Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Finally, onto the final book for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge! This category was “a book you should have read in high school.” I checked out some high school reading lists online and yes, there are many, many books that are typically assigned in high school that I have not yet read. However, I decided to go with a play that Boomer and my friend, Huy, read in high school and they both recommended it.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are characters from Hamlet, so this play follows them along the same timeline as Hamlet. It helped to re-read some of Hamlet while I was reading this play so I could remember what was going on.

Easy-to-read and funny, this play adds another dimension to the reading of Hamlet. I can see why Boomer was assigned this play right after his English class finished Hamlet.

With my completion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, I’ve completed thee 2015 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. Thank you to Modern Mrs. Darcy for putting this Challenge together for us. It definitely challenged me to read out of my comfort zone and to pick up books I wouldn’t have otherwise. Doing this Challenge also started some great conversations with my friends and family as I asked them for recommendations for each of the categories. And, I had never asked my mom which book she loved until I had to ask her to complete the “a book your mom loves” category. I had no idea  that my mom loved Great Expectations and The Grapes of Wrath. I hope that Modern Mrs. Darcy has a 2016 Challenge for us!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

One of my favorite movies is (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. I’ve watched this movie many times and discussed it again and again with Boomer. It is a heartbreaking and painful movie to watch and yet, I still watch it.

In one of the later scenes, Summer, the Zooey Deschanel character, says something like, “I was sitting in a deli reading Dorian Gray.” Ever since I’ve heard that line, I’ve been meaning to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. So for the 2015 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge category of “a book you’ve been meaning to read,” this was the perfect choice.

Dorian Gray is a handsome and dashing young man who sells his soul in order to stay young forever. As he stays youthful and everyone else around him ages, an oil painting of him also ages and depicts his moral decline.

This was a spooky and strange book. I can see why it attracted interest to Summer in 500 Days of Summer as she sat reading it in a deli.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austen Weaver

Tara's mom buys a sprawling Seattle property with an unwieldy backyard. Tara, along with her mom, have high hopes for what the backyard will yield and how it might bring their family together. She writes about the battles with the land, the failures and successes of their plants and trees, and how she begins to see glimpses of the family and community she has longed for.

This was a very slow read for me. I found it to be thoughtful and human, full of the aches of wanting to be closer with family members who don't really care so much.

If you like to read about gardening and/or family relationships, you might like this one.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Books that Influenced My Life in 2015 + My Favorite Fiction

For 2014, I had a really difficult time coming up with a list of my favorite books of the year, mostly because I didn't read a ton of books that I loved. :(

Thankfully, 2015 was a very different reading experience and I read a lot of really neat books. As I looked at all of the books that I read, I noticed that there was a theme connecting some of my favorites: books that influenced how I think about life and/or how I live. In addition, there were some great fiction books I read as well.

Thank you again for reading my blog! I hope that 2016 has lots of good books in store for all of us!

Let's start with my favorite fiction:
1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Totally consumed one entire day of my life.

2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
I usually am not a big fan of short stories, but I loved these.

3. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
A small book with a mighty punch.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I cried twice while reading this book. We could all use some more kindness in our lives.

Onto the non-fiction books that changed how I think about life/organize/think about life:
1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I can see why this is required reading in school. It touches on what we all share as humans and the evil that exists in the world.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
I haven't even written a review of this book on this blog yet because I am still in the process of tidying up my house, but already this book has changed my closet and my bookshelves.

3. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
What's really important and what's not? Good to think about before the days, weeks, and years pass on by.

4. Football for Dummies by Howie Long
Wow, this book really changed my life. Understanding more about the game of football has made watching the game so much more enjoyable. It's opened up great conversations with so many people about who's playing, injuries, management decisions, etc. And I read the sports page now. Sorry, Boomer, time to share!

5. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
I didn't love how this book was written or anything, but I sure do make way more checklists now that I've read it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Lotto and Mathilde are the tall, good-looking, too cool for school, 22-year-old newlyweds. They seem perfect, right? Not so fast. Lotto, by marrying Mathilde, is cut off from his family's fortune, so their first years together are quite lean. Until Lotto becomes a famous playwright.

Fates and Furies tracks the early histories of both Lotto and Mathilde. In addition, we follow them along the course of their marriage.

This book had a very clever structure. However, the most glaring problem I had was that I didn't really care about Lotto or Mathilde, or their marriage. They were not very like-able characters, so meh.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

When I was in Amsterdam back in 2006, I visited the annex where Anne Frank and her family lived for two years. However, I had not read her diary, and now that I have read her diary, I really wish that I had read it before I saw the house where she wrote it.

I read The Diary of a Young Girl for the category of "a book 'everyone' has read but you" because it does seem to be a book that a lot of folks have read and a book that's assigned in school. My sister read it in both junior high and high school.

This book was a lot of things. Funny, intimate, and sad. Anne Frank captures the angst and curiosity of the a teenage girl albeit a teenage girl under very different and difficult circumstances. Her writing is so wonderful as are her ideas and her humor. Reading about her experience during World War II while also knowing that she doesn't survive was a strange, sad experience. I'm glad I finally read this book.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

While trudging through The Grapes of Wrath, I needed something a bit lighter to read, so I wandered into the Young Adult section and found Finding Audrey.

