Vonnegut's Childhood Home and Putt Putt

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The other day I got to see Kurt Vonnegut's childhood home in Indianapolis. His parents were wealthy when he was young and the home is in a gorgeous neighborhood. The family put their handprints in cement near the backdoor and the littlest one is Kurt's!
His parents' initials are on the front door (pictured above). I'm such a sucker for seeing author's home. It's fun to get a tiny glimpse into their lives. This one just happens to be in my own hometown! 

 Last year my local art museum (the Indianapolis Museum of Art) created a mini golf course with themed holes. Each one had some significant meaning to the state of Indiana. There was a Vonnegut hole, which, of course, was my favorite!

Photos by me and a friend.

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

*********  UPDATED HOUR 13 ********

I had great plans for the read-a-thon today. Snacks set out, my reading stack was chosen, then I got the plague. So I will be fighting a nasty flu and chasing after a toddler today. If I get a little reading done it will be a miracle, but I'm going to try! 

Pages Read: 662 pages 
Currently Reading: A Gentleman in Moscow
Books Finished: 3 (Amadeus
, A Man Without a Country, Bone: Out from Boneville)
Breaks Taken: Lots for Sydney. I also gave myself a break after she was asleep and watched an episode of The Handmaid's Tale. 
Mini-Challenges Completed: 7 (Opening Survey, Give the Gift of Reading, Books to Empower, Picture ChallengeOne Night Reads, Mid-Event Survey, Fur, Scales, and Stuffing)

Sydney (below) is doing her best to distract me from reading.

Introduction Quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Indianapolis, IN
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? 
I think I'll ignore the stack I picked and maybe do some comfort rereads instead. I'm thinking my favorite Sherlock Holmes and Kurt Vonnegut. 

 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  Taking sips of gatorade and hoping I don't throw up.  
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! 
I've got an 80lb dog and a 15 month old keeping me company (distracting me from reading). I also love to travel and I just booked tickets for our next international trip! 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
I've participated in 11 other read-a-thons, but this is the first time I've attempted one with the flu. I wouldn't recomm
end it. 

Mid-Event Survey! 
1. What are you reading right now? A Gentleman in Moscow
2. How many books have you read so far? I'm shocked, but I've finished 3! 
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I don't know how far I'll make it. 
4. Have you had many interruptions? Yes! Taking care of a toddler, having some trees delivered, generally not feeling so hot because of the flu. How did you deal with those? Just powered through and reading when I could. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I've been able to get some reading done!

April and October 2011  /  April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 April 2014 / April and October 2015 /April and October 2016. 

Photos by me.

The Classics Club Challenge Complete!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Exactly five year years ago I decided to take part in The Classics Club. At the time it was a small group that wanted to make an effort to read more classics. That was right up my alley and so I made a list of 100 books I wanted to read over the course of the next five years.

Today is my deadline and just last week I posted my final review. It has been such fun completing this challenge. Somewhere along the way the club grew to a huge community. I became one of the co-moderators that helped manage and run the website.

I have absolutely loved seeing all the new members and new reviews that are constantly pouring in. We’ve had Classic Club spins, where a random number choses your next book for you. We’ve had meme questions that spark wonderful conversation.  All-in-all it has been a delight. I plan to continue to stay involved with the website, and obviously I’ll still be reading classics. I’m proud that I managed to complete my list by my deadline.

Any other Classics Club members out there getting close to finishing your lists?

Here's my complete list with links to all my reviews. At the bottom of the page there's also a list of classics I read and reviewed before beginning the challenge. 

Adam Bede

Monday, March 6, 2017

Adam Bede 
By George Eliot 

Our title character is a good man and a simple one. He sees the world in black and white. Work hard, take care of your family, and you will lead a good life. He falls in love with an impetuous young woman named Hetty. Unfortunately, Hetty has fallen for the wealthy Captain Arthur Donnithorne, a man above her station, but one who is still susceptible to the young woman’s charms. 

