Sad news–Hiatus

So, for the first time in four years, Dave and I need to take a short hiatus from the blog.

We plan to return in just a few short weeks with blog posts about top ten books, literary travel locations, probably a Stephen King book, and other creative literary topics.

So, keep checking for us on here or facebook and we will return!!

Thank you to all of you that have kept following us and we look forward to seeing you soon ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Kim (And Dave in absentia, as he is currently enjoying the British Empire)

Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes

So. Finally, I have completed reading Don Quixote. I don’t remember any other novel since Les Miserables giving me this much issue to complete.

I can’t tell you who listed it because my Top Ten book remains stubbornly missing. So much so that I am about to order a new copy which is sad since my old one has all my notes and crossing outs and all of that in it.

I wasn’t very fond of Don Quixote. There were parts and themes that I was more fond of than others. Like the concept that someone could go a bit mad from all the books they read. I’m going to talk on that first.

So, Don Quixote is an old gentleman who is in love with books of knights and chivalry. He reads them with an obsession that not even my love for Stephen King rivals. He then becomes convinced he, too, is a knight. And that a peasant girl named Dulcinea is a princess whom he has sworn to.ย  He leaves his home on an old nag that in his head is a fine knightly steed and picks up a peasant farmer as a squire (Sancho). Then he proceeds to go and interact with the world as if it is still a chivalric code of honor world. Which it isn’t.

The idea though that books caused this fascinates me some. Because, being the huge reader I am, I know the fog that you can sometimes emerge from a book with, in which the real world seems a bit hazy, and not quite all there. It’s almost how I judge a book from bad to amazing. How much of that fog did I leave it with. Also throughout history how many acts of madness have been perpetuated based upon readings of a book (even if we remove any and all madness associated with the Bible or the Quoran)?ย  Even at the beginning many see the books as having caused this (in modern psychology speak) disassociative identity disorder that Quixote suffers from. The housekeeper, friend, family member and priest all get together and burn most of them in an effort to keep Quixote’s madness at bay. There are times where he seems to know even when it isn’t a time that he declares himself sane and cognizant to actually also still realize that the world isn’t as he is seeing it.

I think the other hard part of reading this was the feelings Quixote himself inspired in me. There was pity, exasperation, annoyance and a bit of respect mingled in. When people are laughing at him or when they come up with insane charades for him to “act” out his role in just so they can sit and laugh at him, then you feel such an intense pity for the man and for his squire. But, then there are when he severely hurts someone because he is in the pitch of this fantasy world of being a knight in which you want to smack him. So,ย I think that part of my trouble reading Quixote was these very conflicted feelings for him that I had. (A contemporary novel that gave this to me on a lesser degree was Girl on The Train, in which the narrator isn’t a very likeable woman at all).

There was and is value in having read Quixote but unless you are the type that likes very long novels and is on the quest to read as many “classics” out there as you can, this isn’t very high on my recommend list.

Rain Check by Levi Andrew Noe

From time to time, Dave will pass me a book from an author he knows. This time, it was Rain Check, Stories by Levi Andrew Noe.

This book of short stories was different than others that I have read. The main thing, they are all flash fiction. For those of you wondering, “flash fiction? what’s that??” Go here for all the geeky info about it. Basically though, it’s fiction in a very shortened form. Anywhere from a short paragraph to 1000 words usually fits the general definition of flash fiction.

Rain Check is divided into three sections. The first, On Time and Place, the second On Relations and the third On Mind, Body, Heart and Soul.

On Time and Place contains some of the very best travel writing I have ever read. Noe takes you right to the heart of where the story occurs. Whether that’s watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat or hitchhiking on a random highway, Noe puts you in the person and in the setting. If these stories had been around when everyone was praising Eat, Pray, Love to the sky and beyond, I would have shoved them in their face and said “Read these. Then tell me how much you loved Eat, Pray, Love”. In a few short strokes of a story, he takes you somewhere that other authors don’t achieve in 200, 300 or 800 pages.

On Relations, the stories slant towards relationships (of course). One of my favorites in this section is “Writers Make Terrible Partners”. Because, even though I don’t write hardly at all, my brain still works like a writer’s. “The clouds stand poised above us like sumo wrestlers in leotards, bursting at the seams. I chuckle to myself and you ask why, but I can’t just say, “because leotard is a funny word.’ Of course you’d ask me to explain, and then I’d have to retrace the chaotic steps I took in my world of thoughts to come to such a statement. By that time the humor would have been lost, the simple joy of daydreaming would be gone. It just isn’t worth it”. This happens to me a lot with both friends and husband. But, all the stories intertwine in this section to create a collage of relationships of all sorts. Not just love.

