reading recap: march 2017

I had another prolific month of reading! It’s really nice to be back in a groove after so many blah months. I’m trying to catch up on books I’ve had forever and not buy new ones, and I’m doing okay with that, better than in the past. My audiobook reading has skyrocketed, though. Without a regular 8-to-5 I have tons of time to listen at home and on bus/subway rides. These ten books makes my 2017 total 27 already—more than halfway to my Goodreads goal of 50 for the year, so I may raise that soon enough!

  • Americanah … Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Stranger in the Woods (audio) … Michael Finkel, read by Mark Bramhall
  • When Breath Becomes Air … Paul Kalanithi
  • The Last One (win) … Alexandra Oliva
  • Psycho (audio) … Robert Bloch, read by Paul Michael Garcia
  • Brown Girl Dreaming (audio) … Jacqueline Woodson, read by author
  • Get in Trouble: Stories … Kelly Link
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (audio) … Ken Kesey, read by Tom Parker
  • Hidden Figures (ebook) … Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Mom & Me & Mom (audio) … Maya Angelou, read by author

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestWhen Breath Becomes Air, and The Stranger in the Woods were my favorites read in March. I loved Americanah, but I finished right before Adichie’s controversial interview comments came out, so I’m still sort of reconciling my feelings about it in retrospect. There were some really great stories in Get in Trouble, too, and Psycho was fabulous. I really wanted Hidden Figures to live up to all the grand hype, but for me it fell flat. The parts about the women themselves and their lives were excellent, but you have to wade through lots of textbook-like technical chapters that bored me. I still want to see the movie, though.

Okay. I think if I’m going to be getting through this volume of books (or close to it) each month, I’m going to have to get back into individual posts. It’ll be good for me, another project to keep me occupied!

monthly recap image

the lottery

Last Saturday I had a little free time as I waited to pick up my husband from a recording session he was working. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson has been on my radar for a little while, first after I read The Haunting of Hill House (my review) and again more recently after reading Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman (my review), which includes “The Lottery Redux,” a chapter inspired by Jackson’s classic short. I figured this would be a good choice while I waited. From Goodreads:

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What’s there to be scared of?

Wow! How can a mere 12 pages pack such a haunting, terrifying punch? I can’t believe I haven’t read this sooner. Jackson sets up a bucolic day on which a small town of 300 are assembling together. Once everyone arrives, they commence with the lottery, done every year on the same date in the same way. Jackson then drops a bomb on the reader by shifting from benign to horrifying in a matter of a couple sentences. I’d love to go into more detail, and the ending has made me think a lot about society, authority, order, and so on, but just in case I’m not the very last person to read it I’ll stop here! A brilliant teeny tiny short story, readable in 20 minutes.

Read on June 20, 2015.

the haunting of hill house + wuthering heights

Two mini-reviews of recently read books today:

First up is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I listened to this one on audio during my commutes the last couple of weeks, something to get me in the Halloween spirit. While I did make it all the way through, I have to admit I often found myself with my mind wandering and not really grasping what was happening in the story. Like, they were all just going crazy being the house, I guess? I honestly couldn’t give you a synopsis or plot points, even after listening to the whole thing. The bits that did stick for me I could tell have made this book a precursor to a lot of horror literature that has come since. The characters were all pretty snotty to each other and defensive. I don’t know if this one was really for me in the long run. Which brings me to…

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Sigh. I really, really wanted to like this one and read it entirely, but unfortunately after a week of struggling to get through just 50 pages, I think it’s clear gothic classics just aren’t for me. I couldn’t really tell you what happened in those 50 pages, besides some persnickety dude had a nightmare. Otherwise…? Blank. It was just so verbose, my mind glazed while my eyes just went over the words, not absorbing anything. Worst granddaughter ever… although I am sure my gramma would have forgiven me and understood! I will still cherish this copy though, because it was hers.


Wuthering Heights
 was slated to be my pick for the “gothic” category in my Eclectic Reader Challenge this year, but let’s be real—it’s highly unlikely I’m going to finish the challenge at this point (and that’s okay!).

