Let it go.

My friends, my friends -

I have had some lovely times via this blog.  I have met some cool people and picked up some books I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise – like romance novels.  I would never have read romance novels, but ‘m glad I did. (Margo Maguire’s “Wild” is staying on my bookcase forever. That is a heck of a read.)

I remember a time when I was in college, studying Literature, where I threw down whatever book I was reading (probably Henry James – F that guy) and had the epiphany that the fastest way to stop loving to read is to get too involved in the dissection of every text and in exerting pressure to write about what you’ve read.

It’s time to lay this blog to rest.  Simply, while I still love reading and am actually reading a ton despite having an active toddler around all the time, I’m no longer loving writing about what I’ve read, and I’m finding myself feeling pressured by myself to keep up with arbitrary deadlines.

I will still read.  There are millions of amazing books out there.  I will still participate in World Book Night and visit Printer’s Row and love indie bookstores and libraries and I promise to raise my son to be a lover of books.

I just don’t have the passion for book-blogging anymore.

It’s been grand. Keep reading, friends!

Farewell.

 

“Carry The One” by Carol Anshaw

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One night 25 years ago, a group of friends – hazy from the drinks and romance of a summer night – left a wedding and wound up killing a young girl who ran in front of their car.  These friends – Siblings Alice, Nick, and Carmen (the bride), and their “lovers” Maude and Olivia – never forget this event.  In many ways, some subtle and some broad, this accident colors the rest of their lives.

Carol Anshaw’s book is so wonderful, because it’s such a normal read.  Yes, this group of friends killed a girl, and Olivia (the driver, a little stoned at the time) goes to jail, but after a while their lives go on.  They marry, get divorced, have their own kids, pursue careers, travel, and deal with addiction and emotions.  Their lives, though forever tied together by a tragedy, don’t end in that second.  The girl, Casey Redman, is always with them, and one of the friends even maintains a relationship with the girl’s mother.  “Carry The One” is a fascinating slice-of-life read.  There are no otherwordly happenings – Casey doesn’t show up in the final moments and teach them a lesson or anything.  The book is about little moments and ordinary relationships, and it’s simply stunning.

**Also, as a Chicago resident, Anshaw’s vivid setting of the book in the streets of the Windy City is fun.  When she references the punks at the Dunkin’ Donuts at Clark and Broadway, or how thick the hot air inside an El car can be, we know immediately what she means.**

 

My Sunday at C2E2!

My husband and I have been attending C2E2 – Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo – for every year it’s been a thing, and we’ve watched this weekend of fun blossom into a true mecca for all sorts of fandoms and nerds.  This past weekend, I headed down to (the inconveniently located) McCormick Place for the show for a Sunday afternoon of panels and browsing – and had a great time.

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The first thing I did was attend a panel on “Raising a Reader”, or how to use graphic novels/comics/graphic texts to bring kids into reading.  In this increasingly visual world we live in, we need to be able to process information as quickly as possible, and the lessons learned from reading these kinds of texts will help young people make valuable connections, as well as help them fall in love with reading prose. It was a super-informative panel, and I left with a list of texts and links to help with the future homeschooling of my toddler.image

 

Wandering around, I stopped by several publisher’s booths – The Penguin booth was handing out free books as fast as they could, and I scored quite a few interesting titles. Yay, free books!image

One of the best things about shows like C2E2 is the cosplay – and this year didn’t disappoint.

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If you know me, you know my Nightmare on Elm Street thing, so you’ll no doubt be surprised that this dude’s costume made my day.

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Everything is better with a Cyberman.

One of the best showings of the day, as far as books were concerned, was the gang from Quirk Books.  They came out in full force with a booth stocked with their clever titles – which include the “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” trilogy, as well as their featured title – Ian Doescher’s “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”.

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Quirk Books booth!

I attended the Ian Doescher panel, and it was a blast.  He read scenes and monologues from his book – with guest readers from the audience (some of whom were surprisingly good on-the-spot Shakespearean actors) and it was a lovely way to spend an hour.

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Assisted by Elsa, author Ian Doescher reads from “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”

C2E2 was a lovely time, and we’ll absolutely return next year! In the meantime, I now have a stack of free books to read!

 

 

Happy World Book Night!

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Both my husband and I are ready for World Book Night 2014!  He’ll be handing out the graphic novel, “Same Difference” on the streets of Chicago, and I’ll be giving my 20 copies of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” to a women’s shelter in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. This is our third year participating in this great event, and we look forward to participating for many more years. Spreading the love of reading is something to be encouraged! :)

“The Penny Pinchers Club” by Sarah Strohmeyer

pinchAfter the heartbreaking read that was “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, I needed something light and fluffy.  With one walk to the library, I found Sarah Strohmeyer’s “The Penny Pinchers Club” and I can’t imagine there being a more frothy, pink, easy-breezy piece of chick-lit in the world.  I hope that sounds like a compliment, because it’s intended as one.  Some books seek to change your life, or showcase the genius talent of the author, and some books are pure entertainment.  “Popcorn Reads” are one way of describing these books.

Frugal living is one of my interests, so the plot of this novel – overspending New Jersey housewife thinks husband is cheating on her, so she embarks on a frugal way of life in  order to save money to live on post-divorce – appealed to me.  Indeed, it was full of the kinds of tips you’ll hear on episodes of “Extreme Cheapstakes” or “Extreme Couponing”.  (“Put your appliances on a power strip!” “Buy in bulk!” “Coupons!”)  The book is silly, but it’s a fun read — I finished it in one evening – and, even if you see what’s happening before the main character does, it’ll be fine.  This isn’t a book designed to ignite a revolution, but it’d be nice to read on a beach or a plane. I enjoyed it. The end.