The third section, On Mind, Body, Heart and Soul, the tone shifts again, but I have tried and tried to find the words to articulate -how- it changes. I can’t. But I can say that -this- section is my favorite one of all three. The story Rapture made me laugh out loud (which luckily I was by myself so I didn’t have to try to explain it to anyone). My favorite though in this section is The Mind. “I was having brunch with my demons when my Shadow showed up uninvited, turning our pity party into a mid-morning massacre. I would have stayed in my hole wallowing, but then the synaptic mailman came at noon to deliver a letter from Rationality that read: “There are a thousand sides to every story, so please step outside for a minute, or at least open a window.”. It then goes on to him meeting Mercy, Compassion, Pain, Delusion, Oblivion, etc. The personification of these, Noe paints swift and sure with a few words and you see them. “She sent me next door to Pain who was lying on the linoleum, needle in his arm. I had to slap him awake”.

I will admit, I have never been a huge fan of flash fiction. A lot of the ones I’ve read don’t seem to fulfill the job of a story to me. They don’t entertain, they don’t capture the essence of something. Noe’s stories fulfilled all of the normal needs I bring to longer short stories, novellas and novels. I highly recommend this book to anyone. But this would be a great one for those times where you don’t have a ton of time to read but don’t want to just read a chapter in an ongoing book, but would rather have a tale told and over. Pick up Rain Check. Just trust me ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

My brain isn’t working & Book Series

So. For those of you that check back here weekly, you may have noticed something last week. There was no blog. What happened is Dave and I texted back and forth about it. We discussed what I was going to write about. And my brain checked it off my to do list. I honestly thought I had written a blog. Until Dave messaged me on Monday asking about it. Or maybe Tuesday. So, my apologies.

Then my brain -almost- did it again for this week. But, I remembered now!

I am still making my way through Don Quixote. So, I decided to take a few minutes to talk about a few series of books I like. Just in case any of you are in love with series and knowing you like a certain set of characters enough to read multiple books with them. And since winter is fast approaching, you might want something long that you can read on all the cold nights coming our way.

First, my absolute favorite series is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This has been my favorite series for years and years. Long before Starz created a series of it. The premise of it is that in 1945, Claire Randall is on holiday in Scotland with her husband Frank, after years of being separated by the war. They are reconnecting. There is a small standing stone circle. It’s right near Beltaine. She falls through the stones and ends up in 1743. She’s forced to marry Jamie Fraser there for her protection. And so begins the conflict of loving two men in two very different times.ย The books go through the Scottish Uprising of 1745, to the 1960s, to the American Revolution. There are multiple books and Gabaldon researches her stories well. She writes humorous scenes interspersed with scenes of touching simplicity that will make you tear up, to dramatic battle scenes. Her characters become real to you and walk beside you. After book 3, there is a series that goes along the side with one of the characters, more like mysteries. She treats all subject matter with an openness and sensitivity that’s gorgeous. These are more than romance, more than historical fiction. They just…are.

Second, I will just put in a blurb about Game of Thrones here. Almost all of you will have had some exposure to it by now. But, I also recommend the books. But, maybe wait a few more months then you might be able to finish about the time Martin finishes the next one.

Third, another fantasy series, for those of you that are a bit more hardcore into fantasy, is the Gardens of the Moon series by Stephen Erikson. These are amazing books, but be prepared to have to read them back to back. There are so many intricate story lines between all books that I find them more complicated than Game of Thrones. But, if you love fantasy and still haven’t read these, pick them up.

Fourth, Kelley Armstrong has a series of books that start with Bitten, which is now a show that you can find on Netflix. I have read quite a few paranormal series and thoroughly enjoyed this one. It starts out with the only female werewolf in the whole world as the main character for the first two books, then starts to switch narrators. The center of the story is a young witch named Savannah, but Briggs doesn’t show that until the 2nd and into the 3rd book. Then the whole series has a nice beginning, middle, and end.

Fifth, my absolute favorite paranormal book series though is The Hollows series by Kim Harrison. The basis is, a witch, a living vampire and a pixy are running a detective agency. And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds with that. But there’s also real depth and soul to these books as well. Again, there is a nice arc to the books and while I wasn’t overly excited by the last book of the series, it was still a decent conclusion.