I loved the character of Dinah. She could be perceived as a killjoy or prude, but she never cane across to me like that. She is Hetty’s cousin and is a Methodist preacher who travels the countryside serving in local communities. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it was unusual for a woman to travel about on her own, much less to serve as a leader in the church. She has a fierce strength and independence and doesn’t give into the pleas from her family to give up her calling. 

When she is asked about being a woman preacher, this is what she says… 
“When God makes His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed what sort of bush it was—he only saw the brightness of the Lord.” 

Dinah: When she does finally fall for Adam, she still doesn’t agree to marry until he declares that he will never stand in the way of her duties as a preacher and he fully supports her. I was a bit heartbroken from Adam’s brother Seth, since he’s the one who originally pursued Dinah. 

Hetty’s story is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine feeling so hopeless and abandoned. In the midst of her panic about her pregnancy she didn’t trust anyone with her secret and so she was unwilling to look for other options. Even though her life was spared, her future was still going to be full of grief and guilt no matter what. 

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. It reminded me so much of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Return of the Native (both of which were published decades after this one). It’s an intense look at the desperation of one woman and the man who loved her. I appreciated the rich depth of characters like Dinah and Adam. I also liked that Arthur wasn't a one-note cad. He easily could have been, but instead we see the situation from his point of view as well. 

“What destroys us most effectively is not a malign fate but our own capacity for self-deception and for degrading our own best self.” 

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” 

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

On the Beach

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On the Beach 
By Nevil Shute 

In Australia, residents await a wave of radiation that’s slowly been making its way south after the rest of the world participated in a nuclear World War III. Although the basis for the story is bleak, the humanity of the details makes this an incredibly personal read. It’s not about the bombs and the battles; it’s about the quiet personal moments between spouses and friends as they decide what to do with their remaining months of life.  

There’s poignancy in the futility of the little things, planting a garden, sewing a button and a jacket. Though there is technically no point in talking about the future, people can’t seem to help themselves. They worry about their children’s teething issues even though there’s a much worse fate in store for them. 

Most people continue to do the things that they love. I think what struck me the most about this book was the civility of people even though they knew what was coming. There was no murder and looting, instead the majority of the people continue their lives as normal, focusing a little more on family and leisure than they would have in everyday life. They knew it was coming, but that didn't change who they were as people. There were a few people who did things a bit more extreme, like racing at top speeds, because they had nothing to lose, but even those people did it in a structured way. The funny thing is, even though they know it’s the end of the world, they can’t help succumbing to normal things like falling in love. 

BOTTOM LINE: Beautiful and heartbreaking, this classic provides a look at society on the brink of extension. It took me a minute to embrace the style of storytelling, which felt a bit stilted, but after that I was sucked in. 

“If what they say is right we're none of us going to have time to do all that we planned to do. But we can keep on doing it as long as we can.”

The Handmaid's Tale

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a handmaid's whose story unfolds in Atwood's famous dystopian novel. She lives in a world run by men, where women are powerless. They've lost their right to make decision, to learn how to read and even to have a job. The rulers claim they have "freed" the women from the painful tasks of having to find a husband or take care of themselves. Any women who are fertile are turned into handmaids and assigned to a home where they are forced to bear children for a married couple.

When I began the book I assumed this was a dystopian set decades in the future, where the women had no memory of life as we know it. I quickly learned that Offred used to have a job, money of her own, a husband and child, etc. The decline into her current policed state was swift and terrifying. That realization made the book even more chilling because it's all too easy to imagine it happening today.

I loved Atwood's bleak prose. Offred's resignation and despair were palpable. The tense relationships between the characters were thrilling. Offred was forced to walk a tight rope of suspicion in every conversation, never knowing who she could trust.

In one scene Offred is using butter she hid and saved from a meal as lotion on her skin. It's been so long since she's been anything but the potential carrier of a child that the concept of being loved is almost obsolete to her now. She says...

