Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book #110: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak

I was in need of an audiobook to fill some time in between Armand Gamache books (the library doesn't have an audiobook copy of the fifth book, so I just have to get around to reading the e-book copy I currently have checked out), and this one was available, and it was pretty short. I kind of thought this was going to be a memoir-ish type book, because that's basically what you always get from actors, but this was actually a collection of short (some, very very short) stories that Novak wrote. It was actually a very fun book to listen to on audio, because he is a great reader and he had plenty of other famous friends sub in and help do the other voices in his stories, including lots of favorites from The Office, like Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, and Rainn Wilson. I thought some of the stories were very funny and well done, like the blind date between the woman and the African warlord, the rematch between the tortoise and the hare (the opening story, which was funny and thoughtful), and the one about the sex robot who became sentient and fell in love with the person who bought her. But some were really dumb and too short. There were over sixty stories, and many of them were one page or less, which makes you wonder why the editors didn't make him cut at least a few of those and expand some of the other stories. I feel like the less-than-one-page stories are more just funny than actually bringing anything to the table, and having like 30 of them in the book just took down the quality of the whole book, I thought. But overall, it was a funny read/listen, and a few of them even made me think too.

Book #109: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Oh, I LOVED the Ramona books when I was younger. And I thought this would be such a fun one to read with Dane, since it's when Ramona is in kindergarten. I just love how Beverly Cleary gets into Ramona's head, and how we get a look at how a kindergartener thinks. Ramona thinks like a kindergartener, and we get to think like her. I love, love, love that about this book. I love each of the different chapters about Ramona as well--like when she gets stuck in the mud in her new beautiful red rain boots, or how she gets sent home for pulling Susan's curls too many times, and her scary witch costume for Halloween. Kindergarteners are just so fun, and Beverly Cleary (I have to use both names, she's not just a last name person to me) really makes Ramona just fun. Dane was enthralled by Ramona too--particularly when she and Howie take the third wheel off her trike and make it a two-wheeler, and when Ramona loses her first tooth--and it was a total success. We are going to read Ramona and Beezus next (which actually comes before this one chronologically, but oh well).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book #108: Living Out Loud by Anna Quindlen

I bought this book at a library sale years ago, before Dane was even born, and it has sat on my bookshelves ever since then, untouched. I've culled my books numerous times, but I kept saving this one because I knew that I liked Anna Quindlen as an author and I kept meaning to read it. One of my goals for this year was to finally read some of the unread books on my shelves, and I got around to this one this week. And I definitely enjoyed it. The funny thing is that it's a collection of her syndicated newspaper column that Quindlen wrote when she was a reporter--and it's from the mid-eighties. Before I was even born. So it's definitely dated in many of its essays--she writes about Ted Bundy and AIDS and living in New York and being afraid for her life, etc. But I really enjoyed time traveling to what it was like being a young parent (she is in the same stage of life that I am now, in this book) at that time. I loved a lot of her essays on parenting and her reminiscences on her childhood, and how honest she was and how good at exposing herself without exposing too much. She talked about her mother dying when she was young, and how that affected her, and her fears as a parent. The one essay that I loved the most was about how vulnerable she feels because of the power she has over her children, how the two parents are the ones who have the power to make them happy or sad, and how she doesn't want to have that power and that responsibility, and how scary that is. It's something that I think about too, and which resonates with me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book--it was an easy read of short essays (since they were originally newspaper columns) and she is an excellent writer. I'd love to read more of her works.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book #107: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Okay, I'm obviously on some sort of Sophie Kinsella streak lately because this is the third one I've read in the last week or two, haha. It's just so easy because I can read one in two or three hours, it doesn't take much concentration, and they're always fun and work out pretty well in the end. I read this one before and enjoyed it enough to re-read it this week. Poppy, the main character in this book, loses her engagement ring and her phone in the same night, and she finds a replacement phone in the trash can at the hotel where she was and uses it. She manages to fall in love with the guy whose phone it is while discovering that her fiance is kind of a jerk so she gets to break it off with him at the altar and stay with her true love. Haha.