Audrey, a teenage girl, is recovering from an incident that has left her with social anxiety. She wears big sunglasses and pretty much stays at home. Then, she meets Linus, her brother's video gaming friend, who helps her slowly come back to the land of people, connecting, and communication.

A young adult book, but it's a solid read with funny, memorable characters, some comedy, and good mental health themes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The end of 2015 is coming fast! And I still have three books to read for Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge. I am happy to mark this one off my list. It falls under the category of "a book your mom loves."

I called my mom and asked her what her favorite book was and she said, "Great Expectations and The Grapes of Wrath."

I tried Great Expectations and got stuck, so I moved onto The Grapes of Wrath.

Note: This Reading Challenge starts some interesting conversations. When I mentioned that I was reading The Grapes of Wrath, THREE different people said, "Oh, the ending is weird." One friend said, "Oh, the ending is so weird, I don't even remember what it was, but it's really weird."

Then there's my neighbor who read it FIVE times in a row in school because her teacher didn't believe that she had already finished it and wouldn't let her read anything else! (Hi, Rebecca!)

Okay, so I moved very slowly through this book. It's very sad and bad things happen one after another. I was wondering how the ending could be so weird until I finished. AND THE ENDING IS SOOOO WEIRD. Probably the weirdest ending I've ever read.

Ok, Mom, I read your favorite book, and the ending is REALLY weird.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Re-Read - Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

Scott seems like such a delightful lady. Her writing is easy to read, and she has some great tips about enjoying all of the small and sweet pleasures of life, and also about making your life and environment more pleasant. I think I'll read the sequel again as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

This little book by the author of Gone Girl can be read easily in one sitting. It's a ghost story that gave me the shivers. Warning: includes Mature Content.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Until this past year, June and Delia used to be best friends. Then, June learns that Delia has died by burning herself to death. June suspects foul play and starts looking into the circumstances around Delia's death. As June investigates, she finds herself in a world that is complicated and dark.

This was a very weird, dark, and twisty book. I liked it because it's different, but it did leave me feeling kinda dark.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Daily Required Reading

In addition to reading books for fun, I wanted to let you know what else I read during the day. Boomer and I are still subscribers to the old-school newspaper. More than several friends have asked incredulously, "You still get the PAPER newspaper??" I know, old school.

I also subscribe to The Skimm which is a week day email that summarizes the news in a concise and very hip manner (I learn a lot of new slang and what different abbreviations mean from reading The Skimm.). So, if you're looking for an easy and fun way to stay current with the news, I highly recommend trying out The Skimm. You can subscribe here.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I am buckling down on the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge as I have five more books to go and the year is quickly coming to a close! Yikes!

The Phantom Tollbooth falls under the category of "a book from your childhood." As a child, I remember this book being psychedelic. an adult, it's still psychedelic.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Ani is a successful professional and about to marry into a wealthy New York family. It seems like her life is going along swimmingly. However, Ani has a secret in her past that still haunts her.

I appreciated the character development of Ani. She is nuanced, complicated, and human.

A very fast read, perfect for one of those El Nino rainstorms that should be coming starting in December, right?

Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron

Kate is slowly making her way through the grief of her son's death and her subsequent divorce when the daughter she gave up for adoption 22 years ago shows up in her life.

I think there are enough plot lines and twists in this book for two books - high school love, break-up, teen pregnancy, adoption, gay parents, divorce, death of a child, surprise pregnancy, saving a life via CPR.....this book has it all which keeps it interesting, but kinda busy and packed.

Entertaining and easy to read.

Thanks to my neighbor, Rebecca, for the recommendation!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

I read To All the Boys I've Loved Before and liked it, so I was eagerly waiting for its sequel at the library.


I wish I hadn't read this sequel. There have only been a few times in my life that I've wanted to throw a book across the room, and this was one of those times. The ending was horrible!! She ends up with the wrong guy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has written five love letters, one each to each boy that she has loved. She didn’t send them. They were more for her own closure, so she kept them in a hatbox in her closet. But one day, she discovers that the letters have been mailed and now these boys know exactly how she felt about them.

You know how much I like Young Adult books. I read To All the Boys I’ve Loved in a day or so. It’s sweet and heartfelt, and delves into family stuff, young love, and what to do with heartbreak.

There’s a sequel called P.S. I Still Love You. I’m on the waiting list.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

I can tell how much I like a book by whether or not I need to renew it. My library allows three-week check-outs, and if the book isn’t on hold, you can renew it for two more three-week periods. It’s rare that I renew a book twice. By that time, I’ve usually just given up on it. However, I kept this one around the house as I slowly read it over the period of n-i-n-e weeks.

A Fatal Grace revolves around the murder of the disliked CC Poitiers in the little village of Three Pines. No one likes CC but who would actually kill her? 

A Fatal Grace is the second in a series, and I really liked this first one. I like the village feel and some of the quirky characters. However, I didn’t like this second one as much as the first. Hence, the nine weeks of slowly reading through it.

Should I try the third? I’m not sure yet.