten, but this is a hard one! I look forward to seeing what some of you put on your list.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Iced tea and a good book

I was feeling a little gloomy this week with all of the cold weather and grey skies, so I decided to cheer myself up with a little treat.

I bought myself some peach iced tea and a book that I have had my eye on for a few months. My thought was that maybe if I have all the ingredients for a perfect spring afternoon of sitting on my front porch with a glass of iced tea and a good book, the weather would take note and get with the program!

So here is what arrived on my doorstep on Friday:


Yes! I don't know very much about Rosemary Clooney, aside from my love of White Christmas and her cutie nephew George. A few months ago when I was perusing books on Amazon I came across this autobiography. As I scanned a few pages I was pleasantly surprised at how well written this book was. It read so smoothly, like poetry. I have been wanting to get my hands on it ever since, but I have been practicing constraint (trying) on my book budget and I promised myself that I would finish the few novels on my nightstand before I bought any more.
So on Friday afternoon, a miracle occurred; both of my little ones fell asleep at the same time, right as the UPS man pulled up to the house with  that beautiful Amazon box. I made myself a tall glass of peach iced tea, sat on my porch and opened up this delicious read. I am only forty pages in, but I will be done very soon because it is just so interesting. Right now Rosemary is discussing her childhood in 1930's and 40's Kentucky; before the Civil Rights Movement and on the cusp of WWII. She came from a difficult home life, with a mother who did not want her and an alcoholic father, but there no lack of joy or wonder in her childhood despite the pain and heartache. You can tell that wisdom has been gained through her years, and forgiveness has been given in the way she tells her story. She is a survivor.
Hopefully in my next post, I will have tales of cherry blossoms and warm weather! And have found the time to finish this great read!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Today I am trying a blog hop, hosted by Alison can read and Parajunkee. The question this week is:

Did you ever read a book that you thought you would hate? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?

Yes, I have definitely done this! I am usually a girl that likes the classics, so I was not too interested in all of the hype around the Twilight series. A friend ended up gifting the first book to me, and I decided to give it a quick browse. Ha ha! I could not put it down! Some of my fellow book lovers have given me a little bit of a hard time for this, but I am not ashamed! :)


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Redemption and Resilience - A Review


While I am still making my way through Jane Eyre, I opted to take a little detour and read Laura Hillenbrand's book Unbroken: A World War II Novel of Survial, Resilience and Redemption. Wow. It touched my soul. You would think that this was a work of fiction because of the twists and turns this story delivers, and the incredible amount of adversity this man faces, but no, this is true to life.

 Unbroken is a biography that follows the life of Louie (who is still alive today) as a 1936 Olympic contender, a pilot in WWII, and a POW. It is inspiring. I highly recommend it. I could not put it down. I like finishing a book and feeling as if I am a little wiser, and a little more hopeful, as this story did. Also, Laura Hillenbrand is an amazing author and someone who has conquered much despite (or perhaps because of) the adversity she has faced. Due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she has only written two books; Seabiscuit and Unbroken. Both are inspiring pieces of non-fiction that have a common theme of the resiliency of the human spirit, and both reads are well worth your time. They would pair nicely with a cup of tea and the fresh spring air.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Meme: Book Beginnings

Today I am taking part in the meme over at Rose City Reader. As a displaced Oregonian, and as always, a little homesick, I am so excited to find a book blog from my hometown. You simply open the current book you are reading and post the very first sentence in the book. Along with posting, you share a few thoughts. So here I go....

I am S L O W L Y getting through Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It is laughable how much my reading pace has slowed down since little ones have entered the picture. The first sentence from Jane Eyre is:

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question."

What an amazing writer Charlotte Bronte was! This line seems to set a tone of eeriness and gloom, and is not unlike the melancholy tone of her sister Emily's work of Wuthering Heights. I look forward to what lies in store...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Latest Read...

