Friday – The Best Day of the Week

Grab Your BookThe students return to the university next week and all this week, I have been prepping for their return. I am in communications so the week prior to the semester is a busy, busy time. I sort of fell off the edge of the earth. Or so it seems. This week has been a total blur but it’s finally Friday and although next week will be busy, it will be busy in a totally different way.

It’s been difficult to get much reading in but I’ve been snatching time here and there. I am in the final stretch with the Murakami book and I think I am going to start The Little Friend and I must also start Twelve Years a Slave as it was my book club pick and I have yet to read it.

What are you reading?

Also, it’s been very nice this week weather wise. Too bad I have been stuck in this building for most of it but I did feel a tiny tinge of fall in the air when I left the other night. This little taste of fall has me excited for all sorts of things:

  • Candles (I am a candle girl, light ‘em up!)
  • Pumpkin anything
  • Homemade soup!
  • Holiday coffee drinks
  • The super-fun October read-along that Sandy and I have planned (details to come)
  • Thanksgiving (yep, I am thinking about it)

What are you excited about?

Review: California

California
California
By Edan Lepucki
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316250818, July 2014, 400pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

In a post-apocalyptic world, is there safety in numbers?

The Rest of It:

The story in California takes place several years after the world has gone to hell. Cal and Frida leave the ruins of Los Angeles to make a life for themselves in the forest. The city has become too dangerous for them and with resources being as scarce as they are, the forest seems like the only reasonable option.

But they are not alone in the forest. Close to them, is a family that helps them and provides the much-needed interaction that Frida craves, but when Frida hints at wanting to know what is outside of their immediate circle, she’s basically told to stop thinking about it. This doesn’t sit well with Frida. Especially since she feels that her husband Cal, knows who is out there and is keeping the information from her. To further complicate the matter,  Frida believes that she might be pregnant, which forces her to consider her options.

I live in California so this book had obvious appeal to me, even without the whole Colbert/Indie bookstore buzz. But I must tell you, as readable as it was, it missed some key elements to really make it a success in my eyes:

  • I didn’t care about the characters. I don’t need to like them, but I need to care about what happens to them.
  • Too much build-up over Frida and whether or not she was pregnant.
  • The secrecy of everything was overplayed. Big time.
  • It wasn’t clear to me who was good and who was bad. You’ve gotta have people to root for and they all seemed a little sketchy.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t bothered by the ending which is what everyone seems to talk about. I wasn’t surprised or miffed or even curious because I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them. ANYTHING could have happened and I would have been fine with it. I wanted to feel something for these characters but they were either too weak, too secretive, or their motives were unclear.

I know this all sounds very negative but I do think Lepucki captured the isolation of the early days, pretty well. When you are living in what could be the end of days as you know them, you must have hope or things get bleak pretty quick. I liked the story best when it was just Cal and Frida. They don’t entirely trust one another, which makes their marriage rather unique but Cal seems cautiously hopeful about the possibility of a child.

That cautious optimism was enough to keep me reading but then something happened.

The story took a turn and then I was like, what just happened? I thought the story was going one way, and then it went a totally different way. Not necessarily a bad way. I was still curious at this point but then the characters got all weird and their motivation seemed weird too and I suddenly had no patience for any of them.

Does it deserve the hype? Not really. Was it an interesting story? Yes. Is it book club worthy? Could be. There is a lot to consider. Is it better to be isolated or part of a community? When the world is ending, is procreation important or is it a bad idea to bring a child into a world without hope? I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead and when baby Judith was born, I was like… what in God’s name were you thinking? But at the same time, if you don’t populate the earth, eventually everyone will die out, right? So, this is an important question to ask but I am not sure it’s fully explored in the book.

I don’t know if the author has any plans to write additional books with these characters but if she does, then that may explain why some of it felt half-developed. If she does come out with another book as a continuation of this one, I’d read it just to see where she goes with it.

In the end, it was an okay read but it was fun to discuss with other bloggers.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Our Super Dry Summer

Sunday Salon

My kids started school this past week and it all went fairly well.  It was a short week for them and they eased into it okay. Of course, today I got a notification that all of the high schools in the area have been openly threatened on Instagram. Not something that a parent wants to read. Ever. I feel uneasy about it. I’ve given The Teen the drill which he immediately shot down in typical teen fashion.

