Monday reading check in 9/6/21

Happy Labor Day everyone!

It’s been a three-day weekend and I have been using the time to read. I was supposed to go down to New Jersey to visit my parents but after an altercation with my neighbor that involved me calling the police on her twice, I was left drained and exhausted.

However, even with this bit of drama in my life, I have been flying through the books I am reading. I think I have read more books over this weekend, than I have in a month all year. I only have 2 1/2 books left to read on my TBR. Which is crazy since we are only in the second week of the month.

What I recently finished

I have been eyeballing this book for awhile, but I wasn’t planning to read it yet. Then the New York State Writer’s Institute kicked off their fall events, starting with a Q&A/reading with Zakiya Dalila Harris at the University at Albany Campus. I immediately bought the book to bring with me to the event to get signed. I also started reading it prior to the event and got sucked in. This is a quick read and one that doesn’t disappoint. I can’t believe that this is Harris’ first book. Harris definitely puts a new spin on workplace competition. This thriller is full of twists and turns that will leave you dumbfounded in the end.

I read this for book club which will be meeting in a week to discuss. I would say that is a must read for everyone. You may think you know what it’s like to be disabled or think that you can understand, but unless you are, you don’t. Rebekah Taussig provides her perspective of how people interact around her and uncovers the truth about the cultural, political and societal impacts that her disability has on the world – mainly how people run on assumptions about a disabled person needs or wants. This book is truly eye opening and may make you feel unexpectedly uncomfortable.

I finished this book this morning and I still can’t wrap my head around this book. JK Ellem is the master of twists and turns because I really couldn’t figure this book out. Everyone is the bad guy. Every time you think you know, you don’t. Every single character has skeletons in their closet and you have to read to the last page to get any sense of finality. I haven’t read a book like this in a while. My brain is still trying to wrap around everything that happened. Though I would say their are some seriously dark and twisted things that happen which might be triggering.

Ok so I have owned this book since I was a little girl and had never read it. It’s actually good, though a little disturbing. You have a group of boys who are stranded on a deserted island. They try to stick to the habits that they had grown with. They select a leader and put rules into place with everyone having a role. However, eventually nature takes over and you see what happens when humans are left with just their primitive instincts. This book is only 200 pages but there is so much to unpack between its pages.

Books I am currently reading

My read of this book continues as I have to finish parts 5-8 for the Modern Library Book Club. We discussed the first half of the book and every single person is enjoying it so far – the language, the characters, the plot. It’s soo good. However, I am now taking my time with it.

This the September read for the Capital District Book Club. Apparently this book is about a murder that happened in Northern Ireland during the time of the “troubles.” I am not too familiar with this in Irish history but I am sure that I am going to quickly get educated. I started this book today and I hope to be done with it before the end of the week.

What I plan to read next

This is another book that I have had on my bookshelf for quite a long time. I think that the title of the book says it all. Given that it is the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I thought it was fitting to read about the war that resulted in what happened. I am even more interested in seeing the other sides of things.


What are you currently reading? Have you read anything on this list? Let’s discuss!

Spring TBR wrap-up: The books I read, didn’t read and read instead

Today is the first day of Summer! I can’t believe it. Maybe it’s the fact that it didn’t really start getting warm here in upstate NY until May but I feel like I barely got a chance to enjoy it. It has been a busy season and when I look back at what I read, I am shocked that I didn’t even read a dozen books between March and June. So it’s no surprise that I barely touched my Spring TBR list. In fact, I only read 2 out of the 10 books that I wanted to. But then again, I ended up reading some books that I didn’t expect to. I was definitely a mood reader during the last few months. So here is a breakdown of what I read from the list, the books I didn’t get to but still expect to and the books I read instead.

What I read


What I didn’t get to


Other books I read instead


What did you read over the Spring? Have you read any on this list? Let’s discuss!

TBR for March 2021

Over the past week, I debated whether I should do a reading list for March. I am in a funky reading mood and I honestly don’t know what I want to read on any given day. However, I know that if I don’t do this list, I will end up not reading at all or not get to the books that I have to get to. I wouldn’t be surprised at the end of the month, the list of books I actually will be completely different. In any event, here it goes.

Book Club reads

Chain of Title‘ by David Dayen

I started this book two days ago and I am already halfway through it. I thought it was going to be a dense read about the financial industry, and while it does get technical at times, I am finding it really interesting. Basically, it’s about how people who had their homes foreclosed upon, found that there were issues with their mortgage documents and ended up uncovering widespread fraud.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod‘ by Gary Paulsen

I honestly can’t wait to read this book because it sounds so interesting. I haven’t read Gary Paulsen since we were assigned “Hatchet” in school. I didn’t realize that Paulsen had a nonfiction book out and the Iditarod has always fascinated me.

