Sunday, November 15, 2015

Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone...Again

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My decision to reread the Harry Potters is one of the best reading choices I've made all year. It's been a few years since I allowed myself to re-enter Rowling's magical world, and I am so happy to find myself again walking the corridors of Hogwarts and laughing alongside Ron, Hermione, and Harry. When I originally read the series, I thought the first book was good, but not as amazing as the volumes that followed. Now having read the seventh book a few times and thinking about the story arc, I am so amazed by all that Rowling created. The layers in her story telling are thorough and all encompassing, and honestly, I just keep waiting and hoping for my own Hogwarts letter to arrive. Happy reading! #swishandflick
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
~ Prof. Dumbledore

Orphan Train

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shakespeare said, "Brevity is the soul of wit," and honestly, I just am feeling antsy to get back to reading. So the short version of my thoughts on Orphan Train: This book helps crystalize how critical it is for us to feel loved and safe and how devastating it is to children especially when that doesn't happen. I thoroughly enjoyed these interwoven stories, particularly the flashbacks to the midwest in the 30s and 40s. I had a couple "should have seen it coming" moments, but I was so engaged in the story that I wasn't thinking about plot or what was coming. I just was lost in the lives of these two women. Read front of a fire (or if you're like me, a youtube Yule log), with cup of cocoa and cozy blanket. 'Tis the season. Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Green Diamonds

This past week, baseball ended and fall finally settled in. As I was listening to the last Baseball Tonight podcast of the season, they played Bart Giamatti's "The Green Fields of the Mind". I wanted to cry. This goes beyond the love of the game and speaks to how life seems to slip by. I can measure my life in baseball seasons, and as soon as every November hits, I find myself already looking towards spring when I can watch others "run home". Happy reading~

"The Green Fields of the Mind" by A. Bartlett Giamatti

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

Somehow, the summer seemed to slip by faster this time. Maybe it wasn't this summer, but all the summers that, in this my fortieth summer, slipped by so fast. There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it. Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy. I was counting on the game's deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to set the order of the day and to organize the daylight. I wrote a few things this last summer, this summer that did not last, nothing grand but some things, and yet that work was just camouflage. The real activity was done with the radio--not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television--and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind. There, in that warm, bright place, what the old poet called Mutability does not so quickly come.

But out here, on Sunday, October 2, where it rains all day, Dame Mutability never loses. She was in the crowd at Fenway yesterday, a gray day full of bluster and contradiction, when the Red Sox came up in the last of the ninth trailing Baltimore 8-5, while the Yankees, rain-delayed against Detroit, only needing to win one or have Boston lose one to win it all, sat in New York washing down cold cuts with beer and watching the Boston game. Boston had won two, the Yankees had lost two, and suddenly it seemed as if the whole season might go to the last day, or beyond, except here was Boston losing 8-5, while New York sat in its family room and put its feet up. Lynn, both ankles hurting now as they had in July, hits a single down the right-field line. The crowd stirs. It is on its feet. Hobson, third baseman, former Bear Bryant quarterback, strong, quiet, over 100 RBIs, goes for three breaking balls and is out. The goddess smiles and encourages her agent, a canny journeyman named Nelson Briles.

Now comes a pinch hitter, Bernie Carbo, onetime Rookie of the Year, erratic, quick, a shade too handsome, so laid-back he is always, in his soul, stretched out in the tall grass, one arm under his head, watching the clouds and laughing; now he looks over some low stuff unworthy of him and then, uncoiling, sends one out, straight on a rising line, over the center-field wall, no cheap Fenway shot, but all of it, the physics as elegant as the arc the ball describes.

New England is on its feet, roaring. The summer will not pass. Roaring, they recall the evening, late and cold, in 1975, the sixth game of the World Series, perhaps the greatest baseball game played in the last fifty years, when Carbo, loose and easy, had uncoiled to tie the game that Fisk would win. It is 8-7, one out, and school will never start, rain will never come, sun will warm the back of your neck forever. Now Bailey, picked up from the National League recently, big arms, heavy gut, experienced, new to the league and the club; he fouls off two and then, checking, tentative, a big man off balance, he pops a soft liner to the first baseman. It is suddenly darker and later, and the announcer doing the game coast to coast, a New Yorker who works for a New York television station, sounds relieved. His little world, well-lit, hot-combed, split-second-timed, had no capacity to absorb this much gritty, grainy, contrary reality.

Cox swings a bat, stretches his long arms, bends his back, the rookie from Pawtucket who broke in two weeks earlier with a record six straight hits, the kid drafted ahead of Fred Lynn, rangy, smooth, cool. The count runs two and two, Briles is cagey, nothing too good, and Cox swings, the ball beginning toward the mound and then, in a jaunty, wayward dance, skipping past Briles, feinting to the right, skimming the last of the grass, finding the dirt, moving now like some small, purposeful marine creature negotiating the green deep, easily avoiding the jagged rock of second base, traveling steady and straight now out into the dark, silent recesses of center field.

