Friday, July 22, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lately I've been fixated on the concept of time and how little we really have. I've also been obsessively listening to the Hamilton soundtrack where they repeatedly sing about Hamilton, "Why do you write like you're running out of time? Write day and night like you're running out of time?" But Paul Kalanithi really was running out of time. He knew he was going to die and wrote feverishly in an attempt to find meaning in his life, his work, and his impending death. Honestly, the book seems to end before it should - with less moralizing and conclusion than we're used to, but just as John Green's Hazel reminds us, we tend to die in the middle of a sentence with things seemingly undone and and unsaid. The one blessing of Kalanithi's end is that he had some time to prepare.

Had the book ended with just Kalanithi's writing, the book would probably just have been a 4 star book for me, but his wife's epilogue was so honest and poignant that I cried all the way through. Her discussion of love and grief and life will echo with me for years to come. And just as Eliza helped Hamilton's story come to life, Lucy has enabled her husband's story to reach so many others reminding me yet again, that the only thing that matters in this world are the people in our lives and our faith. Everything else is just details.

Happy reading--

13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a few hours to wile away waiting for my car to be fixed. I tucked in to a small cafe and started reading. Because Seth and I just returned from European adventure, I was immediately carried away into Ginny's world and her adventure following letters written by her Aunt Peg before Peg died from cancer. I only took a break to get more to drink and to pick up my car when the call came that it was finished.

This book was a perfect summer read - it's not an amazing book. There are plot details that get thrown out that never get connected back again or such serendipitous occurrences that you're left wishing that you also could magically make people appear to help you too. However, though "Blue Envelopes" lacks the depth of other teen travel adventures, it is still a fun idea that I enjoyed jumping into.

Happy reading--

Eligible

Eligible (The Austen Project #4)Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like I need to start off with a disclaimer - the Keira Knightley version of "Pride & Prejudice" is my dessert island movie aka if I could only watch one movie forever this is the movie that I would choose. I know that's a controversial choice considering my obsession with the Anne movies and the BBC's most recent production of "Sense & Sensibility", and how often I turn on "When Harry Met Sally", but I could watch Darcy propose to Elizabeth a dozen times over and not be tired of it. All of this to say that I am predisposed to love things related to Austen's most famous love story.

Amazingly enough, I was not a believer for at least the first half of this book. Sittenfeld divided her book into 180+ chapters - seriously, a page is not a chapter. And the reader for the audio version, who I had previously loved in her part for "The Help", made almost all the characters seemingly unlikeable. Naturally Sittenfeld's characterization contributed to that, but I was not even liking Jane and Liz very much for how bratty their tones were. That said, I got past it as Darcy and Liz interacted more, and eventually I fell in love with their story and Jane's just like you do in the traditional versions. Not all the updates to the story are great, but the overall effect of setting Austen's classic tale in reality-tv obsessed 2016 Ohio is clever and captivating.

My two caveats to my recommendation are to read the book rather than listen to it. I just don't think this audiobook does the characters any favors, and most importantly I think you need to like Austen's original "Pride & Prejudice" to appreciate "Eligible". Otherwise, I think some of the plot details don't quite make sense. Oh, and one more - some of Mary and Lydia's behavior is so frustrating that it almost ruins whole sections. The reader may again have contributed to that.

Now if you're excuse me, I have a movie to rewatch before Seth gets home from work. I just can't help myself. Happy reading!


Me Before You



Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Goodreads-

Can you please give me half-star ratings? I devoured this book - hooked, almost against my will, in to the story of Will and Lou. The preview of the movie based on this book made me think that "Me Before You" was a romance. It really isn't, and for that reason, I loved it more. Really I want to give this book 4.5 stars because I've thought of the story every day since I finished it.

Also, can you give more tags or warnings to the books? Like, this book is not made for public consumption aka no reading in coffee shops or parks. I ugly cried through the ending. I just couldn't help it. Lately, I've thought so much about living a more authentic life and not wasting time - it's too short not to live well. This story is a thought provoking look into what it means to pursue your path - whether or not people agree with that path. I may not don honeybee tights or get a tattoo with a "best before" date, but I want to look back at my days and years and be content with my choices. I am definitely content with the time I spent reading this book.

Happy reading and happy living!

Love, Me

ps. Seriously, where are we on the half stars? Not all fours are created equal.

The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hesitated to read this. I admit it. One of Hannah's previous books was far from my reading preferences, and I wanted the hours I spent reading that book back for something else. Yet, some of my favorite people promised that I would like this book, and true to my historical fiction loving heart, I cannot resist a WWII story for long.

Nightingale is a really good book. It's not as well crafted as "All the Light We Cannot See" or "The Book Thief", but it tells a beautiful story. It's captivating and set up with unlikely and flawed heroes. I most enjoyed that Hannah took on a different side of the war - focusing on the French resistance and giving that delicious taste of French pride and determination a la Les Miserables.

The book gets a 4 star rating instead of a 5 star because sometimes you can see Hannah's work - meaning she is trying so hard to evoke a feeling or a setting that you can see the effort. It distracts from the flow of the story, and I'm left feeling annoyed at the delicate roses growing along the arbor instead of feeling the despair at the character's husband being sent off to war. This means too that some of the twists are evident for chapters, and I would rather be so caught up in a story that I can't see things coming...I should acknowledge though that I was left sputtering by the twist at the ending.

Lastly what keeps circling around in my brain is not the most common takeaways of the bond between sisters or spouses, what it means to be a parent, or what stories lay buried in a person's past. Rather, I am struck by how brave people had to be in the face of life threatening danger. I am so content with my small life, but I imagine that I would not quietly go into the night if someone or something threatened my life and the people in it. What would that look like? Would I collaborate with the enemy under extreme duress? Would I go out of my way to protect strangers? These are questions, of course, that thankfully can't be answered because of the safety I enjoy in my small corner of the world. But with a 24 hour news cycle forever blasting the uncertainty and tragedy that fills the lives of others, I am left hoping that I am never given the chance to know how I would behave.

As always, happy reading and happy summer!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Midsummer - Year Four

A Midsummer Night's DreamA Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love stories that end well - with love winning the day and all the characters getting what they hoped for (whether they should or not is the next question). I wish life worked out like a Shakespeare comedy more often. Good should triumph and all stories should end with weddings and feasts. I think the world would be a happier place.

P.S. Can you tell that I'm still teaching sophomores by the books I read on an annual basis?

The Fault in Our Stars...Again

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nearly four years to the day, here I am again. While I really liked The Fault in Our Stars when I first read it, I didn't love it until months later as the book stayed with me in the way that only truly great books do. After four years of knowing them, I adore Hazel and Augustus so much that they and the other characters in this book, seem like people that I've potentially encountered in my day-to-day life. That's John Green's way. He catches my attention with his wit and cleverness, and I unconsciously give his stories my heart. You just can't fight it. [cheesy, non-objective post over]

Happy reading~