Posts Tagged: Book Reviews

Orchard House, or, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.

April 9, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 2 ★★★★★

Orchard House, or, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow
by tara austen weaver
Published by Ballantine Books
on March 24th 2015
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
For fans of Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving memoir of rediscovering, reinventing, and reconnecting, as an estranged mother and daughter come together to revive a long-abandoned garden and ultimately their relationship and themselves.
 
Peeling paint, stained floors, vined-over windows, a neglected and wild garden—Tara Austen Weaver can’t get the Seattle real-estate listing out of her head. Any sane person would’ve seen the abandoned property for what it was: a ramshackle half-acre filled with dead grass, blackberry vines, and trouble. But Tara sees potential and promise—not only for the edible bounty the garden could yield for her family, but for the personal renewal she and her mother might reap along the way.

So begins Orchard House, a story of rehabilitation and cultivation—of land and soul. Through bleak winters, springs that sputter with rain and cold, golden days of summer, and autumns full of apples, pears, and pumpkins, this evocative memoir recounts the Weavers’ trials and triumphs, detailing what grew and what didn’t, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned. Inexorably, as mother and daughter tend this wild patch and the fruits of their labor begin to flourish, green shoots of hope emerge from the darkness of their past.

For everyone who has ever planted something that they wished would survive—or tried to mend something that seemed forever broken—Orchard House is a tale of healing and growth set in a most unlikely place.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Back when I was a kid, I would occasionally (read – often) steal my grandmother’s romances and read them under the covers at night. A bad habit to be sure (kids, listen to your parents!) but at the time, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me to read them! I do now. Why am I telling you this?

Well, one time, I read one of those romances and it was about a woman who bought old homes and renovated them to sale (and yeah, I think she wound up in love with a contractor and they did the YOU KNOW WHAT all over one of those houses and then fought and broke up then made up and then lived happily ever after the end.) (12-year-old me says “blush.”). Something about that touched the romantic and ambitious part of me. It sounded so fantastic! To buy an old home, rip out all the rot, the ugly, the unwanted, and make it warm, cozy, and a home again. And the garden. My dream garden, with flowers and vegetables and fruit, everywhere. It sounded terribly awesome.

I decided that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. Refurb houses, not read romances. Because ick.

Flash forward 25 years (or so) and that is definitely not what I am doing. And yet, I still find it a romantic thing to do. I moon over old houses in our area. I love looking at books, magazines, and websites about decorating. And someday, I will take a house and make it my own, although probably not an old one. Oh well.

So, when I saw this memoir, I knew I had to read it. And it’s why I loved so much. Tara Austen Weaver finds just such a house, with “peeling paint, stained floors, vined-over windows, a neglected and wild garden…” just what she (and I) can see so much potential in. She convinces her mother to come to Seattle and they start planning.

This book. Wow, this book. It sounds sappy to say it “touched my heart” but it honestly did and dude, you know I’m a cynic. I did not have a relationship with my mother, but I did with my grandmother and in many ways, the relationship between Tara and her mother reminds me of the one I had with her. We were so much alike and so very contentious. And part of the beauty of this book is seeing how these two souls manage to love and work together, despite their ways.

And the food. Oh the descriptions of food. And the garden. I read this when it was too early to get out in the garden, but I was dying to do so while reading it. I even mentioned starting an orchard on the land we’re going to build on eventually, so perhaps we’d have fruit by the time we moved and my husband said yes! Color me delighted.

All in all, if you love foodie, gardening, mother/daughter relationship, family relationship, etc, type books, I can’t see why you wouldn’t love this book as much as me. Highly recommended.

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Mars and the First Person POV

April 2, 2015 Books 10 ★★★★

Mars and the First Person POVThe Martian
by Andy Weir
Narrator: R. C. Bray
Length: 10 hours 53 minutes
Published by Crown Publishing Group
on February 11th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
four-stars
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

What the heck is up with that title, eh? I’m getting to it. I just have a few things to say about First Person Point of View (or FPPoV). It kind of took over my thoughts on The Martian. Sorry Andy Weir.

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Martian. It was one of the “IT” books last year. Everyone read it. Everyone and their mother read it. Everyone except me. And I really, really wanted to. And I tried. But it didn’t click. Damn that pesky first person narration. I still struggle with it. But, thank God for audiobooks. Me and FPPoV are complete BUDDIES when it comes to audiobooks.