Personal reads

Brave New World‘ by Aldous Huxley

I didn’t get to this book last month but I definitely want to get to it. I keep finding references to it and I need to know what people are talking about. This book has been on my shelf for long enough.

The Survivors‘ by Jane Harper

I have a feeling I am going to need an engrossing read on my list this month and I think this is going to be it. I have been wanting to read this since I got it. Just from reading the summary about mistakes that led to devestating consequences I am intrigued.

What’s Mine and Yours‘ by Naima Coster

I just got this book from my March Book of the Month subscription and I can’t wait to read it.

Into the Wild‘ by Jon Krakauer

I am not sure why, but every time I go to read this book I get distracted and want to read something else. It’s one of the reason I didn’t get to it last month. I am going to try again and hopefully I have a little more luck this time.


What are you reading in March? Have you read any on this list? Let’s discuss!

‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic’ by Andrew Cuomo

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since the coronavirus changed our way of life. For New York, the invisible threat was a little late, with our first case starting in March, but we were one of the first major outbreaks in the country. Yet, I can still remember it like yesterday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began his daily press conferences, updating New Yorkers on what was happening in the state, how many new cases there were each day, the number of deaths and how they were trying to handle it. For four months, I watched every single press conference along with our County Executive’s press conferences so I could provide updates to the members of the County Legislature, so they can be better informed for their local constituents.

Cuomo’s book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” starts with inevitable early morning phone call on March 1, informing him that New York had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and then goes from there. In a diary sort of setup, each chapter is an important date, with the number of cases and death. He recaps the major points in the COVID-19 journey from the first cluster that hit Westchester, NY and caused the first “lockdown” to the shutdown of the entire state, what he ends up calling New York on PAUSE.

What makes this book interesting is the behind the scenes decisions that were being made as New York had to deal with each new crisis as it unfolded, even as Cuomo has to deal with his own family and staff that were being exposed or infected. Cuomo goes into detail about his negotiations with the federal government, particularly with President Trump and he doesn’t hold back on his derision for the decisions that were being made. He goes into the conflicts he had in making certain decisions and how at times he didn’t agree with any of the options laid out before him.

Cuomo has gotten some criticism for writing this book before the pandemic was officially over, but I think the intention of the book was not to take a victory lap but merely to describe how New York got over the first wave. Of course this book is a bit subjective as it is his personal account and there are a few times where he seems to be patting himself on the back, but honestly this book is merely a recap of what happened during those first few months.

Recently, there has been more and more news that has come out about those decisions, particularly about the nursing homes. Some of it he explains in the book, but it will be interesting how it plays out.

To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Cuomo previously, but I think he did step up and lead during the crisis. I honestly believe he was doing the best he could given that this was an entirely new virus, and that goes for a lot of our officials – at least the ones that acknowledged that the virus was real and was trying to stop it. He was a calming voice who was trying to reassure people who didn’t understand what was going on. No one knew what they were doing. So were mistakes made? Most definitely. But that is what happens when local officials have to figure it out as they go along.

This is just one individual’s perspective and I am sure more and more books will be coming out about what has happened. Cuomo’s book is just a part of the narrative. Whether you choose to read it or not is completely up to you.

“84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff

This is such a charming and endearing book that I was quite sad that it had to end. I am so glad that this is a book club pick because I had never heard of it before and would have been missing out.

Helen Hanff is a writer in NYC in 1949 who begins a correspondence with a used book dealer in London seeking a list of books. A back and forth commences. As their correspondence continues through the years, the two begin to develop a friendship based on their love of books. They never meet and are separated by a whole ocean and yet, they are so familiar with each other.

I laughed at some parts and cried at others as the letters make those who are reading them feel that they are part of the company. I loved watching how Helens relationship with Frank grows beyond a book exchange and they begin to share their lives and it even extends to other employees in the book store.

I particularly loved the parts when Helen was outraged at something or when the book store was too slow in getting a book she longed for and she would blast them with a snarky letter, that was all in good fun.

“SLOTH. i could ROT over here before you’d send me anything to read. i oughta run straight down to brentano’s which i would if anything i wanted was in print…

what do you do with yourself all day, sit in the back of the store and read? why don’t you try selling a book to somebody?”

Helen Hanff, February 9, 1952

Every letter is unique. Some of Helen’s letters are well thought out and grammatically correct while others, such as the one above, lack capitalization and correct punctuation. Given that she is a writer, I would assume it goes to show how much she was in a rush to send off the letter at the time.

