Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Sparrow Readalong

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is a book I would never have come across if it weren't for blogging. It's science fiction, not exactly my usual read, definitely not a part of the book store I ever browsed. But bloggers love The Sparrow and when Andi of Estella's Revenge raved about it a few months ago, I knew I was going to read this one. So I bought it and I've been waiting for it to be the right book at the right time. That time came when Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity announced that she was going to be reading The Sparrow in September and asked for people to read it along with her. I'm in! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day

I'll be celebrating my day off by doing no labor whatsoever, just a lot of reading. Thanks to all of those who worked so hard to build this country up.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Life: It Goes On - August 31

Even I have to, reluctantly, agree that summer has now come to an end. What a strange August we have had - in many ways it's been much more like April. We've had 10" of rain this month, the second month this summer that's happened! Glad I didn't pay for a pool membership this year. I haven't altogether missed the heat and dryness but it does make a person much more appreciative of fall.

I've had a weird week - walking down the stairs at work when my knee popped and I felt something tear. With help from The Big Guy I got myself to the doctor and discovered that I had torn my meniscus. Now I know why football players writhe around on the ground when they tear something in their knees - holy buckets did that hurt! My knee has been sore since and weak so I've been hobbling along all weak with the aid of a cane. I can do most things fine but it has made me rely more on others. I'm going to use it as an excuse to spend the next couple of days lazying around, reading.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Death Of A Cad and I've listened to about half of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. While I'm enjoying it, I find it easy for my mind to wander when I'm listening while driving and this is an easy one for that to happen with.

Watching: College football! Speaking of watching, I'm so sad to find that A&E has cancelled "Longmire." Everyone in my house loves that show so we're hoping another network will want to pick up a show that has as many viewers as "Longmire" does even though it had a rerun as a lead in.

Reading: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott - really interesting look a female spies on both sides of the Civil War.

Making: White bean dip, BLT dip, stuffed hot banana peppers, sliders, saltine toffee, and homemade salsa for a football party.

Planning: On having surgery Tuesday to fix my knee. Not looking forward to the surgery but I'm definitely looking forward to having a knee that works again - it's been sore for a couple of weeks before it finally tore.

Grateful for: My hubby who has taken such great care of me this week!

Enjoying: Celebrating a season opening Husker victory with Mama Shepp's kids! One day I'll turn my basement into a adult space - but for now I love that it's a place where they can feel comfortable.

Feeling: Anxious. I'm so over having surgeries!

Looking forward to: Being able to get out and walk again!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar - Part 2

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Review Part 2

Publisher's Summary:
An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she agrees to treat a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store, Lakshmi is desperately lonely.

Moved by Lakshmi’s plight, Maggie offers to see her as an outpatient for free. In the course of their first sessions in Maggie’s home office, she quickly realizes that what Lakshmi really needs is not a shrink but a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient become close. Even though they seemingly have nothing in common, both women are haunted by loss and truths that they are afraid to reveal.

However, crossing professional boundaries has its price. As Maggie and Lakshmi’s relationship deepens, long-buried secrets come to light that shake their faith in each other and force them to confront painful choices in their own lives.

My Thoughts:
Okay, so I talked before about the speech thing and how it made the book harder to read and I wasn't sure it was necessary? Yeah, that's about the only thing I didn't like about this book.

Umrigar just never disappoints me, always taking me out of my little white suburban bubble to look at the world in a bigger way. Umrigar takes on a lot in The Story Hour but never loses control, exploring Indian culture, the immigrant experience, prejudice, guilt, identity, love, friendship, and marriage. Perhaps one of my favorite things about Umrigar is that she never give readers a tidy ending and The Story Hour is no exception.

The publisher's summary says that Maggie and Lakshmi are two women with nothing in common but that's not entirely true. Both women are married to Indian men, the bond that initially allows Lakshmi to open up to Maggie; both women lost their mothers at a young age, changing the trajectory of their lives; and both women are hiding a toxic secret. They also both come with prejudices that might have been a barrier to a friendship - Lakshmi harbors some of her husband's racism (Maggie is African-American) and Maggie initially considers Lakshmi to be beneath her friendship, something she is ashamed to discover at a dinner party.

Through Lakshmi's weekly visits, her story hours, the two become friends. Lakshmi brings a warmth into Maggie's life and a deeper appreciation for her husband and helps her find the strength to turn away from a harmful situation. Maggie's friendship give Laksmi the strength to stand up for herself and to grow into the person she might have been had she not gotten married. But sometimes it's hard not to judge. When Lakshmi's secret is revealed, Maggie's unable to provide the forgiveness and sympathy that Lakshmi needs from her friend, setting in motion events that end a friendship and a marriage. But can a story save both? Umrigar leaves her readers to decide that for themselves.

For other opinions about The Story Hour, check out the full TLC Book Tour. Presumably these folks have managed to get the book read on time!

Thrity Umrigar is the author of five other novels—The World We Found, The Weight of Heaven, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. An award-winning journalist, she has been a contributor to the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Huffington Post, among other publications. She is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, the 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize, and the Seth Rosenberg Prize. A professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Published January 2010 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: I bought my audiobook at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

My Thoughts:
To put it bluntly...that's it??? I listened to over 500 pages of book waiting, waiting for something to happen. After all, Kostova had taken readers all over Europe, chasing Dracula in an action-packed tale in The Historian. I went into The Swan Thieves expecting something along that same vein, perhaps something otherworldly, certainly some action. I even thought, at one point, that I had figured out "the twist." Because surely there was a twist, right. Nope. Nothing, Nada. Well, sort of, but no "big" twist, rather something quiet, a mystery solved. You've been warned - do not expect The Historian. If you don't, you're far more likely to enjoy this book. Reviews on the Barnes and Noble web site are highly favorable.

Even so, The Swan Thieves is much. Too. Long. Kostova does love her descriptions and her details. In her defense, she's really great at writing them. But when you're already tying together two tales of obsession with all that's entailed in working through those, it's not necessarily important that readers know exactly how each character is dressed.

I liked the story,  even though it doesn't sound like it. I just wish it hadn't gotten lost in so much detail and so many unnecessary side trips.