I’ll end here, just to give myself a few more for a couple of years down the road to recommend more. If you have any you’d like to add, or want to comment on any after you read, please feel free to drop us a line ๐Ÿ˜€

Tune in on Thursday! (It’s Dave’s turn, so you can rely on it being Thursday).

Have a great rest of your weekend!

 

 

 

 

Middlemarch by George Eliot

First! I am sorry this is late ๐Ÿ˜ฆ There are three reasons for this.

Most importantly: I made the mistake of trying to read two very long novels at once. Don Quixote AND Middlemarch.

Less importantly (well except to me, it took more energy than the former): I have been having stomach issues for a week now.

Even less importantly: The stomach issues and my natural tendencies have created some wicked insomnia.

But! onto what I thought of Middlemarch.

This was an example of a book I previously tried to read and could not get into. However, this time, unlike the Iliad, I WAS able to read it and get into it. So, that was awesome!

George Eliot is a pen name, during the 1800s it was less likely people would read a novel by a woman in England (probably elsewhere but I have noticed that a lot of women authors in the United States at this time were able to publish under their real names). When I was younger I always thought George Eliot was a man. Imagine my adulthood surprise to find otherwise.

I am not a fan of Jane Austen novels, which were written about the same time. I am also not overly fond of a lot of Dickens works (which I keep trying and failing to read most of them). I -am- fond of the Brontes. But, Middlemarch? I loved it. I loved the complexity of the novel. I loved that it was not merely focused on love, as Austen, but also about personal choices and the ripple effect they have, and politics and just life in general at that time. It has both a gossipy feel and a richly layered feel. In essence, there is something for almost everyone in it.

I read up a little and found out that even though at this time, most English novels were either published in installments like Dickens, or in 3 volume sets, Middlemarch was such a long novel (one of the longest in English history) that the publishers published it in 8 volumes, over the course of 18 months. They wanted people hooked. And they were. Middlemarch was immensely popular even in its time. And since, it has remained immensely popular.

For anyone that is looking for a long, satisfying novel to read this summer or during the winter when you merely want to be home under your blankets, please pick up Middlemarch. You can find it fairly cheap or free for Kindle or get the hardback copy. I was surprised how easy it was to read on Kindle.

Have a great week everyone! I will return on THURSDAY in a week and a half, hopefully with Don Quixote under my belt! ๐Ÿ˜€

Beloved by Toni Morrison

This is late. So very, very late. My apologies, I was trying to get through a different book and wasn’t able to finish in time. I switched to Beloved and read it as quickly as I could in order to talk to you guys about it.

I still have no clue where my Top Ten book walked off to this time.

I have not had a lot of sleep in two days so I feel a bit foggy right now, just an observational thing I felt you all needed to know.

I urge you to read Beloved if you have not already. I do not urge you to read Beloved if your stomach or mind are not equipped to deal with violence. Because in some things, Beloved is brutal. It is a story told over a decade after the Civil War. It is a story told about the present of former slaves as well as their past while still in slavery. Morrison drips description and metaphor alike from the page until you are as immersed in it as one of the characters is in an “emerald closet” (a bunch of shrubs that have formed a small hidden room) she uses as a play room and a dream escape as she grows older. So, when Morrison describes one of the characters telling about having an iron bit in his mouth, it’s not just “hm, ok, random detail to get over to get to the rest of the story”, you can taste the metal in your mouth and feel the skin at the corners of your mouth going tender and stretched out.

The story is about a house. A house that has a vengeful baby ghost in it, the toddler daughter of one of the main characters who died very young. A man from her past comes in the beginning of the book and chases the spirit off. The daughter that lived is upset about this, Denver. Her mother, Sethe, Denver and the man, Paul, they go to a carnival in town for Negroes. On the way home, Sethe sees their shadows with linked hands and takes it as an omen of good for the future the three of them can have. Upon arrival home, there is a young woman there, who is sick. Her name is Beloved. It comes about that Beloved appears to be the spirit that was chased from the house, but grown into a woman. Because this is a novel and because a spirit formed into a live human being just isn’t natural, of course things go horribly awry.

This is a book about slavery. This is a book about the power of hope and love and where that power can lead when that love and hope are warped beyond measure by something as ugly as being owned by another human. You can find hope in Beloved but it doesn’t jump from the page. Rather, it sneaks in the cracks and around the corners. The characters have it but squash it.