I liked how the letters revealed what is going on in the world at that time. The correspondence starts at the end of World War II, when Britain still has food rations and things are still hard to come by. There is another letter that signals the death of the King and then the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Then another shows how tourism begins to pick up in Britain by how busy the bookstore is.

I also liked knowing what books she was requesting and what books were popular at the book store. We have a few used book stores here in upstate NY and I now want to take a stroll through one and see what they have in stock. Better yet, maybe I should write them a letter and tell them to mail me a copy.

This book will make you long for the days of letter writing, something I actually enjoyed when I was younger. There is something to be said about sending a letter to someone through the postal service and waiting to hear back. For a while, I had a pen pal who lived in Oregon, on the opposite site of the United States, and I loved hearing from her. I also wrote back and forth to my uncle in Pennsylvania too. Why don’t we write letters anymore? We have email but but it’s not the same. More often than not, we just shoot off a reply to the person that contacted us.

If you want a quick nostalgic read that you can curl up with in an afternoon, then “84 Charing Cross Road” is the perfect book.


Have you read this book? What other charming books would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama

I have been wanting to read this “Becoming” by Michelle Obama since it came out. I am not sure why. I will admit, I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of the Obamas when they were in office. Yet, I was curious what Michelle Obama had to say.

And boy did she have a lot to say. If you go into this book thinking that you are simply going to read about her life, you are sadly mistaken. It’s more than an autobiography. It’s a message for women, it’s a message for those who have struggled through life, it’s a message for everyone.

I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would. I was particularly surprised by how relatable it was.  There is no doubt about it, Michelle Obama is an strong, independent woman and has been since she was a child. I found myself smiling at some of things she went through because it was like looking into my past. Proving that just because you’re a female, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the same opportunities as a man.

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self doubt and then is escalated often deliberately by fear.”

This quote early on in the book really resonated with me. And Michelle proved time and again that even if you’re afraid of failure, you still have to go for it. More often than that you can succeed. All you have to do is try.

Although I am not African American, as she discussed affirmative action after being accepted to Princeton, I felt like I had had that conversation before. My best friend, Carmen, who is Colombian has echoed Michelle’s doubt plenty of times. Had she truly deserved the slot at the college or that promotion at her job? Or was she simply filling a slot because the color of her skin was darker? But like Michelle, the doubts would soon go away and she would start doing things better than everyone else. She would find her niche and prove that she deserved to be there.

I also enjoyed reading about Michelle’s relationship with Barack and it was a relief that it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I mean, every relationship isn’t perfect, but Michelle’s honesty was a bit surprising, considering she was talking about the former President of the United States. It was really interesting to read how Michelle struggled to stay true to herself while supporting the man she loved, and at the same time not becoming an extension of his shadow. I loved her take charge attitude and made sure that her voice was heard.

She learned to see the positive in things, even if she didn’t agree with them, like politics. I wasn’t expecting her to actually be so honest about how she didn’t want Barack to go into the Senate and then run for the presidency. Yet, through all of it, she stayed true to her own vision and tried to make the most amount of difference in the roles that she had.

I could probably go on and on about this book, but I will let you read it for yourself, if you haven’t already. What I realized while reading is this is only one of the First Ladies out of 45. I suddenly wondered what the other First Lady’s lives were like. I bet some of their stories are actually more interesting than their husbands. And so a new reading list was born.


Have you read “Becoming”? What did you think? What other memoirs would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

 

My top 5 anticipated reads

It may only be January but I already have a quickly growing list of books I can’t wait to get to this year. The real test will be if I actually get to all of them.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on my top 5 anticipated reads for the year, mainly because I had originally planned to write this for the Top 5 Tuesday post yesterday. Unfortunately, I missed it, so here we are. Without further ado:

the starless sea

Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern

I so can’t wait to pop this book open. I absolutely loved Morgenstern’s writing in the “Night Circus.” From what I have heard both from the reviews I read on here and from people who I recommended “Night Circus” to, “Starless Sea” is just as good, if not better. Since I received it for Christmas (my fiancé is awesome!) I don’t have to wait.

