Review: A Sudden Light

A Sudden LightA Sudden Light
By Garth Stein
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781439187036, September 2014, 416pp.)

The Short of It:

It feels so good to pick-up a book and immediately know after just a few pages, that it’s going to be a good story.

The Rest of It:

My “book picker” is finely tuned this year. I’ve read some interesting and fun books and I have to say, that this year seems to be the year for atmospheric reads because I have read so many and used that word so many times to describe what I am reading that I think I may need to come up with a new word.

A Sudden Light, is no exception. Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell’s parents are on the outs. His father, Jones Riddell, takes him back to his family’s home which is infamously referred to as Riddell House. Situated on the edge of a forest and overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound, it’s massive and full of secrets. The Riddells of the past ran a timber company which produced quite a bit of wealth but Jones and his sister Serena want to sell the house and property so they can build their nest eggs elsewhere. Their only problem is convincing the grandfather, who is battling dementia, that selling the property is the right thing to do.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a slight supernatural element, a lot of family history and secrets, hidden rooms and well-drawn characters. The family dynamic is touching and Trevor is such a great kid. They are all so consumed by this house and what it stands for, that they often can’t see the forest for the trees. Pun intended. Nature lovers will find this book especially appealing because there is a conservation thread to the story that is skillfully woven in.

This book is a little different from The Art of Racing in the Rain, Stein’s runaway bestseller, but I really got caught-up in the story and look at that cover!

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Sunday Matters: Rest, Regroup, Reflect

Sunday Matters

Sundays are special. They’ve really become my favorite day of the week. Friday IS hard to beat. I mean, at the end of the week I am so drained that Friday is like a breath of fresh air, but Sunday is special. Usually my errands are taken care of. Usually I get to go to church and usually, we get together as a family, at least in the evening to spend some time together.

That said, I’ve re-structured my Sunday post a little bit. My goal is put the past week to rest and focus on what makes me happy.

Right Now:

Right now, I am enjoying my first cup of coffee and let me tell you, it is gooood. I’m also enjoying coconut Greek yogurt with sliced almonds, dark chocolate shavings and toasted coconut on top. It’s my new favorite breakfast. I love it. I will hit church and then it’s me on the couch with a book.

This Week:

Nothing much going on this week. The Teen’s drama competition is over so those rehearsals end and the ones for The 39 Steps pick-up again. Annie rehearsals continue as well. I really do love that my kids are involved in theater. It’s a lot of work but it always pays off.

Friday is Halloween and The Girl has a friend coming over for trick-or-treating and possible a sleep-over. She’s supposed to spend the night but there is talk of a cross-country meet the next day so I need to confirm. The Teen and his girlfriend may come over to carve pumpkins and watch a movie. Hasn’t been confirmed though.

Reading:

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    • For a read-along and we are almost done!
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
    • For book club. All about a hospital and how it managed during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
    • Really, really different from what I thought it would be. It’s kind of good.
  • Driftwood by Elizabeth Dutton
    • Also very good. It grabbed me just a few pages in.
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
    • Took a break from it but I am back to it now.

Watching:

I finally got The Hub hooked on The Walking Dead. Still working on The Teen. He watches it, but claims that he is not into it. Yeah. Okay. Movie wise, I am lining up my horror flicks and trying to get them in but with The Girl around, it’s difficult.

Making:

I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes last night which will be enjoyed in lunches this week as well. Tonight, we will probably have turkey tacos.

Grateful for:

I am grateful for a lot these days. The roof over my head, my family, and that I was able to finally find a church that fits me.

Happy Thought For the Week:

This Friday I am announcing the details for #ReviveMe2014. Can you guess what it’s all about? REALLY looking forward to this.

Something Wicked Read-Along Update – Part Two

Something Wicked

A couple of weeks ago we talked about part one. We are now approaching the end of our read along. By today, 10/24, we should be wrapping-up part two, Chapters 25-44. This section is so bizarre and strange.

  • Continues to be very atmospheric but less so than part one.
  • What is up with the witch? The hot air balloon was a nice touch but strange and nightmarish.
  • Will & Jim continue to be too much alike. I like to refer to them as “Wim” because I have given up trying to tell them apart.
  • Will’s dad. We knew something was up with him but the whole thing with his hand… I can’t make sense of it.