This is a book about memory. About how memories can entrap us, can impale us and can suffocate us. But it is also a book about how we can entrap ourselves by choice in a memory, while lying and saying we are free as birds.

This book is haunting. It lingers around you even after you’re done, and whispers to you even before you’re done.

Hope everyone has had a great weekend!

 

The Iliad

I have an admission to make.

I tried again, and again, and again to read The Iliad. And I couldn’t. Years ago I read parts of it here and there. I always found it interesting. I was excited to read it now. Yet, I’d get lost in the rhythm of the poetry and would get sleepy.

I really, really want to be able to read it, because when I was able to get into parts, it was so interesting!

When I was a kid, there was a book of Greek myths I found in the library. It was a kids’ book of myths but they were pretty complex. Just happened to be illustrated too. I absolutely ADORED that book. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I could ever find it again. (Before anyone asks, I only remember vaguely what it looked like haha).

My favorite myth was the Persephone myth.

So anyway, that was part of the reason reading the Iliad really excited me. And I hate having to sit here and say “whoops, I couldn’t get through it guys, so sorry”, but I have to.

Anna Karenina took me about four times to finally make it through. So, I guess I’ll try the Iliad again in a few months. I’ll make sure to tell y’all what I think if I do get through it finally.

Have a great Fourth everyone! Dave and I will actually be face to face this weekend. He can yell at me then for forgetting the last two times to blog on Thursday. My other big sadness of the week.

*slinks off feeling a little embarrassed*

 

 

In which I am in the same room as STEPHEN KING

First, I apologize for this being a day late. I have no excuse other than I forgot.

Second, on Tuesday past, June 14th, I saw Stephen King speak! Now those of you on my facebook are already aware of this. And the geek excitement that I had. Those of you that are blog readers of this blog, know that I would be geek excited. ย So, yes, I was super excited.

So, Stephen King spoke at the Kaneko Center. For those of you in the Omaha metro, I highly recommend checking Kaneko out. (Jeremy, if you’re reading this, I was like “Greg! this is where I met Jeremy!). The Bookworm hosted it. Now, the Bookworm is an independent bookstore here in Omaha. I recommend going there. ย It’s always, always recommended that you support your local bookstores.

Okay, so before he started speaking, I heard someone that was working the event say that they had volunteered to work it. My thought was why did I not know about this!? I mean the volunteers got to MEET HIM like in person. Not just hear him talk. Big regret of my life now.

Stephen King is a huge baseball fan. He came out wearing a Huskers baseball t-shirt. He said he was sad that he was here the week -before- the College World Series. He came out years ago with Little League teams. But, he finished that he wouldn’t go again until it was at Rosenblatt stadium.Of course, a bunch of people applauded this.

He said he often hears one of two things (and all language is his, not me adding it in):

“You scare the shit out of me. Can I have a hug?”

“Oh this is great. I can scratch you off my bucket list”. He then said about that “What a fucking creepy word, bucket list”.

He talked about his son, Joe Hill. Hill’s latest book, The Fireman is #1 on the NYT bestseller list. I can say that I recommend it. He went on to say that we should go to the Bookworm and buy a copy. But buy one of his own books first, because he was older.

He also talked about the prevalence of Nebraska cropping up in his books. He saId he first became fascinated when he was 10. During Charles Starkweather’s rampage across the state. He couldn’t figure out why he was fascinated. But his mother found the clippings and said “Steve, I feel like this isn’t quite normal”. He said that the emptiness of Nebraska appeals to him.

He talked about how the Children of the Corn movies (all the sequels) became a household joke with them saying “Children of the Corn in Outer Space” and his son Owen (also a novelist) saying “Children of the Corn vs Leprechaun”.

Next year, Owen and Stephen will have a book coming out that they co-authored.

He talked about how he was really three people.

Regular Home Steve: Yes, dear, go along to get along type guy. No standing ovations at home.

Public Steve: Comes out to speak to the public.

Scary Steve: Won’t travel. Sick guy. Leave him alone. Don’t mess with him much.

He talked about how good stories, you need to feel a connection wit the character, they have to be worth caring about.

He said you can see the difference in Friday the 13th movies, you “go to see what weird fucking ways they die”. Then he contrasted it with Halloween movie, where you rooted for Jamie Lee Curtis to live.

He talked about how it was weird to be in front of a crowd. That writers by nature are introverts, and are supposed to observe instead of being observed. He says he always makes sure his fly is zipped before stepping on stage.