Becoming

Becoming” by Michelle Obama

So this was my anticipated read for 2019 but I never got around to it because it was constantly checked out at the library. Though I wanted to read it really bad, I really didn’t want to spend $30 on one book, especially since I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it. But once again, thanks to my fiancé, I got “Becoming” for Christmas. The fact that its nonfiction is an added bonus since I am always trying to expand my nonfiction reads.

circe

Circe” by Madeline Miller

At first I was kind of meh about reading this book. I had heard the hype but I really didn’t care whether I read it or not. Then the Capital District Book Club picked it for April’s book and now I can’t wait to get to it. Funny how that works huh? I have heard nothing but good things about this book so I am sure I am going to love it.

wide sargasso sea

Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys

As you may know, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all time favorite books. So when I found out that we were reading “Wide Sargasso Sea” in my Modern Library Book Club, I was so excited. It tells the story of Rochester’s mad wife. I can still remember reaching that point in the book. I was completely shocked and even though she wasn’t a main character I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was. “Wide Sargasso Sea” is on the list for March’s read and it’s taking everything I have not to skip February’s book to read this. It is rather short so I can probably get to it.

March

March” by Geraldine Brooks

Speaking of retellings. Since watching the new “Little Women”, I have a new obsession with everything Little Women. Thus “March” by Geraldine Brooks went right to the top of my list. It’s a story about Mr. March and his time in the war. For those who have read “Little Women” know that Mr. March is not a prominent figure in the story, at least not in the forefront. We know that he is at the war, he gets injured and he eventually does come home, but these mentions merely take a few paragraphs. He is more of a shadow that has an indirect influence on the girls lives. It will be interesting to read about him in more detail.

 

 

 

Top 5 books I’ve read so far this year

Hey all,

We are a little more than halfway through 2019. Can you believe it?As I was thinking about what to write for today’s post, I realized that I was halfway to completing to my Goodreads challenge of 75 books. So I thought I would look back at what I read so far this year and share my five favorites.

I have read some really good books this year, but there are a few that really stand out and I can’t stop talking about them. These are the books that made the list.

I had to read this for book club and I really enjoyed it. There are so many themes that Lee touches on in this family saga from ethnicity and identity to family and loyalty. You can read my full review here.

Another family saga I absolutely loved. Gyasi unfolds a story about two half-sisters and their parallel stories, one that is based in Africa and one that is in America. The book is setup more as a series of vignettes as each generation of each family is impacted by pivotal moments from British Colonialism in Africa to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement in America. You can read my review, but just know, I read this in February and I still think about it.

Apparently this is the year for family sagas. I was actually surprised by how much I liked The Invention of Wings. It totally snuck up on me and closed the book with tears streaming down my face because my heart was overflowing. This story weaves two storylines about a white women and her African American slave to create a powerful story that blends slave rights with women’s rights. You can read more in my review.

Everyone knows Margaret Atwood because of “The Handmaid’s Tale” but I highly encourage people to read this one as well. This book is a slow read but it ends up delivering a powerful punch in the end that you were not expecting. You can read more in my review, but I am now on a serious mission to read Atwood’s other books.

I just finished reading this book a little while ago but I can’t stop talking about it. In fact, I was at the pool the other day and it came up in conversation because another person had read it. Westover’s story is definitely inspirational and reaffirms how important an education is. See my review here.

Looking at this list, I am surprised that only one of these books were from book clubs. Usually, it is because of book club that I find great reads. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

Until then…keep reading.

Your

Book Admirer

Can we start talking about HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’?

This HBO miniseries started right when Game of Thrones was ending so some may have missed it, but this show deserves as much attention as GoT, simply because it describes one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

Before watching this show I had only heard of Chernobyl vaguely. I knew that it was some kind of disaster but I didn’t know the details or the scope of the disaster. The name Chernobyl sounded foreign to me so in some ways I must have thought it was fictional.  Then the previews for the show started and I knew that I had to watch it. I am very interested in environmental and man-made disasters so this was right up my alley.

For those who may not know, the Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986 following a failed safety test which caused a meltdown. The fire, which spewed radiation into the air, went on for days before it was extinguished. Inevitably people were affected by the exposed radiation, but there are only estimates on how many were actually affected. According to the subsequent reading that I did while watching this, people are still showing health affects as a result of the disaster and the area is still within a containment zone that is unlivable.

The first episode of the show is all about the initial explosion, followed by a timeline of events immediately following. I will not lie, watching this made my anxiety go off the charts. There was one point when my fiancé asked if he should change the channel. Like books, when I watch a movie or show I get drawn into the story. I forget that it’s fake and will laugh or cry when it warrants. However, this show is a play-by-play of what actually happened! Watching how the firefighters and emergency personnel were immediately reacting to the radiation was making me upset. And how the higher ups at the plant refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the explosion threw me into fits of rage. Don’t even get me started on how ill prepared the country was for a potential nuclear meltdown.

