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Showing posts from November, 2014

personally: On Thanksgiving

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Last year at Thanksgiving, I had a lot to be thankful for. But I was also somewhat frustrated and bitter. Mr. Nomadreader and I had been trying to get pregnant since April. I couldn't believe it still hadn't happened, and the holidays were imposing that sadness. We spent the year before we started trying to get pregnant enjoying "one last" everything. It was a wonderful year, and I loved every minute of it. I did not imagine I would face another Thanksgiving without a baby on the way, but there I was. "Fuck it," I said. "I wish I were pregnant, but I'm not, so let's get drunk." And I did. It was not the Thanksgiving I wanted, but it sure was fun. And little did I know then that less than two weeks later, I would take a pregnancy test, certain I wasn't pregnant, and discover I was. And this year I got to celebrate the first Thanksgiving with the nomadbaby. What a difference a year makes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My 2014 Book Bucket List

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I kind of love that no hardly any books are published in December. The fall always feel rushed and chaotic, with work and life, and I never manage to read all the new releases I intend too (not that I do in any season, but it's especially noticeable in the fall.) December is my catch-up month. I get invigorated to read as many books as I can before the year ends. And as I work in academia, I get almost two weeks off for the Christmas and New Year holidays, so there is a lot of time to read (even with a baby.) I started making my list of books I really want to read before the end of the year, and it is impossibly long. Then I cut it down to twenty. Twenty. Instead of feeling defeated, however, I rallied to make my bucket list to help prioritize reading the books I most want to read and that have been on my TBR for longer. Of course, I also want to read some of the 2014 releases I haven't yet. And I want to start reading 2015 releases. But rather than prescribe all my reading fo…

book review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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The backstory: Station Eleven is on the 2014 National Book Award short list. Update: it was also longlisted for the 2015 Baileys Prize.

The basics:  "An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity." (via the publisher)

My thoughts:  I had high hopes for Station Eleven even before it was longlisted (and then short listed) for the National Book Award. Emily St. John Mandel is an author I've been meaning to read for years (and an author whose early books grace my shelves, unread), and this novel was set to be her break out hit. And it has been. But as a reader, I never connected to the work or its characters.

The premise is interesting, and I typically enjoy narratives that bounce across time and whose characters share unlike…

Sunday Salon: Three Months!

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While it seems as though every week brings a major milestone for the nomadbaby, most of them sound silly to someone without babies. Example: he's now eating 6 ounces at a time, which means he's into the big bottles! It's not that thrilling sounding. Here it is decoded: the more he eats at a time, the longer he should be able to go in between meals. This development matters most at night, which we hope he will soon sleep through.

But I think even people without babies appreciate the timeline milestones and seeing babies grow. Hawthorne turned three months old this week! The last three months of my pregnancy felt like they took a year, but the first three months of his life have flown by (in mostly good ways.) He is still a shrimp (that's the same outfit he wore in his two month photo), but he is clearly in the midst of a growth spurt. And his hair is growing to the point I have no idea what to do with it. I still try to give him the fauxhawk because it's adorable, …

book review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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The backstory: I'm a fan of Amy Poehler, but I'm not a fan of Amy Poehler. I don't watch Parks and Recreation, but I've seen some episodes. I do, however, lover her smart, observational humor.

My thoughts: Yes Please is a multimedia memoir of sorts. It's part advice, part reflection, part humorous recollections, part traditional memoir, part essays, part commentary on career, marriage, divorce and parenthood, and all parts awesome. Its awesomeness came in unexpected ways, as well as expected ways. It's a very diverse book.

There are fabulously funny lines, of course:
"Is there a word for when you are young and pretending to have lived and loved a thousand lives? Is there a German word for that? Seems like there should be. Let's say it is Schaufenfrieglasploit." But there are also fabulously wise lines telling truths that are both simple and profound:
"Change is the only constant. Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful un…

book review: The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

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The backstory: The Care and Management of Lies is Jacqueline Winspear's first historical novel not to feature Maisie Dobbs. I've read and enjoyed all of the Maisie Dobbs novels: Maisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge,Among the Mad,The Mapping of Love and Death,A Lesson in Secrets,An Elegy for Eddie, and Leaving Everything Most Loved. Update: it was named a finalist for the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

The basics: The Care and Management of Lies focuses on three characters: Kezia, Thea, and Tom. Tom and Thea are brother and sister. Kezia and Thea are lifelong best friends...until Kezia marries Tom.