He said that John Grisham once told him that they were famous writers in a country that doesn’t read.

He also said he takes books everywhere, they’re great friends. (See, Dad, if you’re reading this, I wasn’t the only one that ever did this!).

It was an amazing experience and one I am so happy to have had.

Have a great weekend!

The Color Purple

I had the idea for this beautiful blog post in my head. Based on an article that I read last week where an author said that writers can be seen as the canaries in a mine. I was going to tie it into The Color Purple by Alice Walker which I was reading for this week.

But, even though I’ve read the Color Purple before, it was so many years ago that I was not prepared for all the emotion.

Walker uses a straightforward prose style. It’s patterned by the main character Celie writing letters to God at the beginning, her sister by the end. And Celie’s life is one of heartbreak. Raped by her father, married off to an ass, forced to watch her husband bring his love into their house, falling in love with the woman, finding out the husband hid her sister’s letters for years. The book arcs both Celie’s life and her sister’s life. Towards the middle of the book, it becomes a dialogue of sorts between the two, even though both are writing letters to each other that they aren’t receiving or are receiving years afterwards. Celie moves from seeing God as this omnipotent white man into seeing Him as all around her, in nature, in people, everywhere. This is about the time her letters shift from being addressed to Him and being addressed to her sister.

Walker uses dialect in her writing, but unlike Zora Neale Hurston, it never once distracted me from the story and the writing.

And, my feelings rode along with Celie and her sister. Alice Walker has written a finely tuned novel. The closest comparison I can come up with is that it reminds me of a classical piece of music. Each note seems planned but unplanned all at the same time.

Usually, I don’t really have much outward emotion with a book. I cried at the end of The Color Purple. It was an extremely readable book and easy to climb into and live in until the end.

I would put this one in my list of top ten recommendations from this blog. Which puts it up there with Geek Love and Things They Carried.

Even if the idea of an “Oprah” book turns you off (which come on, she was in the movie, of course she would choose it!), read this one ๐Ÿ™‚ Some books truly are Oprah books for a reason.

 

 

The Stranger by Albert Camus

For today, I read The Stranger by Albert Camus.

The following authors listed The Stranger:

Stanley Crawford, Edwidge Danticat (LOVE this name, as I’ve referenced before haha), Denise Gess, Barry Hannah, Kent Haruf, Jim Harrison and Heidi Julavits.

When we started the blog (four years ago! It’s amazing for me to think we’ve been doing it that long) I remember marking The Stranger as already read in the book because I had no real interest in re-reading it. I read it for a class in college. I remembered not particularly caring for it.

But, again, re-reading sometimes proves enlightening. I actually liked The Stranger much better this time around. However, the main character is a bit unlikable. He is definitely not Rabbit Angstrom. But, he is completely apathetic about so many things. He just goes through life, acting on impulse but not really having any feeling behind his actions. His girlfriend proposes, he says sure, but not because he really loves her, more because she wants him to and he can’t see any reason why or why not. She asks if he would marry someone else right then if they asked, if she wasn’t around. He replies he probably would. This is just one of the examples of his apathy.

This character trait gets him in a lot of trouble. He ends up killing a man that had been threatening his “friend” (he doesn’t seem to have any true friends, he doesn’t care enough). He gets arrested. His apathy definitely works against him.

Eventually his apathy lifts. But it’s too late by then. The apathy leaves to just display a raging storm of anger.

I like though, how the novel explores how our reactions to things color people’s perceptions of us. Before the murder, his mother, who he placed in a home instead of caring for her at home, dies. While attending the funeral, he has no wish to view her body so keeps the coffin closed. He sits the night long vigil but does not cry. He smokes cigarettes and drinks lattes offered to him. He does not visit the grave site after the funeral but leaves directly. He goes and meets a woman the next day and ends up having sexual intercourse with her. All of these things are used against him in the court room. And it reminds me of how we tend to prosecute people just by how they behave. If a parent has a child go missing and they don’t seem to be “grieving” enough, we judge them to be at fault. If they “grieve” too much, we perceive it as an act and prosecute them again. We then massacre them in the court of public opinion.

This is a first person narration novel which I always enjoy. The narrator has certain ways of describing things that make you be right there on the street with him, in the courtroom with him, in the holding cell with him. And that is what I really liked this time around about the novel. It’s possible in college I was trying to read it while suffering from insomnia and a hangover at the same time.

This book is also not very long, so if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the classics, this one is a great one to help with that.

Have a great Memorial Day!!