This audiobook completely rocks.

See, the thing about me andFPPoV…I’m not sure what it is. I’ve always had trouble with it. I mean, it stands to reason that I would. It’s a more intimate form of storytelling. A character can become something of a best friend, within the story that is. You get an “inside look” at what the character is thinking and feeling I love unreliable narrators andFPPoV has always felt unreliable to me. It’s the character telling their story. How do I know they are being honest? I love the mystery of that. Lastly, it makes one feel like one is IN the story, more than any other POV, again, for me.

But.

FPPoV imprisons me. One is stuck with one character and that character’s thoughts and feelings. One can only get what THAT CHARACTER THINKS about another character. I do like knowing what another character thinks of the events of the story. It helps ME decide what I think about what’s going on. I feel like it also limits the scope of a story. I like to know everything that’s going on! Also,FPPoV, in my experience, is a TELL TRAP. I like to see what’s going on, not told about it. BIG, HUGE PET PEEVE.

When I first tried to read The Martian, I had so much trouble getting into Mark Watney’s mind and the story. The story starts with an accident, and, I imagine since I was only getting Watney’s side of it, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what happened. His character was off-putting. I immediately didn’t care for or about him. I think I made it about 20 pages.

Yet, I just knew this was a story for me. A lot of my favorite bloggers loved it. Andi, my reading twin/soulmate, loved it. I was determined to try again. I can be pretty persuasive, even with myself. Because, when I saw The Martian for $3.99 on Audible,I snapped it up. And then I devoured it.

Obviously, The Martian is in FPPoV. An astronaut is left behind, stranded, on Mars after a terrible accident separated him from his crew. What follows is the events after that accident, told from that astronaut’s point of view. There really is no other way to tell that story. He is all alone, on an uninhabited planet. So, somehow, for me, hearing someone read the story is much more successful than trying to read it for myself.

Why, I don’t know AND I don’t know why I can’t remember this. This isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.

C’est ma vie. Le sigh.

Here is where I actually talk about my feelings on the book, if you skipped down. 

So, my advice is, if you couldn’t get into The Martian, give the audiobook a try. The reader suffuses Mark Watney with so much personality and I couldn’t help but root for him. The reader, R. C. Bray, made me care. He has an excellent range of voices and his voice really matches the character and tone the book. He made me laugh out loud a few times, just with the delivery of a line. Andy Weir’s writing was great. The technical aspects of a flight to Mars and the mission to get a stranded astronaut back to Earth were not completely over my head. It was just great fun. And a nail-biter for sure. I got my uncle to listen to it and he loved it too.

Highly recommended. In audio anyway.

 

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Everybody Needs One

March 11, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10 ★★★★½

Everybody Needs OneStrong Female Protagonist
by brennan lee mulligan, molly ostertag
Series: Volume 1
Published by Top Shelf Productions
on November 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
With superstrength and invulnerability, Alison Green used to be one of the most powerful superheroes around.

Fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego Mega Girl was fun — until an encounter with Menace, her mind-reading arch enemy, showed her evidence of a sinister conspiracy, and suddenly battling giant robots didn't seem so important.

Now Alison is going to college and trying to find ways to help the world while still getting to class on time. It's impossible to escape the past, however, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a hero....

After a phenomenal success on Kickstarter, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag bring their popular webcomic into print, collecting the first four issues, as well as some all-new, full-color pages!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Everyone needs a Strong Female Protagonist, that is.

I hate to admit it, but I had never heard of this comic until I saw it on NetGalley. It’s a webcomic. It had a very successful Kickstarter campaign. It fell into my lap and y’all. I am so happy about that, because this protagonist is right up my alley.

Alison Green is one of those protagonists you can’t help but identify with. Sure, she has superhuman abilities, but underneath all that strength and super-ness, lies a very uncertain girl with real world problems like money, family, friendship, lack of confidence, and a past she just can’t escape. And then yes, on top of it all, Alison has superpowers. What does she do with that? Is she obligated to save the world? And who really cares anyway?

There is so much to love in this little comic. The writing is great. The art is too. The thing I love most though, is the message. That no matter how smart, how super, how strong you are, you are also human. With human fears, feelings, desires, and just messed up.