On Twitter (#EnterTheRingmaster) one blogger wondered what Bradbury was on when he wrote the book. That’s a good question because part two seemed a little disjointed to me. You’ve got this crazy witch chasing the boys and the visuals he uses to tell that part of the story are so odd. Mr. Dark is still after the boys as well but he seems less of a threat than everyone else and virtually no time is spent AT the carnival. Another adult has been turned into a child, but for what purpose? Will’s father comes to their aid but it’s still questionable how he fits into all of this. I’ve spent the last day pondering what I’ve read but my thoughts are all jumbled up. Partly because of how this part was told. It’s a little chaotic. Pursuits and chases can be like that. I am anxious to see how this story ends.

Next up on the schedule?

  • Finish Section 3 (Chapters 45-54) by Friday, October 31st

If you wrote-up a post, just add the link in comments or feel free to comment away here or on Twitter using #EnterTheRingmaster as the hashtag.

Review: Twelve Years a Slave

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave
By Solomon Northup
(Graymalkin Media, Paperback, 9781631680021, February 2014, 248pp.)

The Short of It:

A true account of a free black man, kidnapped and forced into slavery.

The Rest of It:

While in Washington, D.C. on a business trip in the mid-1800’s, Solomon Northup was kidnapped and forced to be a slave for what became twelve long years. His story, as told to David Wilson, is shared here in this memoir.

Many of you may have seen the movie, which received several Oscar nods but as with most books made into movies, I am always interested in reading the book first, whenever possible so I have yet to see the movie myself. The book, although short, gives you just enough of the horrors of what he went through as a slave and it will make you angry. His relationships with the other slaves is the one saving grace. But the frustration over his situation is felt throughout his story and the worry and fear about his family is very compelling.

In one sense, it’s hard to believe that such a thing could happen and for so long, but his twelve years as a slave is riddled with pain, worry and fear over what will become of him. He encounters many slave owners during this time and although most of them are easy to anger and will stop at nothing when it comes to a delivering a good beating, there are others who treat their slaves as people, with the respect and dignity of an owner who appreciates hard work.

The story itself is very compelling and yes, unbelievable at times but the delivery of the story seemed a little formal to me. The language used to tell the story is very formal and dare I say it, somewhat cold and clinical. It’s as if this story was told to me at arm’s length, in a detached sort of way which of course took me out of the narrative many times. It’s very short, yet felt much longer than it should have. Perhaps the formality of it all added to this.

This was the September selection for my book club, chosen by me and of course that is the one meeting I had to miss due to back to school night, so I really don’t know what the others felt or how it compared to the movie. Will I see the movie? I had planned to prior to reading the book but now, I am not so sure.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think?

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

The Sunday Salon: Gorgeous Weather

Sunday Salon

It’s a gorgeous day!! The sky is a bright blue, not a cloud to be seen and the sunlight is working its magic. The Girl took all the Halloween stuff out and put it up yesterday. I think there are only five houses in the neighborhood that put anything up this year. Now, I just need to get the candy!

It’s been a busy week but it’s over now. The Teen took the PSAT, The Girl got to cheer at the high school game, they both had rehearsals for both Annie and the drama competition next week in Temecula. Not to mention doctor’s appointments and flu shots and the Title 1 meeting I had to attend. Mid-week, something bit me and my entire body itched and burned (which is weird) for two days!! Yes, it might have been the flu shot but more likely, the bug bite. I have no idea really but I never want to experience it again.

To all of you who gave me some insight into Title 1, you were all correct and in our case, the program does not follow her into middle school. Our school is a target-based Title 1 participant which means that the students who need addition help, had to be determined within the first 30 days of school. To err on the safe side, she was added to the program. This means she gets one-on-one math assistance four times a week. A good thing, right?

What am I reading?

Along with other books, including our read along book, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I started this one:

Driftwood

 

It is really good so far. After just a few pages, I was hooked.

What am I cooking?

The dreaded question. At the moment, I am making lemon scones but later? Who knows? I sort of want The Hub to pick-up some stuff from the Mexican market (rotisserie chickens, fresh tortillas, etc.).  I haven’t told him this yet.

What am I watching?

Tonight, The Walking Dead. Today? I have a number of movies to choose from. Moonrise Kingdom? Notting Hill? The Abyss? I need to catch-up with some of the newer releases but when I have time, I tend to want to re-visit my favorite movies. Did you know that they already posted ABCs 25 Days of Christmas schedule? I am almost in the mood to pull out Christmas Vacation.

No one wants to hit church with me today. I took a look at one of the online services to see what I’d be missing and it looks like our normal pastor is not there today. Not sure if I will attend by myself. I do like to go as often as I can. I feel as if it prepares me for the week but I like people to go with me too. The Girl got home late from a birthday party last night and we were up past midnight waiting for The Teen to return from Fright Fest so we are all exhausted.

I know many of you feel the same way today! I saw a lot of read-a-thon posts yesterday. I hope you all had fun. What do you all have planned for today?