"As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out, that we will be touched again, in love or desire."
It was the small acts of rebellion like this, breed from a spark of hope, that made Offred such a heartbreaking character. After Offred loses her ability to support herself she struggles in her relationship with her husband. That shift of dependence in their relationship changed everything...

"We are not each other's, anymore. Instead, I am his."

BOTTOM LINE: I can't recommend this book highly enough. Though it's more than 30 years old, it's more relevant than ever. Atwood's writing reveals the story bit by bit, allowing the horror of the changed society to creep up slowly.I read it for the first time in 2010 and rereading it this year gave the story even more depth.

The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 2

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This post assumes that you have read the book. 

Whoa. So first off, David Mitchell tweeted to a few of us during the readalong, which kind of made my month. 

Now to dive into the second half of the book… 

Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet: 2015 – Crispin Hershey 
Crispin is such a self-centered jerk at the beginning of his section. I felt like his character became a bit more grounded over the few years we had with him. I thought it was interesting to see how Holly’s “gift” developed as she got older. It was such a blessing and a curse for her. I was absolutely horrified by how Crispin’s “prank” ended up ruining a man’s life. It was certainly a lesson in choosing forgiveness over revenge. 

Honestly, I was hoping to learn a bit more about Soleil Moore, the woman who shot him. I felt like she came out of nowhere and I wanted to know more about how she’d discovered so much. I thought she’d pop up in one of the final two sections, but she never did. 

An Horologist’s Labyrinth: 2025 – Marinus 

This section felt so different from the others. I liked it because it explained so much of the backstory that was only hinted at before. At the same time, I missed the human connection I felt in some of the other sections. This one felt a bit like watching a movie unfold, if that makes any sense. 

After Marinus explains the history of the Anchorites and Horologists, I felt more invested in the fight between the two warring factions. While reading this section I went back and reread the battle scene from the first section. It made so much more sense. Here’s a brief description I found of the two sides: 
“The good guys are a group of people who get reincarnated 49 days after they die, with full knowledge of their past lives. The bad guys achieve a kind of pseudo-immortality – they stop ageing, but can still be killed by violence or accident – by murdering psychic children, ‘decanting’ their souls into an evil wine." 

That just about covers it. Although in the book it felt much more human to me because by the time we learn all of this we are already invested in Marinus’ story. For me, Marinus was a great character. She gives us a deeper view into the supernatural elements, but she also conveys her loneliness before finding the other horologists and her grief after she loses so many of her friends in 1984. When she searches for Esther in Holly’s memories, I liked the glimpses we gained into Holly’s life. 

This section was full of action, betrayal, backstabbing, and a massive battle. So much happens! 

Sheep’s Head: 2043 
So, I thought it was a strange choice to have everything come to a head in the last section, then we jump forward in time and land on the sedate Sheep’s Head island. It’s interesting to see the turn the world has taken, but for me it felt anticlimactic. I also felt like I was being preached at about climate change, which took me out of the story while I was reading it. 

I did like seeing Holly as an older woman. That was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, seeing Holly’s life at different points. Mitchell created such a rich character in Holly Sykes. I loved watching her mature and grieve and struggle and fall in love. 

BOTTOM LINE: This book is one that will be with me for a long time. It felt like such an experience. Sometimes I read things and a week or two later I realize very little of the book stuck with me. That won’t be the case with The Bone Clocks. Part of that is because of its length, but it’s also because it’s a complex novel. I had to work hard to make sure I was paying attention and catching references in each section. It doesn’t sound fun when you describe it that way, but it really was. I loved the layers of the story. I was constantly thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.

This is definitely not a book I would recommend to everyone. There were parts and characters that I struggled to connect with, but on the whole, I really loved it. Mitchell doesn’t create light, disposable novels. His books should be savored. He builds worlds that leave you reeling and I was left wanting to read even more of his work.