Highly recommended.

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First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

February 18, 2015 Books 7 ★★★★

First Frost by Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost
by Sarah Addison Allen
Format: eARC
four-stars
It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

...

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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What is it about Sarah Addison Allen’s books? I would call them fluff, but they’re not. I could call them romances, but they are more than just that. I should call them magical realism, but that feels limiting. Her books are deeper than fluff, more than romance, with the lightest touch of magic…so, I guess to me, they defy categorization.

Mostly, they are like coming home.

And to come home to familiar, beloved characters, felt like an extra special blessing. I suppose it’s the fact I live in North Carolina and that I long for a little magic in my life. I love food and love the idea that food can magically affect your mood (which, I would say it does. Just eat some chocolate.). Allen makes the characters feel like family, or extra special friends. The characters from Garden Spells are particularly beloved as it was the first Allen book I read and I instantly fell in love with her writing. I’ve read it a couple of times, I love it so much.

Do you get the feeling I love this book and Sarah Addison Allen?

Hope so.

If you’ve read Garden Spells, I totally recommend you continue their story. They are older, but still magical…in more ways that one. The Waverly’s are a family worth revisiting. If you haven’t read Garden Spells, what are you waiting for? Pick it up, and this one, and experience the warmth that being a Waverly friend can bring and the simply beauty of Sarah Addison Allen’s writing.

Favorite bits:

“Sometimes its necessary to embrace the magic, to find out what’s real in life, and in one’s own heart.”

“Oh, please. Everyone in this town always says that, like you have to be born here to understand things. I understand plenty. You’re only as weird as you want to be.”

“She finally understood that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you. You can’t stop them from making the wrong decision. There’s no magic for that.”

“She couldn’t change who she was, and she no longer wanted to, even if she could. She knew that who you are is a stone set deep inside you. You can spend all your life trying to dig that stone out, or you can build around it. Your choice.”

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Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan Luna

February 5, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 10 ★★★★★

Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan LunaAlex + Ada
by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Series: 1-5
Published by Image Comics
on July 16, 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5. From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Five reasons you need to read Alex + Ada. Like, right now:

1. The art is gorgeous. It’s plain jane, but well drawn, and for the story (at this point, anyway) I think it fits. Alex is sad. He’s depressed. And his world reflects that. And the story, while not original, it is a fresh take on it, if that makes sense. I mean, the execution is excellent. And you know, it’s not what you have, it’s all in how you use it. It is just so engaging.

2. Robots are boring. Super boring. Completely subservient, no will – absolute no will – of their own. No personality, no desire, no spark. Some people may think this is great! No more dishes, no more laundry! Others, those who see robots as more than that, have a Big Moral Dilemma to contend with. Fireworks!

3. The political and social tensions. People are terrified because the robots are becoming sentient and no one knows how it is happening. And just like in the real world, when people don’t understand something, they panic. And when they panic, bad things happen. And then the politicians get involved. OH SNAP.

4. Loneliness. This hit me so strongly. These characters have everything they could possibly have in subservient assistance. Alex, for instance, wakes up to a holographic tv screen that gives him the weather, the news report, and more. He has a robot (a very standard model) to make his breakfast, wash his clothes, put up his feet, etc. He has implants in his head that enable to him to tell all his appliances (and robot) to do this, do that, make the water this temperature, flush the toilet, call Grandma, etc. He doesn’t want for anything. Anything except basic human company. In this near future, everything seems solved, except loneliness. Depression. All our technological advances can’t solve this. Except maybe self-aware extremely lifelike robots?

5. Because I LOVES it! When have I ever steered you wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

January 29, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 2 ★★★★★

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick RothfussThe Slow Regard of Silent Things
by Patrick Rothfuss
Series: Tales from Temerant, The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5
Published by DAW
on October 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 159
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
five-stars
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows...

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

Some days simply lay on you like stones.

How does one review a book in a series that almost didn’t happen? How do you convince readers they have to read a book in a series, a book that is chronologically 2.5 in the series?

First, I start with saying you have to read the other books in the series. It’s a given. To know the characters, to know the place, and the time period, the world of the books, you have to read the series.