I’m a mom. I worry. I can’t help it. Especially with all the active shooter training I’ve taken. I’d rather talk about it than brush it under the rug and regret it later.

As for work, things are picking. Students return on the 25th but they will be on campus next week paying for parking and straightening out their schedules so I will be working the information counter. Fun! I don’t mind working with the students but in my twenty years there, I have never worked the information counter before. I’ve been pretty exhausted lately due to some health stuff so I hope I can get through the two weeks alright.

Yesterday, we dropped The Teen off at the lake for a church event and the lake was 80 feet below normal! The photo you see below is the boat launch. I took a look at the lake and almost cried. You don’t realize how bad the drought is until you see something like this.

Southern California is in dire need of water. If you are the praying type, can you pray some? We are in mandatory water restrictions now. I don’t know what will happen to our property as we have a large yard and most of it is hillside. If it dies, it will be a major fire concern and there is no water to fight brush fires which makes it even more alarming.

I mean, look at it! As I said, that is the boat launch which is supposed to be IN the water. I feel as if we are the subjects of a dystopian novel. It’s very scary to look around and take it all in.

Castaic Lake

Photo Credit: Castaic Lake

What am I reading?

I am reading Murakami of course! The other day I was chosen as a fan ambassador. I am taking “ambassador” to mean a “super fan” but the best part is that I get a signed copy of the book and four copies of another book to giveaway. I can’t wait to get that box.

As for the book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is probably the most quiet novel of his that I’ve read. I am over halfway through it and so far, it’s very good but a little different.

People often ask me which book of his to read first. If you want the full Murakami experience, I suggest diving into the books that put him on the map, Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but those can also turn a reader away if you aren’t used to speculative fiction. So to be safe, I often recommend his short stories or After Dark. But this new book, might be a good choice too.

I also finished Peter Heller’s The Painter. Very, very good I still have to write the review up but I really liked it

What am I cooking?

Again, I have no food in my house. What is up with that? Yesterday, we ate out but today I might cook-up a stir fry. Of course, that means I have to hit the market which I absolutely dread. Grilling, is a possibility too but it was 103 yesterday and today will probably be the same. Not sure I want to deal with the grill in this heat.

What am I watching?

We watched Catching Fire last night. I liked it better than the first movie and actually, The Girl was totally into it. When we saw the first movie, she was bored with it and did not like the few violent scenes that they showed. This time around, she understood the story better. The Teen refused to watch it and chose to hang out in his room. He’s being anti-social again. I know that he eventually reads my Sunday Salons so I will wave to him right now. Waving.

I am looking forward to TV this fall. The Walking Dead returns on October 12 and it feels as if the weeks are flying by so it will be here before we know it.  I am also looking forward to American Horror Story: Freak Show which premiers October 8th. That show is freaky on its own but the theme this season is FREAK SHOW and just the idea of it is freaking me out

Are you starting to think about your October reading? Sandy and I have a little something planned for October. More on that later.

What are you up to today?

Fan Ambassador – Oh Yes!!!

Fan Ambassador

Do I look happy in this photo?? That is because I am!! I am so freakin’ happy because I was chosen to be a fan ambassador for Murakami’s new book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. You may remember that the quote card contest did not go well for me. Ahem. Right after that, I entered this other contest to be a fan ambassador and I got word yesterday that I’d been chosen! They didn’t really define what an ambassador was but I am interpreting it as “super fan” and I am most definitely that (and then some).

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

I won a signed copy of the new book and I get four copies of Norwegian Wood to hand out. As so many of you know, I love this author and I was so sad when I wasn’t chosen to receive a review copy but this makes up for it! I am about 20% into the Kindle version and I am completely absorbed by the story.

Anyway, thanks so much for all of your quote card contest votes and putting up with my daily blathering on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else. Once I get the books, I will host a giveaway.

Happy Friday!

Review: Never Fall Down

Never Fall Down
Never Fall Down
By Patricia McCormick
(Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, 9780061730931, May 2012, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

McCormick delivers a heartbreaking account of survival.

The Rest of It:

Never Fall Down is about Arn Chorn-Pond and how he survived the Cambodian Genocide under the Khmer Rouge. I know many of you have read about the Cambodian Genocide before. There are lots of books on the subject, but what struck me about this one is that it’s tied to music and it’s told in novel form, but based on true events.

