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Here we are in June

Here we are in June

Only moments ago I was whining about the unrelenting snow. Now here we are, nice and toasty in June, the flowers blooming and the sun shining. I, for one, love the heat. That’s probably little surprise given how much I love my savasana time at the Bikram yoga studio. I may not be so keen about trotting around town in a business suit when it’s super hot out, but I’ve promised myself that I’ve had enough whining about the weather for one year, so I’m going to focus all on the positive.

This weekend, my family participated in the first Pittsburgh Citiparks footrace of the season: the Greenfield Glide. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning for a race. I ran the course, and Mr. Beez walked with Baby Beez in the jogging stroller.

Greenfield Glide

I ran in my new Saucony kicks, which showed great promise for alleviating my blister problems. The course goes through Schenley Park’s trails, which means that the course was nice and shaded. Baby Beez and I will be walking the Riverview Park 5k this Friday evening. I love how excited she has gotten about these races. When I dropped her off at school this morning, she excitedly told her teachers “We ran a race this weekend!”

making wishes

This weekend we had a family outing to another of our favorite activities: the movies! We saw Maleficent, which is certainly not appropriate for every little kid. Our kid, however, loves movies with scary things and is remarkably good at sitting through a full movie. She loved it. Mr. Beez and I thought it was pretty good. It won’t rank up there in my favorite movies ever, but it wasn’t bad for an evening out. Speaking of movies and summer and all things we love, Cinema in the Park starts next week! We’ve always gone to Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park, but with our upcoming move, it looks like we’ll be checking out Grandview Park soon.

I’ve been doing lots of reading lately, especially lots of light and quick summer-reading type books. Sandy picked The Spellman Files for our most recent book club book. I absolutely loved it. It’s a fun read about the kind of spazzy private investigator Izzy Spellman and her wacky private investigator family. There are 5 more books in the series, and I’ve added them all to my to-read list.

spellman files

I’m reading the second Game of Thrones book (A Clash of Kings, if you’re keeping track) right now. I’m only trying to read one GOT a year, because they are so long. I go nuts if a books is long and I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything. I want to see progress, and GOT are so darn long that it’s hard to see much. I balance my GOT reading with lighter, faster reading, because feeling like I’m not getting enough reading done is to read a second book at the same time, right? Right now this means I am reading Frog Music, which is fantastic, but is also so heavy with violence against women that it is frustrating and depressing.  The next book up in my queue is similarly depressing: My Story by Elizabeth Smart. But once I get through that dark book, things will take a turn for the whimsical, as I’ve got Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes and The Night Gardner waiting for me.

What’s on your reading list?

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32 Before 32: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

I only got into audiobooks recently. My habit was to listen to the news in the car, but over time, the news just wore on me. I grew tired of listening to everyone killing and hating and complaining. I was perusing the books at the Dahntahn Carnegie Library, when it struck me: Forget the news! I’ll just listen to stories!

Dahntahn’s selection isn’t the greatest for books on CD.  I could usually find something that interested me, but not a whole lot. Then I checked out the collection at Main, and I was in loooove. It took a great deal of restraint, but I managed to only carry home 3 books my first visit.

While I was there, I spotted it: The thirty two disc unabridged audiobook of The Pillars of the Earth. I didn’t know much about the book other than I heard it was “good.” And being that it was SO ridiculously long, I felt like listening to the whole thing would be something of an accomplishment, something perfect for my 32 before 32 list.

Pillars of the Earth

I started listening to it right after the new year, and I finished it just tonight. There were a few times I had to turn it off while Baby Beez was in the car, because battle scenes and love scenes aren’t appropriate for young ears (see, I can responsibly parent sometimes!) Sometimes when I’ve got a lot of discs to go through in a book, I get bored and impatient. With Pillars, however, I wasn’t impatient for a second. I was immediately drawn in, and remained entranced for all FORTY ONE hours of the story.

The mini-synopsis: This is a story of a determined monk, and his life’s work of building a cathedral.

But the story isn’t just about the monk and the cathedral. The myriad characters from all walks of life are complex, endearing or horrible, or sometimes both. Their lives intersect in unexpected and complex ways. The story is remarkably layered, but still relatable on an emotional level.

There were two things that I loved best about this book: (1) It left me morally satisfied. The good people get their rewards, the bad people meet horrible ends, and (2) Follett has a talented way of describing the extremely subtle political interactions, both within the clergy, and between the clergy and nobility, in a fashion that is easily understandable to the reader, but simultaneously not insultingly dumbed-down or boringly dry.

I’m not a patient reader. I like things that go fast, and I like the satisfaction of quickly checking books off my list. The enormity of Pillars did not deter me, because it kept me unerringly engaged. It is not often I say this, but I was a little sad when I came to the end, because I enjoyed the story so much.


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2013 and 52 books down

2013 and 52 books down

I’ve got 2 days left in 2013, and I’ve made it to my 52 “fun books” goal for the year!  Some books were long, some were short. Some took weeks, some took hours. Fitting in this much reading time takes some strategy:

1. I have to read before I go to bed. Not “have to” as in I really want to, but “have to” as in “it is absolutely necessary for me to read if I wish to sleep through the night.  If I do not read, I will be up at 2am for several hours, staring at the ceiling or in a panic. Reading is the only successful method I have found for getting a full night’s sleep.