Listened to The Haunting of Hill House audiobook from October 7 to 18, 2014.
Read Wuthering Heights from October 12 to 18, 2014.

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Over the weekend I finished Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood! A greatly improved Atwood experience after not enjoying The Blind Assassin very much earlier this year. And I’m not usually one for fantasy elements or short stories! review post coming soon this week. I also started a new audiobook for my rehearsal commutes: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (gotta read something creepy this month for Halloween!)

Today, October 13, marks a year since my maternal grandmother died. Several years ago, she gave me her copy of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, saying it was her favorite book ever… and I never got around to it. I felt horribly guilty for a long time that I never read it or talked with her about it. This last week I’ve been thinking about her a lot, so I figured it was finally time to read her favorite book.

Also, I noticed the books I’ve read so far this month and planned to read just happen to be all by women authors. Pretty cool happenstance!

What are you reading this week?

top ten tuesday: classics to read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

July 1: Top ten Classics I want to read

This is a GREAT challenge list for me (no, really!). If you read this blog you’ll know I’m not a big fan of the Classics, not necessarily because I don’t want to read them but because I just can’t seem to buckle down and actually do it, not when there are all sorts of shiny new books coming at me every year! But really I feel like I have no valid excuse or reason not to read Classics, especially these that I’ve been curious about for years. In no particular order:

classics_2

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

classics_1

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Honorable MentionsThe Feminine Mystique (Friedan), Slaughterhouse-Five (Vonnegut), The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), The Metamorphosis (Kafka), As I Lay Dying (Faulkner),
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Joyce), Walden (Thoreau), Invisible Man (Ellison).

What are your favorite Classics? What Classics do you want to read?

lolita

Over Memorial Day weekend I visited my folks in Wisconsin, so I had to pick out a few audiobooks for the road. When I saw this was available I thought this might be a good chance to crack a classic. From Goodreads:

When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause célèbre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov’s wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century’s novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author’s use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness.

Awe and exhilaration—along with heartbreak and mordant wit—abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love—love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation. With an introduction by Martin Amis.

If you’ve read my blog and comments here you will have figured out that I’m pretty gun-shy when it comes to classics, but I was definitely interested in giving Lolita a try on audio especially because of its narrator:

SCAR, you guys. Or as my husband said, “Kristin, jeez. It’s Jeremy Irons, not Scar from The Lion King. Silly.” (Although I’m kind of convinced it was actually Scar because he talked about killing his brother at one point in the novel…)

But for real, Jeremy Irons has perfect voice for the role of Humbert Humbert (and of course, he played this role in the 1997 film version—I haven’t seen it yet). Suffice it to say, dude’s messed up. He’s insufferably vile and repulsive, and a deeply disturbed individual. But between Nabokov’s writing and Irons’s delivery, I found Humbert’s view of himself fascinating. Humbert makes appeals for the readers’ sympathy throughout (saying it was actually Dolores who seduced him, but then later copping to his guilt and role in destroying Dolores’s childhood, and so on), And as “mature” as Dolores appears (according to Humbert, whom obviously we cannot take at his word), she actually is a victim—make no mistake. However, Humbert’s description twists her into an independent character with her own manipulative agenda… it’s hard to describe! His “love” for her is abhorrent, obsessive, and sick. He is the adult, she is the child, and she doesn’t know any better, maybe? But apparently she does? Wow. You are left wondering how Dolores might have felt and what she might have thought about the whole affair. All other characters are so secondary and one-dimensional, it feels like in the world of this book there are only the two of them, Humbert and Dolores (and surely that’s how Humbert wanted it).

I’m so glad I listened on audio instead of reading on paper. This would have possibly been a DNF for me on paper. I just have so much trouble getting into classics. The audio really helped propel the story for me and kept me hooked, despite the disgusting and difficult the subject matter. Nabokov’s prose in Lolita is so playful and rich, full of sophisticated word play and double entendres. I would have never guessed such a reprehensible topic could be steered by such gorgeous language. It’s clear to see why this novel endures as a classic.

Listened to audiobook from May 23 to 26, 2014.