I liked that Poppy was a normal, not-super-ditzy girl (like some of Kinsella's heroines are, in Shopaholic and Can You Keep a Secret?). I laughed out loud a few times in the scenes where she was feeling really dumb with her fiance's super smart academic family. She did still end up getting into some ridiculous situations, which seem kind of inexplicable and unrealistic--but I guess that's part of the genre. All in all, it was a fun read and worth it if it only takes a few hours to get through.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book #106: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Another Armand Gamache novel--another successful murder mystery. I really enjoyed listening to this one, about a murder that happened at a resort-ish hotel where Armand Gamache was staying with his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The woman killed was there as another guest with her family, and they naturally become the prime suspects. Much of the plot is investigating the family's very messed-up dynamics, and examining how they treated each other and hurt each other in important ways. It was depressing to see how much they all were hurting at times--Penny is very good at letting us see characters' thoughts when it's helpful--and how they lashed out at each other. She is also good at showing that everyone has some reason behind their hatefulness, if they are indeed being hateful: they are usually hurt somehow by someone else. It makes all her characters more well-rounded and makes you feel more compassionate towards them all.

This book had a more dramatic finish than the last few, with Gamache almost dying in his attempt to save another potential victim. I have to say, I love how he manages to figure out each mystery without compromising or changing his standards. I love how he is solid and strong and emotionally in tune and in love with his wife. He seems like the best person everywhere he goes and is able to deal with all sorts of really damaged people. I think Gamache's character is the reason why this series is so popular and works so well.

I'm moving on to the next one, although our library doesn't have an audiobook copy, unfortunately... so I'll have to read it on the Kindle.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book #105: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy

It's so sad to me that I haven't read this book in the whole time I've been keeping this blog! Same thing with To Kill a Mockingbird. These books are such classics and are some of my very favorites, but I have been reading so many new books the last few years and not as much re-reading, that I am missing out on some joy of these beloved books that I have read so, so many times before now. But, I pulled it out yesterday or the day before and got it started, and just thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don't think I love it mostly because of the nostalgic factor--we spent HOURS singing the songs to The Scarlet Pimpernel musical that we saw when I was maybe twelve--it's just a really excellent story. The romantic factor of a secret identity of a man saving people's lives with no benefit to himself--it's just awesome. And I love how you get to see most of it through Marguerite's eyes and get to see her transformation. Sure, maybe her newfound love for her husband comes on a little strong and out of nowhere, and I'm always slightly annoyed by how dainty and alluring and perfect and astoundingly beautiful women in fiction of this era are, but it fits along with the times and it's not terrible. Marguerite is actually the heroine of the story and shows how tough she is by trying to save her husband (although walking for a few miles is enough to render her incapacitated and bloody-footed... mm-hmm).

TOTALLY love this book. I just wish I could find a version on the stage of it these days so I can relive the amazingness of the musical. We LOVED it for a few years at my house.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book #104: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

I read this book because when I was looking at the Goodreads page for My Not So Perfect Life I saw this book cover as another book Kinsella had written and it was like a deja vu bomb went off in my head. I used to have this book--when I was in high school--and I totally remembered reading it and enjoying it and vividly remembered the cover. But I had no memory of what was actually in the book. Our library had an e-copy so I checked it out and enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

In this book, Emma Corrigan is on her very first business trip and the plane ride home has terrible turbulence--so terrible she's convinced they're all going to die. So in her panic she begins spilling out all her secrets to the man sitting next to her on the plane, which ends up being a problem when he shows up at her work the next day as her boss, the owner of the company there for a visit. Ahh! There's the inevitable romance and all sorts of inexplicable awkward situations that I feel like are pretty common to Kinsella's novels, but it was definitely a fun read. It took only two hours, so I mean, what is there to complain about a book that you can read that quickly and check off the list with so little energy? Ha!

Fair warning: Kinsella loves the f-word and other swearing, and there's a little bit of sex, but part of me thinks it's because she's British and the whole cultural difference in what curse words are appropriate.