My latest read is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I actually rented this book from the library in 1999 when I was a college student in Montana. I misplaced it before I could read it, and it was lost for years. Little did I know it was in the bottom of a box, moving from Montana, to Colorado, to Kansas, to Washington state with me. Well, I came upon it about a year ago when I opened up a dusty box. I placed it on my bookshelf and I have been meaning to read it ever since. I am putting it off no longer! I am only a few chapters in, and I love it. Hopefully a review will be coming soon. :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Well, today I am trying my hand at a meme over at The Broke and Bookish, in which we share different weekly top ten lists related to our love of books. This week the subject is:

"The top ten series you would like to start but have not yet."

Ok, here I go...

1. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling - I know, I should have done this in junior high but I have got to crack open this series! Years ago I read the very first chapters of the first book and loved it. One day...

2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien  -When I was very young my father read us The Hobbit every night before bedtime. I fell in love with Tolkien from that moment, but have only read bits and pieces of the trilogy. this.

3. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery - I have always felt a bond with Anne Shirley.... a fellow book lover.

4. Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins - I read the first book and it was a page turner, so I am interested to continue on in the series.

5. Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry - Cormac McCarthy introduced me to my love of the western genre.

6. North and South series by John Jakes - I love historical fiction. This one could be great.

7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattop series by Stieg Larsson - I could not put the first book down. That being said, I am a little quesy when it comes to violence, so I am not sure if this is a series for me or not.

8. Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis - One of my all-time favorite books, and one of my favorite authors.

9. Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I love that this series is based on real life and focuses on the joys and heartbreak of family.

10. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich - This series I know nothing about, but have friends that tell me it is mindless, hilarious entertainment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Little Prince - A Review

The Little Prince
By Antoine de Saint Exupery

Back Cover :
No one story is more beloved by children and grown-ups alike than this wise, enchanting fable. One day, the author reminisces, when his plane was forced down in the Sahara, a thousands miles from help, he encountered a most extraordinary small person. "If you please," said the stranger, "draw me a sheep." And thus begins the remarkable history of the Little Prince.
The Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house. He owned three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. He also owned a flower, unlike any flower in all the galaxy, of great beauty and inordinate pride. It was this pride that ruined the serenity of the Little Prince's world and started him on the interplanetary travels that brought him to Earth, where he learned, finally from a fox, the secret of what is really important in life.
I knew from the moment I cracked open the Little Prince and read the dedication that I would enjoy this book; "To Leon Werth: I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a reason: he is the best friend I have in the world....I will dedicate this book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children-although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication: To Leon Werth when he was a little boy."
I so enjoyed the sweet and simple prose of this story, and made an effort to read it slowly as to appreciate it. I have to say though, that I was expecting a pure children's novella and I do not think that is what I got. The simplicity of the language and illustrations seem to masquerade what I believe to be a story to the adults and an attempt to speak to the children they once were.  There seems to be a bit of satire laced throughout the story towards adults and adulthood. I sensed perhaps a man grown slightly wearied and cynical toward his fellow adults, the ones who have lost their way attempting to find purpose and happiness. Or perhaps he had lost his way.
This story was written after Antoine de Saint Exupery, among other things, an aviator, had crashed in the Sahara desert in 1935. He had been attempting to break the speed record in a Paris to Saigon air race. He survived the crash, but was close to death by dehydration after being lost in the desert for four days. They were saved by a bediuon and and this book was in part a homage to that experience.
This book was also a homage to his late brother and best friend, Francois, who passed away from rheumatic fever at the age of fifteen. There is a line that reads, "he fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound," which is very similar to how he described his brother in writing,"...remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a [young] tree falls."
Strangely and sadly, Antoine de Saint Exupery disappeared on a WWII flight assignment, never to be seen or heard from again. The Little Prince was the last book published before his disappearance. He  seems to be eternally intertwined with this story. I would recommend this story, but more so to adults than to children. It would be a good read to curl up to on one of these winter nights.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Bookshelf

There is something about the smell of old books that is divine. In the sleepy town I live in, there is a thrift store filled with dusty, weathered classics. They are hidden gems that can be yours for twenty-five cents. My bookshelf is filled with these treasures, with their worn pages, and eloquently inscripted front covers. I think of the hands that each book has passed through before they came to rest on my bookshelf. A story within a story.
My bookshelf