The aisles are jammed, the place is on its feet, the wrappers, the programs, the Coke cups and peanut shells, the doctrines of an afternoon; the anxieties, the things that have to be done tomorrow, the regrets about yesterday, the accumulation of a summer: all forgotten, while hope, the anchor, bites and takes hold where a moment before it seemed we would be swept out with the tide. Rice is up. Rice whom Aaron had said was the only one he'd seen with the ability to break his records. Rice the best clutch hitter on the club, with the best slugging percentage in the league. Rice, so quick and strong he once checked his swing halfway through and snapped the bat in two. Rice the Hammer of God sent to scourge the Yankees, the sound was overwhelming, fathers pounded their sons on the back, cars pulled off the road, households froze, New England exulted in its blessedness, and roared its thanks for all good things, for Rice and for a summer stretching halfway through October. Briles threw, Rice swung, and it was over. One pitch, a fly to center, and it stopped. Summer died in New England and like rain sliding off a roof, the crowd slipped out of Fenway, quickly, with only a steady murmur of concern for the drive ahead remaining of the roar. Mutability had turned the seasons and translated hope to memory once again. And, once again, she had used baseball, our best invention to stay change, to bring change on.

That is why it breaks my heart, that game--not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.

From A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett
Giamatti, © 1998 by A. Bartlett Giamatti.
(Not a Giant, but still the cutest little Pirate, I've ever seen.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Anne's House of Dreams (and Mine)

Anne's House of Dreams (Anne of Green Gables, #5)Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not sure it's healthy that I gush any more about how much I loved reading some of the Anne books this summer, but I could not have loved this one more. How could I not? Anne and Gilbert finally got married and moved into their first house together and Seth and I finally got married and moved into our first little apartment together. It's too perfect, so to save the gushing, here are two of my favorite quotes from the book. Can't wait to revisit this story again.

“But it was a happy and beautiful bride who came down the old, homespun, carpeted stairs that September noon - the first bride of Green Gables, slender and shining-eyed, in the mist of her maiden veil, with her arms full of roses. Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her with adoring eyes. She was his at last, this evasive, long-sought Anne, won after years of patient waiting. It was to him she was coming in the sweet surrender of the bride. Was he worthy of her? Could he make her as happy as he hoped? If he failed her - if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood - then, as she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.”

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

Happy reading--

You're not awkward...I'm awkward...

I know my blog is overly full of book reviews. I'm really obsessed with books right now, and writing about books is just as enjoyable...I'm also even more obsessed (as you already know) with Seth, but writing about Seth isn't quite as much fun as being with Seth, we are.

I just thought I would acknowledge the awkward title of my last book review "Between Shades of Grey". Who knew historical fiction could be so awkward? I'm sure the author also wishes she could have a redo because her important literary work gets thrown in the same conversation as books that are wildly inappropriate. Oops.

ps. I reached my goal this year of reading at least 24 books. I know that's not a lot compared to some and way more than others, but this really isn't about other people. I just really wanted to read more this year, and I did it..and I'm happier for it. As always, happy reading and happy living.

Between Shades of Grey

Between Shades of GreyBetween Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some stories deserve to be told more than others. This is one of those stories. The Lithuanian experiences of World War II and beyond are not as well known as those from western Europe. Stalin's grip on eastern Europe and Russian was crushing - more than 20 million of his own people were killed during his reign. 20 million - we can't even conceive of numbers like that. Coupled with the Hitler's devastation, it's hard to believe that people were able to go on after their collective experiences.

"Between Shades of Grey" follows fifteen-year-old Lina and her family through their nightmare - being torn from their home, from each other, and from their dreams to ultimately ending up in Siberian prison camps. The subtle details that Sepetys layers into her story are beautiful. I only wish that the shades of grey (definitely not the same as James' 50 shades) that Sepetys crafted into Lina's art were visually rendered as part of the story. It would bring the story to life just the same way that the deftly included artwork did in "The Book Thief" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". Either way - this is a great book worthy of your time. It's truly a 4.5 star, but I can't help but round up for such an important story.

Happy reading--

All Quiet on the Western Front...Round 2

All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I did it. I read all of All Quiet on the Western Front, and finally I get it. I get the subtle beauty, the tragedy, the disillusioned heartbreak. True to classic literature, it is not an easy read, It is not a book I would recommend to many, but Remarque spoke for a generation that lost their voice and their possibility. It's a great predecessor to Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried", and I am finally glad for the chance to teach it.

Happy reading--