2. I read fast.

3. I listen to books on tape in the car, too. And even though I don’t do a whole lot of traveling, it’s surprising how many books you can get through just doing errands here and there around town.

4. When the rest of the house is watching TV, I’m reading.  I don’t watch much TV at all. I watch American Horror Story and that’s about it. The rest of the time, it’s either Mr. Beez or Baby Beez in control of the remote, and I read.

5. I tend to pick a lot of light, fast books. There were a few heavier books in there, but a lot of them are very breezy fiction or YA.

My favorites from this year’s list were:

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan (2012)

We Live in Water, Jess Walter (2013)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (2013)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple (2012)

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (1938)

The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling (2012)

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (2012)

What were your favorites that you read this year? What’s on your nightstand for next year?


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Summer Reading: The Books I’ll be Hiding In During Vacation

Summer Reading: The Books I’ll be Hiding In During Vacation

I clung tight to my paperbacks and resisted the e-reader craze for a long time, until I realized that the Kindle Fire is BACKLIT and that means not having to fuss with a nightlight, which is more convenient for me and also does not disturb Mr. Beez when he’s trying to sleep.  My Kindle Fire is also absolutely perfect for vacation because books are HEAVY.  The Fire means I can bring a whole library in one little device.

Part of my pre-vacation preparations involves thoroughly considering what books I want to read on vacation.  I like books that pull you into their story, that are fast paced and an escape for reality.  I love dark, dramatic books.  I also love humor.  I have broad tastes, but whatever I read, I don’t want it to involve all that much thinking.  Vacation reading is for fun, not to exercise my neurons.

Here’s what I’m bringing with me this vacation:

belcanto

Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (it’s my book club book this month, and I’m actually about halfway through).

Opera and terrorism make strange bedfellows, yet in this novel they complement each other nicely. At a birthday party for Japanese industrialist Mr. Hosokawa somewhere in South America, famous American soprano Roxanne Coss is just finishing her recital in the Vice President’s home when armed terrorists appear, intending to take the President hostage. However, he is not there, so instead they hold the international businesspeople and diplomats at the party, releasing all the women except Roxanne. Captors and their prisoners settle into a strange domesticity, with the opera diva captivating them all as she does her daily practicing. Soon romantic liaisons develop with the hopeless intensity found in many opera plots. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars) balances terrorism, love, and music nicely here.








lets explore diabetesDavid Sedaris’ newest work: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

A guy walks into a bar car and…

From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.

Sedaris remembers his father’s dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy.

With Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris shows once again why his work has been called “hilarious, elegant, and surprisingly moving” (Washington Post).








the darlingsChristina Alger’s The Darlings.

A Bonfire of the Vanities for our times, by an author who “knows her way around 21st-century wealth and power” (The Wall Street Journal)
Since he married Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to all the luxuries of Park Avenue. But a tragic event is about to catapult the Darling family into the middle of a massive financial investigation and a red-hot scandal. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties really lie.

Debut novelist Cristina Alger is a former analyst at Goldman Sachs, an attorney, and the daughter of a Wall Street financier. Drawing on her unique insider’s perspective, Alger gives us an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society—and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions that powerfully echoes Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children and reads like a fictional Too Big to Fail.
 







the ocean
Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman’s intent was simple: to write a short story. What he ended up with instead was The Ocean at the of the Lane–his first adult novel since Anansi Boys came out in 2005, and a narrative so thoughtful and thrilling that it’s as difficult to stop reading as it was for Gaiman to stop writing. Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman’s magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating tale that is equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky
 

 
What is on your reading list this summer?

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The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty (2012)

The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty (2012)

The Chaperone was this month’s selection for my book club, and the only explanation I really have of why I liked it is because it was a “nice story.”  In The Chaperone, Cora Carlisle, a Prohibition-era Kansas mother of two, agrees to chaperone Louise Brooks on her summer of intensive dance instruction in New York City.  (If you, like me, had no idea who Louise Brooks was, she was an immensely famous film and dance star in the 1930s.)

201206-omag-laura-moriarty-284xFall

 During her duties as chaperone,  Cora also takes the opportunity to explore her complicated past.  This job was perfect for her, as she has mysterious roots in New York City, and she spends the summer working to unravel that mystery.

The book is character driven.  It’s easy to relate to Cora’s struggles to control, or atleast mitigate the damages in the wake of, bratty and spoiled Louise.  Cora is so close and relatable.  The book brings a few surprises, but Cora is a positive figure throughout and it is easy to become closely endeared to her.  Although Louise is a key character in the book, Cora quickly becomes the reader’s primary interest.

chaparone

Cora is a good character, through and through.  Living in such our current bleak, depressing world, it’s nice to read a novel in which a good character stays good.  This book isn’t heavy or twists or turns, but it’s very relatable and easygoing.