The rest of the series is all about the challenges in quelling the fire, the impact on the people, agriculture, economy and everything within the containment zone around Chernobyl. Some of the scenes are difficult to get through but it is the lies, deceit and pure ignorance that will absolutely make you scream at the TV.

The directors have done an amazing job in depicting the timeline of events of the catastrophe. I went into this barely knowing anything and now I am so interested in what happened, I am researching if so I can learn more. I am just shocked that I didn’t know more about it. Chernobyl is another disaster that could have been avoided and a disaster that should never be forgotten. But I will let you watch the show to understand why. 😉


Have you watched Chernobyl? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

It’s time to say goodbye to some books

That’s right. I have to do it. I don’t want to do it but I have to, for my sanity. My book shelves just can’t hold anymore books and the piles growing in front were making my OCD go crazy. I am a bit of a neat freak. I like my books organized and to see piles of books was making my anxiety go off. So even though I had just re-organized my shelves a few months ago, I decided to do it again.

This time, I had a strategy. I took every single book off the shelves and began to group books by authors and then creating separate piles for classics, contemporary, YA/children books, etc. I had also decided it was time to keep an index of the books I had because I was starting to consistently buy books I already have, while passing up books I thought I owned but didn’t.

Deciding which books I would part with was definitely not easy. There were a few I changed my mind on and put back on the shelf. There is just so much attachment to the books, especially the memories of reading it for the first time. What if I want to reread it? What if? What if? What if? But I knew I had to do something.

So in the end, I reversed strategy and began asking myself if I liked the book. If I didn’t, then it was in the pile. If I did, I would ask how much I liked it and if I would reread it. Eventually I got a considerable pile that totaled 30 books.

img_1961.jpg

In no particular order:

Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I acquired Outlander from my future mother-in-law because I had finished the book I had brought with me when we went to visit. I finished the book when I got back home but I wasn’t a huge fan. She sent me the second book anyway. I have had it on my shelf for over 2 years now and haven’t even attempted to read the first book or touched the second book. These books are large and taking up valuable real estate. They have to go.

Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Madame Bovary  by Gustave Flaubert
Son of the Witch by Gregory Maquire 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

All of these are duplicate copies. This is why I am now creating an index. Also that particular copy of the Jungle has writing on the pages which absolutely infuriates me. I didn’t realize it until I got it home. Luckily it was only a $1.

Miss Peregrines School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

Both of these are the first books to a series. I read the whole series of Beautiful Creatures years ago and I don’t think I will be rereading it. I didn’t realize Miss Peregrine’s was a series until I read the book. While it was good, I just don’t think I am going to be reading the rest of them anytime soon.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

This was a book club book that I wasn’t a fan of. In fact, it was the book I first reviewed on this blog. For June, we are reading Hoover’s Verity, another book I have to buy. I am hoping I have more luck with that one.

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

These were all books I bought for book clubs that I wasn’t crazy about. Some of them were better than others but I don’t foresee rereading them anytime soon.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Witches by Roald Dahl

Children’s books I bought simply to read them because I had heard so much about them. Also I had never read a Roald Dahl book before except for Matilda, so I need to rectify that. Now that I have, I don’t think I need to keep them on my shelves.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

This was a hard one to put in the pile. The books are beautiful but I haven’t read them in such a long time and I have no desire to reread them again. I think I am just over it. Besides, if I want to revisit the story, I can just go to the library.

Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes

I received these during a gift book swap. Now that I have read them, I can get rid of them. I will probably just borrow the third book from the library so there is no point in having an incomplete series on my shelves.

Who’s Looking Out For You? by Bill O’Reilly
Kids Are Americans Too by Bill O’Reilly
Pinheads and Patriots by Bill O’Reilly
Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel

I bought these back in the day when I was an impressionable youth. While there are some good points made in all of these books, I just don’t agree with them anymore. Besides, I have to make room for the more recent current affairs books that are out there.

Go Set A Watchmen by Harper Lee

If I haven’t said it enough, I will say it again. There was a reason why Harper Lee never planned to publish this book. I actually DNF’d this book and haven’t picked it up since. To Kill a Mockingbird will always be my book.

Meandering with the Muse
Lemuel Smith and the Compulsion to Kill by Denis Foley

Don’t ask me how I have these two on my shelves. I must have gotten them from someone and then just buried them. I have no desire to read these. Off they go.

Right now, these books are sitting in a box waiting to go to the library or the book barn, a place that takes used books. I just hope I don’t have a change of heart before then and start putting them back.


What books have you unhauled recently? Have you read any on this list? What did you think? Should I give any a second chance?