Arn and his family are forced to leave their home with thousands of others, to march along the road with just a few possessions and very little food. Their journey goes on for a very long time. Their only order is to keep walking. As the people around them die of dehydration and lack of food, Arn, eleven at the time, is forced to witness the countless killings of those too weak to continue. When Arn is chosen by the Khmer Rouge to play an instrument, he feels as if his life depends on it, and it does. He learns to play the khim, a rather difficult instrument to pick up, and as a result, falls in favor with some of the Khmer soldiers.

However, this brief respite (if you can even call it that) does not shield him from the horrors of war. Every day, someone is killed. Kids he’s come to know, or music teachers or other educated people. His slow starvation and the effects of malnutrition begin to take their toll. But through it all, Arn remains positive, hopeful even. When given a tiny bit of food, he opts to give it to those who need it more. But when forced to take up arms and fight alongside the Khmer Rouge, he becomes what he calls “a tiger” which is something he regrets and probably one of the hardest things he has to work through once he makes it to the States.

Arn’s story is truly amazing. His strong-willed personality and his love of music is what sets him apart. This was a tough read because of the subject matter, but McCormick’s decision to tell it in novel form gives the reader the distance he/she needs to experience the horrors but from a few paces back. Also, this isn’t a one-sided retelling of what we’ve all read before. This book touches on members of the Khmer Rouge and one soldier in particular that helps Arn survive his horrible ordeal.

The other thing to point out, is that this book was initially geared towards younger readers. Because of this, the material is very easy to read but at the same time, gives you a lot to consider and discuss. My book club discussed the book last night and we had the opportunity to do a teleconference with a survivor, which really added to the discussion. The book gives you a very realistic account of what went on during that time. There is also some humor and a lot of heartbreak. I listened to a portion on audio and it was a very emotional experience. I highly recommend the book and audio. It was a National Book Award finalist in 2012.

If you are interested in Arn’s story, I suggest you check out this video to get a good sense of the author’s purpose as well as Arn’s message to “never fall down” to always rise up.

 

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

It’s Finally Here!

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

It’s here! It’s here! Well, not really. I have yet to buy the hard copy but the library surprised me by sending me the eBook last night at 9pm! I bet you know what I was doing before bed. Yes!! I read a chapter or two for sure and then this morning I read a bit more.

Early thoughts:

Tame
Slightly different writing style (could be the translation)
Characters are starting off strong

I actually prefer paperback versions but the first edition hard covers have a sticker sheet so you can design your own cover. Think I can snag one? We’ll see. There is even a sticker competition! Click that link if you want to see the cover up close and personal. By the way, if you are using Chrome, that video may not play. I can’t get it to play on my end but it works in the other browsers. Just thought I’d mention it in case you are unable to open it.

The quote card contest didn’t pan out for me but I did apply to be a book ambassador. I have high hopes that I will be chosen. Crossing fingers.

Are you reading it today too?

Review & Tour: The Home Place

The Home PlaceThe Home Place 
By Carrie La Seur
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062323446, July 2014, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

Home is a place but it’s also something that resides within us.

The Rest of It:

Alma Terrebonne left Montana behind her when she accepted a position as a lawyer and made the city her home. But when her sister is found dead, she’s forced to return to the home place that she left behind.

Everyone knows how it is when you return home. If you left for a reason, then going back is not easy and that is very much the case here. The bleak winters, the isolation and the poor condition of the home place itself leave a lot to be desired, but at the same time, it’s home and there’s always a place for it within your heart. As I read this book, the conflict within Alma is obvious. There is a definite love/hate thing going on with being home, but at the same time, she is the “responsible” one and with her sister dead and her niece without a mother, she feels obligated to step in.

This tug of the heart, would have been enough to explore on its own but La Seur throws in some nasty dealings with mining folk making plays for the land, the ugliness of her sister’s death and some confusion over who she should be with romantically, the guy she left behind in Montana or her new love interest back in the city.

All in all, I think La Seur tried to give us too much at once. The result? Thin characters with very little substance. However, it read well for me. The flow of the writing was quite good which made it an easy and quick read. I’ve not read many books set in Montana and La Seur’s sense of place is strong in this one.  This is one of those books where I find myself scratching my head a little because it was enjoyable to read, and yet, I felt it could have been so much more.

If you enjoy novels that explore home and what it means and you don’t mind some nasty dealings messing up your perfect picture of biscuits and gravy and fried pork chops, then I say give it a try.

Carrie La Seur

For more information on the author, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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