Secondly, I have to tell you, you could probably read this out of order or as a standalone. The character in this book appears in the other books, but none of the other characters do. She mentions a character from the other books a few times, but never by name. In the other books, she is a very small secondary character who doesn’t take up a lot of time or plot. She is merely a character the author felt the need to expand on. For more on why Rothfuss wrote the book, if you are interested, here is a blog post he wrote on it here.

To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Lastly, yes. Yes, I hear you. Why should you read this? Honestly, because it is…geez…how to describe it. It is just such a great character study. (To me, it felt like the chance to get inside the character as it exists in the author’s head.) It’s one character. It’s a week of her life. Wait, let’s back up. The character. Her name is Auri. She lives under the university. In the bowels, the basement, the place where all the pipes lead. Auri is a sad character in the grand scheme of things. She’s alone. She lives alone, under the university, scrounging for food on a daily basis. Yet, when you take a closer look, the picture is a little different. Yes, she’s alone, but she choses to be so. Auri knows she’s not…quite…right.

She felt the panic rising in her then. She knew. She knew how quickly things could break. You did the things you could. You tended to the world for the world’s sake. You hoped you would be safe. But still she knew. It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do. And yes, she knew she wasn’t right. She knew her everything was canted wrong. She knew her head was all unkilter. She knew she wasn’t true inside. She knew.

God, y’all. This book is gorgeous. The writing is gorgeous. The character is gorgeous. If you’ve ever had a day when things didn’t feel quite right, that you felt maybe a little crazy, like you couldn’t live in the world; this book. I mean, you’ll understand it. You will get it.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world.

You won’t need to know the world this book lives in. You will connect with this character. This powerful, lost, sad young woman will get to you. I got it. I got her. I’ve been her. And, well…

She’d strayed from the true way of things. First you set yourself to rights. And then your house. And then your corner of the sky. And after that… Well, then she didn’t rightly know what happened next. But she hoped that after that the world would start to run itself a bit, like a gear-watch proper fit and kissed wit oil. That was what she hoped would happen.

As the author said:

“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.”

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An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

January 23, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 12 ★★★★★

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.

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So, a Little More on that Routine Thing…

October 10, 2014 Blogging, Book Reviews, Books 6

by Mason Currey
Published by Knopf
Genres: Nonfiction
Source: Purchased

dailyroutineSo, I’m still making my way through Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. I hate to admit it, but it’s a slog. I am about to give myself permission to give it up, even though I’m slightly over halfway through. Like Amanda, some of my problems stem from the lack of balance between man and woman, white and not (and I mean, that is a LOT of my problem, there is basically no balance. If you want to know how a privileged white male finds time to write, this is your book) but, honestly? I think he included too many authors! There are 161 authors, composers, philosophers, poets, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians. After about 50 or so routines, it starts to loose it’s impact.

Where was Currey’s editor?

How did they not see they could have gotten 3 books out of this one?

Don’t they realize that sometimes a brief message is more powerful that one that goes on and on and on and on and on.

I wonder how many more people in this book get up early or late? How many take a walk (or three, like Dickens)? How many have a bit of fun with themselves before they get down to it (seriously Thomas Wolfe? I am NOT looking at you, but you know, I’m looking at you) (and Ben Franklin, with your air baths! Get own down with your bad self!). How many eat meals? Take naps? Sharpen their pencils? Set up the fridge as their desk (Geez, Thomas Wolfe, you were an odd duck).

Another bit of a peeve is the lack of 21st century authors. Yes, there are a few, but the majority of this book is 19th and 20th century writers. Couldn’t you find anyone alive Currey? I have to admit, I am a little more interested in how the creative types of TODAY juggle their routines that those who lived lives of leisure 200 years ago. Times, uh, they have a-changed.

Despite these quibbles though, there is a lot of good information in this book. A couple more favorites:

 “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”  – Haruki Murakami

And I think I’m OCD:

The founder of behavioral psychology treated his daily writing sessions much like a laboratory experiment, conditioning himself to write every morning with a pair of self-reinforcing behaviors: he started and stopped by the buzz of a timer, and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph. – B. F. Skinner

Actually, I can totally see myself doing that. Heck, I DID do that when I tried to do NaNoWriMo.

I love this from Joan Miró i Ferrà, a Catalan painter:

Miró hated for this routine to be interrupted by social or cultural events. As he told an American journalist, “Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They’re commercial, political, and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!