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

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Once in a while a book comes along and immediately sucks you in, then holds you by the throat for a while, then punches you in the gut in the climactic moments.  You read the book in one sitting, terrified and engaged, and when you finish the pages you realize you’ve just read a game-changer.

Welcome to “We Need To Talk About Kevin”, Lionel Shriver’s bestselling novel of parenting, young men, violence, and an all-too-common scenario.

As a reader, you know where the book is going before you begin. Through his mother’s letters to her estranged husband after the events of that Thursday (the only thing she can call that fateful and blood-filled day) we bear witness to the life story of Kevin Khatchadourian leading up to his terrible school massacre.  As Eva pours out her honest side of the story – she was a distant mother but noticed his dangerous oddities his entire life long, but young Kevin was the light of his father’s life and played both his parents every day of his life.   Eva’s letters are often hard to read, but they’re compelling, and it’s not a book with easy answers.

I was riveted and stunned by this book – though I knew what it “was about” there were moments where I felt like I’d been slapped with surprise.  “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is a masterwork of a novel, delivered to the world at a time when (perhaps) we need it most – a time when school violence has become so common that even something has horrific as Newtown Elementary doesn’t have the power to affect change in policy due to bog-money organizations and shady politicians. “..Kevin” is another voice on the side of the human casualties of these events, and one that deserves to be read widely and loudly. It’s amazing.

Also, reading it as the parent of a son is extra-mind-blowing.

**There’s also a recent film version of  this book, starring Tilda Swindon and John C. Reilly.  I have no doubt it’s wonderful and brilliantly-acted, but I don’t think I have the stomach to watch it. Time will tell. **

“Let Them Be Eaten By Bears” by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

bearsAs an urban-dwelling-Mom, I sometimes worry that our dude isn’t getting enough nature in his day to day life.  I take him to parks and outside all the time, but it’s not like we have a backyard he can play freely in, or the 10 acre farm my Mom lived on.

So, on occasion, I read books like “Let Them Be Eaten By Bears,” which reinforce all the stuff I already know – Outside is good for kids!  Physical Activity and Creative Play are both great things! Turn off your devices and go play!

This book is slightly different, in that it’s written by a dude who is an avid outdoorsman and leads an Outdoor Program for high school students, which takes them into the back country and makes them learn about nature.  There are some anecdotes about real-life experiences with troubled students, as well as the author’s experiences camping with his daughters, and it’s all very nice.  There are chapters about making sure you don’t pack too much for a hike and a list of silly things you can actually buy for camping, like a fondue pot.  You know, useful information – but things most of us already probably know.

“Let Them Be Eaten By Bears” didn’t blow me away, or present anything new and enlightening, but it was a nice reminder to make sure we go outside some more. Also, I picked it up while visiting Bookpeople in Austin, Texas, which is one of the best bookstores in America, so I’m happy.

 

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

henriettaThis is a book that everyone was talking about, and I missed out on.  Picking it up at a thrift store a few weeks ago, I designated it my “road trip read”, and then promptly finished it the night before embarking on a 10 day road trip.

You probably haven’t heard the name Henrietta Lacks, but you may have heard of HeLa cells, which are used around the world for a variety of research purposes. They’ve been to space. Seriously. In “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” author Rebecca Skloot sets out to uncover the story of the dead African-American woman whose cells are still a multi-billion dollar, worldwide industry even as her surviving family members are living in near-poverty.  Part mystery, part biography, and part study of the history of medical ethics, this book is dynamite and will hold you riveted until the final pages. It taught me more than a few things I didn’t know about the history of medicine and the seemingly-shady history of medical ethics, especially when the victims are poor, minority, or mentally challenged.  This one’ll be on my bookcase for a long time.

 

“We Were the Mulvaneys” by Joyce Carol Oates

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This book floored me.

It’s been sitting on my bookcase for over a year, huddled with the other J.C.O. books I own and have actually read  – “A Garden of Earthly Delights” , “A Widow’s Tale”, and “The Gravedigger’s Daughter” – but, for some reason, I’d held onto it but hadn’t opened it yet.  Maybe it was the plot – something about a family tragedy – that made me, a newish mom, not feel ready to take this particular journey quite yet.

I’ve taken the journey, and geez.

“We Were the Mulvaneys” is a heart-breaking work, and a wonderful illustration of the sheer talent of Ms. Oates.  The saga of a seemingly perfect , loving family in a rural town that finds their very being shaken to the core after a terrible event, “..Mulvaneys” showcases the sometimes subtle ways that bad things happen to good people, and change the rest of their lives.  Parents don’t always behave right, people keep terrible secrets, and everyone goes a bit crazy sometimes. The Mulvaneys – warmest of families  become strangers, grow apart from each other, and test the notion of whether blood is thicker than water.

It’s so good. I couldn’t put it down. I read it while getting a pedicure, and on the bus, and while being circled by a playful toddler, and it held me captive.  It’s never leaving my bookcase. Ever.

 

Some love for libraries.

The New York Times published a great piece about how libraries around the country are staying relevant/updating themselves for modern times. I adore our library – the whole Chicago Public Library system is great – and hope to see even more cool things from them in the future.

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