My thoughts: World War I and its lingering effects feature prominently in the Maisie Dobbs series, so I was curious to see how Winspear tackled the war itself. The story begins before the war, and thus the reader knows what's to come better than the characters do. The subtitle "A Novel of the Great War" makes it a…

book review: Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler

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The basics: Confessions of a Scary Mommy is an irreverent and honest book about the journey into motherhood, from Smokler's surprise first pregnancy to the present, when she has three children.

My thoughts: When I started back at work after maternity leave, a friend told me I had to read this book. So I did. And there were some parts I really liked. Each section begins with anonymous confessions. I admit: some made me laugh, some made me sneer, and others made me sad for the person who confessed. They were unconnected and eventually a little annoying.

The book itself is arranged somewhat chronologically and thematically. Predictably, I enjoyed some parts more than others, as I'm the mom to a 12-week-old, not three kids who walk and talk. As with most stories of parenting, I connected and related to some more than others. The reading experience itself wasn't deep enough for me. I'm all for irreverent and honest, but I still wanted depth and a stronger voice. It felt as t…

audiobook review: Some Luck by Jane Smiley

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narrated by Lorelei King

The backstory: Some Luck was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award.

The basics: Some Luck, the first in a new trilogy from Jane Smiley, stretches from 1920 to 1953 and tells the story of the Langdon family, who farm in the fictional town of Denby, Iowa.

My thoughts: I'm thirty-four years old. This book covers thirty-three years. This synchronicity fascinated me as each chapter brought a new year for the Langdon family. Covering thirty-three years in just over four hundred pages means that there are many moments and events not told. As the Langdon family grows, there are more people to catch up with each year, and as the children begin to leave the home, there are more places to go to catch up with them. While the novel begins as a quiet, farm tale, covering fascinating times of transition in the 1920's and 1930's, I was surprised by how much Smiley tackles.

Some Luck spends a surprising amount of time away from the farm. While still deeply rooted…

Quickly: Commas Matter

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Spotted on Twitter this most amazing correction from my beloved Ann Patchett to The New York Times:

Puppy Love

To the Editor:

I was grateful to see my book “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage” mentioned in Paperback Row (Oct. 19). When highlighting a few of the essays in the collection, the review mentions topics ranging from “her stabilizing second marriage to her beloved dog” without benefit of comma, thus giving the impression that Sparky and I are hitched. While my love for my dog is deep, he married a dog named Maggie at Parnassus Books last summer as part of a successful fund-raiser for the Nashville Humane Association. I am married to Karl VanDevender. We are all very happy in our respective unions.

ANN PATCHETT

NASHVILLE
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book review: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

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The backstory: The Burning Room is Michael Connelly's twenty-seventh novel and the nineteenth to feature Harry Bosch. See my reviews for the other twenty-six novels in my Book Review Database.

The basics: There are two mysteries at the center of The Burning Room. The first is a warm cold case. A mariachi musician dies nine years after being struck by a stray bullet. After the shooting, he became a political celebrity of sorts, and his death is very big news. Harry Bosch and his new partner Lucia Soto, who has been in the news as a hero cop, have a cold case to solve but a warm body to help. The second is a cold case very personal to Detective Soto, and it lets the reader get to know her through her backstory.

My thoughts: It was with some trepidation that I began reading The Burning Room. I read Michael Connelly's first novel in February and proceeded to read all of his novels this year. Beginning this one (before it was published) meant the wait for the next one was really long…

Sunday Salon: November?

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Is it really November? Time is flying by. I am not kidding when I say the not-even-a-year I was pregnant was the longest, slowest year of my life. At first time felt normal again after Hawthorne was born. Suddenly, he's growing and changing so much, and time is moving faster than ever. But November? It has sneaked up on me (am I the only one who always feel as though I use the past tense of sneak incorrectly? It just sounds wrong.) I think my November disbelief is partly due to the weather. I wore my winter coat for the first time Friday. That is unreasonably late in the year. Thursday night Hawthorne and I sat outside in our chairs (okay, so he does not so much sit as recline gracefully in his baby chair) while I enjoyed a glass of wine. It's been a beautiful, mild fall, and I've been enjoying it, but I am also getting ready for winter, which I adore (until around March, when I am once again ready for spring.)

Part of my love for winter is my I love for the holidays (Than…