Review: Big Driver (Audio)

Big Driver (audio)Big Driver (audio)
Written by Stephen King
Read by Jessica Hecht
(Simon & Schuster Audio | ISBN 9781442383746 | October 2014 )

The Short of It:

The kind of story you drop everything for. The kids can go hungry, but you’ve got to finish your read. You know the type I am talking about.

The Rest of It:

This little novella was actually part of a collection, originally published in Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King in 2010.  But in case you haven’t noticed, King is on the popularity train right now. Many of his books and short stories have been adapted for film or TV or are in the works to be adapted soon and he has another new novel coming out this November, Revival.  I have some fun scheduled for that one.

Tess Thorne, a thirty-something mystery writer who lives at home with her cat, runs into a little bit of car trouble on her way home from a book signing. What she encounters is horrifying and every woman’s worst nightmare.

The story is riveting and at times, brutal. I listened to it on my way home from work, and every time I pulled into my driveway I walked into the house with my ear buds firmly attached because it was so hard to stop listening! King’s story is not that unique but there are things about it that creep you out. One, the main character creates voices for those around her, her cat, the librarian and the person she is most afraid of.

These imaginary conversations are very disturbing. More so, because Jessica Hecht’s interpretation is downright chilling. I can’t say that I enjoyed her speaking voice all of the time. Sometimes, the main character, who is supposed to be a thirty-something, sounds like an 80 year-old woman and that’s not just because of what the character goes through. Because of that, at times, I didn’t feel that her reading was true to the character.

King includes all the classic “King” stuff that keeps you coming back for more. The weird little sayings, “It likes you, and you like it.” Said, over and over until you feel like you are on the brink of losing it. The strange mannerisms and yes, the zinger cuss words here and there, coming out of the main character’s mouth. Lends the story a crassness that keeps you on the edge of your seat because you don’t know what the main character is capable of. Is Tess losing it? Holding it together? Giving up? Your heart will beat out of your chest until you know for sure.

This also counts as a R.I.P read.

Peril the Second

As I mentioned above, so many King projects being translated for TV or the big screen. This is no exception. Big Driver is airing tonight, October 18th on Lifetime. Here is a little preview and if you miss tonight’s showing, you can catch it on Sunday, 10/19.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: I Am Malala

I Am MalalaI Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai
(Little, Brown and Co., Hardcover, 9780316322409, October 2013, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Malala Yousafzai was just a young girl on a field trip for school when she was shot point-blank in the face. This book is about that day, the events leading up to it and the role it played in her struggle for education equality.

The Rest of It:

My book club selected this book back in January to be read in October. That was before Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize and before her gunman had been identified, so imagine our surprise when she was back in the news by the time we met to discuss the book. Timing, it’s everything.

I didn’t know much about Malala prior to reading this book. I do recall the shooting in 2012 and some of the details behind it, but other than that, not much. In case you’re like me, I’ll give you a little info. As a young girl, Malala lived in the Swat Valley, a province in Pakistan. Her father ran a school for both boys and girls but as you can imagine, most girls in that region were kept home to help around the house or married young to start their own families. Education was not a priority for young girls and Malala took it upon herself to make sure that young girls got the same education that boys did.

This presented a problem for her father. Threatened and told to close his doors, he began to worry about making ends meet. Without female students, he would not be able to keep his doors open. Knowing this, Malala did what she could to support education for all children and this angered many in their town, including the Taliban which eventually led to the attempt on her life. Amazingly, the gunshot wound to her head, did not cause permanent brain damage but called for quite a bit of physical therapy. This required her to be moved to a London hospital and after much discussion, a decision was made to move the rest of the family there as well.

Instead of being fearful of what could happen to her in the future, she used the events of that day to her advantage and became even more vocal, knowing that at some point the Taliban could succeed in taking her life. However, this mattered little to her. What mattered more, is that education be accessible to ALL who wanted it. Through her efforts, she’s been awarded numerous prizes for her humanitarian efforts. An impressive list but especially so given her young age.

I was surprised at how readable the book is. With every page, you are reminded of Malala’s youth. She’s a young girl like any young girl, watching popular TV shows and wanting to wear make-up and try new hairstyles. She’s very likable and the book is written simply, without a lot of historical background. This is a plus as well as a minus. A plus because almost anyone can read the book but a minus because if you are looking to learn more about that region of Pakistan or the Taliban itself, you won’t find it here.

Since this is not a book I would have normally picked up on my own, I was hoping to get a little more insight into that part of the country but even though I did not find it, I still enjoyed reading about this remarkable young woman.

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

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