Love it. LOVE. IT. I am totally breaking that line out at parties.

But really, the best piece of advice from the whole book is this, from Chuck Close, another painter:

“Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

And really, that’s all we really need do, right?

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Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

September 19, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 8 ★★★★½

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara VaronRobot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Published by First Second
on August 7, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
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four-half-stars
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places...Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach. 

Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption.

There is something magical about an effective story told with no words. Pixar, Shaun Tan, and now Sara Varon, have moved me beyond measure with their work that uses art instead of words. Looking at that cover…I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts are that this is a kids book. And yes, it is. My daughter enjoyed it. However, it is one of those books that is deceptive. It looks simple. It IS simple. But the story…it packs a punch.

The reason this story works for me is, even though it is fantastical (at least for me it is. Do you own a robot? A walking, human-like dog? If so, were do you get such things???), it is relatable. The dog. He is lonely. He wants a friend. So he buys a robot. He puts him together. He has a friend! So they go to the beach. And something bad happens. The pair are separated. Feelings are hurt. Actions are regretted. Through no fault of the dog, more like a lack of knowledge, the robot is hurt. Irreparably.

Kids can relate. I can relate. You can, probably, relate.

And it sounds sad. But no. No! It is beautiful!

Through this mistake, the dog and the robot learn. The dog learns from his mistakes. He comes to know himself better and changes based on the hurt he caused himself and his robot. In turn, the robot also learns. As he lays there, daydreaming is days away, he learns about himself and changes based on the hurt he received. They become better “people.” A lesson for everyone, not just children.

Again, I stand amazed at the power in this tiny book with no words. And Sara Varon has a diehard new fan. First Second is such a terrific publisher!

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Audiobook: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, read by Amanda Ronconi

August 5, 2014 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 5 ★★★★

Audiobook: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, read by Amanda RonconiThirteenth Child
by Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Length: 9 hours, 32 minutes
Series: Frontier Magic #1
on 06-05-13
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 344
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Goodreads
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four-stars
Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he's supposed to possess amazing talent -- and she's supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.

If I could tell you about this book in a mathematical sentence, it would be:

Harry Potter + Laura Ingalls Wilder = Thirteeth Child.

OR, if you listen to the audiobook:

Harry Potter + Laura Ingalls Wilder + Firefly = Thirteeth Child.

To my tired and angsty ridden summer induced coma of a brain, this book was a breath of fresh air. The magical aspects aren’t really as IN YOUR FACE as they are in Harry Potter and the frontier life isn’t as IN YOUR FACE as Laura Ingalls Wilder. They come together in a brilliant way that I found highly enjoyable though.

Eff comes from a large family. So large in fact, that she is a thirteenth child and her twin, Lan, is a fourteeth child. If you know your magic, you’ll know that seventh sons are typically a powerful bunch. Lan, is a seventh son. He’s also the seventh son OF a seventh son. This makes him extra special powerful in the eyes of all the magicians around him. Also, if you know anything about the number thirteen, you’ll know it’s typically considered unlucky.

Eff is considered unlucky. Very, very unlucky.

The prejudice surrounding Eff in the town and her own aunts, uncles, and cousins, who are certain she will “go bad”, aids in prompting her parents to move out to the frontier with the children who haven’t left the family home. Here is where “Laura” meets “Harry”; Eff’s father takes a job as a professor of magic, at a frontier school. For magic. So the family heads off to the wild frontier where mammoths roam, steam dragons soar, and where Eff will learn just who she is and what she will become. I loved the way Wrede played with prejudice and preconceived notions and how the ideas of others can interfere with the idea one has of oneself. Poor Eff. She’s called unlucky, evil, and even told that her parents should have killed her as a baby before she can barely talk. She has no confidence in herself or in her abilities. She’s terrified to let anyone know what she really is. What happens in the course of the story, which is basically a coming-of-age-story for Eff, is, well, I can’t exactly tell you that, can I? Do you want to know if Eff finds the courage to accept herself and to see if she tries to find out what she can become?

You know the drill. Read it!

Or better yet, listen to it! Amanda Ronconi was the PERFECT choice for reading this novel. Her voice had the perfect amount of midwest twang. I swear, she reminded me so much of Kaylee from Firefly, which, yeah, made me love it more. Just a fantastic read and I can’t wait to listen to the next one.

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